Monday, July 17, 2017

Taking Care of Mama: The Oxygen Mask Mentality

Although I am by no means an expert at this whole mom gig, within the last five months I've started to find the beginnings of my mama groove. I'm realizing how I want to approach the transition from my pre-kiddo life into this more full, less selfish phase. Obviously I've got a LONG ways to go when it comes to parenting and handling numerous situations that will one day come up with our child, and I don't claim to have all of the answers. But it's been fun to talk to women in their pre-kids stage about the things I've realized so far, including the need for what I like to call "the oxygen mask mentality".
If you're a frequent flyer, you remember the little safety speech they give at the beginning of each flight: you know, the one you don't pay much attention to. During this speech, they always talk about how the oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling if the cabin loses air pressure. And if you watch closely after that, what do they do next? Walk to each parent and tell them to be sure to put on their own mask before they start securing one on their child's face. The point behind this is simple: if you can't breathe, you're going to pass out before you can help your child. If you don't take a second to save yourself, then you won't be able to save your kids. And I would argue that this same mentality can be very important when it comes to parenting.

I'm not saying to constantly put yourself first as a parent. Of course not. But I am saying that I have to adopt this mentality every now and then to ensure that I can be the best mom I can to our son. That if I don't take some time for myself every now and then, to stop and figuratively put my oxygen mask on, then I'm not going to be able to be the happy, fun-loving, engaged mama that I want to be.

So what does this look like? Well for me, it looks like taking time nearly every day to go work out. Sure, it takes a lot more effort to find this time than it used to, and someone has to watch Eli while I do it, but it's worth it to me. This mama gets to de-stress, unwind, and get the blood flowing a little bit. And I'm not willing to give that up because it's important to me, good for me, and good for my parenting. Because it gives me a little break and leaves me refreshed and ready to come back to my baby and love the heck out of him.

Or other times, maybe it means reaching out to a loving husband, a supportive family, or fabulous friends, and just being real about needing a little break. Even if it's grabbing coffee and reading a book for 30 minutes, getting your nails done, or taking a longer day away to run errands or clean, taking a break from our babies doesn't make us bad parents. It makes us better. It helps us remember ourselves, our hobbies, our talents, our marriages, and our ability to have adult interaction.

The oxygen mask mentality expands beyond just purposeful "me time" to also include intentional date time. I truly believe that our children benefit the most when their parents are committed to keeping their marriage healthy and happy. This requires intentional effort to spend time together one on one and to remember where this all started: with the two of us. (Check out Why I'm Still Dating My Husband for more ideas on how you can date your spouse). Devoting time to our spouses doesn't make us bad parents: again, it makes us better.

Having a baby doesn't mean that you have to lose yourself completely. In fact, I would argue that you will lose yourself if you forget to make yourself a priority every now and then. Take a break. Work out. Pamper Mama a bit. Take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Date your spouse. Be okay with letting someone watch your baby for a while, and then come back to them and be the best mom that you can. I know it can be hard, and can take some planning and extra effort, but trust me: you're worth it. Your babies are worth it. That "oxygen" leaves you refreshed and ready to pour into your sweet family with a fresh outlook, more patience, and a whole lot of love. So put your mask on first, Mama. And then go love those kiddos. You'll be glad you did, and so will they.


Check out other posts about Motherhood here, or follow along on Instagram or Facebook

Monday, July 10, 2017

Our Summer Family Photos

Summer has always been my absolute favorite time of the year. Between sunshine, traveling, and time off as a teacher, what's not to like? This summer has not disappointed. Even as a family of three, we've still gone on adventures, visited the pool, and made lots of lasting memories. I'd say this first summer as a mama has been sweeter than ever, and watching Eli grow and change and explore the world with us has been a true joy.

Summer Family Photos

It's amazing how quickly Eli has changed since his newborn photos! You may follow along with his monthly updates in my recap posts, but in case you don't he is already four and a half months old and is growing like a weed. I was SO excited to capture this age with some new family photos, and jumped at the chance to work with my amazing friend Sarah of Sarah Longmore Photography. I met Sarah through a mutual friend a few years ago, and had the honor of leading YoungLife with her. I can truly say that she is such a sweet person and friend and I am so in love with these photos that capture cute and silly moments with our little man.

Summer Family Photos

We set out to take some photos at the park near our home. Of course, it was June in Kansas City, so it was pushing ninety and the bugs were out. We weren't sure how Eli would do, but we knew we had about an hour to work with! He was true to baby form, with photos that capture his drool, his smile, and his natural curiosity.

