Our Simple and Sweet Peach First Birthday Party

I'm not a great party planner, but as I started to plan out Gemma's first birthday party, I had a couple of things in mind. I didn't want it to stress me out. I wanted to honor the simple living/ minimalism practices we value as a family and keep it simple. No overboard, Pinterest-perfect party. And I wanted to have it in our home. Overall, I wanted a simple first birthday party, but I wanted it to be special, too.

The theme would be peach, since I called Gemma little peach since day one, and she took on that nickname from Nick and I ever since. 

Soon after I decided I didn't want to stress, as the date approached, I became stressed. I was stressed about sending out the invitations, for one. We were inviting 40+ family members and friends (because we both have big families that live near us), and oh how I HATE gathering addresses. It's the reason I barely send out Thank You cards until 6 months later after an event, or "forget" about Christmas cards.

Friends, I love snail mail when it comes to my own mailbox, but I still can't wrap my mind around adding the slow practice of addressing envelopes to my already full day. Does that make me a bad minimalist? A good one? A bad mom? A bad party planner, surely.

Either way...Nick and I talked it out, and we ended up texting the invitations. We just texted out the image that I hand lettered using my Ipad. It was his idea, and it worked perfectly! Sorry to all the snail mail lovers out there, but if party planning is overwhelming you, this is a good place to simplify.


As the party neared, I did find myself on Pinterest for inspiration (mistake? maybe). But I didn't get roped in. Instead, here was how I kept the decor simple but till sweet and beautiful, and on the cheap:

-A few tassle garlands we had left over from my baby shower.
-This party decor kit from Amazon with a ton of pompoms (I used like 5, but my younger cousins had a blast making the rest of them)
-A "month" photo garland from Target that I found last minute. Ended up being my favorite part of the decor. I can't find a link to it online- sorry!
-Some peach table cloths for outside
-Baby's breath in mason jars we already had
-Peaches! Edible decorations that we used for lunches and snacks the rest of the week.
-A few balloons, of course.
-White plates (because anything else felt too expensive) and white and gold napkins all from Target.

I wanted simple and pretty party decor. It brings me joy to have simple but cute decorations in my home daily and for a themed party, so I simplified it as much as possible, and didn't spend much time or money on it at all.

The Outfit

Not much to say here, other than I wanted to find a sweet first birthday outfit for Gemma that went with the theme and that wasn't going to break the bank (because most that I saw were 70-100+ dollars for one day of wear). Gemma has too many clothes already for me to justify spending a bunch of money on one dress, so I found one on clearance at Target that was the perfect peachy color and super sweet.

These photos were taken by my brother before the party. I love how simple and playful they are. 

The Food/ Drinks

We also kept this super simple and didn't cook any of it ourselves! I'm all for that life. I'm not the greatest cook and I'm not cooking for 40 people. My mom did make some of it because she's wonderful. And we also had other family bring a ton of food, which we didn't expect, but it was super helpful! If you have a small budget or want to simplify even further, asking family to bring food is always a great way to do this! Here's what our food list looked like:

-Sandwich sliders from Walmart (so good!)
-Chicken from a local store that has great fried chicken!
-Buffalo Chicken Dip (made by mom)
-Meatballs (made by mom)
-Veggie tray (made by nana)
-Other food that family unexpectedly brought!
-Cute cakes from a local cake baker that is super inexpensive and delicious
-Beer! (it was Steeler's Game Day after all)
-Peach sangria recipe from Pinterest
-Peach iced tea

The Party

We tried to plan it right for Gemma's naptime, and it worked out perfectly. It also happened to coordinate perfectly with the Steeler's Game, too!

As all of our family and friends arrived, we ate and the party was mostly taken outside because of space reasons. Food and decor was set up in the house and there were plenty of tables and chairs that we borrowed from family outside. There was also a TV set out outside thanks to my brother (because the party basically consisted of the game and Gemma eating cake at halftime!)

During halftime, Gemma cake smashed and loved the cake a little too much, got her first sugar rush (and hopefully last for a while), and opened presents/ played for hours as everyone went back to the game (or watched Gemma play). 

It was such a fun time to celebrate Gemma with family and friends, and I'm so glad we made it work to host so many people in (or outside of) our small little home!

I have to say, my family did so much of the work, and my mom should probably go into professional party planning.

Either way, I think we succeeded in keeping it simple, not spending a ton of money, and not going overboard, but celebrating our sweet little girl in the sweetest way.

Here's our podcast episode where we talk a little bit about this party, Kid's Birthdays, and Gift receiving and giving as minimalists.

If you're throwing a first birthday party soon, I hope this helps! If not, share it with a friend you know who may be hosting a first birthday soon!

On a Year of Motherhood | Motherhood Memoirs Vol 3

Sometimes I look at you and wonder: how did we get this far already? How are we here? How are we at one?

How did we get past the first few days of breastfeeding, when everything hurt? Or when feeding you took up more than half of my day? Or the first night home? Remember when you cried for hours and hours because you were hungry but my milk wasn't in yet? Of course you don't, little girl, but I do. I will never forget that night. It was the first night I felt completely and utterly inadequate as a mom. I did not know what to do. And I did not want to keep holding you because I was tired. I felt like a bad mom when I gave you up to my mom who helped so willingly through the night.

What followed were days and weeks and months of moments of feeling like an inadequate mom. Like the first time you were sick right before Thanksgiving. Or the first time you got vaccines and you were pathetically sad and in pain at the tiny age of 2 months old. I was even more pathetic just watching you, not knowing how to help. Remember when I thought you were teething at three months old? And then again every week since then? Well, you just popped your first tooth nine months later. Finally, I'm not a liar when I say "she's teething."

I could go on and on about all of the moments where I didn't know what to do. Where I felt inadequate. Where I winged it best I could.

But here's the thing- all of those moments have built me up. Do I question myself as a mom daily, still? Yes. When I find myself distracted by my phone, I question myself as a mom. When I find myself a little frustrated because I can't go to the bathroom in peace and yep, you just ate toilet paper again? Bad mom- that's what I call myself in my head. But more moments than not, lately, I believe this is exactly what I'm meant for. And I believe that I am not, in fact, a bad mom. I believe that just maybe I'm a good one. 

Because through the hard parts, through the ear infections where you screamed and screamed, the hand foot and mouth disease that had an active baby down and out just laying on her mom all day, the hours spent trying to figure out a better sleep and nap schedule, the awful month of clogged ducts, there have been the sweetest moments, and so many of them. 

Like the days where you would fall asleep on me early on, and I wouldn't want to put you down, so I just used it as an excuse to watch all the seasons of Jane the Virgin. Or the rare moments you fall asleep on me now and I wonder how long you'd nap like that if I let you (the answer is less than a minute, really). And the time when you first laughed. When you started army crawling (or your version- which looked like the worm) the day you turned five months old, and how in the couple weeks before you were one you decided it was high time to start walking. The moments when you put your head on my shoulder because you're being shy or when you dance like crazy or hide behind us to play peek a boo or laugh when we chase you.

These moments, all of them, I wouldn't trade them for anything. The hard ones and the sweet ones. All of them have grown us into who we are this past year, you and I (and your daddy, too)

Looking back on this year, what I realize is that I am more "me" than I've ever been. You, my dear, have helped me grow into myself. You've made me a more creative, joy-filled person. You see, in having you I felt an intense need to become better because I want to be the best version of myself for you. I want you to grow up seeing your mom thrive. Seeing me create things and come up with new ideas and start projects and actually finish them. I want you to know that you are capable by seeing the example of a mother who believes she is, too.

Sometimes I fail at that- believing I'm capable. But I keep going because of you. Because you need to know you are capable and how will you know this if you have no example of a woman who believes she is, too.

In one year of motherhood, I've realized this: This role is the best role. To mother is to create a life, and then to foster it. To foster growth, creativity, confidence, learning, love, kindness, the list goes on. And to foster these things in you, I must foster them in myself.

