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Sunday, January 31, 2016

pretty pictures don't mean a perfect life

A few weeks ago I was talking to a few moms about how it had been hard that week with our kids' behaviors, getting them to sleep, sickness, and sassiness. I mentioned how I'd yelled the day before and it was frustrating because nobody was listening to me at all. One mom said to me, "Oh that's so great to hear that you have bad days, because from your pictures your posts it looks like everything's perfect for you, like you're always happy." I rolled with the punches and said simply, "HELL NO, not always perfect for me, in fact I struggle a lot with finding patience and having tolerance for kids who don't listen. I'm exhausted."

But this got me thinking. I've heard it time and again.

So I feel compelled to tell you today: NO I'm NOT perfect. By any means. Not in any area of my life. Ever. Never have been, never tried to be. I don't believe in perfect actually. In fact, as a school counselor at work I tell my kids it doesn't exist, this idea of being perfect. I don't know why mothers in particular feel like it does exist or like some other mothers have somehow achieved it. I certainly have not, despite what you see.

So why do you think my life is perfect?
Because you see my happy pictures. And I post TONS, if you follow me on Facebook or Insta, you know I'm on all the time with happy pictures of places we've gone, things we're doing, and cute smiles from my adorable kids.

Another mom posted on her account recently to the world: "Just live your happy life, don't have to prove to the rest of us that you're happy with all your pictures, stop bragging, just be happy."

It made me wonder: do you think moms are bragging because we post a picture of our kids playing together in the snow? Hm.

What worries me is NOT that others think that's what I'm doing, quite honestly I don't care what others think about my pictures and posts. But what worries me is that moms in particular are QUICK to assume this is what another mother is doing... bragging about her great and perfect kids and life. Why do we think this? Is this because we feel bad about our own lives or feel like we can't measure up? I don't get it. But I think it leads to mommy wars that are oftentimes talked about and should stop.

When I post a picture (above) of my kids holding hands, that doesn't mean they're always holding hands and loving on each other. It doesn't mean that I didn't break up a few fights that day or lose my patience with them saying "separate from each other kids!" It means I don't care to put on Facebook "Hey all, my kids fought today, isn't that great?"

When I post a picture (below) of my children smiling at me on Christmas Day before the mess started, it doesn't mean that they refused to look at me for like 10 tries before this picture and frustrated me. It doesn't mean that our house wasn't torn apart in like 30 seconds after this picture. It doesn't mean that they were good listeners that day or that I was patient every second. In fact, Christmas is one of the most stressful days of the year to me! It does mean though that I love my kids and seeing them on Christmas, and I didn't want to post online "Merry Christmas! We have zero patience over here because we got up at 5 a.m.!" It means I was looking on the bright side, focusing on the positive. If we don't do that as moms, we won't last!

I am not a fan of posting pictures of my kids all upset with the world. It's a part of life, yes, I get it, but I don't see the purpose and I don't personally want to keep that picture to treasure the memory of that fit or tantrum. So I post happy pictures, of people smiling and having fun, of new adventures, memories we made. I think this is a good thing. There's enough bad in the world.

I am ALL about talking about the bad stuff, the hard moments. If you follow this blog and the Facebook group, you KNOW that about me. I'm ALWAYS encouraging moms to TALK about those tough moments. I just don't share the pictures. It's a personal choice. Not because I want to be perfect.

When I post a picture (below) of my floor looking pretty clean, it doesn't mean that it was always that clean. In fact, there are tons of scratches on this floor and it's covered in dust half the time. I don't remember the last time I washed it. But that's not the point of this picture. I posted this wanting to remember how cute my baby is as he's turning almost six years old, how he still plays with tractors. This picture was for his dad to see and for his grandparents to see because I know it would make them smile.

When I post something (below) of my child hugging me and looking like we're all lovey dovey, it's because well, we were in that moment. It doesn't mean we're always like that. It doesn't mean I walk around patient and all zen every day as a mother. It means finally I caught a moment of my baby hugging me and I want to remember this 10 years from now, and I think you'll think it's cute, too, so there it is online for you to see.

When I post a picture (below) of my tall son looking adorable in front of dinosaurs it's because I'm thinking that he won't always be little and wanting to be near dinosaurs and I want to remember this. And I'm of the belief that we should be taking pictures to share with others. Why on earth take a zillion pictures and leave them on your phone for nobody to see?

I have tons of family and friends around the country not near me who want to see my kids, so I post pictures. I think that's great!

Yes, I do make messes and live a busy life where there is dust everywhere. I post pictures ALL the time on my Instagram account of my messy toy room and kitchen sink. I don't put that on my Facebook because I don't think people care to see it. But I know moms love it, so I put it on that Instagram account.

When I post pictures of being happy, please know that I'm NOT trying to make you feel less happy about your own life OR that I'm trying to pretend my life is perfect. It's not. It's just MY life, and in my life I LIKE posting pictures. A lot. So either like them and smile, too, or just stop following them and post your own pictures! 

What I think we all need as moms is confidence, self esteem, strength and courage. To be ourselves. To show our flaws and talk about them. To be comfortable in our own skin. We need support and encouragement from other moms. We need to put pictures out there of us using formula instead of breastfeeding and be all good with it. We need to feel like we can wear yoga pants to the grocery store without someone thinking we're lazy for not showering that day. We need to talk more about our experiences, honestly, and share that someone is not alone, we've been there, too.

When we see another mom's beautiful pictures of her kids, a vacation they took, or a clean house or delicious homemade meal we need to stop being jealous and judgey, and instead smile and say, "That's so great for her! Happy pictures, awesome!" We need to stop feeling guilty for not measuring up, and we need to stop comparing to other women. We need to be cool with who WE are, however that plays out, even on our busiest, messiest days as mothers. 

Do your thing, moms. Do what makes you happy, what works for your family. Stop comparing. Stop assuming. Be happy with what you have. If you want something someone else seems to have, then go get it! Work hard, ask for help, ask for advice, do it. But stop judging and assuming someone else is perfect just because of your own feelings about something. Support a mom with her happy pictures and smile. It's ALL good.

