Just say no.

Learn How To Say No.

That’s the advise I’ve been given numerous times over.  I’m a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy and meet all of the expectations all of the time.  Essentially what that translates to is I want to project a level of perfection.  Perfection in my physical appearance, perfection in my job performance, perfection as a wife, perfection as a mom, perfection as a friend, perfection as a daughter, perfection as a sister, perfection with the image of my house, and the list goes on and on.  But the problem lies in the fact that NO ONE can achieve that.  We may all project that on social media but that isn’t what our true lives represent.  Honestly if we were all perfect in every area of our lives then we wouldn’t be these diverse beings with unique experiences of our own – and how boring would that be?  And although I know this to be true and am reminded of it in my bible study and by reading books like, “Girl, Wash Your Face” (if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon I would HIGHLY recommend it) I still continue to weigh myself down with obligations to meet an unrealistic standard.  

So here I am on Sunday evening, heading into my work week and should be feeling rejuvenated and replenished for my tasks at hand but instead I feel depleted.  I’ve spent all weekend saying yes to everyone else – yes to the play dates, yes to the parties, yes to helping out that I neglected my own house and was left with a mess to tackle at 8:00 on Sunday night.  And yes, you may be thinking, “Say no to the housework then,” but by feeling like I’ve accomplished my household chores I am happier and feel less anxious going into my work week.  It feels like there is a literal clean slate.  So instead I did the two loads of laundry, the hubby unloaded the dishwasher, I washed and loaded the sink full of dishes, we took the dog for a walk, I packed my son’s bag for school in the morning, and (finally) called my sister back.  All to get on my phone and add to my to do list the things that I just couldn’t squeeze in.  This is depleting.  I am pouring from an empty cup. 

But I wanted to share this in hoping that by being honest and transparent we can all realize we feel like we’re falling short – short of the expectations we set ourselves that is.  This isn’t something only you struggle with or I struggle with but I’d say a major part of the population experiences routinely.  Did you know on average a human has 50,000 negative thoughts a day?  Now THAT is depleting.  What if we could change the conversation and reflect on how it is OK to not get it all done?  It is OK to say no to a social event.  It is OK to set boundaries on how you commit to helping.  It is OK to recognize yourself as more than an accomplished to do list.  What if we stopped and appreciated the peacefulness or the chaos of the moment we’re in?  

For me, nothing brings a level of peace like being in a plane overlooking God’s handy work.  It’s breathtaking to admire the beauty of a new place or of the scenery above the clouds that would otherwise be untouchable.  So this is what I’m adding to my to do list this week – transport yourself to that place in the sky and absorb the scenery around you.  Because the rest of the world is waiting when you touchdown and your agenda will still be there.  So if you catch me lost in thought or tuned out this week it’s because I’m going back to this moment of flying over Fiji.  I’m losing myself for just a moment to find balance in my chaos and saying no to the to do list, even if for just a moment.  

Xoxo

Gwen

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These are my people – a fan girl admission.

I was living in 1999 last night (but with much better style and self confidence) as some of my childhood gal pals and I transformed into our 12 year old selves and fan girled over the Back Street Boys.  If you don’t know who that is you were either born after 2010 or have been living under a rock.  BSB, N’Sync, 98 degrees – this made up the 90’s boy band trio of our dreams and now we were getting transported back in time to live in a period of body glitter, pleather and sticky overdone lip gloss yet again. 

As we walked up to the concert venue my girlfriend looked around at all the 30-40 year old women flocking in with us and said, “these are my people.”  We laughed at the time but in reflecting on that silly sentiment I was realizing these two girls that were with me truly are my people.  You see we’ve been friends since grade school, well over 20 years.  We watched one another transform from silly school girls, to preteens with first crushes, to teenagers experimenting with pushing boundaries, to college students exploring new freedoms, to graduates trying to find our footing, to married women finding balance in individual identities and new roles as wives and now transitioning into this newest chapter of motherhood.  It’s actually pretty amazing when you think about it; that throughout all of life’s changes we’ve been able to stay connected and not just connected but bonded.  We’ve seen one another struggle, cried with one another, celebrated each other’s victories and supported one another through the darkest moments.  

These girls are so deeply connected to me they are like sisters.  And although each chapter in life brings new challenges I feel I rely on them more now than ever while I’m a new mom.  They continue to reassure me I’m a good parent, remind me of who I am outside of that role and allow me a safe place to explore who I’m yet to become.  Because when you’ve been friends for as long as we have you can see how a person grows and continues to evolve.  That evolution is never ending. My identity isn’t tied to the chapter of life I’m currently residing in but offers a promise of something even more.  I am so incredibly grateful for these two women and their reminder of that promise.  

So here is to many more chapters in our friendship; to seeing each other through additional hills and valleys, to finding laughter in plenty of other shared experiences and to never being too old to be a boy band fan girl. 

Xoxo

Gwen

Confessions of a dirty mom.

