Sleep, wellness, and changes

Jun 19, 2015

Making changes isn't easy. But it's also hard not really feeling good about yourself and wishing you felt better physically every day. Which one wins out in the end is up to me. Patience to change is hard. I'm a do-it-now and quick-results kind of girl, so implementing small changes over a long period of time is almost like torture at times. 

The changes I need to make regarding physical wellness have been more evident these past few weeks. What started as an opportunity to review a Jawbone UPMOVE has turned into a jumpstart to getting back on a path of wellness. This week, it has helped me see how little sleep I'm getting. I enjoy checking in on my stats in the morning to see how the night went. The average amount of sleep for the last two weeks has been 5 hours. 5 hours! Many nights it's been less time and I'm feeling it! 

Now let's face it, I'm a mom of a toddler and infant. Sleep is finicky around here. While I can't help what happens between bedtime and the morning, there are a few variables I can control. 

1. Start my routine early.
A lot of times I skip my bedtime routine and get straight under the sheets. Taking time to wind down and take care of my skin in the process would contribute to wellness. 

2. Getting to bed at a reasonable time
Hard to do some nights, but most nights I choose chores over getting into bed earlier. My goal now is to try to get in bed by ten. 

3. Putting down the electronics.
There is study after study talking about the negative health impacts going to sleep browsing your phone. I'm so guilty! I end up staying up way later than I actually get into bed. My goal now is to limit my time on my phone and leave it on the nightstand instead of on the bed/under my pillow. 

4. Take a magnesium supplement
Magnesium is vital to the functions of the body, one of those being sleep! 

My type-A personality needs somewhere to log all of that, and my Upmove is the perfect place. One of my favorite features of the racker allows me to keep track of sleeping and waking times, as well as light and heavy sleeping through the night. Also, the Smart Coach feature gives me suggestions, like what time to go to bed to meet my goals or how many hours I would need to sleep to beat my time from the previous day. 

I used to be able to sleep on mere hours a day, but lately I've suffered at the hand of sleep depravity and I'm going to do what I can to change that. Habits can be changed and change starts with awareness. I think the hardest part will be putting my phone down instead of browsing late into the night. I'm motivated to move towards physical wellness and I'm glad I've got the resources to help me with that. 

In what ways could you improve your sleep habits? What resources do you use to help keep track of your goals and accomplishments?

This blog post was sponsored by Jawbone, but all experiences were genuine. 

10 Father's Day Gifts for the Crunchy Dad

Jun 16, 2015

Father's Day has always been special to celebrate with my own dad, but now that we get to celebrate Michael it's even extra special. He's an amazing dad and we'd be here all day if I listed all the things we love about him. I often look online for gift ideas, but there aren't many suggestions for the hobbies and lifestyle the dad in our house might enjoy. Have a guy who loves the outdoors or lives a more natural lifestyle? Here are a few ideas under $100! 
1. Coffee Grinder - nothing like a cup of coffee with fresh ground coffee that you put some love into! If your guy is as picky about his coffee as ours is, he'll enjoy grinding his own quality beans. 

2. A monthly subscription to Dollar Shave Club - affordable 4 or 5 blade razors delivered every month to keep a close shave and ensure he won't run out when he needs them! 

3. Fermentation Crock and The Art of Fermentation Guide - he can start a huge batch of Kombucha in his own kitchen! 

4. Rite in the Rain waterproof notebooks are awesome for journaling or observation notes while in the elements. 

5. Wisdom Woodsy Beard Oil, to keep his beard maintained and moisturized. 

6. Beer Making Kit for getting creative at home. 

7. Hydro Flask Insulated Stainless Steel water bottle, for chemical free drinking with a lightweight bottle.

8. Chaco Sandals - perfect for warmer summer weather! 

9. Local gift cards - coffee shops, restaurants for a future date night, or even activity vouchers! 

10. Outdoor date - grab your guy and surprise him with a couples' row down the river or a hike to a local waterfall. 

I hope some of these are inspiration for you for the crunchy dad in your life. We're thankful for all the awesome dads we know and are excited to celebrate them. What are you doing for the awesome dads in your life this Father's Day?

Back On Track

Jun 11, 2015

Sometimes, I'm a slacker. I'll admit it. I'm not a natural-born exerciser. I love baked goods too darn much. And as a mom of a toddler and an infant, I don't even set an alarm. They are my alarm and it usually sounds like, "Maaaaa-maaaaa" from down the hall. If I'm being totally honest, I haven't had a good workout in a year and a half.  I gained 40 pounds during my pregnancy with Abe and the last 25 have been hanging around like my bff

And you know, it's not even really the number on the scale that I worry too much about. It's more about how I feel. And I feel tired and sluggish and bloated and frustrated that nothing fits, and that fans the flame of feelings about myself that aren't so positive. 

