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!

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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. 

If you related to this post, I would appreciate if you would share it on Facebook with THIS LINK!

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!

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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.

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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 going 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 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, and the tray that goes with it!- I can’t recommend this chair/tray combo 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 of 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. The tray fits into the bag as well.

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.

xo, Ashley (1)
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This is a post from my 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.

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Top Tips For Successfully Pumping At Work

This page contains affiliate links. Views are 100% mine. If you make a purchase through a link, thank you!

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:

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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:

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

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Mommin’ Ain’t Easy – 12 Things I Never Understood About Moms, Until I Became One

Thank you to threadtank.com for sending me the graphic t-shirts featured in this post.

I became a mama at a ripe 32 years old, and I’m 33 now. I grew up thinking I’d be a young, stay at home mom, but this not-so-young, working mom wouldn’t change a thing about the timeline of my life. The moment Taylor was placed on my chest I felt a deep confirmation that God had been with me through everything I’ve experienced – the light and the dark – and worked all of that together for good. After all, he gave me the honor of raising the most beautiful being I’ve ever met. But, back to being 33…

As a not-so-young-mom, I’ve watched many people and almost all of my girl friends have babies before me. The latter has been a super great advantage because I have these amazing moms to emulate and field my gazillion new mama questions. I also now realize that there were so many things I didn’t quite understand about being a mom, especially a new mom, and how it impacts your decision making that make complete sense to me now that I am one myself.

I get this now.

Here are 12 things I never fully understood about mom life, that I SO get now:

1.Leaving your baby to stay overnight is either out of the question, or really, really {did I say really?} hard to do. I have yet to leave Taylor overnight and it would take a momentous occasion for me to even consider doing so. I’ve already had to say no to several super fun opportunities because I’m just not ready to leave T overnight. Plus, having to bringing and use pump every few hours on an overnight really takes away some of the “fun” element.

2. Going out to dinner with friends with a baby is sometimes more stress than it’s worth. It’s not that we don’t want to get together with friends all the time (like we used to), it’s just that we can’t even be present when we’re trying to manage/wrangle a squirmy baby with a 2 minute attention span and a 7:00 PM bedtime.

3. Being selfish with night and weekend time. As a working mom it’s really hard to give up any of the time you do get to spend with your babe to anything or anyone else, no matter how much you enjoy their company. I ADORE my friends, but I have this thing inside me that feels guilty for spending any more time away from Taylor than I already do during the week.

4. Next level tiredness. Before having a newborn and now an 8 month old going through teething/sleep regression, I thought I understood what being tired felt like too. Since having Taylor I’ve put the coffee creamer away in the dish cupboard, forgotten work deadlines and where I left my keys embarrassingly too often, almost hit a man on a bike coming out of the Whole Food parking lot, and lost my $h*# on my poor husband for the smallest things ever, all on account of being so Mombie-status tired. Sleep deprivation is no joke, and I didn’t understand how impactful it would be.

5. Leaving careers (and salaries!) that took a lot of time and education to achieve to stay home with your babies. I thought I would never consider the SAHM life, and be one of those rockstar professionals who was ready to get back to work following Maternity Leave, especially because I have a job and colleagues I truly enjoy… Well, I’ve pined to be home with my baby girl since my first day back.

Shoes: Steve Madden // Denim: Vici Dolls // Graphic Tee: Thread Tank

6. Canceling plans last minute or being perpetually late to them. With a baby/kids involved, there are just way too many variables in play (naps, tantrums, mom exhaustion, colds, blowouts, etc.). As much as I value being reliable and on time, my schedule is not only my own anymore and I’m thankful for my friends (moms and non-moms) who just get it.

7. Not answering texts or voicemails until days later, or at all.  Whereas I used to be a pretty insta-responder, I’m now totally guilty of this. I used to think there was no excuse for this, but you guys, “mom brain” is real.

