Career & Family

I’ve had quite the wide variety of jobs throughout my short life, all of which have taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to become.

In college I studied broadcast journalism with a dream of becoming a news anchor or sports anchor.  After graduating, I quickly realized just how important being close to my family was and put my dream of reporting the news on the back-burner.  Many, many times, if you want to break into broadcasting you will have to move to the middle of nowhere to get your start with a small news station.  Now, this isn’t always the case, after all, it’s all about who you know.  I’ve always been willing to start at the bottom like everyone else, for the opportunity to climb the totem pole, but the thought of leaving my family behind for an indefinite amount of time killed me.  Then there’s also the likelihood of still being far away once I potentially did settle into a larger news station in a bigger city.  Yep, I made the right choice for myself, but I do have days where I wonder – “what could have been?”

My first job out of college was with a local police department, as a Community Services Officer.  Sounds official and I even looked pretty official, having to wear a civilianized police uniform to work everyday.  I really enjoyed that job, as I got to work with the people in the community almost everyday.  To sum it up, one of my main responsibilities was running the Neighborhood Watch for the entire city.  This meant holding educational meetings at homes of community members where the neighbors would come and ask questions about general crime prevention.  Surprisingly to some, it was a lot of fun!

After working that job for about six months or so, I knew I wanted something more – more hours and more money.  The job at the police department was only part time, so I took to the internet and started to see what else was out there, even though I didn’t really know what I was looking to do.  (I’m one of those people who loves so many different things that I could see myself having many different jobs or career paths.)

I remember randomly applying for a brand new little airline named Virgin America.  I truly did apply on a whim believing that I would never hear back from them.  Not only that, but did I really want to fly all the time?  Within a few days of applying as an “In-Flight Team Member,” a.k.a. flight attendant, I was starting the interview process and eventually went on to a stressful four week training before getting my wings.  People have no idea what kind of training flight attendants go through, but I have to say after having been through it, it is tough and it is very serious.  At the end of the day a flight attendant is there to keep passengers safe, not just to bring you a coke with no ice.

During the three years I worked for Virgin America I traveled, I met wonderful people and was part of something so unique that I don’t think it will ever be replicated.  I know my former colleagues can certainly agree with that.

I stopped working for Virgin because I didn’t feel like I was growing anymore.  I did what I could within the company to grow – became an In-Flight Team Leader, was part of the Promotions Team and worked at Virgin HQ in Burlingame, CA.  Eventually the commute to HQ got to me enough and I decided it was time to close that chapter.

Enter police work once again.  Even before my first police job, I had always been curious about police dispatchers.  Many who know me know that I come from a law enforcement family, so as they say, “it runs in the blood.”  I tested for police dispatcher positions and eventually was hired with a local police department.  I’ve never been through such a mentally challenging experience with a job until this one.  It’s hard to explain to people exactly what the job is like if they don’t know police work or have never sat alongside a police dispatcher for a partial shift.  Just like with anything, I can’t expect the general public to know just how taxing a job like that can be.  You talk to people who might be facing the absolute worst moment of their life, or you might be talking to someone wanting to end their life.

I stopped working as a dispatcher about 7 months after starting.  I realized that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt going into work everyday – I felt so much stress and always wondered about the “what if.”  Shortly after making the decision to part ways with dispatching was when Craig was trying to get into the police academy.  I knew then that if we were going to have a life together that I didn’t want to be in the same field that he was, working the same long and hard shifts, and probably not seeing much of each other because of that.

After leaving my job as a dispatcher I felt desperate to find a new job.  This was the first time in my life where I had quit a job without knowing where I would go next.  I was of the mindset that I could just work some odd job and look for the “real” job during my time away from work.  This was when I was hired by Tiffany & Co.  I thought I would work there through the holiday season and move on, but that wasn’t the case.  I quickly saw that there was opportunity for me to grow within the company.  Over the course of working for this famed jewelry store, I fell in love with so many aspects of the job.  There were also things I didn’t care for, but that’s the case with any job.  I started studying more about gemstones and diamonds and discovered that there was a plethora of information for me to learn.

Since I so enjoyed selling engagement rings, I knew that my next move was to continue my education by studying with the Gemological Institute of America.  I took online classes learning more about metals, diamonds and colored stones.  Eventually these classes took me to the GIA campus in Carlsbad, CA for additional education and testing.  I wanted to ultimately become a Gemologist, which I still would love to do.

I’ve left behind so many different jobs and potential career paths that on some days I can’t help but feel like I’ve sacrificed a career to be a stay-at-home mom.  I do not regret staying at home with Gialina one bit, but there are times where I see others and think, well they do it – “Why shouldn’t I?  Why can’t I?”  I think thoughts like these are totally normal.  Working moms long for more time with their kids, stay-at-home moms long for something of their own and moms who do it all can still have these same feelings.

Ask people what they think about stay-at-home moms and you’ll get a variety of answers, this I’m sure of.  “They sit around all day.  They’re making the best decision ever.  They don’t contribute to society.  They’re making a great sacrifice to stay home and nurture their kids day in and day out.”  There’s no shortage of opinions about women who stay home and raise their kids.  Hell, there’s no shortage of opinions about anything anymore!

Personally, I felt it impossible for me to be a great parent and a great employee at the same time.  I’m in awe of the women who do both because it’s hard!  It’s all hard!  Sometimes something has got to give.

For me, Ashley, being a great parent means nurturing my daughter as much as I can during these first years.  I’ll have my chance again to have my career soon enough.  Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a post about how to be a great parent, because unlike work, parenting is extremely subjective.  There are no titles, no end of the year bonuses, only endless care that you must provide in hopes that your child learns new things and grows up to be a good person.

