What To Pack For A Pool Day With A Toddler – Free Printable Checklist

This post is the first in my new, official Packed to Perfection series. Be sure to check back for other posts in the Packed to Perfection Series as they are posted – I’ll be including free downloadable packing lists for each! Print, laminate (this laminating machine is $19.97 on Amazon.com – woo hoo!), stick the list in your bag, and never worry about forgetting something again! You can see other examples of ways to organize and pack for a baby or toddler in these existing posts: Diaper Bag for Baby, Packing Cubes, Working Mom’s Pumping Bag, Infant Daycare Bag, Baby/Toddler Car Kit, and Restaurant Kit for Babies/Toddlers.

Make sure to download and print the FREE printable Toddler Pool Bag checklist at the end of this post!

 

Now, let’s dive into (pun intended) what to pack for a day at the pool with a toddler…

It used to be as easy as grabbing a towel, sunnies and a  suit, sunblock, an issue of InStyle, water bottle, flip flops, then off to the pool for the day. Now that you have a baby or toddler in tow, there is a whole new element to planning and packing for a successful, fun, safe day at the pool. 

I want to show you what and how I pack for a Mommy and Me Pool Day with my toddler. If you’re a first-time mom in the same boat as I was OR a been-there-done-that pro mama, I hope this post will give you some good ideas for things to pack (and what to pack them in!) for a great day at the pool with your toddler.

Swimsuit with built in swim diaper by i play.
Now that we have access to a pool right down the road in our new community, pool days are a part of our weekly routine. Taylor lovingly refers to this special place as the “poooo,” which I find pretty darn funny, but I digress…

Before we moved, I had never taken Taylor to a pool and I wasn’t quite sure what to pack to bring with us that first day. Flash forward a couple weeks and I feel like we have rounded up everything we need with the caveat that, at some point, we’ll probably start bringing some pool toys. Right now, at 15 months old, Taylor is happy to just people watch from her float or splash/walk around in the baby pool. The first few times at the pool for her were about introducing her and helping her become accustomed to the water and new environment.

What to pack for a day at the pool with a toddler:

Tote Bag – obviously, this is a must! The bag shown in the photo above is one I got at our local grocery market because I loved the design, fun color scheme and the size worked perfectly. Here are a few similar and the black mesh tote I am using for a carry on/beach bag for our upcoming vacation (it comes in several colors and is under $10!):

 

1.Babyganics sunscreen stick SPF 50 (for the face bc my fingers on her face is, apparently, torture) and sunscreen in a gallon Ziplock bag – I usually put my own sunscreen on at home and if I need to reapply, I will just use Taylor’s.

2. Skip Hop wet/dry bag with the following inside the dry pouch: the Wet Brush and a change of clothes for a toddler. When we are ready to leave, we rinse off and then I change her into a diaper, put the pool cover up back on her and throw the wet suit into this bag.  I can’t tell you how many things I use these bags for or how many we own!

3. Sunglasses for mama and toddler 

4. Quart size Ziplock bags for electronics

5. Skip Hop cooler for water bottles (I also used this in my Pumping Bag) – Camel Back bottles: mom version, toddler version. If you’re looking to pack snacks that need to be refrigerated I HIGHLY recommend this Freezable Tote by PackIt; you stick it in the freezer and, once frozen, it stays cold for up to 10 hours – no ice packs needed!

6. Floaties – the ones linked are super easy to blow up, well rated, Amazon Prime eligible (as are most items linked in this post) and under $10! If you aren’t yet an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial HERE.

7. Swim Suit Cover Up for mama – I have two pool cover ups I’m LOVING right now. The first is this simple, classy one.The second (shown in the photo above) is by Michael Stars. I got that one as part of the summer Fab Fit Fun box. I’m kind of obsessed with these boxes. Most of the individual items in the box (like the cover up) are worth more than the cost of the ENTIRE box. Use the code TAYLORMADE to save $10, and get your box for only $39.99!

8. Baby or toddler kids sun hat with chin strap (50+ UPF cotton) – I also bring my own hat, similar to this floppy chambray one from Nordstrom.

