Toddler Girl Fashion – Must Haves For Spring & Summer

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

Here are my favorite pieces for little ladies this season:

1.LIGHTWEIGHT NEUTRAL CARDIGAN – on sale for $13

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

2. SUNGLASSES – $5.90

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

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

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

LACE TRIM TANK BODYSUIT – $14.95

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t this top the sweetest?

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

9. PINEAPPLE ROMPER – $29.95

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

10. RUFFLED BACK BIKINI – on sale for $10

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

11. RUFFLED CHAMBRAY SHORTS – on sale for $10

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

12. JELLY SANDALS – $24.95

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

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

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

xo, Ashley (1)

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

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

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

My experience with weaning after one year of breastfeeding:

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

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

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

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

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

Bun Maternity – Perfect Apparel for Breastfeeding & Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading. 

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

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“You Look Tired” – and other phrases no tired mom wants to hear (featuring Juice Beauty)

This post was sponsored by JuiceBeauty.com.  All opinions are 100% mine. 

Let’s cut to the chase – I absolutely do look tired – like I’ve aged five years in one even, but with good reason. I had a newborn who slept through the night from 6 weeks to 4 months old, and thought I had it absolutely made…then her sleep patterns suddenly changed. Since 4 months old, she has essentially woken up anywhere from 2 -5 times a night, and she will be one year old in a week. That’s nine months of solid sleep deprivation. Sure, there have been a handful (3 4, but who’s counting) of nights when she has slept from the time we put her down until somewhere between 5:00 and 6:30 AM, but that certainly doesn’t make up for the hours upon hours of dark-circle, puffy-eye inducing lost sleep. Oh, and “sleep when the baby sleeps” is great in theory, but very hard to practice when you’re at work from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM or just trying to get things done around the house, am I right?

This post  isn’t a plea for pity because, A) I know you may be feeling just as tired as I am, and B) I know that being a mama is 100% a blessing, no matter how many hours of sleep I lose. The post is also not about sleep training – what we have tried, what we have been too tired/scared/lazy to stick with, my thoughts/feelings on ‘Cry It Out’, the monthly colds that thwarted our efforts, etc. This is a post about the things well-meaning people have said to me about looking tired that were just not helpful, followed by wishful thinking of things could be said instead. The last thing a tired, emotionally vulnerable (thanks hormones) new mom wants to hear is that she looks as tired as she feel. We already know, but it’s just not fun to be reminded.

Below are some of the things people have said to me about looking tired over the last year, for real:

  • “I can help you with those perma-bags.” (NOT a good sales tactic…)
  • “You look SO tired.” (multiple iterations of this one)
  • “Are you sick?”  Me: No, just tired. “I was going to say…you have that look to you.”
  • “Nursing does that to your face.” (really???)
  • “Is your baby letting you sleep?”  Me: No, not really. “I can tell.”

You know what?

I do look tired. I do have bags and dark circles under my eyes. My skin has become more dehydrated and wrinkled from devoting 99.999% of my physical and mental being to another life over the last year…But, catching up on sleep isn’t really an option in this phase of life (and neither are other chemical laden, anti-aging products when you’re nursing) so comments on looking tired are both anxiety producing and impossible to treat/solve.

I’ve been thinking up some alternatives to, “you look so tired,” that come from the same place of care and concern, but would actually be helpful or even music to a new and/or tired mama’s ears:

  • “Let me come over and do a couple loads of laundry/watch the baby while you nap for a few hours.” Instant angel status, for sure.
  • “I can’t believe you have a baby, you look way too well rested.”  Just full-on, unabashed false flattery is actually welcome, sometimes.
  • “I’ll come sleep over and give your baby a bottle when he/she wakes in the night; you just put your earplugs in and get a full night’s sleep – I can imagine you haven’t had that in a while!” – My mom has actually offered to do this multiple times and, while I haven’t taken her up on it, it’s seriously one of the most appreciated gestures a new, tired mama could receive.
  • Just send me this article to read, written by the amazing, Jena Lee Nardella
  • “I found this amazing, anti-aging eye and skin care line that’s safe to use while nursing, and it’s  made my eyes and skin look a lot more refreshed and vibrant than I actually feel – wanna try it out with me?”

Seriously though – I really do use an anti-wrinkle eye and skin care line that is not only effective (and smells DELISH), but all natural, organic and safe for nursing moms like me – Juice Beauty.  I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

The Stem Cellular Instant Eye Lift Masks and Perfecting Concealer are my cheats to looking more refreshed on days when I’m running on 3 hours of sleep and copious amounts of caffeine; the eye masks are a bit pricey, but they truly do work and I only use them every once in awhile when I really need an extra confidence boost (date night, blog photo shoot, etc.). Juice Beauty even has an apple-based peel that is safe and made specifically for pregnant and nursing mothers to exfoliate, brighten and tone your skin. I wish I had know about that product sooner (next time, God willing, it will be on my skin care rotation).

My go-to under eye concealer.
Vials of activator.
Activate the instant eye-lifting goodness!
Wait ten minutes then, voilá, refreshed!