I don’t have much credibility with regards to teaching others how to be good parents, so I won’t try – I mean, hello, I’ve had less than two years of experience.  All I know is that I am becoming a better parent everyday because of all the time I spend with my child.  I am keen to her unique wants and needs.  Obviously, you don’t have to stay at home like me to be a good parent or know everything about your child.  I have single-parent friends that work multiple jobs just to make sure their kids have what they need.  I have friends who work part-time and do one hell of a job making sure that they are a provider and a caregiver.  I also have friends who bust their butts at work for 12 hours a day so they can keep their house running smoothly and their kids happy.  The bottom line is, we all do what we need to do for our individual family needs and that’s perfect, but it’s still tough.

To a degree, we all long for something we don’t have and when it comes to work-life balance and parenting.  I’m not the only mom out there who feels like I don’t do enough at home – there’s always laundry, always dishes and always something!  I beat myself up when I can’t do it all.  “You’re just a stay-at home mom, why can’t you just get it all done like everyone else?!”

Enough negative self talk.  Enough.  If you work full-time, part-time, have a side hustle, stay at home with your kids, etc., you are amazing and doing your very best.  There’s always time in this life for the it career, the vacation, the whatever.  Remind yourself that what you’re doing is right for you at this moment in time.

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My daughter and her sister who is growing in my belly will only be little for so long.  I will have my career in a few years.  For now, it can wait because I’m doing what’s best for my family and so should you, even if it means that my life and yours look very different.

xo

Oatmeal-Zucchini Muffin Cups

Last week I ordered Kristin Cavallari’s new cookbook, “True Roots.” As soon as it arrived I started flipping through it and made a grocery list so I could try some of the recipes right away. This is my usual m.o. when I get a new cookbook. I must have made close to five of her recipes already – all of them have been good! According to her Intro in the cookbook, she partnered with her long time chef who started working for her family after the birth of one of her children. I think it’s really refreshing that she’s not claiming to be some culinary expert, just someone passionate about making healthful food for herself and her family.

I shared a photo of the Oatmeal-Zucchini Muffin Cups from her cookbook on my Instagram stories and got multiple requests to post it on my blog. For those not wanting to by the cookbook, I’d seriously suggest rethinking that. It’s got a great variety of food and is very kid-friendly, for those of you cooking for big and little mouths. If you’re still not convinced, don’t worry, the recipe will be here for your using pleasure!

Here’s a shot of the recipe from the actual cookbook. It makes 12 very hearty muffins. So far, everyone in my house likes them so I’m sure you will too.

For those interested in ordering the cookbook, I purchased mine on the ever so wonderful Amazon. It’s already a #1 Bestseller!

Anyone else remember Kristin Cavallari’s “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” days? I’m pretty sure we would have viewing parties my freshman year of college in the common area of our dorms. Oh man! Haha!

Another great cookbook that I’ve yet to make anything from is “The Minimalist Kitchen.” The photos in this book are eye catching and the recipes are simple and clean. I can’t wait to dig in and make some things after I’m done with my “True Roots” binge.

Hope you guys enjoy! Let me know what your favorite recipes are from each, or how you’ve tweaked them to make them your own!

Xo

1-Bowl Carrot Apple Muffins

Like myself, many of you probably spent the weekend with family and friends celebrating the Easter holiday. If you didn’t, read on, because this post is for everyone.

This Easter we hosted our first egg hunt for Gialina. We invited both sets of grandparents over around 8:15 in the morning for coffee, tea and carrot apple muffins – simple, easy, nutritious and yummy.

This was the first time I’ve made these muffins, but I’ve used recipes from Minimalist Baker many times. She never disappoints me, so of course I wanted to make her festive muffins for this particular holiday morning.

From what everyone told me yesterday, our whole family seemed to really enjoy these healthy little treats. The final verdict always comes from my chef mother, and the muffins got her stamp of approval too. Even Gia loved them! She ate one yesterday morning and had one with her breakfast today. It’s always a win when your child likes what you make!

Since these 1-bowl muffins went over well, I’ll be adding them to my regular repertoire. I had some of my followers on Instagram (@mrsbennigson) ask for the recipe as well, so here I am ready to share the love and spread the word about Minimalist Baker and the recipe I got from her.

Hope you all enjoy these for breakfast or a snack as much as my family!

Xo

Here’s the recipe deets…..

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 32-36 min

Ingredients:

• 1 1/2 flax eggs

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1/3 cup mashed very ripe banana

• 1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)

• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or 1 sweet apple, finely grated

• 1/2 cup brown sugar (or sub muscavado)

• 1/2 tsp sea salt

• 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

• 1/2 cup plain almond milk, unsweetened

• 1 heaping cup (packed) grated carrot

• 2/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats

• 1/2 cup almond meal

• 1 cup + 2 Tbsp gluten free flour blend

• 1/4 cup raw walnuts (chopped) for topping

Preparation:

1. Prepare flax eggs in a large mixing bowl and preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).

2. Prepare muffin tin with liners or lightly grease them.

3. To flax eggs mashed banana, agave or maple syrup, olive oil and whisk to combine.

4. Next add applesauce, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and whisk to combine.

5. Add almond milk and stir.

6. Add grated carrot and stir.

7. Add oats, almond meal, and gluten-free flour blend and stir.

8. Divide evenly among 12 muffin tins, filling them all the way up to the top, and top with crushed walnuts (optional).

9. Bake for 32-36 minutes, or until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you press on the top it shouldn’t feel too spongey, so don’t be afraid of over baking! The GF blend just takes longer to bake.

