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You Make Me Better

May 7, 2018

This weekend I was talking with a friend about motherhood – the joys and challenges of adding a second child into the mix specifically – and I said something to her that sort of just tumbled out.

“Motherhood makes me the best version of myself.”

As I sat with those words in the days that followed, the words stuck with me. I also felt there was room for a little disclaimer, and Voxed my friend to clarify what I really meant when I said that. Let me explain: I believe wholeheartedly that motherhood DOES make me the best version of myself, but only because it reveals in me the worst parts of myself, too.

Over the last three years motherhood has given me a giant mirror, reflecting my weaknesses, shortcomings, need for grace and refinement, and areas where I have tremendous room for growth. Over the last three years I’ve learned that I’m impatient, selfish, prone to inconsistency, sometimes lazy, short-sighted, a seeker of immediate gratification, and many more things. And I don’t say that to put myself down, but to say that I think it’s the inherent nature of becoming a mother that makes you so keenly aware of the areas you need to grow when you’re giving so much of your time, energy and affection to those around you.

And because I have that mirror looking me straight in the face every day, I’ve been exposed to areas of potential growth that I didn’t know existed before having kids. I’m not always the best version of myself in motherhood, but slowly, surely, I’m being forced to grow and change into the best version of me a little bit every single day.

On a practical note: I recently listened to a podcast that talked about being an “angry mommy” and what you can do to work through those times when you just feel so frustrated, angry and frazzled. They suggested identifying your triggers that cause you to feel frazzled and upset so you can be proactive about setting yourself up for success.

For me, those triggers are things like a dirty/messy house, including dirty floors and dishes in the sink, as well as a lack of quiet time and when I’m doing too many things at once. I’ve been working on letting some of the other things that bother me fall by the wayside, but a clean and tidy home, moments of quiet in the morning before my kiddos wake up, a bath after the kids are in bed, and trying to avoid multi-tasking (aka being totally present wherever I am) are keys that help keep the anger and frustration at bay.

While I have a LONG way to go and grow as a mother, I’m working day by day to become the best wife and mom I can be, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to grow through this journey.

Family, Fashion

Spring Skincare Favorites

April 23, 2018

The weather is slowly transitioning to spring around these parts, which means I’ve been switching up my skincare and makeup routine a bit as the temperatures change. Sometimes (most of the time?) what works for your skin in the winter months needs tweaking as the summer comes around, so it’s important to continue to evaluate what is and what is not working for your skin as the seasons change. Additionally, since I have a lot of mommas who read this blog, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that postpartum skin can require constant re-evaluation. Other milestones outside of having the baby (such as weight loss, weaning, sleep regressions and lack of sleep for mom, hormonal shifts, etc.) can mean that a product which once worked for your skin no longer does the trick like it used to. Hint hint: That’s what I’m here for!

  1. Nourishing Cream Exfoliator 
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I think that a lot of skincare issues come back to inadequate exfoliation and inadequate (or incorrect) moisturizing. My skin tends to be on the drier side, and in order for my skincare products to penetrate the skin it’s important to exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells. I use the Nourishing Cream Exfoliator a couple times per week, especially in the summer when sweat and sunscreen tend to be a part of everyday life.
  2. Countermatch Pure Calm Cleansing Milk 
    This is a new product to my routine (and a new product this month to BC’s line-up) and, in my opinion, a total must-have item if you struggle with dry and/or sensitive skin. The milk-based cleanser adds moisture and hydration to the skin while dissolving away grease, grime and makeup.
  3. Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion
    This has been my go-to moisturizer since it launched over a year ago. It adapts to your skin’s unique hydration needs and is great for dry skin. Note: Countermatch is not great for those with acne-prone skin.
  4. No. 3 Balancing Face Oil 
    Sometimes in the warmer months I can get away without using a face oil, but I LOVE these face oils more than any other product in my skincare routine. The face oils are so great for adding hydration to the skin, improving overall appearance, and combating specific skin issues such as breakouts, unevenness, dry skin and more. I use the balancing oil to keep breakouts at bay and keep my skin hydrated without feeling greasy.
  5. No. 1 Brightening Face Mask
    I use a face mask a couple times per week – more often in the summer when my skin is exposed to the sun – to treat specific skin issues. For me, brightness and evenness in my skin tone is a primary concern that I use this mask to treat.
  6. Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer (No. 2)
    Sun protection + moisturizer + a product that evens out skin tone without feeling like you’re wearing makeup? Check! I wear Dew Skin at least four or five days out of the week, even more so in the warmer months when I’m out in the sun. It contains SPF 20 from non-nano zinc oxide and covers just enough to make me feel and look put together.

