Let’s have it all?!

Men cannot have babies – just in case there’s any confusion (my husband promised he’d carry baby #2 and that did not happen).  Women obviously are physically meant to carry children and emotionally equipped to raise them. But somehow during feminism’s evolution, the line between family and ambition became blurred.

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My friend, Brooke, recently gave birth to a little girl. Her and her husband both have college degrees and notable work experiences.  Before the birth of their daughter, Brooke and her husband made the decision for Brooke to stay home after their baby was born.  After an extremely rough delivery and even more difficult recovery, Brooke was still trying to make peace with their decision.  She felt like she needed to work because of her education. During a visit Brooke’s aunt made a comment along the lines of “I just don’t know how people have any value if they aren’t making money?” Good job of putting guilt and stress on a woman who is a new mom trying to find her way through motherhood and hormones! Brooke’s aunt happens to be a big wig at a good sized company and never had kids. Maybe the comment was interpreted out of context, but regardless, what the hell does that mean?! And why do people think they can say whatever they want?! Brooke’s aunt actually doesn’t get an opinion about kids and working – she never lived through it.

Very few mothers are able to stay home in today’s modern world due to financials.  A 2012 Gallup Poll surveyed women to get an idea of how many women are staying home to raise their children (Follow the link if you want all the specifics – Gallup Poll for stay at home mom’s). The numbers are staggering compared to the 1950s.

Women’s rights have evolved immensely in the past century.  Bra’s have been burnt, girls have been beaten, and women have been killed in an effort to gain the same rights as men. But have all these efforts, sacrifices, and breakthroughs resulted in serious unintended consequences?

A woman’s traditional role is wife and mother – the family caregiver.  The traditional female role has made an earth-shattering evolution that has reshaped morals and altered family values.  In this always progressing digital world women are now expected to have it all; get an education; have a full time career; maybe get married; maybe have kids; maintain a perfect physique; have a perfect house; homemade dinner on the table; etc, etc, etc! The list is so lengthy it’s impossible and exhausting to even attempt to complete!

Feminism has given women the right to choose to – participate in sports; achieve a higher education; to excel in the workplace; have children; get married; buy a house; wear what we want. We are no longer just baby factories. Hallelujah!!

However, the evolution of a woman’s role has changed society’s perspective on women who want to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM as many call it).  “I’m just a mom” is not good enough for society, everyone wants more. But woman again, should have the right to proudly choose. A woman can have a college degree, follow a career path, then choose to stay home and raise her children. Being a SAHM, let alone a career woman, is a full time job with no sick days or vacation days. And guess what, we can even choose to go back to work after our children are in school or stay home!

No matter what kind of pressure society, or in most cases, family members put on us – choosing to work or stay home is our choice. Raising children is truly the most valuable thing a woman can do, even if we don’t make a cent in the process. The return on investment is priceless.

The most important thing is to make peace with whatever you or your family decide is best for you and your children. This means – WE CAN HAVE IT ALL!  But be ready, whether you decide to work or stay at home – it’s going to be an exhausting ride!

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“In The Trenches”

We have all been there – that moment where nothing seems to be going right or as planned. That moment you are running out the door and everything happens at once – one child poops their pants; one kid pours everything out of the diaper bag; the dogs run into the yard because one kid opened the door; you lose your keys in the midst of repacking the diaper bag (only to find you actually put them in the diaper bag); you get everyone loaded into the car; you run back into the house to grab a sippy cup and the favorite toy of the week; you finally get the dogs back inside; a child unlocks their carseat; you get everyone re-strapped into their seats; you start the vehicle and realize … I’M ALREADY EXHAUSTED AND I HAVEN’T LEFT THE DRIVEWAY?!

Throughout life as a mom, there are challenging phases with children – I like to refer to these as “in the trenches”. Most moms and parents can appreciate this comparison and being “in the trenches” can sometimes feel like a lonely, never-ending phase.

Like when your little one is a baby – you are running on zero sleep and can’t remember the last time you took a real shower or slept for longer than 3 hours at a time. Or when your toddler is screaming at the top of their lungs because they can’t communicate and you clearly didn’t give them the right dinner. How about those Pre-K years when all the kids do is bicker over who gets to play with Elsa or they scream when you refuse to buy them strategically placed candy in the checkout aisle. Or the dreaded teenage years where there’s a 90% chance your child will hate you at some point if not all the time.