10. Remove from oven and let set in the pan for 15 minutes. Then flip on their sides still in the pan to let cool completely.

11. If you try to unwrap them too quickly, they have a tendency to stick to the wrappers.

12. Once cooled, store in a covered container or bag at room temp to keep fresh. Freeze after that to keep fresh.

My Everyday Makeup and Beauty Must-Haves

I’ve always loved makeup, but over the years I’ve learned that less is more, especially for my lifestyle.

In high school I loved browsing the MAC counter and looking for new lip glosses and eyeshadows. I can’t even tell you how many makeup products I’ve gathered over the years – most of which I still have tucked away. (Don’t worry, I don’t use that old stuff!)

Through my college years and the years after, I stuck to the no makeup look, or a minimally done face. Being that I played softball in college, I didn’t really want to wear anything while at practice or during games.

Now that I’ve hit thirty I know the importance of taking care of my skin and not just worrying about what makeup products I use. If we take good care of our skin and use makeup that works well for us, we can slow down the aging process and look our best while we’re at it!

Today I want to share some of my favorite everyday beauty products that I use, including skincare and makeup.

Most days I go makeup free, but when I’m feeling motivated, or if I’m going somewhere that I’d like to look more polished, these are my go-to favorites of the moment:

  • Laura Mercier Secret Concealer For Under Eyes – A little dab will do ya with this stuff. I apply a small amount of this creamy concealer with my finger by gently dabbing my under eye area. It conceals any darkness and under eye circles. I’m sure there is an appropriate brush to apply this with, but I go for fast and easy.

  • Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage – This stuff is great for if you have any spots of discoloration or blemishes on your face. Unlike the under eye concealer, I do use a brush to apply this. It comes with two colors in the palette, which I blend together and then apply if needed.

  • Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation PowderAnytime I wear makeup I wear this foundation powder. I apply it with my favorite foundation brush, not the sponge that comes with the powder. Do whatever works for you. Many days I skip the first two products I’ve listed and jump straight to this. It cuts down on time and often I don’t need the two concealers.

  • MAC Cosmetics Mineralize Skinfinish Bronzer – This bronzing powder is great and I use it for multiple things.  I do a very natural contour of the cheekbones with it, as well as other parts of my face.  When I’m really pressed for time I skip this step all together.  Another great use for this product that I learned from real beauty bloggers, is to apply the bronzer in the crease of your eyelid.  That’s right, it can act as an eyeshadow.  I love this idea because again, it’s quick and easy, and it gives you just a little bit of color while remaining very natural.  Genius!

  • MAC Cosmetics Sheer Tone Blush – I use different shades of blush, depending on my eye makeup or the time of year.  Lately I’ve been using the shade, “Breath of Plum.”  I would think it would work well for many different skin tones, as it’s a very pretty plum-pink color.  Blush always warms up my face nicely.

  • MAC Cosmetics Mineralize Skinfinish Highlight – Highlight is all the rage these days.  I know some ladies like to wear a lot of highlight….so much that they’d like to be seen from outer space.  More power to ya girl!  I like to just put a small amount on the highest points of my face.  This includes the upper cheekbone area, my temples, cupid’s bow, bridge of my nose and a touch on my chin.  If I don’t want to be glowy that day I just skip it.  My favorite shade is called, “Soft & Gentle.”

We cannot forget to talk about brows and mascara!  I’ve always been someone who likes to take care of my brows because I think they frame your face and really make the rest of your potential makeup look great.  Like many others, I love the Anastasia Beverly Hills line when it comes to my brows.  Here’s what I use and my go-to mascara choices:

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz – This little pencil works wonders!  Depending on your touch and how heavy handed you want to be, you can achieve whatever brow look you want.  I just like to keep my natural shape and fill in the areas that might be slightly sparse.  Natural, yet defined is the balance I always hope to achieve.

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo – I recently switched up my brow routine by trying a powder duo.  When I first started doing my brows I always reached for powder.  I thought I’d see how I like this product from Anastasia, and I really like it.  I feel like I can be a little bit more precise because it requires the use of a brush, which I’ve always been more comfortable with regarding my eyebrows.  I go back and forth between the powder duo and brow wiz – sometimes what I use depends on if I’ve run out of one or the other.

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Synthetic Duo Brush (#12) – This is the best brow brush!  The bristles are nice and tight and the angle is very sharp for easy use.  This is the brush that I use when applying the powder duo above.  I also love that it has a spoolie brush on the end opposite of the angle brush.

  • Lancome Definicils Mascara – I used this mascara for the longest time and I recently revisited it.  The application brush is not big and fat and makes it easy to apply your mascara with precision.  This particular formula really lengthens and separates lashes nicely.  No spider legs here!

  • Le Volume De Chanel – Another favorite of mine!  I’ve been using this mascara on and off for years.  The brush is much fatter and allows you to pump up the volume of your lashes for a little bit more drama – hence the name.  In fact, I’m due to get another tube of this magic stuff.

Last but not least when it comes to makeup, the lip.  I always put something on my lips, especially if that’s all I have time for.  You can always find some type of lip product on me so I don’t get dry or chapped.  Here’s the rundown on my everyday lippies:

  • Christian Dior Lip Glow Color Reviver Balm – I view this little lip product as an amped up chapstick.  I wear it whether I’m bare faced or not.  It is super hydrating and gives me some warmth with a natural color.  If I remember correctly, it now comes quite a few shades.  I think I have them all too.

