Must Have Baby & Child Wardrobe Basics

I can’t believe Taylor turns 1 year old in less than a month. Like, I can’t even…

I’ve been busy planning her first birthday party (more to come on that) and reminiscing on what an amazing experience it has been to be her mama these last 11+ months. Despite the unplanned, drug-induced haze after her delivery I so vividly remember the first time I saw her face (and those dimples!) as she was laid on my chest. It was a face that my heart instantly recognized and felt I’d known my whole life, yet I knew nothing about her at the same time – if that makes any sense. From that moment on I’ve been absolutely obsessed with loving and learning all about this precious gift I’ve been given.

Watching her literally grow up before our eyes is absolutely amazing, but bittersweet knowing that she won’t be little forever. Taylor’s not the only one who has been growing and developing this year; we parents experience immense growth during the first year, through the joys and the challenges of figuring out how to do this whole parenthood thing. I am forever a different person than I was before April 15th, 2016.

Today, I want to share about the clothing company that has been “with us” throughout Taylor’s first year of life, from the white beanie she wore at the hospital to the body suits, hoodies and leggings she currently wears to “run around” or explore at her Little Gym classes every Friday afternoon – Primary.com.

Taylor in the baby hoodie in lilac.

Here are 10 reasons we love Primary.com (and think you will too!)

1.A variety of styles – personally, I am absolutely obsessed with their hoodies, leggings and zip romper pajamas, but there are so many cute styles to choose from for both boys and girls. Here are just a few of my other favorite pieces:

2. Vibrant colors that don’t fade  – You can choose from the following array of colors for almost every item in stock, making it easy to coordinate with existing wardrobe pieces:

I’ve washed and washed Taylor’s Primary pieces, because she wears them multiple times per week, and they still look like new. We used a bright orange baby suit as a part of T’s Halloween costume this year:

3. A great price point every item on Primary.com is under $25, starting at only $8! There is even a discount for buying 3+ of an item.

4. The softest fabrics – seriously, the cotton feels like butter; they’re basically the Lularoe leggings of baby/child apparel. So, so comfortable for babies sensitive skin. For the price, I honestly haven’t found anything that beats the quality of Primary.com clothing.

Taylor in the baby dress (mint) and leggings in spruce.
5. No logos, tags or slogans – this is another reason the clothing is super comfortable, and also easy to pair with any other pieces in your babe’s closet. Primary.com is a great place to stock up on your baby/kiddo basics to build a comfy wardrobe around.

6. Digital gift cards – even if you don’t have a little one in the home, the digital gift card option would be a GREAT gift for new mom friends, kid’s birthday parties, etc. Check out this post for some other great gift ideas for new moms.

7. Sizes from Newborn through Kid’s 12 – I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve bought the gray hoodie and black baby leggings for Taylor in 3 sizes over her first year – they’re staples! Primary.com can grow with your family.

T wearing a zip romper in petal
8. Versatility – kiddos can crawl/run/play around in these comfy clothes, but the pieces can also be accessorized for a more dressy occasion – a bow and sparkly cardigan over the swing dress or pocket skirt, the polo shirt with a pair of boys’ slacks to give you a couple of ideas. So many of these comfy basics can be worn casually around the house or for a dressed up (yet super comfy) look.

9. Free Shipping on orders over $50 – I bought $50-75 worth of Primary staple pieces before each size jump Taylor has gone through this year, which kept us perfectly stocked on all the basics she needed. 

10. 20% off of your very first order (click the link below) – So, what are you waiting for? Happy shopping!

Primary_Kids_Clothing_20_Percent_Off

This month, the Mama Must Have Giveaway includes a $25 gift card to Primary.com as part of an Emergency Baby Car Kit (my most popular blog post to date!). If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe in order to be automatically entered to win.

As always, thank you for reading and let me know if and what you buy from Primary.com in the comments below!

xo, Ashley (1)

P.S. 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. THANK YOU!

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How To Create A Bedtime Routine For A Baby

Thank you to I See Me Books for sponsoring this post.

Do you want to help your baby have a smoother, less tearful transition to sleep at night?

Do you wish your baby would STAY asleep longer once they do drift off? 

There are so many different methods to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own (AKA “sleep training”) out there, which I know can be a bit overwhelming. However, one foundational element almost all sleep training methods include is developing and sticking with a bedtime routine.  