Here is my dirty little secret: I haven’t washed my hair in four days. Let me start this by clarifying I did shower over these past four days.  I’m not THAT dirty.  Being in the barre3 studio three days in a row kind of makes it unavoidable to shower. I honestly didn’t have any intention of going this long (although I do routinely skip washing my hair every other day) but with a jam packed schedule on Sunday by the time I got back from studio I realized I didn’t have time to wash, dry and style my hair before church.  Luckily I’ve found the most amazing dry shampoo that leaves my hair looking clean AND with plenty of volume.  Added bonus: it smells great and is totally affordable!  We’ve all read the memes about moms living on dry shampoo and I am now a testament to that.  So without further ado I thought I’d share some of my favorite beauty products that I use to both treat myself and are great time savers (win win!).

Not Your Mother’s Beauty Babe Dry Shampoo – $4.79

https://www.target.com/p/not-your-mother-s-beach-babe-texturizing-dry-shampoo-7oz/-/A-51325495

You’ve already read how this has got me through FOUR days!  What more is there to say? 

Impress Nails – $7.99 

https://www.target.com/p/broadway-nails-impress-press-on-manicure-night-fever/-/A-14247471

I’ve always enjoyed having my nails done and used to be a frequent to the salon for an acrylic set (I know really bad for your nails).  But I just can’t justify the cost.  It’s a luxury and not a necessity and to be frank I’d rather spend the money on something else indulgent – like copious amounts of Starbucks.  So when I saw our fabulous freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez post about how these were a cheap fix when in between manis it piqued my interest.  And I LOVE it!  I get nearly 2 weeks of a manicure with no chipping and minimal nail damage for less than $10!  I’ve also found these at Fred Meyer for as low as $5.99.  And after turning my co-worker on to them she has taken advantage of Impress online BOGO promotions.  

Rodan and Fields Foaming Sunless Tanner – $27.00

https://www.rodanandfields.com/shop/essentials-foaming-sunless-tan/p/ESST125

First, I’m not a RF consultant and have no personal investment in this recommendation (I know were all inundated with MLM promotions and are skeptical because of it) but this product has really delivered for me.  It’s a little pricier than a lot of beauty products that I use but with how infrequently I use it and how well it applies I think it’s worth the expense.  It does have a SLIGHT tanner smell to be completely transparent but the color lasts longer and goes on a lot more even than any drug store options I’ve used.  It’s also way cheaper than going in for a spray tan and of course a much healthier option than laying in the tanning bed.  It helps me prep for a special event or beach vacation without adding a trip to the salon on my to do list. 

Valjean Labs Facial Serum – $25/2 count

I actually stumbled across this product after a co-worker told me about using oils on her skin.  She blends her own but that seemed to be a big risk to me as I already have combination skin and didn’t want to chance a breakout.  So I ended up just going to Marshall’s with some girlfriends and as I was perusing the serums another shopper RAVED about Valjean Labs.  That was enough for me and I took a chance.  I am so glad I did!  My skin has never been in better condition.  My breakouts are near gone, my skin tone is so much more even and I just got a compliment about my skin glowing – that was without makeup!  My skin has been in such great condition I no longer use any type of foundation or concealer.  This simplifies my minimal makeup routine and allows me to run out the door much faster.  

So there you have it!  Some of my go to products for getting out the door quick while still feeling fabulous.  It’s a form of self care in the most minimal of ways but it delivers a big punch.  What would you recommend to help a mama feel her best?

Xoxo

Gwen

It’s all about balance – indulging in the little things.

I’ve been very aware of the changes my body is going through this second pregnancy and am making a lot more of an effort to stay active throughout this first trimester and as I transition into my second.  I wish I could say I’m motivated by some noble reason like ensuring the healthiest start for baby girl but that’s not it.  This is fueled by the fact that I am 4’11 and gained close to 50lbs my first pregnancy.  Prior to carrying my son I had always had a petite frame and have been fortunate enough to maintain my body weight by staying active while still eating just about whatever.  It was a real shock to my self-esteem and how I felt physically to carry that additional weight – there just really wasn’t enough room for it to spread out. It resulted in some real consequences – I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes that had to be controlled by insulin shots.  Thankfully my son wasn’t impacted by this and was delivered full term at a healthy weight.  However, I am preparing to go in for an early GD test in 4 weeks as a precaution this pregnancy.  Having GD once leaves you far more susceptible to being diagnosed in subsequent pregnancies and also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life (yikes!).

Part of my routine physical activity are walks following dinner and a regular barre3 practice (see my prior post on self care and how b3 is incorporated into that).  Although I’ve been experiencing some significant insomnia this pregnancy I have still made it a priority to get to my studio for the first class of the day – which today meant 7:30am.  Since I’m more of a morning person and my toddler is generally up before 6:30 (often times closer to 5:30) the timing works out well.  It also allows me to get my workout in first thing and frees up the rest of my day. 

I was STARVING by the time I was headed home from class around 9:00am. I had every intention of making a healthy egg scramble loaded with veggies when I got home.  And then I glanced at my phone and saw this picture from my husband.  Of course my face immediately was filled with a smile.  For one, look at that cheesy grin!  I know I’m biased because he’s mine and I’m blinded by mommy goggles but how can you not smile when seeing this little guy making pancakes in his undies.  Second, breakfast is my FAVORITE meal.  I would eat it at any time either savory or sweet; I like it all.  Third, and sadly for me, my husband isn’t a big breakfast guy.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find him tackling breakfast with little man.  

