An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 2018

Monday, October 8, 2018

Maternity Leave

The twins are coming, the twins are coming! And I'm peacing out to be on maternity leave. I didn't take any time with Otto, because it was easy to work right up until the end with a singleton. Because I wasn't slowed down at all, I was able to bank up two months of posts to schedule out! This time around? Hahaha! With a twin pregnancy? Oh yeah, that's MUCH different! I have no banked posts and no energy to do anything. Getting out of bed takes the strength of an American Ninja Warrior.

I plan on being back November 1 with an AMAZING super food recipe to keep you on track and eating healthy through the holidays. This is seriously one of my favorite things to eat, and I've got some tips for you on meal planning and saving money too - all so timely for the approaching holiday season.

Until then, catch me on Instagram and Facebook where I'll spam you with newborn twin pics and funny memes!

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz Photography.
Time for me to go add to this crew of tall blonde boys!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What It's Like To Be In Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is a serious medical condition that has negative health implications for 10% of babies born in the US every year. This is what it's like to actually go through it

Preterm labor is simply going into labor too early, before 37 weeks gestation. I've had four children. None of which were carried to full term. Well, I'm not sure when I'll publish this post, I might still only have two kids but I'll probably have four... Because I'm currently fighting preterm labor, it's hard to say! When preterm labor struck at 29 weeks with Henry, I was completely oblivious that preterm labor was "a thing" and what the risks were. Otto was my easiest pregnancy with fewest symptoms and problems, yet preterm labor struck with him at 36 weeks. Now with the twins, it started at 29 weeks. I thought we had gotten it under control, but things came back with a vengeance at 32 weeks. If you're a friend, family member or spouse of someone who has or is suffering from early labor, I hope you read this to understand how to support her. If you've been through it or are going through it, I hope you read this post on what it's like to be in preterm labor and know you're not alone! You're not crazy and you're not doing anything wrong.

32 weeks pregnant with the twins and about to find out some very unexpected news!

Like I mentioned, I've never carried a child to full term. Henry came at 36 weeks after 7 weeks of bed rest due to my water breaking from contractions; Otto came at 38 weeks (39 is considered full term now - 37-38 is early term) with a scare at 36 weeks where we actually went to the hospital thinking it was time; and while I write this I'm currently on bed rest and a prescription to curb contractions with my twins at 33 weeks. I hope to make it to 36 week because most 36 week babies don't need NICU time! But I'd take 35 weeks, which is the national average gestation for twins. 

I remember being pregnant with Henry, laying on the couch and noticing strong contractions. I have regular Braxton Hicks contractions starting in my second trimester, but these were pretty strong. I started to pay attention, and they were coming every 7 minutes. I drank water. I continued to rest on my side. They kept coming every 7 minutes. I looked at my husband and said, "Something isn't right." We called the midwife who told me to have a glass of wine and get in a warm tub and relax. If they didn't die down within an hour or so, call her back. They did, but I still went in the next morning to have her check me and low and behold, I was dilated and effaced. Bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy held off or regulated strong contractions until my water broke at 36 weeks (in the Clinque line at Macy's!) and I delivered my breech baby via emergency c section with a OB I had met once at a hospital we had to google the directions to while en route. Hello, last minute MEGA birth plan change!

With Otto, I only had two scares. One was at 24 weeks while we were on our baby moon to Cape Cod. We were in our rental car after landing in Boston, driving out to the cape after a dinner with my sister and her husband, and I noticed I was having contractions every 10 minutes. I made my husband stop and get me several bottles of water, and they died right down, so I'm assuming I got dehydrated from the flight. Then at 36 weeks, I had contractions ever 3 minutes! I thought it was time, so we headed to the hospital. As soon as we got there, things died down. We were discharged a few hours later and I ended up making it all the way to 38 weeks with no bed rest and proceeded to have an amazing, fairly easy and complication-free VBAC. I love both my kids equally, but I have a special place in my heart for Otto for making pregnancy so easy on me and giving me the birth I wanted and had planned for. 

My final pregnancy wouldn't prove to be as easy as Otto. I sailed right through the first and second trimesters and thought, "Holy crap, this is going so well, watch me carry these twins to full term!" Hahaha, joke's on me. Twin moms are at increased risk for preterm birth, and if you have a history of it with singletons, you're extremely high risk. I made it to 29 weeks - just like with Henry - when I had a particularly busy week with work. Four major deadlines and three photo shoots that turned into six because the photos didn't come out well several times. I typically rested in the afternoons but this particular week, I had appointments every dang day in the afternoon.

Breaking some rules to get my hair cut and colored at 33 weeks pregnant

By Friday, I had my one prenatal massage I got this entire pregnancy. I thought of it as my reward for a hard week! But while I was driving to the spa I noticed I was contracting every 10 minutes. I contracted regularly through the massage and my facial. On the drive home, they were every 3 minutes! My husband had our kids and wanted to meet up at a restaurant somewhere, but when he called to solidify the location, I dropped the news that I HAD to get home. I laid down. Chugged water. They continued. The next day, they continued. By 2pm I called my doctor who gave me some parameters to watch for and if I hit them, to go to labor and delivery. Thankfully they died down before I got that far!

At 32 weeks I had a regular prenatal appointment with a growth scan for the twins. My doctor saw me walk into the ultrasound room and knew something was off immediately. My cervix had shortened to right at the cusp of red flag level, but because she saw how I walked she decided to check me. I was 2cm dilated and 70% effaced and she could knock on baby A's head! She stood back and stared at me with her arms crossed over her chest for a few moments, and I asked her what she was doing. "Contemplating admitting you to the hospital TODAY" she replied. She decided to give me bed rest with a drug I have to take every 6 hours to curb contractions, and to check me again in a week. If there was progress, I'd be admitted to the hospital then. If not, I'd carry on with bed rest and my meds until I deliver, hopefully making it to 35 or 36 weeks.

I find preterm labor to be infuriating. I'm doing everything right, so what's with my body not getting with the program here? I eat healthy, don't gain too much weight, eat fruit when I want cookies and ice cream, have picture perfect blood pressure, exercise four times a week (when I'm not on bed rest), never forget to take my prenatal vitamins, take a probiotic, I mean I'm the damn textbook for a healthy pregnant woman! So what's with the preterm labor? Why does my body not want to keep these babies in until they're fully mature? It's maddening. It's disheartening. It's totally out of my control.

The March of Dimes listed out risk factors for preterm labor. They have medical conditions that can cause it, like preclampsia and  type 1 or 2 diabetes. They have lifestyle choices that contribute to it like smoking, skipping your prenatal care appointments or being overly stressed out. And there's things that you can't control, like your age - under 17 and over 35 puts you at a greater risk for preterm labor. I have NONE OF THESE THINGS. I do none of these things! Having my first baby at 36 weeks was my first clue I was, and will always be, high risk for preterm birth.