9. Towels  – I bring one for myself and one for Taylor, but you could probably get by with just one and save bag space.

Tote Savvy Insert = Mom Must Have!
10. ToteSavvy Mini Insert – I use this ToteSavvy insert interchangeably in all my bags these days be it a purse, diaper bag, carry on for a flight or pool day bag;  I love it because I always know where to look for the essentials. To me, this insert is an absolute mom must-have! These days I carry the following inside it’s pouches: Bandaids, mini Evian facial spray (this keeps both toddler and mama cool on a hot day!), a couple small toys, Babyganics Alcohol-Free individually packed hand,face and mouth sanitizing wipes, 2 diapers, pack of wipes, several snacks, keys, wallet and one of the most popular items purchased through Amazon via links on my site – the Munchkin Arm & Hammer diaper bag dispenser and bags:

On Toddler:

  • Swimsuit – I bought a couple of these suits with built in swim diapers by I play on Amazon Prime Day 2017, and we’re loving them so far.
  • Swim diaper to wear underneath a suit if it doesn’t have a built-in. We have been using these disposable swim pants by Babyganics, but there are also tons of non-disposable versions as well.
  • Diaper for over the swim suit in the car ride to the pool because swim diapers tend to leak (or maybe I’m using them wrong?).  When we get to the pool we just take off this extra safety precaution.
  • Swimsuit cover up
  • Sandals – these clear Mary Jane jellies are a toddler girl must, plus they have great grip on the bottom. Old Navy has a huge variety of strap-back flip flops for toddler girls and boys.

Additional Items:

  • Floating toys – I’m definitely getting this cute  Shark Fish Hunt Game by Melissa & Doug.
  • Float – Tented Float by Intex 
  • Cooler or freezable picnic tote for water bottles, milk and snacks that need refrigerating. For me, this is just too much to carry – I can only manage a baby, tote bag and float when it’s just T and I.
  • Pop Up Sunshade/Tent – optional depending on if there is shade at your pool.

Now you tell me, what are your pool day bag must haves? I’m on the lookout for some water shoes like these from Carter’s for Taylor, but are there some you like better?

Click here or just click on the picture below to access, download and print a copy of the checklist:

P.S.  If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the American Academy of Pediatrics pool and sun safety recommendations including:

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that provide 97% -100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays), and clothing with a tight weave.
  • On both sunny and cloudy days use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and after swimming or sweating.

 

Amazon Prime Day 2017  – Toddler and Mama Edition

This post contains affiliate links but, as you already know, I only promote things I am actually into (like anything Amazon.com)!

If you don’t already have an Amazon Prime membership then today is, definitely, definitely the day to become one. If you already have one, are you ready for Prime Day 2017?? 

You can get a FREE 30 Day Trial to Amazon Prime HERE,  just in time to take advantage of all the deals for Prime members only beginning on July 10 at 6pm PT / 9pm ET and runs all day Prime Day July 11.

Why So Awesome, Amazon Prime?

As a side note, my Prime membership easily pays for itself within a few weeks.  I consider Alexa  a bestie (btw, you can get $10 credit on Prime Day for ordering through Alexa).  I save hundreds per year by shopping for everything from the comfort of my home, car (as a passenger, of course), waiting in lines, etc. Groceries, baby stuff, home decor, electronics, clothing, music, movies…is there anything Amazon Prime doesn’t get you access to + free 1-2 Day Shipping/returns on these days ??  Truth be told, I went completely a little crazy on Prime Day last year because deals were just. that. Good. The onslaught of boxes 2 days later totally freaked my husband out, but, #worthit.   So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a Free 30 Day Prime Trial HERE and get to shoppin’.

For a full list of ALL the benefits of a Prime membership check out this link.

Okay, so onto some of the deals I have my eye on for toddlers and their mamas. Head over to my Facebook Page for all the deals I’m finding starting…..NOW! I’ll be posting every chance I get when I find a deal for you:


Let me know if there is something in particular you are looking for and I’ll see what I can find!

 

The Healthiest, Non-Toxic Products For Babies & Toddlers

 

Call me ignorant, but I did not realize just how much CRAP is put into a lot of the products out there on the market for babies and toddlers. Mainstream baby products contain numerous toxic ingredients that will enter your baby’s body if used or actually ingested, not to mention toddlers who are putting stuff in their mouths ALL. THE. TIME.  I feel like I’ve  been cognizant of trying my best to avoid buying things for Taylor that might be toxic, artificial, and generally not healthy for human beings, let alone little ones, but honestly I haven’t really had the time to do my due diligence on each and every product I’ve purchased… #momguilt

Now That I Know Better

Thankfully, I discovered a company whose purpose is to make it easier for busy moms (aren’t we all!) and moms-to-be to give themselves and their family the healthiest products, at really good prices, while doing all the vetting and research for us on the back end! 21 Bundles is a personalized subscription box service that delivers baby/toddler products that are sustainable, ethical, and most of all HEALTHY while still remaining super cute, relevant and fun. I LOVE mail like this! The best part is that you can rest assured no product 21 Bundles delivers will contain any of this junk:

source: www.healthiest.io

How 21 Bundles Works

  1. Tell 21 Bundles your stage (or baby’s age)
  2. Each Bundle is ta[y]lored (had to!) to your baby or toddlers age with all natural products. Each and every product in the bundles must meet or exceed these stringent regulations before being considered for and curated as “the healthiest” of products out there for little ones.
  3. Every bundle (4-7 full-sized products along with stickers, samples, and coupons) is delivered in an eco-friendly box packed with safe and chemical free goodies! For example, the cute little owl stroller toy Taylor received in her 14-month-old bundle is made from fair trade certifiably organic Egyptian cotton and chemical free dyes!