I got to thinking about what it is that I'd really like to change. And I decided...I'd like to be stronger. I'd like to be healthier. I'd like my clothes to fit well. I'd like to make wiser food choices. I'd like to be on the move more. I'd like to get more sleep. I'd like to have better habits.  And I realized all those things can be done with some effort and a little help. 

When Jawbone contacted me to review their newest fitness tracker, the Up Move, I realized this was a perfect opportunity to make some changes. To be honest, I'd never heard of it before and was amazed when I researched it further. I was even more impressed when it came in the mail. 

The Up Move tracks steps taken, logs hours of sleep (deep and light), allows you to set specific goals, and includes a meal tracker. My favorite part is Smart Coach, a feature that keeps track of all of your data and makes logical suggestions on the app and via email for ways to improve on reaching your goals. For a mom of two small little guys who barely has time to shower in the morning, it's a bonus to have something tailored to my busy day. 

 The strap is super light and comfortable. The tracker itself is the small, battery-operated inner circle and can be taken out and put into a cute little waist clip for less obvious tracking. I immediately downloaded the app and learned how to set the tracker mode. It was super simple and uses a circular dashed-lighting to let me know where I'm at.

10,000 steps a day was my goal for walking. I didn't think it sounded like a lot. Um, a super long and challenging mommy day didn't come close to meeting that goal! It helped me come back to reality on my level of movement during the day. Because of that info I'm able to check progress throughout the day. I find it fun to try to "beat" my goal and look for creative ways to get moving - taking a stroll at the park with the stroller, walking around the mall, parking farther away. 

Sleep is another issue around here. By the end of the day I'm exhausted but have had hardly any time to myself to read, catch up on a show, or even just finish up a chore. I end up staying up way too late, but had myself convinced that I was getting enough sleep! I wore the wristband to bed and the first night I was shocked to learn that I only got 4 hours and 53 minutes of sleep. I opened up my app the next morning and not only did I not get enough sleep, my deep sleep was minimal. Being aware of this has me attempting earlier bed times and putting my phone away instead of staying up browsing. 

And food. It's a love-hate relationship. I love all the things that are bad for me and don't crave the things I know are good. When I've had success in the past it's been with keeping track of what I've eaten and being organized. I love that the UP app includes a food tracker and that everything I need is all in one app. 
At the end of the day, for me to create change, I've got to do it big. My body and mind need a shock to wake up and get my stuff together. Because of that I've got a little plan to get back on track and improve my health and wellness.

1. Boot Camp
Here's the kicker. It starts at 6:30am and happens 3x a week. I'm crazy, I know, but it's what works for me at this stage of motherhood. Michael agreed to leave a little later for work and stay with the boys until I get back. This morning he even had breakfast ready for me before he left for work. What a keeper.

2. Organization & Tracking 
This type-A, list-maker mama is loving using my Jawbone Up Move to track food, sleep, steps, and activity. Being aware is the first step to making change and I'm hoping that by being more in tune to what goes on with my body that I'll be more likely to make better choices.

I'm excited and would love to chronicle my journey back to a healthier me. This week I'll be tracking steps, sleep, and meals, and working on finding several ways to be active. Check back next Thursday to see how I'm doing! 

On putting down the beach towel...

May 29, 2015

We're finally here! We've been excited about this trip to St. John all year as we've been planning and saving like crazy. M and I went for the first time with his family in 2012 when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Noah. We're so excited to be going back and bringing our two boys with us.

As excited as I am to be here, there's also been a level of dread that has weighed heavy on my shoulders concerning the trip and it's had to do with my weight. My goal? To be pre-baby weight before we left. Before Abe, I had finally lost the weight I had wanted to lose, felt good in my clothes, and was on a bit of a high from actually accomplishing what I set out to do. Now, six months post-partum and I'm 20 pounds...more endowed than I had been pre-Abe. 

I just knew that it could be the best vacation ever if I could get back there, to that body, that size, that feeling. And in the last month or two I've really struggled as I've realized that it just plain old isn't going to happen. I struggle with my sugar intake, I struggle to crave the healthy foods I know all about, I struggle sometimes not to satisfy my sadness with a treat. I'm also breastfeeding. And much to the demise of popular belief, nursing doesn't always mean you shed the pounds. 

So I've been feeling down about this amazing vacation that we've worked so hard for.  In my mind there was no way I was going to enjoy it as much now, I just knew it. I would feel insecure all week, want to hide behind my beach towel, and mope because I don't look like Giselle shimmering in the sun. Or even the more realistic girls in their bikinis on the beach. 