 I'm wondering if our little blue-eyed boy will stay blue-eyed. Sometimes when his pupils are less dilated, I see a little circle of brownish-green in the middle. My eyes are hazel and have the same circle, so I'm curious to see if he will stay blue-eyed with the colored ring in the middle, or if his eyes will change. Any guesses?

 Towards the end of the shoot, Eli was starting to get a little restless, and started staring up at distractions around us. His newfound love for sucking on his hand meant that Mommy and Daddy were having to pull it away from his mouth. And so we ended up with a few photos like this.

 I love these photos because they capture a real glimpse of parenting and being a young family. To me that "real" is messy and beautiful and oh so fun. There are times when Eli cries or makes life more challenging, but overall this season is silly and fun and I love navigating through it with my amazing husband. I love my boys.

If you're in the Kansas City area and are looking for some great photos, be sure to check out Sarah Longmore Photography! Sarah is fabulous to work with. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram

If you'd like to check out more of my posts on Motherhood, including the popular post Nine Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby, click here. You can also follow along with me on Instagram. Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, June 30, 2017

June Recap

And just like that, we are halfway through 2017! I can hardly believe it. June was a wonderful month of fun firsts with our sweet little guy, two fabulous family vacations, and numerous game nights and good times with friends. I definitely feel blessed to be a teacher and to enjoy such a long maternity leave with the added extra benefit of summer off. Here are Eli's four month numbers, our vacation stories, and fun pictures from our adventures!

Eli's Four Month Update

Eli is weighing in at 13 lbs 15 oz and is 24 and 3/4 inches long. This puts him in the 15th and 25th percentile respectively, but his 16 1/2 inch noggin is up in the 53rd percentile! The numbers look good and he is definitely growing like crazy! He is still blessing us by sleeping through the night, and we are just now getting to the point where he can sleep without being swaddled (with his arms out). He is eating right around every 3 hours, with longer stretches sometimes, and takes about four small naps a day. He doesn't fuss much other than when he needs a nap or is hungry. Thankfully, this month's shots don't seem to have bothered him as much as they did at his two month check up.

Eli is the happiest, giggliest baby. He is always on the go, which is a good thing because we've had him on the go this month with two vacations, his first plane ride, and his first road trip. He's seen the ocean and the mountains, and got in the pool for the first time! He found his feet, can hold up his head, and is blowing bubbles like crazy. He has rolled from belly to back a few times, but not the other way around yet. Eli loves reading books, sucking on his hands, being tickled on his belly, and traveling with his favorite buddy, Mr. Bearfox. I'm so grateful that little man is a champ of a traveler, because he's fit right in to our love for travel. It's still possible with a baby, y'all! Eli is such a blessing, and we fall more in love with him each day. It's safe to say that month four has been my favorite, and I'm excited for all that is to come (but hopefully it doesn't come too fast!).

Florida Keys, Everglades, and Miami Vacation

When we earned our Southwest Rapid Rewards Companion Pass last year, I was able to fly free as Aaron's Companion for all of last year and all of this year. After a Northeast Spring Break trip, San Fran/Napa trip, and our amazing Anniventury trip last summer, we looked at the map and picked places that I could fly to easily while pregnant (Nashville and Chicago), and then we picked two places we wanted to go in the US this summer that we'd never been (the Florida Keys and Seattle). Even though we had a three month old baby, I hadn't been on a trip since December and was so ready for one! First up: flying to Fort Lauderdale, renting a car, and doing the Keys, Everglades, and a little bit of Miami.

Eli was a champ on the plane and fell asleep before we took off. The air pressure didn't seem to bother him. Let's just say that flying with a baby required WAYYYY more bags than we are used to. God bless Southwest for two free checked bags per person. And umbrella strollers are the bomb.  I pumped in a variety of places (on the plane, in the car, in the airport), and Eli did lots of bottle feeds on the trip. He still slept like a champ in his pack and play in five different hotels! He also hit up the pool at our resort in Marathon, which had to be be about 82 degrees and felt like bathwater.

We had an amazing time just driving the Keys, staying in different places along the way, and eating three kinds of key lime pie. We stayed in Marathon, Key West, and Key Largo, and explored various beautiful places in between. The water is gorgeous in the Keys, but most of the beaches are kind of rocky more than they are pretty; Bahia Honda State Park was a big exception to that, as was the beach at Fort Taylor Historic Park in Key West.

