Monday, October 30, 2017

What Being a Mom Is Really Like: A Fear Reflection

This is the post that I wanted to read back before I was pregnant. It's honest and vulnerable and accurate to my experience as a mom. I regularly receive emails from those who read my original post, Nine Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby, asking me how I overcame my fears and how it all ended up. I'm eight months into this whole mom gig, and it's truly the best thing I've ever done. While everyone has their own experiences, here's what being a mom is really like for me, specifically in the areas where I was afraid.

1. The Loss of Our Carefree Lifestyle

Okay, let's just be real. Yes, having a baby is a big change. There's no way you can be as "carefree" as you were before you were in charge of keeping a little human alive (we didn't even have pets!). There is a lot that goes into keeping a baby properly fed, clean, and rested. We can't just up and go somewhere, especially late at night, like we did before. But I honestly don't miss it much. I'm tired by 9:30 anyways, and being home with our little family is the greatest joy. That being said, our Eli is an amazing sleeper, so I do get some mama time during his naps, and he's in bed by 7:45 or so, which gives us a little free time at night. Eli's also great with babysitters, and since we're blessed to have family and friends in town, we usually have folks lining up to watch him. All that to say, yes, we have a big responsibility now, but he is a "responsibility" that can go places with us. It's not like he's not allowed in the places we frequent. We still go out to eat, still travel, still do the things that we liked to do before. We just do them a little earlier, and with little man in tow, or we do them when we have a sitter! We had four carefree married years together before baby, and they were wonderful, but our life now is even more joyful. I've truly gained so much more than anything I lost.

2. The Shift in Our Marriage

Of course bringing a brand new baby into the world and figuring out how to care for him comes along with challenges. There are times of stress and feeling overwhelmed, especially now that I'm a working mom. But I've seen just how much of a sacrificial team player my husband Aaron is. He has loved me so well in this season, supporting me as I trained for a half marathon, spilled out my heart about my emotions, and worked to figure out our new normal. I've really seen the strength of our friendship and our ability to divide and conquer. We've shared laughs even in the hard times, and I've felt my heart burst while watching my husband love on our son. I have stopped and looked him in the eye with a smile as we both marveled at the wonder of our baby. We may not have as much free time together just the two of us, without worrying about spit up or diapers or nap time, but we are both still fully committed to our marriage and to keeping our love alive. We go out together at least once a month, have had a baby-free overnight, and are taking our first baby-free vacation this summer. But even when when we are just home in the thick of our new normal, we don't love each any other less. Honestly, we love each other more. There is nothing like watching your incredible husband become an incredible Daddy. While there are new challenges, Aaron and I have given each other the best gift: a child that is a little piece of both of us, one that we adore. Together, we are enjoying our best adventure yet, even when it's demanding.

3. The Fear of Labor and Delivery

I am happy to report that this fear of mine was nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be. I was an "I hate needles" kind of girl, but having a purpose behind anything that I had to go through made it SO much different. I honestly didn't have any issues along the way, and I would do it again in a heartbeat in order to have a sweet baby (but give me a few years before we have another). For more details on my labor and delivery experience, check out Eli's Birth Story.

4. The Shift in My Identity and Body

My identity really did shift. For a while, it was hard. I was no longer doing anything I had before: I couldn't work out, wasn't teaching, wasn't doing ministry, and basically couldn't do much else other than be a mom. But little by little, I saw my new identity as a "woman who is a mom" blossom. I am still me, still Kelsie. I still have things I like to do, and I've jumped back in to working out, teaching, and doing things without my baby. Being a mom is amazing, but it's not the only thing I am. I have to still make my faith, my husband, and my health a priority. It's good to have breaks and to take care of me, like I shared in my post on The Oxygen Mask Mentality.

As far as my body, of course I gained some weight and saw my body grow along with my baby. But I actually lost all of my baby weight very very quickly. I walked with my newborn, and then jumped back in to working out at 9Rounds about two months after I had Eli. Then I also decided to train for my first half marathon, so I did a lot of running. All that to say, I actually am smaller now than I was before I got pregnant! And no stretch marks!

