Why are there always bananas on my pants? A Motherhood Memoir

(Want to listen instead of read? Head to the podcast version of this memoir)

Having a toddler is strange.

It's even stranger that my baby has turned into a toddler within the past three weeks. I mean, really. Just three weeks ago I had a baby. She wasn't quite walking yet, and she really did stay in one place much better than the toddler she has now morphed into so quickly.

New moms- beware. This will happen to you, too. And you'll wonder what in the world has happened to your life you once thought had some kind of normalcy, consistency, or routine.

So now, it's true. I have a toddler. And today I also had banana guts rubbed into the fabric of my pants for the second day in a row. Don't know what banana guts are? You must not have a toddler- let me explain. Banana guts are what a piece of banana becomes when it is smashed in the hands of a toddler that refuses to sit still and eat. And though you've tried to keep her in her chair, you've given in, and now she's walking around with banana guts in hand, rubbing them on anything she feels so inclined to touch (i.e. everything).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in the past two days, I have experienced a new season of motherhood. I've gone from a season where things felt almost routine for a few months. I was getting used to the routine, too. Feeling pretty darn attached to it.

I saw this coming, though. I even said to Nick, "I think she's about to get a little more difficult" just the other day. And when I said it, I already thought she was difficult. I also saw a nap transition coming, and now we're in the thick of it. 

Here's the thing about this new season of motherhood: I can already tell it's a hard one. It's the kind of season where I don't even know what's hit me. Where I'm dead tired at the end of the day. Where I spent 30 minutes staring into space and reminding myself I needed to repeatedly check on the toddler that is wobbling back and forth around my house picking things up, putting them back down, and hopefully not eating them. 

It's a season where I feel guilty when not all of my attention is on her all of the time, because she wants attention and she wants validation. And the guilt, it makes me feel like a bad mom. And feeling like a bad mom gets me wondering if I should be staying at home with her in the first place, or if she'd be better off somewhere else and I'd be better off at work.

Here's what I do in these moments- the moments of doubt and confusion and monotony and bananas rubbed into my pants and a whole lot of crazy. I take the baby girl and cuddle her. I know I've talked on here before about how baby kisses heal. Friends, even today, with the banana pants, they healed. They were even extra slobbery- and isn't it funny how slobbery babies can kind of disgust us all of our lives, but our own slobbery baby just melts us? 

Because the conclusion I come to at the end of the day is this- I am not perfect. And this season is already proving difficult. But I am the best mom for Gemma- no matter how difficult, slobbery, sweet, ornery, or perfect angel she decides to be in the moment, she's mine. And I'm hers. To me, that means God created us for each other, and He's entrusted this sweet little girl to me.

This, I remember, is the greatest privilege. This, I remember, is enough. 

So I march on, I put on gratefulness, and I wear bananas on my pants with pride- a badge of honor that matches the messy but sweet season we're in. 

Stop being so "Busy" by Planning out Your Week Intentionally

"I have so much to do" is something I can easily catch myself saying over and over until I annoy everyone around me (or maybe just my husband).

But the statement, in itself, is true. I do have so much to do! Or to me it feels like I do. For reference, I am a work at home mom to an almost one year old. I work about 8-10 hours from home each week for a small bed and breakfast, and then I work on my own projects which include a podcast and this blog. Add in cleaning, cooking, and actually enjoying time with my little girl (or at least making sure she's not climbing the walls), and community/ church/ family commitments, and yes, the to do list piles up.

On my good weeks, though, I don't fall into the mindset of busy, even if I literally am what most would define as busy.

You see, we've made busy into a crown that we wear to prove to others that we are enough. I don't think it's just me who feels this way- I think it's a cultural problem. Busy means we're doing something real with our lives. It means we're good enough. We're contributing, we're worthy. 

I'm kind of sick of busy. When I let myself be "busy," I actually get nothing real done. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels just to prove something, and without any real purpose in mind. 

What minimalism has done most for me, even more than the physical clearing out of things, has helped me evaluate my schedule and how I actually live out my days. 

Instead of letting my weeks get busy, I'm trying my best to plan and create intentional weeks. 

Do I tackle a lot of things in these weeks? Well, I hope so. But at the end of the day (or the week) my main goal is that my week has been purposeful. And honestly, my goal over getting things done is that I would center myself when I start to feel that busy, anxious, spiraling out of control feeling. My goal is more that I would create calm days even over getting a lot done. 

It's easy to creep back into the mindset that checking off my to do list makes me a more worthy person. That's definitely a lie. But, lists to help me, and checking them off makes me feel accomplished and a sense of calm if I'm in the right, purposeful, intentional mindset.

So how do we get there as women who have a lot on their plate?

Here's how I'm tackling it.

Before I was able to start planning an intentional week, I took a few first steps. The following are the steps I recommend taking before you plan out your week intentionally. They will set you up so you can actually make that happen. 

1. I Got a planner that works with the way my brain works and I set a time to sit down and plan.

I've tried all. the. planners. Really pretty ones, bullet journaling, digital planning. It's been a long time coming, but at the moment, I'm really loving The Passion Planner. I like the minimal design (because frills just cloud my brain), and I like that you can see the entire week at once, but there is space for lists, and space to create intentional goals. 

I'm not saying you need the passion planner. Not one bit. In fact, I think you should get the planner that works best for you. If that's putting things into your phone, great! If it's a random, inexpensive planner from Target- perfect! 

If you have a lot going on, though, the one thing I do suggest is that you have a weekly layout in your planner. At least, this helps me, because when I was bullet journaling and only looking at the week one day at a time, things slipped my brain very easily.

Once you have your planner, pick a general day and time to plan your week. It's okay if you change it from week to week, but know you have a standing appointment with your planner. Don't break this commitment to yourself. 

2. Each week, I check my monthly calendar and fill in appointments or commitments.

This is the obvious one, and I won't talk about it much because it really doesn't need explaining. It's just an important step to make sure you are intentional about not forgetting important things!

3. I set up time blocks

The first two steps were really just technical ones- this is where the intentional planning starts to come in. If you want to get a lot done, but want to still have an intentional week where you are actually enjoying your life and not constantly working? Time blocking is everything. This deserves it's own blog, but here's my favorite resource ever on time blocking. I'm going to let the resource do the teaching because I won't do it as gracefully. 

In a nutshell, though: Time blocking is basically planning your day not by specific times of the day, but by blocks of time. So there are certain things you commit to within those time blocks rather than saying "I'm going to clean the kitchen at 10am, start working at 10:30, and make lunch at noon." It makes the day so much less overwhelming, and it makes it so that you don't get behind on things all day. Let's face it, having little kids makes the day so unpredictable, at least time wise, so this is a must for moms with little kids. Watch the video for all the info you need!

Before I move on to the next step: I love time blocking so much because I have blocks of time where I'm working and blocks of time where I'm being an intentional mother. That doesn't mean I don't add in a load of laundry to that intentional mom time, but this has helped me so much in focusing on the right thing at the right time. 

4. I Created Systems around the things I do repeatedly every week.

Creating systems around important things that you do weekly, like meal planning (check out my resource for this), grocery shopping, and cleaning. If you have certain days/ times set where you accomplish these things, you'll be more intentional with actually getting them done, and not having them loom over your head as just another thing on your list. 

For me: meal planning is typically on Sunday, grocery shopping is on Monday, and though I clean throughout the week as needed, my larger cleaning day is typically on Thursday or Friday, depending on the week. 

Alright, now we can get to the actual planning part.

Here is the process I use to plan out an intentional week vs. survive through a "busy" week. 

Step One: Brain Dump!

This has been the critical step for me! I was struggling HARD at figuring out how to schedule in all that I wanted to get done in a week. One day, I took one post it note and labled it personal and another and labled it work. On those post it notes, I listed out everything I wanted to do that week in each separate category and stuck those in my planner. I then started to assign blocks of time to these things.

Not everything gets a block of time right away, but these post its stay in the planner and I reference them when I have work time, or I'm about to run some errands and I need to see what is important for the week. 

Because of brain dumping, in a way I plan my week as I go. Honestly, at the beginning of the week, I can't wrap my mind around planning every single day completely. When will I run to Michaels for art supplies for Gemma's party decor? Not really sure about this during my Sunday planning time, but because the brain dump is in my planner, I'll reference it when I'm ready to plan out some time for errands. 

Step Two: Prioritize the brain dump

Even before adding tasks/ errands into blocks of time into my planner, I look over the brain dump and prioritize. I put squares around things that need to get done towards the first half of the week, question marks on things I need to research, and circle things that are important for later in the week. The other stuff is extra.

This is the random "code" I've made to prioritize my brain dump, but you can obviously do this in any way that makes sense to you!

Step Three: Set up your week if you haven't already and migrate tasks, especially for the beginning of the week.

The setup can come before or after the brain dump. It's just a technical part of the planning where I outline my time blocks and add in any important appointments for the week (I mentioned this at the beginning of the process). 

The migration of tasks should come last. This is where you can add in the tasks as little to do lists within time blocks that are relevant to the type of tasks added. 

I typically make detailed task lists for the beginning of the week right away, and then I add as I go throughout the week for the end of the week based on what needs to still be done. 

Step Four: Re-evaluate the plan daily

This is how I truly create intentional days full of focused work time and present time with my family. If I don't do so well on this in a particular week, it's easy to see that no matter how much planning I did during the beginning of the week, my brain gets scattered and I feel "busy" instead of calm and intentional. 

I am the type of person that needs a plan. So I keep my planner with me as I work. I check up on things and change thing daily. I mark off tasks as I finish them. This is probably the most important step if you want this plan to actually help you be intentional with your days. 

This is the simple process I use in my paper planner to set up my week. I also have systems in place where I use project managers like Trello to help me keep track of things. However, my planner is what I use the most, and without it, my days would definitely feel "busy" and hamster-wheelish. 

One thing I do every day that creates intentional days even more than planning is follow a morning routine. This allows me to get the most important things done (like prayer and self care) every day and starts off my day right.

I'm hosting a morning routine challenge that starts this Sunday- if this sounds intriguing to you, check it out!

Above all else, though, I give myself grace. If I don't get everything done, or if I lose track of the plan on a particularly full week? I have to let it go. I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and angry with myself when I get behind, so I have to breathe and remember that the most important thing in life is not a tidy, checked off to do list. Though lists and plans make me more intentional with my days, I cannot be a happy, calm, present person if I hold myself to the unrealistic standard of always getting everything checked off. 

I hope this simple process helps you plan for an intentional, productive, week and say goodbye to the "busy" mindset. 

Get this post in checklist form, with a brain dump template that you can use week after week to plan intentionally!

Why Everyone Should Have a Morning Routine, and how Having One has Changed My Life and Motherhood

Before I start, I wanted to let you know I'm hosting a 7-day challenge that will help you create and follow a morning routine that works for you! If you tend to skim through blog posts, check it out at the end of the post ;)

I wouldn't typically go as far as to say that anything I talk about on here applies to everyone, across the board. But I do think that this topic could truly benefit anyone. I'm going to talk mostly about the benefits for women and moms, as usual, but whoever you are, this can totally help you, too.

It doesn't really matter who you are. Full time career woman? Great! Full time stay at home mom? Awesome! Work from home mom, mom that works part time, not a mom, college student, busy, not busy, etc. I really, truly believe that a morning routine can benefit anyone.

So let's dig in.

How I used to wake up.

The way I used to wake up can be described as simply, without a plan. Before Gemma, I knew I was getting up to get ready for work, and on most mornings, honestly, I didn't even think in advance enough to know whether or not I needed enough time to shower.

I'd roll out of bed at the last possible minute, after pressing snooze several times. Actually, before rolling out of bed, I spent some wasted minutes on Instagram, email, Facebook, and just mindlessly scrolling.