We are supposed to be different as moms, we're supposed to because we have different kids, different lives and backgrounds, experiences, jobs, etc. It's not normal that perfection even be a thing in motherhood. It doesn't exist. So stop thinking someone else has found it and stop beating yourself up for not achieving it. It's not normal! And that's OK.

Happy mothering :) however you do it, pictures or no pictures, SMILE. You have much to be proud of, moms.

taming the 3 year old tantrums: with hugs and kindness

My daughter is 3, going on 4 in April. And the last few months have been, well, let's just say challenging. I utter the words with sighs behind them, "She's 3 going on 13...." and "I've got her aunts, uncles and grandparents on standby to have her stay with them when she's a real teenager..." It's HARD managing mood swings from a post-toddler, now pre-schooler who has great BIG ideas and wants and needs and interests and thoughts and words to say behind those thoughts now... when she wants things on HER time, NOW.

I'm trying to balance letting her be confident and independent (the old "I do it myself" phase is here in full force and taking us a lot longer to get ANYWHERE!). I'm trying to support her and encourage her to learn and grow, yet maintain my sanity in the meantime. It's hard. I do a lot of deep breathing.

A month or so ago my daughter went through a ridiculously hard week of negative behaviors. Stomping, sassing, not listening, etc. things I had not seen before with her. I had no clue where it came from, but realized it was normal. It was frustrating. Where did my sweet girl go?

I realized somehow that she was seeking help, needing more from us than she'd needed the weeks and months before, for whatever reason. Perhaps a growth spurt? Perhaps seeing other kids misbehave and testing us and needing boundaries. I'm not sure really why it happened, I just know it's normal and that she needed more from us.

When she was acting like a crazy monster teenager / 3 year old, she needed patience, tolerance, support, encouragement, and love. She didn't need to be snapped at, or for me to show impatience with how she was acting. She didn't need me to even put her in time out, it would not work, believe me, I'd tried. She didn't need to be sent to her room alone to cry. She needed more from me. She needed hugs actually, quite simple she needed ME. 

It's certainly not easy to show love, patience and kindness and even give a hug when your child is acting rude or defiant toward you. It actually makes YOU want to cry, act rude and defiant, stomp your feet even. And there are times for sending them to time out and even to their rooms, I believe. There are times when you need a break before offering up some listening ears to them.

But what I've found with this weird 3-4 phase, is that it's just what my daughter needed. The crazier and out of control her behavior, the MORE she needed ME to remain IN control, patient, THERE.

It's kind of like that phrase "kill them with kindness." My daughter couldn't stay upset or angry, stomping around for long when I was offering up hugs and one-on-one time, wiping her tears, understanding her, and asking her to explain to me what was bothering her. I spent more time with her on the floor playing or in her room dressing baby dolls. I put MORE into her, as I could see she was struggling with whatever weird feelings she was having about being independent now.

I tickled her when she was getting attitude with me. She'd be laughing, I'd be laughing. Instead of saying "Don't talk to me like that young lady, you take a time out, alone over there, away from me." Tickling helped.

When she'd get easily frustrated and get upset with not being able to take her shoes off, instead of showing my own frustration that I was doing 10 things and knew she could get her shoes off herself, I'd drop what I was doing to help her out, tell her to take a deep breath as I did the same, and laugh about that silly shoe giving us a hard time. She'd end up laughing, helped, and not alone.

When she wanted something her brother had and she was having a fit about it, I'd hold her, physically being close helped a lot. I'd remind her I'm here, it's OK, let's talk about it, and figure it out together and then have a turn with that toy. It helped deescalate her quicker than telling her to take a break would have.

We're also having her be the leader, the one in charge, giving her more choices, things that help her be the important one. This helps her feel better. She's helping set the table, picking what we have for a side dish or a snack in the afternoon, and doing little jobs for me. She loves the extra attention this gives her.

It's not simple or easy. In fact, it's more effort to do this at first. And it doesn't work with all issues. But I've found that girls are VERY sensitive. They do cry more than boys, at least in my own experience having one of each. They need us to be more patient, more tolerant and more physically there for them, hugging them, holding their hands through the tough feelings that we all know happen as girls ourselves.

Sometimes our girls just need their Momma's love, support and arms. 

3 going on 4 is NOT easy. I'm hoping these tactics help us out more than just the last month or so. We shall see what 4 is all about...

Keep hugging, moms. They need it, despite what they're saying in their now independent, do it themselves bodies. Keep the hugs flowing.

making my busy mom life easier with meal planning

So many moms have been asking about the easiest ways to meal plan and prep dinners for their busy weeks and busy families. I feel like finally I've gotten into some type of smart routine that is working for my family and leaving me less stressed when it comes to dinner time.

For me, I get out of work reasonably early, typically home by 4:30, sometimes 5:30 with after school activities. I consider myself lucky with this working schedule, BUT it's STILL hard to get dinner on the table and have enough time to spend with my kids. So for me, it's not a choice I want to make to be in the kitchen for 45 minutes or even 30 minutes whipping up dinner while my kids watch TV or something and I don't get time with them. So I try as best as possible to have things ready ahead of time so I'm just boiling water or setting the table or reheating something instead of cooking from scratch at dinner mid-week.

I'm hoping this helps give you some ideas! What I've found with meal planning is that it's different for everyone since we all have different family dynamics, sizes, ages, number of people, as well as different schedules and financial aspects to consider. So do what works for you!