5. The Shift in Our Ministry

Our involvement in YoungLife has been dramatically reduced, as many of the events are late at night and right in the middle of Eli's bed time. Since I'm a working mom, I have to really protect my weeknights these days, and putting Eli to bed is one of my favorite parts of my night. I just can't give that up every week, as part of my main ministry right now is taking care of my son and seeking to raise him up in the faith. That being said, we have still found ways to be involved here and there, on fall trips and through prayer and support. I have also seen the chance to be involved in ministering to other young women who are pregnant or brand new moms, and that has been pretty cool. There are seasons to all of this, and I know that God sees my heart in it all.

6. The Fear of Fertility Problems

I know that this is not often the case for others, but we actually got pregnant the very first month that we tried! We went into it trusting God and full expecting it to take up to a year, but it seemed like the Lord was definitely ready for us to finally decide we were ready to be parents ha! Not everyone has this experience, including many of my own dear friends, and my heart goes out to those who have had trouble or are still struggling.

7. The Loss of Travel Freedom

I'm happy to note that having a baby has not stopped our travels! This summer we went to Seattle, the Florida Keys, and Colorado, all with a three month old! Eli was a champ on the flights and on the long car rides. While there was a lot more "stuff" to pack and bring along with us, we still traveled, and will continue to travel with our little one. And it was honestly even more fun with a little one along to see the ocean and mountains for the first time. We've done short trips to Lawrence and Des Moines, and we're already planning more adventures for next spring and summer.

8. The Fear That Something Will Go Wrong with the Baby

This was hard over the course of our pregnancy. We had some scares with follow up ultrasounds. I had to really work to conquer my pregnancy fears, but God was good through it all and we had a perfect baby boy without any issues. Of course he is only 8 months old, and the future is unknown, so there is always that chance that something can (and likely will) go wrong at some point along the way: disappointments, failures, health issues, and more. I can't spend my entire life worrying every second about what could go wrong with our child. Even if he's a piece of my heart walking around outside of my body. I am finding more and more that I just have to offer my son up to the Lord and trust that everything will happen in his perfect plan, just as it should.

9. The Fear of Raising a Child in This World

Of course this fear will also remain throughout the course of my son's life, but it is not a fear that could keep me from actually having kids. This world can be a hard, scary place, but I truly believe that one of my greatest contributions to this world will hopefully be raising up a child who can help make it better with kindness, love, and compassion for others. I know that it will be hard along the way, but Aaron and I are in this together, along with the support of our amazing friends, family, church family, and of course the Lord. We feel blessed and humbled by the chance to raise Eli up into a man of character and faith.

To be honest, being a mom is challenging. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. It requires a lot of time and a lot of emotion goes into it. But it is undoubtedly the best thing ever, and I don't regret becoming a mom for one single second. Even when there are moments of frustration or feeling overwhelmed while just keeping up, there is SO much joy and I am so happy to be a mama. I just can't get enough of it, and it keeps getting better. I am learning so much, appreciating my parents so much more, and just soaking in every second with our little man- as they truly go by so quickly. It is 100% worth it and I am happy to talk more with anyone who wants to know more about my journey, or even who just wants someone to listen. Please feel free to message me on the Facebook page, contact me here, or comment below. I'd love to be there for you or pray for you!

What is being a mom really like for you, Mamas?


Follow along on Instagram for more fun photos of my mom life in action! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

3 Unique Disney Experiences Your Family Can Have

Today's guest post comes from Abby! She's sharing some awesome Disney experiences beyond just the parks. I know I'm already making plans for our summer vacations next year- I hope this post will help you with yours! 

Experience Disney a Little Differently

Everybody loves to experience the magic and wonder of the Disney Parks. A family vacation destination for a reason, the parks are a hit with people of all ages! Disney knows how to make a vacation magical, and now they have expanded their travel options so that everyone can experience the wonder of Disney no matter what kind of vacation suits them best.

Disney Cruise Line Ships

For some people, the perfect vacation is sailing over the ocean on a luxurious cruise. What could be better than delicious food and fabulous entertainment coming together to create an indulgent vacation experience? Adding a little bit of Disney, of course!

