This Journey Will Be Different

I sat on the living room floor, crying as milk barely dripped from my breasts into the bottles. Through the broken sobs and Kori’s cries of hunger, I told Luke to get a bag of safe milk out of my tiny freezer stash. I was going back to work the next morning and now I didn’t even have enough milk to get Kori through her first day of daycare. 


There was a useless box of formula samples on the top of my refrigerator. I couldn’t even use that without Kori having a horrible reaction, but still it taunted me. Why now? Mentally, I felt great. Why now was my body failing me? Why was the only thing I could get right for my babies going so wrong? 


Through the struggles of my postpartum depression and anxiety with Charley and Frankie – this was the ONE thing I could take pride in. My mind didn’t know how to provide for me and my babies, but my body did. I knew how to breastfeed! I had over 30 months of experience under my belt. It was supposed to be easy and mindless with my third baby. 


That night I packed up my Sarah Wells Abby bag and wondered if it was even worth it. That bag had travelled all over Illinois with me at my last job, carried thousands of ounces, many that I donated. This journey it would carry 12-14 ounces home every day – just enough for Kori to eat the very next day. It sat next to me  as I power pumped during my hour long commute. I carried it with me wherever I went in case I could sneak in a quick pumping session. 


My new Marie bag has travelled with me multiple times in the past 6 weeks, but this journey is better. The freezer stash is bigger, the milk flows easier, my baby is healthier. Next week I return back to work – but I have a reminder of an old friend that saw me through pumping in cars, trucks, tractors, sprayers, bathroom floors, storage closets, a massive oversupply, a just barely enough supply aided by countless power pumping sessions, and the powerful knowledge that this time around is going to be different. 

I even have some new friends to make my journey easier like my Pumparoo bag and PumpEase hands free pumping bra (to make those commute pumps easier.)

Sparklers and Shenanigans

Sparklers, glowstick parties, shenanigans, and backyard fireworks just might become our new 4th of July tradition. Did you start any new traditions this year? ⠀

It never ceases to amaze me how Luke arranges shenanigans and convince me to go along with it all. With roughly 35 people in our yard to enjoy it, the firework display the guys pulled together at the last minute rivaled my small hometown firework display. Neighbors I hadn’t even met yet showed up – a definite perk of country life is the sense of community. ⠀

The girls loved showing off their {gifted} matching outfits from Sparkle In Pink to all of their new friends and led the group in chanting “we want more!” while we waited for the next set of fireworks. ⠀

Check out Sparkle In Pink for their adorable and affordable clothing options.

Grocery Shopping Tips

Not that long ago, we lived paycheck to barely paycheck. One way I trimmed our budget was by monthly menu planning and very carefully planning my biweekly grocery shopping trips. ⠀

Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi on Pexels.com

It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my favorite grocery shopping and budgeting tips.⠀

1) Shop your shelves and then plan your meals around what you have on hand. ⠀
2) Make a list of your staples and the price you normally pay, so you know a good sale price to stock up.⠀
3) Use cash back apps like Ibotta , Rakuten, and Receipt Hog – but don’t just purchase something because “I have a coupon.”⠀
4) Pay in cash – when we were on our super tight budget back when we first got married, I wrote my list and included price with estimate tax and only took enough cash to pay for everything on my list. ⠀
5) Eliminate food waste by repurposing leftovers and getting creative with fresh produce.⠀
6) Find a local chain of grocery stores that have good store brands. My go to stores are Fareway and Aldi. You will pay for that name brand when store brands are just as good, or even better! ⠀

What is your biggest struggle when sticking to a grocery budget?

Sleep – How I’ve Missed You!

Rainbow Chenille Magic Weighted Blanket



From reverse cycling (nursing all night because she refused bottles at daycare) to being failure to thrive to plain old bad sleep habits, Frankie rarely slept through the night in the past 4 years. ⠀

When I started the gentle sleep training journey with her a month ago, I quickly found that she settled down faster and slept better with some weight on her legs. After discussing with her pediatrician, we decided to try a weighted blanket. ⠀

{gifted} Frankie and I spent hours looking at different blankets and she fell in love with this blanket from Magic Weighted Blankets. It’s the perfect weight and texture to soothe her to sleep every time. The Magic Weighted Blanket is all one piece and able to be machine washed – perfect for our messy little Frank. She drags this blanket everywhere at home and snuggles under it when she is having a meltdown.

I love supporting small family owned businesses like Magic Weighted Blankets who give back. They partner with a non-profit organization “Friends of Ward 8” to donate a certain amount of Magic Blankets every month to veterans with PTSD.