34 weeks pregnant with twins and simply no longer caring about hair or makeup after two full weeks on bedrest and meds

I'm not sure if I can put into words how terrifying it is to realize you're having regular contractions so early in your pregnancy. First, you notice it. You think, "Hey, wait a minute! This is happening a tad too often..." Then you start to time them while you desperately chug water and lay down, or get in a warm bath. I've now spent the tail end of two out of three pregnancies completely consumed with how often I"m contracting, utterly unable to go about life in a normal way. Bedrest, contraction counting, baths. Bedrest, contraction counting, baths.

And I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Bedrest works pretty well and my body has responded to the medication, although the side effects for me are miserable. I have a job where I can still work on bedrest, and even if I couldn't, we're not dependent on my income in any way to get bills paid, so I have the luxury of taking whatever time I need. Both sides of our family have flown into town to help us. Honestly, I know that I'm a lucky pregnant one!

But I still grit my teeth when people say, "Oh, my friend went on bedrest and then went over! I bet you will too!" or even worse, "Bedrest must feel like a vacation!" Um, no and no, and to the second comment, I hope you go jump off the nearest cliff. I'm glad your friend got to term; that will never be my reality (especially with twins!) If you think bedrest is a vacation, you need to do some serious reorganizing of your own life, because if you define medically induced bedrest as a "treat" you're mentally ill. There's a reason people get put on house arrest as a punishment. Bedrest is akin to house arrest. It's even hard to stomach all the normal pregnant women who get to do things like grocery shop and go to parks or even just get out out of the house to run errands! I know pregnancy is hard and it makes your body ache, but if you have the freedom to move around and do things, you are so so so lucky.

35.5 weeks pregnant... Final bump shot? Who knows! Follow my Instagram for updates! 

So! Here I sit/lay with a steep recline, typing this post out at 35 weeks pregnant with twins. I don't know how far I'll make it, but I doubt I'll be able to write a 9 month pregnancy update. In addition to battling preterm labor in my 8th month, this is how things have been going:

Weeks gestation: 36 today!
Cravings: Still loving my sugar. Man I can't wait until I no longer love sugar again, this is a bad bad habit! Fruit, baked goods, yogurt covered pretzels, basically if it's sweet, I'd love to get my hands on it and eat it.
Aversions: Anything spicy, anything with tomatoes or other high acidity, anything that I look at and think, damn... That's some heartburn city! The contraction medication I'm on further relaxes my esophagus. I can literally get horrific heartburn from a dang piece of cheese!
Weight gain: 29 pounds; the most I've ever gained in a pregnancy, and the most I've ever weighed in my entire life! Pretty excited to birth 12 pounds of baby, 3 pounds of placenta and several pounds of amniotic fluid to ditch at least that weight overnight! And 30 pounds at 35 weeks with twins is pretty dang amazing! Still have zero stretch marks even though my belly is measuring the size of a woman 42 weeks gestation. Shout out to my ancestry for those amazing genes!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Infant And Toddler Nutrition

Starting solids is intimidating for parents, and keeping your child eating healthy foods throughout toddler-hood and into childhood can be extremely challenging! Here's what I've learned along the way

This post is sponsored by Happy Family Brands but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

I've had several posts throughout the years on how picky of an eater Henry, my oldest, was - still is, sometimes. But I'll tell you what, he turned four in May and it's like we've turned that proverbial corner! He'll now at least TRY everything I make for supper, which is the meal we typically branch out on and try new foods. The road definitely wasn't easy. I was left frustrated at most meals for the longest time - even outright angry when I went out of my way to make him something he'd like and he decided not to eat it! Real anger, y'all. So today I wanted to share some of my best tips for managing picky eaters, share encouragement to other parents dealing with the same thing, and provide an infant and toddler nutrition resource I wish I had known about in my angry and tearful moments with Henry!

Moody faces from my picky eater... Right about the time he became one!

We didn't start Henry on solids until 6 months, per the recommendation of his pediatrician. She recommended we start with orange foods, like sweet potatoes and carrots because they were most likely to be liked by babies but still veggies; then move on to green foods like peas and green beans. She cautioned us not to start with fruits or fruit blends so that Henry didn't develop a sweet tooth and would only eat sweetened things. And she told us to completely avoid rice cereal because it's worthless nutrition-wise. I absolutely loved that pediatrician! I was a clueless first time mom and was looking for all the help I could get, and appreciated the clear-cut way she laid it out for me. I followed her method with Otto too, and will likely use it again (plus some baby-led weaning) with the twins. 

In the beginning, Henry was a champ! He liked everything I offered him. Sweet potatoes, carrots, peas. Later on, he liked mushed up pasta and hummus and anything with fruit in it. I thought, "Haha! See? Picky eaters are definitely MADE, not BORN. I have successfully cultivated a great eater. Go me!" Welp, jokes on me, because by the age of about 14-15 months, as Henry started to eat independently and was off pureed food I spoon fed him, the game changed in a big way. 

That's when Henry decided he didn't like most food. He simply refused to it it. For two weeks, two whole weeks, he refused to eat anything besides blueberries and whole milk. Those were some disgusting diapers, my friends! Right as I was about to call his pedi to see if this would damage him in anyway, he decided that yogurt, cheese and crackers were acceptable again. Then different berries were added back into the "I guess I'll eat it" mix. And for the next two years straight, this child lived off of dairy, berries, whole wheat crackers, fish and fruit. I joked with my friends, "He's my self-imposed vegetarian child!" Honest to goodness, we had a list of about 15 items total that he'd allow past his discerning lips.

My picky eater on his 2nd birthday, when he spit out the special meal I made for him. Pretty sure I cried in my bathroom! 

One of the times I got the most upset was his second birthday. He had tried some of my vegetarian lasagna several times before and always ate it, so I thought, aaaha! I'll make him a big pan of veggie lasagna for his birthday dinner. I made everything from scratch, and even hid a few extra veggies in it. We all sat down for supper and he refused to even touch it! My husband made him take a bite and he spit it out! After all that work, going out of my way to make something I knew he'd like, changing my recipe to omit the meat I knew he wouldn't like, he spit it out. I was so mad! And frankly, my feelings were hurt.

Fast forward to the age of four, and he'll now try a bite of anything I'll cook. Occasionally, he'll eat meat! He'll eat the organic hot dogs his brother scarfs down. Chicken is a hit, as are eggs and other new protein sources. While he often won't eat much of it or won't make a whole meal of it, he'll try it, and that's all I ask. Keep trying new foods to see what you like!

My formerly super picky eater, now four years old. Still loves his yogurt bite snacks!
My second son and least picky eater aka my sanity saver at meal times. Still loves Happy Baby yogurt snacks!

One of the biggest tips I have for parents of picky eaters is to NOT FORCE the child to eat something. We have no "clean plate rules" in our home. If I make something new, all I ask if that my kids try a bite. Otto is funny because he'll throw the biggest stink about having to try a bite, then 10 minutes later his plate is clean. Henry will sigh, try a bite, sometimes eat a few more, and then be done. Our rule is if you try it and don't like it, you don't have to finish it. If you try it and don't like it, you can have a piece of cheese for supper, that you get yourself from the fridge. But I won't make my kids a whole different meal and their only other option besides what I fix is a piece of cheese. This way nobody "starves" but they also know there isn't something else waiting for them, and the expectation is that they eat what was made for supper. 