8. Hiring a part time nanny as a stay at home mom. I don’t have any friends who have actually done this and I’m not planning to anytime soon,  but I definitely wouldn’t judge anyone who did. I actually find that it’s harder to get anything done or squeeze in a little “me time” on days I’m at home. On work days, at least I know I’ll have 20 minutes of solitude and podcast listening on my commute whereas stay at home mom rarely get any alone time to recharge (God bless you sweet SAHMs!). I now totally understand why, if you could afford to, a stay or work at home mom would hire a nanny and can see how that would allow for more balance/”me time”.

9. The desire to “Twin”. I seriously thought this was the most ridiculous concept ever. Then I had an adorable little mini-me (I also always hated that phrase, and kinda still do) and now I can’t stop looking for the perfect twinning get ups.

Mama Bear Baseball Tee: Thread Tank // Headband: KRZA // Re-growth: Me

Taylor’s Baseball Tee: American Apparel (sold out on their site, but I found it on Amazon)

10. Persevering with breastfeeding. I thought, ‘if it’s hard, why not just give up and switch to formula immediately?’ Well, now that I’m a mom and find myself still pumping/scheduling/sterilizing/worrying about supply/etc. after being back to work for 5+ months in order to continue breastfeeding my 8 month old, I so get it. It’s not easy,  but I’ve made the choice to do everything I can to make it work until it doesn’t anymore. That connection is something I’m not ready to let go of yet, and I hope I won’t have to anytime soon.

11. Pinterest. I was a casual Pinterester pre-Taylor, but literally the day after she was born I started curating all kinds of baby related boards with the best information and articles I could find. I spent hour upon hour reading from Pinterest during those round the clock newborn nursing sessions. Follow me at Taylormademama and save yourself a ton of time and research.

12. The crazy-making,heart-changing, life-altering love for a child. I didn’t understand how much my heart could expand to even try to contain the love I have for my daughter. I would give anything to and do anything for her, and I’m sure I’ll make some crazy mama bear moves with her at the front of my mind.

And, mama, give yourself huge kudos and extra grace because Mommin’ ain’t an easy gig, but it’s the best one around.

Can you relate to any of my “now I get its”? What is something you didn’t understand about mom life until you became one yourself? I’d love if you would leave me a comment and let me know!

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What’s In My {un} Diaper Bag

 

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This page contains affiliate links for your convenience. All linked products are ones I actually use.

I don’t really know how many of you actually care what’s specifically in my diaper bag, but I do think you’ll be interested in an awesome insert created by Tote Savvy that can transform your favorite purse or tote into a {un} diaper bag. I purchased the mini version in soft grey, and am loving it; now when I’m out and about with Taylor I don’t have to bring both my diaper bag and a purse, or stuff all the contents I would have in my purse into and lug around a huge diaper bag. The larger size Tote Savvy insert allows you to fit literally everything you’d have in your larger diaper bag into your favorite tote. I would totally have opted for that had I found out about Tote Savvy before buying this diaper bag. Luckily, I have a really well-stocked baby car kit in my trunk that has spare clothes and other items I can’t quite fit into my purse, that I can always head back to the car for in case of emergency. However, I’m definitely able to pack all the essentials into my {un} diaper bag AND look like a stylin’ mama thanks to Tote Savvy!

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Tote Savvy – a must have for style conscious mamas.
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Organization meets style.
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Toting my {un} diaper bag at the park.

If you’re super uninterested in the contents of my diaper bag (understandable), make sure you scroll down to the bottom of this post for a sweet discount code to purchase a Tote Savvy insert and transform your own bag! Tote Savvy inserts are one of the items I think would make a GREAT gift for a new mom (see the others on my list in this post) so stock up for baby showers and/or Christmas gifts for any mamas-to-be or new moms in your life.

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Have you checked out the new Resource page yet? Click here!