So despite my intentions to eat a healthy breakfast I fully enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes with my family after my workout.  And you know what?  I don’t feel bad at all.  Yes my body is changing (specifically expanding) but I don’t believe in depriving myself for the sake of body image.  Being physically active keeps me feeling strong and confident and that allows me to be comfortable with indulging in childhood favorites like chocolate chip pancakes every once in a while. 

Xoxo

Gwen

Cozi, Routines and Deliveries – Managing the To Do List.

I am a creature of habit to a fault.  I thrive on routines and knowing what to expect out of each day.  When a wrench is thrown into my plans and things deviate from my organized schedule I feel stress creep in and the tension take over.  I’m irritable, moody and not entirely pleasant.  But by recognizing this and accepting this as a trait of mine I am learning ways to embrace it and have found little ways to minimize my to do list with minimal effort.

I can’t remember what insta account I was following but I saw a post about the Cozi app and this thing helps me on the daily!  (Seriously though the app developer for this has got to be a mom.)  You can manage a shared calendar with your family that has color coding options to identify who is attending what event.  Goodbye overbooking!  There is also a spot for a shared to do list and a personal to do list that I reference way too frequently.  What that means for my household is that instead of having to feel like a nag asking the hubs to do things I can just add it to our shared list.  Because as the age old saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life,” and boy do I have a smile on my face when a chore is done without a request coming from my mouth.  I’ve also used the app for meal planning and referenced a few of their recipes and then immediately added grocery items to a shopping list.  How’s that for getting the most out of a product?  

As I mentioned, I thrive on routines.  Honestly, I self describe as a task oriented person.  I get a personal sense of satisfaction ticking off my to do list (no seriously, scratching it off of a written list brings me joy).  But the expectations I put on myself to maintain this level of perfection can be daunting and have the opposite effect of leaving me feeling lacking.  So I’ve learned to adjust since becoming working mom and there are just a few things I do daily that help me appreciate my house appearing in order while also not having a breakdown over the lack of perfection.  

One – I don’t leave the house without making our beds (mine and the kiddo’s).  When you walk in a bedroom the focal point is generally the bed.  So to me it makes sense to appear orderly by keeping the bed made.  It’s a simple chore that can be accomplished in less than 2 minutes that makes the world of difference. 

Two – I tidy up throughout my day.  Whether that’s in the morning before I’m heading out the door for work or at the end of the day when I get the babe to bed.  I read an article about how organized people will spend the 5 minutes they have cleaning rather than relaxing and I can relate.  Because if I’m already walking through a room why not grab the cups I see and get em in the sink?  Or pick up the shoes at the bottom of the stairs and put them in the shoe drawer?  Or grab the couple toys strewn out in the living room?  You get the idea.  The concept being that if I take these small windows of opportunities to tidy up it makes a big difference by the end of the day.  AND then I’m not overwhelmed by the degree of cleaning I have (or caught off guard by an unexpected guest).  This is not to say I have a spotless house by any means!  It appears tidy but is not what I would define as clean (no white glove test here). 

Three – I try to clean as I go when I’m making dinner.  I am completely reliant on meal planning for my family and generally lay out a weeks worth of meals at a time to ensure I’m not scrambling at the end of my day.  As the primary cook in my house this chore generally falls on me and I’m not naturally gifted at throwing ingredients together and whipping up a culinary masterpiece so meal planning is key.  But at the end of my work day to come home and cook and then turn around and clean it all up just feels way more exhausting than it should.  So to make things a little easier on myself (and get me to that glass of wine and Netflix binge that much faster after my little guy’s bedtime routine) I try to tidy up as I cook.  This does not mean I have a clean kitchen as I’m plating a hot dinner for my family.  It does mean that things are usually off the counters and dishes in the sink when we sit down at the table.  From there I can make the choice to tackle the dishes that night or in the morning (dishes is my LEAST favorite chore).

Speaking of dinner, I’ve also been known to subscribe to Hello Fresh periodically to make things even easier on myself.  I honestly don’t believe this would be the most cost effective option if my family were larger (the hubs, myself, our three year old and one on the way) as we’re often times reliant on leftovers to fill our bellies at lunch the next day.  But for now it can work on an inconsistent basis.  I’ve also been known to pick up a meal kit from my local grocery store and have that waiting in the fridge.  If I need a break from cooking hubby is way more apt to jump in if it’s all laid out for him so that’s a win win.  The other subscription box I enjoy is imperfect produce.  This is twofold because while I’m ensuring my fridge is stocked with a variety of fruits and vegetables I’m also helping minimize unnecessary food waste by using produce that isn’t otherwise marketable in grocery stores – and it’s delivered to me at a discounted rate!  It just recently came to our area so check it out to see if this is now an option for you too! (Note I realize subscribing to meal and/or food delivery is a luxury that not everyone can take advantage of.)

So there you have it.  My basic tips for easing some of life’s stressors when trying to juggle it all.  I hope you found this helpful.  And feel free to send any other suggestions my way as well because I can use all the help I can get.

