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Family

Mommy + Mind Update: 4 Months

June 23, 2015

BW_Madison and Ainsley

I’ve talked a little bit about going back to work after having a baby, but I realized that for the most part I’ve been pretty quiet about my return back to the working world and how our family has been adjusting to the change. Truth be told, before I became a mom I couldn’t have ever pictured myself even entertaining the idea of staying home with my baby. “Not for me! No way!” I would boldly proclaim. I was raised by a working momma and always assumed I would follow in her footsteps with my own family someday. Plus, that work I do? Well, it’s pretty darn great most of the time.

During maternity leave I found myself feeling a little lost and confused. I was all wrapped up in new-momma things like feeding schedules, naps, finding a way to get more sleep and working around the clock to nurture and care for my little person that was so helpless, cute and, let’s admit it, demanding.

As the days and weeks ticked by I felt conflicted about going back to work. On the one hand I was enjoying my days with Ainsley immensely. It was bliss to cuddle with her, grab lunch or coffee with friends, and take long walks outside as the weather transitioned into spring. Sure, the days were sometimes long, exhausting and certainly hard, but I really did love being home with my favorite girl. And then other days I felt, if I’m being honest, like a shell of the person I once was. My mind felt hazy and under-utilized and many days I felt like the passion I once had for work, food and life outside of baby-land was as dry as a dessert because I hadn’t been cultivating those passions. The old me who dressed up in “real-people” clothes every day and interacted with co-workers and spent time without a baby attached to her 24/7? I missed that person.

The first couple days after returning to work were extremely difficult. I missed my little buddy and the routine we had created over the 13 weeks I was home. And then, day by day, things started to get easier. Instead of feeling relieved by that, I was overwhelmed with guilt. Should I enjoy time away from my baby? Did this undercut the type of mother I was because I didn’t find total fulfillment in staying at home with Ainsley? Would Ainsley not love me as much because I wasn’t home with her every day?

As the weeks have passed, I’ve come to a much more peaceful place about work and motherhood and finding a balance in it all. I’m blessed to have a work schedule that allows me to be flexible and find balance between work and parenthood, which has made the transition easier.

I’m sure some would look at it and say that I’m selfish. After all, I get to manage my day the way I want, drink a full cup a coffee without interruption in the morning, dress up and have adult conversations while taking home a paycheck. Some would probably argue that it’s a noble choice: I’m providing for my daughter’s future, saving for her college and family vacations and experiences, setting an example that women can work outside the home and pursue both a family and a career.

It’s amazing how you can take the same situation and spin it in two entirely different ways, isn’t it? Before I was a mom I looked at things in black and white when it came to parenting. And then I became a parent and started to realize that the world is much more gray than I even realized.

Four months in, I couldn’t care less whether a mom decides to stay home with her kiddos or return to work. What’s right for one family? It might be totally wrong for another. I’m just thankful we all have the opportunity to blaze our own path and make decisions that are right for us, as different as that may look from family to family.

Madison

Family

Trust me, new momma. It gets better!

June 17, 2015

New Momma

Man, oh man. Those first few weeks and months of motherhood? Let’s be honest, they’re pretty dang hard. I was really discouraged by everyone who told me about the difficulties of new motherhood, but guess what? They were right.

When I think about how my baby is getting older and bigger by the day? I think I’m supposed to be super sad about the whole thing. Sometimes when I look at those tiny little clothes I’m packing away I do get a little (okay, a lot) sad. But more often than not, I’m just thrilled with this older, more interactive, adorable little baby that’s joined our family and I’m pretty happy those first few weeks are in the book.

So, if you’re a new mom or a mom-to-be, let’s get a few things straight: Continue Reading…

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Budgeting Post-Baby: Cutting Cable

June 2, 2015

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Having a baby has a way of making you seriously re-examine your budget. You start to think about the little luxuries you enjoy every day and then realize the money spend on those luxuries could (and probably should!) be going toward more important things your child’s college fund. Although we felt we were in a position to have a baby, when we sat down to re-evaluate our budget post-baby, it was a big wake-up call to make some changes. We are no longer DINKS (you know, Dual Income No Kids?) and spending/living like we are is a thing of the past.

So, that said, I’m planning on doing a mini-series on the site in the coming months to examine how we’re adjusting our budget for baby and cutting costs while still managing to live well. Our first target for cost savings? Our pesky and over-priced cable bill.

Yes, we finally did it, we cut the cable cord! We’ve been talking about cutting DirecTV for a couple years, but the sticking point for us was always ESPN. But when we realized that we were spending $115 a month on cable, something needed to change. Our solution? We signed up for SlingTV (not the same as Sling Box) through Dish Network. Sling TV can be accessed through your internet TV or an internet TV stick, like a Roku, which we got free when we pre-paid for three months of Sling TV.