Without further ado, here is everything I need to pack in my {un} diaper bag for a day out with my baby girl – it’s my hope that you’ll find something useful to help you feel even a little bit more prepared or organized:

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  1. Purse
  2. Wallet (thanks Hubby!)
  3. Pacifier – I like storing extra pacis in small tupperware containers like these or these. The only pacis Taylor will take are these.
  4. Teether – Sophie (I thought this was so overrated, but it turned out that Taylor LOVES it/her!)
  5. Snack – dried mango slabs which keep her happy & entertained for a good 20 {supervised} minutes. Make sure to buy unsweetened, organic, wide slabs so that your babe can’t fit the mango all the way into his/her mouth. We get ours at Whole Foods Market. Bonus – they can also double as {messy} teethers!
  6. Toy – these rings are easy to pack and by far Taylor’ favorite thing she owns!
  7. Bottle – Comotomo, the only bottle Taylor would take and one of the best for breastfed babes. There is an insulated pouch in the ToteSavvy insert for the bottle if you’re packin’ breast milk or pre-mixed formula.
  8. Book – miniature books like this classic are perfect for stashing in diaper bags AND for entertaining baby hands/minds.
  9. Disposable Bags – I have these Munchkin bags and dispensers in my diaper bag, daycare bag and car kit (click on the links to find out exactly what I pack in those bags!).
  10. 2-3 spare diapers
  11. Wipes – I buy this bulk box of travel packs (16 packs of 18 wipes each) that fit into the Tote Savvy as well as my diaper clutch.
  12. Solid Food – Kiinde squeeze pouch with the spoon attachment (I usually pack applesauce, but you can make tons of other homemade purees as I show in this post or buy your own to fill in the pouch when you’re on the go with your babe.)
  13. Burp cloth – I use these cloth diapers 
  14. Sunglasses – for Mom (similar, AND on sale!) and Baby (aren’t these hysterical!?)
  15. Miscellaneous stuff for mom –
    1. gum
    2. a pen
    3. hair tie/s – you don’t want to be caught unable to throw up a solid mom bun!
    4. hand lotion
    5. mini natural hand-sanitizer – I have theses stashed all over the place!
    6. chapstick
    7. lipgloss/lipstick – my favorite gloss ever is Laura Mercier, in Coral Reef or Nude Rose.
  16. Last but not least, the item that makes it all so stylishly possible…my ToteSavvy Mini which, by the way, also includes a changing pad which you can see rolled up on the right below:img_7346
  17. Not pictured – iPhone (because I was taking a picture with it, duh.)
  18. Also not pictured – a snack for mama (because I was out of my favorite protein bars which I’ve since remedied.)
  19. Pictured below – In December, 2016 Dr. Brown’s sent me these all natural pacifier and bottle wipes and nose and face wipes which I now carry in my diaper bag, which come in incredibly handy when we go out to eat and she inevitably has a messy face to clean up and/or drops pacis, toys, bottles, etc. on the ground:

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20. Pictured below – The Mommy Hook which is perfect for hanging a purse, diaper bag and shopping bags:

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog post.

Please enjoy using a 20% off Discount Code: FALLSTYLE to purchase your own insert from Tote Savvy at Lifeinplaycompany.com and turn your purse into an {un} Diaper Bag. Thank you, Tote Savvy!

xo, Ashley (1)

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Building A Breast Milk Freezer Stash On Maternity Leave

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This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. View are 100% mine and I use all products referenced.

At my daughter’s two month check up, her Pediatrician asked if I had started working on a “freezer stash” to prepare for my return to work and the inevitable dip in my milk supply that would go along with it. I thought, ‘ummmm what the heck is a “freezer stash”?’ but replied, “no not yet, but I will soon.” I knew going back to work in 7 weeks would be an emotional rollercoaster anyway, but I hadn’t yet begun to worry about how to mitigate a potential dip in my supply when I initially returned. I have a goal of breastfeeding Taylor for her first year of life, and I didn’t want those first few days back to work to sabotage that goal. The minute I got home I commenced a frantic Pinterest search for how to create a back stock of breast milk while I still had time on maternity leave. My worry fueled me to make the time for and routine to create a freezer stash over the next 40 days or so and, little by little, I ended up with just shy of 100 ounces by the time I went back to work.

