An Ode to Yoga Pants

This weekend I wore jeans. Not once, but twice. Not leggings, not jeggings, not skinny jeans.  Real jeans. While I have to admit it was nice for a few minutes and I was pleasantly surprised with how they fit, I felt like I had cheated on my yogas and I couldn’t wait to get home to their warm embrace. Some days I question how much I wear them.  Is this socially acceptable? Have I let myself go? Am I not trying hard enough? Fortunately, however, my husband’s continual reminder of how much he loves my butt in them and their sheer practicality for surviving a day at home with my daughter keeps me reaching for them day after day.  I debated for a bit on whether or not I should actually take the time to write about a simple pair of pants, but if they are in the name of the blog I have to write about them at some point, right? So here it is.  My somewhat serious, somewhat satirical ode to my beloved yoga pants.

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After doctors needed to open my abdomen to get my precious girl out safely, you were there to ever so gently rest on my incision as it healed.  

Over a near two year span of pregnancy, childbirth, and and working to get my body back, you were always there to adjust my ever changing body without requiring me to purchase you in five different sizes. 

When my daughter sneezes with a mouth full of applesauce, I can quickly rub it into my pants and you would never know the difference. You just take it and hide it like it never happened at all. 

That Christmas I was very pregnant and ate enough mashed potatoes and green bean casserole for three adult men, you were literally the only one at the table that didn’t judge me. 

When hurdling a baby gate numerous times is a daily requirement, you allow me to feel like my form and speed is Olympic worthy.  Sometimes I hurdle it quickly just because I can. 

As much of my day is spent bending over to pick up the storm of toys Tayler leaves in her wake, you allow me to do it without ever feeling my butt crack exposed.  No gentle breeze ever tickles my backside. 

Some days it’s a challenge to fully beautify myself before my husband gets home. When all else fails, you still hug his favorite curves perfectly, and that is always a win.  

When I was so enormous I was convinced I was carrying a grown man and could no longer shave my legs effectively without falling out of the shower, your leggings allowed me to sleep in peace without being poked repeatedly.  

Those times my daughter needed to be with me so bad that she refused to be put on her nemesis (the floor!) when I needed to use the bathroom, you didn’t require me to undo buttons. You allowed me to successfully hold her in one arm and take care of my business with the other.  Many times. 

You allow me to go from doting mother to getting in a quick sweat session as a treadmill beast at the drop of the hat.  Literally.  I don’t even have to change. 

Army crawling through miniature sized tents, crouching in boxes, turning her into an airplane on top of my feet, and transforming my body into a back bridge for her to crawl under are all done with ease thanks to your ever-forgiving stretch.  Seriously. I do a killer bridge. 

When Tayler’s main goal was seeing how many times she could get me to change my clothes in a day with her spit up, you endured wash after wash after wash.  And I didn’t even need to do the jeans lunge so you fit right when I put you back on.  Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Sometimes the fast pace and multitude of tasks a parenting team is required to attend to in a day leaves little time for romance.  But yogas, you always accommodate the quick hand-slide, butt-cheek grab.  Always.  And for that, my husband thanks you.  

Back in our hay-day when Tayler and I were a class A team at napping together, you allowed us to do so comfortably, at any time, anywhere, and in any position.  

When Tayler was attached to my breasts for months, you did a spectacular job of catching any breast milk that escaped past the burp cloth on my stomach.  I didn’t even need to ask.  

And perhaps the most important: on days after baby when my self-confidence and self-esteem desperately needed a pick-me-up, you were always forgiving so I didn’t self loathe any more over the state of my mom pooch or increased size of my love handles.  You just covered them, and reminded me I am still beautiful – no matter my jean size. 

While jeans and I will continue to have an occasional affair on the side, Yoga Pants, you will always be my one true love.