  • Pat McGrath Lip Fetish Lip Balm – This stuff can be hard to get your hands on.  It frequently sells out online and is a bit more of a splurge, priced at close to $40.  It’s a cleverly packaged, non-pigmented lip balm that is extremely moisturizing.  I feel like I’m indulging when I wear it.  It’s something that is very simple but makes you feel good when you have it on your lips.  Treat yourself!

  • Chanel Rouge Coco Shine – My mom was the one who encouraged me to get a few of these little babies.  These are more like a lipstick, yet are very sheer and give you a bit of color and shine.  They come in so many different shades and if you layer more product on you will get a more exaggerated color.  After having Gia my mom said this is a nice lip product to wear when you don’t have the time or energy for other makeup.  It makes you feel a little bit more pulled together and still is very natural.  Great buy for busy ladies or women who like the sheer look.

Makeup does nothing if you don’t take good care of your skin.  You have to make sure your canvas is clean and clear so that your makeup products look their best, therefore making you feel your best with them on.  My skincare routine is pretty straight forward and I don’t foresee that it will be changing any time soon.  Here’s what I use everyday:

  • Rodan + Fields Redefine Regimen – I’m sure many of you have heard of R + F and have various opinions about it.  Many people are familiar with Proactiv, which was created by Rodan + Fields.  The products that I use are not as geared towards clearing acne as Proactiv.  (Although there are regimens that they make that are.) I use a regimen called Redefine, which is geared towards fighting signs of aging. You can never start too young when it comes to wrinkle prevention.  It’s a three step process that I do twice per day – once in the morning and once at night.  I start with a cleansing mask, followed by a toner, and finish with a moisturizer.  In addition to doing this daily, I use their microdermabrasion paste three times per week in lieu of the cleansing mask.  I swear by this paste!  The first time I used it my skin was beyond soft.  It scrubs away dead skin and really gives you a nice glow after using it.  I’m so much of a believer in these products that I’m also a consultant.

That’s the round up of my makeup and skincare!  I know there’s thousands of awesome products out there and I love trying new things.  Like I already said, I’m no beauty blogger, just a lover of quality beauty products.  I’m positive that there are better things out there than what I use, or better ways to apply these products, so please, be kind – these are just things that work for me and what I enjoy using.  It’s nice to share our favorite things with one another.

Comment with your favorite products or shoot me a message!  I’d love to see what everyone uses!

xo

Our Potty Training Essentials

Okay, so we are on day 11 of this potty training journey. I’m still alive and I haven’t strangled anyone! There have been really great days and days where I feel so defeated. I keep reminding myself this is completely normal and this is a habit that Gia is learning. I’ve realized I need to stop counting the unsuccessful moments and celebrate the successful ones like a crazy lady.

Over the last week and a half or so, I’ve found that there are some products that are absolutely essential for the place we are in time. I wanted to share what we are using and what’s working for us.

First, and most obviously, we have a little potty for Gia to use. We keep it in whatever room she is playing in and will eventually leave it in our bathroom as she continues to master her craft. 😉 I wanted to get a potty that was super simple – no bells and whistles. I didn’t want it to be viewed as a toy or to look and feel scary, so I ordered the Baby Bjorn Potty. I got ours off of Amazon for around $20.

These potties come in a variety of colors, but we went with white and gray. Basic, simple, straightforward.

We bring Gia’s small potty with us if we are going out to run an errand or anytime we have to get in the car. I keep it in the back of my small SUV and I give her the chance to use it before we head into a store, as well as before getting back in the car seat.

Over the weekend I placed it on the front passenger seat because I was getting some resistance from Gia. This small change in scenery really helped the focus not be on the potty and let her relax.

When we do go out to do things, we are still very brief and strategic. With that being said, I don’t tote the little potty with us in stores. I have a foldable insert that I keep in my diaper backpack for easy access.

If we go into a store, the first thing I do is locate the restroom and bring Gia in there with me. I do this to let her know where the bathroom is and to show her that it’s not as unfamiliar and scary as it may seem.

Before we started all of this potty training stuff I ordered an insert that didn’t fold. I like it, but after bringing it with us in a nondescript bag when on the go, I decided to keep that one on the big potty at home. The brand of that insert is Cozy Greens, and again, I found it on Amazon. It comes with a sticker chart, but we don’t use it.

Now when we go out we bring our foldable insert, which comes with a washable storage bag! So much more convenient and a bit more sanitary. The brand of this insert is Gimars and it comes with a little owl face on the seat, with a variety of colors.

I know that I mentioned I wanted to keep her potty seats simple, but after facing a few days of resistance, I thought this would be inviting for Gia and take some pressure off of her. I mostly like it because of how small it folds up for travel. I don’t recall the exact price, but I think it was right around $15.

This morning it came to mind that I should order some type of baby doll that has a potty chair. The last few days Gia has brought some of her stuffed animals to her potty to show it to them and “make them go potty.” I did some googling and found that the toy brand Melissa and Doug makes a baby doll that comes with a potty and a few other accessories. Yep, I already ordered it and it will be here today or tomorrow. Gotta love Amazon! The doll was around $22.

Now, I realize that not every child will want or need a doll like this, but I know that Gia will like it. Not only that, but I think it will serve as a fun learning tool for her.

Lastly, whenever we go out I bring multiple changes of clothes. This includes shirts, pants, socks and shoes. You never know how messy things can get. I also bring multiple gallon size ziplock bags for dirty clothes. Another thing I bring is a tub of Lysol wipes. These definitely come in handy, and I wouldn’t have thought of these off the bat.

