What’s Your “Why?”

Last Wednesday, during a walk, I listened to my second podcast ever. Yep, I’m late to the party. The only other podcast I’ve ever had the chance to listen to was Serial, which I highly recommend if you’re a fan of podcasts. Serial and the podcast I stumbled upon are completely different. The podcast I found talks mostly about motherhood, parenthood and all of the relationships that come with those roles. (I’m having a mental block on the name right now, but I’ll post it here at a later time!)

If I’m being honest, it felt so good to listen to because I felt like I was “hanging” out with someone like me, someone who understands the phase of life I’m currently engulfed in. Plus, it was just nice to hear adult voices instead of “baby shark radio,” although, admittedly, I love baby shark.

The podcast got my wheels turning and made me think in ways that I haven’t lately. It made me give real thought as to why I share on social media. Why do I share my kids (many people look down on parents who post photos of their kids), why do I share my ups and my downs, etc.?

Basically, what is my “why” for social media? Well, it’s a little bit of a long winded answer. Social media, especially Instagram and my blog is a platform for my tiny voice to be encouraging to others. It’s where I can express my creativity through writing or photography, since my normal daily life doesn’t allow for other forms of creativity and expression.

It’s also an escape. I know many people use social media as an escape. You can mindlessly scroll and checkout for a bit, or it can make you feel more connected to the outside world when you’re a stay at home mom, like me. For me, when using social media I feel more seen and known, but not in a way where I need attention or validation. I feel seen because I’m home alone much of the time. It’s my way of communicating and connecting with adults when I can’t do it physically. Does that make sense?

My value and worth are by no means measured through social media, comments, likes or followers. When people start to feel a hunger for validation through social media I think it’s time to pause, take a step back, and take a break from it to be loved by the “real” people in your life. I’ve done this on occasion and it’s a nice way to detox when you get caught up in scrolling for the wrong reasons.

I share the things I do because I have a genuine desire to. The things I share have meaning to me, and the Ashley you see on social media is the same Ashley you’ll see in real life.

Xo

9 Things I Learned From Having My First Baby That I Hope To Remember With Baby #2

Two short years ago I was very pregnant with my first little girl, Gialina.  I had no idea that she’d choose to over stay her welcome by one full week, then decide to come into the world with the ferocity of a thrashing great white shark, all while weighing an ounce shy of 9 lbs.

Today I’m 30 weeks pregnant with Gia’s little sister and I can’t help but feel a little bit more anxious about her arrival.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know what to expect when it comes to an unmedicated labor and delivery, but a bigger part has to do with how we will adjust to adding a new member to the family.

Don’t get me wrong, being a new mom isn’t easy – no matter how many times you do it.  It’s always a challenge adjusting to no sleep, postpartum pain and numerous other things that come with the territory.

With my second baby arriving around October 4th, I know some aspects of this new mom thing will be easier.  It’s not because I’m suddenly an expert after having one child.  I’m still unorganized at times, drowning in laundry and tired.  I’ve just got more tricks up my sleeve this time around.  Most of my tricks are really just common sense that I didn’t have the first time around with Gia.

So expectant mamas and new mamas alike – don’t wait for your second or third baby to read this.  If I could send a letter back in time here are a few things I would tell myself before having kids:

You will never be fully prepared for what it’s like to be a parent.  It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many friends/family you have with children, how much you’ve nested, or how long you’ve actually waited to become a parent.  No amount of preparation will truly prepare you for children.  You will learn so much about yourself and your spouse the moment that little life comes into this world.  You will have a lot that you will continue to learn, so consider this the most educational experience of your life.

Appreciate your pre-baby body for all that it has done for you.  You will never realize how amazing and beautiful your body is until you’ve given birth.  Before having a child I spent too many days worrying about that one dessert, worrying about how my jeans looked and all of the workouts that I just had to complete.  As hard as it will be to see your body change through pregnancy, it is equally as amazing.  Once Gia arrived I realized there was so much more to life than a bikini body.  I can still want to look and feel good, but in a healthier way.  I would never want my daughters to be so critical and self-depricating, the way I once was about myself.

It’s okay to ask for help.  You think you know how to do it all, but you don’t.  Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “this too shall pass.”  You’re going to make mistakes, but how you come back from them is what matters most.  You don’t need to be superhuman.

Tell everyone around you how much you love and appreciate them.  They’ll never tire of hearing it, so tell them every chance you get.  After giving birth you will appreciate your mother in a way that you never could before becoming a mother yourself.  Tell your spouse how much you love them, because they will be your rock while you recover from labor and delivery.

Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out the routine changes.  I felt like this was most relevant for me during the newborn phase.  Just when I thought we were doing X amount of naps per day, it changed to Y amount.  Babies and toddlers change and grow so quickly that you can’t expect these phases to last long.  So be prepared, once you fee like you’ve mastered something it’s about to change in a hurry!

If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better after the initial latch, unlatch and try again.  I did not consider myself successful at breast-feeding.  In fact, I felt so shamed by the lactation consultants when I sought help.  I remember after my first night in the hospital with Gia that I felt so lucky that she latched well.  The problem was that she looked like she had a perfect latch (according to the nurses), but I still had issues.  I gave breast-feeding my best shot for about a month or so.  It was one of the most stressful things I’ve been through in adjusting to life as a new mother.  I don’t say these things to scare new moms, but I say it in hopes of people taking initiative to educate themselves.  Go take a breast-feeding class offered by your hospital.  I did this and found it very helpful and I’m even signed up for the same class before baby #2 arrives.  I developed a very, very severe case of mastitis while breast-feeding with Gia.  It was so shocking to me that the signs and symptoms of mastitis were never mentioned to me during my first breast-feeding class.  If your breast feels hot to the touch, has red splotches, or you have a high fever, it’s likely you are suffering from mastitis.  This was what took me out of the breast-feeding game.  TMI but, I had nipples that were cracked like the Grand Canyon, blood blisters, the whole nine yards.  I mention all of this because there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stop nursing.  At the end of the day fed is best and when our kids hit kindergarten no one will know who had formula and who had breast milk.  You need to be the best mom you can be and sometimes that means knowing when to stop something.

Make sure the ruffles on the diaper aren’t tucked in.  This might seem really stupid and basic, but it’s very helpful if your child is having diapers that explode often.  Another good thing to try if you feel like you’re changing diapers and outfits on the regular is go up a diaper size.  I didn’t really have to worry about this too much, but did have to remind relatives that ruffles go out!

Swaddle, sway, swing, shush!  If you’re baby is having a hard time sleeping (day or night) you need to swaddle your baby.  It makes them feel safe and secure, just like when they were in your tummy.  Swaying and swinging motions help many babies fall asleep once they’re swaddled because that motion feels the same as the motion they felt while growing inside of you.  Think about it – you didn’t sit your entire pregnancy.  When you moved, your baby moved.  It’s comforting!  The shush noise was also something they heard in the womb.  You have blood flowing and tons of other bodily fluids that are moving throughout your entire body that create a shush sound that makes baby feel at home because it’s all they hear all the time.  (I just mention these tips because I remember they worked for me.  All babies are different and just because I say it worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for you and your baby.)  I read a book called “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” prior to Gia’s arrival that really dives into these tips.

Just say NO!  Now that I’m a mom of an almost two-year old I’m used to saying that little two-letter word.  People are going to want to come visit you and the baby right after birth.  People are going to tell you that you need to be feeding them solids by a certain age and that they should have rice cereal in their bottle.  People are going to tell you that you don’t need to be so routine oriented about their sleep schedule.  You know what you say to all those people?  NO.  Just because certain things worked for them doesn’t mean you should do it too.  Anything being said to you that’s annoying, opinionated and unsolicited – just go ahead and say no.  It’s your baby, not theirs.

The bottom line here is listen to your gut.  Becoming a new mom for the first, second or third time is a lot.  Like I’ve said many times before, we’re all just winging it and doing what works best for us.  I’m glad I’ve put this all on my blog because it serves as something I can come back to so I can remind myself of these things.  Lord knows that two months from now I’m gonna forget all about everything I learned the first time around with Gia.  Here’s to hoping I re-read this post during all of the middle of the night feeding sessions that I’ll soon be experiencing.  Don’t be hard on yourself, trust the process and trust yourself!  You’ve got this!

xo

Two Books To Help Me With My Independent (almost) Two-Year Old

Scores and scores of moms, and parents in general, are overcome with stress.  Although at times we can see humor in stressful times, insight and occasionally find a practical solution to our stress, there’s still that serene lifestyle that is out of reach.  Yes, when you have adult responsibilities such as a career, children, running a household,  and financial commitments, stress is just part of the everyday norm.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself and totally transparent, my source of stress right now is my almost two-year old and the worries that most other parents face.  Most days, Gia is my little shadow – she’s eager to please me, mimics everything I do and is an overall very happy and well-mannered child.  Like any toddler, she has her moments and now those moments come around a little bit more often as she is tasting what it’s like to be an independent big girl.