How to make serving food in your house EASIER:
  • Meal Planning - This is HUGE. I started doing this a couple of years ago and it's transformed how things go at night for dinner. There's no more guess work or staring at a fridge for 10 minutes wondering what's in there. On Saturday or Sunday I make a list for the week of what we'll have. I write this on my white board in the kitchen. This way it's easy for my husband to see if he happens to get home before me, and it leave one less decision for me to have to make during busy nights. It's already laid out for me. 
  • Scheduled grocery shopping - I have been going every 2-3 weeks after work, before picking up the kids. I make sure my list is ready ahead of time and I head out right after work instead of staying late. I zip around the store like it's my exercise that day, and so that makes it efficient and quick, as well as gets my heart racing so it's good all around! It's less stressful without kids talking and asking for things. I refuse to go with kids if I can help it! This also ensures I don't forget food items. If I have kids, I ALWAYS forget something! 
  • Write a grocery list - When planning out meals, I need to write a grocery list at the same time. My sister got me this awesome grocery list magnet from Etsy where it divides out the grocery shopping based on categories - produce, dairy, meats, frozen, canned, etc. and it makes shopping so easy!
  • A big salad for home for the week - This is something we're trying the last few months and it's working well! I'll buy every two weeks enough salad items to make one type for lunches, and then another for the house for side salads with dinner, as dinner even, or for weekends as a side with kids' lunches. Luckily my kids love salad so this works for us. It's a good healthy option for a side for the busy nights when I'm making standby macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese or even leftovers. We toss in different things like cranberries or cheese so make it a unique salad. 
  • Salad for lunch - I'm on a mission to find new salad ideas this year so that we don't get bored eating salad at lunch time. I created on Instagram the #MomSaladAdventures that you can follow me @themommystories to find new salad ideas I'm trying. I prep our salads for the whole week on Sunday afternoons. I get out a bunch of tupperware containers and the salad ingredients and just mix it up. I try to have some fruit (pears are great!), some cheese (feta, sharp Italian!), and then a range of veggies, and two types of lettuce. I get various dressings and sides for the salads to make it interesting each week. I keep the veggies simple so we aren't spending a ton of money. This way at least lunches are covered and ready to go in the mornings, just grab and go from the fridge. 

  • Cooking once a month- I am a big fan of my huge freezer! It allows for me to whip up many meals once a month and toss them in the freezer so that I have less cooking to do each week. At the end of each month since August I've been making about 6-8 meals from cookbooks like Rachael Ray and Pioneer Woman (my favorites!). I get a lot of ziplock bags and aluminum trays and toss the food in the freezer. It's a lifesaver! This has totally changed how I do meal planning during the week. I'll take out about two freezer meals a week and then I'm good to go. On the weekend that I make the freezer meals, I'll take out a couple of servings from that meal before freezing it, to use as a meal that evening or to use as a lunch the next day to stretch it further. This has been amazing! 
  • Have parts of a meal ready to go. My sister told me she'll get chicken breast and freeze in ziplock bags with various dressings or sauces. So at least the chicken is ready, she can figure out easy sides later. This helps! A little planning goes a long way.
  • Have standbys around at all times - We are too busy on nights when we have ballet and then basketball to come home and cook anything, even freezer meals that need to cook in the oven. So that night is something easy. I make sure this is not just crap food by keeping standbys in my kitchen and fridge. Here are some ideas: bread, cheese and pepperoni, pancakes, fruit, macaroni and cheese, pasta and sauce, etc. 
  • Take something simple and dress it up - So lately my husband has been making homemade pizzas. He gets the dough and sauce and cheese at the store, then we add barbecue chicken, chicken sausage, mozzarella cheese, basil, tomatoes, ETC. to make it interesting. We love this and it lasts us a few days! Or whip up some chicken nachos. So easy and simple, kids LOVE this, and takes only a few minutes to get it ready. You can even prepare the chicken the night before. My kids LOVE taco night. These are SO easy to make, and again you can make the burger ahead of time and cut all the veggie sides too. Pair with rice or steamed corn and you're good to go. It doesn't need to be elaborate!
  • Plan for easy / busy nights - I plan these into my meal planning for the week. We always have a leftovers night to clean out the fridge and use up food before it goes bad. We always have something easy like salad with mac n' cheese or sandwiches. There's nothing wrong with doing this! Don't set the bar so high when meal planning. It's not realistic - at least in my busy working mom world - to plan a gourmet or even nice cookbook meal from scratch 7 nights a week. I'm laughing out loud re-reading what I wrote. Not happening in my house! I aim to make 2-3 meals a week, the rest are simple and leftovers. It works for us! Pancakes are our FAVORITE, or even waffles that we made on the weekend and then froze the extras. Easy!

Other tips:
  1. Plan ahead! You cannot fly by the seat of your busy mom pants when meal planning. You need to take 30 minutes out of your week - or less once you get going - to plan things out. It won't take that long, you just need to DO it. Write it down. Find recipes online during your work lunch hour or during kid's nap time. 
  2. Go through your cookbooks early. I do this when I get a new cookbook. I go through with post-its and go through the entire book marking recipes I think I'd like to try, with ingredients that I know I'd be buying anyway, nothing elaborate or with ingredients I won't use up somewhere else. This way when I'm meal planning I can simply go through the post-it pages and find something I know I'll make. If you find a cookbook that you won't really make a lot from, copy the few recipes you will use and get rid of the book to de-clutter and save you some time.
  3. Have go-to snacks ready. Something I found that stresses me out and takes time is when I get home and the kids are STARVING and whining about wanting food, while I'm trying to whip up a dinner meal. This slows me down, is frustrating and not a good way to spend our only time together that day after a busy work/daycare day. So... a few days after grocery shopping, typically on the weekend, I'll cut up carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. so we have veggies and dip ready to go for when we get home. It works for me, too, when I'm starving! We always have fruit like apples and bananas, and yogurt like Chobani individual kids' serving pouches, or apple sauce - all things that won't fill them up before dinner but will tie them over until I can get the meal done. 
  4. Budget! When I am making a bunch of meals at once at the end of the month I need to budget for that for about $100 extra. That means that week we're decreasing what we are purchasing elsewhere in the house and just getting staples. You need to plan not only the food you want, but the money to go with it so that everything lines up. This is the hard part, that was not always feasible for us in the past. Having freezer meals already made helps out on those weeks when you can't get to the grocery store or you don't have enough money left in the paycheck because of other things that came up.  
Hope these ideas help your mom job feel a little easier in the kitchen.

helping the littles deal with winter side effects

Winter is tough on all of us, with cold weather, babies not wanting to keep on their mittens, and so many germs inside our little ones are bound to get sick! Here are some real tips from real moms in the Mommy Stories Facebook group. Hope they help your children get through winter in one piece- or at least feeling a little better!