Let me stress again that every kid is different and will potty train differently. These tools and products are what’s working for us. I also want to tell you that I’ve shed my fair share of tears this past week and a half. If I were able to have a glass or two of wine at the end of the day it might help, but since I’m pregnant that’s out of the question.

I’m definitely learning a lot about myself as Gia learns this new skill. Just as I’ve needed this reminder on a daily basis, I’ll also remind any of you going through this – don’t give up!

Xo

Potty Training: The Good, Bad And Ugly

For the last month and a half or so, I’ve been slightly obsessed with all things potty training. This obsession was spurred by learning a friend of mine started the process with her daughter, who is about four months older than my daughter.

After hearing my friend had taken five days off of work to get the ball rolling, I did some research and ordered a book on potty training to prepare myself for this future milestone. I knew that if my friend’s daughter could do it, so could Gia. Our girls are both very verbal and independent, so why not give them the gift of a clean bum?

I took longer reading the book than I thought because I didn’t want to just rush through it. Also, I couldn’t just finish it in a couple days because, well, LIFE. There’s hundreds of books and opinions out there, so there’s many ways to go about potty training. After all, when we were kids there weren’t all of these resources. Our parents mostly did what they thought was best for us and that’s fine. The way they potty trained, the way I’m potty training and the way you potty train all work for us and our kids. There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “wrong.” You can expect for everyone to interject their opinions though. Just do what you think is best and ignore the rest.

So, if you’re a parent of a toddler, you may be wondering which book I went with. I ordered Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki, through Amazon. I gave myself about two weeks time to try and not think about potty training after finishing the book, before actually starting.

Craig and I decided our start date would be on his first day off of his work week. This allowed us three days together to try and tackle things as a team. Thank goodness we planned it this way because we needed each other’s support. Don’t get me wrong though, there were times we were very frustrated with one another.

Let me just say that the first day was very hard. As a Type- A individual, it was difficult to let go of the fact that my child would not be good at this in the beginning. Duh, Ashley! How crazy of me to think for one second that my child, who has known only diapers since moments after birth, would magically be a pro at potty training!

I think that as a parent I secretly wished that this process would be smooth sailing and we would magically get it done. No such thing, even when children are bright.

The main reason why I’m sharing part of our experience is to let other parents know that this is hard stuff. Fortunately for me, I have a sister-in-law with a newly turned two-year old son, who started potty training last month. After our first day of potty training I asked her if she experienced the things we were experiencing. Low and behold, they did. The bottom line of this is that potty training takes an insane amount of time, energy and absolute patience. These are all attributes that most parents just white knuckle their way into acquiring. Yep, that’s right – we don’t know everything and that’s totally okay!

For those of you in the first days of potty training, I applaud you and encourage you to push through! If I didn’t have encouragement from my husband, mom, girlfriend and sister-in-law after the first two days, I might have thrown in the towel. You will feel the same way, but DO NOT GIVE IN! It is worth having the most challenging time to see progress. We are currently on day six of our potty training and I am amazed. The sense of pride I feel is huge and what’s even better is seeing the big smile on Gia’s face when she goes on her potty. You can see how proud she is of herself too.

Set yourself up for success and do some research, get a potty, get an insert and have wine ready at the end of the day. It will be hard and we all face different hurdles through this time. Working parents, kids who go to day care and stay at home parents all have a different set of challenges to deal with while hitting this milestone.

Even if potty training sends you to therapy, you can do it! If I can get over the hump and continue to push through, so can you!

Xo

#MomSoHard

As parents we try our very best to be the ultimate caretakers, protectors, providers and nurturers, but some days we feel like we just flat out suck. If there’s one thing I know, I am not alone with these feelings.

Becoming a parent has hands down been the greatest thing I’ve ever done, yet it’s also been the absolute hardest. Gialina has the power to melt me or crush me with a single word, look, or gesture. It’s almost as if I’m at the mercy of a tiny dictator….an adorable tiny dictator.

I think about how Craig and I made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom and I know it has been the best decision for our family. With that, some days I can’t help but think about the single parents, the working parents and parents of multiple kids who seem to always get everything done, and without complaint.

On my tough days at home with Gia I try and remember parents who have it a lot harder than me (the stay-at-home parent raising three kids under three, the parent who cries when dropping their child off at daycare, and the parent working two jobs who just can’t catch a break). I should be so grateful to stay home and raise my daughter, knowing she’s learning from me. I am grateful of course, but it’s not picture perfect, nor should it be.

Being a mom is hard. I’m alone most of the time and that takes a toll on my mental health. When I say alone, I’m with my daughter, but obviously talking to her is very different than talking to an adult. I sit in my own thoughts and that can have a negative snowball effect on me at times.

It’s easy for me to judge myself and feel guilty about most anything related to parenting. I know many parents feel that same guilt, so I’m not alone, but man….it still feels lonely.

I feel like I didn’t do my best as a mom if I didn’t talk enough to Gia, play enough, take her to the park, etc. These thoughts are completely ridiculous, I know. She gets plenty of stimulation doing the countless things we do at home.

Then there’s that other guilt I get. Guilt from not folding the laundry right away, from not picking up the play room (even though I’ve done it three times already), guilt from not making Craig a lunch for work, etc. After all, my job is to take care of Gia and our family home.

The days I don’t do it all, or don’t feel like doing it all make me feel like I’ve lost. If this is my “job” and what I choose to do then I should be doing better at it, right?! No. I’m doing the best I can, just like everyone else.