Our first bundle was truly loaded with goodies relevant to Taylor’s and stage! Her favorite from the get was definitely the Rainbow Sensory Ball; much to my dismay her delight it has a very, shall we say, distinctive squeak to it; it’s a go-to toy for her now, but at least I don’t have to worry when she mouths it!  Personally, I am anxious to use the Monkey Mat (as seen on Shark Tank!) for backyard and park picnics/concerts this summer, and I’m definitely stashing the non-toxic surface sanitizer in my Toddler Restaurant Essentials Kit.

You can learn more about any product sent to you in your own bundle, or order other healthy family and baby products by visiting the parent site to 21bundles, www.healthiest.io.  From here on out, I’m definitely saving myself the trouble of researching on my own and using this site as a resource.

What do you think of this concept? Pretty awesome, right?  Would you try something like this out for your own babe or as a gift?You can get a coupon for $10.00 off your first bundle (that makes it only $29.99!) by entering your email in the field on this page.

Hope you love your experience with 21 Bundles it as much as we did!

Thanks to 21 Bundles for sponsoring today’s post.  Please know that I only recommend products and resources I truly believe in.

“Pin Me” on Pinterest for later:

 

What I Learned In My First Year Of Blogging

This time a year ago I had about 5 posts waiting in the Word Press wings when I pressed “Publish,” and this blogging adventure began. I’m pretty sure that the only people who read those posts, or any subsequent ones over the next couple of months, were my husband, parents and best friends. Flash forward only one year, and I still can’t quite believe when I see that there are hundreds of women who visit this blog each day. Although that’s small peanuts as compared to many bloggers, I’m still excited by that because it means I’m putting content out that my fellow mamas are finding useful.

I remember being kind of embarrassed to put myself out there as a “Blogger” to an extent that those who know me in real life are, I’m sure, surprised by. I’m an introvert to the core, but this year I found a passion in this creative forum which allows me to connect and share experiences with other moms all across the world. Taylor-made Mama is like one big,  borderless, online Mommy Group, and I love it!

I’ve learned a TON this year  (I surely NEVER thought I’d be teaching myself to code!), yet I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what I need to know in order to do all I want to here. I started this blog while on Maternity Leave as a way to document my experiences as a new mom and share #momhacks I learned along the way, and hopefully share that with any friends and family who might want to keep up with our little family. Sounds easy, right? I had a personal blog years ago that documented the highs and lows of being a Special Education teacher,  and I didn’t think this one would be much different in terms of effort…Well, let’s just say I was certainly naive to think a {trying to be} legitimate blog would be an easy addition to my already busy life,  trying to balance my version of it all.

The beginnings of my new workspace…

Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy

Quickly, I realized just how MUCH work went into this little corner of the internet, and also the possibilities it held… Blogging is super time consuming; the brainstorming, writing, pitching, photographing/editing,  researching, publishing and promoting is endless work if you allow it to be. However, once I got started I knew this was something I wanted to continue and expand upon despite losing sleep, replacing gym time with blog work or the humbling realization that this isn’t something I would be ever instantly be a pro at.

Today, on the 1 Year Anniversary of Taylor-mademama.com I celebrate sticking with this for an entire – extremely busy – year and all that I’ve learned so far, but even more so I celebrate YOU.  

I’m SO thankful to each of you for the support and encouragement you’ve given me along the way. Thank you for taking time out of your days to open your email or browser to read this blog, comment, email questions, hang out with me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, participate in my Giveaways, etc. There are literally millions of Mommy Blogs out there, but you stick around here with me. I can’t thank you enough for that.  You make all the time and effort worth it.

What’s Next

In January I sent out a Reader’s Survey asking what you’d like to see more of on the blog in the coming year (aside from cute Taylor pics, bc you know you don’t even have to ask for those!) and you let me know you want more time management, workout, organization, and meal prep advice and printables, as well as updates my current Mama Must Haves.