One year of motherhood has changed me more than anything else. The me before motherhood? She's still there, but really I think she's grown to be almost unrecognizable. Because she's grown to be so much better because of you.

And though you didn't know it, all along, you've done it. You've made me better. And I know as the days of feeling inadequate in raising you roll on, and the days of feeling confident, too...as they blend together into weeks and months and years, you'll continue to grow me. I can only pray that I do the same for you. I pray we make one another better through the sweet moments and the hard ones. Through the cuddles and the tantrums (yes, we both have them).

More than anything, one year of motherhood has taught me this: This role is hard and beautiful and everything I didn't know I wanted and needed. And you? You are extraordinary, my daughter. I only hope I can help you see that year after year after year. 

Cheers to this past year, this first year- and here's to the many more ahead- the many more that are full of the unknown. The many more that, to be honest, kind of scare me. Here's to continual changes, and a big, brilliant, growing love that leaves me with words that are hard to string together and broken sentences like the ones I've just written.

5 Joyful Things Vol 1

I love a good roundup post, so that's what you'll get on Fridays from here on out. You'll get a roundup of five things bringing me joy. If you want my 5 simple things email, sign up for my email list. It's a little different than this one and includes a roundup of posts I've written or things I've made for the week so you don't miss out on any of that!

Because of #minimalism, I'll never tell you about something I don't see as useful or beautiful here. And if you don't think what I'm telling you about is useful or beautiful? Don't give it the time of day. Now that we've got that one out of the way, let's dive on in!

PS, bolded words are links, so you can click them. I need to figure out how to fix my layout so my links will stand out more, but til then, hope this helps :)

Morning Routines

I wrote about morning routines recently and I'm hosting a challenge coming up SUNDAY! Don't miss it. Morning routines have seriously changed my life.

Lauren Daigle's New Album

Also life changing- Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle came out this week and I've had it on repeat all day. If I have music on in the background during the day, especially encouraging, beautiful music like this, it seems to make me more present and less stressed. Highly recommend this album! Go listen!!

Gemma is walking, has a tooth, and is turning one soon!

What in the actual world? So many changes. She's so big. I kinda love it and kinda need it to stop all at once because WHERE IS MY BABY GOING? Look forward to a motherhood memoir coming up on my first year of motherhood next week!

An encouraging instagram post from last Friday that I want you to read.

I felt like this message was really on my heart and I'd love to share it with you. And hey, while you're at it, follow me on Instagram if you aren't already! PS it's a super cute baby pic, so don't miss it!

Painting my Cupboards.

While I'm pretty sure I moved into a home with practically new cupboards in the kitchen, I also was not a huge fan of the color because white cupboards are everything to me. I painted them even though everyone told me not to and I'm LOVING them so far. Will share updates soon. Also, let me know, because I'm not a home decor blogger but are you interested in knowing how I've painted cupboards TWICE? Because I feel like I've done a pretty good job if I do say so myself! Maybe a post is to come on this, we'll see! PS I use Dixie Bell Chalk Paint

Other things I need to tell you about:

  • If you like to plan your days, I recently wrote about how I plan mine, and there's a free brain dump template along with the post!
  • My friend is opening a craft bar in Charlottesville. You read that right, not craft beer- literally crafts. Pretty cool, right?
  • I just finished Girl, Wash Your Face which is amazing, but you probably already know about this 
  • Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path is still my favorite book I read this year 
  • If you're a mom and want to start journaling, or even blogging, this resource can hep you 
  • If you haven't listened to our podcast yet, what are you waiting for?

Sorry, I just needed to tell you about more than five things. 

Alright, that's all for now! Have a FANTASTIC weekend, friends!

When will I Sleep Again? & Other Questions I Ask Myself (Plus, a Journaling Resource for Moms)| Motherhood Memoirs Vol. 2

Check out the first post in this motherhood memoirs series, and write one yourself to submit as a guest post! And Check out my Journaling Resource at the end of this post!

Many nights I have wondered this- "What is wrong with my baby?"

Not in the sense that she literally has something wrong with her. But in the sense of, why does she want to torture me?

I have an 11 month old who still wakes up once a night, usually sometime between 3-5 am.

Motherhood memoirs

When it's closer to 5am, I'm not always mad about it. When it's earlier than 3 am, there's a likelihood she'll wake up more than once that night. 

Any mix up of schedule means she'll probably wake up more than once for the next few days.

 I have been lead to believe this is not supposed to be the case. I've been lead to believe that sleep training and diligence and schedules will give me a great sleeper. 

But also, I have been lead to believe that if your baby is less than one and still wants to wake up for nursing once a night, by all means, why would you deprive her? It is completely normal, completely right, even. Even if it is just for comfort- this is fine.

These are the things that make me crazy in the middle of the night, I think.

Not that my baby is still waking. That contributes to it. But really, it's that there are a thousand different opinions and books written on the fact that my baby is still waking at night. It is good, it is fine, it is wrong, it is not.

So I tell myself to work on it. Work on the schedule. Live by the schedule.

And then I also tell myself to stop being so scheduled. We need to live life. Should life revolve around the schedule? It is my fault she's so accustomed to the schedule and doesn't do well outside of it.

All of these thoughts are shaped by the opinions of other moms. Mom-friends, moms with babies just as small, moms on online forums, moms with grown babies, my own mom (love ya, mom!).

And though I am ever-thankful for all of the mom-advice I get, and often I ask for it, sometimes it's hard to distinguish which thoughts are my own and which thoughts are others'. 

What do my momma instincts really tell me about Gemma waking up once a night still? About her nap schedule? About being on the schedule and living by the schedule?

It takes a whole lot of inward reflection to get to the point where I feel like I know what I actually feel.

Here is the truth: I like the schedule. It's hard to admit because I am not a scheduled person. But as a work from home mom, I need the schedule. It helps me get things done.

Here is also the truth: It's okay that Gemma still wakes up once in the night. Sometimes, it's really hard to keep waking up, keep nourishing her in the early morning hours. But when I pick her up, when she's sleeping and nursing in my arms, I know that this season is slipping through my fingers faster than I can say "sleep training."

I know that I'll blink and she'll be done nursing. She'll be walking and talking and she'll grow into a little girl and I won't even know what happened to my baby. 

Time flies, they say. This season has taught me that there is startling truth in this tired, overused statement. 

There are a thousand questions I ask myself as a mom, and most of them stem from the fear that I'm not doing it right.

They stem from the fear I'm not being the mom Gemma needs me to be. That she's sleeping too much or not enough. Eating too much or not enough. Nursing too much or not enough.

And unintentionally, maybe we do this to each other. With all our advice and our books and our oversharing on social media. I'm a culprit, too.

We look at each other, at one another's babies. And we wonder if ours should be doing the same.

But isn't every single one of us unique? With unique gifts? Crafted individually by a loving God? So maybe our parenting is going to look vastly different. And maybe our babies, also uniquely made, are also going to look vastly different.

So thank you, to every momma out there who has given me good, heartfelt advice. And to every momma out there that will ask me for advice in the future:

Here's the truth for us all to remember: We are all different. Our babies are all different. And this is all kinds of levels of hard for all of us. Let's share stories, but give each other, ourselves, and our babies all the grace. 

Because in the end, we're all asking the same questions. But there isn't just one answer, other than this:

This season is fleeting and soon, our babies won't want us to hold them in the night. Breathe them in, love them hard, do your best. and cover it all in grace. 

Oh, and you. are. enough.

A Journaling Resource for Moms

Free motherhood journaling resource. 30 free journal prompts about motherhood.

Want to write about motherhood but don't know where to start? I started this series on the blog, and started blogging in general because I feel writing is one of the best ways to learn from our life experiences and process what we are learning. I've also recently started journaling and writing just for myself. 

I've created a resource for you that has 30 days of motherhood-themed journal prompts so you can begin writing, too, if you don't know where to begin.

Know that your own journaling can look however you want it to- lists, memoirs, a few sentences a day, whatever! All that matters is that you begin writing if you feel lead to do so.