One of the lifesavers we've bought since Henry was in his super picky stage is Happy Family Organics baby and toddler food and snacks. The creamies and yogurt bites remain both the boys' favorite snacks. I mean, their faces light up when I pull them out of the cupboard! Yes, they're designed for babies but my kids love them so much, and I love what's in them so much, I continue to buy them to put in their school lunches or use for after school snacks.

What's even cooler than the organic fruits and veggies in these snacks? Happy Family Organics has a live chat service on their website to help parents out with infant and toddler nutrition questions! Not sure if what your child is doing is "normal"? Wondering if eating only blueberries and milk will cause developmental delays? Head to their website and chat with their trained staff! The live chat service allows parents to receive free advice on any feeding questions they may haveThe Happy Mama Mentors are available 8am–8pm (EST) Mon-Fri & 8am–4pm (EST) Sat-Sun. Happy Family’s team of experts, the Happy Mama Mentors, are all registered dietitians, lactation specialists and are certified in infant and maternal nutrition. If you don't have a pediatrician like mine who laid out the groundwork for introducing solids or you're fighting back tears and anger like I was with an insanely picky eater, go to their site and get some tips to help you navigate your infant and toddler nutrition questions.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Approaching The End For The Last Time

Final thoughts on pregnancy as I do it for the last time... Ever.

It's so funny to me how many people tell me to "try for a fifth baby, and maybe it will be a girl!" Um, no. That'd be five kids. That's insanity. As soon as we learned we were having twins, we knew for sure that this was the grand finale - the last round of baby making for us. I wrote this post before we even decided on a third baby and so many people said, "Oh, you KNOW when you're done! If there's a question in your mind, even in the furthest corner, you're not done yet." Well, they were right about both things! If there's a question in your mind about adding another family member, I say go for it. And when you've reached your max for baby making and family member adding, you'll know. Nearly as soon as I saw the two babies with two heartbeats on my sonogram screen, I thought, "Well dang. We're going out with a bang, because this baby making shop is c-l-o-s-e-d for business after this!" Hubs and I were on the same page immediately about future kids: four is where we stop. Four is great. Four and we're done. Even with that conviction, knowing that this is my last pregnancy is just weird, and bringing up some weird feelings and thoughts. I thought I'd share what it's like to approach the end of pregnancy for the last, final time.

All photos by my talented sister, Adrianne Mathiowetz Photography. If you're in New England, you should book her! She's even been voted one of the best photographers in Boston! Hashtagproudsister.

My first thought about pregnancy and reproducing in general is that I'm so so SO glad I was able to get pregnant easily every single time, have very few complications while pregnant (Henry was the only baby to give me any issues) and make such amazing, beautiful babies. My mom was an infertility specialist for decades and I know many women struggle with infertility. While I have suffered a miscarriage before, infertility is not a part of my story; my feelings and thoughts are in no way shaped by years of struggle to conceive or of dreaming for a family that might never come to fruition. Pregnancy came easily to me (sometimes too easily!) and got easier on me with each go around. For that, I'm forever thankful.

It's weird knowing I'll never be pregnant again. Not in a good or bad way - just weird. There are parts of pregnancy I've actually come to really enjoy. And there are parts I'll never miss, not even a tad. 

I'll miss the attention pregnant women get. I'm one of the seeming few who don't mind the questions or comments or belly rubs. Some people ask and some people just reach out and touch, but neither way bothers me and I know the person doing it is doing it out of admiration and love for babies and children. Everyone wants to talk to you about pregnancy and babies and your family. Everyone is concerned for your well-being. People go out of their way to do kind things for you, or to lend a hand. The experience of a pregnant woman in public is actually quite nice! I wish it were always like that, and it's something I'll dearly miss about being pregnant.

29 weeks pregnant with Henry for my first ever maternity shoot

I'll miss my maternity clothes. As strange as it sounds, since I've been pregnant so much in the last 5 years, most of my stylish, cute clothes are maternity. My favorite jeans, a pair of ripped up Joes Jeans (super similar here for cheaper!), will be dearly, dearly missed. 

One of the best parts of being pregnant is growing a bump. Not because it's fun to have a 5th appendage sticking out of you, but because it means you never have to suck in! You can eat what you want and let that thing hang, and everyone things you look cute. Food babies aren't cute, but a firm belly with a baby and tons of food in it? Adorable.

Every pregnant woman I know comes to say this at some point, and it's true: you eventually miss the kicks you feel from your baby(ies), even if they do make you pee in your pants a little bit. For me, the best part is in the beginning when you start to feel the flutters, and the soft kicks before the baby(ies) get big enough to kick you so hard, your boobs jiggle. Those are sweet moments that only pregnant women feel and are some of the very first bonding moments between a mother and her child. One of the few ways in which the mother knows her baby before anyone else in the world does. It's weird to think I'll never feel that again, or have those moments again.

It's weird to be nesting for the last time! The last time I'll wash and hang newborn size baby clothes in a closet. Last time I'll stock up on newborn size diapers. Last time I'll make sure I have enough little newborn hats and swaddles ready to go for long, long nights.
32 weeks pregnant with Otto with a 17 month old Henry! We had intended to do a full maternity shoot, but ended up just taking some photos on my block because it was SO hot and humid (check out that hair!)... In early November. I literally peeled off my clothes the second we got back inside, Henry went down to his diaper and my sister was like, "What the hell, Texas?!"

I won't miss the pregnancy symptoms - the heartburn (which is SO BAD with twins!), the pelvic pressure, the first trimester nausea and headaches, the back pain. Nope, all of that I'm ok with never having to experience again. My biggest physical complaint with the twins, because honestly it really hasn't been terrible, is that with all the relaxin my body is producing, my pelvic bones slide over each other when I get up to walk. You can even hear them pop and slide around! And yes, that's every bit as fun as it sounds. It feels like my body is just going to slide apart if I move too fast... I will not miss that!

I won't miss the weight gain. Losing muscle. Losing the ability to do certain yoga poses or various moves one by one each week as my belly grows. I won't miss the beautiful hot mess that is a woman's body after she gives birth. All stretched out and loose. Dressing is impossible - maternity clothes slide off but prebaby clothes are a complete joke! It's a weird in-between phase where nothing fits, nothing looks good and you certainly don't feel good in anything. No, I won't miss the awkward postpartum body phase and the roller coaster of whacked out self esteem that comes with it. 

I know some women love the newborn stage, but I'm not one of them. Yes, they're sleepy and sweet and cuddly, but they're also so. much. work. They don't know you. They don't look at you and smile. They don't say "mama" or "dada" or babble. They just lay there with all these needs that you have to tend to around the clock. No, I'm not a newborn fan. If I could birth a 6 month old who can sit independently and coo and babble and clap their hands (all the things that make parenting actually FUN) I would. I won't miss struggling through this newborn phase, one final time.