Xoxo

Gwen 

Self care isn’t selfish – how barre3 brings me balance

Let’s talk self care.

Honestly this was such a foreign (and can I say laughable?) concept for me before I became a mom and crime victim advocate.  I couldn’t grasp the concept of having to prioritize taking care of myself and specifically identifying ways to do that.  Maybe because before I held these roles I was in more of a position to prioritize my owns desires and didn’t have to think about it?  However, trying to juggle being a working mom in a very emotionally draining job, a mom to a very active and spirited little boy, and a wife that wants to devote energy into her relationship with her spouse while crafting time for myself is a chore in and of itself!  Can I also say overwhelming?  I know you mamas feel me. 

But what I’ve learned along the way these past 3+ years is that it’s ok to put myself on the priority list.  And not just ok but NECESSARY to make sure I’m the best I can be for my family.  Because I’ll be honest, when I’m feeling drained and overwhelmed my emotions get the best of me and I become short tempered and then am hammered by guilt for expressing that emotion.  So instead I’ve found that by giving myself the option to attend a barre3 class regularly I am empowering myself to fill my cup. I find strength outwardly and inwardly.  I feel replenished and recharged.  I feel strong and capable to take on those daunting tasks.  I feel BALANCED and that spills over into the rest of my life. 

Whether it’s through a fitness regime, a treat to yourself, an indulgent splurge every now and then, getting lost in a good book (or dare I say binging on the bachelorette?!) I encourage you to find something that leaves you feeling grounded and capable.  Because we all just need to recognize our own strengths and abilities; and maybe have some dark chocolate and wine along the way.

My First Blog Post

Finding balance in mothering with self care and travel

Here it goes. My first blog post. When deciding to jump on this bandwagon there were a number of motivating factors that lead me here. (I’ll get to those in a minute.) But like every new venture in life there were questions and moments of doubt.  Am I reproducing in an already saturated market? What if my content isn’t captivating enough? And the biggest of all – what if I fail?  But honestly I’m a big believer in the motto, “what will be will be.”  There is a bigger plan for my life than I can see and if this is meant to be a part of it then so be it. And if not? Well then it’s a creative outlet. When I looked at blogging in that frame of mind there was no concept of failing. So I’m diving in and hoping to make a big splash!

So back to what led me here. I am at a place in life where I feel both secure in who I am while also embracing the concept that I need more. As a toddler boy mom with another little on the way I’m left unfulfilled in my current job and know if I don’t make a change that could result in feelings of unhappiness and discontent. With baby girl due in January I’m blessed to be in a position to leave my current place of employment to stay home with my babies. And so again, with the idea that “what will be will be” I decided it’s time to make a change and allow myself a platform to (hopefully) serve others while I transition to that SAHM role.  I know myself well enough to recognize that I want something that is all my own, separate from my title as mom, as wife or employee.  Something that can bring me fulfillment as an individual – and I’m hoping this can do that for me.  It’s also been important to me to feel like I’m making a positive contribution to society in whatever position I hold. So what does that look like here? In short I’m hoping to provide a point of connection for mamas of littles – a platform we can all utilize to build each other up, empower one another to be our truest selves and laugh along the way.

So what will you find on my blog?  A lot of self care strategies!  Because let’s be real, as moms we all need to accept that self care is necessary in creating a sense of balance.  Full transparency, my form of self care may be different than yours.  And thats ok!  Specifically from me you’ll see fitness components and organizational tips with a faith based foundation.  However, I’d love to see a collaborative effort in which we can all share inspiration to find that elusive balance.  You’ll also see a love for travel – both family inclusive and as a form of rejuvenation from life’s chaos.  And of course it’s all centered around my journey through motherhood and the lessons I’m learning along the way. 

So thank you for taking an interest and reading even this much.  If this appeals to you in any way then stay tuned for more!  

Xoxo

Gwen 

A veteran mom’s nursery must have list.

Little man was insistent on helping daddy finish up painting sister’s room last night. He looked around after getting a few paint strokes in and exclaimed, “Sister’s gonna love it.” Luckily there was no carpet harmed in the painting of this nursery 😜

But in all seriousness we’re really making some progress on getting things ready for our Elli girl, including our registry. We’re fortunate enough to have a lot that we can use from big brother and things that have been gifted to us but I’m wanting to hear another mama’s insight as to what they considered, “must haves” for baby #2. This is what I have listed at this point:

Diaper Genie because those diapers are the gift that keeps on giving in the smell department. And this one comes in pink!

Waterproof fitted crib mattress protector – having already experienced one kid barfing in the middle of the night and scrambling to change all the bedding leaves us already knowing it’s apt to happen again.

Crib sheets because duh! Babes gotta get her beauty rest! We found some decently priced ones at $17.99 that really tie into her nursery them too.

Honeywell germ free humidifier – now that we know there is a significant chance that our Elli girl may have CF we want to ensure her environment is as sterile as possible to avoid additional lung complications and minimize the risk for infections.

We also added diapers, wipes and baby wash and lotion that are designed to be gentle on baby’s sensitive skin. E’s big brother had really sensitive skin when he was born so we’re anticipating experiencing something similar with her. I’ve heard great things about pampers pure so we’re gonna give them a try. As to wipes and wash – we’re sticking with 7th generation and aveeno as those worked wonders for Carter bug.