Disney has 4 state-of-the-art cruise ships waiting to give you an amazing vacation experience. Filled with shows, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment for people of all ages, the Disney Cruise ships make traveling from port to port the adventure of a lifetime! Some of the ships are outfitted with waterslides that would be the envy of any waterpark, others have fireworks at a marvelous pirate-themed party, and all of the ships come with Broadway-caliber shows and character meet-and-greet experiences. All of the ships provide incredible dining experiences, including both decadent meals and lighter, healthier fare as well as sumptuous desserts. On a Disney cruise you can get in a workout at their many exercise centers, have a decadent meal, spend time in the themed clubs and lounges, shop, swim, and catch a show; you’ll have so much fun you might not want to go ashore!

Because cellphones generally don’t work aboard the ship, if you are taking a magnificent Disney cruise you’ll want to remember to wear a watch so you don’t miss any of the amazing scheduled activities throughout the day. If you have kids who want to meet some of the characters, note that some popular characters may require booking an appointment in advance. Tips are automatically added to your bill in some places, but sometimes they aren't. Tips are expected for most other staff positions and make up the bulk of their pay, so you will want to pay attention to them and tip accordingly. If you keep these things in mind you can help guarantee you’ll have an extraordinary cruising experience!

Aulani Resort Hawaii

If you’re looking for a Disney experience that isn’t excessively Disney, Aulani is the place for you. You will get to meet the characters and enjoy the occasional mouse-shaped items, but your vacation will feel more like a luxurious resort experience instead of like a trip to a theme park. The food is excellent; you’ll have the option to spend the day relaxing in the grotto or the lazy river, or if you are looking for more of an adventure, you will be able to snorkel with the fish in the Rainbow Reef Lagoon or explore the water in a kayak or paddleboard.

Your children will love the kid’s club, and you will love that it is a certified child care center where they will learn the hula and hang out with Stitch while you enjoy a relaxing visit to the spa. You’ll want to book a tour of the island if you want to explore all of Hawaii’s splendor outside of the resort, including trips to see the rainforest and waterfalls!

Adventures by Disney

If you want to explore the world but you want to do it with Disney’s incredibly high standards, Adventures by Disney is for you. Travel through Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and numerous other places with the help of Disney’s Adventure Guides for a truly stunning vacation experience. Traveling with Disney is an excellent way to make sure that all of the little details of the trip are taken care of by the best of the best, letting you focus on enjoying every moment of your trip.

Adventures by Disney tend to fill up quickly, so you will want to book well in advance of your trip. You will also receive a pre-arrival book of information before your vacation, but don’t forget to read it in the hustle and bustle of getting packed and ready to go! It will give you vital information about things you will need to pack and things you will need to know about your destination before you arrive. Be sure to pack the book in your suitcase as well so you can refer to it throughout your adventure.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing resort experience, a theme park on the open seas, or the adventure of a lifetime, Disney has the perfect vacation option for you. With all of their exciting options and their extraordinary focus on providing a magical experience you’ll never forget your incredible Disney vacation!

Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Magical Travel. She regularly produces content for a variety of travel blogs to bring the magic of Disney to their readers.

I'm already itching to try out these experiences, especially the Aulani resort since Hawaii is on my travel bucket list! Where are you trying to vacation with your family this year?


Monday, October 9, 2017

September Recap

I'm a little late on getting around to our September recap, but I feel like that's a pretty accurate representation of how our month went. It was kind of a blur, and I didn't always feel like I had a good handle on things, but it was a good month overall. The weather couldn't quite make up its mind about being fall yet, and I didn't get around to a whole lot of blogging, but life is sweet and full. Here are our September highlights!

Eli's Seven Month Update

Of course little man is getting more and more fun each day. No doctor's appointment this month, so I don't have exact numbers but he is right around 17 lbs and is outgrowing his six month clothes. He is rockin' size three diapers. He is really starting to move and groove a lot more, and we've reached the point where I can't just lay him down anywhere anymore. He'll roll and roll and is strategic about using his rolls to get himself close to things he wants. I think crawling is on the horizon and we are in for trouble because this little man just wants to be on the move!