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From Husband & Wife to Mother & Father

Once again, I’m sitting here all reflective over our first year as parents. I’ve been thinking a lot about how becoming new parents took us from the single roles as a husband or a wife, to the dual role of being a spouse and a parent. For most couples, it can be a big adjustment. Responsibilities change. Priorities change. The dynamics of your teamwork changes. The harmonious sync you were once in is suddenly disrupted (in a good way) by this beautiful creature you created together. Looking back at our first year as parents, I feel full of joy, accomplishment, and a deeper love than I could have possibly imagined. And no, it wasn’t always easy getting there. 🙂

While I think there are many keys to making this transition work, I wanted to figure out what I thought was the single most important. The one thing that if asked, I would give as advice to new or soon-to-be parents.

My first thought was communication. Seems like a no-brainer. Without a doubt becoming parents requires you to be vocal, honest, and open about what your new needs are and how they can be met. This is uncharted territory, and the changes it brings will demand those lines of communication be open. Things you were once a master at, you may need help with now. Roles that you might have been comfortable with could easily be turned upside down. The more I thought about it though, I kind of felt like this one should (hopefully!) already be established. You’ve gone through turbulent times of change already. You’ve had your share of arguments. While none of them have ever revolved around children, if you’ve got a solid foundation of communication, my hope is you’ll be able to continue that on in your new life as a family.

My next thought was honesty. This one only hung around for a second. I personally tie this one in closely with open communication above. Parenthood changes you, and being honest about those changes and new needs are vital. Not only being honest with your spouse, but being honest with yourself as well. When you’ve always “had it all together”, sometimes unraveling a little bit with your new demands can be tough. Be honest about it.

Next up: being on the same page about your parenting style. How do you want to raise your children? What values, principles, and structure do you feel is important in raising your children? These decisions can be as big as bringing up children with or without religion to as small as what you want to feed them for dinner. What past experiences have shaped your parenting style? Are you on the same page or can you at least find a middle ground you’ll both be happy with? Super important, right? Definitely a top contender. Once again, however, I’m hoping (fingers crossed) this has been talked about in depth before children are even in the picture.

My winner: agreeing to work hard every single day for the betterment of your new family, and not comparing “who works harder”. Now before I dive in to my reasoning and explanation, I feel the need to preface this with the fact that I am a stay at home mom, and my experiences are deeply rooted within this dynamic of a husband that works outside the home for his family and a wife that stays home to raise their children and maintain the home. I can’t speak from experience about the dynamics of two working parents, but after talking with my Momtourage, it became clear that this is a common theme no matter the situation. Every parenting team has its own unique challenges to face.

My husband and I have been together since I was 16 years old. For our entire relationship, our “jobs” have been on an even keel. Our jobs evolved from high school students, to working college students, to starting careers in the workforce. We both had places to be all day, things to do, and paychecks to bring home. After our days at work, we would come home and each pick up our share of (what now seems so small) the housework. We were a team, working in harmony.

Then came beautiful little Tayler. We were fortunate enough to have the option of me staying home to raise her, and it was a decision we both wanted for the future of our family. For us, it made sense. For the first time, our “jobs” were very, very different. He was working an incredibly demanding job that I couldn’t understand, and I was working an incredibly demanding job that he couldn’t understand.

The essence of my “don’t compare who works harder” advice is rooted in that last statement. As much as you think you might, you can’t possibly understand the demands, stresses, benefits, emotion, and small nuances of each others’ jobs. So before you even start in your new roles, make a very clear and verbal agreement that you will always assume to be true for each other. Make a promise that you will both work your hardest, every single day, for the betterment of your family and marriage. And mean it.

He gets weekends off, my job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

She doesn’t even have to get dressed in the morning, and some days they cuddle on the couch watching a movie together!

He gets to eat his lunch in peace. Most days I’m scarfing down food with a whining child pulling on my leg!

She doesn’t have a boss to answer to, or the pressure of being the sole provider of our family!

He doesn’t know what its like to hope every decision you make during the day is the right one for our child!