As we made our way back up to Fort Lauderdale, we spent an afternoon in the Everglades. We got caught in the rain and I got more mosquito bites than I ever thought were possible, but we did see a couple of alligators on a nature walk. Eli slept in his carrier through the entire thing, but they were pretty dang close to us. If you ever go, be sure to throughly coat yourself in bug spray and avoid the trails that go into the woods!!

We also spent a day and night up in Miami, where we explored the South Beach area. The beach there is gorgeous, but the area itself wasn't my favorite. It was a little too "clubby" for me. We did enjoy Espinola Way though, where we found a nice Italian restaurant and Eli slept through the entire thing (sensing a theme here? 3 month olds are great to travel with!). I changed blowout diapers in the rain in the back of the rental car, and we just laughed through all the crazy moments that came along with traveling with a baby. All in all, it was a great first family trip!

Colorado Vacation 

After we were home from our Florida trip for about a week, we set out for our second vacation. This time, we drove out to Frisco, Colorado to spend six days sharing a condo and exploring with my extended family. We left on our anniversary, June 15th, to drive six and half hours out and spend the night before making the final three and a half hour drive the next morning. We quickly figured out that I needed to ride in the backseat with Eli so that I could bottle feed him when it was time. We also got really good at making each of our stops a "grab food, get gas, use the restroom, change a diaper" kind of stop so that we could really minimize how many times we had to stop.

While out in Colorado, we enjoyed the Frisco BBQ challenge, beautiful mountain walks, fishing, whitewater rafting, hiking, frisbee gold, sand volleyball, and numerous games of Mafia and the couch game. My favorite part with just being with family, and it was fun for Eli to be in a place that I grew up going on vacations myself as a little girl. He's the youngest family member to ever visit Frisco, which is saying something because there were 17 of us there and we usually went every summer growing up!

On the way home, we made the entire 10 hour drive in one day! We made our purposeful stops, and gave Eli a good stretch break in the booth while we ate a pizza buffet with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Scotty. It was a great road trip and we left with lots of great memories!

First Father's Day 

While we were in Colorado, we celebrated Aaron's first Father's Day! He's pretty much a champ of a husband and dad, and we celebrated by going whitewater rafting with the family (except for Eli, who stayed behind with a friend). I bought a copy of Jimmy Fallon's book Dada, so we'll see what Eli's first word ends up being, even though I've stacked the deck in Aaron's favor!

In Case You Missed Them:

First: A Letter to Eli
DIY Ideas for a Newborn Photo Shoot at Home
Learning that Marriage is the Greatest Thing You'll Ever Do
Designing Your Dream Home at an Affordable Price

As the summer unfolds, I find myself loving being a mama even more. I wish time would stand still for a bit, because I've only got a little over a month until I enter the world of the working mom. At the same time, I know that our adventures won't stop just because I'm working, and there is a small part of me that is excited for a bit more of a routine outside of the home. We'll see! For now, I'm soaking up every second with our sweet family. Cheers to July!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Designing Your Dream Home at an Affordable Price

While we are out and about on summer adventures, Patricia is sharing a great guest post on the amazing ways you can design and decorate your home on a budget. Check them out! 

Just the thought of undertaking home renovation can drive you into a frenzy as you start imagining the enormous costs it would entail. But achieving your dream home design is actually more achievable than you’d think. And no, it does not have to involve cutting down your groceries for the next six months or depriving your kids of their fun. Here’s a list of home decorating ideas that will help you create a space you’ll truly love while going easy on your budget.

Source: Unsplash via Pexels

Less is More
One of the best ways you can spruce up your home through affordable interior design is by keeping in mind that oftentimes less is more. People tend to make the mistake of filling their shelves with too many knickknacks. Not only does the room end up looking cluttered and tacky, the countless decorations can also add up in terms of expenses. So resist the urge to buy every cute item you see at Ikea. If you are in the process of redecorating your home, it may be best to rid your space of some items and create a more put-together look. You can opt for a minimalist look, with a few accent pieces to liven things up. Going this route will allow you to create luxurious looking interiors without spending much. You may keep things interesting by adding tall vases alongside books that are standing upright. You may also include various objects of different heights and colors. Your shelf and your living room will soon look Pinterest-worthy.

Source: Janet Farthing via flickr

Add a Trendy Piece
Although the classics are generally preferable, you can still get into the trendy spirit every now and
then. It’s nice to be current and timeless at the same time. You can add a trendy piece or two as accent. One such trend is the triptych, or a trio of paneled art hinged together. This has become increasingly popular in recent years and can be very pricey. The great news is that you can create one yourself. You can download free artwork from the web, and have your local printer produce an extra large copy of it. You can then cut it into three parts, and fit each one into an affordable Ikea frame.