As timing would have it, my last day of work outside the home also happens to be today – June 29th! Now that I’m a full time Stay At Home Working Mom (SAHWM? that’s how I’m labeling myself anyway), I’m looking forward to having more time and energy to pour into this blog and adding more value – I have a ton of exciting things in the pipeline for you. 

I know my strengths and weaknesses as a Blogger, and I recognize I have a LONG way to go, but this is me sharing about motherhood, life and following dreams with you in a way ONLY I can. Maybe it isn’t starting a blog or quitting your job, but I hope I can inspire you to follow your own heart/dreams as a mom and person in this life. You have things to share with your family and the world that only YOU can, and it’s never too late to change direction in life and follow your passion and purpose. You’ll be happier and a better mom for it, I promise.

I hope you continue to find encouragement, motivation, and inspiration here. Thank you so much again for supporting me, friends. I love ya’ll!

Gratefully,

Ashley

P.S. Below are a few of  the tops blog posts from the first year of Taylor-made Mama, in case you missed them:

  1. Maternity Leave Routine For Mom & Baby
  2. The Ultimate 1st Birthday Party Planning Guide
  3. Tips For Making Dining Out With A Baby/Toddler Less Stressful
  4. Baby Car Kit Essentials
  5. Tips For Successfully Pumping at Work

Father’s Day Gift Guide – Amazon.com Prime

Are you a last minute shopper (like me), not wanting to spend a ton of cash, but still want to give your baby daddy (or your own Dad!) something to make them feel extra special on Father’s Day this year? Then look no further – this is the gift guide for you! All of the gifts listed are under 100 dollars and have FREE 1-2 day shipping, if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

If you aren’t one already, definitely hop aboard the Prime train – you won’t be disappointed. My Prime membership easily pays for itself within a few weeks. I save hundreds per year by shopping for everything from the comfort of my home, office, car (as a passenger of course), waiting in line, etc. My husband thinks I’m crazy for how many boxes arrive on a daily weekly basis, but it works for our busy lifestyle.

If you don’t have Prime yet you can get a free 30 Day Trial HERE, just in time to purchase a gift from this list. Orrrrrrrr you can just trust me and go ahead and sign up for Amazon Prime HERE. “Once you go Prime you never go back,”  doesn’t really have a ring to it, but it’s still totally true. Check out ALL the cool stuff you’ll get access to with your Prime membership, in addition to free 1-2 day shipping and free returns, here.

Now back to what you came here for: The Ultimate Amazon.com Prime Gift Guide for Guys (all items are under $100, and many are on super sale!):

  1. Echo Dot (439.99) and a customized Case ($19.99) to suit his style.
  2. Oster Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($12.46)
  3. The Wire – The Complete Series ($72.80)
  4. Sharpest Tool Socks ($16.92)
  5. Homebrewing Craft Beer Making Kit ($49.99)
  6. Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, by Jimmy Fallon ($12.84)
  7. All Natural Beard Conditioning Oil ($14.99)
  8. 1st Father’s Day Onesie ($21.00)
  9. Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife ($24.99)

  10. SENSO Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sports Earphones ($37.97)

  11. Daniel Wellington Men’s Watch w/ Black Leather Band ($89.99)

  12. Slim Minimalist Genuine Leather Front Pocket Wallet ($12.99)

  13. Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player ($39.99)

  14. Vintage Leather Canvas Travel Toiletry Bag Shaving Kit ($18.99)
  15. YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler with Lid ($24.99)
  16. Bevel Shave System Kit ($75.95)
  17. Dad’s Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time ($7.67)
  18. Oversized Canvas Genuine Leather Travel Weekend Bag ($46.99)
  19. Dad Mug ($19.98)
  20. BBQ Meat Branding Iron with Changeable Letters ($15.97)

What are you getting your honey for Father’s Day this year? How are you celebrating?!

xo, Ashley (1)

P.S. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE. Subscribers are automatically entered to win bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!
Pin this list for the next time you need an eleventh-hour gift for a guy in your life:


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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you utilize a link to make a purchase, I make a small commission at no cost to you. 

 

How A Baby Changes Everything

This post is sponsored by Carter’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Although they are little, babies sure can create BIG change in our lives.

From the day Taylor was born until today SO much has changed for us. If you follow us on Instagram you probably already know that we moved to our new home/city last weekend and that in about a month I will be leaving a 10+ year, successful career to stay home with Taylor. If interested, you can read more about that decision HERE. The reason for mass amounts of change in a relatively short timeframe? An itty, bitty newborn baby who has grown way too quickly into an {almost} full blown toddler.