I'd find myself getting breakfast and lunch together in an anxious, unhappy tizzy, spiraling downward before the day even started. I'd end up out the door a few minutes later than I intended to be, and I'd have to calm myself down in the car from the wreck of a morning I had.

After Gemma? Multiply the "wreck of a morning" part times a hundred, especially when it was a day I had to get to work (before this year, I taught part time and stayed home with her on off days). I can say I was almost always a few minutes late to work. I was almost always stressed. And I almost always wondered how in the world I was going to get out the door and not cry my way to work because I hated to leave her behind.

In conclusion: My mornings were full of negativity, and it was my fault. I started the day without a plan, other than knowing where I needed to be. I didn't have planned out the steps I'd take to get me there, or to at least set a positive tone to my day. And since there was no planning, no set routine, I ended up unhappy and anxious and late.

The saddest part? I had all the great intentions. I'd set all the goals to wake up early, read a devotion, maybe even work out or take the dog for a walk, listen to a podcast, music, etc. At one point, I had intentions set that I'd wake up and work on one of my part time jobs. 

None of that ever happened because I never created a routine that would help me establish those goals, or even come close to trying to carry them out. 

The breaking point

The breaking point came when we moved, and we were living with family until our house was ready. I knew I was not going back to work, so the habits I started to set would be the habits I most likely continued as a stay at home mom. My mornings continued in the same manner, but they got one step worse. I started letting Gemma be my alarm clock. Granted, this had to happen because she was in the same room as us, and my alarm would wake her up.

Either way, I found that I was the crankiest person there ever could be starting my day in this way. It didn't help that Gemma wasn't sleeping well and was waking up super early. But I knew, at that point, I had to change something when we got into our new home.

By the way: There are going to be seasons where a morning routine might not work for moms. When your baby isn't sleeping well, give yourself more sleep. But most seasons, I do believe this is something pretty essential.

New routines

The first thing that had to change before I was able to wake up before Gemma and have some kind of morning routine? She was going to have to wake up a bit later. I'll talk more on a separate blog post about how I got her to sleep in later, but we tried a strategy that worked, and she wakes up in between 7:15-7:45 now, for reference.

I did try waking up and working before Gemma was awake as a routine, but found myself still with an anxious start to my day.

Then, I stumbled on The Miracle Morning, and everything changed. 

I started following the Miracle Morning specifically (there are 6 parts to the routine) and then I adapted it for what works for me. Here is what my current morning routine looks like. This has really made me a happier, less anxious, more energy-filled person. I wouldn't write an entire blog about it if that wasn't true.

My Current Morning Routine

I'll detail this more for you if you join the "More Purposeful Days: A free 7 Day Morning Routine Challenge" that you can see more about at the end of this post, but here's a little glimpse of what my morning routine typically looks like:

  • Wake up 1-2 hours before Gemma
  • Devotional
  • prayers
  • affirmations
  • a short 30 minute or less workout
  • journaling before or after the workout

Why you need a morning routine

I hope my story above conveys why I believe morning routines are important. To make it more clear, here are the main reasons I believe morning routines are a good idea for almost everyone (other than maybe the people on crazy work schedules or brand new moms who need their sleep):

  1. A morning routine takes a good amount of decision making out of your day. I said this in my meal planning post, but adults, on average, make about 35,000 decisions daily. This can definitely cause anxiety and decision fatigue, so the less decisions, the better. If you can wake up and not have to make many decisions in the first hour or more of your day (because you are carrying out your already-decided routine, which becomes habit), you'll start the day on a much less anxious, more energized note. 

  2. A morning routine will start your day on a positive note. To go along with the first reason, and assuming you are choosing positive, life-bringing tasks for your morning routine, your day will start on a better note than just rolling right out of bed and getting to it. 

  3. A morning routine will create a more purposeful day. When you start your day purposefully, the rest of your day is more likely to follow on that track, to put it simply.

  4. A morning routine will allow you to fit things in to your day you wouldn't have time for otherwise. For example, when it comes to my morning routine, working out is the big one that I couldn't find a space for in my normal day. I knew it was important, but I couldn't prioritize it over working when I only have very few hours during naptime to fit these things in. I couldn't find a time to fit it into my day, so I added it on through waking up early.

    This is how I would describe morning routines in general: You are adding to your day. Typically, you might wake up at last minute, or just not really think about what purposeful things you can fit into your morning. When you form a morning routine, you'll be adding time to your day and creating space to do the things that are important to you. 

  5. A morning routine is a form of self care. Are you fitting time for self care into your day? Most women can probably say they don't even fit self care in weekly. But we desperately need it. If you aren't taking care of yourself, how can you take care of the other people in your life, like your babies or your husband or your family and friends, without eventually burning out? A morning routine can be the perfect way to fit a small amount of self care into your day. Starting your day with self care will assure a fuller cup to pour out to the people you take care of throughout your day.

Creating your morning routine

I'm holding a 7 day morning routine challenge so we can do this thing together! The Challenge Starts September 16th!

There are so many different ways you can start the morning. I have a friend that wakes up super early, makes coffee, and writes for two hours straight before her kids wake up. She works her mornings away, and it brings her life. I tried something like this, and it just wasn't working for me, but maybe it would for you!

Because we are all unique, there isn't a one size fits all morning routine. I have taken the Miracle Morning routine and adapted it for myself, but that might not be how someone else would want to start their day.

I tried several things before I finally found what works for me, and now I wouldn't want to wake up any other way (especially not to Gemma as my alarm clock)

Want help in creating a morning routine? Take the "More Purposeful Days: A free 7 Day Morning Routine Challenge" with me and a community of women wanting to do the same thing! 

It'll help you get off the ground running with creating a morning routine that works for you, and you'll be able to have the accountability of a group of women that are waking up early and starting their day with purpose, too!

A Simplified Meal Plan you can Actually Stick To.

There have been very few seasons in my life where I have enjoyed meal planning and cooking. The first is right after Nick and I got married. I truly enjoyed coming up with meals I'd cook for us as a family and putting together a grocery list, shopping (especially at the Trader Joes that was near our new home at the time), and preparing the meals day by day.

At the time, I didn't have a job. We just moved to a new place, and I really didn't have friends either. Pretty much, all of my energy could go into being a wife and preparing food, getting our apartment together, etc. 

That didn't last long at all. Soon I was a full time English teacher, and started hating meal planning because it felt like I had zero time for it. I started getting bored with the meals I was making, too. 

There was one other time, a few years ago, where meal planning was exciting to me. I decided to go all in and try the Paleo diet. It was fun to learn the new staple ingredients I'd shop for, the new meals we enjoyed, and a whole new way of shopping, cooking and eating.

But I still taught full time, and things got busy, and Paleo started to feel hard, along with meal planning, again.

Pretty much, since that point, I lost my love for meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. Not that it was ever actually a passion of mine, but more of something I just generally enjoyed.

Reflecting back on how I went from enjoying to despising of meal planning, I think the problem was my own life. Sounds extreme, I know. But I started overcommitting to things. Good things, of course. But still, overcommitted.

I was a full time teacher and took on a part time job event planning and working for Yelp. Then I started Crossfit and would go there after school with Nick. Then I started discipleship through my church. And a Bible study. Then I took on another part time job being a social media manager for a local small business. 

All good things. But way too many of them. And my life felt overwhelmed.

Sometimes I did great at planning out our meals. Other times, we went out to eat or ordered takeout four days in a row. 

Once I had Gemma (and three jobs still) I could absolutely no longer wrap my mind around meal planning. I started to feel like something was wrong with me. I sought help on social media, and then I felt even more like something was wrong with me. How in the world could I be so bad at such an important thing like feeding m family?! Everyone else seemed to have great ideas and have a hold on it. I pretty much had a meltdown about it, because I felt completely inadequate and overwhelmed by everything- not just the meals. They were just the last straw, basically. 

Now, I find myself easily planning meals each week. We grocery shop as a family, and Nick takes one dinner a week and most breakfasts, and I take the rest. It feels so simple. And the other day I remembered that just at the beginning of this year, I couldn't plan meals for the week to save my life. Even though, at the time, I felt like maybe I was the only one with this problem, now I'm convinced that there are other women out there, just trying to plan out some dang healthy meals for their family, but feeling completely overwhelmed by the process.

So I'm here to tell you what worked for me. This is the resource I wish I would have found a few months ago when I was so. over. meal planning. 

What Finally Helped

A few things happened to get me to the point that I am now with meal planning.

  1. We simplifed our home and our life. We got rid of a ton of stuff, and our home becamse 98% more manageable. I had more time for meals because of this. And my kitchen was easy to clean, so using pots and pans didn't feel like a burden. Also, I now have one part time job, and I work from home and stay home with Gemma. I also run an online business, so there is still a lot going on. But I'm not nearly as overwhelmed. I'm careful about what I say yes to. I know this might not be how everyone wants to live, and that's totally okay. It just wasn't working for me to be so busy- to the point where I couldn't do the most important things I needed to for my family. Now, I remind myself daily that not everything has to be done in one day, and whatever I get done that day will be enough. 

  2. I discovered Food Prep vs Meal Prep and started to think about meals differently. I realized that I was thinking of meals as something extravagant. A delicious, hearty casserole. A main and side dishes that go together perfectly. Lasagna (I don't make lasagna). But meals don't have to be like this. They can be simple. And I mainly learned this while living with my aunt. She typically prepares a protein, a starch, and a veggie. What a novel idea, right?! They can go together well, or not. It really doesn't matter. Simple and actually doable is what matters. And healthy- that matters, too. 

    Now I like to think of it as food prep because I mainly plan for proteins and sides that will go together well, are easy to make, and can be switched up if need be. Not feeling brocolli with the burgers? Great, I can make it later in the week with chicken thighs. 
  3. I gave myself grace to choose simple. Now I choose meals each week that we like, but that are easy for me. It doesn't have to be amazing. It kind of also helps that I have a baby to feed, and she likes the simple stuff better, anyways. As long as the food I'm preparing is healthy, I'm happy with the outcome. 

The Simplified Meal Plan I am Actually Able to Follow

With a baby, everything is harder. Add more kids to the mix and I'm sure it's hard to get anything done. But we change and adapt and make things work, because moms are basically superheroes. Here's how I've found a way to simplify meal planning and make it actually work for me. Step by step, here's what I do:

  1. Create a master list. This is the first and most important step. Choose 10-15 meals that your family likes and are simple enough that you'll actually stick to. This is your master list. You can always change and add to this master list- it's a starting point. You can make one seasonally, which I recommend, as you'll probably want chili a lot in the fall and winter, but not as much in the summer, for example. Write them down, 
  2. Choose a planning night that you'll stick to each week. Not prep, just planning. On Sunday night, I sit on the couch with my husband as usual. I count this as my prep time for the week ahead, starting with meal planning, because eating is important, right?
  3. Take inventory. I get up OFF the couch! This is the hardest part, I'm warning you. As simple as it sounds to go take inventory of your pantry, it will most likely be something you do NOT want to do. I don't know why, it's just one of those things, at least for me. Write down everything you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer that you could use for a meal in the upcoming week.
  4. Look at your calendar. If you have certain particularly busy evenings in your week, account for this! These are going to be days where you'll want to make a crock pot meal or plan something simple/ grab and go. This is key to making sure you stick with your meal plan!
  5. Choose your meals based on the work you've done so far. With your master list and your inventory list in hand, choose 5 dinners for the week. Or however many is realistic for your family. We do 5, and have leftovers, put together something random, or eat out on other nights. Obviously this changes based on our schedule. I can't stress this enough- make sure you are choosing realistic, simple meals that you enjoy cooking. 
  6. Write your grocery list based on your meals. This is the easy part! Bonus points if you've chosen meals that use similar ingredients and you can buy some things in bulk to save money!

