How working moms find childcare that works for them

This week will be my kids’ last day of preschool.

Of course, Henry will return this fall, probably with his baby sister Audrey in tow. Daphne will head off to Kindergarten.

For the first time in their lives, they will be home for summer.

find childcare

The funny thing is, neither of them are exactly sure what this means. They don’t understand what taking a break from school is, because they’ve been in childcare for as long as they can remember.

As a working mom, I’ve always had to drop my kids off in someone else’s care so that I could go to work. Even when I made the decision to go out on my own a few years ago, I still relied on part time care in order to build my business with some kid-free time.

Since we’re counting down the months until Daphne starts “real deal” school, I thought it was about time my kids experienced a “real deal” summer. I want their skin to wrinkle from so much pool time. For them to lose track of what day of the week it is. And to {hopefully} sleep in, wear pajamas at lunchtime, and feel what it’s like to be bored from time to time.

That’s not to say that I won’t still need help.

This summer, we’ve hired a nanny who will come over every day so that I can keep consistent office hours. I’m thankful that we found a sweet college girl who can offer my kids a fun summer, while allowing me to get my work done and spend more time with them. After all, that with my motivation for working from home in the first place!

Over the years we’ve used daycare centers, in-home care, traditional preschools, grandparents, and now a nanny. Each of them have had their benefits and challenges, ranging from affordability, stimulation and personal attention. I’ve learned that childcare is hardly one size fits all!

Finding help with my first was one of the most stressful parenting decisions I’ve ever had to make. But over the years, I’ve uncovered several resources and tips that make choosing a childcare solution much simpler.

I’m going to share some of my best ideas on how to find childcare that works for you now.

The hybrid

When you begin your childcare search, you may think that a Monday through Friday option is the only way to go. But when we first had Daphne, we were super fortunate to find some part time care at an in-home facility that we loved.

To fill some of the gaps in our full-time work schedules, we had help from family, which was wonderful. My mom watched both Daphne and Henry at least one day a week for the first several years of their lives. Not only were we able to save a little bit of money by relying on family, but the bonding that my mom was able to do with her grandchildren was invaluable to them all!

This left us with one additional day to find help. I turned to care.com where I was able to research people online, look at their references, and narrow down the search pool. I got several candidates on the phone and luckily we found someone that we felt like would be a wonderful fit for our family.

By using a variety of resources to meet our childcare needs, we could save money, spend additional time with family, and know our children were in trusted hands getting one on one attention. It did take extra attention to detail to remember the different daily routines.

Ask for exactly what you want

We’re living in the age of influence marketing, and what better way to review testimonials than from other moms we know and trust!

I found my kids’ latest preschool from word of mouth. After touring, I felt like it would become a good fit for our children. I told them that full time care Monday through Friday was simply too much for us. By telling them what would work for us, we were able to negotiate a schedule that met our needs.

If you don’t have anyone to ask in person, there’s tremendous support to be found in local Facebook groups. When we moved to Texas, I immediately joined several neighborhood Facebook groups so that I could ask for recommendations on everything from pediatricians to repair man to things to do when it’s raining. If you aren’t already a part of some, try searching for the name of your neighborhood or city in the search bar and set the results to groups only.

When we decided to pull our kids out of preschool for the summer, this was just where I turned to find our summer nanny. In a local Facebook group, I posted an “ad” for exactly what our family was looking for – I listed our pay range, the hours needed, and even described our family and what I’d like the nanny to be doing with my kids this summer. In a matter of hours I had over a dozen people interested. I was able to narrow the inquiries by requesting that they follow up with resumes and referrals to my email. From there I interviewed a handful in person until we found the best fit for our family.

By setting the expectations up front, I only interacted with serious candidates who were willing to go above and beyond our family’s needs for a predetermined pay. While we are shelling out a little more cash per hour, I no longer have to worry about getting my kids ready for school or preparing meals in the morning. Plus, I know they’re having a blast doing fun activities planned just for them!

Think outside the childcare center

One of the things that was frustrating for me when we switched to a more traditional childcare facility was the lack of flexibility. I had to pay for the full day and the full week regardless of my intent to use this full time. And any working mom knows, childcare is expensive!

If you’re struggling to find exactly what you need from a preschool or daycare, consider setting up a co-op with friends, family or neighbors. This sort of arrangement is perfect for moms who work from home or work part-time. It’s a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” agreement in which both moms take turns watching each others’ kids while the other one works.

No matter what route you go with your childcare needs, it’s important to remember two things: trust your gut, and you can always change your situation.