But I think I had a wakeup call the other week after chatting with a friend. My worth, my ability to enjoy everything around me, isn't based on my size. Why would I let that affect my fun? Was I really so self-centered and under control of the expectations of society that I was going to be withdrawn while my boys experienced the beach for the very first time? Would I remember playing in the sand and waves with them or feeling bad about myself all week? I immediately saw my choice, my responsibility to push beyond my insecurity.

 I want to be the mom who builds sand castles, not hides behind her towel on the shore. I want to snorkel with my husband and walk along the beach and get a tan and take my baby into the water...all with an attitude of gratefulness and joy. So this week I'll be smiling, playing with my boys, wearing my coverup a bit less, and using my towel to dry off instead of to hide behind. 

These days...

May 21, 2015

Oh this page. I miss it. I miss writing. I miss reading. I miss enjoying this community here. Lately I've been needing to choose different priorities when I happen upon some free time. Last week a little miracle happened and both boys slept, at the same time, for about an hour, and I was able to write some. 

It's life with small children. I find myself looking forward to the days when Abe is big enough to play with Noah and they can manage a bit more without my entertainment every minute. In the same breath my heart shudders because I know they're getting big, and fast. That's why, most days, I choose to be present over distracted. Or, at the very least, I choose to play or do chores when I could be writing. 

That may sound self-righteous. I don't mean it to be. The truth is, I don't quite have a grasp on my priorities and responsibilities around the house. There are times I have free to sit at the computer, but the laundry calls my name and the dirty floor, too. Slowly but surely, and because of grace, I'm figuring out a little routine on keeping our clothes washed, bellies fed, and home clean. Along with that, I'm seeing a glimmer of hope for this blog. 

Getting my creative juices flowing again would feel fabulous. We have a fun summer ahead of us and I hope to get to share that, and more, on this space. 

If you're a blogger, how do you stay inspired for your blog? How do you come up with original content? If you're a mommy blogger, what's your routine for investing in your blog and making sure your other responsibilities are taken care of, too?

an actual outfit.

Apr 13, 2015

I say actual because these days I don't have a lot that fits or is season (read: hottest weather ever) appropriate. Most of what I wear I wouldn't consider a put-together outfit, but more of an "eh, this works" kind of thing. This past week the boys and I were in Virginia with family while Michael was in Houston for work. My kind mother-in-law offered to watch the boys one morning while I went shopping for that in-betweeen-post-baby wardrobe. One of my favorite parts? Remembering how fast I can run into a store and get back in the car when it's just me. One of my least favorite parts? The clothes. I'm not great at putting outfits together and I don't like shopping alone. While the trip was only semi-successful, I did manage to walk away with a few items I like. 

While visiting family, I was able to go to our cousin Allison's baby shower and finally felt like I had something to wear! I also raided my stylish mom's closet all week. I'm seriously sad that we don't live closer...mostly for her presence, but a bit for her closet, too! 

Top | LOFT
Pants | AE Super Soft Stretch Leggings
Necklace | Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant (thanks, mom!)
Watch | Fossil
Photos courtesy of | my handsome hubs 

It's a simple outfit, but I felt good. Maybe because it was new? The top from Loft is super soft and was on sale for 50% off. I love my Fossil watch. I got it at the Fossil outlet for an amazing price and it's pretty much a staple item for anything I wear, as it goes with more casual outfits but is dressy enough to wear with almost anything. My Lily Jade bag was the perfect addition and super functional. I only had Abe with me at the shower so half the amount of diapers and other items I normally would bring. I left the Mommy Bag at home and used it more as a purse than a diaper bag. 

What's a favorite item you've been wearing lately?

Baby Shower, Homemade Lattes, and Naptime Express

Mar 4, 2015

I'll start with Naptime Express. That's what I call the rides we take right around one o'clock to get Noah still enough to sleep. It works every time. This morning we tried out a home preschool group a friend teaches at her house. We then ate lunch and I drove around a bit longer than normal so Noah would go to sleep. Lots of "Noah, lay your head back and close your eyes" and "Yes, baby, we're on the way home. Now close your eyes". He was so tired but just had to know what was going on. He gets that from me.

All of that to say...a miracle has occurred and as I write this both, yes I mean both, boys are upstairs sleeping. Ah, sweet silence. I'm multi-tasking. I'm blogging and catching up on Walking Dead. Oh, and trying not to dig in the pantry for baking chips. 

This past weekend we went to Virginia for my sister's baby shower. It was so fun working on it with my mom and we had the help of a couple of friends to really pull off a wonderful morning. She's having a girl and I can't wait to meet my niece. It's weird that I've been a mom for a couple years, but never an aunt. It's so special!

My mom was Pinterest-extraordinaire and pulled off a delicious brunch. Meg got tons of amazing stuff for Eleanor and we all enjoyed seeing old friends.