In the picture above, I’m only wearing the following makeup because my skin is glowing and my new routine is working well right now:

  1. Volumizing Mascara
    It’s hard to say whether Volumizing Mascara or Lengthening Mascara is my favorite. I rotate the two and sometimes even layer the two for both lengthening and volumizing impact. I really love both and use them interchangeably, so it’s really a matter of preference more than performance.
  2. Brow Pencil in Medium 
    Beautycounter’s Brow Pencil is one of the handful of makeup products I can’t live without. I have brows that need a little filling in from years of over-plucking so I use the pencil, along with the brush on the other end which is great for blending, for a natural yet put-together look.
  3. Whisper/Tawny Blush Duo 
    This duo is my favorite of all three color duo options for it’s natural look that bridges the gap between blush and bronzer. It’s versatile for many seasons, including springtime!

How To // Days at Home

April 19, 2018

This winter has been a LONG one in the Midwest. We just yesterday got five inches of snow and were stuck inside most of the day because of snow. In April. And we haven’t enjoyed many days that have been spring-like at all over the last couple months so we have had to get creative about our time inside and at home. I had a few questions come in via Instagram about how we manage our days at home together, so I thought I would give you a peek at what we do on a typical day.

A few things to note: We do not live anywhere near most fun things to do with kids. We are an hour away from Target, from the Children’s Museum, from indoor activities of most kind, etc. So we don’t have a lot to do outside of our house, play dates with friends, etc. I work for a handful of hours most mornings, but Wednesdays are Ainsley and mommy mornings when we go to music class and leave Collins with the babysitter for a portion of the morning. I should also add that Ainsley is pretty stellar at independent play, so I try to engage in specific activities occasionally but she does a lot of playing on her own as well.

“Typical” Day // 
5:00 AM: I wake up and get going for the day. I’m a softie and Collins still gets an early morning bottle, so I don’t usually wake up to an alarm, but to Collins anywhere between 4:30 and 5 am. I feed her a bottle, then put her back down and get started with my day. I usually throw in a load of laundry, make coffee in my Aeropress, make Joe’s lunch, and sit down to read my Bible (usually through a reading plan on my She Reads Truth App), and get out my laptop to answer emails, IG messages, FB messages, etc.

6:30 AM: There are always deviations from this, but Ainsley typically wakes around 6:30 and Collins is usually up around the same time or a bit later. We have recently cut out all TV from Ainsley’s day, but she has a hard time waking up in the morning so I let her play 20-30 minutes of games on her iPad while she has some milk on the couch and Collins has her bottle.

7:00 AM: The girls have breakfast. They pretty much eat the same thing these days, usually toast with PB, Kodiak Cakes pancakes, fruit, yogurt, eggs, etc. The whole process probably takes about a half an hour. We also try to read a devotional and/or books while I have a captive audience.

7:30 AM: It’s “activate the troops” time as I call it! We get breakfast dishes cleaned up and in the dishwasher, I fold a load of laundry (sometimes), the girls get changed and into their clothes for the day, I make all the beds and get their rooms all tidied up for the day. It sounds crazy to some people that I tidy up rooms before we play but I like to start the day with a clean, organized house as our blank slate. I also get ready sometime in this window of time. Once the house is picked up and we are ready, we use any remaining time for free play while everyone is fresh and happy.

8:30-NOON: I get to work (at home) while our babysitter takes care of the girls at the house. Sometimes I get out of the house to work, but I have an office downstairs so most of the time I work from home because of the convenience and being close to

NOON – 1:30 PM: Smoothie date! I had gotten SO frustrated by the hour from noon until 1 that something had to change. I would get done with work, both girls were getting close to needing a nap and wouldn’t eat their lunches well, wanted to be fed right away, and usually I was left with a giant mess at nap time from the meal and chaos. So we switched things up!

Now my “smoothie sisters” have a smoothie packed with good food as their lunch and it’s so much easier for everyone. They love smoothies, and I usually have a smoothie for lunch, too, so we only get one appliance and a few cups dirty. Their smoothie usually has a half scoop of protein and greens powder or collagen peptides, whole milk, banana, some type of frozen pink fruit (cherries, strawberries, raspberries – the girls like their smoothies to be pink!), a large scoop of peanut butter and some ice. I feel good about what they are eating and they eat it without protest. Huge win!