  • older kids keep chapstick in their pockets
  • give more water to keep hydrated
  • Vaseline
  • Ava Anderson nontoxic lip balm
  • Coconut oil 
  • when child is asleep, put Carmex on their lips, stays on better at night when asleep
  • Boudreaux's baby kisses for babies 
  • decrease soap in baths
  • decrease amount of or frequency of baths
  • Aveeno baby lotion after baths
  • Aquaphor
  • humidifier at night in bedroom
  • lotion twice a day, head to toe 
  • tablespoon of honey for coughs over 12 months old
  • Vicks vapor rub on feet or on onesie for younger toddlers
  • Zarabees natural cough medicine
  • Hylands Cold and Cough
  • multiple pillows in bed for an incline
  • menthol tea for older children
  • Market Basket's Throat Coat tea
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, water for hot lemonade tea
  • cutting out dairy a few days to decrease phlegm
  • warm bath to loosen up nasal passages
  • tissues and towels nearby for sneezing messes 
  • BRAT diet - bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast. Bland foods.
  • Sip water, don't drink too much too fast, but also keep them drinking and hydrated.
  • If not peeing, need to call doctor.
  • cover the couch with blankets or sheets just in case. keep a bucket nearby for throwing up.
  • wash everything after the sickness!
  • keep them in pack n' play or with you at night the first night or so to be sure they aren't vomiting and choking
Here's to healthy, happy babies this year!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

new mom of TWO: tips for adjusting to the transition

I love these great ideas for new moms of two children. I remember having so many questions before I became a new mom to two kiddos! I love these ideas. Thanks for your ideas, moms, from the Mommy Stories Facebook group!

My own advice for you on adjusting to TWO kids:
  1. Start preparing your toddler ahead of time before baby comes. Teach your little one to do things without your help all the time. See this as a good thing you're teaching them, nothing to be sad about. Get your partner involved in the bed time and bath time if you haven't already done that. You cannot possibly keep up the routine of you doing everything once baby comes. It'll be easier on you and your child, as well as your partner, if you prepare them ahead of time with not having you do it all.
  2. Have a special outing with your first child before baby comes. You'll hold onto how special it was during the moments when you're feeling like you haven't spent enough time with your big kid because baby is around. 
  3. Spend one-on-one time daily with your big kid. Daily! It sounds easy at first, but it's hard to do... but if you make an effort to do this for even 5 minutes a day you'll see how important it is and how much it helps.
  4. Get used not being able to do it all for two at one time. Someone is always going to be crying and waiting, and this was super hard for me to adjust to at first. I felt guilty and bad for whoever I couldn't get to at first. I'd alternate helping the baby and then the toddler first. I'd say "in a minute" every minute of every day it seemed. Realize they are OK if they have to wait and have to cry for a moment while you help the other one. 
  5. Help your big kid feel like he's #1. I would make a big deal to tell the baby if she was fussing, "Just a second, baby, I'm helping your big brother right now, you have to wait a second..." so that my big kid knew he wasn't the only one I was telling to wait. I would praise my toddler for doing things on his own, helping him feel proud of how much of a big kid he was, how great of a big brother he was, etc. 
  6. Delegate, teamwork, ask for help. Your partner will become Superman in your eyes if you just simply ask for what you need. While you're recovering from labor or surgery, especially, and feeding baby, you'll need your partner to do things for you. Just ask. They aren't mind readers. 
  7. Keep your big kid's routine as similar as possible. Send him to preschool during the day so you can bond and rest with baby and he can get all the attention he needs with buddies at school. Keep bed time normal for your first one, which means he's probably going to bed first.
  8. Let it go. You will NOT have the same life as you did pre-baby #2. You will not be as fast at doing things, you will not have the laundry done in one day. You will have a messy house. You will have no clue where things are and will feel less organized. It's ALL NORMAL. You'll adjust. Let it go at first.
  9. Nest at full steam ahead of time. Get prepared! You won't have time for many months post-baby arriving... so do things ahead of time. Buy extras of your personal deodorant or toothpaste or things you need because it's hard to explain to someone else to go buy them later. Get baby's things totally ready so you can have more time to focus on the baby and big needy kid after baby is here, instead of folding and sorting baby clothes. Make freezer meals so it's one less thing to deal with when you're busy with two kids. 
  10. Know you aren't alone. It's HARD going from one to two. But I swear you just DO it. You figure it out. Ask for help. Vent to a close friend. Ask questions. Breathe, have patience with yourself, and realize you'll get through it. 
  11. Take a million pictures. It's hard to focus and remember things with two around... but you'll want these pictures and videos, so make sure you take time to do it. 

Tips from real moms on surviving the transition to TWO littles:
  • Help your firstborn become as independent as possible before baby comes. Teach to wash their body in bath, to play solo sometimes, help get dressed, etc.
  • Try getting both kids to sleep at the same time. 
  • Include your first child as much as possible in the baby process with changing diapers, feeding, etc. But don't force it if older one is not interested.
  • Don't feel guilty if you ask for help from someone to watch your baby so you can have an hour or two with your big kid. They need that special time with you.
  • Have a good baby carrier so you have your hands free for older child.
  • NAP yourself if you ever get the kids to sleep at same time even for 20 minutes. Cleaning HAS to wait.
  • Just keep swimming... days are long but years are short. First year is toughest. Remember that. 
  • Ignore the mess. There will be way more messes. Ignore them. Do what you can. Love your kids instead.
  • Survival mode the first year!
  • Make a special box of quiet things for your older one to use while you're feeding baby: stickers, crayons, coloring books, books to read, etc.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. You'll make mistakes with both kids and that's normal.
  • Your second child will have a different experience than your first: that's OK.
  • Don't take on anything big right away like a trip or hosting anything.
  • You will feel like you're failing and not getting it right sometimes, but you're doing fine.
  • Keep in mind the baby will only be a baby for 12 months: feels longer than it is.
  • Don't compare your kids. They are going to be different. 
Enjoy this time! 
It's chaotic and crazy, but it's also beautiful and so rewarding seeing your TWO babies together, loving each other, smiling, and just realizing you gave your big kid the best gift ever: a best buddy for the rest of their lives. 

tips for recovering from a C-section

I am so happy to have such an awesome group of moms in the Mommy Stories Facebook group who offer great advice. This week I asked about recovering from a C-section surgery. I've had two C-sections and two other uterine surgeries for fibroids. It's tough stuff! I agree with all of the tips below! My #1 advice for someone having a surgery like this is to LISTEN to your doctor. Don't push yourself. Don't do too much. Don't pick up your toddler before you're supposed to. Don't exercise sooner than 8 weeks. It's not worth the damage you could do.