With a variety of designs and fabrics, you are sure to find the perfected weighted blanket and be able to feel good about giving back!

Just Do The Next Right Thing

“You have dug your soul out of the dark, you have fought to be here; do not go back to what buried you.” – Bianca Sparacino ⠀

Someone with anxiety doesn’t live life just thinking about the what if’s. We feel this impending sense of doom, knowing the other shoe will drop the next time they turn around. Constantly living in a state of fight or flight, imagining the worst scenario and overthinking a way out.⠀

Today I feel a lot like this butterfly – tattered, missing parts, and irreparably damaged. This weekend I was forced back into a state of anxiety – sent there by people who have mocked my insecurities. Carelessness and inconsiderate actions left me triple checking car seats at 10:30pm last night, while trying to convince myself that it’s silly of me because they were ok when I checked them an hour earlier. ⠀

Every time I tried to close my eyes to sleep, intrusive thoughts filled my vision. Nightmares filled with my endless failure to save my children taunted me in those short hours of restless sleep. ⠀

Today I’m surviving by turning to my favorite playlist and letting music drown out the overwhelm. All I need to do is take it one minute at a time. Breathe. And in the words from Anna from Frozen 2 – just do the next right thing.

My Ode To Tacos

I could go on forever about my love of Mexican food; tacos, fajitas, quesadillas – I’m here for all of them. Some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had came from a sketchy little restaurant on a Casa Grande, Arizona side street way back in 2016. I still dream about that meal.

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But for now I’m counting down the days until I have farm fresh lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and onions from my CSA share to put on my tacos. I grew up on a farm and we always had a huge garden. We spent hours planting, weeding, picking, and preserving the produce for over the winter.

As a full time working mom (and because I have the world blackest thumb), I don’t have time to garden. However, I love shopping local and knowing how my food is grown. I found Spurgeon Veggies, a locally women owned CSA, last year and purchased a large flex share. There is just nothing better than fresh produce. With the large flex share, I was able to preserve vegetables to get us through the winter.

I cut all the extra peppers and onions last fall into slices and froze them in 1 gallon freezer bags, making it easy to portion out a cup or 2 for our taco nights. I also canned several batches of salsa – which Luke eats like candy.

Our share pick ups start in 2 weeks and I can NOT wait for the first salad made from spring greens.

Charley, Frankie, and Kori enjoying sugar snap peas at the farmer’s market last year.

I’ll hang out over here dreaming of taco salad made with fresh leafy greens, juicy ripe tomatoes, and creamy avocados. In the meantime, I’ll share my favorite taco seasoning recipe I mix up in bulk.

Taco Seasoning

  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Add 2 teaspoons (or to taste) to 1 pound of cooked ground meat. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer until most of the water has evaporated.

Maternal Mental Health Week

Maternal Mental Health Disorders, they take the color out of life.

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For several years, I suffered quietly through the pain and stigma of postpartum depression and anxiety. I knew there was something “wrong with me” but I was afraid to voice my thoughts. The overwhelming anxiety had convinced me that if I shared my concerns with anyone, my kids would be taken away. The horrifying darkness of depression told me my children would be better off without me.
I lashed out at my husband, blaming him. I abused myself mentally and physically. The anxiety attacks that wouldn’t let me drive my car without fear, the intrusive thoughts that fed into the lies and shame, the fights, the anger, the shame. I don’t remember much of the good times during those years – just the overwhelming depression and the need to hide it all away. It’s like those years are all shades of gray.
Then a miracle happened: our unplanned, unexpected third pregnancy. Kori might not be the traditional definition of a rainbow baby, but she is my rainbow baby – bringing color and light back into my life. She is my redemption into motherhood. She brought me into a tribe of women who taught me it’s ok to not be ok. Women who have walked this path before me and alongside me – making it smoother for those to come after us. I found my voice and will forever use it to shed light on maternal mental health.

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This is my truth. What is yours?

Friday Favorites

I have so many mama-prenuers that I am proud to call my friends. I thought I would do a quick round up of their shops for anyone who is looking to shop small with their stimulus money.

High Heels High Chairs

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E-Book

Pam is a social ninja who has changed my IG game so much. She just released her first e-book spilling all the deets about how to pitch and land collaborations.

Abounding Grace Jewelry

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Etsy Listing

Brooke is a fellow small town Iowa mama. Her hand-made jewelry is GORGEOUS. I have several necklaces from her and she is my go to girl for custom meaningful gifts.

