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Independent Play and the Working Mom

July 25, 2017

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This post is sponsored by North States Industries. I was compensated for my work. All thoughts and opinions are

my own. 

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Being a work at home mom (WAHM) has been one of the biggest blessings and challenges of my career. When I worked a corporate 40-hour per week job I dreamed about having a flexible work schedule, setting my own hours and working when it worked for me, spending plenty of time with my kids along the way. And while being your own boss IS amazing in a thousand different ways, being a WAHM is also seriously challenging at times.

Now that I’m a year and a half into this work at home thing, I’m just starting to feel like we’re finding a rhythm – a way for me to get the work done that I need to while spending as much time as I can with my girls. I told Joe that last year would be my “year of learning” as I figured out how much childcare I needed, how to juggle my clients and what projects to say “yes” to. Hint: Saying “no” is hard as a freelancer but often necessary.

One of the unexpected benefits of working from home has been the fact that Ainsley (and hopefully Collins down the road) has learned the art of independent play. I try to not work around Ainsley more than I need to, but sometimes I do sneak in a little work during the days when I don’t have childcare lined up or a babysitter cancels or a deadline looms.

When North States asked if I would be interested in reviewing their Superyard Classic Play Yard, I jumped at the chance. Knowing that Collins will be mobile in the blink of an eye, I figured having a portable play yard would come in handy. A play yard is one product I didn’t buy when Ainsley was younger that I wished I had! But when the play yard arrived, it surprised me how much Ainsley loved playing with her toys inside the play yard. Over the last week we’ve covered it with blankets to make a fort, used it as a place to contain all her Legos and as a cage for the zoo animals (aka our dog Pippa.)

It’s amazed me how much use we’ve gotten out of the play yard already, allowing me to get a little work done around the house, too. And as Collins gets older, I’m looking forward to using it to keep a mobile baby contained in a safe play space in the house. Want to see the Superyard Classic in action? Check it out in our home below.

The best news? North States graciously agreed to give away one Superyard Classic Play Yard to an Espresso and Cream reader. Enter to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Family, Pregnancy

Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding and Supplementing :: The Second Time Around

July 6, 2017

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A few weeks ago on Instagram I promised that I would write this post. And yet here I am, two weeks later, still kicking the can down the road and avoiding writing about the topic of breastfeeding, bottle feeding, supplementing. Not because I’m afraid to write about the topic, but because it’s a complicated subject – one that I feel different about daily. Chances are, if you’re a mom, you understand what I’m talking about. Because in the long run, it’s something that doesn’t really matter that much, and yet it matters so much when you’re in the thick of the newborn and baby days.

Let’s back up a little bit first. While I was preparing for Collins to arrive I debating not breastfeeding at all. Not a flippant comment here and there, but rather a very real conversation with Joe about not even giving it a shot. Having had a less than ideal breastfeeding (err pumping) journey with Ainsley, I was traumatized by the experience and not at all keen for a repeat. Exclusive pumping is not for the faint of heart!

I was never one of those people who dreamed about breastfeeding my child. And having formula fed Ainsley after four months of pumping, it made me realize that formula was, in fact, quite a wonderful thing. Nutritionally inferior to breastmilk? Yes, there’s no debating that. But a fantastic second option. Yet time and time again with both pregnancies I was met with plenty of unsolicited “Breast is Best” messaging. I still remember getting a call from a survey taker from the Minnesota state government after Ainsley was born and giving them an earful about how I didn’t want to have breastfeeding pushed on me any more than it already had been.

So this time around I promised myself: no guilt, no struggling to breastfeed, no exclusive pumping around the clock to keep up my supply. Joe and I decided that my goal would be two weeks of breastfeeding to give Collins the colostrum and early milk and then if it wasn’t working I would switch over to formula. My two week goal came and went, and I continued to breastfeed. I’m fairly certain that few moms would classify breastfeeding as “easy” but it was workable, a few issues with over-supply aside.

A lot of the stories about breastfeeding and switching over to formula that you find on the internet usually revolve around times when a mom has no other choice – baby isn’t gaining weight, mom doesn’t have enough supply, latching isn’t working, etc. But what about when it is working? With Ainsley, I had very little guilt about not breastfeeding because her lip gap caused major latch issues that I don’t think we could have overcome. It was my out, my valid excuse for switching to bottles. And then eventually, dropping the exclusive pumping routine and switching to formula. But with Collins? What was my reasoning? What would I tell others who asked?