 Once we got back home I was determined to hop back on the better lifestyle train. I have 20 pounds to lose before I'm back to my pre-Abe weight and so far my sugar addiction has been a major roadblock. I was seriously craving an iced Chai tea latte and decided to make my own with honey.

2 Tazo Chai Tea bags
1 C water
3/4 C whole milk or whipping cream (raw would even be better!)

Boil 2 tea bags in 1 C of water. Add milk & honey (I added about 2 tbs honey, only because I wanted it sweeter). Bring to a simmer, pour in your favorite cup, and either drink hot, add ice to drink chilled right away, or let chill in the fridge overnight for a nice morning treat. 

I enjoyed it chilled last night and decided that I would make it in bulk and enjoy it on the way out the door in the mornings!

And there's my cue. A sweet and sleepy "Mama!" from upstairs.

I confess...

Feb 28, 2015

...that I ate 2,000 calories worth of Nutella. In two and a half days.

...that I've done a terrible job at feeding Noah a good breakfast this week.

...that I had a pregnancy scare because breastfeeding hormones and postpartum periods are mean (not that pregnancy is scary or that I wouldn't be happy, I would just be utterly shocked!).

...that I let Noah eat food off the floor at home. It's usually pretty clean, I'm certainly not a germ freak, and a little bacteria is always good, right?

...that I miss having a big bathtub.

...that Michael and I used to go parking when we were teenagers, but would pick the dumbest, most obvious places.

...that I kind of wish I was little again so it would be acceptable to want to eat snow.

...that I once fell UP the stairs at a friend's house, while pregnant, and holding two glasses of water. Thankfully nobody saw me and the water made it out unspilled. 

...that I refuse to wear cotton underwear, and any pair I wear has to have lace somewhere on it. 

...that I was so close to killing my husband for accidentally hitting me in the face with a snowball on Wednesday night. Watch out, bud. I know where you sleep! 

That's it for this week! We're celebrating my sister and Baby Ellie this weekend with a baby shower! Eleanor will be my first ever neice! She's due mid-April and I can't wait to be an aunt for the first time. We're also enjoying the leftover snow and beautiful mountain views here in Virginia. 

What are you up to this weekend?

I confess...

Feb 20, 2015

...that those clothes have been in there, wet, since Tuesday. 

...that I secretly enjoy using the bulb syringe on Abe and getting all. the. boogers. 

...that I have lost my temper with Noah more times than not this week. And I maybe yelled.
 Ok, fine, I did. 

...that I only mop maybe once every month, or two. 

...that I sometimes want to leave both the boys with Michael all day, not so much that I can get a break, but so he can get a taste of my day.  (how kind, right??)

...that I worry too much about saving for my kids' college and paying off our house. Dave Ramsey is the voice in my head.

...that sometimes I let Noah play with the water in the sink and make a huge mess with the soap just to get a break and keep him in one place. I mean, at least some things get clean right?

...that sometimes I have to bribe Noah with youtube videos on my phone to get him to sit still long enough to change his diaper and clothes.

Well, that's enough confessions for today. Funny, most of them had to do with having a two year old. It's hard work, ya'll! 

Before we take off into the weekend, I'd love to have some good reading material. Leave a comment with a link to your favorite post (that you wrote!) from this week! And maybe a confession of your own, if you dare! 

Happy weekending.

Lily Jade

Feb 18, 2015

As moms to little ones, one of the most important things is having something to contain all of the things you need to bring with you when you're out and about. When Noah was younger I could get away with a smaller bag, but it was still usually filled to the top with ALL THE THINGS and I usually had to leave something behind. I also had a hard time finding something that didn't scream "I'm a diaper bag and I'm filled with an entire kit of baby poo hazmat!". The ultimate bag? Something big enough for ALL THE THINGS times TWO....and something that could double as a purse for those nights when this mama gets to go walk around Target sans baby. Okay, and for other fun alone time, too, but let's be honest - mostly for solo shopping trips.

When I came across Lily Jade on Instagram I knew I had found the bag...

Lily Jade was sweet enough to send me Elizabeth in Camel and I fell in love. It's real leather, looks like a purse, is big enough to be a carry-on, and comes with an amazing insert they call the baby bag. The baby bag snaps in place inside and has tons of pockets, heaven for an organizational lover like me. It snaps in for baby mode and snaps out for me time. I love the pop of red both inside the diaper bag itself and the baby bag.

Now onto what this beauty holds and a peek at what's in my bag when it's in baby mode....
 My arsenal includes...