Think of how wonderful it will be to look back on the journey you've walked in motherhood through the words you've written- and I promise it will help you process some of the crazy!

Also, if you want to write a motherhood memoir for a guest post, this is a great place to start because you've got 30 topics to help you brainstorm! 

Happy writing!

6 Reasons You can Stop Buying Baby Toys

When I was pregnant, one thing I told myself was that I did not want baby toys to take over my living room. I've seen it a thousand times- a nice home overrun by baby and kid toys all hours of the day, even after cleanup and bed time. My house wasn't perfectly decorated or organized, but I didn't want more stuff to take over.

But after the baby came, no sooner was my living room filled with 2 different swings, a play mat, and a couch and floor overtaken by baby toys.

As she got a bit older, the swings turned into an exersaucer and a jumperoo. And the toys all over the place? They only multiplied. Even when we found space for them, they still ended up overflowing. There seemed to be a little toy bin in every room.

I accepted it as the way of new parenthood, but then I started to observe Gemma and see her play habits. First of all, she seemed to get bored with most of her toys within 30 seconds. Mostly, she just wanted to take them all out of the toy bin and drag them around. But she seemed much happier dragging around a wipes container, a clean diaper, or some kitchen appliances like measuring cups.

Even better, she liked to play in the Tupperware drawer in the kitchen, or climb into and over top of boxes.

When we started to adopt minimalism into our life and declutter our entire home, Gemma's toys were a hard spot for me. I knew she had more than enough, but at the same time, there were only a couple small bin fulls of toys, and since our culture is one of overabundance, I questioned the thought of her having less than she did. Plus, I knew she couldn't say whether or not she wanted a toy, and I had a hard time making that decision for her.

The toys we did purge definitely didn't make a difference to her- other than maybe helping her have less toys to dig through to get to the ones she wanted. With everything else in my house, once I started purging, I just wanted to continue. With Gemma's toys, again, there is just a bit of emotional attachment to them, even though she barely plays with most of them.

After several convincing conversations with my husband and one with my nana, I've started to realize how unnecessary baby toys really are. Of course, some are good to have, but an overabundance actually can affect the quality of life of the whole family.

So if you are a new mom, or even a well seasoned one, and you feel like you are drowning in baby toys...

Here's why I think your baby (and you) will be much happier with less:

1. Your baby doesn't use them- If your baby is anything like mine (and another baby I observed earlier this week), faced with a choice between a fun-looking, noise-making baby toy and a Tupperware lid, the baby will choose the Tupperware lid. Gemma would rather crawl around and play with "real" household items than even look at most of her toys. Your baby is probably the same. Why keep around something that takes up your space and energy (everything you own does this to some extent) when it isn't even being used?

2. Your baby will most likely choose a measuring cup over the latest fancy developmental toy. The stuff I have in my kitchen cabinets, a box that comes in the mail, the wipes container....all of these things are way more exciting to Gemma than pretty much any of her toys. Why spend money and take up space with dozens of toys that your baby isn't choosing to play with if you have plenty of fun objects in your cupboard that you can re purpose as baby toys?

3. Too many toys can have a negative, overstimulating affect on your baby's brain. It's pretty common knowledge that babies are easily over stimulated (and if it isn't common knowledge, you learn it pretty quick when you become a parent). It only makes sense that toys scattered all over the floor would be overstimulating for a baby. If you're a parent, you've probably experienced the screaming baby after playing a little too long or seeing too many different faces in a short period of time. Nick and I personally started to realize that Gemma wouldn't play well for very long in our living room when her toys were spread out everywhere compared to a tidy room with more space and less toys. It just makes sense that this would be the case- adults don't thrive when things are scattered all over the floor (or just disorganized in general) so why would babies?

4. Babies thrive with more space- especially older babies. Around the same time we noticed that Gemma didn't love to be in a room that felt closed in by toy-clutter, Nick noticed that she absolutely loved a room that had basically nothing in it. At the time, she was about 7 months, and we had a room that was nearly empty as we were getting ready to move. That child would crawl around and play contentedly with a toy or two for loner periods of time than I'd ever expect a baby to entertain themselves. She was so happy with empty space and room to move. Space to move is important for older babies, and from my own observation, a baby is happier with open space and less clutter.

5. You will be a less stressed out parent. The best thing you can give to your child is your calm, positive, and happy self. I am not the perfect picture of this by any means, but having less toy clutter around the house, and less clutter in general, makes me closer to being that person. Even if you don't think its affecting you, studies show that visual/ physical clutter overstimulates our brains and causes us to be unfocused and stressed out people. Sometimes I wonder if this is why so many parents are stressed out and have negative feelings about parenthood in general. In our culture, it's normal that having babies/ kids means having so much more stuff around the house. The stuff causes clutter and the clutter causes stress. Have less toys and have less stress. It might honestly be that simple.

6. It creates good habits for a less toy-cluttered future. Right now, your baby doesn't know whether he/she has an abundance of toys or less than the average baby. When they get older, they will know the difference, and if they are used to having an excess of toys from day one, they'll continue to see that as the norm, and the habit will become extremely hard to break.

That doesn't mean parents of older kids have no hope for decluttering and having less toys in the home. You are the parent. You make the rules. You set the boundaries. Your kids will adjust. Here's a great article on why fewer toys will benefit kids for parents of older kids.

But if you only have babies right now- start good toy habits early. Have few and only what is needed or what seems beneficial to your babe. And continue to do this as your baby turns into a child.

With all of this said- it is still hard for me to purge Gemma's toys. I feel like her things still take over a bit, but I'm working on it.

I want to give my baby the best, and our culture tells us that means we should give our baby lots of things.

But babies have developed and thrived with WAY LESS before the inundated baby product culture we currently live in. And honestly, they probably developed and thrived much better than they do now when they are most likely overwhelmed with way too many toys.

I know that what is actually best for Gemma is to give her a space where she can thrive- a home that she can move in- a home that doesn't continually overstimulate and distract her while her little brain is growing so fast. And I know starting these good habits of living with less early is a way I can love her well.

Being a new mom (or a new parent) is already stressful enough. More stuff causes more stress. You shouldn't have to feel guilty for wanting less clutter in your home and more space to breathe.

If you have a house that has been overtaken by baby stuff and baby toys, please know I'm not judging you or saying you are wrong. I have a ways to go myself, and some days my house feels a little too overrun by baby stuff we've somehow re-accumulated. I'm simply offering another perspective- and hopefully giving you permission to say goodbye to the overwhelm that comes from the clutter your baby's stuff is causing.

Is clutter an issue you can't seem to figure out how to get rid of in your life? I feel ya. I always thought I was totally fine living with clutter, and even if I wanted to change it, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how I would do that. But then I discovered minimalism, and everything changed.

Want less stress, less overwhelm, less time cleaning, and more time to spend intentionally with your family and doing the things you love?

It really is possible- and I created a guide to help you get started, using the steps that worked for my family and I. It's already helped other mamas do the same!

I need that guide, please!

How Changing my Mindset is Changing my Life (and my motherhood)

It was nearing five pm. Gemma was extra clingy and I was feeling pretty exhausted. The panic started to set in- "Where in the world is my husband? He said he was going to work out quickly and be home. Doesn't that mean he should be home by now?" The negative mindset slid in pretty quickly. I started feeling sorry for myself.

"I've had a long day, during nap time I can't even relax because I have to work, and yet I seem to have gotten nothing done. My to do list is endless. The house could use picked up. We have so much less stuff than we used to, but still there's a mess after a busy day. I'm so done with today"

(by the way...my husband is amazing and he was not taking an extra long time...I was being dramatic)

I quickly put myself in a pretty bad mood that I blamed on Gemma and my husband when it was really my fault.

The next day, after reflecting on this spiral downward that seems to happen often, I realized how unwarranted it truly was. I get to work from home and be home all day with my extra sweet baby, which is the EXACT thing I want to be doing. Yes, it's tiring, but how in the world did I get so ungrateful about the very thing I prayed for and hoped would be able to happen? Seriously?!