She gets nap time to do whatever she wants. A few hours of break during the day must be nice as I work my butt off!

He doesn’t see how much I haul ass during naps! My days are on repeat of laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and picking up!

She gets to spend quality time all day with our child during the week. I only get a few hours!

He sleeps peacefully through the night. You have no idea how exhausting it is to get up every 2-3 hours! And he says HE is tired?!

Does she not know I just got home and just need a few minutes to wind down?

Does he not see me cleaning right now while he continues to sit comfortably on the couch?

Does she not know how hard it is to deal with difficult personalities all day?

Does he not know how lonely it can be to have very limited adult interaction every day?

This list could go on and on, I’m sure. And I would bet you can relate to several of those. But stop. Stop now. Its a incredibly easy trap to fall into, and one that only breeds feelings of resentment, misunderstanding, and guaranteed rocky times ahead. It’s not a game with a winner. You don’t get a gold star. Even if it was a game, is it really one you would want to be playing?

I think Matt and I are at our best when we recognize that we both work extremely hard, in very different ways. I know he is doing his absolute best to provide for our family. He knows I am doing my best to raise our daughter and keep our home running smoothly. Instead of comparing, try and make it a habit to fill those moments with praise (even if at times it takes everything inside you!). It is nothing short of amazing what a little recognition and gratitude for your efforts can do in your marriage. Think about what kind of work environment you work better in. Is in one that recognizes and acknowledges your efforts? Or one that continually tells you all that you’re doing wrong? It could be in the form of a note left on the bathroom mirror that says, “Your work ethic amazes me – I appreciate your long hours at work for us”. To a simple statement of, “I don’t know how you do what you do – thank you for getting up with our daughter all night. I’ll try and give you a break this weekend!”. Go out of your way to acknowledge those big and small things each other do. Not only does that habit make one another feel appreciated, but it gets you in the habit of continually recognizing those little ways your spouse contributes.

I would be lying if I said finding that new balance is easy. And I’d really be lying if I said it happens overnight. It will take time, and there will be some trial and error of what works for you both. It is a continual, never-ending work in progress.

But as you work through these new dual roles you’ve both taken on…

Communicate.

Be honest.

Be vocal.

Be a team.

Empathize.

Don’t compare.

Believe the best in each other.

Remember you’re both working hard.

Give frequent praise and recognition.

Look for the little things you both do.

Be proactive.

Put each other first.

Help when you can without being asked.

Ask for help when you need it.

Forgive quickly.

Be kind.

Love.

And enjoy watching your partner blossom into a parent.

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Comfortable In My Mom Skin

25 days. Only 25 days till my baby girl that I swear I just brought home turns one year old. Her first of hopefully many joyous occasions to celebrate the beautiful little human she is. I remember when some of the moms in my Momtourage would talk about their feelings of nostalgia, anxiety, sadness, joy, and disbelief all wrapped into one as their own children’s first birthdays approached. I remember thinking, “That seems a little silly, I really doubt I’ll be that way. I’m too excited for this next stage with her!”. Ha! Come on, Erica, you should know yourself better than that! Here I am, 25 days away, and sure enough all of the above feelings are amplified and have turned me into a weepy, sniveling mess. Aside from the emotion, I’ve also caught myself reflecting a lot on this first year with Tayler. My very first year as a mother. What would I do differently next time around? What surprised me most? How did it affect my marriage? In what ways did we work well, and not so well, as a parenting team? How have I grown and matured as a mother?

While I’m sure I’ll blog about several these areas, it’s the last one that is resonating strongly with me at the moment. With 25 days left until Tayler’s first birthday, I can finally say without hesitation that as a mom, I am finally comfortable in my own skin.