The last week or two has brought about new behaviors that are usually directed towards me, mommy.  After all, I am with her everyday, all day, so it’s only natural that she would show defiance and resistance to me more than daddy or grandparents.  We all want to raise respectful, well-behaved kids who make good choices, but it’s not so easy at this age.

About two weeks ago when I took Gia to use the potty she was adamant about not going (because she was very busy playing) but it had been far too long without her taking a potty break.  Most of the time if she says “no” to going potty, I honor her request but keep a very close eye on her because she usually refuses to go only to exert her power.  This particular time I wasn’t going to bend because we were out in public and business needed to be handled before getting in the car.  The short of it is that she smacked me right on the head because she didn’t want to go.  This was a brand new behavior that was kind of shocking to me.  I’m sure she’s seen other kids do this at our gym daycare, but I was still emotionally hurt by it.

This week, after an activity packed visit to San Diego to see her cousins, Gia has had more frequent outbursts that are quite obviously the “terrible twos.”  I’ve always kind of hated that term, but it’s now truly starting to rear it’s ugly head just a couple weeks before her second birthday.

Learning to discipline such young child who is obviously very bright can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.  There are so many methods of discipline and ways to parent, and everyone who has their opinions about it.  Craig and I are approaching this new phase of toddlerhood with as much patience as possible and with open minds.

I think that the hardest part about all of this for me is that I expect so much of Gia.  I don’t expect perfection by any means, because I expect that of no one.  It’s just difficult to remind myself that she still is quite young.  Just because she’s grasped so many things at such a young age makes me forget that she’s still not quite two years old.  Her mind is still developing and the concept of discipline is hard at this age.  I mean, really, what kid her age will sit in time-out, even if just for one minute?!  (If your kid does this, my hat is off to you and you can message me immediately about how you make that happen!)

What I’m getting at is that these little humans are evolving every single day and sometimes that means the days feel a little bit longer.  I like to share these normal hiccups and challenges because as parents we ALL go through it but don’t always share about it.  Sometimes it’s just nice to commiserate, simply to know that you aren’t alone!

As a result of our opinionated and independent girl developing new habits, we are slowing down and taking the time to explain things at her level.  She has such empathy for her age and knows when people are hurt or even if feelings are hurt.  If she hears me say to another adult that I was upset she immediately tells me, “Mommy, don’t worry.”  The fact that she tells me this means we’re doing something very right.

We are just continuing to plow through and prepare her for life the best way we know how.  We’ll continue to make mistakes along the way, but we’re all just winging it anyway!

In case any of you are going through this phase of toddlerhood, I’d like to share two books that I just ordered through Amazon to help me out:  “Hands Are Not For Hitting” and “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.”

I know that people laugh about these kinds of books because they weren’t accessible to parents of earlier generations and their kids “turned out fine.”  While that may be true, just because there’s new knowledge and support in the world doesn’t mean it’s bad or that we can’t be open to it.

Happy Friday my friends!

xo

Recipe Sharing Is Caring: Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Until the age of approximately nine years old, I had no idea that mac and cheese came in a box. Now, there’s nothing wrong with boxed mac and cheese – I give my daughter Annie’s organic macaroni on nights I don’t feel inspired or want to have a food war.

What I’m getting at is that I grew up eating really good food because my mom was a chef for George Lucas (and that’s just the tip of the cooking iceberg with her). You’d think that being exposed to elevated cooking from a young age that I’d have this natural cooking ability…..

Yes and no. I’m far more recipe oriented than any legitimate chef who can easily combine flavors and make things on the fly. That’s part of the reason why I love to bake, because it always needs to be precise.

When I’m on top of things during the week with meal planning, I have recipes and ingredients ready for certain nights of the week. I rely a lot on leftovers so I can send my husband to work with good food to fuel him for his workday.

I’ve been asked to share this Moroccan inspired dish by multiple Instagram followers, so here we go!

What will surprise you most (or not!) is that it’s a simple slow cooker meal that’s bursting with flavor. Even better yet, my daughter Gia LOVED it! I know all little kiddos have different taste buds, but it has the potential to be a very kid friendly dish for an adventurous eater.

If you’re tired and uninspired when it comes to dinners, this recipe is a lifesaver. I hope you guys enjoy the ease of this dish as much as I do!

Happy slow cooking!

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried prunes, halved
  • 1/2 pitted green olives
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In slow cooker, combine the chicken, carrots, onion, prunes, olives, garlic, flour, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on low for six hours.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle with cilantro or nuts (optional) and serve with lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • I chose to serve the dish over couscous.  Perfect pairing, in my opinion!