I didn't necessarily make this revelation on my own. I was listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis and her words helped me along in realizing my negative mindset.

However, I did realize I was being dramatic pretty much as soon as my husband got home. I just didn't really know what to do about it. "I'm always like this," I thought. "It's just me- I get anxious, and I get tired after a long day, what am I going to do about it? This is just how motherhood is."


This is not "just how motherhood is."

This is how our culture has made motherhood out to be. Granted, I have one baby. I don't know what it's like to have multiple or what it's like to have a toddler or a teenager or anything more than a 7 month old. Still, I stand by my belief that motherhood is not supposed to be overwhelming and miserable. Yes, it's busy...it's incredibly hard and I know it will only get harder. But miserable and joy sucking? I don't think so.

When my mindset is in the right place, I absolutely love being a mom. It feels like the most joyful thing I could possibly do. It's hard, of course, but it's the really good kind of hard. The kind that grows you and changes you and, sure, tires you out, but all because you've got your heart walking around outside of you in the form of a tiny human. It's the best.

So why do I often find myself complaining about little, insignificant things, so much so that I end up bringing myself into a terrible mood I can't snap out of?

It's because I'm conditioned to complain about motherhood.

I'm not sure how I got here. Maybe it's because the culture around me has made me expect that motherhood should be overwhelming and a little bit miserable. The things people say to you when you're pregnant, ugh. "Get ready to never sleep again! Say goodbye to your sweet, sweet freedom! Just expect to be tired for years." Their "advice" can leave a mama-to-be wondering why in the world anyone, including herself, would have children.

We go into this motherhood thing with ominous warnings. And then, when the hard stuff comes from pretty much day one, we start to feel sorry for ourselves for the things we've said goodbye to instead of feeling grateful for the sweet little life we are now in charge of.

There really could be a million little things that go into why so many mothers are unhappy. I have found that the times when I find myself discontent instead of full of joy are pretty much all about my mindset.

What I realized is that about 99% of my discontentment and negativity has to do with me.

It's my fault when I find myself full of negativity because of the story I'm telling myself, about myself. I tell myself I'm not enough. And then I get myself thinking that I don't have enough. I tell myself that if my day wasn't filled with exhausting things like a wild, crawling baby and work, I'd be less tired and able to get more done. I tell myself these stories, and when I reflect on them, I realize they are pretty ridiculous and untrue.

I started to focus on gratefulness, instead. Since this cranky day last week and the revelation I had after it, I've been working to change my mindset.

When Gemma gets tired or fussy, instead of letting myself go into that downward spiral of anxiousness and discontentment and feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself how wonderful the miracle of motherhood is. I get myself into the present moment instead of worrying about what I have to do next. I sit with her and play with her. Or I hold her and nurse her. I listen to what she needs and I serve her the way a mother is called to, and I remind myself how grateful I am to do it. Is there really something I'd like to be doing instead? This is it. This is the ultimate thing that I am called to right now. 

As I remind myself to be grateful and present, it's amazing how the discontentment, anxiousness, and downright grumpiness disappears.

If I don't consciously remind myself to stay grateful and content with what I have, it's amazing how fast it will return.

Friend, whether you're a mama or not, I want you to know that this practice of gratefulness and presence is changing me. It's only been just over a week, but I'm so determined to keep it up. I believe it can change you, too.

Get outside of your own head.

Look at your life as an outsider, or as yourself five years ago. What are the good things you have that you couldn't have ever imagined? Be grateful for those things- they are good and perfect gifts from God. It hurts my heart how many times I find myself ungrateful when there are beautiful things filling my life.

I'm not saying circumstances and motherhood aren't hard. I know that you might be fighting really hard battles that I can't even imagine. I know that multiple kids and older kids bring challenges that I don't know about. I'm not saying you have to seize every single moment  with your babes and never feel overwhelmed or tired or grumpy.

I am saying that choosing gratefulness and contentment causes us to focus on the good instead of the hard. Doing so has made me exponentially happier. 

So, how can you change your mindset and your life if you're finding yourself unhappy, day after day?

Declutter your mind.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Are you constantly looking ahead to what you have to get done, feeling anxious or ungrateful? Catch yourself in those moments and literally count your blessings. List what you're grateful for in the moment, right then and there, and then get a notebook out each night or morning and actually write those things down. Specific things. Every day. Crowd the negative thoughts out with gratefulness. And then get yourself into the present moment, and stay there.

These are the steps I'm taking that are truly making a difference in changing my mindset.

This is the real reason I'm finding myself smiling more.

It takes daily, sometimes hourly reminders to focus on the good. Though it takes work to kick negativity out of my thoughts, it works, and it has brought so much more joy to my everyday.

I hesitated to write about this because I'm such a rookie. I still get overwhelmed which leads to anxiousness and complaining. But it happens so much less, and when it does, I try hard to catch myself and turn it around. This is a process- and I couldn't stop myself from posting about it because it is really, so life changing for me, and I believe it can be for you, too.

I believe that motherhood should be joyful. I don't want to miss the chance to live that out. I don't want to miss out on an abundant, fulfilled life because I wasted my days away forgetting to be grateful and focusing on what I don't have.

Feel like your mind is cluttered, too? I elaborate on this and more ways I'm working to change my mindset and declutter my life in my free minimalist resource, "Your Minimalist Life Startup Guide."

Get the free guide now!

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Three Easy Ways to Afford to be a Stay at Home Mom

When I first became pregnant, the thought crossed my mind that I never really thought would; I think I want to be a stay at home mom. I never really thought I'd want to stay at home with a baby. As soon as my little love was growing, though, my mind completely changed. I knew I wanted to be the one to raise my baby throughout her days.

At the time, I was teaching English full time. I knew a career as a teacher would provide me time off that most other careers just don't offer, but I also knew it was really demanding work. Stressful, time consuming, life consuming work. Right away, I knew I wouldn't want to teach full time with a baby, so I looked to make a change.

Long story short, I ended up taking a part time teaching position in the same school. I'm still in this position. It has allowed me the flexibility to still earn some stable income while being home with Gemma 2 or 3 weekdays, depending on the week and my teaching schedule.

This was a hard decision to make, as I knew the income from this job wouldn't be enough. Because I wanted to be home, at least most of the time, with Gemma, I knew this was the decision I was going to make anyways.

I ended up getting to take an almost four month maternity leave, which was wonderful. Going back to work, even on such a part time schedule, was still really hard. My schedule isn't great for childcare, and childcare is expensive. Next, year, I won't be going back to this part time job at all.

I'll write more on why I'm stepping away from teaching in a future post, but for now, I want to talk about how we are "affording" to make this decision, and how I have been able to "afford" to be a part time stay at home mom in the first place.

I've often had some working mom friends tell me that they wish they could afford to do what I'm doing- so that's where the idea for this post was born.

Here's the thing- We can't afford it.

The reason I've put the word afford in quotes up until now- well, it's not a thing. Going part time was partly a step in faith, and partly a carefully calculated step. But we've struggled financially because of this decision, and still, I'm taking it even further and not going back.

Being a stay at home mom is something I want. It is part of my values and what I want for my family. It is not for everyone, but if it is something you want bad enough, I believe you can make it work.

So, no, it wasn't and isn't easy to make the decision. We can't afford it, but we have made it work. If you want to stay at home, you can do the same.

We can't afford for me to be a stay at home mom, so I'm a work at home mom.

Easier said than done, right? I have a whole post on how I get stuff done with a baby, and I know as babies get older and drop naps, it will become harder. But I actually do have to work for us to be able to afford me staying at home at all. So I make it work, I find a way, I work during naptime, after bedtime, in the mornings, on the weekends. I actually enjoy working from home, though it took a lot of adjustment.

I can't stress this enough. If you want to be a stay at home mom, I believe you can make it work.

Here are a few practical steps we have taken to make more money and spend less that might help you see staying at home as a possible reality.

1. Work from home

If you are pregnant right now- begin looking for work that you can do from home right now. It won't be as easy to figure it out once your baby is here. Get started now.