So what do you think? Anything you’d add? Take off? Change? Or any separate recommendations? Can’t wait to show you all her nursery as it comes together!

Xoxo

Gwen

#babygirl #girlmom #boymom #addingtoourtribe #nursery #babyregistry #secondtimemom #rainbowbaby #momlife #thingsaregettingreal #22weeksprego

Why didn’t anyone warn me?

This is hard.

As a mom I’m frequently feeling like I’m on the brink of failing and today has been no different.

Its 1:00 and I haven’t showered. I’ve battled my son on so many little things I couldn’t list them all. He’s hit me at least twice and I’m embarrassed to say how often I’ve gotten frustrated with him. I’m struggling to get the housework done before my husband gets home but feel guilty that I haven’t engaged with my son in any meaningful activity because I’ve been so preoccupied with the house. All I’ve had is coffee and cheezits and I feel guilt over the lack of nutrition that provides my unborn daughter. I’m starting a new job next week and haven’t been able to successfully login to their payroll system despite multiple contacts with HR. I’m failing at it all it seems.

All of this leaves me near tears. This is so hard. I want to just cry and take a nap and run away when my husband gets home from work. But that’s not reality. And soon enough I’ll have two littles to juggle, more time at home and an unpredictable work schedule. It’s not looking easier my friends.

Yet I look around and although I may not feel it right now I know I’m blessed. I’m blessed to have girlfriends that just pop by to drop off things for me. I’m blessed to have parents who are willing and eager to watch my son so my husband and I can have a date. I’m blessed to be in a position to stay home more and a husband that not only financially supports that decision but is emotionally backing me. I’m blessed to get to have these days with my son and to know that after nap we can start fresh and play.

So if you’re in the slums and feeling like you’re failing I’m hear to tell you – you’re not. You’re making it through another day. You’re doing the best that you can and you’re striving for more. Kuddos to you mama.

Xoxo

Gwen

#honestmothering #realmothering #momtruth #unfilteredmom #toddlermom #workingmom #momlife

How I Invested in My Spouse.

Parking $2.50

Dinner $38.00 (approximately)

Comedy show & popcorn $15

Having a date night out to include a sunset walk on the waterfront – priceless

Ok, actually the price totaled about $56. Closer to $60 if I’m including the soda we had to get to go with our popcorn – and to think we didn’t even have to pay for a sitter! How do people afford this on the regular?

I read time and time again how you have to invest in your marriage and God knows I probably don’t give it what I should. So this week I planned a date for us and surprised the hubs. I even asked for some fantasy football help so he could gab about what captivates his attention almost all of Sunday (baring church and a Timbers game). This was our first date in what feels like at least 2 months and with baby girl coming soon(ish) I feel like dates will be even fewer and farther between.

But what do you all do to invest in your marriage on the daily? Dates can’t be the only relied upon effort 😜

Xoxo

Gwen

#datenight #datingyourspouse #parentlife #investinyourmarriage #ittakeswork #committment

Actionable Ways To Create Happiness in Any Circumstance.

Sunday I felt completely trapped in my own home. I have to take you back to Saturday when our fun family outing to the zoo ended before it ever began when my toddler started throwing up in the car on the way (and all the way back home). To his credit, he took it like a champ and didn’t even shed a tear. But with my husband already feeling a little crummy himself we hunkered down and decided some R&R is what the boys needed.

Fast forward to Sunday and after lounging in the house for 24 hours with a needy (understandably so) toddler and a literal thunder and lightning storm outside and I felt completely stuck inside our walls. I am a busy body and like to stay active and being forced to remain in a relaxed state was stating to wear on me.

It took getting through the day and into the start of my Monday morning bible study that I could truly get some context about my day. I was prompted to write out my days events from beginning to end and express thanks for the routine. It’s easy for us to share praise and thanks for the positive or grand things that occur and appreciate lessons learned from the difficult circumstances but the daily routine actions are easy to overlook and take for granted. Yet as I detailed my days events from Sunday I could clearly see I had such a wonderful day with my family that I was taking for granted!

So with that I prompt you to write out your day – from the waking hour to when you shut your eyes. Once you do, read over your list and I challenge you to find at least five things that you can be happy you experienced. For me that was as simple as a giggle fit from my son, encountering a rabbit on our walk, reading a bible story with him, and a Seahawks win! I bet that by doing so you will find a new sense of joy in your everyday.

#gratitude #happiness #createhappiness #findjoy #honestparenting #momhacks #lifehacks #motherhood #motherhoodunfiltered #lifeasamama #realmotherhood

With triumph comes tribulations – our exposure to CF.

Yesterday I was riding a high as I got to share my good news…I’ve accepted a new position as a volunteer recruiter for the YWCA Court Appointed Special Advocate program! I will be stepping away from direct service with survivors of domestic violence after four years at the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center. My efforts will now be channeled into recruiting volunteers to become CASAs or guardian ad litems for foster youth. This position has some work from home benefits, is fewer hours, has hours that allow either myself or my husband to be at home with our kids and also allows me to step away from the exposure to vicarious trauma. Overall it is a great fit for both myself and my family as we transition from three to four.