My final solo belly shot, 31 weeks pregnant with twins

It's weird to think that I'm approaching the end for the last time. My last pregnancy, and my last babies. I have no doubt that in a few years, I'll have blissfully forgotten all the side effects and nasty symptoms pregnancy can throw at you, see a pregnant woman and think, "Awwww, let's do that again. What a sweet, amazing time being pregnant is!" Funny how time erases your memories of all the hardships and all you remember is the good stuff. But no; this is indeed the final time. Four children is plenty, and plenty expensive. While there are things I'll miss, I'm also ready for this to be my last time. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

It's Not Popular Opinion, But

Do you ever adamantly disagree with something that's popular opinion? I do. Here's where I think the general consensus gets it all wrong!

There are some things that are simply popular opinion. The likability of something, the popularity of a product or service, how well something does (or doesn't) do it's job is all subject to the court of popular opinion. Generally, it's right. But there are some things I think popular opinion gets outright wrong! These are some of the things I have a contrarian opinion about. It's not popular opinion, but...

When you're the friend or relative who thinks outside the box and carries a different opinion than everyone else

Garlic is nasty.
Everyone seems to love adding copious amounts of garlic to things. Garlic bread, pizza, sauces, Asian food, you name it and it's in there. Watch the Food Network and cooks and chefs boast about how much garlic they add. Well I think it's nasty. It tastes gross going down and it makes your breath smell TERRIBLE. It makes your sweat smell weird the next day. I didn't love it or hate it before I had kids, but now my tastes have changed and I do everything in my power to avoid this stanky substance. Can we all stop raving about garlic?

I don't mind rush hour.
My freshman year of college I went to a school in a town so small, there were only two freeways and absolutely zero traffic ever. I hated it. It felt lonely and isolated! I moved back to Minneapolis to finish college at the University of Minnesota - which is walking distance to downtown - and was so happy to be amongst people again! Rush hour just reminds me that I live near a whole bunch of people. In Dallas, the traffic is never really that bad because our freeways are so massive, and there's toll lane options you can jump into if traffic is bad. I dunno, call me crazy, but I just roll down the windows and crank the tunes, relish the fact that I live near so many people and enjoy the ride. Total city girl right here! Rural areas stress me out. What if you need help - where are the people?!

I love toddlers.
Scroll Facebook for two minutes and you'll see several memes about how "savage" toddlers are. Mom blogs will warn you, "If you think the baby stage is hard, just wait for the terrible twos and the threenager stage!" Well guess what? I call BS. Toddlers are a hoot. They can feed themselves and start to know how to use the bathroom themselves too. They've got personalities. They want autonomy with clear boundaries set. All of this is SO much easier than the baby stage, and so much more fun, too! Neither of my kids had the terrible twos. Henry wasn't a threenager at all. Otto is just on the cusp of turning three, but it's already clear that when he gets whiney, he just needs to be held and cuddled and reassured. Y'all can keep your babies; toddlers are awesome.

The only reason I love fall... Is because I live in the South.
Ok, that's not the only reason - Halloween is my favorite and it's my birthday and it will also be my twins' birthday. Pumpkin carving is fun, pumpkin patches are fun and I love seasonal decor. BUT! All of this is made far more fun because fall for me is 80 degrees. I'm not facing down a brutal winter. It's not the "last hurrah" before I have to scrape ice off my car every morning, dig it out of snow, or struggle to breath is subzero temps. It's just a nice break from the heat with fun activities! Fall in the South is so much more tolerable than up north.

Sushi is rather gross.
Back on the food train, but that's because I'm currently 34 weeks pregnant and it's about to be lunchtime here. Just like garlic, I can no longer stomach sashimi. I used to love it! Now eating a hunk of raw salmon or tuna or yellow tail completely grosses me out. Even many rolls gross me out! Pregnancy has made me completely lose my love for sushi. I honest to Pete used to eat it every week! Now... My favorite roll is a vegan shiitake mushroom roll. I just, I don't know. Raw fish is slimy. I still love pickled ginger and wasabi, just on vegetarian rolls!

Sale, discount and/or thrift shopping is the literal WORST. And don't get me started on coupons.
I know this is super unpopular opinion! I absolutely can't stand shopping a sale. It's like complete chaos in the store, everything isn't where it should be and you have to rifle through racks and bins in hopes you'll find your size to maybe save $5 or a measly 30%. No. Thank. You. Online sale shopping is better, but my size so rarely goes on sale (it's like clothing marketers know tall, slender women will pay a hefty mark up for clothes that actually fit them...) and my shoe size (an 8 if you're wondering) is the most common so it sells out first. Sales just aren't even worth looking at! Thrift stores are straight nasty. You're digging through things that haven't been washed in years, and are likely covered in moth balls or fecal matter from rodents or bugs. They always smell bad with terrible lighting. And coupons?! I hate to tell you, but coupons are a marketing dream. They pull you in to the store in promises of saving a dollar and you end up buying tons of stuff you didn't need nor want in the first place. What a joke! Sorry, I'll pay full price for a better experience and simply have LESS stuff in my home. This isn't a privilege thing either. When I was unemployed for almost a year and when I was 24 and in graduate school, I still didn't shop sales. I just bought less!

I hope I'm not alone in thinking these things! But even if I am, oh well. The majority isn't right all the time. What are some thing that are wildly popular that you just can't get into? 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

DIY Monogram Nursery Art

It's easy to make your own monogram wall art for the nursery, and so much cheaper than getting it custom made!

If you saw this post on the boys new room, you know I've made them each their own monograms that hang above their cribs. The older boys (I love that I have so many boys, I can't just say 'the boys' I actually have to specify which ones/who I'm talking about!) had a calming blue/green color scheme in their nursery that we carried over to their big boy room. I completely made over the twins' nursery with a outdoor/woodland theme. You can tell I love this theme because I hosted my sister's baby shower with it and used so many of the decorations I bought for that in the nursery! Full reveal and decoration inspo post is coming soon, but today I'm focusing on one part: the DIY monogram nursery art I made to hang above their cribs. Oh, and since I'm sharing this monogram craft, I'm also sharing the names of the twins! *Affiliate links used*

My older boys had classic wooden letters painted for their monogram but I wanted something a little more campy, a little more outdoorsy for the twins. I'm not overly into room "themes" so I wanted the art that I did put up to be cohesive and reflect the look I was going for without "over-theming" the room. (I don't think that's a word - spell check is giving me the red line - but I'm sticking with it). Anyway, I guess this theme or some version of it is pretty popular, because I had no trouble finding supplies to make their cute monogram nursery art.

At first, I just had the painted letters glued to the birch wood as the whole craft. We hung them on the wall and it just looked... Small. The room is large, and despite getting the largest birch bark I could find at the craft store and the largest letters to fit on that wood, it simply wasn't big enough for the wall space I needed it to fill. Easy fix! I bought large canvases that I covered in burlap (to keep the rustic campy feel) then attached the birch bark and monogram to the canvas. Boom, the monogram fit the space much better while maintaining the theme.