Hope these tips help you!

Tips for recovering from a C-section:

  • Baskets all around the house with things you need like snacks, water, breastfeeding things, baby changing gear, books for older child, etc.
  • Comfortable stretchy pants.
  • Move everything you need from upstairs downstairs for during the day, so you only need to use the stairs once in the morning.
  • Ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
  • Wrap your belly with a binder.
  • Go slowly.
  • Ask for help- have people around.
  • Stay ahead of pain with medication the first week.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision on the car ride home (bumps, especially in winter hurt!), and when others are around making you laugh, or when you sneeze, it hurts your incision.
  • Ice on incision.
  • Get up and moving... but walk slow.
  • Mesh panties from hospital- get extras. They are so comfortable and don't bother incision.
  • Take Milk of Magnesium in the hospital before you leave to have a bowel movement! Otherwise it's painful the first time.
  • Shower stick with pouf to help you in shower so you don't have to bend or move much at first.
  • Eat well and hydrate. Helps healing faster.
  • DO NOT lift or do exercise too soon. 
  • Eat fiber after delivery to aid in that first bowel movement.
  • Partner bring baby to you in the night instead of you getting out of bed.
  • If you're nursing, try laying on your side or using Boppy pillow on incision site.
  • If you're bleeding more heavily than the last few days, you're doing too much. Rest. 
  • REST daily! Really try to nap when baby naps.
  • If you have an older child: before your surgery, when pregnant, teach them things like getting in and out of the bath, walking up the stairs, getting in and out of car seat, getting in and out of high chair, etc. so that he's ready for that and for you not to lift him when baby is here. 
  • Have tons of large pads at home. Not fun, but necessary for awhile. 
Take it easy. C-section surgeries are MAJOR surgeries. Take it slowly. Listen to your doctor for the full 8 weeks recovery time. It'll go by faster than you imagine it will. You'll get back to all of those chores and exercising later, don't worry. Your job right now is to recover physically so you can be the best mom to your little one. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

more freezer meals: winter edition

So many moms are asking about how to make different, new, interesting meals for dinners. It's always a question of ours: how do we make something that's easy, cheap, quick to whip up on busy evenings, that also our picky eaters will eat?! Never enough time!

Since August, I've been making a big batch of freezer meals once a month and it's been making all the difference with our dinners! I am a busy working out of the home mother. I do not want to spend the little time I do have with my children at night working away in the kitchen. I'm too tired. We're rushing here and there, practice, games, ballet, meetings, etc. Dinner became one more annoying thing in my busy day.

I started meal planning more than a year ago, after learning from some experienced moms in the Mommy Stories Facebook group. That was awesome! Once a week, usually Sundays, I write on my white board in the kitchen, what we're planning to eat this week for dinner. There is always a "leftovers" night and a "breakfast for dinner" and something easy like pizza or tacos, grille cheese. That takes care of 3 nights. Then I'm just planning for 4 nights, not too bad.

Since August though, by adding in the once a month freezing plan, dinners have gotten even easier to figure out! I'm loving it!  I hope these ideas help you out, too.

Once a month freezer meals
So once a month I write out a list of recipes I'm going to try and the ingredients I'll need. I go shopping on a Friday right after work, before picking up the kids, or during nap time on the weekend. I shop at Market Basket- best quality and cheapest produce around! I only do this on a weekend where I KNOW I'll have the time to cook. It takes a few hours two separate times. For example, this month, I cooked for about 3-4 hours on a Sunday (during nap time and in the evening when the kids were asleep) and then I cooked an extra meal two separate nights during the weekdays, to make about 8 meals for the freezer and a couple for the week! 

When you're shopping, you'll need to pick up extra things:
  • more spices - since I cook in bulk, I go through spices quicker, so make sure you have things on hand. 
  • ziplock freezer bags- I freeze mine in double bags, so make sure you buy enough, various sizes. 
  • aluminum trays - for things like casseroles and meat dishes - WITH covers.
  • a black Sharpie marker- to write the date and the meal title on the outside of the bag or tray. 
  • extra wooden spoons - this sounds silly, but when cooking up a few different meals, things get dirty and you run out of utensils! So I just recently asked for more wooden spoons for Christmas and it worked wonders this month when cooking in the kitchen. 
  • a few cutting boards - I have three. You need a few, especially as you work with chicken and vegetables, you want separate boards. 
You'll want to make sure the dishwasher is empty and the sink is clean before you get started, just to give you more room and make clean up easier after cooking. 

This works well for me to do this once a month since I have a huge extra freezer, but if you don't have one of those and just a regular refrigerator with freezer attached you could try cooking twice a month so that you have enough room in the fridge. 

Above 2 pictures : Pioneer Woman Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

Below: Pioneer Woman Bowtie Chicken Alfredo

Favorite recipes
I keep a binder of recipes I've cut out of magazines. I organize them by type - salads, soups, appetizers, desserts, breakfast, dinner, etc. I also then have lots of cookbooks. Whenever I get a new cookbook, I go through it immediately, putting post-its at the top of pages of meals I know my family would enjoy or I'd like to try. This saves time later when you want to cook something - you don't have to go through the whole cookbook, rather just find the posted pages and pick something. 

My favorites come from Rachael Ray - such easy and delicious meals, LOVE her cookbooks! And for Christmas I got two of the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks, LOVE them! This month I made ALL Pioneer Woman recipes, so delicious! 