- My wallet
- 2-3 Cloth Diapers
- One medium wet bag
- Travel Case of Wipes
- Diaper changing pad (included!)
- Cash System Envelope Holder
- Small wet bag with change of clothes for Abe
- Dr. Bronner's Hand Sanitizing Spray
- Two moleskin notebooks
- Travel phone charger
- My current read, "Jesus the Gentle Parent"
- two Eos chapsticks
- KidSafe essential oils for car diffusing and roll-on Calming the Child
- Travel EO case
- Two pacifiers
- A pen or two
- Two snack bags
- iPhone

I don't think I had any idea of how many individual items were in my bag! There are two front pockets with magnetic snap closures, two pockets on either end, and deeper pockets on both sides, great for the quick grab! The other thing I love about the bag is that you can wear it several different ways...

My bag has already come in handy all around town. We love our local children's museum and this bag makes it so easy to wear Abe in my sling, carry the bag on my shoulders backpack style, and chase my energetic two year old. It switches modes effortlessly and saves me so much time.  I'm excited to pair it with some Spring outfits and I love that the Camel color goes well with every season. If you can't already tell, I love it!

You can find Lily Jade' site here, as well as on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest. Head to their Instagram page to enter a giveaway for their new navy bag!

currently & the winner!

Feb 17, 2015

feeling | sick of this cold weather. Bring on the shorts, windows open, mornings at the park, a tan, and summer vacation!

making | my first official ring sling and some other baby items with some awesome fabric I got awhile ago. I'm usually not too great with a sewing machine but I'm figuring it out as I go and it's not been terrible.

singing | John Legend's song All of Me and I just keep repeating "You're crazy and I'm out of my mind..".

cooking | with my sweet boy. All he cares about is cracking the eggs and gets so excited when I let him. He helps with everything from cookies to breakfast. But mostly cookies.

planning | to quit making so many cookies every night. I should tape pictures of St. John everywhere for motivation.

trusting | in God's promises of fruit when I follow His lead.

kissing | tiny little baby feet and ears and fingers and checks and noses and bellies.

laughing | at how much I identify with this video!

And now, the winner of two MommyCon Atlanta tickets from the contest last week....

Julie Allsen!

Thanks to all who participated! Excited for another mama to get to go to MommyCon! 

Happy Tuesday! 

weekend hike

Feb 9, 2015

Since moving to Chattanooga, we've discovered all kinds of fun things to do. There's an awesome nature park five minutes from our house with mountain bike trails, running trails, and paved walking paths. Michael takes advantage of their mountain bike trails and has even volunteered hours there repairing some of the washed out trails. Yesterday we took advantage of the warmer temperature and explored some of the running/walking paths in the woods.

It felt good to get some fresh air and exercise and Noah enjoyed finding acorns and other things to throw into the leaves. We didn't have a map of the park so Michael used his phone to get us back to the parking lot when we weren't exactly sure where we were going. We're excited for Spring when we can take the bike trailer back and take Noah and Abe for rides on the paved paths. We love living where there is so much to do, especially outdoors. 

What did you do this weekend?

MommyCon, here we come! {And A MommyCon Giveaway!}

Feb 6, 2015

Right now I'm just bursting at the seams (both literally and figuratively - thanks baby weight!) with excitement! My sister (who is 30 weeks pregnant!) and I are going to MommyCon Atlanta on March 28th! I have wanted to go for a few years now and was never close enough to one to justify the trip. Well, now that we're only 2.5 hours away from Atlanta nothing is stopping this mama! And now I have my sister, best friend, and soon-to-be-mama to go with me! Noah gets to stay home and have a guys weekend with Daddy and Uncle Stephen while Megan, Abe, & I hit the road for day trip. 

If you're lost and thinking, "What the heck is MommyCon?", you're probably not alone. Ever heard of ComicCon? Where tons of nerds fans get together and discuss/celebrate all things comic books? It's kind of like a mom version of that. There will be representatives from major baby brands, everything from cloth diapers to carseats to wraps and carriers. 

From their website:
"MommyCon is a boutique style convention dedicated to bringing modern parents and mothers-to-be together. Our focus is on natural and organic parenting methods and timeless tidbits as we journey through parenthood together. Our seminars and workshops include; babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, car seat safety, natural health and medicine, baby gear, childproofing and so much more! We end our day with amazing giveaways and each attendee gets a gift bag from our sponsors."
There will also be special sessions throughout the day during which speakers like Jessica Martin-Weber (affectionately known otherwise as The Leaky Boob lady!), The Baby Guy NYC (car seat and baby gear expert), and Jen Labit, the founder of Cotton Babies. 

Some of the sessions I'm most excited to go to at the ATL event? 

Rewind, Rewire, and Refresh with Mindful Parenting with the Co-Founders of Attachment Parenting International...

Wrapping 101 put on by Tekhni and Ergobaby...

(don't laugh) Turning Red to Green: A Menstruation Workshop on Making the Switch to Reusables, presented by DivaCup...

and Giveaways with The Baby Guy NYC (so looking forward to that!).