A peaceful, predictable bedtime routine is an important part of helping a baby to wind down and sleep well at night; baby who knows what is coming next is more relaxed, and therefore more likely to fall and stay asleep. Getting your baby used to a nightly routine from as early as 6 to 8 weeks not only has benefits for them, but also for you as a parent. It is nice to have special time, that you don’t have to plan or think about, set aside to connect with your little one at the end of each day.

Establishing a bedtime routine early on can also set you up for future successes in getting your little one to to brush their teeth, use the potty and complete other before-bed musts when they become a toddler. There are numerous benefits to creating a consistent bedtime routine for a baby, and it’s a critical component to helping your baby to be a better sleeper. So, why not start there?

Although there isn’t a prescription for the perfect bedtime routine for a baby (trust me, I looked!), below are 15 soothing elements you could choose to include within your little one’s nightly routine:

How To Create A Bedtime Routine:

To create the routine, my recommendation would be to keep it simple, and follow the process below:

  • Pick 4-6 elements from the list above.
  • Choose the order of those elements.
  • Time how long your routine takes to complete.
  • If the routine takes longer than you’d like, drop 1-2 of the components.
  • Once you’ve determine which elements are most soothing for your baby, and realistic for you to complete each night, continue to follow that same predictable pattern of events beginning at the same time (as much as possible) each night. 

A bedtime routine won’t be effective unless it is, well, routine.

Something important to note is that what works for one baby in a bedtime routine may not work for another. Babies are all SO different! For example, some babies are soothed and calmed by a nightly bath before going to bed. Taylor, on the other hand, gets very excited by a bath (more on her bath time routine and favs in this post), making it completely counterproductive to winding down. Another example from our experience was that ending our routine with a nursing session resulted in Taylor waking up much more frequently in the night than she does now that it comes at the beginning of her routine; However, some babies will sleep through the night regardless of when their final nursing or bottle session occurs.

The Perfect Addition To A Bedtime Routine:

We tried out several different iterations of a bedtime routine, playing with both the length of the routine as well as the components and their order, to find out what worked for both Taylor, her Dad and I. Please continue reading to find out Taylor’s current bedtime routine…but first I’m excited to share our new favorite board book from ISeeMe.com, known for their award winning personalized children’s books. We have loved incorporating this board book into Taylor’s bedtime routine lately:

It’s Taylor’s Night Night Time! is the perfect compliment to a bedtime routine for any baby – of course personalized with your babe’s own name!

Board books are essential for babies this age, and let me tell you that I See Me  has super cute ones to choose from. Each book includes adorable personalization details on almost every page. One of my favorites is the option to add a personalized inscription on the first page of the book; you can even choose to include your sweet baby’s picture to make it even more special. I See Me has personalized books for babies and kids ranging from special occasions (i.e. holidays, birthdays), to fairy tales, to coloring books, and even personalized sticker books, puzzles and growth charts.

Make sure to check out ISeeMe.com to pick up a personalized copy of the Night Night Time book for your little one!

Another adorable book from ISeeMe.com’s collection titled, T Is For Taylor.

Taylor’s Bedtime Routine (10 months old)

We start Taylor’s bedtime routine 25 minutes prior to when I’d like her to be asleep, then complete the following elements in this exact order every night:

  1. Nursing or bottle. Her last nursing session takes place outside of her room on the couch in the living room, so as to separate feeding to sleep as much as possible.
  2. We then move into her room and turn on her night light and white noise machine, and then turn off the main light in her room.
  3. I change her into her nighttime diaper and pajamas.
  4. We walk around the room saying goodnight to objects and prints in her room (e.g. “goodnight crib, elephant rocker, etc”), ending in saying good night to her ABC Poster and singing the corresponding song to her.
  5. Then, I put her into her sleep sack. Right now she is sleep in this Halo Sleep Sack that has openings in the bottom for her feet. She has always slept in some version of a Halo Sleep sack, beginning with their swaddler version for the first 5 months of her life, so this part of the routine is a main sleep cue for her.
  6. Next, we read 2-3 (okay, sometimes 10) books while rocking in the glider.
  7. Lastly, I tell her, “you’re going to go night night in your crib now,” get up from the glider walk over to the crib, give her a kiss/hug while saying a short, silent prayer for her, tell her, “mama loves you so much, have a great sleep,” and place her in the crib to drift off.

Although she can fall asleep readily on her own, Taylor does wake up 1-2 times per night. I wanted to include that as encouragement to mamas who feel like they are doing everything they can, but still have a babe who wakes during the night. I am told she may sleep through the night once we are done breastfeeding, but I’m not too worried about it. I’ll count my blessings with a baby who goes to sleep peacefully/independently!