If you already have baby(ies) and want to stay at home, it might be hard to make this step work, but I know a lot of moms who do it. Find something, anything, that you can do from home, in flexible hours of course because babies schedules constantly change.

If you aren't pregnant, don't have babies, but think you might want to be a stay at home mom in the near future, start now. Find a job that you can do, flexible, from home. It was a coincidence that I already had one part time, from home job. This gave me confidence that I could find more income from home so that I actually could stay home with my baby.

2. Start a side hustle

I've only just begun with my hand lettering shop, but it has brought us a bit more income that has been helpful to pay for little things throughout the month. If you have some kind of hobby that can be turned into a business without a lot of overhead cost, why not try it out? This could be a way to make extra money so that you can stay home.

Check out my shop!


3. Spend less

It may seem obvious, but many people can figure out how to afford staying home just by adjusting the budget. Really think of need vs. want. We have a lot of monthly costs, so we found ones that we could cut. Here are the top things we cut from our budget:

-Cable (we do have a smart TV and use Netflix) -Going out to eat/ for drinks (you naturally won't do this as much with a baby_ -Takeout (it's tempting, but just make easy dinner meal plans for the week) -Baby things (we buy stuff used or get stuff free/ borrow from friends) -Clothing (I buy secondhand only if I need it)

These have made the biggest changes to our budget, but we've also simplified our possessions in general. Look at your budget and think of what you can cut. I know there is so much more I can cut from my budget, and I plan to continue to do so.

4. Work Part Time out of the Home

This is what I chose to do to start, and it worked well for the time being. If you can't fully be a stay at home mom, this is one way to make sure you spend more time at home with your baby, but still work as well. I ended up wanting to stay home fully, and child care was hard with this option, but it is an option- and not a bad one!

If staying at home with your baby is something you want, there are ways to make it work.

I know everyone's situation is different. For some people, it may truly not be possible. But if you're looking it up and you clicked on this post, you're trying to find a way, and for you, I do think it's possible. These are just three easy ways my family has made it work, and I'm so grateful it has.

It isn't easy, but it's worth it, like most anything that matters.

P.S. If you're a working mom, go you! If you love what you do and working is what you want to do, that's awesome. You do really hard things, and I admire you! All moms are superheros. Working mom, stay at home mom, work from home mom, whatever it is that you do- you are doing what's best for your family and your babies. I'm not trying to say one is better than the other. Just had to clear that up!

What Nobody Tells You About Breastfeeding

Moms get really worked up over the topic of breastfeeding. I never really understood it. Why does it matter how you feed your baby? Why to some moms feel so strongly about it?

Well, I get it now.

Before I go on, here's the thing. I think you should feed your baby in the way that is best for you and your baby. Fed is really best. I just needed to get that out of the way.

But I get it. I've been breastfeeding for five months now, and I plan to do it for as long as I can. Who knows, maybe I'll be breastfeeding for two years.

I love breastfeeding. It is absolutely awarding, amazing, a miracle, a bonding experience. But it is one of the hardest, most stressful things I've ever done in my life.

Nobody told me that. Nobody informed me how hard it would be. It's funny, because as my pregnancy went on, I feel like I started to get the message that it wouldn't be easy. When I started to see moms chat about it on the new mom Facebook groups I joined, I was starting to get a glimpse of what I might be in for if I decided to breastfeed. But nobody really told me.


So here's what I want to tell moms that are hoping to breastfeed that nobody told me.

First of all- You can do it. If all works out- like you have enough supply and your baby is latching- you can do this. It's worth it. But if you decide to do it- it's going to be really hard. And here's why.

It's going to hurt.

In my breastfeeding class I went to at the hospital, I learned some different feeding positions, and that it "shouldn't hurt if you are doing it right." Well maybe that's true, but guess what? You're not going to do it right at first. And it will hurt. Even if you do it wrong just once.

Getting your latch right is probably impossible for a brand new baby and a brand new mom. You might think you have it perfect. But about an hour after that first or second or third latch, you'll start to feel the consequences. And it hurts terribly. Sorry to be graphic, but your nipples will literally be chapped, cracking, maybe even bleeding.

If you want to breastfeed- feed your baby through the pain. There are products to help you get through the painful stage (like soothies). For me, this lasted more than a week (maybe two). Gemma still had a bad latch every once in a while even after we started getting it right, so the chapping continued and so did the pain. And then after that all stopped, clogged ducts came on and lasted on and off for about a month. I cried on and off for about a month, too.

When the pain comes on, and you're tired and you're in pain everywhere else because, hey, YOU JUST BIRTHED A BABY, quitting feels easy. But soon, the pain will subside, and you'll be thankful you made it through.

You'll be feeding all day. 

I know all babies are different. But when I learned that newborns generally feed every three hours, I didn't really think that sounded all that bad. Feeding every three hours around the clock for a few weeks until baby can sleep longer stretches at night? I can do that. But nobody told me that newborn babies actually eat every 1-3 hours. Or maybe every half hour, sometimes. Gemma did, and for what felt like an eternity, I was parked on the couch every 1-3 hours, feeding for at least a half hour at a time.

Your baby might eat sooner than every 3 hours. She also might be super inefficient and take 45 minutes to eat. It also might take even longer in the middle of the night because you have to change her. When you calculate it, that means you'll be feeding 8-12 hours of the day, if your baby eats every 2 hours or so and you are feeding them for a half hour or more. And I think that's what a breastfeeding mom of a newborn's life looks like most of the time.

I felt like my only purpose was to nourish another human being. Sometimes that was frustrating. But I realized that for that season, it was my most important purpose. So I stuck with it through the monotony.

It's a lonely job.

Unless you have someone living with you that has breastfed exclusively to the same extent as you plan to (most likely, you don't), breastfeeding is a lonely job. I realized really quickly that my husband wouldn't understand. This isn't his fault- there's just no way he can.

When you're going through something difficult, or trying to figure something new and hard and demanding (like breastfeeding), it really helps to talk to someone that understands, or just vent about it to someone nearby.

1. Breastfeeding is weird to talk about for most people 2. If it isn't weird to talk about, it's hard to understand if you've never done it 3. The people I actually could talk to about it are people I didn't see much in the newborn stage when breastfeeding was it's hardests.

So it is lonely, especially in the beginning. And you're trying to learn a really hard, even painful thing that most people don't understand or can't help you with.

And it continues to be lonely when, 5 months down the road, when you want some dang sleep, you are still heading into your baby's room to feed her in the middle of the night.

But the loneliness is worth it, because it isn't actually all lonely. It is the most amazing bond between you and your baby. And that trumps the loneliness, but it doesn't make it not exist.

You're never off the hook.

It doesn't matter if you have the best breast pump in the world. If you leave the house to get some time away and leave bottles with the baby, you're not off the hook. First, you need to pump before hand to fill the bottles. Then, you need to pump after to empty your breasts and keep production up. And you'll possibly need to take the pump with you and pump while you're gone, too.

Sounds easy enough, but pumping ain't easy. I actually hate pumping, and it takes most moms more than one pumping session to fill up a bottle. So now, along with a baby being attached to you what feels like all hours of the day, you've got a machine attached to you, too.

Except it doesn't feel rewarding, because you have no bond with the machine, and it's noisy and it feels weird.

Going back to work is much more stressful

If you do have to go back to work while you are breastfeeding, you now have a whole new slew of things to think about. When will you pump? Where? Will you be able to pump enough- often enough and volume? Will your supply stay up?

I've cried about it. Because as hard as breastfeeding is, it feels devastating to think of having to stop because of work. After all this hard work, I'd like to continue for a while, thank you very much.

Most of my stress about going back to work has been related to breastfeeding and pumping enough. But eventually, my body got used to the pump and it started to produce enough. At least for now.

Nobody told me. Nobody told me how much time I'd spend sitting, feeding a baby, or how painful it would be, or how even when everything normalizes, it still feels lonely and really hard at times. Nobody told me that I'd cry when my freezer supply dwindled when I couldn't pump enough. Nobody told me it would be this hard.