Above: Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joes

Below: Pioneer Woman Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Loooove Ree Drummond! These were a few great recipes I found in the Pioneer Woman's cookbooks this time around:
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Barbecue Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas
  • Beef Stew with beer
  • Salisbury Steak

Here are a few other great recipes for freezer meals that I wrote about back in September, including Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti- a favorite!

It takes time and planning, organization and a little more time... but I promise you it's WORTH it to spend a few hours once a month cooking rather than every single night struggling to figure out what to cook and losing time with your kids because of it. 

So plan ahead, write it on the calendar, and you'll be whipping up some healthy, delicious choices for meals that you can eat any time when you're super busy and rushing to and from places. 

Happy meal freezing! 

Mom of the Month - Gwendolyn Fernald

I am always excited each month to feature a new Mom of the Month, but particularly so in January I love this because it's a great time of year to be hopeful and looking forward to good things in the New Year! Our first 2016 Mom of the Month is someone who I truly admire and see such strength and courage from. Gwendolyn Fernald is one of those moms who just does what she does because she is strong, has to and is determined - and yet someone who the rest of us can really look up to and aspire to be like someday! Having gone through hell and back to bring her beautiful babies into the world - IVF, miscarriage, hemorrhage, etc. - she has gone through it all. And she's still smiling, doing her best, and being real with her advice to new moms.

This is a must-read! Thanks, Gwen, for sharing your beautiful stories with us. These three littles are SO lucky to call you their Mom.

Images shared from Gwendolyn Fernald

1. Describe your children in 3­-5 words. How did you choose their names?
Chloe Jayne is strong-willed, independent, loving, intelligent, and deep-thinking. My husband picked her name, but I didn’t care for it at first. As we got closer to the end of the pregnancy, we felt pressure to choose a name.  We went back and looked at our list of possibles. My husband again focused on the name Chloe. That week, every time I saw a cute little girl, it would turn out that her name was Chloe. I took that as a sign that Chloe was our baby’s name. Her middle name, Jayne, was easier. It fit well with Chloe. I liked the spelling with the “y” because it kept it from being “plain Jane.” I think we chose well. Her name perfectly fits her personality.

Kaia Lizabeth is gregarious, funny, snuggly, intelligent, and creative. When choosing her name, I wanted to find a name that followed the same formula as her sister’s. Chloe was originally a Greek goddess’s name, so I looked for names with a Greek background for the first name. “Kaia” means pure in Greek. I really loved the name from the moment I found it. My husband grew to like it as well. Her middle name, Lizabeth, was a two part choice. First, it was a variant of a very traditional name. Second, my younger sister’s name is Elizabeth and I was planning on asking her to be godmother. Although Kaia’s name fits her well, she is most often known by her nickname, Zuzu, in our house.

Levi John is snuggly, content, happy, and strong. My husband has always liked the name Levi. It was understood that if we had a son, Levi would be his name. His middle name, John, is the name of my husband’s step-father, who my husband thinks of as a second father. Giving Levi his name felt like a good way to symbolize this connection.

2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby?
Chloe is 8. Since I had IVF, most of my family already knew we were trying. We waited until our first ultrasound at six weeks to make the announcement. I think that we just called everyone. Kaia is 5. I also conceived via IVF with her. However, we had to announce the pregnancy much sooner due to a reaction to the fertility medication. I had a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation, which caused my stomach to distend to the size of a five or six month pregnancy in the matter of hours. At the time, I was about seven days pregnant! It was so obvious, we just told people. I was happy for the moral support, since it was a rocky pregnancy. Levi is 3 months old. 

I became spontaneously pregnant (no IVF or fertility assistance!!!) with him last winter. We were so excited by the news, that we told everyone in the family before the first doctor’s appointment! They were really surprised, since we were not undergoing any fertility treatments at the time. When I told my father, I said that we were going to have a new addition to our family in the fall. His response was, “Oh, are you getting a puppy?”

3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you?
I have PCOS and my husband has a high percentage bad morphology sperm. As a result, we were told that we could never get pregnant successfully on our own. We were told to skip over all of the minor fertility treatments and went straight to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant.

With Chloe, we got pregnant on the first round of IVF. I had a minor scare with her at about five weeks gestation, when I passed a small amount of blood and mucus. However, the bleeding stopped after resting for a weekend. The rest of the pregnancy passed smoothly with only minor morning sickness and very little other bothersome symptoms. At the end of my pregnancy, my blood pressure started to rise and I was put on partial bed rest for the last month. When I walked into the doctor’s office on my due date and announced that I wanted to be induced, my doctor agreed to it.

Early in the morning on May 2, 2007, I reported to the labor and delivery floor of the hospital. It turned out that I was already 4 cm dilated and contracting regularly. They started me on pitocin and broke my water when the doctor got to the hospital. I labored without drugs until I got to about 9.5 cm. At that point, I freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to stand the pain of delivery. I asked for an epidural. Unfortunately, I started pushing pretty soon after that point. The epidural made it really hard for me to push effectively, since I was so numb. I ended up pushing for two and a half hours, but I made very little progress moving Chloe down the birth canal. She had a rather large head and it got wedged at a weird angle in my pelvic opening. Since my pushing was not very effective, I was not able to move her from that position before the pushing caused my body to start to swell. She was hopelessly stuck and I was exhausted. My doctor made the call to perform a c-section.

When I heard the word “c-section,” I freaked out and started to cry. Surgery was my worst nightmare. I had never even considered it a possibility for me when I was planning how my birth experience would play out. Things moved quickly and soon they were moving me to the operating room. I was so scared and upset, that her delivery was a blur. Once she was born, they showed her to me, took the requisite photos, and whisked her out of the room to the nursery to be weighed, measured, and cleaned up. My husband went with her, leaving me alone in the operating room waiting for the surgery to be completed. I have never felt so alone and scared.

After surgery, I was wheeled to a recovery room. I was sick and scared. It was over an hour before I saw my baby. She was beautiful, but I didn’t feel an immediate connection to her. My milk took three days to come in due to the trauma of the birth. Chloe had jaundice and required formula to supplement. I felt like a failure, who couldn’t even feed her baby. The entire birth experience led to one of the blackest periods of my life.