Once lunch is cleaned up it’s usually survival mode until nap time. They get cleaned up, we play trains, Twosies (Ainsley’s favorite!), Shopkins or some other type of figurine that is the toy of the moment, do a couple puzzles, read a few more books, etc. Whatever keeps them happy until nap time is the name of the game..

1:30 – 3:00 PM: Nap time! The girls usually go down around 1:30 and sleep for some amount of time. It’s really hard to say how long Collins will nap for on any given afternoon. I can always count on about 45 minutes and sometimes up to 2 hours. Ainsley usually naps for about an hour and a half. While the girls nap, I pick up the house, get my workout in, take a quick shower and wrap up any work that needs to be done. I also try to prep anything that needs to be done for that night’s dinner. Most of this work is done while listening to some sort of personal development, health or faith-focused podcast.

3:00 -5:30 PM: These are the hardest times of the day for everyone, aren’t they? By this time the girls are dying to be out of the house but with winter and being cooped up it’s been hard. It’s usually the best time for a change of scenery – meaning instead of playing upstairs with our toys we play downstairs with the toys we have in the basement (a play kitchen, lots of play food, a tent where we read books, some different activity books, colors, stickers, etc. a pop-up plastic ball pit and pop up tunnel from Ikea, etc.) We tend to get out and go to the library, run any errands that need to be run, go to the bakery, play at the park when it’s nice enough, go on a walk (again, weather permitting), or play in the heated garage with scooters and the swing my husband hung from our Garage rafters.

At least a couple times per week we usually do some sort of post-nap baking project, such as baking cookies or cupcakes. When I’m really feeling like an over-achieving mom, we wrap up the baked goods and bring them to friends, neighbors, family members, etc. as a way to model kindness to Ainsley and show her the value of caring for others well. Let’s be clear, with a baby in tow the only way I actually get this baking done is by strapping Collins in the Ergo or putting her in the high chair with lots of snacks, but that’s life, right?

Ainsley also gets to play another 30 minutes on her iPad sometime during this time frame, usually around 5 when I prep dinner and get the house picked up before Joe comes home.

Other favorite indoor activities: Kwik Sticks Paint Markers, Do a Dot Markers, Usborne Sticker and Activity Books, Play Doh, Magnatiles, Imagination Magnets, large Legos, wooden train track set, doctor kit, crayons and coloring books, modeling clay and more!

5:30 PM: We typically eat dinner sometime around this time, or a bit after. Dinnertime is always a little hectic and a lot messy, but we try our best to sit down to a good family dinner every night. I’m still waiting for it to become a place of peaceful connection, but I have a feeling I’ll be waiting a LONG time for that to be the case. Ha! But we sit down, we eat food at the table together, and we talk about our days, dang it! 😉


Your Sleep Questions Answered // Volume 1

March 15, 2018

When Collins was around 4 months old, we hired a sleep consultant through Sleepwise Consulting to help us navigate some things surrounding sleep training. I could tell the second time around that I was becoming a little “soft” and needed some hand-holding to work through a few sleep issues we were having. It was tremendously helpful and I’ve raved to others about how professional, thoughtful and skilled I felt our consultant, Jeannine, was as we worked with her.

Since then, I’ve passed along Jeannine’s name to readers asking for sleep advice. While I’m certainly no expert, Jeannine is! She is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and a fellow momma of little kiddos. And she has graciously volunteered to answer YOUR sleep questions. I solicited sleep questions on Instagram and Facebook from you guys, and chose 5 to answer this month. This will be an on-going series on the blog so if you have questions you want Jeannine to answer, send them my way ( and I’ll add them to the list!

Jeannine has done her best to cover the basics in her responses below, but if you want to talk with her in more detail you can get a free 15 minute phone consult here, or sign up for the full sleep consulting package if you want more personalized help and hand-holding. We started with the 15 minute call, then decided to buy the full package and it was money well spent! You can also check out their Facebook page for more info.

So, let’s get to the questions…

Question: Ever since we stopped swaddling our son, he will not sleep longer than a 2-3 hour stretch. How can we lengthen this?
Child’s age: 5 months
Child’s bedtime routine: He is ready for bed between 7-8pm, we do a bath, I nurse, and he falls right to sleep — in the Rock and Play.  If placed flat on his back in his crib, he immediately rolls over to his belly and starts rotating around in a circle, crawling and screaming — he will not lay down on his belly and
sleep.  So we’ve reverted to the Rock and Play for the past two months. He still has a strong startle reflex and continues to wake every 2-3 hours, sometimes more, kicking and flailing about. I go in, nurse or bounce him and he goes back to sleep.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: We do a bath, I nurse, and he falls right to sleep.