Other important things that help me actually stick to my meal plan:

  • I write down my meals on a simple little list on my refrigerator each week so I remember what I have planned for.
  • I set reminders on my phone to put meat into the fridge for thawing (there's not much I hate more than having to thaw meat in the microwave- not sure why, but it will totally screw up my meal plan every single time because I won't do it.)
  • If I don't feel like cooking, I put on a podcast, pour a glass of wine or grab a beer, and count it as "me time." Obviously, if you cook before your husband gets home, this might be a little hard to do.
  • If you are cooking before you husband gets home to be a helping hand, prep food for dinner during nap time if you can!

This feels so simple to write out. There's no big secret. This is it.

It seems obvious, that you would take these types of steps to plan out your meals. At least, looking back at them, I debate if I should even post this. Doesn't everyone know this? Why couldn't I figure this out just months ago?

But I know that someone out there is overwhelmed. Some mama out there is doing way too much and is overwhelmed in so many ways and cannot wrap her mind around meal planning and feeding her family, like I was.

Remember that I said the first step for me was to eliminate the overwhelm present in my home. Now my home is a manageable space and I am less overwhelmed with everything around me. I can now handle the grand task of feeding my family without having a meltdown. 

The overwhelm of motherhood is so real. 

Minimalism has helped me, in so many ways, control the overwhelm. Because of minimalism, I can spend time on things I enjoy or care about without thinking of ALL THE THINGS that I have to pick up around the house constantly. Feeding my family is important to me, and now I have the brain space to do it. 

Grab your free meal planning workbook here.

This is the template I use each week to plan out my meals. I actually do it on my IPad because I end up losing the paper, and you can use this template digitally on an app like Goodnotes if you're like me!

If you do want to grab this meal planning workbook, and you're interested in learning more about how minimalism has helped me simplify, I'll throw in my minimalist life freebie for you as well!

Cheers to meal planning that is so simple, we can actually follow through with it!

On the Magic in the Mundane

This is the first post in a series of memoirs you'll find on my blog. Often we get caught up in constantly seeking information online. These memoirs are meant to be a return to the sharing of stories- a return to the reason I love writing most.

It was over a mid-day, impromptu bath time that I felt myself going a little crazy.

I felt the familiar feeling of my breath speeding up. The anxiety started creeping in gradually, and then it was faster. Then faster, still.

I think it started because I tried to do something different. I tried some sensory activities with Gemma. First, it was inspired by a social media story of another mom I followed. Then I did some Pinteresting. And it was all out of a genuine want to do something fun with Gemma, something that would stimulate her brain a little more than the typical taking-all-the-toys-out-of-the-basket game we usually play.

I got a pan out and some different kitchen utensils so we could make some "music." This went well. She had fun. She was focused on the game.

And then I wanted to try something more crafty, so I took to Pinterest again. I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to take a 10 month old from one sensory activity to the next, and right before lunch time.

I think at some point I switched over from wanting to do something fun with Gemma to wanting to check the boxes on the to do list that makes me feel like I'm an extra-great-mom, not just the mediocre one that I often tell myself I am.

The result was making "cloud dough." I had the ingredients that Pinterest so kindly told me I needed. Only flour and coconut oil! Perfect! And it's edible! Great! This would be fun, I thought. We'd make little molds out of measuring cups. And mostly, we'd squish it in our hands. 

I quickly made the dough, found our picnic blanket, and headed outside, baby in tow. Hungry baby in tow. I was so engrossed in being the type of mom that does multiple sensory activities with her baby in one day, that I didn't even realize we were actually past our normal lunchtime.

First, it was adorable. We sat down, and Gemma was afraid to touch the dough. She pulled her hand away in silly, stiff movements. Then, she went all in. All in with throwing it everywhere, and all in with eating it. And though it was edible, it was also gross, and I quickly realized my baby was hungry, and by trying to be super-mom, I neglected lunchtime (oops).

We couldn't go straight there. We needed a bath, of course, because my sensory play idea went rogue, and a pasty substance dripped all over her as she ate the cloud dough. It was caked in her hands and all over her face.

Leaving the mess behind me and trying to strategically hold her in a way that didn't get coconut oil smashed into my shirt, I took her immediately to the bath.

This was the point, when leaving a mess behind me, that my breath started to quicken. This is when the anxiety started. I tried to enjoy the cuteness of her love for bath time. I tried to savor the smiles. But really, I was anxious.

After all, lunch was ahead of me, and what would she eat? Would I be able to get it prepared without her screaming at me the whole time? When would I clean up the mess from before and the lunchtime mess? Naptime? I have to work during naptime, so can I really do both? I'll get no work done.

"I can't do this." And at that thought, I started to slow my breathing that had quickly gotten out of hand.

I must consciously remind myself that everything will be okay. That the mess outside will be cleaned up. That the kitchen will be cleaned up. That I don't have to do everything in one day. That whatever work I do that day will be enough. That I am enough for Gemma.

I must constantly remind myself that I am enough.

My thoughts so quickly go there- a spiral downward that leads me to questioning my worth. A spiral downward that makes me less content with the life I'm living, the beauty all around me.

I have learned to start catching myself. To start catching my breath. To take a minute to breathe a prayer of thankfulness while I'm standing right in the crazy. Right in the middle of the mess, I say thank you.

Because minutes later, Gemma will be done with lunch, and I'll be singing Sesame Street along with my Ipad that is entertaining her as I clean up. I'll sing Elmo's ABC's for the 15th time and continue to breathe slower, on purpose, and take in the present moment I find myself in.

And I'll realize I am perfectly content. Perfectly happy, even. I am thankful, abundantly thankful. My heart is filled by the mundane moments of motherhood.

It is mundane magic, really.

Because the same Sesame Street songs stuck in my head day after day mean I spend my days with a smiling, growing, learning, sweet little girl. 

Because messes that I must pick up during naptime mean little feet and hands have played hard and belly laughed the past few hours away.

Because minutes and hours and days that feel long amount to weeks and months that fly by. And soon these mundane days will become mundane years that I look back on with joy and a little sadness, because my baby has grown and I can't get those mundane days back. Those magical days. 

If I let my anxiety win, the mundane days will be filled with discontent.

With feeling like I can't keep up. With feeling like I'm not enough. With resentment. With ungratefulness. With missing the moments that one day I'll wish I could have back.

If I choose gratefulness, the mundane is magic. 

The mundane is everything I hoped for. It is the good, hard work of motherhood. It is what I am called to. It is exactly what I want.

Anxiousness loves to creep in. To steal our joy. To make us believe we're anything but good enough.

Gratefulness reminds us that though we are not good, God has called us enough. 

And he has called me to this season, the season where mundane is magic if I let it be- if I allow my heart to experience it that way.

I don't want to miss these mundane moments. I want to fill my heart til it spills over with little moments that seem insignificant. With the same song 15 times over again. With sweet smiles and tickles that I count up and save as memories for later, when the mundane days of motherhood are through and I miss them, and wish for the magic of them to return, but it won't, and it can't. 

There will be other types of magic then, I'm sure. But for now, the mundane magic is my song. And I'll keep singing it, over and over, at least 15 times a day, maybe more. 

On New Beginnings (Your August Free Print)

Is it really already August? Every year of my life, since I can remember, this is the time of year where I'd start gearing up for the school year.

A little over 17 of these years, I did this as a student. The past four, I did this as a teacher.

And now? I'm not.

new beginnings free print

You can read my post about why I stopped teaching. But this year looks a lot different for me. Still, there's excitement in the air of our home as Nick will start teaching in a new district, and I will be staying home, full time with Gemma (and working from home part time).

New routines, new things to learn, new beginnings.

Not to mention, we've moved into a new home in a new (old- it's where we're from) state.

There's a good chance you're living on a school year schedule, too. Whether you are a student, a teacher, or your kids go to school, the upcoming school year means new beginnings for you, too.

And if the school year schedule doesn't run your life in some way? Well, I still think August is a great time to begin something new. We're over halfway through the year with the busy holiday season a few months ahead- so why not start that new thing today? Begin forming the habit you've wanted to start. Begin that house project. Begin a new book. Begin decluttering your entire home.

It can be big or small- it doesn't matter how insignificant it feels. Sometimes starting something new is just what you need.

And sometimes it isn't. That's okay if that's you.

But for the rest of you- the ones that are living on the school year schedule, or ready to start something...

This print is for you.

Download the Free Print

I made it as a reminder that we can let go of things that once seemed good, but maybe aren't useful to us anymore.

As a reminder that even sweet seasons (like summer, or four years living in a different state) need to end so a new one can begin.

Whatever season is ahead for you- whether it be challenging, sweet, restful, scary, exciting...it's time to let go of what is behind and cling to what is ahead. Let's open our hearts to new beginnings, though we don't know what they'll bring. Let's trust God on that one.

This print is perfect for a kitchen window. An office wall. A teacher desk. A dorm room. Wherever it is your new beginning is starting- this reminder can be placed there. Because we all need a little push to let go and embrace the new. Or at least, I do.

Get the free print to keep as a reminder to let go of what is behind and begin something new.

Happy August!

10 Things I learned from 10 months of breastfeeding (and the supplements and products that I loved most)

Dear new mama,

Breastfeeding might be one of the hardest things you’re in for when it comes to your new baby.

That, and sleep. Getting less sleep is just a slap in the face. But so are painful, cracked nipples. I can’t describe the pain of that in words, and probably nobody wants me to.

But here’s the thing- it’s also one of the most wonderful things if it works out. If you can struggle through it, and if there are no other problems that prevent you from breastfeeding, it’s going to be worth it to push through the pain.

Through my breastfeeding journey, let’s just say moral support was one of the most important things. Wisdom from moms who have gone through it, some of them with multiple babies, got me through.

If it wasn’t for those moms, I might have stopped in my horrible month of non-stop clogged ducts. If it wasn’t for them, I might have cried on the floor more than once when I had to go back to work and figure out the wild world of pumping. Yes, I did cry on the floor. Just once, though. I cried not-on-the-floor a few more times, too.

Nursing for 10 months has been probably one of the biggest feats I’ve accomplished in my life. I’m not sure how long I’ll nurse Gemma, but we’re still currently going strong, and I don’t really plan to stop anytime soon. We’re just kind of riding it out and seeing how it goes.

I feel like I need to give back- to share the wisdom I’ve learned as so many other mamas so graciously did to help me through.

So here I am, bringing you 10 things I’ve learned from 10 months of breastfeeding.

Okay, there are really 12, but 10 tips in 10 months just sounds catchier, so let’s just pretend.

10 tips for breastfeeding moms


Also, I’m omitting some tips because I’ve written on this topic before. Find my other thoughts on breastfeeding here.

Newborn Stage: 0-3 months (ish)

1. You’re going to have to park yourself on the couch and feed your baby all the time. Find a good show to watch, and always have snacks nearby. Don’t be stressed about what needs done. THIS is your primary job right now. It’s really hard at the moment, but it will get easier. For now, just enjoy the “rest” you get when you have to feed your inefficient little nurser for 45 minutes at a time, 12 times a day. (You do realize that means you’ll probably be nursing pretty much your entire waking day, right? Okay, good.)

2. Lecithin is a godsend for clogged ducts. Ugh, my month of on and off clogged ducts was terrible (within the first month of Gemma’s life). I cried. I feared mastitis. I tried all of the tips I read online and nothing worked. UNTIL another mom suggested lecithin. I took Sunflower Lecithin all day long- 3 at a time, multiple times a day. Relief, friends! Sweet relief. It did end up causing some tummy issues for Gemma, so I cut down, but when a clog came back, a few doses worked like a charm!