Our move represents the incredible way that a baby can change your internal + external priorities and reality…

Before and even during pregnancy, I thought I wanted to be a working mom of 1 child only, and my hubby and I had our life planned accordingly. We certainly didn’t think that, within a year of T’s birth, that we would reorganize our financial and physical life in order to allow me to stay at home with her. Nor did we imagine we would search for a home that would be able to (hopefully, someday, no I’m not pregnant) accommodate another baby! But, as I am sure you have experienced in your own way, a baby can be quite the catalyst for change.

As we packed up the home we spent our first year as a family in I couldn’t stop thinking of all the memories we made in those rooms and how much growing we all did in different ways. However, I’m super excited for this new chapter in our lives. It will be one with undoubtedly less “me time,” but filled with so much more “us” time and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Luckily, through all of the change, Carter’s has us covered.  Taylor has grown up in their zip-up playsuits (hello, easy diaper changes!) and I may or may not have spent WAY too much money during their Memorial Day sale on tons of the cutest swimsuits and outfits for Taylor’s summer.  Carter’s has compiled some of their most classic, tried & true styles (including the zip-up playsuits) to comprise the Little Baby Basics Collection.

Little Baby Basics baby clothes are sized newborn through 24 months. As your baby – and you –  go through all the changes (and growth spurts) involved in the first 1+ year of their life this is a line of baby boy clothes and baby girl clothes that you can count on for consistent quality, affordable prices, comfort and – very importantly – cuteness! I mean, look at the elephant detail…those pant ruffles… *sigh*

The Original Body Suits from the Little Baby Basics Collection, like the ones Taylor is shown wearing throughout this post, are must-haves in any baby wardrobe. They are sold (for incredibly reasonable prices) in packs of 5 coordinating patterns + designs which also makes them an adorable baby shower gift.

Carter’s has offered a generous coupon to my readers, available now through July 4th, 2017. With this coupon, you’ll receive 20% off their already great prices if you spend $40 or more, in store or online. Stock up for now, later or even a future baby shower gift:


Not sure where your local Carter’s store is? You can find the nearest store by clicking here.

Happy Shopping and remember to savor each and every moment with your little one/s – it flies by too quickly not to!

Like what you read in this post? Please share THIS LINK on Facebook, or PIN the image below:

LipSense Lip Color – A Mama Must Have

A lipstick that is kiss proof, smudge proof, water proof and lasts up to 18 hours?

Seems too good to be true, right? No way those claims are actually legit.

That’s exactly what I thought every time I saw LipSense pop up in my social media feeds over the last year or so. However, the idea of being able to put on lip color in the morning, kiss Taylor and my hubby goodbye/drink way too many cups of coffee without leaving a mark,  and not have to think about reapplying throughout my entire work day sounded really appealing. When I initially connected with my girl Shana of Montana Lips and More, who offered to send me a Lip Kit to review and potentially share with you,  I was cautiously optimistic to give LipSense a try.

She sent me a Lip Kit which included a super pretty natural lip stain (Bella), clear Glossy Gloss, a pot of Lip Scrub and an Ooops Lip Color Remover. The first day I tried LipSense I could not get over how cool it was. It takes a little longer to apply than a regular lipstick, but no more than a minute for the whole process.  I definitely think I demoed how I could drink out of my coffee cup and not leave a single trace of lip color behind to way too many co-workers that day. I mean, check out this picture taken right before I left work the other day – after drinking multiple cups of coffee, yapping my way through several meetings, and eating a burrito for lunch – with color still clearly in tact:

 

 

9.5 hours later, LipSense still hanging on!
Gloss, Dusty Rose, Heartbreaker and Bella.
I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t think I’ll  ever go back to traditional lip color.  After the initially LipSense experience, I contacted Shana right away and ordered two additional colors to add to my collection. I wore Dusty Rose, a slightly darker yet natural looking color, the day of Taylor’s first birthday party and never once had to reapply. I also wore Dusty Rose  to a friend’s wedding celebration out of town. and had to wait until the next day  to take it off as I had forgotten my Ooops Remover! How’s that for long lasting?!  Lastly, here’s an admittedly ridiculous picture of me in the middle of a work day sporting Heartbreaker, a fun spring/summer color:

Duck face for the sake of showcasing Heartbreaker.
This stuff is a total Mama Must Have, and I wouldn’t be posting about it today if I didn’t think it would be worth it for you to try out. LipSense would also make for a great Mother’s Day Gift, and Shana can hook you up with a Gift Certificate just in time. Check out the colors she has in stock now HERE. To order, comment “sold” on the photo of the item you would like in the in-stock album or just message through her Facebook page. Between now and 6/7/17 you can save 10% with Shana using the code TaylorMade.