Jeannine’s Response // 
This is such a great question! Learning how to sleep on a flat surface is a common struggle for little ones accustomed to the incline of a Rock and Play. We commonly see the moro reflex, which is the involuntary reflex response found in infants, go away between 3-4 months. He could have a bit of that still lingering. Since your little one is 5 months, and with the additional information you are giving me, I would suspect there are a few other things that could be causing the frequent wakings in the middle of the night. To work on those night wakings, I would try to move your son back into his crib. And then, you can help his troubles with rolling in the crib by practicing rolling front to back and back to front during each wake period each day.
Lastly, it’s common when a little one gets help to sleep, they wake every 1-3 hours at night needing that help back to sleep. So, I would recommend making sure your son is putting himself to sleep for both naps and night sleep independently, without any help including, nursing, rocking, or bouncing. This can be a tough goal and is something I would be happy to help with if you have a hard time on your own.

For the last month my daughter has been waking up in the 5:00 hour most days. I get up just after 6, so if she wakes before then I’ve started taking her into bed with me and she’ll sometimes fall back asleep and get more rest (otherwise, she’ll be crabby that day before her nap). If I lay her down in her bed she just screams and disrupts the house waking up her older brother. Any tips for getting her to sleep
later again?
Child’s age: 22 months
Child’s bedtime routine: bath (every other night), PJs, snack, brush teeth, 2 books
Child’s nap routine: afternoon 1-2 hours
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: Lay down in bed awake

Jeannine’s Answer // 

Early morning wakings are one of the most common troubles in this age group and can be the toughest to resolve. I would start by making sure it is completely dark in her room. When I say dark, I mean it should be just as dark at 12 pm as it is at 12 am in her room. The sunlight can come into our little one’s rooms and cause their mind/body to start to wake. Early mornings also our lightest sleep, and therefore can be hard to resettle once she has woken. Once you have made those changes, I would look at her schedule. If she is waking at 5am, happy and ready to go, she maybe capping out on total daily sleep needed. At her age, most toddlers need between 11-14 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period. If she is getting 2-3 hours of daytime
sleep and goes to bed at 7pm, she has reached 12-13 hours of overall sleep by 5am. If
you continue to see that 5am waking, schedule a free 15 minute call with me to discuss in depth.

My little man is 9 months old and hasn’t slept through the night once! Advice on how to get to a full night of rest would be appreciated! I am not afraid of letting him cry it out but he will cry all night so we usually have to get up to feed him and he will always fall asleep again after a bottle. We have tried filling his belly before putting him down but he will only drink 4oz. at a time and we are up every 2-3
hours yet. Mama needs rest!
Child’s age: 9 months
Child’s bedtime routine: Bottle/rock at 6:45, lay down at 7pm (falls asleep right away)
Child’s nap routine: Morning nap at 9 am, afternoon nap at 1pm. Bottle before each nap, and sleeps 1.5 hours each nap.

Jeannine’s Answer // 
Hi momma, 9 months is a long time to go with this kind of broken sleep; you must be exhausted! I would be happy to help your family get some restful nights. It sounds like your son has an eat/feed association. This is the most common sleep prop for most infants. A sleep prop is anything external your son needs to fall asleep. What happens is, your son uses the bottle and possibly the rocking to get himself to a drowsy state to fall asleep. Then, when he moves through his sleep cycles in the middle of the night, he wakes and cannot get himself back to sleep, needing a bottle to get him drowsy again. To help this, you want to remove the feeds from his sleep. I would recommend changing your bedtime routine, so the bottle comes first, then a bath, pajamas, book (without rocking) and then into crib awake to drift off to sleep
on his own. Lastly, to work on removing feeds from daytime sleep, I highly recommend an eat/play/sleep pattern, so he eats when he wakes, then plays, and then falls asleep on his own without a bottle. These two changes can be tough, but with consistency they make such a huge difference in your son being able to fall asleep AND stay asleep on his own.