IN THE TRENCHES!

Ever been to the grocery store with 3 small children? I tend to wear workout clothes because I know taking my small army of strong willed children to the store does not usually teeter in my favor. One usually begs for that princess cup in the breakfast aisle; another is trying to climb out of the cart; while the other isn’t able to comprehend you have to buy the food before you eat it. By the end of the shopping trip (after the epic battle to get out of the driveway), I usually look slightly disheveled and understandably frazzled. Occasionally another shopper will smile and say “you have your hands full.” But there are also moments when moms gently smile and say something like “Oh honey, you’re going to make it. It’s just tough right now but I promise you will get through this. You’re doing a great job!”

Those women get it; they’ve been in the trenches at one time or another, raising babies, surviving the chaos and sleeplessness that is the very definition of motherhood. I am so thankful for these no judgment women, who even though are strangers, can relate to public survival with children.

Inevitably I am told moms do survive what I can only describe with a war term. During life in the trenches with our children we create those memories we will “laugh at someday” – but in the moment you just aren’t sure if you will make it. Someday you will be able to get out of the driveway without feeling like you are competing in an Olympic decathlon. Better yet, you will be able to go to the grocery store without having to explain to your child why you aren’t buying all the boxes of princess gummies. And when you do feel alone, trust me, you never will be – other moms are fighting the good fight right next to you. We are all muddy wishing for a long, uninterrupted shower!

Baby’s ready for food!

My son eats like a champion – a heavy weight, sumo wrestler champion. I was lucky (and diligent enough) to give him breast milk, but at five months old he suddenly reverted to his newborn habits – waking up numerous times a night and eating more than a growth spurt stricken teenage boy. He intently watched me eat, grabbing for whatever I was attempting scarf down.

IT WAS TIME – Time to start food!

With my first two babies we did a majority of packaged baby food -mostly because I was working/pregnant and didn’t have the time or energy for showers, let alone homemade baby food.

((Disclosure – parenting skills are not based on if you breastfeed, bath your baby daily, or buy packaged baby food.))

Instead if making my 5-month-old get a job to pay for his daily Thanksgiving feast, I made a decision I was going to make all his food this time around. A lot had changed since my first child needed spoon fed – I wasn’t working full time, I wasn’t pregnant, and I had a little “parenting” experience under my belt.

Making baby food seemed like an impossible and extremely overwhelming task at first. The very thought of making baby food was daunting and for some reason I had to muster up courage in order to make this DIY attempt! But here I am now – a self proclaimed baby food maker.

Numerous friends asked me about how I make all of my sumo wrestler’s food so here are my simple go to baby grub directions:

1. Purchase as fresh of fruit/veggies as you can! I tried to hit up farmers’ markets as much as possible. Most of the time I go to the local grocery store and buy regular produce. Some of my friends go to while foods/organic stores and others with more kids use a food delivery service (I would have food delivered if it was available in my area!). However sometimes what I want/need is not available fresh so I but frozen bags and that works just fine! Make sure you are feeding your baby food they are ready for. Here’s a link to a baby’s food introduction schedule

2. This batch is obviously peaches. I spent about $9 on these, but had to throw 2 out because they weren’t was fresh as I wanted after I cut them open.

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When I went to make my next batch, the store was out of fresh peaches so I bought a frozen bag and let it thaw (you can do the same with other fruits and veggies).

3. I cut the peaches into small chunks (skin and all) so they would blend smoother and faster. When I am preparing vegetables I boil them first until they are soft, then cut them into smaller pieces. (I’m sure someone will suggest a more earthy way, but this way works for me).

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4. Put a small scoop of your pieces in a blender. (I used a smoothie blender because I wasn’t about to go spend more money). Try to blend the chunks together. If they do not blend well add some breastmilk/formula until you can easily create a smoothie like consistency. Then keep adding scoops of chunks, blending inbetween scoops,
until everything is in your blender. I used 3.5-4.5 oz of breastmilk in this batch. The goal is to blend whatever you are making similar to the consistency of baby food – a little thicker is okay too! With the frozen foods they should be soft enough after thawing that they will not need to be cut.