But the bond between my baby and I that started immediately through breastfeeding whispered that it would be worth it. And somewhere in me told me I could do it. I could stick this out. Sometimes I still have to remind myself it is worth it to keep going. And when I'm feeding Gemma, her sweet little body snuggled up so close to mine always reminds me it is.

I'm so thankful for the people in my life that did understand, and that encouraged me to keep going.

Breastfeeding is extremely empowering, beautiful, magical, yet oh so difficult all at the same time. I feel strong because I am a breastfeeding mom. So I get it. I get why people feel strongly about it. I do now, too.

If this is something you want, mama, you can do it. And even though it will be so hard, it will be worth it.

You can do hard things. Don't let anyone tell you different.


There Will be a Last Time | Midnight Thoughts on Motherhood

To my little Gem, Sometimes in the middle of the night, when I hear you wake, I feel so tired and frustrated. I feel like I physically can't wake up...not again. After over four months of interrupted sleep, I feel weary.

But then I roll slowly out of bed, because you need me. I stumble tiredly, eyes half open, to the kitchen for water, then up the stairs and into your room. You're still crying when I pick you up, but you soon stop, searching for food and comfort as I sit with you in the rocker next to your crib.

As I hold you and feed you and meet your needs, it's like I forget feeling frustrated at all. It all falls away with you in my arms.

You are the gift. The gift of all gifts, really. God entrusted you to me, and why? Nothing shows me more of his love than this gift. I don't deserve you. I don't deserve your tiny hands around my finger, or the way you cuddle in close then look back up at me when you're nursing. I don't deserve your sweet coos or beautiful, priceless smiles. I actually don't have words for the smiles. Or the way you look at me, so in love with the one that cares for you and provides for you. I don't deserve any of it.

But God gave me you, anyways, even though I'm undeserving. He gave me you to care for, to love as unconditionally as a human can. To teach and raise and grow. And he gave me this great capacity to love you well, though I make so many mistakes. He gave me perfect, beautiful you. How grateful am I.

So though the thought crossed my mind to just stay in bed when I heard you tonight, you're in my arms now, and I hold you a little longer than I need to. In fact, I do this most nights anymore during these middle-night feedings. Because no matter how tired I am, I am reminded that one day there will be a last time. A last time to wander tiredly upstairs. A last time to pull you up out of your crib. A last time to nurse you. A last time to hold you and rock you. I know you'll grow so fast, it scares me. These slow days are just an illusion, and next thing I know I'll be looking back on how fast the years have gone and you will be grown.

So I don't want to miss it. I don't want to let this magic of you as you are right now slip through my fingers. Though I know each stage of being your mom will be a gift- a challenging, beautiful gift- I'll fight to keep this one as long as I can. I'll fight to savor every moment, even in the tired, the crazy, the stressful, the inconsolable tears. I'll just hold you longer. I'll take in your smell, the way you feel in my arms, your little rolls, your smile, your every detail. And I'll pray I can remember you just like this.

Babywearing Tips for Newborns and Infants

Babywearing is my jam. Baby wearing tips for newborns and infants

Really, though, I love it, and I feel like as Gemma gets older and the weather gets nicer, I'll only wear her more (until she grows out of it, of course, but let's not think of that whole baby growing up thing).

Before we get into any tips, here's why I think babywearing is amazing: -an easy way to bond with baby (on mom is the best place for baby to be) -baby gets to learn, as she spends time in a quiet-alert state and observes what is around her. -mom gets stuff done -apparently, it helps the baby's nervous system to develop because she is attune with mom's breathing and heart rate. -it's soothing. When Gemma was in her crazy screaming period (leap weeks, period of purple crying, whatever you want to call it), baby wearing helped soothe her when nothing else could.

When Gemma was about three months old, I attended a motherhood group and the topic of babywearing came up. A lot of moms were frustrated and chimed in, talking about how their baby didn't like the soft structured carrier, or they couldn't figure out a wrap carrier, or they weren't sure if they were safely wearing their baby.

I know all babies are different, but Gemma and I have had success with this baby wearing thing since week one of her life. I don't think I'm some kind of expert at it, but I do think there were a couple of things I did that made it work, and continues to make it work for us. Here are my top tips for moms trying to figuring out this babywearing thing- or future moms hoping to wear their baby:

1. Start early. I started wearing Gemma in a baby wrap (I have this Bambini and Me one) the first week I had her home. I wasn't sure how to tie the wrap correctly, but I just did my best, and I felt she was safe enough to have her in there for an hour or so. The second, third, and so on times wearing her in the wrap, we both felt more comfortable with it. As for the soft structured wrap (I have the LILLEbaby and love it!), I started wearing her in this at just under 1 month old. She didn't like it at first- but more on that later.

(she was so tiny!)

I think the early start got Gemma used to being in the wrap/ carrier right away. Of course, as such a tiny newborn, she loved being on me, and she immediately fell asleep. For most babies, I think the newborn days are the easiest days for babywearing; they love that mommy closeness and will most likely just fall asleep.

2. Be confident. As a new mom, it is hard to be confident about anything. The first weeks of Gemma's life, this insecurity was magnified. It was hard to feel like I was doing the wrap/ babywearing thing right. Was I going to drop her somehow? Was she comfortable? Was she going to get hip dysplasia? All of these thoughts ran through my anxious mom brain, and honestly, they still do.

When it comes to babywearing, though, you need to get confident about it. First of all, baby is going to be more comfortable about anything if mom is, so just be confident about your capabilities to wear that baby correctly. Read the directions, watch all the youtube videos, and do your best. Chances are, if your baby seems comfortable, she is, and you are doing it right.

3. Have help (at first). For those first few times getting your baby in a new wrap or carrier, having some help to tie the wrap, adjust the carrier, and get baby in and out safely is probably best. I benefitted from my husband's help a lot in this area. Throwing the baby into a new wrap or carrier all by yourself might not help in the confidence area I just mentioned, and it might also be unsafe.

After the initial uses, learn to get your baby in and out of the carrier or wrap on your own.

4. Persist through the crying (but stay safe). Gemma loved the soft wrap we have from the beginning. She seemed naturally happy in it from the beginning, and didn't put up much of a fight. When it came to the soft structured carrier (the Lillebaby), she did put up a fight from the beginning. I found this to be a common complaint from the moms in the motherhood group I was talking about earlier.

However, by the time Gemma was three months and I was listening to mom's talk about this issue at the motherhood group, we'd already gotten through all that and were using the carrier with happiness and ease.

Here's the thing: I had to play around with the positioning a bit, but most of all, I had to force it a little bit. I'm not sure if that sounds wrong, but I don't think it is. Gemma wasn't as snug in the Lillebaby as she was in the wrap, so she put up a fight in the beginning. She wouldn't fall asleep as easy or stay in the carrier as long as the wrap. I knew she wasn't uncomfortable and I knew she was safe; she just didn't prefer it- it was something new and she wasn't used to it.

I knew I was going to want to use this carrier often. It was more comfortable for me because it gave me more back support and I felt Gemma was less slouchy and in a better position than the wrap. I still love both, but this more structured carrier is better for longer use and more active wear. So I practiced, and eventually, Gemma loved it and still does. I gave her her pacifier over and over, patted her butt, danced around, put on music, and it worked!

Now she doesn't need that whole routine to be happy in the Lillebaby. She loves it, and I use it while I'm cleaning the house, at church, taking a walk, doing a babywearing workout, and most of the time, she falls sound asleep.

Here are some safety tips to figure out if your baby is actually uncomfortable or just adjusting to something new: 

*If you intuitively feel your baby is crying because they are not comfortable, obviously don't force them to stay in the carrier or wrap*

5. Get the Positioning Right. Different sized/ aged babies are going to be comfortable in different positions in the wrap/ carrier. It is so important to make sure you are using a newborn carry for newborns, and then beyond that, a carry that is correct for your baby's size. Gemma didn't really like the fetal carry in the Lillebaby, but she liked the infant facing in carry from the beginning. It was important for us to to try both, and not just give up when the first one didn't work. It may seem obvious to do this, but I know when you have a crying baby, sometimes, trying something in a different way doesn't cross your mind. Just getting the baby to stop crying tops the list, so trying a different kind of carry doesn't seem like the next step. However, sometimes you've just gotta get a different carry to make it work.