Finally, try to remember that your child will be just fine. This is probably the hardest one to get over as a working mom, but it’s true! You are a fabulous mother and you are doing wonderful things for your family by working.

How did you find childcare that worked for you?

When you’re not losing the baby weight

I’m wearing yoga pants again today.

Yes, I’ve bragged about wearing activewear on a daily basis since I started my own home-based marketing company before. {They are sooo comfy.}  But, if I’m being honest, today I’m wearing them because nothing else fits.

I’m having a hard time losing the baby weight.

After I had my oldest daughter, I was one of those obnoxious moms that went home in her normal clothes. I told everyone it was my reward for having such a terrible pregnancy filled with morning sickness.

When my son came two years later, I got a little overconfident. I packed a pair of my regular ol’ jeans in my hospital bag. On the day I was discharged, I had to send my husband home to get a pair of sweatpants for me to wear home, because I couldn’t get the jeans over my butt. #embarrassing

Within a month or so, I was back in my usual wardrobe, although my shirts were much fuller than before thanks to what I lovingly refer to as my “temporary boob job” from breastfeeding.

It’s been nearly three months since Audrey joined us and it’s been a real struggle for me. Even though my husband, our children’s preschool teacher, and the checkout lady at the grocery store are constantly telling me how great I look for just having had a baby, my confidence has taken a dramatic dip.

It isn’t about what the scale says {although doesn’t feel so hot either!} so much as the fact that I’m far from returning to the clothes in my closet.

So far that I’ve already invested in a new pair of jeans a size {okay two sizes} up.

A lot of photos on social media have gone viral lately of women proudly showing off their postpartum bods, which I think is sending a wonderful message. While it doesn’t help me fit back in my normal clothes any faster, I think it’s great that we’re celebrating instead of shaming stretch marks.

Here’s what else I’m celebrating to take my mind off my closet…

I’m healthy

There’s been a lot of spinach and kale coming into our house since our baby was born. Oftentimes they’re serves alongside a chocolate chip cookie {or three}, but I believe that a part of being healthy is being balanced.

I’m active

What mother of three isn’t? We ride bikes, play outside, and walk to the park every day. I’ve even been able to go for a few runs {sometimes even without the stroller!} and I am getting faster and going a little bit farther each time.

I’m strong

Audrey is one of those babies that wants to be snuggled. All the time. I’ve got a wrap and a carrier and I’ve almost always got one of them strapped to my chest with a baby inside. Add a thirty pound toddler on one hip going up and down the stairs and that’s one strong mama.

I’m amazing

The truth of the matter is that as a nursing mom I’m still very much eating for two. The calories that come and go from breastfeeding are important for me and my baby. And that’s pretty incredible regardless of my size.

Eventually the day will come when I can fit in my clothes again. Or it won’t and I’ll slowly accumulate items in my new, healthy size. Either way, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll still pick out the yoga pants.

Did you have a hard time losing the post-baby lbs? Tell me what worked for you in the comments!

Get the pedicure

Last weekend was nuts.

I was pumping multiple times a day, working ahead on some projects for the following week, and trying to find clothes that fit my postpartum body to pack for an out of town event.

This work event just happened to be in Destin, Florida, and I desperately needed to get a pedicure for my soon to be exposed toes.

But I had a million other things to do and the thought of leaving my kids alone with my husband for even one extra hour before heading to the beach days later seemed so unreasonable.

This is a situation I’ve found myself in many times before.

I need to do the laundry, take the kids to get a haircut, go to the grocery store, finish client projects, sweep the floors, strategize some upcoming business initiatives, and clean the toilets…

Seriously, who has time to get a pedicure?

That really got me thinking.

I need to do so many things. {At least I think I do.}

But what about what I need?

In this case, a pedicure to bring my feet out of hibernation. But sometimes it’s lunch with a friend, time to exercise or just a quiet moment alone.

Why do we, as mothers, hesitate to do things for ourselves?

Mom guilt.

Surely it would look bad if I went a did something for myself before every tiny thing at home is wrapped up, right? I mean, I’m leaving town for crying out loud.

Except here’s the thing – the long list of to-dos is never really done. And by not taking care of numero uno, we just ware ourselves down with all of the other stuff. Even the flight attendants remind us before take off that we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this post from a 3 bedroom penthouse suite at a resort in Destin, Florida.

And I absolutely refuse to feel guilty about it.

Why?

Because it’s great for my personal and professional development.

I have a husband whom I trust completely with our three children.

Everyone will be alive and well when I return home. After a week, they won’t even remember I left in the first place.