My daughter will nap an hour and a half to two hours for her daycare providers/sitters who watch her 3 times a week fairly consistently without waking. But when I am getting her to nap at home the other 4 days she will most often only do half hour to forty minute naps for me before she wakes herself up crying. I have tried to let her cry for up to 10-15 minutes to see if she will fall back asleep but she doesn’t.
Child’s age: 6 months
Child’s bedtime routine: We still nurse to sleep after getting her into pajamas and a sleep sack. She has been a fairly good sleeper. Sleeping from about 6 PM till 9:30 PM when I do a dream feed for her before I go to bed. Will sleep most nights until about 6 AM. So she does get about 12 hours most nights.
Child’s nap routine: Put her down when she starts to show signs of tiredness and let her cry for up to 20 minutes before going in and holding her. (we do feedings when she wakes up from naps.) She naps once in the morning around 9:30 or so, once in the afternoon around 1:30 and SOMETIMES will do a catnap around 4.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: She puts herself to sleep for naps usually 5-10 minutes of crying, unless she cries for 20+minutes then I will try to rock her/walk with her to see if sleep will come, if not we go back to playing for a while and try again later. Nighttime still falls asleep while nursing.

Jeannine’s Answer // 
I am so glad you asked this question, I get at least 2 calls a week asking “why does my baby sleep better for our sitter?” It is most likely caused by the the differences in the way you each put her down. Do you have a similar routine? If not, I would try and synch up your routines. A great nap routine is diaper change, sleep sack (if you use one), read a book, white noise on, lights out and goodnight. If the child is
crying when mom puts her down, and then mom goes in and rocks her to sleep, her naps will most likely be only 1 sleep cycles (30-45 minutes). What happens is, they wake from their cycle, looking for mom to come back and rock them to sleep for the rest of their nap. In additional to synching up routine, I would be sure you are both on the same schedules as well, awake time can play a great part in how easy it is
for a LO to fall asleep. All my best to your family!

Our 8mo sleeps in short spurts and only falls back asleep by breastfeeding and rocking him. He goes down around 8pm, wakes at 11pm, then 1/2am, then 5am, then 8am for the day. We are not sleeping well. How can we get him to sleep in longer spurts?
Child’s age: 8 months
Child’s bedtime routine: we get him dressed in his pjs with a fresh diaper around 7 pm, then around 8 pm he has his final feeding and falls asleep just after that.
Child’s nap routine: He takes two naps a day, from 11am-1pm, and from 4pm-6pm.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: He falls asleep after eating or being held/rocked. He shows a lot of anxiety when he sees or hears me leaving his room and freaks out, then needs to be rocked all over again. He sleeps with a white noise machine, no blankets, but does sleep with a paci and small animal lovey blankey.

Jeannine’s Answer // 
Your story is so similar to about ¾ of the families I work with. Some families have a single sleep prop they need to work on removing, but most of the families, have several sleep props. Sleep props are anything external needed for a child to fall asleep. They can be a bottle/nursing, pacifier, rocking, bouncing on a ball, twirling mom’s hair, playing with dad’s fingers, the list can go on. With the
information you gave, it looks like your son is using nursing, rocking and the pacifier to help with his sleep. When a baby uses these things to fall asleep instead of their own independent sleep tools, its often I see waking in the middle of the night every 1-3 hours. The reason for this is that once they fall asleep with someone or something’s help, when they come to their lightest sleep state in their sleep cycles, they wake entirely, and cannot put themselves back to sleep. They need those external sleep
props. Removing these can cause some protest at first, but with consistency and commitment, the protest should resolve, and your child will then have his own sleep tools to fall asleep and stay asleep on his own. This will require some sleep training. I recommend because of the way he already shows anxiety, to choose a very gentle sleep training method, and stick with it.

Family, Food & Recipes

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Energy Bites

February 27, 2018

This recipe isn’t going to break the internet with it’s creativity or for being something you haven’t seen before, but I frequently talk about and post about my energy bites, and when I was looking for an up to date recipe on Espresso & Cream, I realized that I didn’t have one posted! In the past I’ve made these with dates and nut butter as the binder, but truth be told we just don’t have dates on hand most of the time, so I’ve adapted the recipe to be adaptable to what I think most people typically have on hand. Though if you do have dates on hand most of the time, there are plenty of good recipes using them as well!

These energy bites have saved us a lot of money since I’m less tempted to grab an energy bar when I’m hungry and looking for a quick and easy snack. They are portable, and Ainsley thinks they are cookie dough that I let her eat whenever she wants so I call that a major #momwin in my book.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Energy Bites
Recipe type: Snack
Serves: 12 to 15
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup chocolate protein powder of choice
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  1. Combine all the above ingredients together in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add additional honey or peanut butter if needed so mixture comes together easily. Scoop by heaping tablespoons and roll between your hands to form balls. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.