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5. Get some ice cube trays! I got mine at the dollar store for obvious money savings reasons. I bought a bunch so I could make big batches at a time! That’s the easiest way to do it! Take a spoon and put your freshly blended baby food into the ice cube trays. They will slightly expand so fill accordingly.

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6. Place your repurposed ice cube trays in the freezer overnight. (I don’t cover mine).

7. The next day I grab a big Ziploc bag, write what I made, and twist all my perfectly portioned baby food cubes into the bag.

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8. All the bags can store flat. When it comes time for my son to eat, I grab however many cubes he wants, put them in a bowl, and microwave them until they are thawed. Make sure to stir the food well and make sure there are no hotspots! (If the food is runny I add a little baby rice). Occasionally, I put the frozen cubes in the refrigerator the night before so they are closer to thawed (this rarely happens as my goal every day is just to survive).

9. You can mix different fruits and veggies! Or you can make a bunch or individual fruits/veggies and then mix them when you heat them up for your baby!

**My little guy is hungry all the time and I started adding meat to his baby food. I boil a couple chicken breasts and add chunks while blending up veggies. You can also roast a whole chicken or a small turkey and do the same thing. Just add to your baby food while you blend!**

Not only is this a healthier option for your baby but in the end it’s better financially! And it doesn’t take that much time to make a huge batch. No … I’m not one of those weird granola moms, we’ve given him some pre made baby food. This just works for us for many different reasons! Physical and financial health for the baby and the family! Besides, I think there are laws preventing a heavy eating, sumo wrestler, 5 month old from working – even if they are eating you out of house and home!

Motherhood does not come with sick days.

Back in my crazy career days (working nonstop) taking a sick day was next to impossible. There have only been a few times I’ve needed to call off – thank God for those legislated sick days! But on those much needed days, I slept off whatever illness hit me and was able to take a break from reality to recoup.

But there’s one thing your doctor forgets to tell you about having a baby – motherhood does not come with sick days.

Maybe that’s why the first trimester of pregnancy is full of exhaustion? Nature knows you are going to need every second of sleep to accommodate for a life of no more sick days?

Wouldn’t it be nice for once just to say “I can’t make it to motherhood today. I’m just really sick. Please figure it out.”

For the past couple weeks I genuinely wanted to call in sick to motherhood.  And why is it when our significant other is under the weather they seemingly get to take a sick day? My only guess – the mommy gene: the inability to ever get sleep or fully relax again due to having children.

No matter how high your fever is or how many times you’ve visited your porcelain friend, the kids are still going to expect dinner and their favorite bedtime story. “Mommy, I want bites I’m hungry!” “Mommy, I want books!”. Sweet children don’t understand that standing up to get them a snack will literally take every ounce of energy out of your body and just might kill you.

But we do it.

Even when we feel like getting our kids out of bed is going to do us in, we still do it. Even when we can’t feed ourselves, we make sure the kids get more than enough. Because that’s what us moms do – CEO’s of the family never get sick days! It’s a full time job and then some to keep the house running smoothly.

It’s hard enough to take a sick day when working a full time career, but when you’re a mom, kids allow ZERO sick days (especially if they’re really little).  At least the office gives us a set number of sick days (even though we aren’t always allowed to take them). Whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom we all have one thing in common – motherhood does not come with sick days.

Perfect Parenting

Remember those months before becoming a mom … well besides the sickness and endless trips to the bathroom … those months you thought about what kind of parent you would be.

My husband always said I would be the easy parent – always giving in to my children’s demands, a “softie”. He thought he would be the “tough dad”. I envisioned myself making homemade meals every night, doing activities with my kids, our house being organized, and working out just like I used to – I would be the “perfect parent”.

As soon as my first baby was born, my daydream of “perfect parenting” flew right out the window.

Like all new moms, I was hormonal, exhausted, and overwhelmed – not a good recipe for “perfect parenting”. Then I started second guessing every decision I made and every action I took for our new baby. As our kids get older the decisions get harder and I wonder; am I disciplining them correct? Am I saying the right things? Do I play with them enough? Am I teaching them what they need to know?

As moms we constantly feel at war with ourselves. In our own minds we can never do enough for our children. But what is “perfect parenting”?