DIY Woodland Monogram Nursery Art
- Raw edge wood (like this if you want it to look like mine)
- Letter(s) of choice (like this or this - just make sure they fit on/within your raw edge wood!)
- Acrylic paint and small paint brush
- Wood glue
- Fabric canvas on wood frame
- Small screws and electric drill/screwdriver
- Optional: fabric of choice to cover canvas with staple gun or small nails and hammer

Start by painting the letter(s) of the monogram with the acrylic paint in your desired color. It will need two or three coats, and you'll want the paint to dry completely between each coat, then let dry for 24 hours before adhering to the raw wood.

Take a damp towel and wipe down the birch wood (or wood of choice). Get any wood dust or particles removed before gluing the monogram letter(s) on. Use wood glue and apply to the letter, then adhere to the birch wood with firm pressure. Use a Q-tip to remove any excess glue that presses out and into view. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

If painting your canvas, paint the canvas and allow to dry for at least 24 hours (if you're using acrylic or latex paint; longer if using oil based paint). If you're covering it in fabric like I did, cut your fabric to slightly longer than the canvas (enough to wrap around to the back side of the canvas and give you at least an inch of extra fabric to secure it to the wooden frame of the canvas). Use a staple gun (a regular stapler isn't strong enough to pierce the wood frame) or small craft nails to nail the canvas to the wooden frame.

Once your birch wood with the monogram letter(s) and canvas are ready, place the birch wood where you want it on the canvas. In order to hang straight on the wall, you'll need it to be as close to centered as possible - you'll also need to use the wooden bar across the back of your canvas to screw it in, so you'll have to think about all of that as you're positioning it. Mark the position location. Use small screws and your drill bit to screw from the backside to secure the birch wood monogram to the canvas. This way, no screws will show on the front, but everything will be very secure.

Hang in your nursery and enjoy! Remember that it's advised to NOT hang heavy art pieces like this over cribs that are flush with the wall, because it can fall onto your baby. We have several inches of space between the walls and the crib on all sides for this very reason! Should the artwork fall off the wall, it will slide down the wall and hit the floor, not fall into the crib. Also think about hanging it high enough so that it's not in danger of being pulled off the wall once your baby can stand in his crib, and grab at things.

A DIY monogram for your baby's nursery to personalize it and fit your nursery theme
Like it? Pin it!

We're getting so close to meeting our twin boys, Knox and Theodore! Tough Love Teethers was kind enough to make me these beautiful custom teethers for them, but I had to wait until we were ready to share the names! I've had the name Theodore on my short list of boy names forever. I love how many nickname possibilities there are with it. As his mommy, I will, of course, call him Teddy and my older boys already call him baby Teddy. I got the name Knox from the magazine Southern Living. Several months ago they had an article that listed old fashioned Southern baby names and fell in love with it!

Knox is my Baby A and Teddy is my Baby B. So if all goes as planned via my birth plan, Knox will be the firstborn twin and Teddy will indeed be my baby Teddy. If I have to have a c section for some reason, that will be flipped and Teddy will be the firstborn. We'll see how it all pans out! Either way, I've got this adorable DIY monogram nursery craft hanging on the walls, ready to welcome them home. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Selecting Which Breast Pump To Get FREE From Your Health Insurance

Obamacare mandated that all health insurance in the U.S. provide pregnant women with a breast pump at no cost to them. Here's how to simplify the process and get the right pump delivered to your door!

This post is sponsored by Aeroflow. All opinions are my own.

Goodness sakes, there are SO many things to think of and prepare for when you're pregnant, isn't there? It doesn't matter if you're on your first baby or your 10th, there are tons of things to do and think about and plan for with a new addition to your family. Hiring a nanny, finding daycare, setting up a nursery or bassinet in your room, washing old clothes, buying new ones, preparing siblings... That's just what popped into my mind on a moments notice, there's so much more to do and think about! Including selecting and getting your FREE breast pump. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 and implemented several years later (depending on what state you're in) requires health insurance companies - ALL of them - to provide pregnant women with a breast pump. But how do you do it and which one should you or can you choose? I'm here to help you select which breast pump to get for free from your health insurance and tell you a little bit about my story with it.

Henry was born in 2014, which was the year every state had to comply with the new health care law. Fortunately, I knew that and knew that it meant a free breast pump for me. I was about 28 weeks pregnant when I called the number on the back of my insurance card and got passed around from department to department trying to figure out what the process was to get my complimentary pump. Could I get any one I wanted? Did I get reimbursed? Did I have to buy it at a specific place? Since the law was new to Texas, things were a bit messy and everyone was learning at the same time. 

Finally, I got to the right department and learned that I had three options to choose from and had to purchase them via a medical supplier my insurance had a contract with. I had to get a prescription for the pump from my healthcare provider, upload a few forms to a website, fill out some online paperwork, get the clearance from my insurance, AND do it all within 30 days prior to my due date and up to 30 days after my due date. Confused? Yeah, it was a mess, and it all had to get done in a very narrow time frame! The time frame that, quite frankly, I wanted to nest and relax and NOT think about forms and prescriptions and breast pumps.

That story ended as chaotically as it began: because I gave birth to Henry early, I still didn't have my breast pump, and because he was a small preemie, my doctors wanted me to pump to bring in my milk heavier and faster so he'd have plenty to gain weight from. I ended up getting the pump 30 days after my due date, when Henry was already two months old. And in the meantime, we had to pay out of pocket for a hospital grade pump because we had already "used" the insurance benefit on a pump that didn't get shipped to us in time.

Fast forward to 2018, and the process has largely worked most of the kinks out. Even better, there are companies like Aeroflow that do ALL the work for you, at NO CHARGE TO YOU! It's so simple. You enter your information, due date and insurance info and state. Aeroflow then lists out which pumps you qualify for so that you can compare them. This was my favorite part, because now that I'm expecting twins, I wanted the absolute BEST pump I could get. Then they deal with your insurance, make sure they get all the required medical forms (and notify you if it's something you need to get) and ship it to you once you meet all your insurance's requirements. It's so much easier than doing all the leg work yourself! For this pregnancy, all I had to do was fill out one online form, submit my health insurance info and get a prescription from my OB, and Aeroflow did everything else. My pump arrived at my door when I was 30 weeks pregnant with my twins. Boom.

Speaking of pumps, there are tons of options on the market, and I'm convinced that there is no universal right choice for any woman. So take a look at each pump's features, talk to other moms and ask your health care provider or a lactation consultant for their thoughts on what the best option is for you that you qualify for via your health insurance. 