And I would have a lot more regrets if I’d chosen not to attend.

So while I acknowledge that mom guilt is definitely a real thing, I’m also declaring it only as powerful as we allow it to be.

So before my trip, I decided to kick mom guilt to the curb in four easy steps.

  1. It’s easier said than done, but stating that you refuse to let guilt take over is the first step. Like most things in life, it’s a choice.
  2. Address why you felt it in the first place. For me, it was the idea of asking my husband to step up one more time right before leaving town.
  3. Find a way around it and make your own reality. I could have filled my day with housework and packing, and then been upset about my ugly feet later. I could have resented my husband for “not letting me go” even though I’d never asked. Instead, I ditched the housework, waited until the older kiddos were napping {aka pretending to sleep while quietly destroying their bedrooms} and took the baby with me to the nail salon.
  4. Give yourself grace. Did I get to every single thing on my list before heading out of town? No. But it’s been a week and I still haven’t. But I did give myself a pat on the back for doing something I normally wouldn’t have done for myself and for feeling really good about it. For the record, my toes look fabulous, the baby slept the entire time we were at the salon, and my husband barely noticed I’d left the house, let alone the remaining chores.

Mom guilt, be gone!

Who’s with me?

Go out and be an awesome mother, wife, colleague and friend. Just please remember to fasten your own oxygen mask first.

When you’re done having babies

Dear mama,

You are done having babies.

I know part of you is really sad about this.

The oldest two are hardly babies anymore, and your newborn is no longer a newborn. Time sure seems to speed up with each child, doesn’t it?

You’ve breathed in every moment with this precious last one and I know you’ll continue to cherish these early years.

I know part of you is really sad about this, but I also know that part of you is a little relieved.

Pregnancy was never very fun for you. It’s okay to feel a little excited even now that you can kiss the days of constant nausea goodbye.

In fact, you can say goodbye to those maternity clothes, too. Sure, they were comfy, but they just remind you of back pain, heartburn and hovering over the toilet.

So go on. Find an expecting first-time mom and just give them to her with a knowing smile. The same way they were passed down to you.

And it’s okay if you’re not quite ready to get rid of any baby clothes just quite yet. You hold on to them as long as you need to. I know there will be times when you ache for the days of snuggling up with a newborn.

Just don’t get any ideas, because you are done having babies.

It’s almost funny to think about how quickly this all happened.

From the moment you got married, people have been asking when you’d start having kids.

As soon as you birthed that first sweet baby, those same well-meaning folks were asking when she’d get a brother or sister.

And then the questions stopped.

But your baby itch did not.

Do you remember when you started telling people you were pregnant with number three? They start to look at you like you’re nuts!

Today, you are officially outnumbered and yet your hands feel as full as your heart does.

And it feels good.

You truly feel as though your family is complete.

But just remember, while you’re done having babies, you have a lot more parenting to do.

Stay strong, mama.

Welcoming my last baby

last baby

Unless you are personal friends with me on Facebook, you may be wondering where in the world I’ve been these last few months.

You know I was expecting and that my business was taking off. But to be gone for so long, because of a baby and some new clients?

I’ll have plenty to say on all of that later this week…

Today I just want to share with you all the feels over welcoming the newest addition to our family, our rainbow baby, and our last baby, Audrey Mae.

last baby

Yesterday this sweet little girl turned one month old.

And I cried all of the tears.

Such a milestone might not seem like that big of a deal, but for this mom of three, it’s huge.

When our oldest, Daphne, was one month old I was barely coming out of the new motherhood fog. Luckily, she was an easy baby, so most of our adjustments didn’t come with a side of sleep deprivation. Every day with this baby with new and exciting, because everything we experienced with her was a first.

After Henry arrived, the first few weeks were a bit chaotic, but the days of midnight diaper changes and on-demanding feeding with his sister weren’t so far behind us so it was a bit like relearning to ride a bike. This middle-child-to-be had plenty of firsts, too. It turns out, boys and girls are very different. By one month, we were finally starting to hit our stride with juggling two.

But with Audrey, things are different.

Because with my last baby, I won’t just be celebrating her firsts.

I’m also mourning the lasts.

Yesterday was the last time a baby of mine will turn one month old!

last baby

It’s so hard to believe, because I remember her being born like it was yesterday.

She decided she was ready in the early hours of the morning and woke me up. After a shower {clean!} and a quick bite to eat {fuel!}, we made it to the hospital.