At the end of the day I don’t really have a major reason. But here’s what I do know: Breastfeeding was not, for me, a blissful bonding experience with my baby. Having bottle fed Ainsley for a year, I knew enough to realize that I enjoyed bottle feeding my baby more than I did breastfeeding her. I could kiss her head and look into her eyes without the stress of whether or not she would pull away or unlatch or get upset. I knew enough to know that because I’m a fairly modest person, breastfeeding in public places was giving me serious anxiety and staying home with a toddler or being home for every feeding just wasn’t an option. I knew enough to know that formula, while nutritionally inferior, would give me the ability to be the most present wife and mom I could be.

So where does that leave me right now? I don’t really know. I’m still pumping three times a day right now, producing enough milk to cover about 3/4 of Collins’s feedings for the day, but I contemplate quitting nearly every single day and switching over to formula entirely. Pumping a few times a day seems like such a small price to pay for providing my daughter with the benefits of breastmilk, yet I long to be completely in one camp or another rather than one foot in and one foot out.

For now, I’m in the murky middle. I’m sure that eventually I’ll fall into the exclusively formula fed camp, but for now I’m just taking it day by day. Realizing it’s okay to be conflicted, unsure, neither here nor there.

Madison  

Family, Fashion

Favorite Workout Gear

June 30, 2017

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This summer I did a little wardrobe refresh in the workout gear department. Both because my body was a little different postpartum than it was before getting pregnant and because some of my workout gear was looking a little sad and worn out. I do dress up some days in the summer, but many days I’m running around after a toddler and need my clothes to be comfortable, functional and able to handle a little sweat.

Almost all of my workout gear is from Old Navy! I just love the price point and fit and have been wearing their workout clothes for years and years. Their running shorts will forever be my favorite! So here are a few of my favorite new items that are both affordable and wear well/look cute for chasing after a toddler and caring for a baby!

Go-Dry Cool Semi-Fitted Running Shorts
I have them in four colors! I buy at least three pairs a year and have for years.

Loose-Fit Lattice Side Tank 
Great for running and running after a toddler

Go-Dry Cross Back Tank
So comfortable and flattering!

Go-Dry Light Support Cami Bra
Not great for working out right now because it’s not supportive enough, but awesome for everyday wear around the house and lower-impact activities

Gap Pure Body Modal Joggers
These are SO comfortable for lounging around the house and were awesome for the first few weeks after having a baby.

Pregnancy

The Postpartum Body // Weeks 3-6

June 22, 2017

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I can’t believe that little Collins is already 6 weeks old! It’s been the fastest and slowest six weeks of my life, balancing the craziness that is having a newborn and a toddler. I’ve told everyone who asks that the hardest part is that the exhaustion of a toddler and the exhaustion of a newborn are at odds with one another. A toddler goes all-out, all day long BUT our toddler also takes a two hour nap every day and sleeps 12 hours at night, so it’s easy to go, go, go as a mom of a toddler and still get recharged each night. A newborn, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of exhausting. They sleep a LOT but they are also needier around the clock and require night feedings and the whole “rest when the baby rests” is pretty much a joke when you have a two-year-old to manage and entertain, too.

So, now that we have all that out of the way, I’m ready to talk about my postpartum journey and where I’m at six weeks in.

SLEEP
I put this one first, because it’s a big one for me and sleep has a huge impact on your health, weight loss, ability to exercise, etc. Collins has been a pretty good sleeper for the most part and has adapted well to a schedule that we’ve put in place. Sure, we have days and nights that aren’t super great, but I’m not complaining. She hit a very fussy period around 3 weeks and now seems to be getting less and less fussy as her digestive system matures and her tummy issues have subsided substantially.

As it stands today, she is going to bed each night around 8:30 and waking once or twice each night to eat. Sometimes at 1:30 and then again at 4. Other times she is waking just once, around 2 or 2:30. I’ve been trying to find a balance between going to bed when she does at 8:30 so I can get a nice long stretch of sleep and also wanting to spend some quality time with Joe. It’s hard for me to decide what is more important to my mental and emotional health on any given day. I try to take a nap during the day when the girls both nap in the afternoon, but sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep in the early afternoon when I don’t feel as tired as I do in the morning or later in the evening.