3. Invest in a soft, airy cover. Covers are hard to deal with. If you even care about covering yourself (totally okay if you don’t-good for you!), try out a few different ones and choose which you like best- but a light material is going to be your friend.

5. Nurse on demand. At least, that’s what worked for me, and that’s what most lactation consultants suggest. A “schedule” at this point is not even a real thing. The baby eats when the baby wants, even when that’s 15 minutes after she stopped. This is good. There is no reason to try to set some sort of schedule because it’s going to change about a thousand times before your baby is actually old enough to be scheduled. Also, I’m not a health professional or a lactation consultant, so if they tell you something different, don’t listen to me! Every baby is different.

6. Try not to let staring people get to you when out in public. It was hard for me- but I reminded myself that I was doing the right thing by feeding my baby. If someone is uncomfortable- they can just look away. Why people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding decide to stare makes no sense to me.

The Older Baby:

6. If you’re going back to work, or plan to be away from your baby often, invest in a good pump AND a pumping bag. When I finally got a pumping bag, my life changed, because my pump parts weren’t everywhere all the time.

7. Also on pumping and going back to work...you are not a failure if you have to supplement! This was my biggest hurdle. I cried on the floor because I couldn’t pump enough. I only worked every other day, so my milk supply stayed fine. I just couldn’t get as much milk out when I tried to pump versus when Gemma nursed. This is common. There’s nothing wrong with your milk. Pump as much as you can and supplement if need be. Then, nurse ALL the time, as much as your baby wants, when you are at home to keep the supply going.

8. Around 7 months, you might have a distracted nurser on your hands. Around Gemma’s 8th month, I started to think she didn’t like nursing because she ALWAYS needed to see ALL OF THE THINGS going on around her and would be terrible at nursing other than when she was tired. Your baby probably does not want to stop nursing- the world around them is just wayyyy too distracting. If you are able to, find a quiet place to nurse, maybe even dark, and all will be fine.

9. Be ready for full on exposure. Around 8 months, when the distractions started, Gemma also decided she didn’t like to be covered, or even have something on her face when she was nursing. She still likes to lift up my shirt, the thing that is helping me be a little less exposed, every time I nurse.

10. Always wear nursing friendly clothes. Even if I’m sure Gemma won’t need to nurse while we are out, the days have come where I’m wearing a dress and realize she probably wants milk because we were out a little longer than expected. Wear flowy shirts that can be lifted easily and still give some coverage (until your child decides to expose you anyways...). If you hate layers like me, wear high waisted leggings or pants to help cover you when you have to lift your shirt to nurse.

When it comes to breastfeeding, my biggest tip of all is don’t isolate yourself.

If you don’t have other mom friends to talk to- find an online community where you can ask questions. There are tons of groups on Facebook. Obviously, people can throw out judgement like it’s their job, but try to find someone you can talk to that will be helpful and not judgemental.

This is a hard thing. Don’t do it alone. Ask questions to other moms that have gone before you.

And my second biggest tip is to do what is right for you. I was really set on breastfeeding and pretty determined, which got me through hard things like clogged ducts and pain and having supply issues when returning to work. I love it- it’s such a good bond between Gemma and I, and I love that I get to give her the nourishment she needs.

BUT, for some people, it just doesn’t work. It causes too much anxiety and stress. Whatever the reason is, if you have to stop, do what’s right for you.

On another note, here are some of the supplements and products that I’ve used a lot, many I currently use, minimalist(ish) style. Most of them do more than one thing, so you can have LESS stuff when you have these few things. I’m not saying all of these things are necessary- but they are for sure helpful!

Minimalist Breastfeeding Essentials

Supplements I used (some I still use):

New Chapter Perfect Postnatal Vitamins (has nursing support)- I’m still taking this when I remember!

NOW Sunflower Lecithin- a Godsend for clogged ducts and also has benefits for baby's brain.

Brewer's Yeast- lactation support- great for making lactation cookies.

Quaker Oats Old Fashioned- also for lactation support. When I felt like my milk was low, I just ate a bunch of oatmeal.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Tea "Milkmaid"- The only lactation tea I enjoyed! The rest tasted like licorice to me which made me disgusted.

To go along with that- THIS easy “booby bites” recipe. You don’t even have to bake them! I’m all about that for new moms!

Products I Love:

Milk Snob Cover- This thing can roll up super small, so it is space saving. It’s lightweight, and it doubles as a car seat cover (much needed for tiny, sleepy babies) and a high chair cover or cart cover for older babies! I love it and still do use it as a cover even though Gemma doesn’t go for covers as much anymore.

Lansinoh Nursing Pads- I used disposable but if you want to waste less, reusable are good, too!

A nursing pillow of some sort. I found the Boppy to be my favorite (I did try a few). Can’t really imagine how those early days would have been without it!

Pro tip- find them secondhand on Facebook marketplace or even for free if you ask around and borrow from a friend!

A few nursing bras- I like the CAKYE Women's Nursing Bras for comfortable, at home wear, and their more padded ones for going out. Now, sometimes I just wear looser sports bras that can pull down, too.

That’s it, really! I wasn’t a huge fan of nursing tanks or nursing shirts/ clothes, though I did use them in the beginning (mostly Target/ Gilligan O'Malley brand). I mentioned before that I HATE layering, and I wasn’t planning on wearing just a tank in public, so they just weren’t great for me. In the beginning, though, and through the winter, I did wear them under cardigans when I was just hanging out at home.

On an ending note- I want to encourage you! If you're beginning your breastfeeding journey, you most likely are feeling overwhelmed, in pain, emotional, yep, all the things. I know. You can do this, though. If this is something important to you, if it's working out for you and your baby, push through the pain, and you'll feel both empowered and rewarded by your strength and the beautiful bond between you and your baby that breastfeeding becomes.


Why we Decided to Downsize (and how small home living is going so far)

This week, we moved into a new house. Well, compared to our “old house,” this one is actually an old house. And it’s a small house, too. It’s our first experience of living in an old home- it was built in the fifties and has all kind of character and quirks it’s gained over the years. Our last home was built in 1998- so there’s definitely a big difference.

But the biggest difference is the size.

We moved from a home with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a large, open concept family room/ kitchen and dining area to an every-room-is-small, two bedroom home.

This has been the biggest adjustment. Why a family of two that became a family of three needed four bedrooms, I can’t tell you. But we found a way to fill all four rooms. And even after going through a huge overhaul and purge of our entire home, we still moved to our much smaller home with a whole lot of stuff.

Each day I catch myself wishing I just had an extra room to put things in. Or a bigger kitchen (yes, always wishing that one). But when it comes down to it, this home is way cozier than our last one. Every room is used and filled with what we need. Any more than the essentials will crowd us out.

It’s not like we chose this home without seeing it first. We knew how small it was. We intentionally made the choice to choose a two bedroom home- just enough space for us right now, with room to expand if we need to. But it still feels like an odd choice at times, since we’re downsizing from a bigger home.

We live in a culture of excess- one where bigger is better. One where you climb the ladder and make more money and buy the bigger home.

We live in a culture where downsizing means moving backwards. 

But what if it isn’t? What if, sometimes, staying home to raise a baby is the choice you make instead of climbing the ladder. What if ending a career is exactly what you feel called to do...at 27 years old?

And what if downsizing is a part of that- and it’s also a part of a new value system where more and bigger is not better?

Less is the way we are moving.

Sometimes, it’s an uphill battle. It’s a battle against my mindset. The one where I think a shiny, open, new kitchen would be better than a less functional, but cozy (aka small) one. The one where I worry about what people will think of us choosing a two bedroom house. The mindset where I still believe I need more stuff, and therefore I need more places to put the stuff. The mindset I’m trying to rid myself of.

I’m not trying to change my mindset because I want to be foreword thinking and on trend. Not because it’s the cool thing to do. I’m changing it because I have to. Because I can’t do this life as a mom when I’m completely anxious and overwhelmed all the time.

I found that my anxiety and overwhelm had a lot to do with all I had to manage- and so much of that was my home, and all of the stuff in it.

So I’m continuing to reach for less, for simple, for minimizing until it almost hurts. Because I know that what I need is so much less than what I think I need. And I know that letting go of my mindset of excess takes some bending and breaking in the process.

This small home, this is an essential step in our minimalist journey.

Here’s why it’s a good idea for us, and why we’ve chosen a smaller home:

1. Less space is forcing us to have less stuff.

Either minimize our stuff, or face a completely cluttered home every day. Our bedrooms are small. Our bathrooms are small. Our kitchen is tiny, and our dining room is, too. Are you sensing a theme here? In each room, every inch of space counts. If we don’t want to feel crowded in our home, we have to boil our stuff down to only what is essential. And that’s what we’re doing.

2. We’re figuring out what is truly needed and truly loved.

When it comes to possessions, we tend to have a whole lot of them. And only some are necessary, useful, or bring us joy in some way. We are getting rid of so much more than we did even in our initial purge. I am learning more about myself, and reminding myself what I actually need in the kitchen (not what everyone says I need). This goes for every room in the house. What is necessary? What is beautiful? What do we love? Everything else has to go.

3. It fits our lifestyle better.

The home we were in before had room to grow- but it also got hard to make ends meet when I decided I wanted to be home with my baby. Staying home with Gemma is extremely important to me. Having a large home is not nearly as important. So we chose a home that fit well in our budget. Downsizing is helping me be able to stay home with Gemma. And I’m forever grateful for that.

4. A small home means we’re closer together.

The first night in our home, we had a ton of family over. A small home, to me, doesn’t mean I can’t fit a million people in it. I’ve got a big family, and we’re used to all crowding into a tiny home- we’ve been doing it for years. And I plan for my home to be the next small home to crowd a bunch of us into. And when it comes to immediate family, a small home means we can’t just go in another room, far away, and hide from one another. Less space keeps us closer. It makes it so we can’t stay mad at each other because we’re constantly sharing space.

5. It simply feels cozy.

The smaller rooms feel sweet and simple. Though we did love our Virginia home, the big open rooms sometimes felt a little cold. The warmth of this home, even in our current, half-unpacked state, is undeniable.

I’ll admit that downsizing has been harder than I expected. The idea of a smaller home was much more exciting than actually getting in it and getting down to the minimizing, purging, and learning to live well in the space.

But this small, sweet house is becoming our home. With each day, it’s growing on me. It’s becoming the home that I love. And it’s growing me into the person I want to become- the one that doesn’t need bigger and more to be happy. The person that isn’t overwhelmed by the clutter in her home, because it simply doesn’t exist. The mom that has time to enjoy her daughter, and even do the things she loves to do, because her home and stuff doesn’t overtake her and take up her time.

This is who I want to be. I want to simplify. I want to be a small-home person. And I’m becoming her more and more with each day.

Stay tuned for pictures of the house (I can’t take them yet because boxes are still kinda everyhere) & tips on small home living. Sign up for my weekly 5 things email so you don’t miss a post!

Feel like a life of less might be your thing, too? Check out my free resource to help you get started decluttering & learn what minimalism can look like for moms (or anyone, really!) It’s realistic minimalism- and it’s life changing. Because less overwhelm and less cleaning are always good things, right?!


How to Be a Happier Mom (and stop the overwhelm)

Day in and day out, life with babies can feel monotonous. I don't claim to know much- I'm only a new mom of a 9 month old. But through the last 9 months- I've found myself at times going down a rabbit hole of some kind of misery. This is the thing I assume makes moms upset, overwhelmed, and brings them to a place where they are simply unhappy with their life- wishing for more.