Yesterday was a day where I felt like I just couldn’t win. The second Craig walked in the door I felt better because I had my partner in life home. At the same time I was upset that Gia could care less about me because he was home. I’m so glad that she loves both of us so deeply, but I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy. I’m with her all day, everyday, bending over backwards to give her everything she needs. Daddy is gone at work, so of course she misses him. I feel bad for having those feelings, but they’re honest.

Once Craig had changed from work and asked me what he could do to help with dinner, etc. I asked if he wouldn’t mind bathing Gia for me. When I walked down the hall to see how they were doing, any feelings of envy disappeared. Appreciation was what I felt in that moment instead.

Tubby time with daddy:

We are all just trying our best to make it through each day, whether we have kids or not. Don’t judge the mom in the grocery store because her clothes are covered in dog hair and don’t judge the person on BART falling asleep after a long day at work. You don’t know what they might be dealing with in their personal life, or how long they were up with their kids the night before.

Xo

Finding Balance While Maintaining A Sleep Schedule

To schedule or not to schedule?!  The idea of having some kind of routine for Gia crept into my mind during the first few weeks after taking her home from the hospital.  I read a couple of sleep solution books prior to Gia being born, in anticipation of being so sleep deprived myself that the last thing on my mind would be a book.

I’ve always been someone who likes a routine and babies and little ones like it too — or so I’ve read.  🙂  For the sake of making sure Gia was/is happy, thriving & rested, I adopted a schedule for her.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, but what I figured was best was to follow Gia’s cues.  And when I say schedule I’m primarily talking about a sleep schedule.

Over the last year and a half we’ve gotten a rhythm and have a pretty good system that works for us.  Nowadays, Gia takes one nap around noon and will usually sleep until 2:30-3 pm.  I prefer to be home for her naps so she can be better rested by sleeping in her crib, as opposed to sleeping on-the-go in the car or in her stroller.  That’s not to say that we don’t do that occasionally, but it doesn’t work as well for us.


Over-tired and out to dinner:

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Here’s a little secret:  I’ve always been in awe of the parents who are “no-schedule” kind of schedulers.  I think it’s because I wish I could be a little bit more like that.  You know what I mean….fly by the seat of your pants, take every minute as it comes kind of thing.  That’s just not how I’m wired, but I’m working hard to bring more of that free spirited attitude into my life.

Again, I know there is no wrong way to do things when it comes to a schedule for your child, or lack there of one.  I just like learning from the ways that other parents do it, so I can see if it works for my family too.

The reason why a set nap time in her crib works best is because Gia does not transfer well from the car to her crib.  I’ve successfully transferred her mayyyybe two times in her life.  For me it’s just not worth having an over-tired, cranky toddler by the time 4 pm rolls around, especially since days as a stay-at-home parent can feel long when they don’t go smoothly.  (Days are long for anyone – working parent, stay-at-home parent, etc.)  I know for a fact that people think I’m strict about how our day goes with Gia, but I really don’t care anymore.  What works for us may or may not work for others and there’s nothing wrong with that.


This is the “no nap” look:

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What I do know about making sure Gia gets adequate day time sleep is that she sleeps well at night because of it.  She’s always been a good little sleeper, but if I make sure she’s happy and rested it makes life so much easier for me.

A typical day with no exciting plans usually looks like this:

  • 7 am Wake up
  • Breakfast time + play time
  • 9 am Gym (Gia plays in the daycare while we workout)
  • 11 am Lunch time for Gia
  • Play until nap time at noon-ish
  • 2:30-3 pm Wake up
  • Play + snack
  • Run necessary errands or go to the park
  • 5 pm dinner for Gia
  • Bath time
  • 7 pm Bed time

We went down from two naps to one nap per day for Gia pretty soon after her first birthday.  She was fighting going down for her second nap of the day on a consistent basis, so I knew that was a sign to cut it down to one nap.  That nap transition wasn’t the easiest because I felt limited in what we could get done in the morning.  If we were in the car anywhere from 10 am on, that would result in falling asleep and hindering the sleep plan for the day.  Not the end of the world, but still tough on mom, dad and toddler.

Now, we just make it work and I never feel deprived or as if I don’t get to go do anything with her because of our routine.  I’m making a point to go out once a week where we just wing it through the day, as far as naps and a schedule goes.  Many times this results in a challenging afternoon due to an over-tired 18 month old, but we are all learning how to deal with these curveballs.  In a strange way, the days that naps go haywire are the days where my mental health is challenged and made stronger.  See, I’m finding the positive in something that I would’ve considered negative.


On-the-go sleep:

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I’m curious, do any other parents out there have any tricks up their sleeve regarding schedules and napping?  What do you guys do when your child has skipped their nap?  How do you make it until bedtime with minimal meltdowns?  What do you do if you want to enjoy a day out as a family?

I know sometimes these hiccups are just par for the course, but I’d love to hear what works for others so we can try things out to see if they work for us too.  We’re in this together!

xo

 

A Birth Story: Gialina Eve

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There are two days in my life that I will never forget – one is my wedding day and the other is the day Gialina was born.  I know lots of mommy bloggers share their birth stories, so initially I shied away from the idea of sharing mine.  What changed my mind is that everyone’s story is so unique and beautiful.  There is no right way to give birth and no mother should be shamed for going through natural delivery, an epidural or a c-section.  So much is out of your control when you bring another life into the world and any way that your child arrives is a perfect miracle.