I’m so glad that I took that time, even though pumping when you’re home with your baby is super annoying (my hat is off to you if you’re an exclusive pumping mama!), because it alleviated the pressure to pump enough when I first returned to work – that transition was stressful enough already! Fortunately, with the help of my AMAZING and delicious lactation cookies I have been able to keep up with Taylor’s demands thus far, but the stash has come in handy for other reasons I hadn’t thought of:

  1. when my husband and I have gone on a date night a couple of times and my mom has watched her. For me, it’s nice to have that freedom every once in a while.
  2. my hubby has fed her a bottle of my milk at 3AM and so that I could get a full night’s sleep when I was on the edge of total exhaustion during the 4 month sleep regression
  3. to mix in with the homemade baby food I’ve been preparing. I’m only able to pump just enough for the next day at work.
  4. when Taylor had a particularly hungry day and my mom, who is a saint and watches her when I’m at work now that she is no longer at daycare, needed to give her an extra bottle beyond what I’d pumped the day before at work. I’m definitely a “just enough” pumper!

You can read more about my workday pumping routine here, and what I pack in my pumping bag here.

I’m not an expert, but if you are going to be returning back to work soon, I hope some of my experience and resulting advice will help you build up your own freezer stash and have the comfort of knowing you’ve got a backup while you’re getting back into your work routine. We mamas have enough to worry about, right?!

Tips For Building A Freezer Stash

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Pump in the morning after putting baby down for 1st nap –

Milk supply is at it’s highest in the morning hours, so this is the time I noticed I would get the most bang for my buck. I usually kept the bottle of pumped milk out until I was certain she would stay down for her nap for a while. If she woke up hungry, I didn’t want to be “out” of milk. No one wants to be tapped out with a cranky, hungry baby! As a side, but very important note, do NOT pump during a growth spurt as your baby will need all the milk you can supply (unless you have an over-supply of breastmilk).

Pump in the evening after putting baby to bed –

Each night I would strap on my handsfree pumping bra, settle down into our comfy couch, and watch a show with my hubby whilst pumping for 20 minutes, or until both sides had emptied. Often I would feel discouraged because I would get so little in the evenings (1-2 ounces), but trust me it adds up! You can always leave that milk in the refrigerator to combine with the next session’s liquid gold before freezing.

Label your storage bags before pouring in the pumped milk –

I label my bags with a Sharpie, noting the date, time and ounces. Some people note the exact time, but I just delineate between AM and PM. This is important so that you know which milk to use first.

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Store the milk in 2 and 3 ounce increments –

Storing milk in 2-3 ounce increments limits the potential for waste. If you fill each bag up to capacity and then thaw it out when needed, but your baby doesn’t eat all of it you can’t re-freeze or refrigerate it and it goes to waste. I froze a few 4-5 ounce bags, but mainly in smaller amounts. Here is a useful link I reference for how much milk to feed at what age.

After filling the storage bag, lay it flat to freeze –

After you make sure the bag is TOTALLY sealed (I put that in all caps because I’ve lost milk to a false closure – R.I.P.) lay it flat to freeze. Once frozen it is much easier to line up your little milky soldiers:

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Store the milk storage bags in reverse chronological order –

You want to be using the oldest milk first. Breast milk can keep in the freezer for up to 6 months, so you’ll walk to keep track. Here is a link from KellyMom.com that gives great guidelines for storing and handling breastmilk, including how long it can keep in the freezer.

That’s how I built up a freezer stash while on Maternity Leave!

I’m definitely not a lactation consultant or expert by any means, but I thought I would share my experience with you in case you find yourself in the same situation (returning back to work) and with the same goal (maintaining your breastfeeding relationship) and want to start your own stash. I know that having one definitely decreased my anxiety about returning to work, and has continued to feel like a safety net for us over the last few months.

If you’ve been through this already, I would love to find out what worked and didn’t work for you in building up your own freezer stash. Or, if you have any questions – I’m here for you!