You plug in your Roku, download the SlingTV app and for just $20/month you get access to streaming of about 20 popular channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV and Food Network, to name a few. We’ve been SO impressed with the quality of the streaming and the ease of accessing our favorite channels. Plus, I love that you can by month-by-month with the option to add additional channel packages based on interests. In the fall, I anticipate that we’ll add the sports package (which includes SEC Network, ESPNU, etc.) for a couple months, which costs an additional $15/month. No matter the way you swing it, we’re saving over $1,000 over the course of the year just by making the switch.

Additionally, we share an extended-family Netflix account for streaming movies and TV shows and we pay for Hulu Plus as well, which costs $8/month. And access to the basic channels like ABC, NBC and CBS? Those are free with a digital tuner!

A few notes about cutting cable:
-You need to be 100% committed to cutting the cord. When we called to cancel, DirecTV offered to reduce our bill by a paltry $10/month. But, about an hour after cancel our service we got a call from DirecTV’s retention department offering to give us our current package for $60/month for 12 months, plus a $200 Visa gift card and NFL Sunday Ticket for free. Tempting, but we stuck to our guns and passed on the offer. (Hint, doing this might be a good option if you want to keep cable but are trying to reduce your budget!)

-Even with SlingTV, we’re going to have to do without some luxuries like being able to record the shows we want to watch at a later time. However, most of that can be remedied by going online to Hulu Plus or Netflix and finding the show we want to watch. Not nearly as convenient but costs savings frequently mean a trade-off in convenience.

-We’re hoping that by cutting cable we will spend less time watching mindless TV and more time reading, spending time with Ainsley and getting outside. We have said it’s not only an investment in cost-savings but an investment in another way of living, and I like the sounds of that.

Old Budget
DirecTV $115/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $123/month or $1476/year

New Budget
SlingTV: $20/month
HuluPlus $8/month
TOTAL: $28/month or $336/year

TOTAL COST SAVINGS: $1140/year

I’m excited to continue this series on budgeting over the next several weeks. I have a few awesome guest-contributors who are going to weigh in on things like hair and salon visits, food and groceries and events/activities!

Madison

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Ainsley 2 Month Update

April 30, 2015

Ainsley2Month

Likes and Dislikes: This month has been so much fun because her little personality is really emerging more and more every day. Joe and I say every day that she is more fun than the day before.

Ainsley Loves: having people sing to her, smiling at friends and family, eating, playing on her baby gym, playing with her daddy and practicing rolling over, hanging out in the Ergo and dancing around the house with mom while music is playing in the background.

Ainsley Dislikes: This little girl has a super short fuse when it comes to eating and we joke that she gets hangry like her momma. If you wait too long to give her a bottle she pretty much loses it and the only way to get her to take her bottle is to sing to her – strange but true. She is starting to like tummy time more, but it still isn’t her favorite, and she really dislikes having her clothes changed.

Daytime Schedule: Still waking up at 6:30 each morning, give or take 1/2 an hour. We’re still sticking to a 3 hour eat, play, sleep cycle during the day, but her wake times are getting longer, around an hour and a half at a time, and her naps range anywhere from 1 hour to 2 1/2 hours; her morning naps are on the shorter side and she usually takes a long nap in the early afternoon, followed by another short cat nap before bed.

Eating: Her eating hasn’t changed all that much from last month. She is eating 4 to 5 ounces during the day and then takes more of a cluster feed approach closer to bed time. Once in a while she will eat a 6 ounce bottle. Lately she seems to be going through a growth spurt because she is eating much more than usual. We are still feeding primarily breast milk in bottles but have also started to introduce some formula each day, mixing it half and half with breast milk because I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to pump.

Sleep: We started to have a lot of trouble with Ainsley taking forever (we’re talking 1 1/2 to 2 hours) to go to bed at night, meaning most of our night consisted of putting her down, soothing her, going back in to rock her and start the process over and over again. Instead of keeping her awake until 9 or 9:30 we have started putting her to bed earlier, around 7 and it’s made a huge difference. She goes to sleep at 6:30 or 7 and wakes up around 12 and then again around 3 or 3:30 with a morning wake time between 5:30 and 6:30 each morning.

Family Transition: Now that Ainsley is getting more predictable and I’m starting to understand her and her schedule a little better, it’s making the transition into parenthood much easier! I am really starting to enjoy my days with Ainsley and a lot of times when Joe gets home I’ll tell him how much FUN she is and how much I love being her mom. Additionally, since she is going to bed earlier and easier, it leaves a little more time for Joe and I to eat a peaceful dinner together and have some time just the two of us, which is great. It’s also incredibly gratifying to walk into her room after naps and be greeted with a huge smile. Those smiles really do make it all worth it! Overall, I’m enjoying being a mommy so much more this month than last month, which was pretty rough to be really honest.