My OB told me if I wanted to be successful at breastfeeding, I'd need a medical grade pump with twins. That meant I could rent a hospital pump or get one of the few medical grade pumps on the market. I still have my Medela Pump In Style Advanced that I used briefly with Henry (because it came so late!) and used throughout breastfeeding Otto. It was ok... And just ok. I was never that impressed by it, especially after having the hospital pump for the first few months of Henry's infancy! Moisture was always getting in my tubing and had to be replaced regularly, which was expensive. It's a LOUD pump, so when I got up at night I had to go to a different room so that I didn't wake my husband. But all the parts are sold everywhere, which was convenient, and I could pump right into one of Otto's bottles, so it was efficient and easy to clean. 

This time around I went with the Spectra S1PLUS. Another cool thing about Aeroflow is that while it lists what pumps are 100% covered from your health insurance, it also lists what the cost is for an upgrade. My insurance covered the Spectra S2PLUS fully, and my upgrade fee to the S1PLUS was a mere $39. That was totally worth it to me to get the cordless feature of the S1PLUS and a few more programming capabilities. There are also packages you can buy, so that when you get your pump, you get all the necessary parts too. While insurance buys the pump for you, it only sends the bare minimum accessories, and you'll want/need to buy additional flanges, bottles, tubing, etc so that you have enough on hand to effectively pump.

Confused? Email me here, ask a lactation consultant or another experienced mom that you trust.

I love that I received my pump in advance of my birth this time too! It's given me time to play around with it and get to know it, so that when I do need to use it, I know what I'm doing. I have to say, I'm super impressed with the Spectra! This pump was designed for a pumping mom. It has SO many more features than the Medela PISA that I used with my first two babies! I can program pump sessions into it, then simply hit that button and get that pump. So I could do a "regular pump" that lasts about 25 minutes with a few minutes of a letdown speed in the beginning. I could do a "power pump" that lasts 10 minutes for when you're trying to boost supply (typically done after you've breastfed the baby already) and I can program a night pump that lasts for as many minutes as I want to be awake for in the middle of the night. I don't have to watch the time or pay attention to anything - just hit the button of the pump session I want and space out/doze/play or work on my phone/ etc. 

There's a nightlight on the pump so I don't have to turn on lights and wake people up. The pump is QUIET! So quiet, I'll be able to pump in bed, with the nightlight feature, and not wake my husband. That's great for me because it means I'll be able to return to sleep more easily! And the suction seems to be better than the Medela. Both pumps have adjustable suction power, and stronger doesn't mean better. But the Spectra seems more efficient, where my Medela seemed to work really hard for that suction. The Spectra's seems even and consistent where the Medela seemed to provide inconsistent suction (one day a level 5 would work, the next day I'd need it set to a 7 for the same effect, sometimes I'd change the suction mid-pump because it was too strong/ineffective).

These, of course, are all my preferences and you might have a totally different opinion on both the pumps! Just like every woman's pregnancy is different, every woman's breastfeeding journey is different. You may rarely use a pump or you may return to work and depend on it. You might be like me and start out exclusively breastfeeding, then switch to exclusively pumping when you go back to work. Any way you slice it, you're entitled as a pregnant woman to get a free pump from your health insurance! Aeroflow makes the whole process seamless and easy on you, and can help guide you through the process. Mommin' aint easy, but selecting which breast pump to get free from your health insurance doesn't have to be hard with the right service like Aeroflow and the right information to make your selection!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Answers To The Rudest Pregnancy Questions I've Ever Gotten

People ask pregnant women all kinds of bizarre, highly personal and borderline inappropriate questions. I'm answering ALL of them in this post!

Let me be clear real quick - I don't think there's such a thing as a rude question. I don't think there's some magical list of "things you shouldn't say" or "things you shouldn't ask" a pregnant woman. I find myself eye-rolling so hard at those lists! Why? Because people are simply interested in you! They're interested in your baby! They actually care enough to say something or ask! If you're offended, that's some sort of issue within yourself you've got to work out, not add to a list of things people are magically supposed to know triggers you in someway. Ok, quick rant over. Being pregnant with twins means I've gotten all kinds of questions, many of them personal. Instead of getting offended and wondering why anyone is asking me such a thing, I'm using this post to tell all y'all all about it. Read on for answers to the 'rudest' pregnancy questions I've ever gotten and laugh right along with me.

So did you do IVF or do twins run in your family? 
Neither! My mom told me that her paternal grandfather had a set of twins, but that's crossing the maternal line which is what matters when it comes to genetically assessing likelihood of twins. That was also many decades ago, and nobody had them since. We did no fertility treatments whatsoever to conceive any of our children. I get pregnant quickly, so it's never even been something I've had to think of or look into.

I've always wanted twins! What fertility meds were you on so I can talk to my doctor about it?
Not only did we NOT do IVF, I've never taken a fertility drug in my life. I had just turned 33 when I conceived the twins, don't have a family history of twins, and don't know why I was the one to beat all the odds of magically, naturally getting them, but here I am! You CAN rub my belly for good luck if you want, though. I don't mind belly touches. I also might judge the mental stability of anyone who says they WANT twins... Do you know how much work this is and is going to be? Bless your heart!

Big mama and only getting bigger: the story of a twin pregnancy

You're going to have FOUR BOYS? OMG, I'm so sorry - what are you going to do?!
I'd imagine I'm going to do what I do everyday... Wake up and take care of children, drop half of them off at preschool, make sure the other two are ok with my part time nanny, work for a few hours and get a workout in, pick the other two up from school, and spend afternoons with all four of them. Would it be different if vaginas were involved instead of penises? Is there *something* that can be done about it? Unless you're coming over to help, take your pity party and shove it. Some people never get to have their own kids, and I easily got four, healthy babies of my own. I'm not sorry about that at all. 

Are you all covered in stretch marks?! Is this pregnancy the worst thing ever?!
Nope, I don't have a single stretch mark. Yet, anyway, I guess they might be coming? I didn't get any with my first two either, and my sister didn't get them, nor did my mom. Having twins isn't a mandatory sentence to having your body destroyed! And the pregnancy, while MUCH harder than a singleton, hasn't been totally horrific. All the way to 27 weeks I was comfortable and happy. These last few weeks are, um, getting real though.

Is it twice as hard being pregnant with twins?
It's not twice as hard being pregnant with twins... It's exponentially more hard. The best analogy I have is this: Ever run a half and a full marathon? Running a half is hard, for sure. But running a full marathon? Exponentially more challenging! It's because you double the miles after you've already run the length of race you've done before. With twins, I'm doubling the baby. Right as most pregnant women start to feel uncomfortable, I double it and the growth weight and the weight gain and the physical stress. So it's not double the discomfort in the last weeks - it's EXPONENTIALLY more uncomfortable.

Back when I was in the easy days of my twin pregnancy!

Do you get to pick their birthday with a scheduled c section? What date are you picking?! 
As of right now, I'm not having a scheduled c section - I'm planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section)! I'd rather cut off a toe than have another c section. My doctor supports this 100%, and as long as Baby A is head down, she thinks my success rate for VBACing the twins is over 90% - highest potential success rate doctors will give you! I had a great VBAC with my second son, so my odds of having another increase on subsequent births. Since this is the birth plan, I'll go into labor naturally and frankly have no idea what month they'll show up - September or October - much less what day. 

