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Family, Fashion

Holiday Gift Guide #1 / For Her

November 6, 2019

I’m getting ahead of the game this year and doing my holiday shopping early. And while I’m doing that shopping, I wanted to make sure to get ahead of the gift guides and provide you with some of my favorite gifts for different people in your life.

First up? My gift guide for the woman in your life – be it a friend, your mom, sister, mother-in-law, etc. Basically the list below is me rounding up my favorite of favorite items in the last year and recommending them to you. You can rest assured that I’ve put my hands on every single item listed below and use + love each item on the regular.

Cuyana Baby Alpaca Square Edged Cape
I was gifted this beautiful cape/wrap on a Beautycounter trip in January and it’s completely dreamy! Soft, high quality, and so versatile. My mom has been hinting that she wants one for herself.

Cuyana Leather Travel Case Set
I don’t personally own a set of these – but I’ve gifted at least a dozen of them to people both on my Beautycounter team and for previous holidays. I gave a set to my mom last year and she loves them. Bonus? You can personalize them and high end cosmetics travel cases are something I think most people are reluctant to buy for themselves.

KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker
Joe gifted this to me last Christmas and I use it every single day! I LOVE sparkling water and my habit of buying cans of sparkling water was getting expensive. This is a more eco and budget-friendly way of enjoying sparkling water at home. The canisters of CO2 can be exchanged at Walmart, Target and other retailers for a fraction of the cost.

Mini Lip Gloss Vault
For the makeup lover in your life! The colors in this lip gloss vault are to die for, and nearly all of them are universally flattering. I was shocked at how many of the colors I ended up loving – which is saying something for a neutral lip color gal like myself.

Rothy’s Chelsea Bootie
These have quickly become my go-to mom shoes. I slip them on nearly every day for preschool drop-off and pick-up. They are SO comfortable and versatile and I’m already eyeing another pair.

Everlane Cashmere Crew
The most classic Christmas gift choice around is a cashmere sweater, right? I love this sweater from Everlane. I’ve had a couple of their cashmere crews over the last few years in different colors.

Everlane Link Stitch Pullover
I recently purchased this and love it! I sized up to a medium for a more roomy fit and it’s quickly become the sweater I reach for most often.

Eye Sparklers Palette
The holidays are the perfect time to add a hint of sparkle to your eye makeup, and this little 4-pan palette is a fun way to to do so. It would make a fantastic stocking stuffer!

When Less Becomes More by Emily Ley
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually read this book yet, but I’ve read Emily’s other books and loved them and am equally excited to read this one. I think her books would all make fantastic gifts to any time-crunched momma trying to prioritize what matters.

Risen Motherhood (book) by Laura Wifler and Emily Jensen
I love my friends at Risen Motherhood and am so encouraged by their recently-released book named after their popular podcast. I can’t think of a better encouragement and gift to mommas in your life than to help bring them closer to the heart of Jesus as they mother their kiddos.

Fawn Design Original Diaper Bag
I have this diaper bag and got it before Collins was born. It’s my absolute FAVORITE. It’s roomy enough to tote around all the things you need for baby + toddler + other kiddos but it’s cute enough that it doesn’t scream “diaper bag!” Meaning that when I travel for work I still take this bag with me because I love it that much.

Family, Pregnancy

Truett Joseph: A Birth Story

September 11, 2019

Hello, friends! It’s been a WHILE hasn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without posting to the blog since the very beginning of blogging, but then again I’ve never had a month like the month of August. From the beginning, I’ve always had a goal in this space of sharing transparently, but also not blogging before I’ve had time to process what I’m blogging about. So in that spirit, I’ve had to take some time away before I was ready to share both Truett’s birth story AND the month following and subsequent heart surgery.

It wasn’t until I looked back at photos to use for this blog post that I realized what a haunting feeling it is to look back at photos of yourself before something monumental and traumatic took place. I scrolled through the photos of our time in the hospital after Truett’s birth and I shudder a little – knowing what those smiling, happy faces would have to endure, thinking about the lurking and serious heart defect that was waiting to surface in our seemingly perfectly healthy baby.