It started when we first found out we were going to be blessed with a child. I had my weekly chalkboard updates ready to go, and I was so eager to not only watch my bump grow, but to share our journey with family and friends as well. Rightfully so! As soon as I began our weekly pictures, however, I also began comparing my growing body with those of other women who had done so before me. I remember checking their pictures at certain weeks and thinking, “Well she looks so much smaller than I do! Am I eating too much?”. Or, “Her bump is higher than mine, what does that mean?”. It didn’t consume me by any means, but as I look back, I would love to go back and shake myself. I let comparison rob me of fully enjoying and embracing these beautiful and unique changes my body was going through as it served as the perfect home for our daughter . Ugh.

I wish I could say the comparison stopped then, but it didn’t. Over the past 11 months there have been several times I’ve gotten down on myself for my (what I assumed) was lack of mothering abilities. And many times over silly, insignificant things. Her nursery was put together better. Her baby eats every food she makes for him. She knew to do this when I didn’t have a clue. She knew to do that when I didn’t have a clue. She got her body back in 2 months. She is already going on trips with friends and I am barely making time for phone calls. The list. goes. on.

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I wouldn’t consider myself an insecure person, but that whole perfectionist area of my brain had a way of taking over and leaving me with some feelings of inadequacy that should never have been there in the first place. I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl. I had quite literally waited for this period in my life for years and years. I was born to be a mother. And now that it was finally here, I wanted to do it perfectly.

With 25 days left till Tayler’s first birthday, I can finally say that as a mother, I am comfortable in my own skin and at peace with those areas I may fall a little short. Because while there are areas I can improve on, there are twice as many areas that I am an absolute rock star at. After months and months of daily conversations with my Momtourage, I’ve learned one very important thing. We all have areas we really shine in. One of the moms in my group ran a marathon at 3 months postpartum. Several moms exclusively breast fed months longer than I was able to. Some of the moms have very successful and thriving careers while still being a very present and amazing wife and mother. One of the moms is always coming up with the most interesting and engaging activities to do with her child. One of the moms cooks the most nutritious and organic food in her home. One of the moms always digs deep and really researches all the big choices she makes. One of the moms always has the perfect words and advice for every single situation. Their skills and strengths are just as unique as our children are. And boy does it make for one collectively incredible group.

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I will never run a marathon 3 months postpartum. Or probably even 93 months postpartum. I might not come up with all the best activities and I might not be as well versed in vaccines. I can’t foresee myself making strictly natural and organic food for my family either. But if I’ve learned anything, its that there is not one single person on this Earth that is better suited to be Tayler’s mother than I am. Not one single person.

If I could go back to the day I found out I was pregnant and talk to myself, I would tell her that the journey I was about to embark on is the most insanely rewarding, challenging, breathtaking, and unique experience of your life. I would tell her to embrace the changes. Cherish them and own them. I would tell her that there is no one “right way” to be a mom. As long as your choices are made from a place of good intentions and whole-hearted love – you can’t go wrong. I would tell her to stop doubting herself so much. Those maternal instincts are there for a reason – if it feels right in your gut, it probably is right. I would tell her that it will appear that many moms have it more put together than you do. You don’t know what secret battles they fight, and to compare yourself to them brings about absolutely nothing productive. I would tell her that many of the decisions she will make won’t be the same ones that other moms make. And that’s OK. I would tell her its much more productive to learn from other moms than compare to other moms. If they have a strength that is something you’d like to improve on, ask them for some guidance instead of sitting there wondering how they do it. I would tell her that she was born to be a mom, and to not doubt that for a single second.

There’s no one way to be a perfect mom, but there are a million ways to be really, really great one.