I'm also really excited about seeing some of the newest products out there for mamas, testing out some fun new stuff, and coming home with TONS of free goodies. It will be so fun to be there with my sister and share that experience together, as well as meet lots of other like-minded parents. 

Each event has a slightly different schedule, with some appearances by Dr. Bob Sears, Alana Morisette, and Jamie Lynne Grummet of I Am Not the Babysitter. There are also VIP sessions that are extra on top of your regular admittance ticket. I've heard they go fast but you usually walk away with something worth way more than the extra cost! 

Have more questions? Head to their FAQ page to find out more!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention one tiny detail... I applied to be a MommyCon blogger and I was accepted! Which means I can give my readers $5 off a regular MommyCon ticket (not applicable to pre-sale!), provide awesome coverage through IG the day-of, get to wear a "press" badge, and provide awesome info for you once I get back! 

Curious if there's a MommyCon near you this year? Here are the locations and dates...

Chicago - February 21st
Atlanta - March 28th
Minneapolis - April 18th
Orlando - May 23rd
Washington DC - August 22nd
Columbus- September 19th
Newport Beach - November 14th
Seattle -  November 21st

Any of those near you? Click HERE, find your location, and use the code KELSEA15 for $5 off your ticket! There is no limit for the code so share with your friends, too! 

You can keep up with our trip on Instagram using the hashtag, #sistersrockmommycon!

Have you ever been to a MommyCon event? 

The awesome people from MommyCon were gracious enough to give me two tickets to giveaway to MommyCon ATLANTA on March 28th! Maybe you're close enough to drive up for the weekend? Or maybe you've been looking for an excuse to have a weekend away with some girlfriends or your spouse and Atlanta sounds like a fun destination? You have opportunity to earn up to four entries in the drawing for two tickets! Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends Tuesday, February 17th! 

boys, plural!

Feb 4, 2015

Adding a second child to our little family has been absolutely wonderful, but not without its challenges and adjustments. There's just something about being mom to brothers. I will often watch them together and dream about how much fun they'll have when Abe is a bit older. And I'll admit, I also dream about the day when I can send them both outside to play together! I like to think about what friends they'll hopefully be as they become adults. Someone once said what a gift it was to give your child a sibling and I think that is so true. 

I think the biggest change is that Michael and I are both busy with the boys. Michael has always been amazing and helpful, but one of us would always get a break. We'd swap out bath time and bed time and be able to have some free time in the evening while the other was trying to get Noah to sleep. Now we both are on the go until both boys are in bed. You know those commercials where both parents meet on the couch late in the evening, fall back in exhaustion, and stare like zombies? That's us some nights. Other nights both boys go to sleep without any hassle and stay asleep. Keeping us on our toes, they are. 

It's been an adjustment while out and about, for me especially. Noah is super independent and I'm lucky if I can get him to stay in the cart for longer than about ten minutes. I mostly wear Abe in my ring sling because it's easier to have my hands free to grab Noah if I need to. Trying to figure out who to get out of the van first was a challenge. Thankfully I've got somewhat of a routine down now, but Noah still likes to shake things up by hopping into the van while I'm getting Abe out, climbing in the back, and leaving me to pull him out when he doesn't listen. All while wearing Abe. There should be babywearing Olympics because it's a sport! I obviously have decided Noah gets out after Abe and I are settled. 

Noah took awhile to adjust to having a fragile being in the house. Thankfully his occasional slap has turned into just being a little too loving. Sometimes there's a hug, and sometimes there's a hugggggggg. Abe also gets a lot of Noah time up close and personal. Noah can't seem to talk to Abe without their noses almost touching, so you can imagine why they took turns being sick the first two months of Abe's life. I have to get used to that, too- one child is sick? You can either send the other one far far away or accept that he will inevitably get whatever the other one has. Personal boundaries are not a thing in our house right now! 

And I can't finish without mentioning the diapers. Oh, the diapers. More than twice as many. I forgot how many times newborns poop. We're back in the swing with cloth diapers and it's working really well for us. I love that both boys can use the same diapers with a few snap adjustments. I could do without all the poo, but it comes with the territory. 

Having two already has me excited about having more kids, but we've both decided we'd like to wait a couple years. This motherhood thing is fabulous, exhausting, amazing, hard..every contradictory adjectives you can think of and it embodies both. Most importantly, it's worth every single bit. 

In case you missed it, Abe's birth story was on the blog earlier this week!

Abram's Home Birth

Feb 3, 2015

This is the story of how our sweet Abe came to us. It was everything I had prayed it would be and one of the best experiences of my life. I had Noah under the care of the Vanderbilt midwives and it was a wonderful first birth. When we moved to Chattanooga and I was looking for a new midwife, I came across several home birth midwives and began strongly considering having our Abe at home.