We didn’t actually know that she was a she at the time. For our final love bug, my husband and I decided that since we were already equipped with the clothing and gear for a boy or a girl, we elected to keep this one a surprise {which ended up being much easier than this planner had anticipated, and totally worth the wait}.

I had a hunch this little nugget would be exactly what big sister wanted, another girl. For starters, I was extra sick this pregnancy which landed me in the emergency room, just like with big sister. The final icing on the cake was once we were admitted to the hospital, our L&D nurse’s name was Jacqueline, which was my front-running girl name going into the hospital. If that wasn’t a sign!

Dad refused to commit to a gender guess. {I think he just didn’t want to be wrong…}

I had already labored to the finish line by the time I was able to get an epidural, so within 15 minutes the doctor and nurses had flooded into the room for the big finish.

With the pain relief kicking in, I can truly say I enjoyed the delivery. It cracks me up now, but I was holding conversations with the people in the room between the three rounds of pushes until we finally got to meet our – surprise! – girl.

You know how when you get married everyone tells you to try to slow down and enjoy the moment, because it will go by so quickly? That is exactly what I did when my last baby was born. I noticed who was in the room and watched my husband as he gazed down at our newborn. I looked the doctors and nurses in the eyes and thanked them silently. Then I finally held my tiny creation, this amazing miracle I had grown and delivered into the world, and breathed in every ounce of my new daughter. And I cried.

After looking at our precious baby, we felt she was already our Audrey, as if she had named herself! Her middle name didn’t come quite as quickly. In fact, if it weren’t for birth certificate paperwork we may still be deciding!

Big sister’s middle name is her Godmother’s middle name, and big brother’s middle name is his grandfather’s name. Not wanting to stray from the family ties, we settled on Mae….my mother’s grandmother’s name and a true Matriarch.

last baby siblings

In most mommy circles, “baby brain” is a real deal thing. And the more kids we have, the worse it seems to get!

I know I won’t always be so observant, so present to take it all in.

And unlike the firsts that seem to be so obvious, it’s easy to forget to slow down and cherish the lasts.

Happy one month to my sweet girl, my last baby!

{All images courtesy of Haven Photography}

My Pregnancy after Miscarriage

pregnancy after miscarriage

This month I received a sobering reminder that it’d been one year since my miscarriage.

Usually my Facebook memories oscillate between semi-embarrassing college posts and photos of my two children. But when last year’s announcement that we had lost our baby at 12 weeks popped up, I sort of went numb.

I couldn’t bring myself to reread it, let alone the hundred plus comments that followed.

As I sat there not reading but no longer scrolling through my newsfeed, I thought about just how much can change in a year.

It took a year to get pregnant with my daughter, our first child.

I peed on so many sticks that year, praying for a plus sign, only to start my period an hour later. I remember how devastating it was each time to know that I would have to wait an entire month just to go through it all over again.

And then, twelve months after we first started trying and the day after a trip to my OBGYN to discuss our options, I got a plus sign.

My pregnancy wasn’t easy. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum a la Kate Middleton. I was hospitalized for dehydration and had to take anti-nausea medicine well into my third trimester just to keep some food and water down.

The labor and delivery wasn’t much prettier, but 23 hours later I was holding my beautiful little girl.

Unlike the year of infertility and excruciating pregnancy, my daughter’s first year of life flew by in an instant. And not long after she turned one, my husband and I were thrilled to find out we were pregnant again.

Sickness ensued.

This pregnancy seemed much harder, because it turns out that running after a one-year-old while trying to swallow your vomit is pretty gross. And yet, I cherished those nine months more than I had the first time, because, no longer a rookie parent, my heart ached in loving anticipation for this second blessing coming my way.

My son was born 4 days before my daughter’s second birthday.

So much can change in a year.

The summer after my son turned one we took a family trip. Somehow in a hotel room with two napping toddlers, my husband and I found a way to get frisky. A few weeks later that plus sign popped up once more – but this time it was met with surprise, and right on schedule a few weeks later, extreme morning sickness.

As much as this third baby was unexpected, I quickly became attached and enjoyed making plans for our party of five. Unable to hide my nausea, I let family, friends and work know about our growing family.

It was at my first doctor’s appointment at 12 weeks that we learned there was no longer a heartbeat.

Even with my husband by my side, I have never felt so alone.

For months after the miscarriage, I wouldn’t even talk about having another baby with my husband. The idea of putting my body through another pregnancy to end up without a baby again was too much to consider.

A family of four we were meant to be, I told myself. I would try to convince myself that I shouldn’t feel so devastated, because I was fortunate enough to have my two babies at home. I constantly reminded myself again how lucky I was.