EXERCISE
During my last post, I said that I was waiting until 6 weeks to really start to exercise seriously. However, after about the 3 week mark I started to feel really good physically and most of my bleeding had subsided, so I’ve been working out harder and more consistently for the last two weeks. My first couple runs were hard, but as my abdominal muscles have gotten stronger, I’ve noticed that working out and running has been much easier. I’ve been doing exercises to repair my mild diastasis and gone on a lot of long walks with the double stroller and have been either running or doing a workout on Beachbody on Demand 5 to 6 days of the week. It might seem like a lot, but working out has given me a huge boost of energy and mental clarity on the days I’ve needed it most.

WEIGHT LOSS
We don’t own a scale and haven’t in years because I try not to focus on weight as a marker for health and fitness. I usually rely on how my clothes fit rather than how much I weigh. I did step on a scale last week and was about 6 pounds above my typical pre-pregnancy weight, assuming that scale was right. I’ll have a better idea when I go to my 6-week postpartum check-up early next week!

That said, I can fit into a lot of my clothes but they don’t all fit like they did before baby, which is to be expected at this stage in the game. Do I wish that my clothes fit already? Sure! But I’m trying to have a realistic and healthy mindset about my progress and taking it a day at a time. Nine months on, nine months off, right? Okay, I hope it doesn’t take nine months, but even if it does, that’s okay. 😉

OVERALL
Overall, I’ve been really thankful for how well my body has been recovering. While I was pregnant, there were plenty of times that I questioned whether or not working out would make any difference postpartum. The answer has been a resounding YES. If you’re currently pregnant, I can say without a doubt that working out was worth it, even if it was hard to find the motivation some days.

Family, Pregnancy

Favorite Baby Products :: Newborn (second time around)

June 12, 2017

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I wanted to take a minute (while it’s still fresh in my mind) to do a little post about my favorite baby products for newborns the second time around. Because let’s be honest, my list of must-have products is really scaled back the second time around and only includes the best of the best. No frills!

1. Milk Snob Nursing Cover/Car Seat Cover/Blanket/Etc. 
This cover is great! I LOVE multi-function baby products like this one. It functions as a nursing cover and a car seat cover (my main use for it) as well as a blanket and a grocery cart cover. It’s really cute, soft and washes well.

2. LeachCo Infant Lounger 
This was gifted to us for Ainsley and we have gotten SO much use out of it with both girls. They have both napped in it a lot during the early weeks (while supervised since it’s not technically a safe sleep surface) and I love that it’s super portable and can be moved from room to room.

3. Wubba Nub Pacifier 
Ainsley wasn’t a paci baby, but this little girl certainly is. We love the Wubba Nub because it stays in place when they are little and learning to keep the paci in their mouth. We have three around the house so we are never without one!

4. Halo Micro Fleece Swaddle
We have tried a lot of different swaddles and sleep products but it’s a little funny to me that the one we keep coming back to time and time again is the swaddle that our hospital gave us for free when Ainsley was born. It’s a “swaddle for dummies” since it has velcro and makes it super easy to get a nice, tight swaddle that stays in place.

5. LectroFan White Noise Machine
Our girls both sleep in their cribs, with the room dark and the sound machines running. We have two of these sound machines and I don’t think they can be beat for the price and functionality.

6. Ergo 360 Baby Carrier
All the praise hands for the Ergo 360. We didn’t end up using it nearly as much with Ainsley when she got older. I had envisioned using it a lot for hiking and walks and such, but we did use it a LOT in those early months when the evening fussies would strike and she would want to be held close and bounced but I still wanted to get dinner on the table or do something else. I sort of forgot about using it until last week, when Collins was really fussy, and bingo! She loves the carrier, and usually I can get her to fall asleep for a short cat nap during her fussy period while I’m cooking or playing in the yard with Ainsley toward the end of the day.

7. VTech Baby Monitor
I knew this time around that I didn’t want a fancy video monitor since we hardly used ours with Ainsley. Something about always seeing every little movement and grunt and wiggle just stressed me out. So this time around we went with a simple sound monitor, the same one we have for Ainsley. I rarely use it since all our bedrooms in the house are close together, but this monitor has lasted for a long time with Ainsley and done everything I need it to do!

8. Keekaroo Peanut Changer
This is a product I didn’t know I needed but now I can’t imagine doing without! This changing pad can be wiped down, sanitized and doesn’t need a cover. I mean, I can’t imagine having a regular changing pad with a cloth cover given how many times we wipe this thing down. It’s amazing!