I prayed and we talked and I prayed some more and then went to my first interview. The midwife, Carolyn, and I clicked and I knew that day that I wanted her to be at the birth of our boy. My appointments were at her home/birth center, fifteen minutes from us. She partners with an OB in town in case of hospital transfer and I was able to get Abe's anatomy ultrasound and some just-in-case prescriptions there.

The process of getting our home ready for his birth kept me focused and busy in the last few months. Carolyn gave me a list of supplies to get and we gathered little by little. I wanted a water birth but birth pools are expensive to buy and there were none available in the area to rent. I talked to a lot of other women who also had home births and they all suggested a kids pool. As crazy as that sounds, it worked perfectly. We paid $30 for a big, blow-up pool from Amazon and had it ready to go by 37 weeks. 
Labor affirmations & scripture for encouragement 
The last month of pregnancy wasn't easy with a toddler at home. Most days I just wanted to lay on the couch and rest and all he wanted to do was play. I found the best way to stay sane was to leave the house and go do something, even if it was just walking around Target or going to the park. Simple chores were difficult, like bending over to transfer laundry or taking heavy things upstairs. Michael was an amazing help and took on a lot of my day-to-day tasks.

At 38 weeks I began having strong Braxton-Hicks and thought it was labor several times. Part of me wanted him to come early so looking back I think it was mostly a mental thing and I was stressing that he was staying put. Carolyn encouraged me to relax, stop trying to walk him out, and told me to have a small glass of wine before bed. I could take that prescription! 40 weeks came and passed, just like with Noah. After that I decided to surrender and let my body do its thing. I was having Braxton-Hicks every day at this point and I didn't go far from the house in case I went into labor. My mom and sister were on call from Virginia and waiting on "the call" to leave and make the five hour trip. As much as I wanted them here, I knew in my heart they probably wouldn't make it in time and had accepted that.

On Thursday afternoon, November 6th, I had what felt like real contractions, but they weren't consistent at all. We stayed home and I laid on the couch most of the day to see if they would go away. Michael was texting every once in awhile to check on me and decided to come home a little early. I told him I wanted to relax and take a nap so he took Noah out to dinner around 5.

I laid in bed and about 20 minutes later, at 5:30, I had a contraction so intense that I couldn't get up. I laid on my side and breathed through it, then called Michael once it had subsided. He and Noah came home right away and I got on the birthing ball. After about an hour of contractions getting more consistent and intense, I got my phone out and started timing them. I timed three at 12, 11, and 10 minute intervals and decided I should call my midwife and my photographer. Because my labor with Noah was quick, we all agreed they shouldn't wait to come. I also called my mom and sister and they met up and left as soon as they could.

As I sat on the ball and breathed through contractions, Noah played some around me and Michael moved back and forth from me to Noah, helping me breathe some and helping Noah settle down. By this time it was almost 7, Carolyn was on her way, and Michael and I had decided that we would forgo taking Noah to the neighbors and he would try to put him to bed. I consider that a huge blessing because Noah didn't nap that day and was out by 7:30, just in time for Carolyn to arrive and Michael to be present to support me as things got more intense.

I had been praying for a very specific birth - I wanted to go into labor in the evening. I wanted our room to be dimly lit and as weird as it sounds, I wanted to know that everyone else around me was probably sleeping and the world around me was quiet. I wanted Noah to be sleeping in his room down the hall. I wanted to reach down in the water and pull my baby to my chest.

I didn't undergo any cervical checks for dilation in the last few weeks, however, when she got there Carolyn asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes, mostly because I wanted to see where I was and I knew he was on his way so the risk was minimal. I was a six and it surprised me. In the beginning I was comforted by the break from gravity sitting on the ball provided. But, by the time my contractions were about four minutes apart, things were so intense down there that I couldn't take the pressure of sitting and needed to be on my knees hanging over the ball. It was the only position that got me through the contractions.
Labor this time was so different from my labor with Noah. I had piggyback contractions from the time we left our house for the hospital and I never got a break. With Abe, I wasn't sure I was in labor at first because I wasn't used to feeling completely normal between contractions, much less being able to talk. Those breaks were lifesavers.

Around 8:15 (I think!) our photographer arrived. Contractions were about three to four minutes apart at that point and I wanted to get into the tub. We didn't start filling it up until later in the evening so the water wasn't quite at the level it needed to be. I got in around 8:45. It was still so comforting, but contractions started to let up so we decided I would get out and labor a bit longer outside of the water. The water also wasn't quite warm enough so Michael ran downstairs and turned the water heater temperature up. Meanwhile, I got back down on my knees and leaned over the ball. Carolyn checked Abe's heart beat intermittently and it was strong.
Around 9:30, my contractions were close enough, and the water high and hot enough, that I wanted to try the pool again. I got in and it felt amazing. Thankfully, contractions didn't stop. Michael was on my right giving me sips of water, putting a cool rag on my head, and holding my hand as my contractions got closer and more intense. Carolyn was on my left, her assistant Rachel was doing occasional heart checks and prepping for baby, and my photographer was capturing it all.