Well, hopefully this post gave you some ideas to create, tweak or add to your baby’s bedtime routine. I would love if you would let me know the routine you create for your babe in the comments below!

xo, Ashley (1)

Personalized Alphabet Book

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5 Tips To Fit Fitness Into Your Busy Life

People often ask how I manage to stay fit as a busy, working mom or how I “bounced back” so quickly postpartum. To be honest, some of it is a metabolism I’ve built up over time through gradually increasing my calories and building up fat burning muscle through weightlifting, but a large part of it is being pretty strategic with the limited time I have. Although I would like to, I don’t have time to get into the gym every day – it’s a really good week if I make it twice. Therefore, being consistent with healthy eating and finding ways to make sure I’m incorporating fit habits into my life are more important than ever before. Believe me when I tell you that, over time, consistency with the little, habitual things adds up!

Here are five easy things you can do today to make your life a little more fit:

1.Schedule workouts on your calendar, just like you would appointments.

If you have particular days and times that you can plug in a workout, write it into your planner or add it to your electronic calendar just like you would any other appointment. Your goals deserve a time slot! I am 90% more likely to stick to my scheduled workout if it’s  already a part of my calendar. I usually plan out my workouts about a month in advance, down to the actual workout I’m going to do depending on my fitness goals at that time.

If you’re looking for a few effective, no equipment required workouts to do during that scheduled time, check out this post or download my free Busy Mama’s Home Workout Plan HERE.

2. During TV commercials, do as many rounds as you can of:

  • 10 pushups (from your toes, knees or off a wall as your fitness level dictates)
  • 20 air squats
  • 30 sit ups (or sub a 1:00 plank if sit ups don’t work for you)

3. Take plank or walk breaks at work, or throughout your day at home.

I have a friend who is also a successful author, and I remember him telling me that he takes plank breaks every hour or so when he is writing. I now practice this in the office, with the door shut of course! If you can’t find the time for a quick walk around the office/block, try dropping and holding a plank for as long as you can several times throughout the day (it helps to keep a yoga mat rolled up in your office!).


4. Keep protein bars in your purse for on-the-go snacking.

When you know you have a filling, healthy snack with you when you’re out and about, you can eliminate making a less healthy choice. When you think about all the fast food stops this tip could replace, it really adds up. I never get tired of these vanilla wafer protein bars by Power Crunch – I swear they taste exactly like a wafer cookie! French Vanilla cream is my favorite, but if you’re a chocolate lover you’ll love the Triple Chocolate or Cookies and Cream flavor!).

5. Keep a water bottle with a straw like this one with you at all times.

I’m much more likely to drink water on the go, in the car or working at my desk when there’s an easy access straw. Not only is water good for your digestion, skin, and kidney function, it also decreases fatigue and keeps your calorie intake in check by helping you feel full; A lot of times I find myself reaching for a snack when what I really need is a glass of H2O.

I hope you find these tips helpful in making your life just a little more fit and healthy. What are your tips and tricks for fitting in a little more fitness and good nutrition into your day?

xo, Ashley (1)

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Tips To Make Dining Out With A Baby Less Stressful

One of the things that my husband and I loved to do pre-baby was go out to eat. During the dating phase of our relationship he lived in San Francisco, right in the heart of the Marina District, and I in downtown Sacramento. Both cities have great dining scenes (obviously San Francisco more so) and each weekend we would eat on the town at least once. After coming out of the newborn haze, I wanted to continue that tradition and bring Taylor out to eat with us, but was honestly too intimidated to do so. During that time, people advised that we should take her out to eat while she still “slept all the time”; looking back we really should have taken advantage of that time, because now I know that it becomes a whole lot more complicated when they are awake and needing to be entertained constantly…

Entertain me please.
Taylor is 10 months old now, and we’ve been out to eat with her about once per month for the last 6 months. Through trial and error and some “interesting” experiences at restaurants we’ve learned a few tips and picked up a items that make going out to eat a lot less stressful/messy and more enjoyable for mommy, daddy and baby.

Most recently Taylor attended a dinner put on by the law firm my employer contracts with and,although it didn’t go perfectly (i.e. I had to take her out to the car in the middle of the meal to nurse because she lost it a little bit as it got closer to bedtime), the tips and tricks I’m sharing today made it possible for me to feel confident bringing her to such a setting. We love getting out of the house on weekends with Taylor now, and she is used to being out and about which I think is good for her. I hope you find the following  tips for dining out with a baby helpful for your family. I’ve also included suggestions to add to your Restaurant Kit for older babies and toddlers (see #8!):

10 Tips To Make Eating At A Restaurant With A Baby Less Stressful

1.Dine early -We try to get the the restaurant around 5:30PM. Beat the crowd and have plenty of time before bedtime/witching hour? Win, win!