What other beauty hacks am I missing out on? Please do tell!

Why I’m Leaving My Career To Be A Stay At Home Mom

Working Mom. Stay At Home Mom. Work At Home Mom.

An unfortunate truth is that, no matter what your decision or family circumstance in regards to work and motherhood, there will always be people who question, criticize or judge.

Since making the choice to put my career on pause to be at home with Taylor most everyone has been amazingly encouraging (i.e. the overwhelming, positive response on Instagram when I originally shared our news in this post). However, I have also had people ask directly – or behind my back – why I’m making the decision that I am, why I’m leaving what I’ve worked so hard to achieve over the last 10+ years…

Well, my answer is this: it feels right to my heart, I want to be the one to care for Taylor every day of the week, and it’s what is possible & best for our family. I know I will be the best version of myself as an individual, wife and mom because of this choice. Not to mention, I am also confident that my skills and drive will not simply vanish because I choose to stay home for a season of life.

Trust me, I can hold my ambition AND my baby. 

Not every mom feels like I do. Not every mom is wired the same. Not every mom has the same family circumstances and/or opportunities.

There are moms who absolutely love to work outside the home and would go crazy staying at home every day. They enjoy their work. They wouldn’t be the best version of themselves as an individual, wife and mom staying at home.  If that is you (I thought I would be you), be proud in your ability to balance work and home life in a way that feels good and right for you and your family; Although you may hear differently, there is nothing “wrong” or “selfish” with working outside the home because you want to. I know you know this, but you don’t love your career more than your child because you choose to work.

I know working moms who would love nothing more than to stay home with their babies, but are not able to do so. If that is you, please know that you are giving everything you can to contribute to raising and sustaining your family, and you are simply amazing. I feel your heart – being a working (outside the home) mom isn’t easy to begin with, but it’s downright hard when your heart wishes you were elsewhere. 

Work from home moms…I seriously don’t know how you do it. I can’t even get anything with this little side job blog of mine done from home now that Taylor’s down to one nap on my Friday off… If you’re pulling off the work at home mom life, my hat is off to you.

Then there are moms who have always envisioned being a mom and who couldn’t wait to quit their day job when they became one to stay home and raise their babies. In a world where so many moms do work outside the home by necessity or choice, you might feel like the minority (again, maybe that’s just the area where I live?). You may feel isolated, and even find yourself wondering if the 24/7 job you are doing is even noticed. Well, it is by those of us who “get it” and, most importantly, by your kids/family every day. Don’t ever feel less than because you are “just” a mom. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Finally, there are moms who make the difficult (and expensive) choice to leave successful careers to stay at home at some point in motherhood. Co-workers or others around you may not quite understand why you’re leaving the workforce to be “just” a mom. You’re letting down women who paved the way before you. You’re wasting your degrees.  Even some friends and family may question why you’d walk away from a job, salary and potential career opportunities you’ve worked hard to earn – and expensive mistake…Although I can only hope you have loved ones who are nothing but supportive.

Why I chose to put my career on hold to be a stay at home mom

I know that I am a very girl to have the choice to make between working and staying home with Taylor. Staying home is a luxury. I recognize that having a parent at home not every family’s reality, especially given the insane housing market (or is that just where I live?).  For me the decision to move toward Stay At Home Mom-dom was made after making the initial choice to return back to work after Taylor was born. I thought that’s what I wanted to do. I envisioned that as being my perfect reality of having “it all”. I did have my version of “it all,” but I couldn’t balance it. At least, not in a way that took away the ache or made me feel at peace in my heart.  Even working part time, and having my mom and husband watching Taylor in our home while I worked, the anticipation of needing to go back to full time eventually provoked an anxiety in me. I wasn’t expecting to feel that way, but there it was.

Long story – full of prayer, worry, life changes, thought and decision making – short, my husband and I are now changing up our entire life to make this happen because it is what we want and what works best for our family.  Over time, my parenting and work life will both ebb and flow, but neither will end; For this season, I am afforded the precious, irretrievable gift of time with Taylor, and any other babes we may be blessed with. Work can wait.

Criticism about your choice to work, stay home or somewhere in between?