I used to dislike saying that childbirth is such a miracle (silly me – that was before I actually went through it), but as cliche as it sounds, that’s the only way to describe it.  So, so much can go wrong from the time of conception until you meet your baby.   Inevitably, the wold miracle is the only proper one that encompasses the whole process.

I’d like to start by saying that the day I gave birth was just an ordinary day, but it sure didn’t feel that way to me.  I was so done with being pregnant!  Gia’s due date was July 28th, 2016, but our little lady arrived according to her own plan an entire week late.  The morning of August 4th, 2016 I had a pre-scheduled appointment with my OB/GYN.  That morning I felt pretty normal and remember the slightest little stomach cramps.  Of course my brain went straight to “I must be in labor!”

I was hoping that once Craig and I got to the hospital for my doctor’s appointment that they would confirm that I was in labor and I could just stay there and get ready to welcome our daughter.  WRONG!  I got all hooked up to some contraption to check and see if I was actually contracting and in labor, and the answer was a big fat no.  Come to find out, I was only dilated 1cm.  Womp, womp.  I was so bummed to hear this because I was thinking that this was it.  My doctor reminded me that things can change quickly, so don’t let yourself get too fixated on it.  Either way, I was penciled in for induction a few days later if mother nature didn’t get things moving on her own.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting induced.  Modern medicine is amazing and whatever my doctor thought was best for the baby was what I was going to do.  I have to admit that I really, really did not want to be induced.  I had heard a lot of stories about induction and it being a lot more painful, due to the pitocin that is given.

I took my doctor’s advice and just tried to relax as much as possible and not let my body get stressed.  Since I realized again that I was not the one in control here, I went about my day the way I usually would.  I opted for a walk in the neighborhood instead of heading to the gym like I had everyday prior.

Most of the remainder of the day was spent at my mom and dad’s house.  No matter how old I get, I will still always need my mom and that’s who I wanted to be near (along with my husband, of course) if I happened to go into labor.  So, Craig and I hung out at my parents house until my brother flew in from Orange County and my dad got home from work. (Since there was a possibility of being induced, my parents flew my brother home for Gia’s birth.)

All afternoon I was feeling oddly crampy.  I was uncomfortable but it felt more annoying to me than anything else.  I kept asking my mom and Craig, “Am I in labor?  Don’t you think I would know?  I can’t tell if I’m in labor or not.”  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t know what to expect, as I’ve never even experienced menstrual cramps, let alone childbirth.

We decided it couldn’t hurt to time the “possible” contractions.  I was all over the board when it came to timing these cramps, as I called them.  I was in complete denial that I was in labor and was able to sit and have dinner before I told Craig it was time to go home.


Keeping it real with this one – Here I am, clueless as to the fact that I’d be giving birth very soon:

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Since my dad and brother had arrived home, the house was getting a little louder and I found myself becoming irritable and wanted to be in the quiet of our own home.  Craig and I grabbed our things and were walking down the hallway towards the front door when, yep, you guessed it – my water broke!  It wasn’t at all like what the movies make it out to be.  I literally felt like I had peed my pants and couldn’t stop.

I remember screaming in disbelief, excitement and let’s be real, fear – “MY WATER BROKE, MY WATER BROKE!”  Thankfully, Craig was so on top of things and was dialing labor and delivery before I could think to do it.  The nurses on the other line instructed me to get in the shower and rinse off before making my way to the hospital.

Lucky for me my water broke right next to the downstairs bathroom, so I just went a few steps and took my quick shower.  That’s when sh*t started to get real.  My contractions came like a bat out of hell, fast and furious, almost immediately after my water broke.  Things were so intense that I could hardly get to the car.  I’m pretty sure I just hovered over the passenger seat while Craig drove faster than I’d like to know to get me to the hospital, which was maybe 12 minutes away or so.

I made Craig run the last light before getting to the hospital because I was literally about to give birth in the car.  Craig parked his car in the middle of the emergency room driveway, grabbed me a wheelchair and pushed me into the ER asking how to get to labor and delivery from there.  Everyone was literally staring at us saying nothing until the security guard chimed in and said, “this lady is about of have a baby, get her upstairs!”

Once I was upstairs I was brought to a delivery room right way.  The nurses were so calm and nice, and even making me laugh through my contractions.  Don’t get me wrong people, I was by no means comfortable.  I distinctly remember telling the nurse that I wasn’t opposed to getting an epidural if this was how I was currently feeling.  No need to try and be the hero, right?!

The nurse told me she needed to check me first before she could give me a yay or nay on the epidural.  All you mamas out there are probably thinking, girl it’s too late for that.  The nurse confirmed and said word for word, “Oh no, honey, you’re having a baby right now.”  I was already fully dilated, so I asked the nurse if I could push now.

During all of this chaos, Craig’s car is still in the ER driveway.  He asked the nurse if he should go move it (DUH!), but she said, “Not if you want to miss the birth of your child.”  Thank goodness my family was right behind us on the way to the hospital, so Craig literally tossed my brother his keys, so he could move his car.

I sat down on that delivery bed right around 8 p.m. and I think I pushed maybe five times and she was out by 8:31 p.m.  I had never felt more like Wonder Woman in my entire life.  Well, I should say I felt like Wonder Woman who just got a really good beat down by the bad guy.  I did it!  I was holding our beautiful daughter, who had a head full of hair and the sweetest little face.  When the nurses were weighing her I remember fixating on her hands and feet because I couldn’t get over how big they were.  I was in utter disbelief that she was just inside of me and I was able to push her out.  She was no tiny baby either.  Gia was a healthy 8 lbs 15 oz and 20 inches long.