The truth is, my pep-talks weren’t working, and the months that followed didn’t get any easier. And a friend and neighbor’s growing belly was a constant reminder of what I was no longer meant to have.

As my precious lost baby’s due date approached, my emotions were unpredictable and almost unbearable. The whole experience had been so personal, and while my husband offered boundless support, I continued to feel incredibly alone.

My kids celebrated their second and fourth birthdays just weeks after we were supposed to welcome baby number three. I thought I had gained closure after the due date had passed, until two months later we were shocked to learn we were pregnant again.

I should have been thrilled! Elated! Or, at the very least, I should have felt something, right?

Yet from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve felt completely detached.

I have no doubt that this has been my heart’s way of protecting itself. What if something goes wrong again? If I’m not emotionally attached surely it won’t hurt so badly.

Just like clockwork, I started throwing up at 6 weeks. Other than the fact that I struggled to keep food down all summer, I nearly forgot that another baby was coming.

At my first doctor’s appointment, it took the nurse forever to find a heartbeat and I didn’t even flinch.

How had I become so cold and shut off? Was I a bad mom? When was I actually going to care about this baby?

And then a few weeks ago I started feeling those familiar flutters. The flutters grew into movements. The movements grew into kicks and elbows that I can not only feel but witness as this baby grows inside of me.

My mind is beginning to ease. My heart is filling. And – thank goodness – my expanding stomach is no longer nauseated.

By the beginning of 2017 we will welcome a new baby into our family. Unlike with my first two, this time we decided not to find out the gender. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter. We are ready to become our party of five. And I can finally say I’m excited for all of the changes that will come with the new year.

3 things to try this summer

things to try this summer

I’ve already seen the back to school tax-free weekend signs popping up in stores around town. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to throw in the beach towel quite yet.

With several weeks left to take advantage of these hot sunny days with the kids home, I wanted to share my 3 summer discoveries. {Bonus: the first two were created by working moms.} I hope you find a few new things to try this summer!

things to try this summer jl childress car organizer

Hit the road

Summertime means road trips for a lot of families. We were no exception this year with our 12 hour drive to our new home in Texas. There’s no way we would have survived the trek without two things. First, a portable DVD player stocked with all of the Disney Jr. favorites. Second, this Backseat Butler Car Organizer.

The car organizer from J.L. Childress {you met the co-owners back in June} has a lot going for it. It’s the perfect size with just the right amount of pockets for tucking away books and baby wipes. The main compartment is huge and stores plenty of toys and activities to keep kids busy. The two cup holders are a lifesaver in my SUV where typically neither kid can reach their drinks while strapped into their carseats.

My only con for this road trip essential was that it’s designed to sit on a bench seat. We tried to strap it to the cooler in between the bucket seats, but my son always found a way to take it off every hundred miles!

Take a hike

After spending nearly a week inside our new house in Houston unpacking, my family got stir crazy. Desperate for social interaction with the outside world, we hit up a park nearby where we bumped into several families finishing a walk together. Thanks to Hike it Baby these group family outings are happening everyday all over the world.

It’s no surprise this organization was started by a mom looking to get out of her house with her newborn son. It has grown into an international community, many offering multiple meet ups every single day.

With so many options there’s never an excuse not to get out and enjoy some fresh air. And not only is Hike It Baby a great way to get your family outdoors this summer {and all year long}, but you’ll likely make some new friends and explore some new places along the way!

Go Green, Go Deep

e-cloth-deep-clean-mop-free-mamaWhen I found out I was pregnant earlier this summer I had to make some changes. No more changing the kitty litter. No more heavy lifting. And no more chemicals. These last two were especially tough as we attempted to keep our Kansas City home clean for showings and began packing.

Then I came across the Deep Clean Mop from e-cloth. It’s super light and is so flexible it can practically lay flat to reach under low tables and couches. Plus, I can go from my tile kitchen to my wood floors with the same product and all I need is water. Yup, the fibers remove over 99% of all bacteria and dirt your kids and pets track in without using any chemicals.

The best part is that you can have one too! Tell me about something amazing you discovered this summer in the comments and be entered to win a Deep Clean Mop of your own.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post. I received free products from J.L. Childress and e-cloth in exchange for a review.

Why I am announcing I’m pregnant in the first trimester

announcing pregnant first trimester

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write something of my own. I’ve had a couple of fantastic Working Mom Wednesday interviews over the last month (like this one and that one), but with so much going on lately it’s been hard to find an inspirational moment.