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And On Sunday We Prepare — Getting Stuff Done & Staying Organized With Baby

Well, its almost been a year. One whole magical year staying home with my beautiful baby girl. While the amount you learn about your child, yourself, your marriage, and the ways your life is forever changed seems never ending, another thing I’ve learned a lot about is how to make the most of my day. Mostly through trial and error. By nature I am a hard-working, need-to-be-productive, can’t-sit-down kind of person, so moving from the fast-paced job of elementary education to staying home was a big adjustment. I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated during those first few months as the housework piled up and I often felt like I went to bed with nothing to show for my day (which is insane because my growing, happy, and thriving daughter was all I needed “to show”). Over the months, however, things started to get a little easier. She wasn’t attached to my boob for the better portion of the day. She started napping in her crib better as opposed to only on me. As she slept through the night longer I was better rested to face the day. Her bedtime got pushed back from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. which gave me roughly 3 glorious hours before bedtime. She started sitting and playing independently which allowed me a little more freedom.

If you’re still in those first few months and feel like some days you’re drowning – it will get better. Embrace the chaos for the time being. Nap when she naps. Let some dishes pile up. Take some guilt-free “you time” when you can. Ask for help when you need it. And remember that for the this moment, that beautiful being you created IS your job – you were not hired to be a housekeeper.

As we start to come out of that initial stage of daily survival, however, getting a few things done becomes a little more feasible. I am by no means an expert or pro at time management or organization, trust me. But I have learned a thing or two about what works for us, and if it helps you in any small way – then I am one happy momma!

For me, the biggest way I am able to maximize time is through planning and preparation. Taking random stabs at tasks that need to be done is counterproductive – I’d start 5 tasks at once and never complete a single thing! So, I plan. Everything. On Sundays.

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This picture above is my “command center”. My entire week is wrapped up in this nook. And here’s what I do. On Sunday.

  1. The Calendar. I actually lay out the whole month at the beginning of each month, but on Sundays I make sure everything is up to date and on the calendar. Every visitor, appointment, and activity. This comes first, and will dictate the rest of my planning.
  2. The Meal Plan. (Bottom Middle) Have your calendar up to date so you know how many nights you need to cook, and then plan your meals accordingly. I usually try and do some sort of mix between crockpot meals and those that are a little more labor intensive. Not only is a meal plan nice so you avoid the 5:00 panic of what to make, but it also helps tremendously with grocery budget as you are only getting what you absolutely need for the week. And if you have a man that’s handy in the kitchen, he can jump in and help without even having to ask!
  3. The Grocery List. (Bottom Left) You’ve got your meal plan, so now go through and decide what you already have and what you’ll need. Once dinners are covered, consider snacks, lunches, drinks, etc. (If you make your baby food, remember to plan for those extra fruits or veggies you’ll be pureeing!).
  4. The To-Do Lists. I am 110% a list person. I need them to function as an adult. Seriously. So I have two. My “General” (next to grocery list) is a list of things to do within the following month or so, so I can keep things near and far on my radar. My “Daily” list (bottom right) incorporates workouts, cleaning, laundry, and various household maintenance items from my General list (like paying bills, making appointments, DIY projects, etc for the week). Every day will have a few to-do’s under it. I also make sure to take a peek back at my meal plan so I know which nights I’ll have more time to tackle more time consuming tasks (crockpot nights give me more time!). How many times am I going to work out this week? When will laundry need to be done? Is there a certain day bills need to be paid? Make your to-do’s small, and specific. For example, “vacuum master & kids’ bedrooms” and “pay mortgage and auto” are much more doable and specific than “vacuum” and “pay bills”. Be specific!

By the end of planning this quick little map of our week, I’m able to see what the week ahead should (roughly) look like. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a week where a change of plans didn’t put a wrench in things, but at least I’m prepared and can roll with the punches, right?

*On a side note, there’s this sweet little free app called Cozi – its a grocery list, To-Do List, Calendar, and more all in one. Plus, it syncs all phones that are on it so your family stays on the same page! I blogged about it before here: https://estoebick.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/family-life-simplified-get-cozi-with-it-2/

(and for the love of god someone tell me what I’m doing wrong when trying to embed a link?!)