Whew. It’s a lot, friends. A lot to process over the last month and a lot that I’ll continue to process in the months to come. But what I do know is this: We are so incredibly thankful for Truett’s life and I want to make sure that the beauty of his birth isn’t overshadowed by the events soon after. So, with that said, here is our sweet Truett’s birth story….

Truett’s birth story began two days before he was born. On Wednesday, July 31st I went in for a regularly scheduled 38-week OB appointment. I had been feeling great but definitely having some signs that baby wasn’t too far off from coming. At my appointment our OB checked me and discovered that I was already 5 cm dilated and about 80% effaced. Honestly, I didn’t even know you could walk around that far along and not be in active labor! Because of how far progressed I was and how quickly Collins came once active labor started, paired with the fact that I already had two kiddos and a husband who works about 30 minutes away, our doctor said it was entirely reasonable to put an induction on the calendar for Friday. Initially, I declined, but as I went home and talked with Joe, we both preferred the idea of a more controlled timeline for Truett’s birth.

We made a plan for me to come in on Friday to be induced and started planning everything else around that – including childcare for the girls, getting bags packed, etc. I had SUCH a wonderful induction experience with Collins, which actually gave me quite a bit of fear surrounding this birth because I thought there was no way another induction could go quite so well. but I felt peace in our decision to put a date on the calendar for this baby to be born.

When I checked in on Friday I was having some occasional Braxton Hicks contractions but nothing regular or painful. It turns out I was already 6 cm and 90% and was STILL not in active labor which was even crazier to me – it also made me feel very affirmed in our choice to induce because there is no way I would have made it much longer without going into labor.

After being monitored for about 30 minutes, our doctor came in around 8:30 am and broke my water. Our hope was that breaking my water would be the only intervention needed to move things along. Our doula arrived shortly after and she started us on some exercises and movements to get baby into an ideal position for labor. We also started doing some abdominal lift and tuck exercises timed out with each contraction to help get my contractions more regular so I could make progress.

We spent the next couple hours walking inside and outside the hospital – since I was negative for Group B this time around I didn’t need an IV or any antibiotics but they did have me checking back about every 45 minuets to monitor baby. From about 8:30 until 10:40 I could tell I was having regular contractions that were starting to become more noticeable but I was not in any intense pain up until that point.

I specifically remember looking at the clock at 10:50 – while standing in the refreshment area of the labor and delivery wing – and saying, “Oh shit, that one hurt!” Joe has a photo of me at that point still smiling, but it was a serious effort to put a smile on my face as things were getting more and more painful. I returned to the room to be monitored around 11 and after that I felt certain I was ready to stay in the room and quit walking the halls.

At 11:20 I moved from being monitored on the bed to the ball and tried bouncing on the ball as a way to distract from the intense pain of each contraction. Our doula pressed on my back and Joe held my hand. As I had mentally prepared for labor before it began, I wanted to be “in my head” through the pain if at all possible, which for me meant focusing intensely on my breath and making it through each individual contraction. I had listened to my labor and delivery podcast a LOT on runs, walks, and through workouts in the months leading up to labor and delivery. When my run was hard and I wanted to quit, I used those times to think forward to delivery when I was going to be experiencing intense pain and tried to mentally prepare for those moments. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I truly think using that time in advance of labor to mentally prepare helped tremendously when the time came to have Truett. Even though the pain was intense, I felt calm and focused.

This is also a good time to note that one distinct difference in this labor from others is how comforted I felt by Joe’s presence and support. I don’t mean to say I didn’t feel that way in previous deliveries, but Joe’s presence was especially comforting to me during Truett’s birth – through hand holding and back rubbing and just being near. I remember telling everyone around this point that, “Everyone should marry a man like Joe Hofmeyer.” I mean it 100%.