Some people think “perfect parenting” is – staying home with your babies; pulling yourself together with full faced makeup before the kids get up; having all laundry done at all times; keeping a clean house; planning and executing specific activities with your children; having homemade meals and premade snacks; reading stories and learning all day long; getting the kids into bed without a fight; going to bed to get 8 hours of sleep.

Other people think “perfect parenting” is – working full time to provide; having a nanny or babysitter; Chapstick is the only makeup a mom needs; doing laundry once or twice a week works; making sure the kids eat something; a mom sacrificing all her needs.

Here’s the reality – there is no such thing as “perfect parenting”. “Perfect parenting” is a myth and does not exist. Even if you have the perfect day planned, there’s a really good chance your child will throw an epic tantrum or attempt to eat something they’re not supposed to. Most days motherhood is about surviving, let alone perfection. Every family has a unique situation – It’s okay for moms to work and it’s okay for moms to stay home. Only you know what is best for you and your family.

We are our biggest critics and anyone who says being a parent is a breeze and their kids are perfect is lying. Society’s unobtainable expectations are overwhelming enough, then we have veteran moms judging our every move – keep in mind anyone who expects you to be their version of “perfect parenting” needs to wake up and smell a diaper. There will be days pizza is the best you can do and moments you literally want to pull your hair out – good days and bad.

We sometimes think – I should be doing more. But the majority of the time we physically, emotionally, and mentally have already given motherhood our all – we’re already doing a stellar job. And for anyone who is bold enough to think our best isn’t good enough, is the furthest thing from “perfect parenting”.

My secret to fast growing, strong, long hair … vinegar rinses!

After having babies, many women have the same complaint (besides our bodies never looking the same) – MY HAIR IS AWFUL!  When I got pregnant with my first baby, my hair started falling out – I don’t have much hair to begin with so it was a huge problem! Thankfully it started growing back during my pregnancy but after labor and delivery, it started falling out AGAIN.  My mane had short, stick straight regrowth mixed with patchy spots and other normal long hair.  Throw that in with post-baby body issues and pale anemic skin – I was desperate for something to make me feel and look better!

Refusing to let a patchy mullet be my fashion destiny, I again went on the hunt to fix my hair and course friendly to my Mogul Mom budget. 

Pinterest became my best friend during pumping sessions and I discovered natural remedies to make your hair grow faster. Skeptical as usual, I opted for one of the easiest remedies that incorporated one ingredient I could find in my cabinet – VINEGAR.
The Recipe:

  • Mix 1 part vinegar (apple cider vinegar is the best but white vinegar works great too) and 2 parts water.
  • Pour on your scalp and let fall onto your hair during the “final rinse” in the shower. Be careful to not get the vinegar rinse in your eyes and/or in your mouth for obvious reasons.
  • Let the vinegar sit for a couple minutes then briefly rinse again. Done!
  • Note: I also keep a spray bottle of white vinegar in my cabinet and spray it on my hair when I get out of the shower. It helps to dissolve iron and residue left over from our extremely hard water. This was recommended to me by a professional and its my go to!
Don’t worry the smell will go away and you won’t smell like a salad for too long! And no – your hair will not dry out!
 
How it works to grow hair faster: The vinegar naturally balance the pH of your scalp and gets rid of any residue build up from product or life in general. This gives your scalp the best environment and surface to grow and regrow hair. Vinegar also works to seal your cuticles making your hair stronger while removing excess crud in your locks.  
 
With a little patience this will give anyone great results! I noticed my hair was better immediately (and grew faster eventually). I use Meijer brand because its better on my budget, but there are other brands of all natural vinegars. We have horribly hard water and vinegar rinses has been the best way to prevent buildup and has kept my blonde hair blonde!  My family and friends have also noticed a difference in the thickness of my hair and the extra shine since starting this simple treatment. My hair is the longest and healthiest its ever been and I give all the credit to vinegar rinses … and Pinterest. 

How to have a successful garage sale

Our family’s first garage sale! Fabulous idea or epic failure?

My husband and I have been together for 8 years – That includes 5 years of marriage, 4 moves, and 2 babies.  Not to mention our generous families are always gifting us with secondhand treasures and other great nuggets to add to our home. All of this adds up to an accumulation of STUFF.