First, there’s the move to Texas. Between getting our house ready to sell and finding a place to live in Houston {and everything that goes along with getting us from point A to point B}, it’s a wonder my head hasn’t spun off. And on top of it all, my husband had to leave to start his job five weeks ago so I’ve been surviving as a single parent for a month {hats off to my single mamas; I don’t know how you do it!}.

But if I’m honest, all of the stress that comes with packing and moving isn’t what’s kept me away from writing.

The truth is, I haven’t been feeling like myself lately.

And that’s because I’m pregnant!

If you knew me during my last three pregnancies, you know that my body absolutely despises growing another human being {think Kate Middleton, without the press coverage}.

Well, this pregnancy has been no different and two weeks ago I landed myself in the Emergency Room due to dehydration from excessive vomiting. {Thank you to my parents for stepping in to watch the kids and sit with me at the hospital!}

It’s hardly been ideal timing with the move, but after the loss of our last baby I’m finding it much easier to be grateful for the cards we’ve been dealt during this time of transition. Plus, maybe we’re getting all of the craziness for the year out of the way all at once, right?!

As I write this, I’m 10 weeks pregnant. Most smells makes me gag and I can smell literally everything. Changing Henry’s diapers is the worst. Mornings are horrible, but evenings are pretty brutal too. As long as I stay on top of my anti-nausea medication and keep food {whatever I can handle} in my belly, the days are tolerable at best. I go to bed with my toddlers at 7:30 p.m. and I’m secretly hoping this January due-date baby makes a New Year’s Eve appearance, because, insurance.

Why am I telling you this? Why would I announce my pregnancy in the first trimester, before I’ve so much as heard a heart beat?

Because I sort of suck right now

I want you to know that I’m pregnant, because I don’t feel very good. This means I may not have the energy to be super friendly all the time – or any of the time. I probably don’t want to schedule a playdate, I definitely don’t want to go to a restaurant and I may not even get back to you in my usually prompt manner. My moodiness will pass when the morning sickness subsides, but until then I just want you to know it’s me, not you.

Because I need you right now

There’s a really good chance that once you find out I’m pregnant {and moving with two small children and no husband} that you’ll offer to help me. And there’s a 100% chance that I will take you up on your offer. I’m exhausted and completely drained of any sense of pride. I literally couldn’t have survived the last few weeks without the help of some amazing neighbors, my best friends and my parents. I promise to return the favor some day.

Because I may really need you

Only time will tell where this pregnancy will lead us. It may be another boy to bunk up with big brother Henry some day. It may be another outgoing girl to give Daphne {and mom} a run for her money. Or, heaven forbid, we may not be so lucky. If a miscarriage were to happen to us again, I would definitely need the emotional support of my family and friends to get us through another loss. If I know now I would want to share such a low point with you, why wouldn’t I want to also share the excitement of finding out we’re pregnant, too?

Because I’m excited

If you’ve ever struggled with fertility {or even if you haven’t} you know that for most of us baby-making isn’t as easy as they make it look on Teen Mom. I’m thrilled to add another Golden nugget to the family roster and I can’t wait to share my excitement with others! One thing is true for all moms-to-be, you need to do whatever makes you comfortable. If it gives you peace of mind to wait until you’re out of your first trimester to share the news, by all means wait. Everyone you love will be overjoyed no matter when you make the announcement.

If you’re like me and wear your emotions on your sleeves, do you follow the norm and postpone the baby news or are you quick to announce the stork is coming?

Why I’m not buying my kids birthday presents

It’s a big week in our house. My son Henry turns two years old tomorrow and on Saturday my daughter will be four. This weekend we’re throwing a joint birthday party {something I intend to do for as long as I can get away with it}.

Daphne is incredibly excited. She keeps going over the guest list at the dinner table and has already brainstormed where she’d like to host next year’s birthday party {at home} and her 17th birthday party {at Gymboree…I’ll be sure to remind her of that when she’s seventeen…}.

birthday party

Ever since Daphne’s first birthday {an over the top ONEderland theme complete with a professional photographer and the photos to to prove it}, I’ve made a pretty big fuss over my kids’ birthdays. {Although this year I did decide to trade in the DIY house party for a venue rental. It’s a tad more expensive, but way worth the time I’m saving not cutting out Etsy bought theme designs.}

I have no doubt that this year will be something she’ll continue to talk about for a long time. Bowling, balloons and a birthday cake {that she picked out} with friends is a pretty big deal for a little kid!

As much as I love a good celebration with family and friends, I far from splurge when it comes to the presents. We already have a house full of too many toys. As a mom, I’m in the business of making memories. That doesn’t happen over a bunch of stuff, it happens when we do stuff together.