I hid my postpartum depression/anxiety from most people. However, at times I truly think that it bordered on psychosis. I heard voices. I worried that I might hurt my baby. All the classic signs. Luckily, my family members recognized the signs and got me to call the doctor. The medication I took was a godsend. It helped me through the roughest times. Additionally, exercise and time cured my symptoms. 

My pregnancy with Kaia was rocky. I became pregnant with her after two unsuccessful IVF cycles and directly after an early miscarriage at 6 weeks. I had ovarian hyperstimulation at one week that made me look five months along. Then, at seven weeks, I was at home and felt something pass. Since I had just had a miscarriage, my stomach dropped. I went to the bathroom, and sure enough, I was bleeding. I immediately called the doctor. It was the weekend, so the U/S technician saw us at the hospital. I could tell from her look that something was wrong. I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. When we got home, the doctor called. She told me that the bleed was significant and only time would tell. Over the course of the next four months, my bleeding would go from spotting to gushing. There were several times I felt sure that I had lost Kaia, only to find a heartbeat on ultrasound. Finally, at 21 weeks, the bleeding stopped.

I was due on June 8, so my planned c-section was scheduled was for June 1, 2010. I was convinced that I would go to term. However, early on May 26, I felt a pop followed by a little gush as I rolled over in bed. I waddled to the bathroom thinking that I had peed myself. I inspected my underwear and realized that there was a different smell than pee. I stood up to call for my husband and my water fully broke. I called the doctor and she told me to come in as quickly as possible, since second births can occur quicker. I ignored her. I took a shower. I packed a bag. I waited for my daycare to open. I was giddy with excitement to see my daughter. 45 minutes later, I was talking to my sister and a big contraction hit me. It was clear she was going to need to make the daycare drop off, while hubbie and I went to the hospital.

When my husband dropped me off at the entrance to park, the guard took one look at me and ran for a wheelchair. I told him that I was fine, but he was insistent. Soon, I was being wheeled onto the maternity floor and into a delivery room, where my dilation was checked. When my nurse announced that I was at 9.5 cm, people started running down the halls to get things ready!

The surgery went smoothly. My baby was beautiful and healthy. Again, they took her away to clean after I met her. On the way out of surgery, the nurse put her back on my chest on my exposed skin. We remained skin to skin for the next 24 hours. This made a huge difference in my milk coming in quicker. Even though Kaia also had jaundice, we never had to supplement. Thankfully, I never showed any sign of PPD after the birth.

Levi’s gestation and birth were by far my favorite. Despite having morning sickness for half the pregnancy, I didn’t have any of the terrifying complications of my other pregnancies. My c-section was scheduled for October 6, 2015. This time, I carried right up to that date.

This c-section was different than my other ones. Since VBACs aren’t allowed in Portsmouth, I researched ways to have a better birth experience. My doctor and I discussed “gentle” or “natural” c-sections. She brought our plan to the hospital administration and got approval for most of what I wanted. The object of natural c-sections is to make them as close to a vaginal birth as possible. So, the sheet that separates the surgery area from my head was lowered during the birth, so that I could see my baby take his first breath. When Levi was born, his cord remained uncut for as long as possible. Then, he was minimally cleaned and brought directly to my chest. My arms were free of restraint so that I could hold him. The heart monitor leads were placed on my shoulders and back, so that they were out of the way of the baby. I was able to hold Levi the entire time that the doctors were finishing and in the recovery room. I am so happy that I finally got to have some control over my birth experience. I highly recommend natural c-section for anyone requiring a planned c-section.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3­5 words.
Loving, Caring, Fierce, Anxious

5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you?
I hope that my children see how much I love them. I am trying to teach them to be a better person than I am. I hope that they understand this and appreciate it. I hope they forgive my flaws as a mother.

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?

I am so proud of just being a mother. It took me so long to become one that I count each of my babies as a miracle. For a long time I thought my body had failed me. I am proud that my body is strong enough to create three gorgeous little people.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
I have a hard time remaining patient when my children are testing their boundaries. They can really test your nerves. It is also difficult to switch gears when you first have a baby from selfish to selfless. I had a hard time accepting that there was no such thing as “me time” anymore when Chloe was born. Now, it is the norm. Sometimes my husband forces me to do things for myself to give me a break.

8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
Currently, with a sick baby, I am in love with the NoseFrieda.

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?

Cut yourself a break. Stop trying to be a perfect mom. There’s no such thing. Any woman who appears perfect is just better at hiding her flaws. Relax and your baby will benefit from your calm, centered parenting. They won’t notice or care that you nailed some stupid Pinterest craft.

10. What is a typical day like for you?
6:30 am - finally wake up (after hitting snooze 3 times)
6:35 am - shower and dress
7:00 am - wake and nurse Levi, wake girls, and my husband feeds them
7:25 am - eat breakfast
7:30-8:00 am - dress Levi, get pump and bottles ready for day, help husband get girls ready
8:00 am - leave for work with Levi
8:20-8:30 am - drop Levi off at daycare
8:30 am-12:30 pm - work (pump at 10:00 for 15 minutes)
12:30 pm - eat lunch at desk, while working
1:30-2:30 pm - drive to daycare, nurse and snuggle Levi, drive back to work
2:30-5:30 pm - work (pump at 4:30 for 15 minutes)
5:35 pm - pick up Levi at daycare
6:00 pm - arrive home
6:00 pm-7:30 pm nurse Levi, help girls with homework, try to do some kind of housework
7:30 pm - dinner with family (husband cooks)
8:00-8:30 pm - watch movie or play a game with family
8:30 pm - get the girls ready for bed
9:00 pm - girls in bed (husband reads them stories)
9:00-10:00 pm nurse Levi (he tanks up for an hour before bed) while watching tv, working, or reading
10:00 pm put Levi to bed
11:00 pm (at the latest) go to bed

(2:00 or 3:00 am) sometimes nurse Levi (he mostly sleeps through the night)

11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object?
Travel through Europe, see the Grand Canyon, go to Australia, see the Northern Lights from somewhere in Canada, vacation in Hawaii

12. What are 5 things you want to do in this New Year, things you hope for, want to see happen with your family or yourself?
I hope that we will get to take a family vacation to Disney World. We are Disney fanatics and can’t wait to expose Levi to the magic!