Eli had a big month: he visited Des Moines, went to his first football game, sat in the high chair, and ate his first foods. He also went to SantaCaliGon Days and visited Lawrence for Uncle Kirk's engagement party. As far as foods, he really likes strawberries, pineapples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Most of the time, he'll do rice cereal about an hour after nursing in the morning, and then a fruit after his lunch and a veggie after his dinner. Of course he likes sweet things more than his veggies, but all in all I'm pleased with how he's doing with solids. I'm making everything fresh in our Baby Bullet, and that has been going well so far!

Eli is still a champ of a sleeper with two two-hour long naps and then sleeping from 8pm-6:15 am. We lucked out! His favorite cute things right now are babbling up a storm, grabbing Mama's face and hair, sleeping on his tummy, and waving goodbye backwards. We spend a lot of time together in the Mother's room at church during the sermons, but he is always good during worship. Eli can sit alone, but prefers to push up and try to stand. We're still working on sitting without teetering over. He's starting to cut his first tooth as we move into his eighth month, but he hasn't been too cranky about it. We'll see. One thing is for sure- all of our adventures together are pretty great!

Half Marathon Training

Guys, I'm only two weeks out from my first half marathon: the KC Half! In the last few weeks, I've successfully got an 11.5 mile run and a 10.5 mile run under my belt. This is a big deal for a mama of a 7-month old who also had never run more than 6 miles at once before this. I ended up making a great running buddy friend on my group run last weekend, and now we are set to run the actual half marathon together too. It has been surprisingly fun to train, which I've done a lot during nap time and with the support of my hubby. I'm excited to knock out this bucket list item and it's been awesome to raise money through Team WorldVision to help bring clean water to Africa! Check out my page to learn more.

Faith and Friends

Lately I have been incredibly blessed by the growth of our 20s and 30s group at our church. We've been meeting more regularly, and our twice a month get-togethers are growing and getting more fun every day. We've been at our church through ups and downs of this group- many of whom moved away within the last five years. It's been really fun to see this growth, and I am so thankful for intentional, wonderful friends who jump in to invest in each other's lives. People are starting to have babies, and it's just so fun to share food, our homes, and our families with each other. I've also joined a new Tuesday night women's Bible study (the first study that I was going to and not leading in the last seven years), and it's been wonderful!

Mom and Daughter Date

Now that I'm back to work, I've learned to really treasure my weeknight time with Eli. I usually don't do too much during the week, but I did manage to make it out last month for a fun ladies night out to Starlight. My mama, my friend, and her mama went to Starlight together probably ten years ago, and it was fun to make it back again to enjoy Grease. Open air shows are so much fun! Love these ladies and our "from birth" friendship.

In Case You Missed Them:

Fun Things to Do in Long Beach, California
Our Fourth House-iversary
How to Survive and Thrive as a Working Mom

September was a challenging month for me, but it was also full of joy and fun with our little man, friends, and sweet family members. I'm so thankful that we have family so close, and that we are able to share life with such wonderful, intentional folks. Cheers to October- it has been a big month already and I'm excited to see all that will happen.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

How to Survive and Thrive as a Working Mom

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MoreHuggiesMoreSavings #CollectiveBias
Being a working mom is hard. A part of your heart (and your mind) is always with your baby, but you want and need to help care for your family's finances. You may have a career you love, one that stretches your brain and makes a positive impact on others. Mama guilt is real, and the last thing you want to stress about are the day to day tasks that come with working outside of the home. I'm learning how to balance my new role in this crazy world of packing diaper bags, pumping, and getting ready every morning, while still making the most of my time with my hubby and son. Here are some of my best tips on how to survive and thrive as a working mom.

1. Get Baby into a Routine

If at all possible, have your baby's sleeping and eating routine well-established when you go back to work. Our little Eli has been an awesome sleeper since the start, and now that he's on a four hour cycle that includes eating, playing for two hours, and napping for two hours, it makes things a million times easier for others to care for him. At night, he sleeps from about 8pm to 6:15 am, which makes the rest of his day pretty predictable: he'll nap at 8:15 and wake up to eat at 10:15, then repeat. This is much easier for babysitters to follow, and his little body is used to eating at certain times of the day, which helps me plan ahead with his bottles and snacks. Depending on how old your baby is, they may not be taking such long naps or going so long in between meals, but see what routine your baby seems to be following and try to stick to it.