Birthdays are no exception! In fact, they are the perfect opportunity to create those Insta moments you’ll be talking about years down the road. Here are my tips for making the most of your kids’ birthday presents….or lack thereof.

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Daphne {3} and Henry {1} at their Toy Story themed bash last year.

Buy Experiences Not Things

Have you ever been home with a bored kid? It’s the worst. They become whiney and needy and you’re looking around at a mountain of toys wondering how boredom is even possible. It’s because they need something to do.

Research has been telling us for years that spending money on new experiences yields more happiness than spending it on new products. It isn’t a new concept, but for some reason I think we have a more difficult time applying it to young kids.

In lieu of gifts for Christmas and their birthdays this year, we’ve opted for a Wonderscope membership and zoo membership. Then the important part is to get out there are actually use them. I feel happier already!

Ditch the “No Gifts Please”

Have you ever gotten an invitation to a birthday party or shower that says “no gifts please” or “your presence is present enough” on it? {Guilty of sending, BTW!} While it may be incredibly well intentioned, it can be confusing or even stressful for your guests.

When it comes time for the event, you have the rule followers strolling up to the door next to the etiquette police with a perfectly wrapped package in tow and suddenly the empty handers feel badly.

The reality is, people like to bring gifts! And, truth be told, no one wants to be the only one showing up without one. I say, let them.

Teach Gratitude

Since you have all of these thoughtful friends coming with gifts, you have the perfect opportunity to teach your little birthday darling how to be appreciative. First, start with basic manners. No matter what anyone says, hand written thank you notes have not gone out of style.

Second, consider using the presents as leverage to purge some of the gently used toys collecting dust around your house. Allow your children to be a part of the process. They can help decide which items get donated and even go with you to drop them off at a local charity.

I’m looking forward to splurging on donuts for breakfast tomorrow morning with Henry before heading to the zoo for his big day. While my now two year old may not recall every detail, I still know our family’s birthday week memories will last longer than the four minutes he would have spent playing with a new toy before tossing it aside.

What do you think of the rising trend of “no gift” and charitable gift parties?

My miscarriage story: I’ll always remember you

miscarriage due date

This Thursday is the due date of my miscarried baby.

When you’re pregnant, your growing belly is an obvious indicator for the people in your life to check up on you. How are you feeling? Getting any sleep? Are you ready?

But when you lose your baby, there’s no easy way for those closest to you to remember an important day is approaching.

For nearly a month now, I’ve felt nothing short of emotionally unstable. Even the quickest thought about my baby will leave me in tears.  I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve felt anxious and ready for the due date to come and go, hoping that with it some of my grief will also finally pass.

I remember taking the pregnancy test at my parent’s house. I was dropping off my kids so my husband and I could go on a quick weekend getaway. I was bouncing around the bathroom just feet away from my entire family trying to keep quiet while I waited.

I remember smiling after registering the pink plus sign, and then feeling so proud of myself for keeping it a secret from my family while I said my goodbyes before heading out to pick up my husband from work and hit the road.

I didn’t tell him the entire three hour drive. I thought about it a million times, but this was pretty big news and I honestly wasn’t sure how he was going to react. The last thing I wanted was for him to drive off the road. While we had been talking about baby number three for a little while, we were intending to wait until our other kids were a bit older.

I remember his reaction when I turned down a margarita {my favorite} when we went out to dinner later that evening. I told him to drink up, because he was set with a designated driver for another nine months. He laughed. He asked if I was kidding. Then he shuffled between excitement and panic throughout dinner before settling on genuine happiness. It didn’t take us long to start throwing out baby name ideas.

I remember the first time I woke up and ran to the toilet to vomit. Just like my two other pregnancies, morning sickness came early and aggressively. I quickly got back on my anti-nausea meds that I was all too used to and settled into a routine of puking and rallying to head to work or chase my kids.

I remember my neighbor coming over after work with her two kids so that our children could play together and she could supervise while I lay on the couch trying not to throw up on myself. I was so happy that I had someone I could count on when my husband wasn’t home.

I remember when I stopped being able to make food for my family because the odor was unbearable for my pregnant nose.

I remember thinking it was amazing that my husband had to take care of our kitties’ litter box. It was a small consolation prize for all of the vomiting I was doing.

I remember when I called to make my first doctor’s appointment and found out that they no longer accepted our insurance. I was incredibly frustrated. This was my third child. The last thing I wanted to do was start over with someone new. What choice did I have?