Decorative pieces that are raw white are also seen as a growing trend. You can go for handcrafted vases that are bone white or chalky white. Keep your eyes open for these pieces when you visit a thrift shop.

Source: Pixabay via Pexels
Create an Illusion of Space
Another way you can make your place look more luxurious without shelling out too much money is by creating an illusion of space. This can be done through little hacks like taping together smaller rugs to create a giant piece, opting for a neutral palette, and placing tall mirrors against the wall. Space does a great job of making a room look grander, even if it’s just an illusion.

One effective way you can make your place look spacious is by choosing a monochromatic hue for all your decor. Lighter shades reflect light, and can make rooms appear larger.

Source: Pixabay via Pexels 
Make Sure You Have a Focal Point
Whatever kind of theme you decide on, you must stick to a key rule: every room must have a focal
point. Your design should focus on one eye-catching piece of wall art. Good artwork can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. You can remedy this problem by creating your own. Not only will you save money, you also get the chance to showcase your creativity.

If you are not the artistic type, you can always go to nearby art schools and commission the service of a young talent on a shoestring budget. You should go for oversized pieces as they always create the greatest effect.

Source: Pixabay via Pexels
 Choose the Right Paint Color
Deciding on a paint color can be difficult, especially as the rest of the decorating you do will likely
be influenced by your color choice. If elegance is what you are after, your choices will often boil down to either understated hues or bold colors. Your choices will have to depend on your personality. In any case, painting your unit doors black will create an elegant effect.

If repainting the whole house is not within your budget, you may focus on one wall. The wall itself can serve as a focal point, effectively sprucing the whole place up. You can cover one wall with grass cloth or paint it a dark color. The wall behind your bed would make for an ideal focal point. The added texture will not only make the room look more polished, but it will also add more warmth to the place. You can explore your options with affordable wall papers.

Source: ErikaWitlieb via Pixabay
 Create Drama Using Inexpensive Items
A little drama can’t hurt when it comes to designing your interiors, especially when they do not break
the bank. For instance, you can add a headboard to your bed using inexpensive desktops you can buy from affordable furniture shops. Choose a color that will pop up against your wall. A dark headboard, for one, can have a dramatic effect against a light-colored wall. You can add more style by propping up your pillow shams so that they form a diamond instead of a square.

Another dramatic scheme for your interiors is by adding lots of contrasts and shadows. Using tall plants and oversized floor lamps will also do the trick.

Source: Unsplash via Pexels
 Go Only for Elegant-Looking Furniture
You can follow all the steps above to a T, but still end up with a shabby-looking room if you make the
mistake of using tacky furniture. You don’t have to go for the pricey pieces to get an elegant look. All you need is a keen eye for style. You can even have the furniture reupholstered to suit your taste or the interior design theme.

One way you can play around with your furniture is by going eclectic. You can complement a regular looking sofa by adding a corner chair or two that are from a different era or distinctive genre (a Ming-style chair, perhaps?). You can also be creative with your color schemes. You can never go wrong with combining beige, gray, and white.

Source: Donald Tong via Pexels 
 Use Your Pillows to Accessorize
You can further accessorize your living room by adding tasteful pillows. They always make a great decorative addition to your sofa, oversized chair, or love seat. They can help amp up the elegance
factor, but only if you choose the right pillows. For one, you must skip the usual 12 to 18-inch pillows, and go for the 24-inch ones. For better effect, stuff them into 22-inch pillows covers. This will create a plush and luxurious effect. Also, do make sure that you only go for tastefully designed pillow shams.

Do not hesitate to start your home improvement project now. With the workable ideas mentioned above, you can easily turn things around.

Patricia Evans is an interior designer, residential designer, art crafter, DIYer, and a full time mother. She writes about interior decorating, and loves working with shapes, shades, and spaces. She is also in to green and simple living, and loves cooking and having tea. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

A Moment With A Thankful Twenty-Something: Learning That Marriage Is The Greatest Thing That You’ll Ever Do

Today's Moments Guest Post is from the lovely Kayla. Her words really demonstrate how important it is to model a good marriage for our children, which is especially important to me these days. I'm so excited to be sharing her ideas on the blog today. Check them out! 