What I want to say to you – and myself – is this:  

If you decide to continue or start working outside of the home when you have kids, even if you don’t financially need to…

If you decide to leave a successful career to be a stay at home mom…

If all you’ve ever wanted to be in life is a mom, and now you are one, happily at home…

There will always be people (even friends and family) – for reasons of insecurity, jealousy, selfishness, ignorance, or boredom- who will criticize the decisions you make in your life. Trust me when I say that it will only serve to bring YOU down and/or drive you crazy if you let the opinions of others influence the way you feel or cause you to question what you know to be right. So, whatever your #momlife looks like, remember that only you and your family truly know what works, and believe that your mama heart is just a committed as the next. And, if you’ve made it to the end of this very long post – thank you : )

Have you ever felt judged for the decision you’ve made to either work or stay home? I’d love to hear about your experiences and answer any questions you have about my journey. 

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P.S. If you are considering making the decision to leave a job you like/love to stay at home for a season like I was, I encourage you to be confident, brave and just take the plunge. Do I have worries and some anxiety about making the transition? Do I worry about how, when and if I’ll get back onto my career path some day? Sure. Although I know the transition won’t necessarily be completely smooth sailing, I can honestly say have not felt any regret and my heart is at ease. I hope the same for you!

Toddler Girl Fashion – Must Haves For Spring & Summer

Almost all of these toddler girl fashion must haves for Spring (and Summer!) are on sale right now so if you see something you like, snag it today.

Here are my favorite pieces for little ladies this season:

1.LIGHTWEIGHT NEUTRAL CARDIGAN – on sale for $13

A staple for transitioning from warm spring days into cooler evenings when you’re out and about with your little lady. This one goes with everything, and I think it’s a steal at $13.

2. SUNGLASSES – $5.90

3. FLOPPY STRAW SUN HAT – on sale for $13.50

Taylor won’t allow me to put anything on her head at the moment, but I’m hoping that changes soon (or I can figure out an effective way to coerce her) as it makes shielding her from the Spring and Summer sun when we are doing something outdoors so much easier! Perfect hat for a day at the beach or a picnic in the park.

4. LACE TRIM KEYHOLE TANK – on sale for $9 (4 color options, including basic white) OR

LACE TRIM TANK BODYSUIT – $14.95

Taylor wore the bodysuit versions all the time last summer as a newborn, and I just took advantage of Gap’s Last Days of Spring Sale to grab her two of the white lace tanks, and one pink. These are also a great staple as they can be paired with pretty much any shorts or skirts your babe may have.

5. MULTI-STRIPE SHORTS – on sale for $19.99

I love that these shorts have several different colors highlighted throughout the coral base. These over even a plain white Onesie would be adorable.

6. THE POCKET SKIRT -$12, or $11 each for 3+

If you have been a reader for a while, you already know about my affinity for Primary Clothing for kids and babes, but their fitted tanks (#8) and pocket skirts are definite warm weather staples for a little miss. Super soft and a price making it inviting to stock up on several colors.

7. EYELET PEPLUM TOP – on sale for $16.99 (3 color options)

Isn’t this top the sweetest?

8. THE TANK -$9, or $8 each for 3+ (15 color options!)

9. PINEAPPLE ROMPER – $29.95

For those warmer spring days we get here in California, I love dressing Taylor in a quick, easy and comfy one piece. This romper is the perfect blend of function and fun for play time!

10. RUFFLED BACK BIKINI – on sale for $10

I am dying over how cute this little itty bitty bikini is. At only $10 I’m sure these won’t last long!

11. RUFFLED CHAMBRAY SHORTS – on sale for $10

Every little lady needs a pair of feminine jeans shorts in her Spring wardrobe. I had these for Taylor in a 0-3 month size last year and she was in them nearly every day!

12. JELLY SANDALS – $24.95

I feel like Jelly sandals are a rite of passage for little girls in a way. Did you wear them growing up? I know I did! I’m definitely snagging a pair for Taylor to sport on summer days at the pool in our new community. I can’t believe we move in a month!

Where are your favorite places to shop for your little one? What colors do you tend to go toward? Let me know in the comments!

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xo, Ashley (1)

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Weaning After 1 Year of Breastfeeding – A Bittersweet Experience (Featuring Bun Maternity)

This post was sponsored by Bun Maternity, the most comfortable nursing apparel I own! All opinions (and emotions) in this post are 100% mine.

From the outset of this post I want to affirm that every mother has her own personal journey with feeding and then weaning her baby. I believe wholeheartedly that “fed is best” and that every mom should do what is best for she and her baby. We each “mom” our own way, and I’m just here to share mine.  