The days are long, can we agree? No matter if you have one tiny baby or 3 older kiddos- days where you have them all to yourself? They are tough and long and demanding and busy and there doesn't seem to be a break.

I don't know the answer. I don't know what it's like to have multiple kids. But I do know that my mom life has changed dramatically since the days where I was caught in a pattern of self pity and something that felt close to mild depression.

I've come from complaining about most parts of motherhood to now enjoying most parts. To taking the punches as they come, and rolling with them most times with a smile (a real one.) And though everyone's situations are different- I think these things that I've intentionally done to make sure I'm savoring my mom life and enjoying it are things most mamas can apply to their own lives.

Recently, Gemma has been giving us a rough time with sleep. She's going through a regression, maybe, and the nights get hard and the days feel tired. I posted on Instagram some things I'm doing to make it through (and also some things I needed to preach to myself) and I started to run out of room in my caption...so I figured I'd write a post about it, too.

When the hard, overwhelming days come- let's give ourselves grace when we get a little cranky. But let's also not let the overwhelm become who we are as mamas. Let's do what we can to enjoy motherhood with little ones- this season that is so fleeting. Let's dive in, shall we?

How to Be a Happier Mom

1. Mindset and gratitude are everything.

I wrote a post closer to the time when I truly started changing my mindset and loving my motherhood more, and I went into depth on this topic. Find it here. Changing my mindset from a "woe is me" one to a grateful one has been a huge game changer- not just in motherhood, but in life. I'm a huge self-pity-party type of person. Which I realize is a completely ungrateful way to live life. Changing my mindset from feeling bad for myself when my baby is fussing to being grateful I have a beautiful little babe to care for has been so helpful in making me a happier mom. How to change your mindset, though? Easier said than done, right? Well, changing my inner dialogue has helped. I've been mindful of when I have that miserable, self-pity, self-critical inner voice and change it instead to a grateful one. Also, a gratitude log can do wonders. I won't say too much more- go read my post for more detail on this one.

2. Take care of yourself first.

I know it might feel selfish even reading that, right? But taking care of yourself first is so important- how can you take care of anyone else well if you aren't feeling your best? This can look like "treating yourself," but it doesn't have to- and I think that's always the first thing we think of.

I haven't been great at this, but recently I've started letting myself go to the gym daily, and made sure I'm taking care of my health by eating better. Taking care of your health is so important as a mom- make time for it, however you possibly can. Maybe you need a few quiet moments to yourself each day to feel like you can take care of others well? Make it happen! Wake up earlier, give yourself 30 minutes of "me time" during naptime- whatever works for you, just do it. You desperately need it. Fill up your cup in whatever way works best for you- how can an empty vessel pour into others? It can't. So fill yourself up so you can pour out love to your kiddos all day. A woman that takes care of herself makes a happier mom and wife. I've learned this the hard way for sure, already in the first 9 months of motherhood.

3. Savor your sweet babies.

I'm not saying you need to carpe diem every moment of motherhood. No, friend. I know that's expecting way too much of any mom. But I am saying that we need to make sure we are savoring the good moments. Savoring sweet baby kisses and cuddles might just give you enough energy to deal with a tantrum later in the day. Have fun with your kids. Put your phone down (preaching to myself, too). Play the games that don't feel fun to you. Dance around in the kitchen together. Go to the park. Just enjoy the time you have and let yourself be a joyful mom. Let your to do list go a little. Let the dishes stay in the sink for a few extra hours. Because the moments with your babies won't be there forever. Soon, they might not want cuddles. They might be embarrassed by you in what feels like 5 days from now. So at this very moment, when you are their everything- savor them.

4. Get rid of stuff.

It might sound odd, but decluttering your home is going to make you a happier, less stressed mom, and I can almost guarantee it. Clutter actually clouds our brains- it's a thing. I never thought it was because I have never been a tidy person. I thought I did totally fine living in my cluttered messes until I lived with less and felt the huge burden of clutter lifted off of my shoulders. This is a total life changer.

Your kids don't need 50 thousand toys. You don't need 50 thousand outfits. Or 50 thousand kitchen utensils. More dishes means more to load and unload from the dishwasher. More stuff means more to clean up. It's a vicious cycle. And if your house always feels a mess (because that's what life with babies and kids often feels like) get rid of a ton of stuff and see if it makes a difference. I bet if you do, you'll find yourself cleaning less, which is a win in my book, and probably yours too.

Minimalism, living with less, has changed my life and made me such a happier mom. if this sounds like something you need in your life, check out my free resource to help get you started decluttering and minimizing in your home. Learn more about the resource before you download it, or just download it below!

I need that free resource, please!

5. Complain less.

Stop wallowing in your mom-hood misery with other moms. I've always complained a lot, I guess for fun (?) and it's really gotten me nowhere. So I'm trying to complain less. #momlife often follows some kind of complaint about how crazy mom life is. Yes, it's a crazy, hard life. But we signed up for it, didn't we? So let's actually share in the joys as well. And let's stop complaining, because it doesn't get us anywhere, and it definitely doesn't make us happier moms. Sharing in struggles is a good thing- but lets pray together instead of wallowing together. Let's try to resonate on the good and perfect things- not just the tough things.

6. Remember you are not in this alone.

Even if you are a single mama- you don't have to do this alone. First of all- find a village. Whether it's a church community or your family or a group of moms you found on Faceboook (gotta do what you gotta do- thanks 21st century!) It really does take a village to raise a baby. My village is my husband and then my extended family and a few close friends. Think of who yours consists of, and lean on those people as much as you need to.

Beyond your village, though, I also believe that God calls us to motherhood, and then he doesn't leave us to do it alone. Even in the moments where we are literally alone- he is with us. We can lean into Him through prayer and through just acknowledging he is with us.

When Gemma was a tiny baby, I didn't know what in the world I was doing, but I felt I needed to hum to her or sing to her when I rocked her to sleep. For some reason, I couldn't think of a song, and the only one I could think of was "In Christ Alone." I didn't know why that was the song I was humming, but I realized recently how true the song is to my life as a mom. He is where my hope is as a mom. When I don't know what I'm doing, or I feel overwhelmed- He is my strength, my cornerstone, everything I need to do this thing called Motherhood.

He has called you to this- He will not leave you alone.

Motherhood is a hard thing. We often feel so full of joy as we become moms, but the current, popular culture of motherhood has us feeling like we're actually supposed to be bogged down by it, and kind of miserable. It doesn't have to be that way, friend. In fact, it shouldn't be. Just because it's hard, doesn't mean it's miserable. It's the joyful kind of hard. The best kind of hard there is. So let's do the things we need to do to make sure we are doing our best to mother with joyful, grateful hearts.

Plus, a joyful, grateful heart make a much happier mom. And that's better for everyone involved.

If this post spoke to you, I’d be so grateful if you share it with a friend, or even better, give it a share on social media!

Why I Quit Teaching (and why so many other teachers want to do the same)

I've thought about this post for a while. I knew that once I officially quit teaching, I'd write a post about it. But I'll admit it's scary as I write this. I went to school for this profession, I've got a degree that has cost me some hefty debt for this profession, and though I don't foresee it happening in my wildest dreams, maybe one day I'll go back to the profession. I know writing about why I quit teaching could hinder that if I don't do it well. But as a teacher that struggled HARD for the past four years, I know I'm just one of probably thousands of others. And I know not enough people are talking about it. Surely, not enough people that aren't teachers understand how rough the profession is. We need to talk about these things.

Teaching is an important profession. 

Without good teachers, where would so many of our youth be? Teachers play so many roles...they are so much more than just an educator. Many teachers also play the role of confidant, therapist, parental figure, disciplinary, planner, detective, and the list goes on.

I am a good teacher.

I don't say that with pride or to brag. But I connect with students really well, they like me and confide in me, and I care to plan lessons that are engaging to them. I've had good results with test scores in my classroom, and things have generally run smoothly (except for my first year, but that's another story). I say this because I want to be clear that I did not quit teaching because I wasn't good at it. I quit teaching for a lot of reasons, but that wasn't one of them.

So what were the reasons? Why quit teaching, the profession I dreamed about for my entire college career? Why quit something that I worked so hard for- even moving away from family to be able to actually find a position?

There are so many reasons. Some are more about who I am as a person, and others probably apply across the board with teachers that are unhappy with their career choices.

The Real Reasons I Quit Teaching

And the reasons so many others might want to do the same.

The Stress.

I'm starting with this reason because it was the top one for me. When it came down to it, with my anxious tendencies, I honestly don't know how I could have handled the stress and stayed a healthy, sane person long term. In fact, I think I was getting past that point already.

I know, tons of jobs are stressful. But with the tests, the pressure to somehow force kids to perform well, the large class sizes and the pressure to reach every single kid with different needs, the stress of teaching gets pretty intense. Add to that the way administration sometimes expects things that aren't actually feasible in a classroom (because no matter who you are, as soon as you step outside of classroom, your view of what it looks like inside of one is totally skewed), the pressure to collaborate well, to keep track of grades (and enter them right away yet somehow find time to give detailed feedback?!), and the list goes on, it's no wonder you can find a teacher crying in their classroom, cracked under the pressure every once in a while.

The Amount of Outside Work Required.

This one really goes hand and hand with the stress. I'm a people pleaser. I wanted to do ALL the things I mentioned in the last reason really well, not only because I wanted to be a good teacher, but also because I wanted my students to like me. I wanted to do the best possible for them. And I also wanted to do exactly what everyone around me wanted me to do (colleagues, administration, etc.) because I wanted them to like me. I couldn't do all of it and do it well. I crushed under the stress and I wasn't able to be the person I wanted to be in other areas of my life (like a present wife and mom.)

It isn't just me. Across the board, the stress of teaching causes teachers to spend so much of their time outside of work on work. With lesson planning, creating  and finding resources, professional development, grading, remediation, tutoring, etc., it's not even close to possible to fit the work of a teacher into a 40-80 minute planning period (or less). Half the time, meetings take up that planning period, anyways. Basically, to be a great teacher, for many people, looks like always working. I tried to be a great teacher that was all the things for all the people without working constantly, and it just created even more stress because I was always behind. That wasn't want I wanted my life to look like. 

The Low Pay.

Nobody goes into teaching because they want to make good money. It's just not a thing. No matter how important of a job teaching is, it's clear that it isn't a valued one, simply because the pay is not there. And because the pay isn't there, teaching becomes less of a valued career because people don't take it seriously. Kind of stupid, since teachers are the ones playing a major role in educating people going into every-single-other-profession.

When the cost of child care (and the emotional cost it took to leave my baby) were held up to my salary, the teaching pay didn't make it worth it at all. This doesn't apply to everyone- many teachers pay for child care and have to continue working. But I'd venture to say that across the board, teachers who do pay for child care are finding it hard to make ends meet.

In some areas of the country, teaching does actually pay a living wage. In other areas, like Charlottesville where I taught, it paid somewhat decent, but the cost of living was so high, and it just wasn't enough comparably.

I feel like I'm kind of rambling on this, so here's the point: In a profession where you are pretty much expected to do work outside of the workday almost everyday, and where you are expected to wear so many hats and play so many roles, and in some cases, obtain a Master's degree to even get a license to teach or at least to get hired, the pay should make it so you actually want to stay in the profession. Where we lived in Virginia, that wasn't the case.

Where we live now, in Western, PA, many schools do pay well. But then it's extremely difficult to get a job because of it.

The Tests.

This reason goes hand in hand with the stress of teaching, and is probably the major reason for the stress of the job. Standardized testing has caused so much stress on me as a teacher. I worked in a school that had a history of low language arts test scores, and I was a language arts teacher that taught a grade that took a reading and a writing test. It was on me if the students didn't do well. It was my fault if a kid just didn't feel like taking the test seriously. On top of that, in Virginia, students that require special education services are expected to pass the same test at the same rate as every other student. When I learned this, I was pretty furious.