Around 11:35 I got into the tub. It was really hot and felt so good as I labored through some really intense contractions. Both with Collins and Truett’s birth, the tub toward the end of labor helped make transition bearable!

I got out of the tub around noon and slowly made my way to the bed through the next few contractions. At 12:08 I was checked again and my doctor informed me I was complete and could push whenever I felt ready. In the weeks leading up to labor, our doula had talked to us about the benefit of waiting for your body to be truly ready before pushing – using your own body’s cues rather than when you were told to push. Even though I was complete, I didn’t yet feel ready to push. I waited about 10 minutes until my body felt ready and in the matter of about two contractions Truett made his arrival at 12:22 pm weighing 9 lbs. 1 oz!

Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better birth. I think the experience this time around taught me that there is no “ideal” birth. Each one of my births has been different and yet perfect for that particular point in time and life, and in many ways having such a wonderful beginning with Truett – including great bonding and breastfeeding – helped fortify this momma’s heart for what was to come in the weeks ahead.

One of the big mercies in Truett’s delivery was the fact that despite Truett being my biggest baby by over a pound, I had just a tiny little tear and very little blood loss. My recovery compared to the girls was SO much easier and better, and there were countless times that I thanked God for my recovery being so great because it was one less thing to think and worry about as we prepared for Truett’s heart surgery.

Thank you, Jesus, for the life and gift of Truett Joseph, whose life is a gift I am now exceptionally thankful for.

Family, Pregnancy

Emotionally Challenging Pregnancies

June 17, 2019

I’ve had this post brewing in my head for quite some time, but finding the words to write about something so joyful yet so challenging has felt nearly impossible. How do you find the words to write about something that feels so real, yet so self-indulgent at the same time?

As a momma who has walked through miscarriage three times, I know as well as most what it means to long for a big, round belly. Each time I’ve been pregnant, I’ve counted down the days to various milestones. Twelve weeks – out of the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically. Twenty three weeks – when baby is considered viable outside the womb. Thirty weeks – a baby born after thirty weeks generally has the same long-term outcomes for health as babies born at full-term. There is a certain holding of the breath that happens in each pregnancy after experiencing the loss of a baby, and my heart knows this well.

And while I’ve been overwhelmingly thankful for this baby, and every baby God has blessed us with, one side effect of experiencing loss is feeling horrible every time you aren’t eternally grateful for every aspect of pregnancy. I mean, what kind of person complains about something they’ve longed so deeply for?

Yet here I am, writing about my emotionally challenging pregnancy. Because when I quit powering through and really sit with my emotions, I’m faced with the reality that it’s been incredibly difficult for me this time around.

As was the case with my other two pregnancies, the first trimester brought with it a certain sense of melancholy and exhaustion. It was a familiar feeling, triggered by extreme nausea and fear about the what-ifs ahead. I knew enough about my previous two full-term pregnancies to know that after the nausea and exhaustion subsided I would likely come out of the emotional fog, too. And then, instead of 12 or 13 weeks of nausea, I found myself sick through the first 21 weeks, much longer than I had experienced with the girls, with the magical second trimester burst of energy nowhere to be found

Extended nausea gave way to both a 20-week anatomy ultrasound scare, followed by increased muscle reactions to the progesterone injections I take throughout pregnancy, which led to physical therapy and chiropractic. All the while, feeling a strange mix of exhaustion, sadness and irritability, made worse by everything listed above.

In the back of my mind, since the day we found out about this baby’s August due date, I’ve felt fearful. The transition to two kiddos was NOT an easy one for me, and while I look back at those early days with two kids fondly now, I still distinctly remember how stretched and maxed out I felt much of the first three months of Collins’s life. Knowing we will be adding another sweet baby to the mix, at the very beginning of football season (my husband is an assistant HS football coach on top of his regular work schedule) while entering a busy season for my own work has left me with so may fears about my own capacities.