2. Pick a noisy restaurant – Babies cannot be expected to sit quietly for an hour or more (if you have one that does so without any effort of your own, consider yourself super blessed!). They WILL fuss, cry, screech, chat, and growl (or perhaps that’s just my child). It makes things a lot less stressful when you know your little noise maker will blend into the rest of the background noise.

3. Ask for a table for four – This way your babe has their own space and you can clear the area of all the things their little hands would want to grab. We learned our lesson during this particular trip out for Phö. We had a tiny table for two, and spent most of the time trying to block Taylor from grabbing chili sauce, our napkins, spoons, bowls, etc.

As you can see, there was far too little room for error.
4. Buy this chair by Inglesina – I can’t recommend this product enough, and only wish we’d purchased it sooner. Taylor will NOT sit still in a highchair and one of us inevitably ends up with  her on our lap, trying to keep her little mitts off our plates, for the majority of the meal. This chair, however, she loves sitting in and it does fit on most restaurant tables we’ve been to. Another really nice feature to this comfy chair is the pocket in the back where supplies like sanitizing wipes, a toy, spoons, bibs, etc.can be stored. I keep this seat in the car in it’s attached, travel-friendly carrying bag so that we don’t have to worry about forgetting it.

Happy baby in her own space at the table.
5. Have a Ziplock bag stashed with the following in the car or easy to grab on the way out the door.

Some of the essentials to make dining with a baby easier.
Having the essentials on hand is key!
    • Spoon – One of my best girlfriends recommended these recyclable, reusable or disposable baby spoons that are only $5.49 for a pack of  24 on Amazon. If you leave one on the table, it’s not too big a deal.
    • Bib – These Burpy Bibs by Aidan and Anais are by far my favorite, portable bibs (they cover a lot of surface area!)
    • Spill Proof Sippy Cup – keep it empty in your kit and fill it up once you arrive.

  • Wipes – Use natural hand,face and baby wipes to wipe down the table surface where your baby will touch/eat snacks from, and their hands/mouth after the meal. We use these by Babyganics:
  • Snacks (2 different kinds) – T’s top three favorite baby cracks snacks are Happy Baby Puffs, Yogis and Munchies (these are like healthy Cheetos for babes!). I order these three monthly on Amazon (if you don’t already have Amazon Prime – free 2 day shipping amongst other perks – it’s so worth signing up for an account HERE).
  • Pouches – just in case you forget to grab their food from the fridge or cupboard on the way out, you’ll have a portable dinner on hand. Our favorite pouches are made by Sprout, in this flavor, which you can purchase in a pack of 5 on Amazon.


6. Buy a mini cooler for homemade baby food that needs to be refrigerated, or just grab your jar/tupperware of food if you’re heading straight to the restaurant. I use this one that’s actually meant to store breast milk, but fits and my homemade baby food jars perfectly as well.


7. Feed the baby directly after you order your food, so that by the time your meal arrives you’re able to actually eat it.

8. Bring along a novel “toy” or an activity for older babies/toddlers– this could be something as simple as a straw from the restaurant. While you’re scarfing down your food as quickly as possible eating, baby can play with this novel item and/or eat some of their small snacks. Taylor LOVES plastic chopsticks – she’s quite the musician with those things! If you have an older baby or toddler who can complete activities like reusable sticker books, reusable activity books with water pens, coloring books (Twistable, self sharpening crayons are awesome for this!), etc.

I would suggest upgrading from a Ziplock to a makeup/toiletry carrying case like one of the ones below to store all of your feeding and entertaining essentials. I got this fabulous idea from Blue i Style blog which has all sorts of amazing DIY organization tips. You can keep this Restaurant Kit with all the essentials you need to eliminate the stress of dining out with babes in your car.  I purchased this floral cosmetic bag at Target, and linked two other patterns of the same bag below:


9. Don’t forget to make and bring along your Baby Car Kit in case of a massive post-dinner poop – Trust me, you will never regret having everything you need on hand. Find out the essentials I pack in mine by reading this post.

10. Queue up an educational You Tube video on your iPhone – Okay, please don’t judge me, but after going through the bag of trick above I will let Taylor watch one particular video called “ABC’s” by ABC Kids TV. We reserve letting her do this as a last resort, but she absolutely LOVES that darn video and it’s honestly really nice to have her occupied while her dad and I get a few minutes to enjoy our meal and a bit of adult conversation.