In my opinion, these tests (at least in Virginia) are wrong on so many levels. Obviously, I worked my hardest to make sure students passed, but I did it all the while cursing the tests. Tests that purposely use language to trick kids. Tests that don't offer much insight to help teachers prepare students. Tests that don't consider the serious disadvantages that some students have compared to others. I don't even have to say anything more, do I?

The Lack of Respect.

This reason applies on so many levels. I had great administration over the past couple of years, but across the board, there is often a lack of respect from leadership to teachers. There's also a lack of respect of the profession in general. But worst of all, there can be (and often is) a lack of respect from students. To be honest, I had this problem my first year, but after that, a lack of respect from students wasn't a huge issue for me. But it is an issue for so many teachers, and the general lack of respect from all angles is a huge reason many teachers want to leave the profession. Low respect with a high workload doesn't make for great job satisfaction.


As for my more personal reasons...

I didn't feel like I could be a good mom and a good teacher.

When I was pregnant with Gemma, I already knew I wanted to be home with her. When she got here, that conviction only grew. Being a mom is a consuming thing, and so is teaching. With the stress teaching put on me over the past few years, I didn't think I could be a good teacher and a good mom at the same time. Because I cared about doing both well, one had to go. And of course, I couldn't go back on being a mom! So teaching went.

I realized teaching didn't match my personality type.

I'm an introvert. I absolutely do not like being in crowds. I don't like being the center of attention, with 20 plus sets of eyes on me, expecting something from me. I started to realize I was seriously drained after every teaching day.

I'm not saying introverts can't be great teachers. I'm just saying it didn't work for me specifically. I need alone time to gain energy. I like being in small groups or one on one with people. I like quiet. Teaching provides pretty much none of those things.

I wasn't happy.

My second year of teaching was my best year. The students I had were fantastic. I miss them even now. They wanted to learn, I connected well with them. But I still wasn't entirely happy in  my job.

This year, I switched to art, a much less stressful position, and I still wasn't happy. This time, it had a lot to do with the fact that I just wanted to be home with my baby.

I've taught different grade levels and different subjects. I loved my students every year, and I cared about the subjects I taught. They say if you love your students, you'll be happy as a teacher because they are your motivation, but that just wasn't the case for me. There is more to it than loving the kids and loving your subject. The stresses of the job, and just the overall structure of my teaching day, made me unhappy in my work. Life is too short to live that way.

Plus, because I wasn't happy, my heart wasn't all in it, especially this last year, and I think the students deserve teachers that are all in.

I know this is a lengthy post, but I wanted to make sure I touched upon most of the reasons I left the profession I spent thousands of dollars becoming qualified for, and why I think so many other teachers are doing the same, or at least would like to.

I don't write this to put a negative view on the profession of teaching, on public schools, or on administration.

I am grateful for the experience I had as a teacher in a public school setting. My husband loves being a teacher and is excited to continue his career in a public school. Teaching can be a fantastic profession, and many teachers love what they do. I'll always care about the profession of teaching.

I write this because I know there are a lot of teachers out there that feel the same as I do.

I had a friend tell me once that they wish they could do what I'm doing- they wish they could quit teaching.

If you don't love teaching- if it stresses you out, makes you anxious, and if you are truly unhappy- there are other things you can do. If you quit teaching, it doesn't mean you are failing. You have plenty of talents and abilities. Teaching is not your only option. When I finally realized this fact, I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.

I also write this because the profession of teaching needs some attention.

People that aren't teachers need to know that it's a really tough job. It isn't all about summers off (my principal liked to call them "unpaid" summers, not summers off, because that's what they really are) and holiday breaks. It's a stressful job is pretty consuming. There is a lot wrong with all of the politics that go into it. A lot could use to change for the better.

It was such a hard decision to quit teaching, but it was something I needed to do. Who knows what the future holds- I believe I'll teach in some sense, whether it's homeschooling my own children or teaching art lessons, but not in the traditional sense like I have the past four years.

Here's to new adventures.

And if you are a teacher who feels unhappy in the profession- please feel free to reach out to me! desirae@simplejoyfulwell.com

4 Ways to Save Money on Moving Costs & Simplify | Why We're Getting Rid of Everything and Downsizing

If you didn't catch the announcement on Instagram or Facebook, we are moving back to Pittsburgh! We are extremely excited about moving back to the place and people that feel like home for us. But the actual process of moving is hard. There are so many little details that go into it- selling a house, buying a house, where to stay in between because closing can take time. The worst part, for us, has been figuring out where to store our stuff. Plus, just the thought of even packing up and moving our stuff, just to unpack it soon again is exhausting. To top it off, moving across states can get expensive.

But that worst part, the part that has seemed like an endless process in the past, is becoming lighter and lighter. Packing all our stuff can be really monotonous when we have a lot of stuff. But we have been slowly getting rid of stuff and decluttering for a couple of months now.

We have pared down our things in most areas of our home to what feels essential. In other areas, we are still in the process. So the packing part actually has become less intimidating.

But even with less stuff, we were still going to have to move and store a lot of big furniture, and using a pod to do this was going to cost us over a thousand dollars. We were willing to do it out of convenience as we didn't know where we'd live next. We had a nice big bedroom furniture set, couches, dining room furniture, desks, Gemma's furniture, large shelves. All of this furniture filled a four bedroom house, and we were probably going to need it to fill our next one. I didn't really think there was an option to save money on moving costs with all of our furniture we were bringing with us.

But then, we found a house.

We decided to majorly downsize. With this decision, we started to think about ways we could make moving easier and cheaper.

We are moving from a four bedroom home with large living spaces and large bedrooms to a two bedroom home with smaller rooms and living spaces. The cost of living we are moving to is lower, so that wasn't our reason to downsize. In fact, I don't think we had it in our mind to downsize. But then we realized that the space we use in our current home is much less than the size of the actual home.

Even as our family grows, we want to keep everyone close and use the same spaces. We don't want the opportunity for future teenagers to escape into their rooms far away from everyone else. We want play spaces to be a part of living spaces and living spaces to be work spaces and eating spaces to be spaces where we communicate and grow together.

So with our decision to downsize, came ways to save money on moving costs. We didn't need a large pod, we are bringing only essential things and will be able to store them with family. But downsizing hasn't been the only thing that is helping us save money. We are being intentional in our moving process to make it easier and more affordable so we can put money into our new home and make it a space we really love.

Here are some decisions we've made that are helping us save money on moving costs and create a less stressful move overall. I hope these tips will help you make your future move easier and cheaper as well.

1. Downsize

I've already talked about this and why we are downsizing, but I hope that if you are moving now or in the future, you'll think about this option, too. Think about the fact that kids can share rooms. Though you may be making more money, is it really necessary to have more space and buy a larger, more expensive home? Downsizing might not be for everyone, but I believe a smaller home means less cleaning to keep up with, more time spent with the people you live with, and actually using all of the space you are paying money for with your mortgage each month. Not only does downsizing mean we will spend less money each month, but it means we will bring less with us on our move and therefore spend less on moving costs.

Get this print

2. Get rid of everything that you don't love or that isn't necessary

Because the moving pod and storage would cost over a thousand dollars, we started thinking about how to have less stuff to move and store. We got rid of any extra furniture or shelving that wasn't necessary, but then we started thinking about anything else in our home that we didn't love or that wouldn't quite fit in our new home. Our bedroom furniture was the first to go, and then we began to think about how impractical our couch is for living with kids and dogs. We re evaluated every piece of large furniture in our home and decided to get rid of most of it.

3. Sell large furniture items

We are selling most of our larger items, like our bedroom furniture and sofa, so that we will have money to put towards new items. This might sound like we would lose money, but first of all, our items we are selling are newer and in great condition, they just won't fit well or practically in our new space. Second, we already know what we will replace them with, and the replacement items are within the budget of what we are making on our current furniture. We actually will have extra money since we won't be buying a huge bedroom furniture set for our new home.

Obviously, selling your items could cost you money in the long run. This step is only a good move if you know you won't need the items in your future home, or want to replace them with something that will be at a similar cost to what you can sell them for.

4. Continually re evaluate what you will bring and what you will leave behind

We have gone back and forth about keeping our dining room table. We've decided that the large shelving unit in our living room really won't fit in our new home. We've continually gone down the list of what we are bringing and tried to knock off more items. We won't be replacing all of the items in our new home since we are downsizing so much, so it isn't costing us anything to get rid of more things, but rather saving us a lot of money and work.

Through these steps, we've went from having a pod and storage reserved for over a thousand dollars, to a smaller moving truck and storing our things in family homes or an inexpensive, small storage unit for 300 dollars or less. We are saving a ton of money that we can then put into making our new home the space that we want it to be.

Minimalism has made the moving process so much easier. Though it has taken a lot of thought, in the end, we will be spending much less money, and have a home with only the items we need, new, inexpensive furniture that fit our space better, and all around less work and stress.

I'd love to hear about ways that you have made moving easier in the past or plan to in the future! 

Want to know more about how minimalism can make your mom-life (or any life) easier?

Check out my free guide!

3 Things to Remember this Mother's Day (with free things for you, momma!)

Happy (early) Mother's Day, Mommas! I'm bringing you a short post today to remind you of why you are amazing & give you a free gift (or two!) Being a mom has been my favorite role in the world. This little girl lights up my life, even on the hard days. And even though I know I'm a good mom (or as good as I can be) often, I'm not so confident.

As a mom, I know that most of us have a confidence issue. Bringing up a human (or just keeping a tiny human alive) is hard, and sometimes we like to tell ourselves we aren't so great at it. Here's the thing- we are! If you are doing the best you can for your children, then you are absolutely the best momma for them! Here are some things to remember to boost your mom-confidence this Mother's Day and all year long!

1. You are a superhero. Whether it is with little sleep, little time, little resources- you do it all! You somehow still have patience with your baby when you're running on a total of 5 hours of interrupted sleep. Not only do you have patience, but you are loving and caring even when you feel like a zombie- you're amazing! Naptime might be only 40 minutes long, but somehow you got the dishes done AND took a shower- you're literally a superhero. Getting out of the door with a baby on time is a miracle and you make that miracle happen at least once a week(ish)! You do so much more than you realize- and you deserve recognition for that!

2. You deserve all of the awards. It might sound crazy, but I think you deserve an award for going to the grocery store with a baby. Or with more than one kid. Or with a toddler that could break out in a meltdown at any moment. How brave are you? You also deserve awards for getting dinner cooked during witching hour when your husband isn't home yet. Or remembering to feed the dog AND the kid. Or actually finding time to exercise today. The small things become BIG, hard things when you're a mom, and you deserve all of the awards for doing all of the things.

3. You're the best momma for your babies. Didn't get your kid to eat vegetables today? Fed your baby only puffs for lunch? Turned away for one minute and your one year old is drinking out of the dog bowl? Guess what? It's okay. And it doesn't make you a bad mom. It makes you human- a human raising sort-of-insane little humans. The best kind of sort-of-insane little humans, of course, but still...stop expecting yourself to be perfect.

Here's your reminder that God entrusted YOU to be the momma of your brilliant, wonderful, beautiful, insane little people. And you have all the tools needed to be the mom they need you to be. So stop worrying about it. Stop worrying about the tiny mistakes or the "advice" that always seems to come off a little rude from that one mom. Just keep loving your babies hard and remind yourself that you are the mom that your little ones' need.

Moms- enjoy this Sunday! I hope it isn't the only day you feel appreciated. I hope your babies and husbands and family members make you feel like the superhero you are every day. But either way- Sunday is a day for you and if nothing else, I hope you get a little more sleep, some good coffee, and treat yourself in some way!