My mind has taken every uncertainty, every day where I feel totally exhausted managing just two kiddos, every sleep-disrupted night as we’ve transitioned the girls into a shared room and jumped five steps ahead to, “How in the world will I do this with a newborn in the mix, too?!”

My body has felt tired, my heart has felt fearful, and I’ve never been more keenly aware of my own human limitations. Any of my other momma friends feel me?

So, with all that said, what steps have we tangibly taken to manage the challenges of this pregnancies and the uncertainties of the next few months?

Joe and I have talked about August and beyond a LOT. And we continue to talk about it as I need to process the uncertainties and what-ifs. We’ve had a lot of great conversations about family priorities and how we will communicate needs once baby boy arrives and check-ins on how I’m doing with our crazy schedule.

I’m starting therapy. I really dislike the fact that I even gave a second thought to writing this, but there is still such a stigma about therapy and getting professional help, isn’t there? But Joe and I are both huge advocates of the value therapy can play to getting + keeping people in a healthy place emotionally. The only reason I put off therapy for so long was not having a great option I felt was a good match with what I was looking for. With a personal referral and the ability to see the right people remotely, I feel much more confident in who I’ve found and having a resource going forward.

I‘m accepting help. That means our beloved childcare provider starting back up right after baby is born, and asking my mom to help do evening kiddo duty with me one night a week, and being willing to tell Joe if I feel that it’s all just too much on my plate. (I’m still working on that last part…)

We’re setting the bar low. Low expectations for the first few months, and low standards for things like meals and schedules. If my kiddos and husband have to live on Jimmy Johns, cereal, and PB&J for the first two months of this baby’s life, that’s totally fine. And if I need to get my house cleaned every week to keep up, I’m going to accept that, too. Settling the bar low has always helped me in avoiding disappointment or unrealistic expectations about situations or circumstances.

And in the end, what gives me the most comfort is knowing that my strength and ability to parent these three little people does not come from ME at all, but from HE who has the power to create and sustain life. We are so thankful for the gift of this sweet baby boy and remembering where my true source of strength comes from gives me the peace each day to know that each day is one God ordained and will get us through.

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

New Baby Items

June 13, 2019


Snuggle Me Organic Newborn Lounger
Full disclaimer: This product isn’t designed for evening sleep, but I found having a newborn lounger of some type was great for daytime napping around the house. We used a different newborn lounger last time, but it was pink and covered in hearts so we upgraded this time around to something more appropriate for baby boy.

Owlet Smart Baby Sock
I thought about buying this smart sock monitor for Collins last time around, but at the time the only version was the first generation Owlet and I read a lot of reviews about glitches associated with the sock. This time around, the sock has been reworked in the second generation model AND the Owlet was FSA eligible so it was a no-brainer for the added peace of mind during those early months.

DockATot
Not entirely sure why we have both a Dock a Tot and a Snuggle Me Organic, but we do. Call it nesting the third time around?! It seems to me that one OR the other would be more than sufficient, but here we are with both! Baby boy is going to have options I guess!

DermaFrida Silicone Baby Brush
A friend gifted this to us and I thought it was such a sweet and useful gift! Collins had terrible cradle cap that we were always working on, so I’m excited to have this on hand to keep baby boy’s scalp healthy and cradle cap free.

Windi by Fridababy
Since I have a fast letdown and oversupply, I know that my babies tend to struggle with gas in the early days. I wished I had this with Collins, who had such an irritable tummy the first month, to help relieve gas and stomach discomfort. Such a silly looking yet practical baby item, right?!

Vava Night Light
I did a lot of scouring of the internet to see what came most highly recommended for night lights good for middle of the night feedings. I decided on this light because it has multiple brightness options and can be easily turned on and off/dimmed with the touch of your hand.

True & Co. Seamless Convertible Bra (as a nursing bra)
I’ve been on the hunt for great nursing bras since I never found any I loved the first two times around. And while this is technically NOT a nursing bra, the front hooks make it super nursing friendly while also being something that is comfortable to wear and doesn’t feel frumpy. I LOVE True & Co. bras so much! (click HERE for $25 off your first True & Co. order!)