There you have it! My top tips, tricks and preparation to make the experience of dining out with a baby as stress free as possible. Now, go make your kit and get out on the town!

What tips and tricks do you use to keep your baby, toddler or kiddo entertained when you go out to eat? I would love if you’d share those ideas with me in the comments.

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xo, Ashley (1)

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Teething Baby Troubles & Solutions

Taylor has been steadily teething since she was 3 months old, and currently has mouthful of chompers, 6 to be exact, at only 9.5 months old. I know some mamas are not okay with this, but I’ve definitely given her Infant Tylenol  before bed and employed a variety of teethers  over the last 6 months to help her get through the discomfort. The winners of the MANY versions we’ve tried are this teether/pacifier combo and this ergonomic one by Dr. Brown’s, a banana shaped terry cloth teether by Sassy, a frozen ring similar to this one, and these organic teething wafers by Happy Baby that Taylor loves to munch on.

About bout a month ago, at the onset of her sixth tooth, Taylor began to employ a  new, all-natural teething remedy which involved biting my shoulder, belly, boob, arm, chin, etc. as hard as she could for relief. Fun, I know… Per usual, I took to Pinterest to troubleshoot this problem. Apparently, one way you can redirect this biting behavior is to offer your infant something appropriate to teeth on straight away and calmly say something like, “no biting mama.” I didn’t think it was very feasible to carry around a traditional teether in my hand or pocket all the time, and I knew I needed something I could provide to her instantly. Fortunately, I discovered the oh-so-stylish Mama & Little teething jewelry that I can have on and accessible anytime I have Taylor with me.

I now try to wear my necklaces and bracelet as often as possible when we are out and about so that I can instantly offer Taylor an appropriate, baby-safe silicone teether. It’s so easy for her to just grasp at my accessory, chomp down on the beads and get some (appropriate) relief. This functional yet on-trend jewelry also adds an element of style to my outfits as well – I don’t think anyone would ever know these pieces are meant to be teethers!

A few reasons I’m a Mama & Little teething jewelry fan:

1) the exposed cord design at the neck of the necklaces so that your hair doesn’t get tangled up in the silicone beads (genius, right?),

2) they launch a new collection each season, with on-trend colors and styles so these are actually necklaces a mama would want to wear sans drooly babe, and

3) each piece comes gift wrapped and in a super cute drawstring cotton pouch that you can use to keep the jewelry clean in your purse/diaper bag when you’re on the go and not wearing it.

So, if you have a teething baby and a mind for fashion, or are looking for a unique gift for a baby shower or mama-to-be (they also carry Gift Cards!), check out the 19 original necklace designs and coordinating bracelets on the Mama & Little website.  

Use the code: TAYLORMADE at checkout for a 15% discount!

Taylor’s outfits // Kardashian Kids (chambray dress), Baby Gap (white eyelet top and denim jacket), Headband (KRZA by Krystle Dawn), Primary.com (black leggings – the BEST!)

My jewelry // Frida Silicone Teething Necklace, Rachel Silicone Teething Necklace (Black Licorice) and the Michelle Teething Bracelet (Cream)

My shirts // Stitch Fix  (LOVE this service and can’t wait to share more details with you in an upcoming post)

xo, Ashley (1)

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2017 Blog Reader’s Survey

*I originally sent our this survey as an email. However, many of you reached out to me yesterday to let me know that you were unable to submit the survey – thank you so much for letting me know!

Due to this error in processing, I’m embedding the survey below for your convenience.I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and honest feedback by answering the questions in the short survey. It will help me tailor my posts to what YOU want to read about!

P.S. EVERYONE THAT COMPLETES THE READER’S SURVEY AND PROVIDES THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS IS ENTERED TO WIN A $10 STARBUCKS GIFT CARD!

First Valentine’s Day Gifts for Baby (and a few for Mama!)

One of the most exciting things about a baby’s first year is celebrating all of their first holidays. Pre-Taylor I was honestly not super into holidays (I know, such a Scrooge) but I have really enjoyed doing special things for each one this year, even though she is too young to remember. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so I’ve been perusing the internet looking for a couple of special gifts to give her. I searched for non-tacky, V-Day appropriate gifts that could be could be enjoyed year round and think I found some winners. As often happens when I’m web surfing, I also found several things I wouldn’t mind receiving on Valentine’s Day myself – or gifting to myself! I’d say as new moms we’ve earned to treat ourselves on a totally commercial holiday, right? Plus, between now and 1/31/17 you can save 15% off ILY Couture’s Valentine’s Day Collection using the Promo Code: HEARTILY. Their clothing is great quality and super cute on ; I’m thinking the “Be Mine” tops Mommy & Me twinning may have to happen this year….