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Giving birth to our daughter is my proudest moment and I will never tire of telling the story of her arrival.  Women’s bodies are amazing and capable of enduring so much.  I have to say, there was moment after the nurse told me that I couldn’t have an epidural that I got scared.  I questioned if I was strong enough to do it.  I was strong enough, and every time that I look at my daughter today, I cannot believe she is part of me.

I was grateful to be able to have such a quick delivery, but that doesn’t mean it any easier.  I’m just glad I wasn’t laboring and pushing for hours like many women do.  Those women are the real tough ones!  We are all goddesses, whether we have given birth or not, all women are amazing and capable of doing anything.  Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder every now and then!

xo

Reflecting On A Busy Year & Preparing For 2018

Here we are, yet again.  We are days away from saying goodbye to another year and getting ready to welcome a fresh start for 2018.  This is the time where people begin to think about making resolutions for the year to come.  Normally I don’t make a resolution.  I thought I’d flip the script just a little bit, while it’s great to make new goals for the upcoming year, it’s equally as important to reflect on the year that has passed.  I’m feeling especially inspired to start my 2018 with a clear mind, positive thoughts and heaps of gratitude, thanks to a very, very popular blogger.  I’m taking the time to write a few things down and share them with you, at the suggestion of Julia Engel.  Head to her blog, Gal Meets Glam, to see the post that has encouraged me to do some reflecting.

Now Julia isn’t the only one doing the encouraging – I encourage any of you reading my blog to follow suit and do as I am doing here.  Take an hour to yourself to reflect, show appreciation and yes, plan for a good start to 2018.

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5 things I’m proud that I accomplished this past year:

  1. Sold our first home and purchased our current home.  Life is stressful in many ways, and I’ve realized that moving homes is close to the top of my stressors list.  I’m happy that we are settled in our house and it already feels like we have been here for years.  I definitely look forward to continue making it ours.
  2. Started blogging again.  I follow a lot of different bloggers through their Instagram accounts.  Although I’m not an “accomplished” blogger, I feel that I’ve already become successful.  When I say successful I mean that I successfully put my mind to something, followed through and continued to write, regardless of the opinions of others.  That’s a win in my book for sure!
  3. Deliberately went out of my comfort zone.  Although this does not pinpoint one specific thing, it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.  I’ve done things like take Gia on road trips, try completely new workouts and deviate from our routines.  I’m sure these sound small to outsiders, but for me they’re huge.
  4. Survived the ups and downs of my first year as a parent.  When Gia turned one in August, it wasn’t just a birthday celebration.  It was also a chance for Craig and I to look at each other and say, “we did it!”  The first year of parenthood is magical, but it is freakin’ tough!  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the whole truth.  From sleepless nights, to that first little giggle, all of it is so memorable in it’s own unique way.
  5. Regained my sense of self.  After having Gia in August of 2016, I dealt with a lot of new feelings about myself.  Many of those feelings about myself weren’t so positive and were likely related to postpartum hormones.  I was able to feel like me again after remembering to make myself a priority.  After all, if I don’t take good care of myself, how can I take care of anyone else?

One of my favorite accomplishments of the year – celebrating Gia’s 1st birthday!

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5 things I want to tackle in 2018:

  1. Do more yoga.  I think I’ve said this for the past three years.  I start the year off doing some yoga and then I fall off the wagon.  This year I want to do it for my mind, to keep my body loose and prevent injury from my more traditional workouts in the gym.
  2. Hold weekly meetings with myself.  I’ll even admit it, this one is lofty.  It sounds really simple, but it’s not that easy.  I want these “meetings” to be a check-in where I can refocus and align my to-do lists with my high-level priorities.
  3. Maximize my time.  I’m going to try and implement a two-minute rule.  Any action that can be carried out in two minutes or less will need to be completed right away.  I’ll be able to finish small tasks before they pile up and take more mental space than they deserve.
  4. Learn to control my emotions.  It’s not like I have uncontrolled anger and need anger management classes, but certain emotions are destructive in all circumstances.  Gaining control over my feelings will allow me to continue to keep a level head and think more rationally, even during emotionally charged situations.
  5. Volunteer.  I want to do good for myself, but I also want to do good for others in the upcoming year.  The times that I have volunteered, or donated, gave me a sense of purpose, made life a little more meaningful, and made me happy.


Now that I’ve listed a few things I’ve accomplished this year and a few things I’d like to tackle this coming year, I want to continue the trend of making lists.  This next one is going to be one that I jot down on paper and keep to myself though.  Feel free to join in and do it too.  Again, these are ideas I’ve followed from one of my favorite bloggers, Julia Engel, of Gal Meets Glam.

I’m writing down the names of five people (or as many as you like) who were my best supporters during my hardest and happiest times this year.  My plan is to send them a note of appreciation to thank them and remind them of what their actions and presence has meant to me.  These are the people who have contributed to my own personal growth.

The last thing I’d like to do is scroll through the photos on my iPhone and find five pictures that make me happiest when thinking about that memory.  That is going to be hard to do and take quite a bit of time, considering how many thousands of photos of Gia are in my phone.  I’ll be honest, I’m going to save the scrolling for another day.  It will likely be long after Gia has gone to bed for the night – that’s when I do most of my scrolling anyway!

I hope that in 2018 my thoughts become actions.  The act of doing is contagious and with that, accomplishments can come closer each day.  I can’t expect all of my goals for 2018 to happen in January, but with lots of hard work, a little faith and some action, I’ll get them done.

Happy New Year to all!

xo