Yet I came crashing down later in the day when I learned that both myself and my husband are carriers for cystic fibrosis. What that means is that our baby girl has a 25% chance of being diagnosed with the illness herself. Although this isn’t a definite diagnosis for our daughter the only way we can know with certainty what her future holds is with an amniocentesis. This is not something we’re willing to do for a number of reasons. One, it poses additional risks to Elli. Two, it wouldn’t change the trajectory of our pregnancy. And three, the diagnosis, although devastating wouldn’t create an immediate change for her care when we take her home from the hospital. So with that we will wait until she decides to make her debut and we hear the newborn screening results.

I held it together until hearing in greater detail what that could mean for her life – feeding tubes, growth deficiencies, frequent lung infections, routine appointments and treatments all with the goal of prolonging her lung function until the day arrives she would need a lung transplant. The reality of it all left me broken and sobbing. My rainbow baby is supposed to be my source of light and right now all I can see are those dark clouds looming over her future.

Yet it goes beyond concern for our unborn daughter. We didn’t elect to have genetic testing done with our now three year old son. Part of that was due to our own misunderstanding about what it entailed. We were also with a different provider and insurance. As to our knowledge he is a healthy and vivacious little boy full of life. He shows no markers for CF and his pediatrician did give me some reassurance that she would be surprised if his test results came back positive. However, he is a pint sized little guy, much like his mama. So for that reason she believes it’s best to ensure CF isn’t manifesting itself with a growth deficiency in him. So now we wait to be referred to a local children’s hospital and hope for the best results for both of our children.

Hoping that our prayers are answered and we are gifted with two healthy children that doesn’t alleviate all of our concerns. This will have an impact on our children’s likelihood of passing on CF to their own children once that day comes. So the day will come that we are reminded of these feelings and are brought back to this moment of concern and dread while we wait to hear if our grandchildren have escaped a CF diagnosis.

So if you’re a praying person I ask that you lift us up. I’m seeking comfort, acceptance and peace in whatever outcomes there may be. And if you’re not I ask for positive energy and well meaning thoughts. This is part of the journey to meet our sweet Elli Reese and no matter what we’ll celebrate her and these transitions we’ve been gifted as a family.

Xoxo,

Gwen

#rainbowbaby #rainbowmama #newbeginnings #hillsandvalleys #godswill #opendoors #newpossibilities #giveittogod #hiswill #hisplan #trustinginhim #pregnancy #girlmom #20weeksprego #halfwaythere #cf #honestparenting #childhooddiagnosis #motherhoodunfiltered #realmotherhood

Indulging without the guilt – my coffee money saving hack.

Full admission – I am a coffee fiend.

The first step is admitting you have a problem right? Well this little lady loves her cup O’ joe. Since I’m not able to enjoy a cup overlooking a canal in Venice every morning like pictured above (take me back!) I rely on my nespresso for a home brew. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite curb my craving for a mocha. What I really find myself indulging in is a Starbucks mocha. A nonfat, no whip, half sweet mocha to be exact. It’s become so much of a habit that my local shop nearest my work know my name and can ask if I want my regular. And let’s be real that gets REAL expensive.

But I’ve found a way to treat myself without breaking the bank! What’s my secret? I regularly use my ibotta app when I grocery shop and then load my grocery savings onto a Starbucks card directly from the app! This week alone I’ve racked up enough for a $25 Starbucks card. It’s indulging without the guilt! Because as a mom there is plenty of that coming from myself (hello mom guilt). Coffee not your jam? You can request a payout directly by PayPal or Venmo or explore their other gift card options – Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, the list goes on. Or simply pay with your ibotta credit at retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Baby Gap and more and get a percentage of your purchase back!

If you want to jump on this money saving bandwagon and #treatyoself too then follow this link: https://ibotta.com/r/fplgkdd or use my referral code: fplgkdd because #yolo!

Xoxo

Gwen

#coffeeaddict #fueledbycaffeineandgrace #caffeinatedmama #motherhoodrunsoncoffee #starbucksgroupie #pregnantandcaffeinated #survivingmotherhood #itsthelittlethings #moneysaver #pinchingpennies #smartshopper

I caved (or floored?) and slept on my toddler’s floor.

Well it happened, at almost five and half months pregnant I slept on the floor next to my toddler’s bed last night.

He’s been a light sleeper for as long as I can remember, despite our best efforts from day one to try and help him sleep in any conditions. I refused a sound machine when he was an infant because I didn’t want him reliant on it. I wouldn’t put off things like vacuuming during nap time so he could develop a tolerance for the noise. And I refused the black out shades because again, I didn’t want him reliant on specific conditions to sleep. To be honest, all of this was successful to a point. The noise didn’t really bother him but it didn’t change him waking up frequently at night.

Last night he woke up and came running to our door sometime after midnight. He said he wanted to sleep with us because it was “cozy.” My mama heart has been craving some cosleeping snuggles lately so I would have immediately scooped him up and tucked him in next to me. But the hubs was on to me and had followed me out quickly telling our son, “no.” It was clear this wasn’t up for discussion. In all fairness he’s coming down with some end of summer cold and hasn’t been feeling his best.