Here are 10 Valentine’s day gift ideas for your Littlest Valentine AND a few that you may just want to pick up for yourself (or hint/pass along to your Big Valentine to get for you!).

For Baby

  1. DIY Family Handprint  framed
  2. Bashful Poodle stuffed animal- Jellycat
  3. Valentine’s Day Board book like: Huggy Kissy, Llama Llama I Love You, Happy Valentine’s Day Mouse, or Love From The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  4. Wooden Heart Teether – this one can definitely be used year round!
  5. Blush & Red Bibdanas – on sale right now too!
  6. Snuggly Pajamas – Red or Pink (why, oh why, don’t they have these in my size?)
  7. Pink Converse Allstars – Chuck Taylor
  8. Teething Jewelry – Mama & Little   – {save 10% at checkout with Discount Code: TAYLORMADE}
  9. “Be Mine” onesie or tee -ILY Couture
  10. Heart Taggie Blanket – DIY by www.lovecreatecelebrate.com

For Mama 

  1. “Be Mine” Top (because I can’t resist a good twinning opportunity) – ILY Couture
  2. Blush Zip Around Wallet – Marc by Marc Jacobs
  3. Perfume –  J’adore by Dior (smells AMAZING)
  4. Rosé Candle – Voluspa
  5. Gift card for massage – Spafinder via Amazon.com
  6. Comfy Robe -Barefoot Dreams

There you have a list of fun gifts for your baby’s first Valentine’s Day, and some things you may want to gift yourself. I still haven’t decided which to get for Taylor – which do you think is the best option? What was your favorite 1st holiday to celebrate with your baby?

If you liked this blog post I would really appreciate your quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs. Click HERE to cast a vote. Thank you!

xo, Ashley (1)

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How To Meet Your Fitness Goals In 2017

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The New Year is a time when many of us re-dedicate ourselves to, overhaul or ramp up a fitness/nutrition routine. The gym parking lots are packed (I literally drove around, vulturing for a spot at 24 Hour Fitness this week for what seemed like an hour!) and mamas all over the country are buying dumbbell sets and resolving to complete their home workouts during nap time. Have you ever told yourself you were going to “get in shape” on January 1st but  found yourself in the same place you were then by the end of the year? If getting in shape is a goal for you this new year, how will you make sure you make that happen for yourself?

This where strategic goal setting comes in – being realistic and specific about what exactly you are hoping to achieve and setting a goal that you can actually measure progress toward and accomplishment of.

A specific goal has a MUCH better chance of being accomplished that a general goal.

Nothing motivates me more than seeing measurable progress toward a fitness goal. I’ve dabbled in lots of different forms of fitness over the years (swimming, running, CrossFit, bodybuilding, cycling, etc.) but the part that keeps me coming back for more is setting, meeting and even surpassing goals I set for myself. From college until age 27 I was a runner, and although I was not winning any awards for speed, I was continually motivated by seeing my times on the track or at a race decrease as a result of my training plans.

The cardio years.

At age 28 I found CrossFit and quickly became absolutely addicted to making measurable progress in strength, endurance and gymnastic skills. In CrossFit you keep track of basically everything, from the time it takes you to complete a particular workout, the maximum weight you can dead lift from the floor, the amount of strict pull ups you can complete, etc.

Scary lifting face but, hey, that’s a lot of weight!

Two things I’ve found helpful when it comes to setting and achieving my fitness goals over the years are:

1) Putting goals out there to a friend/s or family (or even on social media!). There is something about others knowing what you are trying to accomplish that creates instant accountability and motivation to stick to what you said you wanted to do.

2) Using strategic goal setting, such as a SMART goal format to develop and track progress toward goals.

SMART stands for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Time-based or Tangible

For example, although certainly realistic and achievable, “I will get in really good shape in 2017”  is not specific, measurable or time-based:

  • What does “really good shape” mean exactly? What components does this person consider as part of being in shape?
  • What is the baseline for for each of those components?
  • What would be the indicators of progress toward getting into really good shape?
  • How would someone actually know if they met that 2017 goal?