Read the manual, watch all the videos, follow the recommendations for age/weight, check out the safety tips in the graphic above, and you'll be fine.

6. Keep moving. If all else fails, this is my favorite tip and what works best for us. Gemma likes being worn best if I'm moving. I don't wear her if I want to sit on the couch. I wear her if I'm up and moving. And my movement makes her happy. Once she falls asleep, I can sometimes sit down with  her and she will stay sleeping and happy.

So if your baby isn't liking your wrap or carrier, just move more. I mean really move. Walk, a lot. Dance around. Go hiking. Vacuum. Your babe might just fall happily asleep.

Again, these are not expert tips. Just tips from a mom who wears her baby quite often, and feels babywearing has been a saving grace some days when nothing else worked.

Babywearing has been one of the best ways to simultaneously get things done and bond with Gemma. I love having my baby nice and close, and I also love being able to do more than stay parked on the couch entertaining her all day. Thanks to babywearing, I've done my makeup, gotten emails out, worked out, cooked dinner, vacuumed, all when I thought these things would no longer be possible except for during naptime.

Here's to you, babywearing, for making the craziness of new mom life just a tiny bit easier.

Lessons Learned from Living with my Nana

This past month, my nana stayed with us to take care of Gemma as I started back to work. Before she came, I was already thankful. I knew I wouldn't be able to easily transition back to work after maternity leave, and leaving my baby with a stranger was going to make it so much harder. Thankfully, my Nana came to my rescue. Lessons Learned from Living with my Nana

I have a special relationship with my Nana. I'm her first grandchild and she took care of me a lot as a baby when my mom was sick. We have a bond, and I just love being around her. But let's face it, all of her grandchildren feel that way about her. She is an amazing lady.

I think when the average person thinks of a family member, even a close one, staying with them for a month, there might be a little bit of anxiety involved. But I can honestly say that this past month as my Nana stayed with us was one of the best months for me so far as a parent. Not only did Nick and I get to have extra hands around the house to take care of Gemma or to do all. of. our. laundry. (for real, every last piece), but I learned so much from her and gained new perspective as a mom. An extremely valuable perspective that comes from a different generation.

Many millennials might brush off the advice of a grandmother, but I have always valued my Nana's advice. She is wise in so many ways, and the lessons I learned from her in this past month will stick with me. Some of the most important ones;

-Take care of your loved ones through serving. While my Nana was here, never did I wake up to a dirty dish in the sink. A lot of people have tidy habits, but I'm not one of them. My nana is. She doesn't wait for a pile of laundry to build up before she gets it done. She just does it. She cleans the stove immediately after she cooks and just gets the dishes cleaned up right after dinner. Though this takes time, in the end, it saves time, and a tidy kitchen is never a bad thing.

What it comes down to is that she is anything but lazy. She's always doing something, and it sometimes makes me tired just to watch her. But the reason behind it is she is taking care of the people around her, and that really seems to give her energy. Or at least, the desire to take care of the people she loves trumps her desire to relax.

I know the idea of the housewife is outdated, but it's not about cooking and cleaning or the woman of the house being the only one that does it. In her own home, my nana isn't the only one that cooks and cleans. The idea is that through watching my Nana and benefiting from her love of serving the ones she loves, I've learned that the mundane tasks have purpose, as they are an act of love and service for the people you care for. The art of service in this way has been greatly lost on my generation, I think, and I'm thankful I got to see this lost art in action through my Nana.

If you want something done, do it. I have a real habit of procrastination. My Nana is the opposite. From getting a package shipped out to fixing broken drawers to organizing a closet, if she wants to get something done, she just does it. She doesn't wait til the perfect, opportune time like I sometimes like to think I'm doing (really, I'm just pushing it off). It makes me wonder if procrastination is really a generational problem. Either way, even if it is hard to kill my procrastination habit, I admire my Nana's ability to just get something done as soon as she thinks about it. Also, she knows how to do just about anything to get whatever it is that needs to be done, done. I'm pretty certain I haven't inherited that skill, but I feel blessed that I can learn from her.

-Listen to people. My Nana has a lot of advice, and good advice at that. She has stories to tell and I absolutely love listening to them. It seems she has a story to go with any lesson. This is something I love so much about her, and it is part of a reason why people gravitate towards her. However, I think the main reason people want to be around her is because she listens. She listens and a lot of times, she gets it. I have been going through a certain struggle the entire time she stayed with us, and she is one of the only people that I could talk to about it, especially at first, that I felt truly heard by.

Even if she doesn't agree with a person, she listens to them. Because of that, she has so many friends and family members that bug her literally all the time. I'm surprised she isn't constantly overwhelmed by the amount of people that need her or want her thoughts or opinions on things. The way she listens makes everyone she comes into contact with feel truly cared for.

-Parenthood is a gift, and it doesn't need to be stressful (not always, at least.) This is probably the most important thing I've learned from my Nana since Gemma was born. Anytime I've called stressed about an inconsolable baby, a fussy baby, or just anything Gemma is doing that makes my life a little harder, she always responds with a "that's okay..." explanation followed by "she's just growing, she's learning something new, etc." Over this past month, I've learned to find even Gemma's screaming matches less than stressful as I watched my nana laugh at such ornery baby behaviors versus freaking out about them.

Sure, being a mom is tiring. Sometimes I don't get to eat when I want to, or finish a hot cup of coffee ever. This is what I signed up for, though. The amount of complaining that goes on in mom culture these days is more than half of the reason I was afraid of having children. I'm not judging by any means; I've been a part of that complaining as much as any other new mom (or veteran mom). But watching my Nana and learning from her, I've realized it shouldn't be this way. Having a positive outlook and just finding joy in the hard things and always thinking of Gemma as a gift are my new goals, thanks to my Nana.

Maybe she's always been this way, or maybe she's learned it after years and years of being a mom & grandparent. Either way, I'm not saying I'll never complain about the tough parts of being a parent. But I do hope to be a little more like her and find joy and perseverance in the hard parts of parenting.

These are only three of the several things I observed in my nana for the month she lived with us. I also learned smaller, more specific things about how to be a good mom. Or little cleaning tricks that I'll follow from now on. Whether it was a small lesson or a big one, I'm forever grateful for the days I got to observe her in her daily habits.

There is just something special about learning from your grandmother, and I value everything she has taught me.

My Nana left today to go back home, and the rest of her grandchildren are overly excited to see her. Though I know we'll all go back to surviving without Nana over here, I really wish I could have her here longer. I'm forever thankful for the memories we made and all the fun things she taught Gemma while she was here. We really did nothing special and basically stayed in the entire time she was here, but it was just so special in itself to have her here for such a long time. I love how much Gemma grew to love her in this month, too.

Now I have to figure out how to do my own laundry and cook meals again without her. But I'll hope to do both of these tasks with more joy than I did before, as I learned that there is joy in serving from one of the most amazing women I know.

Thank you, Nana, for a month of valuable lessons I will never forget.

3 Things to do for your Postpartum Body instead of "Bouncing Back"

Currently, in my backyard, there are water bottles strewn everywhere. Earlier I had to clean up the mess that my dog made of himself because of playing with said water bottles that were innocently sitting outside to stay cool while my baby screamed her head off because she wanted my attention. Of course, as with any time I have to let my baby cry longer than a minute or two, I felt guilty the whole time I cleaned up a muddy dog, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I'm learning that being a mom means dealing with a lot more guilt every day than I could have ever imagined. I feel guilt about using my phone while I'm holding or nursing my baby. Guilt about where I put her down for naps or to sleep at night. Guilt about letting her sleep in my arms, and guilt about putting her down for a nap. Guilt about the fact that I am home all day but can't get the house clean or cook dinner (just now realizing I've meant to put dinner in the crock pot, but didn't). Guilt about having her out of the house too long...and the list goes on.