I remember, even as my body began to bear down, feeling peaceful. The whole house was quiet except for my sounds. The room was dim, my baby was sleeping down the hall, nobody was rushing around, no bright lights, and I felt relaxed, even though the pain was at it's highest peak. It was clear to everyone in the room when my body transitioned to pushing. My sounds changed, from moaning to more of a long grunt. Agggghhhh instead of Mmmmms and Ooohhhs.

I dreamed of reaching down and pulling my baby out on my own, but because I was holding myself up in the water and breathing so fast, my arm muscles were pretty much useless. I quickly got out that someone else needed to catch him. Carolyn came to my side and felt for his head. I could feel it all. His head engaging, crowning, the burning, the pressure. It was the most intense feeling, but my body was doing it's work. My water had not broken by this point, but with the next contraction I felt and heard a loud "pop" and saw my fluids and some blood shoot out into the water. That was one of the most painful parts of his entire birth.

After my water broke, burning and pressure was at it's height. His head was crowning and Carolyn had her hands in the water helping guide his head out. Michael was right by my side doing whatever he could to help, to support, both physically and emotionally. It's amazing how much clarity I had even in the middle of the pain. No foggyness, I was completely present, feeling it all, feeling my sweet boy make his way into the open world. I remember looking down between my legs as much as I could because I wanted to see him coming. It was such an overwhelming kind of joy knowing we were about to meet him. With a few last contractions his head was born and with one more push his entire body followed! 10:15pm. He was here! Carolyn helped him out and by that point I was able to reach into the water and pull him up, out, and onto my chest. My hands and arms were shaking. I couldn't believe he was here and how amazingly he entered our world!

They immediately put some blankets over him. I couldn't stop staring at him. I looked up at Michael, we kissed, and I kept saying "He's here, he's here". I stayed in the water for about fifteen minutes, holding our baby, eating an energy bar, taking sips of water, and waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. Michael cut the cord and held Abe while Carolyn and Rachel helped me out of the pool. I delivered the placenta, cleaned up, and got into bed. They brought him to me and I drew him in close to nurse. He latched right away and all the sudden I remembered just how precious this breastfeeding journey is to me and how much I love it.

In perfect timing, Noah woke up and cried out for me. Michael went to him and we decided to just bring him in to meet his brother instead of waiting until morning. Noah was shy at first, but I think it clicked with him after a few seconds who this little thing was in mommy's arms. It took him awhile to warm up to him. Noah and I had gotten Abe a special brother gift, and Abe had gotten one for Noah, too. We made a big deal about the gifts and our hearts melted when Noah was so excited to jump off the bed and go get his brother his gift. He placed it gently on Abe's body. I then brought out Abe's gift to Noah and his face was the most precious excitement I'd ever seen.

Our exhausted birth team took a break downstairs while the four of us had some sweet family time. Around 11:15 my mom and sister arrived. Only an hour short of being here for his birth! They each held Abe, helped get some things together for me, and sat with me in our room. Carolyn weighed and measured Abe and took his vitals. Such a big boy, 21.5 inches and 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Bigger than his brother at birth! Carolyn made sure we were settled before she left, making plans for follow-up visits before leaving us in the wonderful hands of Rachel. Rachel stayed until 2am, went over some details with us and did some final checks, then left us all to get some rest.

In the early, early morning, after everyone had gone to bed, I laid in bed with Abe on my chest and cried tears of thankfulness to God for his grace, our safety, for health, for family, for our sweet boy. His birth was peaceful. quick. beautiful. and amazing. I couldnt belive what had just happened and that I was now laying in our own bed, holding him, finally on the outside. I'll never forget our experience of having him at home and I can't wait to see him grow.

>>Thank you so much for taking the time to read Abe's story. This was an extremely personal experience but I feel that it is important to be transparent about home birth and how wonderful birth *can* be. Please be kind and respectful. I welcome any questions about home birth, my pregnancy, or anything else relating to my experience, so feel free to ask! 

Thank you to Ashley Hodges Photography for beautifully capturing our story! She bravely took on photographing her first birth at my request and I couldn't be more grateful that she was willing! Thank you to Carolyn, my midwife, whose spirit and confidence inspired the same in me. And finally, thank you Michael. You're amazing and I'm incredibly thankful that we get to do this life together.