2. Pack Bags for Both You and Your Baby Every Night

Taking care of as much as you can the night before makes the morning much easier. You've always got to plan for the unexpected blowouts, spit ups, and long morning feeding sessions, so the more you can pack and prepare the night before, the better. I make sure my lunch is made and in the fridge next to Eli's bottles, that my school bag is packed and near the door next to Eli's diaper bag and carseat, and that my pump is in my bedroom and ready to go when I need it in the morning. Showering at night helps too! 

I also make sure that Eli's diaper bag is well-stocked with burp cloths, his sleep sack, a spare change of clothes, and of course my favorite Huggies Little Movers diapers and HuggiesOne and DoneⓇ Refreshing Wipes. They gave us Huggies in the hospital and I've always been impressed with how well they keep Eli dry and cozy both during the day and while he's sleeping. I think he's pretty impressed too!

It's amazing how many diapers babies go through over time. I usually plan for Eli to use about 6 or 7 a day, but your needs may differ depending on your baby's age and size. Stocking up ahead of time at your local Sam's Club is always a good idea, and it can save you a ton of money in the long run! Here's a handy chart to help you pack and plan! You can find their diapers near the front of the club with the health and beauty items.

3. Cross Off Your Mental Checklist Before Leaving

Before I walk out of the door to put Eli in the car, I always run through a little mental checklist. Did I grab my pump accessories? Did I put his bottles in the diaper bag? Did I remember my own breakfast and lunch? It's way easier to stop and walk back up the stairs for something I missed than it is to have to turn around and drive back once I'm already on my way. Take the extra time to stop and run through the list in your head.

4. Remember Your Baby During the Day

This sounds a little silly, but in the midst of day to day tasks that can make a work day busy, it's easy to feel overwhelmed or feel disconnected from your little one. I've found that taking a mental break to watch a video of my baby or look at a photo really helps me remember why I'm working in the first place. This can also be helpful when you're feeling sad and missing your kiddo. I take a minute to marvel at my sweet boy and to get excited about seeing him again in a few hours. Then I buckle back down and get work done. Sometimes our babysitter even sends me photos, which helps me feel more involved in our little guy's day.

5. Find Ways to Save Time

It's so important to find ways to save time, not only to get to bed earlier, but also to free up precious time with your baby. Meal plan and cook with the crockpot, so that dinner is already done when you get home and clean up is minimal. I also pump while getting ready in the morning, save housework for weekend nap times, and use the Club Pickup service at Sam's Club. It's so nice to hop on my computer during one of Eli's naps, order everything I'll need to get me through the next month or two, then just pick it up on my way home the next day. Not having to haul Eli along with me or walk through the club when it's his nap time is a huge win! Think about ways you can make simple changes that give you more time with your little one.

6. Leave Work at Work

As a teacher, it is SO easy to come home every night with stacks of papers to grade. And in the past, I would probably have done that. But now that I have a baby, I leave work at work. Even if it means I have to be a little more intentional with my time at work or stay very focused every second of the day, I refuse to bring things home now. Because I don't get paid extra to do that, and I don't want to miss out on any of the time I do have at home with my sweet son. Work hard when you're at work, and then be a mom when you're home. 

All in all, it can be hard to transition into working outside of the home with a baby, but you can do it. Lean on your other friends who are working moms- they know what you're going through. Be real with people about how you're feeling. Make the most the time you do have with your sweet baby. And remember these tips to help you save time, money, and your sanity. 

Guess what, mamas?! Join Sam's Club and buy any three participating Huggies products, and you'll get $45 instant savings loaded onto your new Membership Card. It's so easy! Just join Sam's Club online here or print off the linked deal and take it to join in club. Then pick up your diapers and enjoy your savings. If you join online, you'll get an extra $5 e-gift card! 
This deal ends December 31st, 2017.