Brittney Hogue Photography

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Photo Credit: Brittney Hogue Photography

For almost 2 years, I joked that I would have a 4th baby just so I could have Brittney present at the birth. Now here I am just praying that restrictions are lifted by September so my dreams can come true. Brittney captures birth and newborns in a way that brings this hormonal pregnant mama to tears. Don’t believe me? Just go scroll her birth stories on her website.

Plus right now, Brittney is running a special for birth photography and Fresh 48 Sessions for October, November, and December of this year!

Missie LaFrenz Photography

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Photo Credit: Missie LaFrenz Photography (bonus: peep my custom Abounding Grace necklace)

For all my Iowa friends, I can not rave enough about Missie. She reached out to me last year to come do a model call with Kori for a breastfeeding feature. I am looking forward to a styled maternity shoot with her this summer!

ButterCup LemonDrop

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Etsy Link

Many of you will recognize Amy’s handiwork from Kori’s beloved MewMew. Amy’s handsewn lovies are ADORABLE… and durable! I was afraid to wash MewMew the first time but we have washed her several times and she still looks like new. These dolls are perfect for any little girl in your life.

Don’t forget about locally owned restaurants and other small businesses in this time. Purchasing gift cards are a great way to show your support!

Do you have a favorite small business? Let me know here in the comments!

 

Mile High Dinner At El Five

There are so many fun places to check out when you’re in Denver! The mountains, the mood, the atmosphere. Something about your attitude changes the minute you land in Colorado.

It can be difficult to close where to go, especially when your stay is short. My friends and I only had the weekend to hang out, so we had to make sure every minute count. We weren’t sure where to go until El Five Denver was recommended to us.

El Five Denver has a spectacular skyline view of down town Denver and features a Mediterranean food with a unique twist on flavors. It’s funky, yet fun atmosphere made it the perfect spot for a girls night out.

We started the evening out with a small portion delicious warm salad. After some discussion, we each decided to order a tapa to share and end the meal with a paella. First up was the goat cheese croquettes. The crispy outer layer paired beautifully with the tangy melted goat cheese. The greens were refreshing after the richness of the goat cheese.

The server was amazing at timing our courses and brought out our Lebanese Garlic Dip right as we finished the croquettes.  The house-made pita was amazing with just the right amount of garlic and oil to pair with the dip.

A new flavor for me was the Harrisa Eggplant Fries – with mint and a lemon yogurt dip, the taste burst on my tongue. The eggplant fries were perfectly crispy and very addicting.

The next item our server brought out was one I had been dreaming of ever since we decided to go to El Five Denver – Shawarma Lamb Ribs. This is easily one of the best foods I have ever eaten. The discussion of shawarma on the Uber ride to the restaurant led to peels of laughter as we all butchered the correct pronunciation to the amusement of our driver.

When the paella was served, this pregnant mama had to take a pass. The Lobster and Jamon Iberico was beautifully plated and I’m sure was as excellent as everything else we ate that evening.

We rounded out the evening with El Five’s flight of desserts and coffee for me, wine for my friends. My personal favorite was the baklava – lots of heavenly flaky layers of goodness.

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At the end of the evening, our server surprised us with a treat – El Five’s handcrafted sesame seed caramels. I could have eaten a whole bucket of them and been entirely satisfied.  IMG_0043

While El Five is not my normal restaurant scene, I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Denver. The views and the food are not to be missed.

If you can’t make it to El Five, I would check out the Edible Beats cookbook that was gifted to us to make your own unique flavors at home!

If you want to learn more about our experience at El Five Denver, then check out Jerrika’s post about it over on A Lady and Her Littles and Sam’s post on Beautiful Busy Life.

 

You Aren’t Enough

“You ARE enough.”

“How do you pour something from nothing?”

“You can’t give from an empty cup.”

There’s this empowering motherhood movement on social media, and while I’ve participated in it – I was struck with the conviction that it’s not me as a supermom, but by the grace of God, I am. Through Him, I am enough.

What if your cup is empty? How do you give of yourself? It’s possible. In the Old Testament, the poor widow did just that, with God’s help. Somehow day after day, she was able to pour just enough oil and scrape up enough flour to feed not only herself, but the prophet Elijah and her son. That wasn’t her own doing, but by her willingness to give everything God asked of her, she was rewarded.

You see weakness and our willingness to give all we have is our superpower, as long as we remember where our strength comes from.

At the end of the day it won’t matter if you chose formula over breastfeeding, co-sleep until college or cry it out from day one, or if you choose to feed store bought purées or make fresh organic foods. None of that will matter when it really counts.

What will matter is what you teach your child about God. Will you show them that going to church only happens when you feel like it? Will you show them that prayer is only necessary when you want something to go your way? Do they see your relationship with Christ? Do they know where your strength comes from?