With the clear no from dad my son burst into tears. I asked him to come here and held him and suggested that mommy lay down in his room with him. That seemed to be a tolerable answer and he laid back down and let me tuck him in. Maybe I was feeling soft because of the pregnancy hormones? Maybe because I’ve been reflecting on how little time I have with just my boy before his sister arrives? Maybe it was because I frequently have nightmares (even as an adult) and recognize the comfort that can be found in knowing there is someone next to you? Whatever the reason I got my blanket and pillows and tucked myself in on the floor. I didn’t stay more than an hour and a half but it was enough to leave him soundly asleep and peaceful so I could creep back into my own bed.

I type this out fully acknowledging this was one of those scenarios in parenting I couldn’t understand before I had a little of my own. One of my naive beliefs that I wouldn’t participate in myself. I was even judgy hearing of other moms that did this. Weren’t they setting up unhealthy and unsustainable sleep habits? But the thing is, there isn’t a manual that comes with your newborn. We’re all figuring it out as best we can and doing the best we can. So let’s cheer one another on, laugh or encourage at the small struggles and offer support and understanding for the bigger ones. At the end of the day we all want to be the best we can for our littles and that’s enough.

Xoxo

Gwen

#parentingtruth #honestparenting #cosleepingstruggles #cosleeping #toddlermom #boymom #noparentingmanual #supporteachother #nojudgment #momtruth #thisisthree #motherhood #mothering

International Travel: how to get the most bang for your buck.

This time last year the hubs and I were preparing to jet set across the pond for our first trek through Europe. I had always dreamt of going through the Mediterranean and specifically seeing Greece and he made sure that dream became a reality for me. Spoiler alert it was actually Venice, Italy and Dubrovnik, Croatia that captured my heart. Venice was otherworldly, an old world city floating above the waves. And Croatia was absolutely breathtaking! It had an old world charm with a luscious greenery that Greece didn’t posses and the most beautiful clear waters I’ve ever seen. I described it as a secret gem. And oh my god the cheese! It was the full package – sight, sound and flavor. We’ve always enjoyed traveling together but it’s his drive that has allowed our passion to become a plan repeatedly.

Overall we’ve been on four cruises and traveled to twenty two countries total over our eleven years together. We still have grand plans of more adventure and excursions but we’re being smarter with the means of how we get there. Now we accumulate sky miles with my Capitol One Venture card. There are no blackout dates and your miles aren’t tied to one airline which allows for a ton of flexibility when planning our next trek. With just using the card for routine purchases we’ve racked up over 100,000 sky miles towards our next big vacation. I’m craving another trip to the beach but with expecting our baby girl we’ll be planning a family vacation and will be using more miles to get us all there. Yet that’s not a problem with the Venture card I got a signing bonus of 60k miles! FYI – you can find tickets to Aruba for 35k a piece!

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this travel hack too feel free to use my referral code: https://capital.one/2zKxqeq and let the #wanderlust continue friends. I’d also love to hear any travel tips and suggestions for our next family vacation!

#globetrotters #explore #internationaltravel #adventure #explorenewplaces #travel #seetheworld #travelsmart #flysmart #makeithappen #wheretonext #adventureawaits #romantictravelers #travelpartner

Cultivating intimacy with your spouse.

Just for the record, I don’t think I would be writing this if I knew any of my friends or family followed this blog. If someday you stumble across this mom, dad or anyone closely related to me…maybe stop reading now.

But last night I experienced something entirely new with my husband, my partner of 11 years. Let me tell you, after 11 years, a kid and another on the way it’s a challenge to find a new experience that doesn’t cross hard boundaries. Yet something took over me last night and I went for it with a passion I hadn’t in a long time. I wish I could specifically tell you what it was that motivated me to do act in the way I did, hell I wish I knew so I could make sure we have repeated sessions like last night! But, I’m not sure. I’m hoping it’s not the five month prego hormones influencing my behavior but that could explain my reckless abandon.

The thing is, I realize the significance of being intimate on an at least somewhat consistent basis with my partner. For one – his love language (and I’m going to generalize here but I’d argue the majority of males) is physical touch. Whether I feel this bond by means of sex or not he does. That is a major way he expresses his love for me. Although I don’t express myself in the same way when he explained it to me it totally made sense, “this is something that separates every other relationship we have from ours. Only you and I share this.” Now if you’re not in a monogamous relationship that sentiment may be lost on you but for me that is so powerful! I was ashamed that I didn’t recognize it myself.

Even acknowledging this am I good at putting a priority on sex? No. I have good intentions but with the busyness of life I get caught up in making sure my to do lists are checked off. Unfortunately that can also include my husband at times. I put sex on a list wanting to make sure that it’s not too long between his needs being met but also viewing it as a chore. That’s totally unhealthy and does not insight any type of fizzle. On the contrary I asked him why I’m always the one who has to make the move and his response was telling, “I can never tell when you actually want it.” I can’t even blame him for that when half the time I really don’t I’m just ticking something off my list.