I would like to teach my girls better communication. They both get emotional quickly and don’t understand that others don’t know what is going on in their heads. We are working on getting them to discuss their feelings, instead of acting out.

I plan to lose my baby weight this year. My ultimate goal is to lose 50 lbs. I want to do this through cutting sugars and exercise.

I hope to advance professionally. Getting pregnant has set my work goals back somewhat. I would like to regain my footing professionally.

I want to take a trip to Quebec with my husband.

13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine.
Chloe once fell off of a bed head first. I was just about to tell her to get away from the edge, but didn’t get it out fast in the end, she turned out just fine with no concussion and just a bump. 

14. What makes you a strong mom?
I am good at keeping my cool in stressful situations. I take care of the little crises and find logical solutions. This is a good quality to have as a mother. Crises occur frequently in parenting, and my family relies on my to guide them through them. 

15. Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my parenting journey. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

fun at the Boston Museum of Science

We had so much fun yesterday at the Boston Museum of Science! It was a blast! SO much to do there! I wasn't sure if it would be too large or too old for my 3 1/2 and almost 6 year olds, but they found TONS to do, and we even had their younger cousins with us, one who is 2 1/2 and she loved it also!

There are so many things to look at - like a car engine, train mobile, and many fancy ships in glass cases. Then there are other things to touch - SO many hands-on activities for kids of all ages. A lot of it was over our kids' heads, too much to read on the signs, but they still found SO much interesting to keep them occupied.

There are several floors of exhibits, so much to see and do. And ESCALATORS! We spent a few times going up and down those, so that's part of the fun! There are shows to attend, movies to watch in 4D, and live animal story hours.

It's a blast. Seriously, GO! A great indoor winter activity to try. We went New Year's Day, barely any traffic heading into the city on a holiday, and tons of parking available in the parking garage right at the museum. VERY easy to get to as far as things in the city goes.

I highly recommend visiting!

This big T-Rex: clearly the BEST part of the museum! Taking pictures near this guy was my most favorite part. I could have walked around the dinosaur exhibit for hours.

If you have a dino loving kiddo, definitely take him to see these guys up close and personal. All replicas, but SO cool!

One of my favorite parts in the Museum was the Indoor Park area. Tons to do, just like an outside playground... including a running track that timed the kids - my daughter ran at least 6 times! Swings, pulleys, tons to do here! A great area for younger kids, too.

This was a fun place, because it kept the kids occupied and having fun, but also we learned a lot as adults and actually enjoyed it ourselves. This below made me stop in my tracks! No plastic bags, people!

Some things were kinda gross... like the potty... but honestly super interesting to learn about! Science is so important to teach our kids.

We stopped mid-day for some lunch in their cafeteria, which is huge, tons of seating, and YUMMY food! The food was reasonable, as far as big amusement places goes, and actually good and tons of healthy options like a taco salad and burrito station, salad bar, sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets, etc. Lots to choose from.

The lightning show: A MUST SEE! We loved this. It's free and runs several times during the day. It's so awesome. Only 30 minutes, so our kids lasted the whole time enjoying it. There are seats for it downstairs or upstairs. We sat upstairs on the floor and it was still awesome! Definitely make sure you attend this while at the Museum.

And downstairs there is a live animal exhibit. It's small, but still interesting to see the many reptiles - tortoises, snakes, lizards, etc.

There is a smaller kids' section near the animal exhibit where they do story hours also if you have younger kids.

A large gift shop, which actually had things of all prices there so you could stop in and find something cheap to take home as a souvenir.

Water fountains and bathrooms on every floor made this place SO easy to attend with kids!

We loved this trip!

A few tips to make your trip enjoyable at the Boston Museum of Science:

  • Pack snacks and lunches for the kids. I didn't want to wait in line any longer than I had to for my own lunch there, so I packed the kids apples, bananas, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, and water bottles. It's just easier and it's cheaper. But the cafe food was awesome so we bought some popcorn and then our own lunches there. Definitely will want water bottles. 
  • Use the lockers. They are $1.50 and were great inside to stuff our winter jackets into. It's only a few minutes from the parking garage to get into the building... but in the winter time it felt too cold to leave the jackets in the car. 
  • Take a backpack. We kept the backpack with us all day with water bottles, snacks, camera, hand sanitizer, etc. Hand sanitizer was key! Everybody touches everything in this place! 
  • Stroller-Friendly. Tons of space for strollers, I didn't see anyone have any issues.
  • Watch something in 4D. I am SO glad we did this! They have 15 minute shows that are SO cool- tons of effects, not just on the screen. Very cool! 
  • Parking. The garage is awesome, large and right there at the Museum. It's about $20 to park.
  • Plan ahead. There are so many shows and movies to check out here that are super cool in the theaters, so plan ahead and review their schedule online to find out which times you want to be where. 
  • Find the deals.You can get in free with your teacher ID! Libraries oftentimes give out discounts also. Working for the Military also gives a discount. We only paid $7 per ticket versus $25 per ticket because my husband works at the Shipyard! GREAT DEALS! 
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Kids need comfy sneakers here. It's a lot of walking! 
  • Dress in layers. It's cold outside walking in or around the city if you go exploring, but it's warm inside with so many people and walking everywhere. Dress so you can have a T-shirt on underneath. 
  • Stick together. It's a very big place, tons of people. Make sure you talk to your kids ahead of time about sticking close together.
  • Make a day of it. It's a lot to see, do and participate in, plus you'll want a mid-day break for lunch or to just sit for a moment, so plan ahead: you're there for the day! We were in the Museum about 4 1/2 hours or so... and we missed a few exhibits. 
We LOVED this place! I know you'll have fun here, too! Enjoy exploring!