Here's a little free gift for you- or a gift to give your momma! It's my "Most Momma's Oughta Qualify For Sainthood" Print- of course, lyrics credited to Luke Bryan. Just print it out, cut it down to an 8X10 size, and frame it for a little piece of home decor that reminds you that you're amazing (and reminds everyone else that lives in your home that you're a saint!)

Get the Print


You can also get my free Minimalist Resource- I think minimalism will make your motherhood a whole lot more joyful and less overwhelming, and this resource can help you get started!

Happy Mother's Day!

Our Own Kind of Minimalism | A Journey to Simplifying Everything

This weekend, on Saturday, while waiting for Nick to get home from coaching Crossfit, I turned on Netflix. Though watching a mobile baby scoot around is a full time job, I often turn on something for background noise. I'm always a fan of documentaries, so I decided to see what I could find.

Minimalist. The title was intriguing. I've been feeling overwhelmed by a lot of things lately, so why not watch something about simplifying? A few minutes in, Nick came in the door and was hooked. We both were. The documentary was well done and showed multiple perspectives and angles on Minimalism. And though it took us most of the morning to finish the documentary, we decided we'd overhaul our home and simplify.

What is Minimalism?

So, what is Minimalism? Other than a catchphrase that is being thrown around a lot over the past couple of years, it's the novel idea that stuff isn't what makes us happy. It's about the meaning we've assigned to stuff, giving it way too much value over the real, important things in our lives- like relationships, family, hobbies, learning new things, connecting with people. It's about really thinking about need vs. want. And it's about a hundred different things that thousands of different people make it about. To me, it's really about simplifying so I can focus on the important things. 

Our consumerist society goes way against this. I've lived my life trying to find the best deals on things so I could have more of them- inexpensive clothes on even more of a sale? Great! I can get more and have more in my closet. Because somehow, a full closet will make me lead a more fulfilling life? No, probably not.

More stuff means more clutter. As much as I've lived fine with clutter all of my life (definitely not the most organized person), I know it doesn't help my mind stay clear and focused. I find I have so much in my closet and drawers that half the time I don't know where the shirt I want even is.

With all of that being said, it's not just about my closet. It's about stuff, in general, and giving it power over us. It's about redefining what we need. It's about stretching ourselves to let go of things that don't bring joy.

Starting with...

We're starting off strong. I've already went through my closet and drawers. Right now, I have about 15 items hanging in my closet. I've allowed myself about 10 items in each drawer of my dresser (these include workout clothes, tshirts, etc versus the more everyday clothing in my closet).

Although it's been a day, I already feel lighter. I struggle in the mornings to find what to wear with a full closet. Now, with less, I don't have options to struggle over. These are my options. That's it. I'll mix and match and try different combinations.

I'm not really following any exact template (like a capsule wardrobe) or exact number of items, I'm just only keeping the things in my closet that truly fit me and bring me joy to wear. I found this to be a very small number, being postpartum. But I really think that small number is going to be better than my previous closet overrun by clothing I only kind of sort of liked or fit into.

We've also went through our pantry and gave away things that we haven't used in years. Keeping things "just in case" isn't really an option. If we come across that "just in case" scenario, we'll figure it out. I don't think we'll miss the stuff in the meantime.

More Joy, Less Stuff

No, we're not throwing everything away. I'm not getting rid of social media (social media is actually my job). We're not "never buying clothes again," or throwing out our furniture, or buying a tiny home. But we are getting rid of the extra, the clutter, the things we really could do without. We're simplifying so that we will be able to focus on the things we love versus the stuff that we have to figure out where to store or organize. And we are going to seriously cut back on buying anything that doesn't feel like a need or that we don't truly love.

Hopefully this will help us focus on what brings us joy. The important things. Eachother. And maybe be less stressed about finances.

It's simple, really, what we are doing. We are simply, simplifying. Cleaning house. And focusing on need versus want.

We'll keep you updated on here as we go through every room in our house and simplify. And maybe it will go farther than just our home.

Think of it as extreme spring cleaning.


5 Tips for Working from Home with a Baby

Over two years ago, I got my first work from home job. I was still working full time out of the home as a teacher, but it was so fun to begin the adventure of trying to figure out managing my time and making my own schedule for my part time, work from home job.

5 tips for working from home with a baby

Until I realized I wasn't that good at managing my time or figuring out my own schedule.

Disclaimer before we go on: I'm not naturally good at this. Just being honest. And from what I have gathered, a lot creative people aren't the most naturally organized people.

So to keep my job and succeed at all, I had to figure it out. And I started to get pretty good at time management, but then I had a baby.

And then I added another part time from home job. And then started some personal projects/ businesses.

More than ever in my life, time management and scheduling has become important. Not only for helping me get my work obligations completed and grow my personal projects, but also to keep my sanity and make sure I can be present with my family.

And here's the thing...I don't have it perfected. I'm still naturally not a very organized person, that didn't change. I have to work really hard at this to make it work.

But being able to work from home is important to me for a few reasons:

-I get to stay home with Gemma, -I love the creative work I am doing from home -I don't like strict schedules. So making my own and being flexible is perfect for me.

Here are five tips that I've discovered to make working from home with a baby actually work. These tips are coming from an imperfect, organized mess of a person. But I've somehow made this all work, and continually am getting better at it, so maybe there's something to what I'm doing!

  1. Use some type of planner/ list making/ calendar system and stick with it

I'm not being specific here. There's a reason there are so many different organizational apps, planners, calendars, list making systems out there- everyone works differently when it comes to organization and productivity. I personally need to write things down with pencil and paper, but I still benefit from phone reminders at the same time. I use a combination of bullet journaling, pencil paper calendars, and Google Calendar.

(PS I don't always drink wine while I work, but sometimes if I'm still working into the evening, a small glass feels like a good idea)

The endless creative options of the bullet journal really works for the way my brain works, and when I stick to it, I am way more productive.

If you are working from home with a baby, do not trust yourself to remember everything you have to do in your head. I've tried it, I've failed. It just doesn't work. Find some type of method to keep track of your tasks, appointments, responsibilities, and deadlines

Also, I have gone down the rabbit hole of trying "the next best organizational system/ planner." Don't waste your time doing that. As soon as you find something that is even somewhat working for you, just go with it and get better at it.

2. Make templates and refer to them often

As I mentioned in the previous tip, I use a bullet journal, and I have a page for each job where I've listed all of the weekly tasks I should get done in any normal week. This doesn't include specifics, but it is what I refer to when I am making my schedule for the week. These are pages that I sometimes still add things to, but for the most part, they are just templates of what needs to get done in a typical week, and they keep me accountable for doing these tasks.

I've also recently created templates for my ideal daily work-from-home schedule. This doesn't just include what time I will work on what jobs, but also when I will eat (yeah, because I forget about that sometimes), things I will focus on while Gemma is awake (mostly Gemma) and things I will focus on during naptime (mostly work. See next tip.)

On the same page spread, I've created a template of the major tasks I should do each weekday of a normal week. This helps me make sure I'm not forgetting about anything.

3. Work during naptime

You know what they say: "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" Well, not if you are a work from home mom. More like work when the baby sleeps!

I like the response I've seen to this quote better than the actual quote: "So should I vacuum when the baby vacuums? Or cook when the baby cooks?" Yeah, if you are a work from home mom, it's not going to work out if you decide you'll work when the baby works!

So take advantage of naptime! I've worked really hard to try and get Gemma to nap well, on a schedule, and long naps if possible. In her newborn days, short naps made it really hard to work, but I did my best. As she grew out of that, I helped her along by "nap training" her a bit. It doesn't work all the time because she is still young and her schedule is still changing, but long nap days are the most productive days for me.

4. Work in the margins

Is your baby playing? Sit on the floor with your laptop while she rolls around (you'll learn to keep one eye on the work and one eye on the baby). Is she fussy? Put her in the baby carrier and wear her while you stand, bounce, and answer some emails. Are you nursing? Sometimes I do some of my social media management work while I nurse Gemma. I've also nursed her plenty of times during work calls. I've even put her down for a nap during a conference call, and I can say I actually did pay attention to the calls while doing all of this!

(No, I don't always let her look at my computer screen and play with my computer, but it makes for a cute picture)

I know that might sound like I don't pay attention to my baby. I definitely do, and she gets much more time with me than if I was working full time out of the house. I don't love that I sometimes am on my phone or typing an email while playing with her or nursing her, but at the same time, I still make sure I nurse her and play with her without my electronics/ work as well. It's all about balance

And on that note: I do think it is good for my baby that I am not giving her my full attention every minute of the day. First of all, she is growing up seeing a working mom from day one, and I work so that I can raise her well and do things I'm passionate about at the same time. Second, she doesn't have to have me giving her attention every minute of the day to be happy. I'm not sure if she is just a semi independent baby or if it is because I sometimes have to get other stuff done.

I might be defending myself a little bit here, but I have to say that the mom guilt is real when it comes to this. Our current parenting culture of all eyes, hands, energy on the babies and kids all of the time is probably not healthy for anyone, but it definitely makes a parent that isn't doing that feel a little guilty- so there's a bonus tip for you, don't let the mom guilt get to you!

5. Shut it off and rest

This is something I haven't done well. I have conditioned myself to constantly work in the margins, work during naptime, after bedtime and on the weekends. I'm slowly learning that I need to shut the work off at some point. I need to have an "end of day," though it will look different than a nine to five.

For my sanity and so that I can spend real time with the people I love, I need to schedule my work in a way where I do have time where I'm not working or not thinking about work. So this is still in the works for me, but I think it's an important tip that I've learned needs to happen, even if I haven't put it into practice much yet.

Shut off your brain from thinking about work. Shut down your social media and electronics for a bit. Do whatever you need to do to refresh and rest. If you don't, you may end up like me, completely exhausted and sick on a Monday, because your weekend wasn't actually a weekend (ever.)

I'm not complaining. Working at home is definitely the best option for me as a mom, and I'm grateful I get to do it. However, there has to be a time when the work stops- so I'm learning that and I'm getting there.

When I was pregnant and knew I would be working from home with a baby, I wasn't really sure how that was all going to work. After I had Gemma, I REALLY wasn't confident I could make it all happen. However, slowly but surely, we learned a routine. We figured it out. It's not perfect, and there are things constantly changing, but these five things have helped me make it possible to earn an income from home while staying home with my baby.

If you work from home with a baby, what have you done to make sure you are productive and make sure you are enjoying and loving your child(ren) all at the same time?

Happy Monday- hope you have a productive week (but stay sane in the process)!

An Exciting Announcement! Favorite Little Gems Vol. 2

Happy weekend! This week has been a tough one- with Gemma and I both sick pretty much all week.

But it was also a really exciting, because I finally got an Etsy shop together!

Head here to see some hand lettered prints I've been creating as well as a fun mug to celebrate women's month. I'd love it if you'd favorite my shop if you like what you see! There will be a lot more to come- and more than just hand lettered prints (that's why it's a collective), so stay tuned!

So that's why I've been a little quiet on here all week...I have three jobs plus I was trying to open an Etsy shop!

But I'm back, and here for a little favorite little gems weekend roundup for you all!

READING // Check out my last Weekly Round Up to see what I'm reading (it's still the same because momlife gives me very little time to read.)

WATCHING // Same Kind of Different as Me

We kind of chose this on a whim last night (because on Fridays we have movie nights). It was really inspiring and sad and wonderful at the same time. It's sort of a Christian film, but not an obvious, super cheesy one like some of them are.

LISTENING // Goal Digger Podcast

Somehow I just discovered this podcast and it is super informational and informative for any creative/ small business owners or anyone wanting to be one in the future!