Yet last night was something else entirely. I wasn’t thinking about what had to be done but instead what I WANTED to do. I was a savage. I’ll spare the details (because after all I did say that what is between my partner and I is something that makes our relationship unique to us) but I left my thirty one year old husband with a hicky and a fat lip. We both did something that was new. I’ll be honest, I felt embarrassed by it after but you know what? He loved it! There was nothing to be embarrassed about. And talking about, although awkward for me was something that also bonded us beyond the physical act itself.

So I’m sharing this for two reasons. One, for all of you couples that may feel like you’re in a stalemate I hope this inspires you to think outside the box. Push past your limitations (Notice I didn’t say boundaries here. Those are important and should be respected.) and get adventurous. See how it can transform your relationship overnight. And for two, I’m hoping to cling on to this passion myself. I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night and if you missed it previously, with a second kid on the way I know that intimacy is going to be a struggle here in a few months. So I’m going to work at it, not in a chore way but a fun date night in kind of way. I’m dating my partner and getting reacquainted to him physically all over again.

Xoxo

Gwen

#intimate #dateyourhusband #lovelanguage #physicaltouch #marriage #bond #expressionoflove #goforit #love #bebold #spicy #newexperience

I had a miscarriage.

Trigger Warning.

No one ever thinks they’re going to have to say that sentence. Part of that is due to the fact that we don’t talk about it. I don’t think it’s out of shame, at least it wasn’t for me. But rather you’re so deeply hurt you don’t want to even utter the words out loud. When we experienced our miscarriage in January I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my family; I asked my husband to do it. I barely issued a couple texts just letting people know not to ask me about it because I wasn’t ready. It hurt so deeply. And because my body didn’t expel the fetus I had to wait for days knowing that what was within me wasn’t a life any longer but a lost promise. It made it feel that much more bitter that my own body couldn’t recognize this wasn’t meant to be. I felt betrayed by it. Even typing it now I can feel that sense of disgust at my body. How did I not recognize it?

We had waited longer than we had planned to conceive this baby. The bond I shared with my firstborn seemed so great I just couldn’t imagine sharing my heart with another little person. And I honestly didn’t want to. My son was my world and I didn’t want to revolve around anything else but him. Yet after two years and seeing less of a baby and more of a boy I could feel that sense of “baby fever” creeping in. My husband and I had a European cruise through the Adriatic Sea planned for our fifth wedding anniversary and since I had already been on a Panama cruise and a trip to Hawaii while pregnant I didn’t want to also experience this dream vacation in that state. For that reason we postponed trying.

It ended up taking close to four months to get pregnant once we did begin trying, which felt like an eternity since we had already put it off. Yet the timing seemed perfect as I got to share the news with my husband on our actual fifth wedding anniversary and then in turn we announced to our families over the holidays. My husband still has a picture of my son in front of the Christmas tree with his big brother shirt on. I didn’t want to see it after losing the baby and it was deleted as soon as I ran across it.

We didn’t find out about the miscarriage until I was 11 weeks along. We had already shared with almost my entire extended family (it’s a large family) and even some of my coworkers. I couldn’t wait to turn the corner and get the opportunity to leave a job I was already burnt out in to take on the task of stay at home mom. This was my exit plan and I was ready for it. I had even told my direct supervisor at work, going so far as to say I’m not coming back after August when the baby arrives. Yet none of this would come to be as we saw an empty sac when we went in for our first ultrasound. I bluntly said, “so I’m not pregnant,” and the ultrasound tech replied, “no you are there just isn’t a baby.” I couldn’t wrap my brain around that but would learn just a short term later that we had what’s called an anembryonic gestation of blighted ovum. For an unknown reason the embryo just stops developing but the gestational sac continues to.

Yet what I’ve learned through this experience is that it is so much more prevalent than I ever knew. My doctor told me that about one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage. I knew of at least one person close to me that felt that loss and for selfish reasons I was thankful I wasn’t alone in that. I heavily relied on her yet also felt isolated in my experience. I remember walking into the hospital for the D&C and not even wanting to hold my husband’s hand. I just wanted it done. I wanted to be alone because that’s how I felt.

I heavily relied on the fact that God had a plan bigger than myself. Although I may not be able to grasp the why behind it, I trusted there was a reason I wasn’t meant to know of. My faith carried me through that period of grief. And it also gave me hope that this didn’t have to be the end either. I can celebrate in this now knowing that although January 2019 we suffered the loss of life, come January 2020 we will welcome a new life. We’ll meet our rainbow baby girl, our Elliott Reese. God had a plan when telling us to wait. Elliott means, “Jehovah is God.” Our Jehovah is sharing his light with us when all we saw was darkness before.

If any of you are reading this and hurting from your own sense of loss just know it’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to feel that loss. It’s ok to have doubts about what will happen in the future. It’s ok to feel alone. But if you want to share your story, if you need a strangers ear, I’m here. Your baby can be acknowledged and shared, even if they got their wings before entering our world.

#rainbowbaby #miscarriage #pregnancy #motherhood #honestmotherhood #rainbowmama #girlmom #pregnancyloss #grief #rainbowafterthestorm