Mommy Body Update: I went in for my 6 week postpartum check up and was surprised that I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Things are certainly not as toned and firm as before I got pregnant, but I’m trying to be patient and take it a day at a time. Honestly, finding time to get to the gym has been minimal, especially since I’m still battling sleep depravation, but we’re going on lots of long walks and I’m doing plenty of squats and lunges in the Ergo since Ainsley loves to be worn in that thing every day. Despite the fact that I’m not in the shape I used to be, I’m really feeling better in my body than ever and have found that I care a lot less about the little vanities in life now that I’m a mom. If I’m healthy and active and eating fairly well the other little imperfections can just slide.

Resources: Still using Babywise and Moms on Call as my main resources. My mom also gifted me What to Expect: Baby’s First Year, which I really love because it gives plenty of information on developmental milestones and activities to do with your baby by age.

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I didn’t realize how selfish I was until I became a mom.

April 6, 2015

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Before I had a baby, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to talk about how hard motherhood is. I had heard so many other women tell me that motherhood was the most difficult/wonderful thing they had ever done, but quite honestly I was discouraged by those stories because they made me dread, rather than anticipate, what was to come for our little family. But now that I’ve been doing this motherhood thing for about six long and incredibly short weeks I can safely say that motherhood is every bit as hard as others told me it would be but for reasons I never anticipated.

You see, I knew that taking care of a baby was going to be challenging. I had babysat for years and had enough experience around babies that I wasn’t totally naive about how consuming childcare can be. But it’s not the baby care that’s so challenging. No, it’s the fact that caring for a little one and giving yourself to your infant exposes you and every single one of your selfish desires and there is no place to hide. Being a momma and loving our little girl has brought me face to face with just how selfish I really am, even though I never thought of myself as an overly selfish person to begin with.

Over the past number of weeks I heard that little voice in my head saying, “What about ME?” about a thousand times. When Ainsley is awake from her nap 30 minutes ahead of schedule and is crying for her bottle just as I’m getting out of the shower, dripping wet. Or when I’m starving and sit down to finally eat dinner, but Little Miss wants to be bounced and swayed and cuddled. Or when I’m laying in bed, desperate for a couple of consecutive hours of sleep but the paci fell out of her mouth and she needs to be soothed back to sleep for the tenth time that night.

When I write these things down, they seem incredibly trite. I mean, what’s the big deal on missing out of a little sleep, being a little hungry, or not having the time to blow dry your hair or put on a little makeup? But I think I seriously underestimated how much I cherished those basic things in life: sleep, food, exercise, a hot shower.

At church yesterday, Easter Sunday, I was feeling like the ugliest version of myself. I had on a pretty dress and my hair was curled and our family looked photo-ready. (See evidence above) But inside, my heart was anything but pretty. Ainsley had spent the better part of the night crying inconsolably and being incredibly fussy, leading us to believe that she had an ear infection. After a middle of the night call to the pediatrician, they suggested we go downtown to the children’s ER since all things related to your kiddo are bound to happen on a Sunday, aren’t they?! We trekked to the ER at 4 am, sleepy and weary and a little worried only to find out that Ainsley was just fine and most likely just going through a developmental leap leading to increased fussiness.

On the way home I felt relieved but more than a little agitated. I was grumbling to myself about how tired I was, how little sleep I had gotten, how much we were going to have to pay for our trip to the ER, etc. My pre-baby self was throwing a fit inside about not getting what I wanted. In short, I was acting a lot like Ainsley. Totally acceptable when you’re a 6 week old baby, a lot uglier when you’re a 27-year-old momma of a newborn.

So when I sat down at church and sang those songs about the sacrifice our Savior made for us two thousand years ago, the ultimate sacrifice, it put my little tantrum into perspective. I thought about how diligently we, and many others, prayed for this sweet little baby of ours and how I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks complaining about the very blessing I wanted so desperately.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been so thankful for Ainsley and for our new life as a family of three, but it hasn’t been without significant growing pains. The very real and very difficult process of dying to yourself and your desires often gets lost in the sea of stories about how blissful new motherhood is. And it is blissful, most certainly, when your little one sleeps on your chest all curled up or starts to show signs of their very first smile. But it’s also difficult, and that’s okay, too.

So, if you’re a new momma, or about to become one, I want to let you know that it’s okay to struggle a bit, to miss your old life, and to struggle with your selfish desires. As my own mom affirmed to me yesterday, the transformation into motherhood is a process and something that takes a little time. Expecting that transformation to occur completely the minute you have your baby is holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. So let’s all vow to give ourselves a little grace in the process, shall we? I know that I, for one, have never needed more grace than I do now that I’m a mom!

Madison

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