If I had that goal (“I will get in really good shape in 2017” ) for myself (which I do in fact!) I would want to:

a) specifically define the components I personally consider part of being in shape or that I cared to focus on for the year (body fat %, strength,skill, speed, etc.)

b) find my baseline times/weights/numbers for those components

c) set a realistic goal based on my current baseline and what I know to be possible within a year given any physical or time/schedule limitations,

d)  make sure that the components I choose to focus on can be tangibly tracked so that I can monitor my progress along the way.

Following this formula, a potential SMART goal for “getting into really good shape” could be:

“By January 1st, 2018 I will be able to run an 8:00 mile on a treadmill, do 10 consecutive push ups, hold a plank for 2 minutes,  and have a body fat percentage of 20% or less(the numbers would of course vary based on a current baseline for mile time, push-ups, planks and body fat).

Or even simpler, “I will join a gym and work out 3 days per week” would be a much more specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based goal than ” I will get into shape.”

My Fitness SMART Goal for 2017:

I thought I would increase my chances of achieving my own SMART strength and fitness goal for 2017 by sharing it with you:

1. I want to regain some of the strength and fitness capacity I lost during pregnancy and the past 9 postpartum months during which I have not been able to physically lift or exert myself like I used to. In order to set a realistic, achievable goal, I need to consider my baseline times/weights/numbers and also that I have less time than I used to to workout (read about how I still stay motivated as a busy, working mama HERE!). I chose 6 elements to create my strength and fitness goal, so that I can tailor my workouts toward making progress in those areas. My 2017 Fitness SMART Goal is:

““By January 1st, 2018 I will be able to run a 7:30 mile on a treadmill, do 15 consecutive push ups, hold a plank for 3+ minutes, add 50 pounds to my current deadlift and back squat max lifts, and complete 5 consecutive strict pull ups, and workout 3 times per week.”

So, What’s Next?

Once you have your SMART fitness goal/s established, you can create a plan to help you get there.

What are your fitness goals for 2017? I would love to read your goals in the comments! Could you make your goal a SMART one? 

Try out my  Busy Mama’s Home workout program!

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Top Tips For Successfully Pumping At Work

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Tomorrow I head back to work 4 days a week after a wonderful two weeks off with my family, which means it’s back to “pump life”! I was thinking about what I’ve learned thus far that has made it possible to continue my nursing relationship with my daughter (8.5 months) and wanted to shared my best advice in case you are or will also become a pumping mama. It’s definitely not easy to continue breastfeeding once you return to work after Maternity Leave, but it’s so worth it! I can offer the following tips, advice and hacks for making the process a little easier and hopefully more successful for you.  It can definitely be done with a little strategizing and organization – the following tips have been learned over 5+ months of successful pumping on the job. I hope you find them helpful!

1.Know Your Rights

Ask about a place a work with a locked door, not a bathroom, that can be your designated pumping area. It’s actually one of your legal rights as a breastfeeding mother. I’m very fortunate that my employer actually gave me an entirely new office with a locked door so that I could have the privacy I needed. I find I’m actually more productive during the time I pump as; once I set up and turn up the dial on my pump, I hammer away at checking and responding to emails. I save my emails for those times so that I have something specific and productive to tackle.

This bad boy fits right into my pumping bag.
My stealth pumping bag by Sole Society.

2. Have a system for cleaning and readying pump and bottle parts at home

I come home, put milk away (store any extra in the freezer if you produce more than baby eats), fill up a large pot with Breastmilk Removal Soap (seriously, this stuff is SO convenient – no scrubbing required) and super hot water. My mom (who watches Taylor while I’m at work) puts the bottle parts she uses in there as well throughout the day. Dump in all of the bottle and pump parts and soak for 5-10 minutes while you’re doing something else. What I usually do during this time is to ready the two spare bottles, 4 lids and my extra set of pump parts and place them in my pumping bag for the following day – that way all I have to do the next morning is pop in the freezer packs and walk out the door. After 5-10 minutes rinse all the parts with warm water and put on the rack to dry (I LOVE this one by Boon). To read more on my exact workday routine for nursing and pumping read this post.

3. Schedule Your Pump Sessions Like Appointments

Block off your pumping sessions on your calendar for the entire duration of the time you hope to breastfeed. For me this means I have blocked off 1-2 “BUSY” sessions per day through Taylor’s 1st birthday which is less than 4 months away at this point. This way neither my boss, colleagues or I schedule me for something during a time I need to pump. Schedule the pumping sessions for approximately when your baby is eating at home.

A sample of my schedule in Google Calendar; “busy'” in purple.