I also had the opportunity to try out the Anti-Wrinkle skin care line over the last couple of weeks and so far I’m really liking it. Clinically Validated Results from a 4 week trial revealed that 95% of women who used the product reported smoother, younger looking skin and 86% reported a significant improvement in the appearance of lines & wrinkles! I hope I can say the same myself in a couple more weeks. I feel like I’m looking less tired already, and it’s certainly not because T is sleeping better… The Anti-Wrinkle regimen is also completely safe to use while pregnant or nursing, whereas many similar lines are not. Juice Beauty uses a combination of fruit stems cells infused into Vitamin C and organic grapeseed to help promote younger, smoother looking skin. Here is a quick run down on each product in the line:

  1. Booster Serum – I noticed a tingly sensation as soon as I put this on my skin, which automatically made me feel like it’s working it’s magic. I also worried a bit that it would dry my skin out, but that has not been the case at all.
  2. Eye Treatment – The eye treatment is applied with a built in applicator so as to avoid any tugging on the eye area. I have been using this eye treatment at night, and my other eye cream during the day.
  3. Moisturizer – I am loving the fresh, citrus smell of this moisturizer. It also creates a tingling (borderline burning) sensation on the skin, yet provides ample hydration. I’ve been using this morning and night.
  4.  Exfoliating Peel Spray – This is BY FAR the coolest skin care product I’ve tried! You apply a small, pea-sized amount all over your face, neck and decollatage, rub for about 15-20 seconds and the top layer of dead skin cells begins to pill up. It’s kinda creepy, but obviously effective. Rinse with warm water, and you’ve got a fresh face. I only use this product twice per week because of it’s strength.

Giveaway!

I’m partnering with Juice Beauty to giveaway a 3 product Anti-Wrinkle Solutions Kit.  The kit includes Juice Beauty’s anti-wrinkle booster serum, moisturizer, and eye treatment. It is an over $100 value, that is actually on sale for $50 right now, in case you want to go ahead and snag one for yourself. 

To enter the Giveaway, become a subscriber by entering your name and email in the fields below. If you are already a subscriber you will not be subscribed twice:

  • This Giveaway CLOSED on Sunday April 9, 2017 at 12:00AM PST.
  • The winner will be contacted by email on Monday April 10, 2017.
  • The winner must respond within 24 hours, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good Luck!

Has a well meaning friend or colleague  said anything to you about looking tired that bugged you? Alternatively, what have loved ones done for you to help you at your most tired?

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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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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!

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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!

Sign up to receive blog updates and a Busy Mama’s Home Workout Plan directly to your inbox to help kickstart your fitness goals:

 

 

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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:

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!

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Merry Christmas 2016 + a gift to you

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!


This is definitely our most special Christmas yet, as it is Taylor’s first. Christmas is already a important celebration to us, but there is something even more magical this year. Today we’re heading out to spend time with our best friends, and then to church this evening (wish us luck getting through an hour with a squirmy 8.5 month old!).Whatever you do to celebrate, I hope that you have a lovely next few days full of yummy food, laughter, friends and family time.

I’m so thankful that you read this blog, and wanted to give a little early Christmas gift as a token of that appreciation. Below is a gift card to Starbucks loaded with $50; you just need to ask your barista to scan the barcode. Please use the card for just one drink so that as many people as possible can grab a festive beverage today (skinny peppermint mocha anyone?!). Enjoy! And, please forgive the “Hi Merry” – apparently I don’t know how to fill in fields properly : )

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Let me know what you get down in the comments!

 

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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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Easy Monkey Bread Mini Recipe

This is a recipe my college roommates and I made entirely too often, back in the days when my metabolism was still moving at lightening speed (thank goodness). Flash forward way more than 10 years and I’m still enjoying this tried and true, easy-peasy recipe. I’ve made this Monkey Bread for my immediate family every year on Christmas morning as the recipe became and instant favorite and tradition When my husband came into the picture, he too fell in love with the tradition of Christmas Morning Monkey Bread; we even made it a couple years ago when we vacationed in Hawaii for Christmas – how’s that for a Mele Kalikimaka! In college, we would throw all the cinnamon-sugar coated dough into a bundt pan, bake and go at a massive pile of pull-apart yumminess with no regard for calories. However, in my post-college years – trying to limit my own intake jusssst a little, I started to make a mini version of this Monkey Bread using a muffin tin. Although my attempts to portion control almost always fail – it’s way too good to have just one -the presentation is super cute, the mini versions are perfect to serve to guests on individual plates.

AJ and I enjoyed the round of monkey bread yielded from the making of this post immensely, and even let Taylor have a little taste of cinnamon sugar. I can’t wait for her to be old enough to fully partake in this tradition with us! I hope you enjoy this quick, easy and delicious recipe for years to come as well.

 

Easy Monkey Bread Minis

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 cans refrigerated biscuit dough (I used Pillsbury Grands)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan on low, stirring regularly.

  3. In a wide bowl, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.

  4. Cut biscuits into 6 pieces each.

  5. Roll the biscuit pieces in the cinnamon sugar until thoroughly coated.

  6. Place 5-6 biscuit pieces into each muffin tray cup (if you’re smarter than me you’ll remember to put foil liners in first!)

  7. Spoon or pour 1 teaspoon butter/brown sugar mixture on top of each cup.

  8. Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes, or until done.

  9. Let cool for several minutes, serve and enjoy!

What are your favorite, traditional family recipes and treats around the holidays?

Foil liners on sale:

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