Many think, in life, your children will be the greatest thing that you ever "do". They will be your legacy. They'll be the ones to live on when you're long gone. But in reality? Your marriage is probably the greatest thing that you'll ever do. When it comes to marriage, being happy is occasionally a dilemma. It is something that takes work, dedication, and a good attitude to learn that marriage is the greatest thing that you’ll ever do. Once things get bad, and a lot of mistakes are made, then often it can be difficult to clean up the mess. If you take steps to better your relationship before it becomes a mess, the issue of a happy marriage becomes a lot more attainable.

A Happy Marriage

Creating a happy marriage includes an understanding between two people that have an agreement and respect for one another to make a happy life and family together. A majority of arguments in relationships are disagreements on when and how to discipline children or how to utilize your money. Remember, your spouse is your partner, so you should both have an equal say so. Develop a plan together and follow through with it. Never do anything that will upset your partner. Take your agreement seriously, and they will appreciate you for it. Once you come to an agreement, you will also find that there is more trust, which is always a huge defining thing in a marriage. If you work together on a happy marriage, a happy family will follow. If you can do this as a couple and set an example for your children, they will learn by example. Learning by example will hopefully lead them to healthy communication with you and surrounding people.

Learning by Example

When you live with somebody and you have decided to share your life with somebody, you find things about that person that you didn't know before. As much as we like to believe that we are always right, we aren't. Finding a common way of communicating without losing control of the conversation is probably the hardest part. You want to avoid hurting feelings without holding back. This is simple; all you have to do is make an agreement that you will let each other have a chance to speak. Don't speak at all until your spouse is done speaking. It sounds harder than it is. Remember, never shout: it almost always escalates into something that could have been solved speaking in your regular voices. When people say things they regret, it is always hard to face that person because you know that you hurt them. Imagine doing this to someone you love so much. A common mistake couples make is telling their partner to leave in an argument. Almost nobody means this when they say it, so it's interesting that these are the choice of words we use in such an uncomfortable situation. When one person leaves in an argument, what ends up happening? The conversation is not over, and you will have to pick up where you left off, on an argument that was never finished. This can be ongoing and very painful, but easily avoided.

Little Mirrors

Your family should be the most important thing in your life, and you should treat it that way. Your children should never feel neglected, and they should never have to feel like you put your job or friends first. Your children are also mirrors of yourselves; they represent either good or bad parenting. Believe me; people know when they see a child that is a result of bad parenting. Kids are great, but having a great marriage is a great example as kids learn by example they are so easily influenced by the things you say or do, positive or negative. When you argue you should never argue around or in front of your children. A lot of mistakes parents make arguing in front of teenagers. They justify it by thinking the children are old enough to be exposed to that kind of behavior. This can affect their schooling or social life, and it is not healthy at all. You should dedicate one night a week where you spend time together. Not only will this start a family tradition your children will remember and pass on to their kids, but it also keeps your family connected.

The Glue

Lastly, it is important that before you and your spouse solve your problems together, you have to fix your individual problems first. After all, how can you fix your problem with your significant other if you have personal issues you haven't solve first? People expect that once they get married these issues can solve themselves. With this thinking, it can lead to divorce. It is important that you fix your personal issues first so that you won't take it on your spouse. Hiring a marriage counselor is a very important. This person can help you fix your marriage and can help your solve your issues with your spouse. Do not hesitate to hire one so that it can help you solve your problems and that person can even give your some tips on how to make your marriage stronger.

The Moral of the Story

When you and your spouse are happily married, your kids can see that and can be happy as well. If you're in your marriage 100%, not only will you benefit from it, but so will your children. Marriage is the greatest thing that you will ever do, not because you've found the love of your life, but because your family will also benefit from the love and respect that you share for each other. This is what my parents showed me when I was a kid. To be honest, I have a whole new respect for them. I am newly married and learning how to model my relationship after the one that shaped me. Their relationship wasn't perfect, but the constantly worked on it when it came to the tough times, I know that for a fact because they are still together. This whole marriage thing is tough. I never realized how tough it would be when I started this journey. My parents always told me that it would be the greatest journey that I ever took, but I never believed them until I was the one in the action. So here I sit, thankful for all the lessons and examples given to me. I was once the mirror and soon I will have little mirrors of my own. Thank you, mom and dad for showing me what a happy marriage looks like. To my hubby, this journey is wild but I am thankful to be here with you.
Source: Tagna Bilden Photography
Kayla is a content write for OurStart at the Income Store, located in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. When not working, you will often find her trying new foods, cuddling on the couch with there pup, or on adventures with her husband. Thanks for sharing, Kayla!

If you'd like to be featured in a Moments Guest Post, click here for more info or contact me here!