4. Utilize a Refrigerator or Cooler

One option to keep your pump parts sanitary between sessions would be to have a mini fridge in your office, if you’re there all day. If not, you could store your parts in a ziplock bag or bottle cooler and throw them in the community fridge. I don’t feel quite comfortable doing the latter and am constantly on the go on workdays, so I use this Skip Hop bottle cooler, stored in my pumping bag, to keep the pump parts sanitary in between sessions. I wipe them first with these breastmilk removal wipes to add an extra measure of sanitation.

The bottle cooler I use.

5. DWP – Driving While Pumping

Sometimes, to make logistics work, I have to pump in the car whilst driving from one meeting to the next. Not ideal, but a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do! I carry a baggy of spare batteries in my car as well as an additional set of pumping parts in my Emergency Baby Car Kit (which is also my most popular post!) which is always in my car. It’s also helpful to have a hand pump in your car in case you a) do not have your pumping bag with you or b) you run out of battery power unexpectedly.

My emergency baby car kit. 

6. Don’t Freak Out

If you can’t pump twice during the day occasionally don’t freak out (like I did). Your body will likely still produce about the same amount of milk when you pump later in the day, it may just be a little more uncomfortable for you (make sure you have the BRA PADS in!). If you’re short for the day, and you don’t want to yet dip into your freezer stash (read all about how I built mine up during maternity leave in this post), you can pump after the babe goes to sleep at night and hopefully get an extra .5-2 ounces to add to you bottle for the next day. I’ve done that several times for peace of mind.

There you have my top 6 tips for making the pump life work as a working mom. I hope to breastfeed Taylor until her first birthday and will be relying on my tips to get us there, but I would LOVE to hear yours. Please leave me a comment with any additional advice, tips and tricks you have!

P.S. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE. Subscribers are automatically entered to win my bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!

PS The tote I use for my pumping bag is this one by Sole Society, but here are several others that would be super cute:

A Simple Way To Create A Christmas Card Memory Book

Want to preserve the magic of Christmas all year round?

I know I do, especially this year with it being Taylor’s first!

One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season (up there with my xmas morning Monkey Bread) has always been receiving Christmas cards in the mail. Beginning around the end of November, I anticipate the mail each day hoping to receive a card with the beautiful, smiling faces of another friend or family. As a child, my mom always displayed each card our family received on our refrigerator, and I can remember admiring them every day and missing them when they were inevitably taken down. I honestly don’t have any ingenious way to display the cards we receive and should really step my game up at at some point (I just use red twine similar to this and mini wooden clothespins) but I wanted to share the simple way I save the cards and keep them accessible (but not up on the wall) all year long.

The past few years I have been preserving our Christmas cards after the holiday season is over simply by hole punching them with a single hole punch and binding them with a single binder ring. I keep the cards for the previous year in a drawer that I can easily access throughout the new year whenever I want to see our loved ones; it is a good reminder to continue to pray for the health and well being of each family, not just during the Christmas season. Can you imagine how much more connected you would feel to your friends and family throughout the new year if you started your day with a cup of copy, sending prayers and/or positive thoughts for them out into the world? This is a goal I have for the new year – less focus on me and my needs, more on those of my friends and family.

This year I brought out the 2015 memory book and let Taylor flip through photos of my favorite people. Our family card last year (2015) featured a picture of AJ and I on our Honeymoon and a 20 week ultrasound of our baby girl. One of the most special photos from the hundreds I took at our various celebrations this Christmas season is Taylor looking at that card from a year ago. She was randomly flipping through and looking at the pictures, but paused and touched our faces in recognition when she got to our card. Sometimes I still can’t believe that our precious baby girl is now here with us, and that we get to celebrate all our Christmases from now on with her (pinch me!). I anticipate that as she grows older, she will truly love flipping through the cards throughout the year and identifying the faces and names of friends and family who she loves but doesn’t get to see all the time.

Here are the super simple and inexpensive supplies you’ll need to put together your own Holiday Card Memory Book for 2016:

1.) A set of loose leaf binder rings. Stack your cards and hole punch in the top left corner with the second supply,

2.) A single hole punch.

3.) Put your own Holiday Card on top as the cover or use the one I created for our memory book this year:

If you would like to use my cover, leave your name and email address below and I will send it directly to your inbox. You’ll also receive Taylor-made Mama post updates and be automatically entered to win my bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!

What do you do with all of your holiday cards once the new year begins? Leave me a comment and let me know!

P.S. Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE. Subscribers are automatically entered to win my bi-monthly Mama Must-Have Giveaways!