Thank you for reading.

xo, Ashley (1)

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How I Deal With Worry, Anxiety and Fear As A New Mom

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I post a lot on the blog about schedules, routines and strategies for organization for us moms and our babies. I do so not because I have everything totally together (definitely NOT the case), or that I feel like I have anything particularly groundbreaking to share, but honestly in large part because it helps me to feel in control, when a lot of the time I feel the exact opposite as a new mom. I hope I’m not the only mom who feels like they have no clue what they are doing and worries about every little thing a lot of the time – maybe you can relate? Oftentimes, this blog and my desire to help other moms, motivates me to be extra organized and prepared for new phases and adventures with Taylor so that I can share with you in a cohesive manner; At the same time, the process of thinking through, developing plans and writing about them for you decreases some of the fears, worries and anxieties that have come along with new motherhood for me:

  • What the heck am I doing? (I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve thought this in the last 6 months!)
  • Will my milk supply drop when I start working full time? Will I be able to maintain the breastfeeding relationship like I want to?
  • Will Taylor be less bonded to me because I’m away from her at work?
  • How will I manage to successfully pump enough milk when I work full time?
  • Will I be able to handle working full time, and maintain my sanity?
  • Am I perceived at work differently, now that motherhood is my top priority?
  • Am I doing sleep training correctly?
  • Should I be sleep training at all? Do I want to? Need to?
  • When will I get to sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time again? Is this just a sleep regression?
  • When and how do I start Taylor on solids and finger foods? How much? What if she starts to choke on something?
  • Will I ever feel the elusive “balance” in life again?
  • Are my days of being in shape over forever? I know I’m not getting to the gym as often as I would like to…
  • Am I still a good wife, daughter and friend now that I’m more busy than I’ve ever been.
  • Am I a good mom?

The list goes on and on, and most days I just have to take deep breaths, trust that I’m doing the best I can and give it all to God.

One of my best friends called me out recently for putting out this post on what I pack in my daycare backpack too soon. I had just started back to work and put Taylor in daycare the week I posted and, within a month, we made the decision to pull her out. She is now at home on the days that I work with my mom and husband who works from home. The thought of her at daycare – not getting the one on one attention I was able to give during maternity leave, and totally out of my supervision – was literally giving me so much anxiety that I couldn’t function at work at even near full capacity on those days. When I posted, I didn’t know that I would feel the way I did, or that things would ultimately work out as they have for Taylor and I – that’s Motherhood.

While I do want to share that update with you, as it is part of my journey as a new mom and our journey as a family, I do not have any regrets about posting when I did. I prepared our daycare backpack way ahead of time and wrote that post so that I would feel more ready to send my baby girl to daycare – something I felt anxious about for months prior. It made me feel more confident to have everything together as much as I could on the outside, when on the inside I was anything but. I didn’t want to drop her off at daycare on those mornings for the month that I did, but having everything she would need packed and ready made me feel just a little better about it. Everyone deals with their anxieties, worries and fears differently. Maybe it’s because my dad is a Boy Scout Master or maybe it’s a slight case of OCD, but my way to deal is to be super prepared and organized. Did daycare ultimately work out for our family? No, it didn’t and we are SO blessed to have another option for Taylor’s care (thank you, Mom!).  My hope, as it was at the time I posted, is that the information will continue to help other new moms who don’t have the option to have their little one at home with a relative feel more prepared for the huge transition from being on maternity leave to returning to work and having to send their baby to daycare. That Daycare Backpack and it’s contents served us well for a short time, and I hope that post and what I put together for Taylor for that month continues to help other new moms – my whole goal for this blog.

I guess the purpose of this update is to keep it real with you, and make it clear that I am WELL aware that Taylor-made Mama is not the only blog for new moms out there – and for that reason I’m super thankful that you choose to follow along with our journey.

Thank you for reading my new mom tips, learned through trial and error as well as my “best guesses” that help me feel more prepared for motherhood, and like I know what I’m doing – just the slightest bit.

How do you deal with the inevitable worries, anxieties and fears that come along with becoming a mom for the first time?

xo, Ashley (1)

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