I love telling people in Texas this. Everyone is SHOCKED that I'm electing to VBAC over scheduling a c section in this c section happy state. Girl, bye. Recovery from a c section is bunk! I'll use the hole that God gave me to get those babies out, kthanxbai.

You're formula feeding, right? Trust me, you don't have time for on-demand feeding with twins! A schedule is a must!
Newsflash: you can breastfeed on a schedule! I did on-demand nursing for my first child and made it 3 months because I was so miserable from it. For my second son, I got introduced to the glorious schedule via my night nanny/certified sleep consultant. What you do (or don't do) during the day DIRECTLY impacts how your night is going to go. Let your kid nap whenever, eat whenever, and have no structure? Have fun with a fussy, awake baby all night! Overtired babies don't sleep better, they stay awake and if you let them nurse every hour, they will. Start to incorporate consistent nap locations, times, routines and start to get on a feeding schedule as soon as possible? Your nights become predictable too. So yes, I'm already a schedule convert and yes, despite what the nutjobs from Le Leche League say, you can totally breastfeed on a schedule and make it work. Schedules are the only way to sanity with infants (and toddlers and children too, actually...)

That said, if I'm totally miserable BFing the twins, there's nothing wrong with formula. Maybe I'll only make it 6 weeks or 4 months or maybe I'll make it breastfeeding a whole year. I'm going with the scheduled flow on this one!

Successfully breastfed this stud on a schedule. It's possible, I promise!

Have you traded in your SUV for a minivan yet?
You'll pry the keys to my SUV out of my cold, dead hands. Homie don't play dat. I understand your Oddesey has sliding automatic doors and cameras and room. I get that you think your Pacifica is the best thing that's ever happened to you. My Infiniti has automatic doors and three rows and room for groceries and strollers too. And I look good in it. Just sayin. 

When are you scheduling your "mommy makeover"?
Ha! I'm no idiot. You don't walk away from breastfeeding FOUR kids unscathed. I do totally plan on getting a lift and slight augmentation (the street name I've heard for this is a 'Brazilian breast lift') to fill the girls back out. Whether I need a tummy tuck or liposuction will depend on how everything shapes up and plays out. I doubt I'll need anything that extreme because I never gained a whole bunch of weight pregnant. But I created, carried and birthed four humans! If I need reconstructive surgery, I'm going to get it, not sit around feeling miserable about myself. I eat really healthy and workout regularly which will take care of most of it, but there's no diet or exercise in the world that will fix deflated, stretched out post-breastfeeding boobs! No shame in my planned-boob-job-game.

This thing is called a crib and it was made for babies to sleep in

You're not going to try to co-sleep with 2 babies are you?
Nope. No ma'am. I wasn't a co-sleeper with one and I'm sure as heck not starting with two! I have nothing against co-sleeping, if it works for you then great. I just know more moms who complain about lack of sleep and develop terrible sleep habits in their kids when they co-sleep, and I myself didn't get ANY sleep when I had my first two in bed with me (that lasted a whole week), so I got over that real quick. Cribs in their own room for these babies! And I must be doing something right because my toddlers both sleep in twin beds for 12 hours and don't get up/out of bed at night. Ever. Thank goodness.

I'm not one to complain about what people say to pregnant women because I generally take it as them being interested in me, which is flattering, even if it's a tad too personal. I've answered some of the rudest or funniest pregnancy questions I've ever gotten here, but if you've got more questions, don't hesitate to ask! I love a good laugh at an "inappropriate" question and have no problem deep diving into the juicy details. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Back To School Meal And Snack Ideas

Back to school time is often rushed and chaotic. Use these ideas and COUPON CODES to make eating a little easier!

This post is sponsored by

The school year is upon us! Even for folks like me who have late in the year starts - we're all finally back in the school saddle! That excites me, but I know it also means some families become insanely busy. Hard to find time to grocery shop, hard to find time to cook, meals at odd hours and everyone in your kitchen at once hungry and tired kinda busy! I've got an awesome roundup of products and services to help you through the busy back to school season, and a Crock Pot recipe you'll love that's as perfect for fall as it is for busy schedules. Here are some great back to school meal and snack ideas to get you through the season.

Grocery shopping life-saver: SHIPT
I'm one of the rare ones who loves grocery shopping, but even my love for selecting food can't override the fact that it is time consuming. I usually do one run on Saturdays without the kids and one mid-week with the kids, and when the kids are with me? What should take me 15 mins takes an hour. With busy back to school schedules (and as an extra bonus in my case, the impending arrival of my twins!) I know that I won't have the luxury of time to do my typical leisurely shopping trips. 

Enter SHIPT, a membership-based grocery delivery service. For a $49 annual fee you get same day shopping for all your groceries and get to select a one hour window for it to be delivered to your house. That's key - ever ordered food and it was delivered when you weren't home, so it sat outside for far too long? I have, and since I'm in Texas, all the food was destroyed. The ice packs were actually HOT. So selecting your delivery time is essential for hot or cold climates!

What I really loved about it is you select the store you want the food from. I had three options in Dallas, and was able to pick from grocers I actually shop. SHIPT directs you right to the grocers website and you select your items from there - you even get access to the sale stuff! I got to pick delivery times anywhere from two hours out to a full 24 hours out. I could literally buy my items at Central Market and have them delivered to my door in less than two hours! A personal shopper goes and gets your things, and drops it off at your door. My gal texted me (bless her, I never answer numbers I don't know!) and kept me up to date on where she was in the process and when exactly she'd be at my home. She was fantastic, and her communication was spot on. There's also free shipping on deliveries over $35, and there's a detailed section where you can list your food preferences ahead of time so your personal shopper knows what you like. Order online, know that you're getting your preferred type of food (ripe bananas only, please!) and get it when you want it and will be home to receive it. Yes yes yes! Sign up here.

Snacking ideas: Good allergy-safe with MadeGood
We're beyond blessed in our home to have zero food allergies. We can all eat all the things and I don't have to worry when I send my kids off to preschool what other moms are packing in their kids' lunches that might make my child ill. I know not everyone is as lucky, however; we just got notified that no peanuts, peanut-based products, or anything with any type of nut is allowed in Henry's lunches due to one of his classmates being severely allergic. I can pack him some goodies from MadeGood and know that he'll eat it (always a challenge with picky eaters!) and that I'm not endangering any other child's life. These organic snacks food allergy safe. They're made in a facility free from the eight most common food allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, dairy, egg, sesame, fish and shellfish. They make tasty granola bars, granola bites and crisped rice treats too. If you're a food allergy mom, or send your child to a food allergy safe classroom/school and are looking for snack items to send in your child's lunch, you've got to check out MadeGood here.

Meal ideas: Eat organically with EatPre and Lundberg
I get it. Back to school meals are just HARD. Kids come home hungry and want snacks and want to know what's for dinner immediately. They come home from sports practice or after school activities ravenous. You need easy to make and quick to cook meal ideas to tame everyone's inner-hangry-beast.