We literally had STUFF spilling out of our house and it was time – time for a garage sale.

My first order of business was to set a timeframe for when this event would happen, then a date.  Having a set date for our garage sale gave my husband and I (most importantly my husband) a deadline for when our STUFF had to be out of our house and priced to sell.

As soon as I realized a garage sale was inevitable, I set out a couple totes/boxes labeled “garage sale”.  This made de-cluttering areas of the house a breeze, even though my husband constantly complained about my “tote problem”.  I was able to gradually go through things and put them into a controlled garage sale environment.  Of course my husband didn’t go through his stuff until the day before – better late than never.  Then all he had to do was bring the boxes and totes outside!

Pricing my garage sale items was tricky. How much for clothes? What about big ticket items? When pricing STUFF for your garage sale, keep in mind people are looking for deals and there’s a really good chance you will not make thousands of dollars selling your STUFF.  If you want something gone – price it to go.  If you’re on the fence price it a little higher.  I had a red wall clock, brand new, I loved it but hadn’t used in five years.  Normally I would’ve priced it at $3, but since I wasn’t sure $10.50 it was! Someone else loved it too and they paid my asking price! Guess it wasn’t meant to be in my house anymore.

When having a garage sale, location usually correlates to foot traffic.  One way to help get people to come to your garage sale is to include other families! My grandmother, brother, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law all put some of their STUFF into the garage sale.  I listed it on Craigslist and on our signs as a “5 Family Garage Sale”.  Even though our location wasn’t the best, we had steady foot traffic our first day! We also set most of our big items (strollers, tables, lawn furniture, etc.) out front to attract people driving by.

A family garage sale can be tricky.  What if a family member wants something you are selling? Do you just give it to them or discount it even more? What if you see something you’re interested in?  Garage sale etiquette – if something is under $5 just give it to a family/friend. If its a big ticket item, tell them how much you want for it and discount it a little bit (your family shouldn’t expect something you could sell for substantial money for free).  If you’re the one looking to purchase, always offer to pay full garage sale price and don’t be offended if they accept; some people really need the money and the last thing you want to do is embarrass family by price negotiating.

Some of garage sale goers like to haggle prices. “You have this priced for $2, would you take $.50?” Or the persistent bundler “I’ll give you $3 for all this STUFF.” My husband came to the conclusion I have zero backbone for hagglers. “Okay ummm sure.” (Its amazing I was successful during my brief stint in sales). When a garage sale shopper is blatantly attempting to take advantage of me, I tend to hold my ground better – “You know, my grandma is pretty firm with her prices.” Be prepared for people to try to negotiate your already low prices! Approach each customer differently – some people just love the rush of haggling prices while others truly do not have the $ and need something. Trust your intuition and decide how low you really want your prices to go!

Here’s my advice to having a successful garage sale:

  1. DO NOT ACCUMULATE a bunch of stuff – then you don’t have to have a garage sale.
  2. Plan ahead. Get some totes/boxes and label them “garage sale”. Gradually go through rooms and closets in your house. We started a couple months before and knew exactly what we were planning on selling. Garage sale totes/boxes alleviated most of the work and organizing!
  3. If you can, plan ahead and set a date for your garage sale. This will give you a deadline to get all your garage sale STUFF organized. We did ours Friday from 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-noon.  
  4. Use masking tape for pricing. If you have more than one family involved put their initials on their price tag. Use a piece of paper and keep track of who sells how much. 
  5. Price stuff to sell (unless you’re on the fence!) or its a big ticket item (ex: furniture).
  6. Set stuff up the day before if you can! This includes garage sale posters. 
  7. Make sure you have change ($) before your garage sale. People usually expect to get change if they give you $. 
  8. If you don’t sell big ticket items, take pictures while they’re set up and try to sell them on Craiglist or Ebay.  I refused to negotiate my asking price for big ticket items, I knew I could get my asking price elsewhere.  
  9. Donate low priced knick-knacks to Goodwill or other locations that benefit low income families. Home good items can be donated to a Habitat for Humanity’s Restore location. 
  10. Try to get it all out and don’t bring anything back into your house! The goal is to declutter – not reclutter!
If anyone else has tips for having a successful garage sale, please feel free to post!!