HALO Microfleece Swaddle
This isn’t a new product for us, but it’s been one of our favorite swaddles with both girls so we bought a new one since our old one was looking pretty grimy and gross.

SwaddleMe Original Swaddles
These are a new purchase for me but I loved how easy they look to get baby in and out and secure baby in a good, tight swaddle. They are more lightweight than the HALO microfleece swaddles so I’m excited to use them in August when baby is born.

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

My Thoughts On: Not Taking Maternity Leave

June 5, 2019

I’ve listened recently to a few podcasts from fellow mommas who work for themselves talking about maternity leave and setting yourself up to check out when a new baby enters your family. When I worked a traditional 40 hour/week job before Ainsley was born, I took a traditional maternity leave that entailed checking out completely from all work responsibilities for 12 weeks. It was lovely, and going back to work full-time after Ainsley was born was soul-crushing for me at best. Those first few weeks I felt so sad, isolated and sick to my stomach leaving my baby while I worked.

But! When I transitioned to work from home life and running my own businesses the concept of a maternity leave leading up to Collins’s birth looked a little different than when I had Ainsley. The first being, I didn’t really WANT to take a maternity leave, and in fact I didn’t actually take much more than a week off work (sort of) when she was born. Before you jump all over me telling me to let myself cherish the newborn stage, let’s chat through why I decided (very thoughtfully) to make that choice with Collins and why I’m planning to do the same this time around…

First things first, when you work for yourself maternity leave can look very different than when you have a traditional office job. Would I take a maternity leave if I worked a traditional 9 to 5? YES! A thousand times over and probably try to extend it to four months if I could. But the benefit of working for yourself and working on your terms is that baby gets to go with me when I work. So Ainsley spent a lot of time with our babysitter during the first two months after Collins was born, and Collins came with me to my office, where she mainly slept in a bassinet next to me and I did what I could in my sleep-induced haze to keep my business moving forward. Second, having childcare for Ainsley allowed me to spend more concentrated time with Collins. Sure, I was technically “working” but I allowed myself plenty of grace during those months to nap on my office couch with baby Collins if I needed to, and took plenty of time to respond to messages with a sleeping baby on my chest, so it wasn’t all terribly hard or grueling work I was doing.

Second, I tend to have a really hard time with the newborn stage. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s hard for me and I’m finally coming around to admitting that. Having the structure of at least some amount of work and focus to my days has been tremendously helpful for my mental state as I go through the transition to having a new baby in our family and increased demands on my time and energy. It may seem strange that adding one MORE thing to my plate (work) helps me feel less overwhelmed but it does! Add to that list things like running, working out, blogging, etc. and it all helps me feel like myself when I tend to feel anything but normal. Yes, welcoming a new baby into your family is a tremendously special experience and something I’m SO excited about, but it’s okay to not want to spend three straight months living in newborn-land without things like work, working out, and traditional structure. Do what works for you and what will make you feel the most like yourself.

Finally, I touched on this a bit above, but having childcare lined up and forgoing a traditional maternity leave actually allows me MORE time to enjoy a newborn, in my opinion. Although I may work and get things done while baby sleeps, there is also a lot of time to rest. Physical rest is hard to come by when you have other kiddos at home, so sitting at a computer and using my brain vs. feeling physically pushed while I’m recovering is wonderful for me, for baby, and for the girls who will get out and about more than they would with me and their new baby brother. Joe is going to be really busy in the late summer/fall with work projects, football coaching, etc. so it honestly makes me feel SO much better about our transition to three knowing I will have the additional support of our very beloved childcare provider.

So, I hope the novel encourages you to tune out the noise about what you should or shouldn’t do, and pave a maternity leave path that works for YOU and your family. There truly is no right way to do maternity leave!

Madison