After the planning comes grocery shopping and food preparation. Once back from the grocery store, work as a team to try and prep as much food for the week as you can within reason. Grill up a few pounds of chicken to pull out for salads during the week. Clean, cut, and portion some of your favorite go-to fruits and veggies for snacking. If you can prepare any items for the upcoming week’s dinners, do it now and tuck it back in the fridge for later. All of this food prep will come in handy when you have 45 seconds to grab a healthy snack or 10 minutes to try and throw together a dinner. (Do I need to even mention prepping food can help immensely when trying to lose the baby weight? You’ll eat what’s available – so make those good foods ready to grab!). Depending on your baby’s age, this might also be a good time to prep baby’s snacks or whip up some baby food for the week! You will free up so much time during the week if your meals are able to be put together quickly – you’ve already laid all the ground work!

Whew! Kinda seems like your Sunday is over before it even began, huh? I promise it doesn’t take long, especially once you get a routine down. It just makes sense to do all the planning and preparation before the hustle and bustle of a week begins and your help is home with you!

Aside from Sunday planning and prep, there are a few other tips and tricks I’ve picked up that, again, work for us:

  1. If your baby enjoys it, wear your baby to get stuff done! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had her wrapped up on my chest in her K’Tan so I could unload the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, or vacuum.
  2. Don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of a little independent play time. I used to feel like I needed to be playing with or engaging Tayler all day, when the truth is independent play is necessary and needed for social and cognitive development. While she is mumbling and putting blocks in and out of a bag on repeat, I don’t feel guilty doing a quick task or two!
  3. Be prepared in different areas of the house. If your baby isn’t big on being worn at the moment, have things ready to pull out in different areas of the house where you might need to quickly get something done. I used to have at least one bouncer/mat/toy/swing/etc ready to pull out all over the house. (Check out the “Go Pod!” for this!). If I needed to be in our bedroom putting away clothes, in the basement switching a load of laundry, or in the bathroom getting ready, I had something ready to help entertain and/or contain her for a second.
  4. Take advantage of the times of day baby is happiest!
  5. Take advantage of daddy and baby time. When my husband gets home from work and settled in, I usually have some time to get a few things done. While playing all together is important, they also need some alone time to bond. Go shower, read, blog, peruse Pinterest, or whatever it is you need to relax a little!
  6. Shower at night if its reasonable for you. I have very thick hair that takes forever to blow dry. Instead of using time during the day to shower and attempt to blow dry and style my hair, I shower once she goes to bed and all I have to do the following day is style, which is much quicker!
  7. Get into a routine with their naps. My daughter is currently napping twice a day. During those naps I know exactly what I’m going to do and waste zero time getting to it! Morning nap time is reserved for getting ready for the day (clothes/hair/makeup), and lunch. If I have time past those things, its a blessing! Afternoon nap is reserved for workouts and to-do list tackling. If I have time leftover, I love jumping ahead to to-do’s for later in the week!
  8. As they get older, involve them! Two of Tayler’s favorite things right now are helping me unload the dishwasher and handing me every piece of clean clothes from the basket for me to fold. Make some chores a game and make it fun!
  9. Full hands up/full hands down. Years of serving and bartending has ingrained this little multi-tasking motto into my brain’s functioning. Almost every time I go upstairs or downstairs, I’m taking something with me. I’m always scanning what needs to be moved to where to keep my trips efficient. Sounds a little crazy, but I promise it helps!

The final, and most important tip I have is this:

10. Realize and embrace the fact that you will never again be quite as productive as you once were. Don’t try to be Supermom and do it all. I’ve learned trying to be Supermom can lead to Supermom not ever taking care of herself, which, is never good for anyone. Just be a really great mom, and enjoy your insanely lovable little ones. In 20 years when your kids are off to college or starting families of their own – that’s when you can keep a perfectly clean house, and even then I’m sure you’ll just wish it was back to being messy with all the beautiful chaos that once filled your home.

*To moms with more than one child: I don’t know how you do it. Once I’m there, I’m sure I’ll look back at this post and laugh, but for now, this will have to do 🙂