My experience with weaning after one year of breastfeeding:

Before having Taylor, and even while I was pregnant, I was actually kind of uncomfortable with the whole concept of breastfeeding. I saw posts of mothers nursing their babies on social media with hashtags like “#normalizebreastfeeding” and I couldn’t imagine that being me. I didn’t think I wanted that experience. I read about the health and bonding benefits and felt,  if it were possible for me to provide that for her, that I wanted to do so. Despite my discomfort and questioning on the outset, I made a commitment to breastfeed Taylor for as long as it was possible for me to do so, and for as long as she showed interest.

From the first moment she was laid on my chest, I understood that this is what I was made to do for her and all my previous discomfort (mental, not physical, because that i$h HURT the first 6 weeks!) melted away as a bond I can never put words to began.

Flash forward 354 days and our sacred, stressful, beautiful, and at times even painful journey with nursing has come to an end. To be honest, there is a sadness that’s come over me which started during the last couple weeks of our weaning process. I didn’t recognize the “down” feeling I had as being connected at first; For so long, I had been thinking of all the positives that would come along with being done with nursing (freedom!), but there it was. I didn’t understand how to go about the whole weaning process, so we kind of just started… Right away I saw that she was ready physically and emotionally and, even though I thought I would be, I wasn’t so much. From start to finish weaning lasted less than 3 weeks for us. I cradled her to me in the wee hours of our last morning and tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt her little body relax and flashes of the thousands of times I held, comforted and nourished her in this way passed through my mind.

Bittersweet. That’s the best word to summarize how I feel about the nursing chapter of my relationship with Taylor coming to a close. Bitter: a feeling of loss of something special between just she and I, and missing the baby that I can’t expect to stay small forever.  Sweet: a sense of freedom, pride in (barely) making it this far, and gaining back time in the day and my body as my own.

Taylor reaped benefits from nearly twelve months of breastfeeding but, unexpectedly, it was also the best thing for me.  My days at home and work were planned around when to nurse or pump. Although (very) frustrating at times, this broke my selfishness and gave me a sense of connection to her even when I was at work – both were things I needed. Although the emotional bond still remains, the end of breastfeeding is a loss of a connection between a mother and child that will never be there again. That’s hard to let go of, and just another sign that my baby is growing up right before my eyes. However, I know that just because she needs me less physically, does not mean she needs less of me. Even though I now have my body back to myself, I will still be 100% there for her in whatever ways she needs me now.

Bun Maternity – Perfect Apparel for Breastfeeding & Beyond

Mirroring the bond that carries over from breastfeeding to independence, the clothing I have from Bun Maternity are also pieces I can continue to wear beyond my breastfeeding days. Bun Maternity has the most stylish, comfortable and convenient, nursing friendly  apparel I’ve come across. I only wish I had known about this clothing line sooner. I’m sure I’ll be stocking up when (if we are so lucky) Taylor gets a sibling… Bun Maternity is affordable anyway, but they also offer FREE shipping on orders of $50 or more, and right now you can save 15% on orders over $50 using code SWEET15.

The design and versatility of these ponchos, hoodies, wraps, tees and tanks make it really easy to incorporate breastfeeding easily at any time. No one would guess that these are nursing tops. Plus, they are super comfy and soft, which are musts for me. The three pieces I own are fantastic for times when we’re on the go and I’ve needed to discreetly nurse in public – shopping, going out to eat, rushing back from the gym to a hungry baby, etc. 

So Soft Breezy Nursing Hoodie (Navy) – Even though I’m now done with nursing, I will continue to wear this breathable, light-weight hoodie for casual errand running and trips to the gym.

High Low Swing Tank (Kale) – This top comes in several colors, but I couldn’t resist the green/kale. The material is very soft and it looks just like a regular tank but with “secret” side panel access for baby; the ideal tank for a busy day of shopping:

Cozy Nursing Hoodie (Black) – Seriously the most comfortable hoodie I own. If you’re in the market for nursing apparel, definitely snag this one! It is perfect for discreet nursing and the shoulder snap is actually hidden by the hood – you would never guess it’s meant for breastfeeding. I’m definitely continuing to wear this staple beyond breastfeeding. Am I the only one that will wear the same, fav sweatshirt every night for like, a week straight? I may or may not be wearing it right now as I edit this post….

For reference, I am 5’ 10” and wear a size Medium in Bun Maternity apparel.

Check out the entire nursing friendly line at www.bunmaternity.com.

If you were a nursing mom, I wonder if you can relate to the thoughts and emotions I sorted through during weaning. How did you feel when you were done with breastfeeding? If you’re still nursing, do you have a plan for when and how you’ll wean? I’d love to hear about your own experience in the comments.

Thank you so much for reading. 

P.S. If you’re still nursing, make sure to check out all my posts on breastfeeding & pumping.