The last thing I need is to feel guilt about the way I look on top of all of the guilt that I fight every day.

I see it on my newsfeed from fitness-coach friends, on articles that pop up as ads on Facebook, in magazines that I get in the mail: there are just a thousand ways and products to spend money on to help moms "bounce back" after pregnancy. Tone up your "mom bod." Be sure not to "let yourself go."

I am reminded each day when I try to find clothes that fit that less than three months ago, my beautiful baby girl was being held and nourished inside of my body. While this should be a miraculous and beautiful realization, our culture that is obsessed with appearances causes me to often look at this body with fear- will it ever go back? And guilt- am I doing enough to "bounce back?"

I'm fighting this hard, though, because I think these are the last thoughts I need filling my mind. Insecurity isn't new to me when it comes to my body, and more than ever, with a daughter I want to build an example for, I need to fight it. Here's what I'm realizing new moms (and all moms, because let's be real, not all of us ever fully "bounce back") really need to worry about instead of bouncing back when it comes to our postpartum bodies:

  1. Nourishing- I'm breastfeeding, so I need to eat well over 2,000 calories a day to keep milk production up. It's important to me that I try to eat as healthy as possible to pass the nutrients on to my baby. However, I know that some days require me to just eat whatever I can to keep calories up (grab and go takes on a whole new meaning when there isn't time to sit down for a meal even when you are home all day). So nourishing my body feels a lot more important than dropping pounds or toning up. Surprisingly, my body has shed weight on it's own when I treat it well by nourishing it and not worrying so much about it. At the same time, I know my body will probably keep on a certain amount of weight as I keep my calories up to nourish my baby.Instead of feeling guilt about what I eat and the fact that I can't really diet right now, I want to appreciate the miracle my body is doing each day as it provides the perfect nutrition for my daughter.If you aren't breastfeeding, or you're past that stage in your baby's life, a healing (and busy) body needs nourished no matter what. If you treat your body right in this way, it will probably do what it needs to do. That doesn't mean you'll be skinny or lose a ton of weight, but you'll be healthy, which is so much more important.
  2. Strengthening it- I believe exercise is important, especially for health reasons. Moving my body in gentle ways that strengthen my muscles that I need to hold and support my baby makes me feel better about myself. Things I've done in the past like more intense cardio workouts and heavier lifting really aren't working for me right now. Most new moms are probably a little too tired for all of that, not to mention the fact that we are still healing from the greatest workout of our lifetime; giving birth. Gentle movements like pilates or yoga and walking with my baby have been a way to strengthen my body and help it heal.At the same time, I have to fight forcing myself into it when I'm feeling too tired. I also have to fight the guilt I feel about not doing enough to "get my body back." As new moms, we have to remember our purpose in working out really should be to strengthen and heal.
  3. Accepting it- This is so important, and something I may never fully accomplish. Accepting my postpartum body as my "new normal" has been hard, but certain things have helped. First, and most important, closet cleanouts and getting new clothes that fit. I will probably never be my old size, or at least my old shape, and I'm learning to be okay with that, but I need clothes that I feel good in. This is not about shopping and spending money just to do it, but instead buying things within my budget to help me feel good in my own skin. Hair cuts, pedicures, eyebrows, putting on a little makeup if I'm going out of the house- these things aren't needed, but they help me accept and love my new normal.Do whatever it is that you need to help you get to the point of acceptance versus insecurity. If that involves a little bit of treating yourself, I think new moms (and all moms) deserve that once in awhile.

When I approach my postpartum body, I want to approach it from a place of love and acceptance instead of shame and guilt. As moms, our bodies have literally spent months making and nourishing the little babes we love and care for so much. The stretch marks and extra weight that we may now sport shouldn't be looked at like flaws, though our culture might want us to believe differently. Rather than seeing flaws and feeling guilt when I look in the mirror, I want to remember the miracle my body has done and be grateful.

What my Newborn Told Me About Myself

What My Newborn Told Me About Myself A year ago at this time was the first time I ever thought seriously about having a baby. Before that, there was a lot of convincing from my husband, but a lot of fear built up in me. The thought crossed my mind several times: Do I even want to be a mom, ever? I honestly didn't think I could ever be ready to be a good one.

A year later, writing this with Gemma strapped to my chest in her carrier, I'm so thankful that God changed my mind. Truly, that is the only explanation for it- God wanted Gemma in the world, so he had his way with my heart. I'm forever grateful for the series of events that led me to finally, though hesitantly, decide I, just maybe, could be a mom: Nick bugging me about it to no end, my family in on the nagging, and a friend's baby boy cuddling in the crook of my neck.

We were blessed that it happened quickly and in the timing I hoped for, but the beginning of my pregnancy brought a lot of fear and anxiety: What if I can't do this? Somehow, when the hormones really kicked in, I became a little more calm and level headed. Towards the end, though I was so excited to meet my baby, I had no idea how I was going to handle being a mom. I'm not the most emotionally-stable person. Little things make me anxious, and a few little things building up can really make me panic. I'm selfish, too, and a bit of a control freak. These, among other flaws, scared me to death. How was I going to be a mom, let alone a good one?

When Gemma came into the world, there was no doubt. I was going to be a good mom- but I was going to have to break myself to do it.

I remember being so surprised in the hospital at how my new daughter was truly calm and content in my arms. I can remember exclaiming "She likes me!" surprisingly to my family surrounding me, and my mom and nana laughed. Of course she does, she knows who I am- I am her mom.

And from the first time she looked up at me, she began reshaping me. She told me who I was, and who I was going to become.

Since having Gemma, I've been faced with the sinful parts of me every day. The selfish part of me that wants to run on my own schedule. The impatient part of me that gets mad at everyone if she's not having a good night of sleep (even though it is clearly no one's fault), the anxious part of me that has a hard time trusting God with little things and big things. The self-reliant part of me that wants to solve everything on my own (by looking it up on the internet, of course).

As a believer, I've always wanted to "work on" these parts of me (and fix them on my own, somehow, of course) to become closer to God. I've tried countless times, and of course the best work that has been done in my heart has been done by God, not by myself, and often in ways I didn't expect. For example, marriage has changed me and continues to change me in so many ways, though, like most newlyweds, I went into marriage thinking it would be pretty easy being married to my best friend, despite what anyone told me.

Being a parent, however, has broken me down in just two months and restructured parts of me that have been there all my life. Oh, how patient I had to become when Gemma screamed for hours in the evenings for three weeks straight. How selfless I had to become to push through with breastfeeding when I was in pain for over a month from oversupply. How much control I had to let go of as every little thing about taking care of a brand new baby made me anxious. How much I had to (and have to every day) rely on God to make all of this happen, and to continue this work on me to become the mom that Gemma needs me to be. I know I've only scratched the surface of how the hard work of motherhood will change me throughout my life.

Every time Gemma looks up at me with her big eyes, she tells me who I am. Though I know how selfish, impatient, and anxious I can be, she tells me I am loving, patient, kind, gentle, and trusting, because that is who God is making me through her.

I was fearful of being a mother because I was never going to be a good one on my own. But with God, working through the tiniest little love- through her smiles and cuddles and cries and coos- I am daily becoming the mom that Gemma needs me to be.

Being a mom has become one of my highest callings, along with being a wife, and to think of how much I feared it makes me laugh a bit now. I never thought I would be ready. Motherhood is something to fear in a way, as it is life changing, but I would have always been afraid and never ready. I didn't become ready until the moment I met Gemma; holding her for the first time was all it took.

Not every woman's calling is to be a mom, and that's okay. But if you fear being a mom because you don't know if you'll be a good one, just know that one day, when a little miracle looks up at you for the first time, and every time after that, she'll tell you who you are, and through the best and the hardest moments, you'll become exactly the mom she or he needs.