I remember the doctor’s appointment like it was yesterday. It was my first time at a new OBGYN. It was supposed to be a 12-week check up. I was feeling pukey, but fine. Within the first few minutes of meeting me, the doctor had to give me the worst news of my life. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I felt worse for her or me.

I remember thinking how crazy it was that my husband had made accommodations at work to be at that appointment with me. He went to maybe three other appointments between our daughter and son, and most likely just for the ultrasounds. But for some reason, he was with me to receive the devastating news. I remember being so thankful that I didn’t have to sit in the room by myself. Or drive home.

I remember struggling to decide if I wanted the baby to pass naturally or if I wanted to have the procedure done. How was I supposed to decide something like that? What way would you like to lose your baby? Quickly or slowly? Risky or messy? I remember thinking that it was the worst day of my life. I felt sorry for myself. I finally decided to have the procedure. I wasn’t going to begin any sort of healing process with the baby still inside of me. I couldn’t change what had happened. I wanted to move on. My husband called the doctor for me and scheduled an appointment for the following morning.

I remember my three-year-old cuddling with me in bed. She cried with me and asked if she could touch my tummy and say goodbye to the baby. She told the baby she loved him. I’ve never been so amazed by my daughter – her maturity and empathy – as I was that night.

I remember not sleeping. I was scared for the surgery. I was nervous about something going wrong and thought of my two beautiful, healthy children being without their mom.

I remember being surrounded by women. My doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist. All women. Several of them grabbed my hand as if it to say they’ve been there. It will be okay. It was overwhelming.

I remember giving my baby a gender and a name. I talked to my husband about it. We understood that we both needed to grieve in our own ways and that naming our baby was a connection that made the loss more difficult for him. It made it easier for me, more personal, so I keep it to myself. It’s just between me and my baby.

I remember going back to my parent’s house after the surgery so that I could rest. Like my pregnancy, my miscarriage became incredibly public. Not because of any decisions I felt liked I’d intentionally made, but when you’re as sick as I am during pregnancy it’s pretty hard to keep hidden for long. Just days before my doctor appointment, I finally put our pregnancy out there on social media, but it was hardly news to anyone at that point. I sat in the dark in the guest room of my parent’s house composing an email to my coworkers. I shared the email on my Facebook page. It wasn’t news I wanted to share for my own benefit. I was trying to prevent an awkward foot-in-mouth moment for everyone in my life.

I remember going outside to play with my kids that afternoon when I got home. Surprisingly, my nausea and exhaustion subsided immediately after the procedure. I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

In the days that followed, I received hundreds of private messages, phone calls, emails and text messages. Dozens of women reached out to offer sympathy or even share their own miscarriage stories with me. Some I knew about and others were complete surprises. It was strangely comforting to not feel so alone. As my mom said, “it’s a really big club, but one I’d hoped you would never have had to join.”

I remember secretly wishing that people would stop saying things like, “God has a plan for you” or “everything happens for a reason.” The truth is, while I’ve attempted to console friends with those same cliches, I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. I wanted to be sad. And angry. And confused. I wanted someone to say, “this totally sucks.” I didn’t want any reasoning. An explanation wasn’t going to bring back my baby.

I remember thinking that life is uncertain. All of the plans we had made for the new baby over the months we knew about him shifted out of view. This lack of control gave me an inexplicable amount of courage; I quit my job the next week. {Something I had been thinking about for months but was too afraid to do until the timing was “right.”}

I remember the first time I brought up my miscarriage casually during a conversation with friends. I could see them growing uncomfortable, shifting eye contact or body language, not sure how to respond. But I still did it. It helped me to acknowledge what had happened.

I remember the first time I felt simultaneously happy and heartbroken. With each baby announcement or gender reveal photo that pops up on social media, my body aches a little bit and I wonder what if my baby’s story had played out like that. It’s strange when someone else’s joy can bring you joy and pain, but I’m getting used to feeling it.

I remember when I got to hold my neighbor’s new baby for the first time not even a month ago. We told each other we were expecting at the same time last summer. We were supposed to go through out pregnancies together, our babies’ births together and all of the milestones to follow. Except I won’t. Her son is healthy and beautiful and I am so happy for her. But it also reminds me that I am sad for me.

Throughout the last seven months, I’ve come full circle. I had stopped crying every day and now I cry every day again. In the months in between, there were even some days with the chaos of day to day life that I didn’t think about my miscarriage at all.

It really had gotten easier, but then my due date crept closer. The day that would remind me of the baby that I’d lost. The baby that I will always remember.