USING // My Bullet Journal

I think this requires a separate post, but this is seriously the only way I've been able to stay organized, ever. Here's a bit about bullet journaling if you've never heard of it. I've had other journals that I've tried to bullet journal with in the past, but the link above is to my favorite one and the one I currently use!

EATING // Homemade Baby Food with the BEABA Babycook

(Yeah, I didn't make anything new that knocked it out of the park this week, but I did buy Moose Tracks ice cream, and it is delicious.)

I'm not eating the homemade baby food, but Gemma is! I finally decided to get out my Beaba Babycook that I got for 5 dollars (love garage sales!) and try it out! I made some sweet potatoes for Gemma, and it was probably the simplest thing I've ever made in my life. I honestly never would have thought to buy a baby food maker, but I'm so glad I got it at a yard sale. New mom's, put this on your registry!! It's a money saver and it's SO. EASY. Plus, I like that I know the exact process and ingredients going into her food.

GEMMA IS LOVING // Her Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo

We just got this as a gift this week! She absolutely loves it! I did buy her an exersaucer, but when we were gifted this, I definitely didn't say no. She definitely prefers it to the exersaucer I think mostly because she can bounce more. She's a tiny girl, and not heavy enough to make the exersaucer bounce like it is supposed to. This one is the winner, but now we have little baby activity centers on each floor!

MEMORY // Seeing Gemma in the Jumperoo for the first time.

She was so adorable when she realized she could bounce. Another great memory from this week: a really cuddly clingy baby. She was sick, so that's not good, but it did make her extra cuddly. And her cuddles are the best.

Our Week in iPhone Photos


Newborn Products that Kept me Sane

It's official: I no longer have a newborn. Okay, it's been a couple of months since Gemma was considered a newborn. But it's official that now I'm accepting it. I kind of can't ignore it, being that she is trying to crawl right now (what?!).

But when I DID have a newborn, life felt crazy. Hormones, emotions, not knowing what the heck I am doing, plus a little baby that needs me? These and a million other things make being a new mom of a newborn one of the craziest seasons of life. It may be full of joy, but it's also full of absolute chaos and trying to figure things out constantly.

I was sometimes (often) a mess.

But thank God for the baby product revolution. Sure, a lot of it is just trying to get moms to spend a whole lot of money they probably don't need to spend. But a lot of it is also made to make the mom-of-a-newborn life easier.

And here, my friends, are the products that kept me sane most of all.

All babies are different, but these products worked for us. I mean really worked. And made life way easier.

Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play

Yes, this thing is gold. Thank you Fisher Price. Thank you to all the moms who said I needed this. I did need it. This product helped Gemma sleep. Really Quick Story: Her first night home, she didn't sleep until 3am, when I finally resorted to the Rock N Play. So yes, this thing saved us. She slept in it exclusively for about a month and a half, and then we resorted back to it on bad sleep nights after that up until 4 months old when she transitioned to the crib. I then promptly gave it away to a friend so I wouldn't keep resorting back to it because it is so tempting! It's magical. I highly recommend it.

Boppy Nursing Pillow

Not only is this super helpful for breastfeeding a little babe and saving mom's posture while doing so- it also serves so many other purposes. First of all, this helped me so much with breastfeeding in the beginning. Gemma would take forever to feed and my arms/ entire body would have otherwise been dead if it wasn't for this little pillow. It was also great for comfortably holding baby (Nick used to use it, too), propping Gemma up for play or photoshoots, tummy time, a tray for eating on the couch (yes, I've done it), and the possibilities are endless. We still even use it now, 5 months later, for comfortable breastfeeding & for helping Gemma sit up. I'd definitely buy it again and again and again.

Baby Carrier (Wrap and Lillebaby)

I love baby wearing so much, I even wrote a whole blog post on it. The baby wrap we have is great for those early, squishy newborn days. But the Lillebaby also has a great fetal carry that works well for tiny newborns. I will say I used the wrap more until maybe a month old, and after that I used the Lillebaby more often. I still interchangeably use both. I won't talk too much on this- see my blog on why a baby carrier is a must have!


I'm sure any baby swing will do, but we loved the Mamaroo. Gemma liked it from when she was a teeny newborn all the way up until about three months. It would put her to sleep when she was a newborn, or just soothe her. When she was a bit older, she liked to play with the toys that came with it. She'd talk to them, too. It was adorable. I'm sure other babies might even like it longer, but Gemma is just not a stationary baby- she likes to move too much. This swing also is a sanity saver because it is a space saver! Anywhere that you can safely put your baby down and keep them content (maybe even asleep), plus it doesn't take up too much space is a win in my book. Believe me, your living room will be taken over by ALL the baby things. Less clunky baby products are so helpful.

White Noise Machine

Not much to say about this other than it helped Gemma stay asleep during night time or naps and not be interrupted by regular household noises! She napped on the first floor the entirety of her newborn life, so I needed something that could allow me to make noise cleaning the house or cooking while she slept. This worked wonders. We have a homedics one, and it was pretty affordable.

Muslin Swaddle Blankets

When I got a thousand muslin swaddle blankets for my baby shower, I wondered to myself "what ever will I need all of these for?" I'm so happy I didn't take any of them back to the store. I needed all of them. I still do. We used these to swaddle, cover her up while holding her, as a nursing cover, as a cover for the couch, bed or floor if we were setting her down there, and as a carseat cover. I'm sure I've missed ways we've used them.

Infant Car Seat & Frame Stroller

If you are wondering whether or not an infant car seat is worth it (yes, you can use a convertible car seat from birth, so why do you need an infant car seat?) Well, you do need one if you want to leave the house and not have to take your baby in and out of the carseat a million times. Or if you want to have somewhere to put them at a restaurant, or wherever you are. Gemma fell asleep in the carseat a lot as a newborn and I am so glad I had an infant carseat so I could keep her sleeping wherever we went! I got the Graco Click Connect 35, and I actually got it with the jogger stroller as the travel system. The jogger stroller is huge, but it's amazing, so I'd highly suggest that purchase. However, I also got a Graco frame stroller, and this has been perfect for quick trips out of the house, or to use in church, etc. It helps to not have to lug a huge stroller everywhere, and this thing is super portable. The carseat just clicks right in!

Milk Snob Cover

This nursing cover/ carseat cover has been used a ton. I also have another carseat cover that I love, but I use this one a lot when I go somewhere I know I'll need to nurse Gemma. Because it works as both a nursing cover and a carseat cover, I have less things to bring with me, and that is always a win. It's also super light, soft material, so Gemma doesn't get super annoyed when it is covering her up. It helps keep her asleep in the carseat, too; it gives her enough air but also keeps the light out when she is sleeping.

These are obviously not the only products we used for Gemma as a newborn, but these were the products that really helped us be a little less crazy transitioning to parenthood. They helped make things easier, and when you're a new mom, that's something to be thankful for because not much about the job is easy.

And even though being a mom of a newborn is hard, it's such a sweet season, too, and it goes fast. Savor it if you can! I can't believe how fast Gemma has grown and I just wish I could slow time down!

I hope you find this post useful if you're creating a registry or you have a newborn at home. Share with a new-mom friend (or mom-to-be) in hopes of making her life a little bit easier.

Favorite Little Gems | Weekly Round Up

Each week I'll share with you some of my favorite things I'm reading/ watching/ listening to/ buying- whatever comes to mind that I feel like I should tell you about right here. I'll also share some favorites from Nick, Gemma, a favorite memory and our week in cell phone photos. Keep up with us through these little weekend posts!

Here's to my first round up of little gems for this week!

READING // Business Boutique by Christy Wright

I wasn't sure how I would like this book, but it was on my doorstep this Thursday and I'm already over 40 pages in. That's saying a lot for a new mom with three jobs and not much extra time. Seriously, I've been reading A LOT less than I'd like to since having Gemma. But this one has me hooked- I love the action steps in it. If you are even thinking of starting some type of side business, this is for you!

WATCHING // Wonder

You have to watch this. Watch it with your kids if you have them and they are old enough. I read the book a year ago when I was teaching middle school language arts, and it is just touching. The movie is, too. You'll laugh, you'll cry- all of the emotions. I love the message of kindness & bravery. I won't say anymore- just go watch it!

LISTENING // Podcast: The Happy Hour episode 181

First of all, The Happy Hour is my favorite podcast, and if you aren't listening to it already, you should be. Jamie Ivey is the best, and it is always funny, heart wrenching, helpful, convicting all at the same time. Feels like you are talking to your best friend. I loved this one because Jessica Allwood, the guest, is great. I hadn't heard of her before this, but it was a really motivational, inspiring episode. Just go listen!

USING // OGX Protecting + Silk Blowout Quick Drying Thermal Spray

I got my hair cut pretty short a few weeks ago. Since then, I've been drying it more. This stuff makes it so much quicker to dry and gives it volume. Plus, it's pretty inexpensive. I highly recommend it!

EATING // Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I found this recipe on pinterest so long ago, but here's how I modified it...

What you need:

  • 1-2 lbs Chicken Breast
  • 1 cup (or however much you want) buffalo sauce
  • 3-4 Tbs Cream Cheese
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sour Cream (just for topping- optional)

Throw the chicken breast in the crockpot. Pour buffalo sauce over it. Add cream cheese. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours. Shred chicken.

Bake 2-4 sweet potatoes (I do this in the microwave)

Cut the sweet potatoes, add buffalo chicken mixture to the middle. Add sour cream on top if you are a sour cream on top if you'd like.

Nick loved this. It doesn't look like the original recipe because I didn't actually end up using it at all. And this is the kind of cooking I do these days. The less steps, the better. Always. The recipe linked up top, though, is Whole30 compliant, so healthier. Check it out if you are looking for that!

DRINKING // Coffee with Buttermilk Style Creamer (from Land o Lakes)

This creamer is the stuff of coffee-dreams. It is just richer than a typical creamer. It's better than adding heavy cream, even. I won't say anymore, other than, if you love coffee, you have to try it!

GEMMA IS LOVING // Her Evenflo Exersaucer and Mesh Feeders/ Teethers

We got Gemma an exersaucer this week, and she LOVES it. I wasn't sure if this was a good investment, because I wasn't sure how much she'd like it. But the Evenflo ones aren't too pricey and, yeah, it's just so much for her to stay entertained by. The first time she was in it, she started laughing. It was adorable.

And, while we've recovered from an ear infection, it seems we are now teething (again) with really no tooth in sight. So many other moms recommended the mesh feeders as teethers. I put an ice cube in it and she goes to town. It seems to help her teeth, too. She's also had fun eating banana pieces from it! I highly recommend both of these baby products!


Reading- The Book Thief

Getting back to CrossFit after his busy coaching season

Being done with coaching wrestling // being home more

MEMORY // Gemma is learning to crawl!

Literally, on her 5 month birthday (last Sunday) Gemma decided it was a good time to start learning to crawl. I was trying to take some 5 month photos of her, and she would. not. stop. moving. She wanted to be on her belly, and she wanted to go forward! So I encouraged her with her pacifier being a couple of feet in front of her and she got there- so crazy! It isn't quite crawling- more like scooting. But she gets up on her hands and knees and moves forward. This girl is continuing to amaze me. I guess baby proofing needs to start ASAP.

It was also Gemma's first week at her little in home daycare on the days I head to work, so all in all, it's been a big week for her!

OUR WEEK IN CELL PHONE PICTURES // Because what would a weekly wrap up be without some recent photos?

  Happy 5 months!

    A crazy warm February walk- 80 degrees

Favorite lettering of the week

An adorable gift from Nana- bring on the summer!


Happy Sunday! What are some of your favorite things from this past week?