EatPre is an online meat delivery service that offers grass fed beef, never treated with antibiotics and never injected with growth hormones. They have everything from steaks to ground beef. I made the ribeye and top sirloin steaks on Labor Day (did you see the feast on my IG stories?) and they turned out great! Y'all know I'm a beef snob since I live in Texas and these were just as good as any local brand I'd buy - with the convenience of them being shipped to my door! Try them for 10% thru Oct. 31 using code UNCOMPLICATED and get an ADDITIONAL 40% off 80 and 85 lean ground beef using code BTS40 (additional 40% off good thru Sept 21). Get your discounts at EatPre here!

Ever struggle to come up with a good side dish to serve along side your protein of choice? You need something fast; you need something easy to make; and you need something filling and nutritious. Lundberg makes rice and quinoa pilafs that are organic, ready in 20 mins or less and vegan-friendly and gluten free too. Pull some protein out of the freezer to thaw, add a fresh vegetable and a Lundberg pilaf, and you've got a nutritious and easy week night meal to serve your family. Check them out here.

Easy, healthy weeknight meal to make ahead in your Crock Pot or Instant Pot

Better than cooking after school/work, come home to a meal that's already prepared for you! I used my EatPre ground beef, the Lundberg organic white rice and some groceries delivered to my door from SHIPT to create this super easy Crock Pot Gumbo. You can buy your veggies pre-cut (thank you Central Market!) or cut them yourself on the weekend and store in a plastic bag or glass container. Then dump everything else in your Crock Pot (or InstaPot) in the morning before you leave and come home to a delicious meal!

Crock Pot Gumbo
- 1lb EatPre ground beef
- Lundberg white rice pilaf with the flavor packet
- 2 large Andouille sausage links
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 32oz container of veggie stock (beef or chicken is fine too)
- 3 tablespoons flour

*My SHIPT andiouille sausage came raw, so I browned it in a skillet. If yours is precooked, no need to brown it, simply cut it into slices and add it to the Crock Pot. Since I had a skillet out anyway, I browned my ground beef off in the pan, and added the flour to that to thicken the gumbo. You can add everything straight to the Crock Pot if you'd prefer and it will cook for 8-10 hours. Pre-cooking the raw meat cuts the cooking time down to 4-6 hours.

Easy, healthy weeknight meal to make ahead in your Crock Pot or Instant Pot

Turn your Crock Pot onto high heat and add the ground beef and andiouille sausage, and sprinkle with the four. Let the Crock Pot come up to temperature. Add all the remaining ingredients, including the flavor packet from the rice pilaf, stir to incorporate and drop your temperature down to low. Cook covered on low for 8 to 10 hours, until the rice has absorbed the excess fluid, the meat is cooked through and the veggies are soft. Goes well with a dash of your favorite hot sauce!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Moving Your Toddler Out Of A Nursery

My boys have moved into their big boy room and out of the nursery to make room for the twins! Here's what we did and how we did it

My kids have room shared since Otto was three months old. My husband thought for sure this was a disastrous idea; that the baby would wake the toddler and that our early rising toddler would wake the baby and nobody would ever get sleep, ever. I wrote this post on why my kids share a room, despite having plenty of bedrooms in our home. And I'm happy to report that just like most things baby-raising-related, I was right: the boys don't wake each other, don't bother each other, and in fact, their experience seems to be just like mine when I was a little girl with my sister who's only 18 months older than me - they LOVE being together! They sleep in their own beds and stay there all night. They comfort each other. Sure, every now and then we'll have to pop in and tell them to go to sleep, but overall it's been very successful. Since the twins are close to arriving and we needed their toddler beds converted back to cribs, we decided to move them out of the nursery and create a "big boy" room for them. Both my husband and I were a little worried about this transition, but it went incredibly smooth too! Here are my best tips on moving your toddler out of a nursery and a look at the boys' big kid room.

Bunk bed from Ikea - the only one we found with the bottom bunk set on the floor and the top bunk not more than 3.5 feet off the ground, perfect for toddlers!

My kids were confused as to why they had to get a new room. I think the best place to start is telling them why in terms they'll understand. For us, it mean explaining that mommy has two babies growing inside her, and when the babies come, they need to sleep in the cribs because babies sleep in cribs. This simple message was one they could understand and get behind! 

Once they understood that babies sleep in cribs and that two more babies will be joining our family, their next question was, "But where will I sleep?" This is the fun part! This is also the critical part for a smooth transition. This is when you position the new room as a special treat for getting older/becoming a bigger sibling or to celebrate moving into a new home. Whatever your circumstances are, it's important that you make sure your child knows it's a promotion, not a punishment for something.

The monograms I hand painted them were carried over from their nursery, as were most of the blue, green and white details

One way to make it more of a promotion/celebration is to include the child in picking out new items for the room. Yes, even my two year old got a say in what went into his new big boy room with his brother! Both boys really enjoy planes, and Otto picked out the new plane sheets. I found some new artwork with historic plane models that were perfect to replace the safari animals that had been in there. My four year old got to pick out what toys we'd move into their new room.

A shelf that was also in their nursery that holds framed first birthday invitations for each of their parties and their own piggy banks

I liked having a really good balance of new things that made the move exciting for them, and old things that made it comfortable and familiar. We bought new beds, bedding, and a storage unit with a built in bench, but most of the artwork and knickknacks were carried over from their former nursery. This helped to make it exciting but kept it "their room." My husband was a bit shocked when I told him we'd be doing a whole new theme for the twins nursery, but I think it helped curb any jealousy the boys might feel over "their" stuff, because they get to keep their stuff.

Monogrammed Pottery Barn Kids chairs and a small storage unit for toys (they have a playroom so I didn't want too many toys in their bedroom! Plus, it's the smallest room in the house, formerly an office, so they don't need the added clutter of excessive toys

I think that's really key: make sure your older kids' stuff is still THEIRS. Make their new bedroom exciting without being unfamiliar. Re-do nurseries so that the older child isn't jealous that 1) the baby is in their former room and 2) that the baby isn't using everything that was once theirs. The separation of material things sounds trivial, but it's actually more symbolic than it is materially important. It shows that while there will be new additions to the family, or major changes, that their original value remains with the family. They're still a part of it. What was once theirs is still theirs and the new siblings are getting their own, new things.

Airplane sheets Otto picked out and the comforter has embroidered planes on it (that don't photograph well!) Of course as soon as the boys heard me in their room, they jumped in on a shot. Hashtag momlife. Also, while that electrical outlet had child protective covers over the plugs, it's since been removed from the wall altogether, so chill.

Transitioning your toddler out of their nursery is intimidating! Especially when it's because you're bringing new babies home soon. But if you make sure to involve your toddler in the process, giving him or her the autonomy to select some of the new items for the room and continue to use some of the things that make it feel like its theirs so that they don't fell replaced, moving your toddler out of a nursery will go much smoother. For everyone!