Recipe from Skinny Taste

Xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key.  I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee.  My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago.  Let’s just say, things have changed and he needs his coffee almost as much as I do!  These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous.  My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast.  Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with.  They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez.  I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly.  There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with.  Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee.  (I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez.  Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways.  Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time.  We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station.  Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day.  My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day.  My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day.  Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did!  Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well.  You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day: Both Are Important!

Regardless of your views and beliefs about religion, Christmas is easily one of the most recognized holidays across the globe.  So why is it that Easter, another very important religious holiday, can’t compete with the month-long extravaganza that is Christmas?  Easter is clearly the runner-up to Christmas, whether we want to admit it or not.

Likewise, retailers and bloggers have done their best to whip shoppers into a frenzied state prior to this Father’s Day weekend.  Despite these efforts, Father’s Day seems to be treated with far less reverence than Mother’s Day.  It’s no secret that Mother’s Day gets a lot of attention, but I’ll argue that Father’s Day doesn’t typically receive the same level of interest.  Why is that???

When May rolls around each year, florists, chocolatiers and the trendiest brunch joints extol the importance of showing profound gratitude for all mothers.  The way Father’s Day is marketed and treated with far less seriousness.  Even though I shouldn’t be complaining, this kind bugs me.

Yes, Gia’s dad, Craig, is a lovable buffoon at times, but he is by no means a dimwitted figure who couldn’t possibly be expected to be bothered with feeding or bathing our daughter without first being issued step-by-step instructions.  (I am guilty of leaving him detailed lists of what to do with Gia, as well as checking in on them when they’re alone, but part of that is me just being me.)

It’s 2018 people.  Men are more involved than ever in the day-to-day caring of their kids.  There are countless mornings when I’m on my way to the gym, with Gia in tow and I see the neighborhood elementary school yard filled with fathers.  They’re making sure their kids don’t jump into the street, holding backpacks and giving hugs and kisses before seeing their little ones off to school.  My local parks overflow with dads who seem especially doting.

Just yesterday as I walked into my gym, a member who I’m friendly with asked, “Where’s the baby?”  I kindly said that she was with daddy having fun until I got home and it was his turn to head to the gym for his workout.  What I wanted to say was, “She’s home alone watching TV and making sure the house doesn’t burn down.”  Come on – where do you think she is??  Why are fathers seen as the “babysitters” and moms are seen as the “real” parent?

In my humble opinion, it’s insulting to all moms and dads.  Yes, there may or may not be more pressure and unrealistic expectations placed on mothers, but this message we are sending is that fathers are less devoted.  That’s simply not the case.  Dad’s are not an afterthought and it’s time we start acting like Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day – because it is!

I’m sure all of us want the father figures in our lives to feel special on Father’s Day each and every year.  In my family, the fathers are probably okay without a purchased gift, but I enjoy shopping for the occasion anyway.  For some, Father’s Day may be more challenging to shop for than Mother’s Day, but remember, it’s not about the gift.  Just like mom, dad wants to feel appreciated and be told that he’s doing a good job.

I am not the sole nurturer of my child because my husband plays a huge role in that as well.  Craig, if you’re reading this, you are a fantastic father.  Expressing my thanks publicly like this for all of your unconditional love will never be enough.  Your contributions to this family exceed all expectations.  You are our provider, protector and a strong individual that we all should try to emulate.  Thank you for never shying away from wiping a dirty baby bum, or putting our daughter to sleep.  I appreciate the selfless care and protection you provide to us on a daily basis.  We love you beyond measure.

Here’s to all of the fathers out there.  May all your days with your family be filled with love, but especially so this Father’s Day.

xo

More Than A Wannabe

Everyone is a blogger these days. Whether you’re a journalism student hunting for a platform (I was one!), a makeup lover with on fleek contouring skills, or just a “normal” person like me who enjoys posting about your real life, anyone can be a blogger.

Ask any truly successful blogger or influencer and I’m sure they’ll tell you the struggle is real. Not everyone has ideas for blog posts just flooding their brains, let alone coming up with enticing blog post titles to catch the attention of a follower. Hell, this rings true for me and I just do this stuff for myself, not a big audience. I guess it’s kind of like my journal and I’m hoping I grow by sharing it with others, whether they care about the content or not.

Even though I’m just a sometimes blogger whose following is mostly family that I’ve bribed into reading along, part of me still would love to somehow make this hobby a job.

Yeah, I’m not organized like these Instagram influencers and fashion bloggers who post daily, but I’m passionate about trying to show others that we are all more alike than we may know. I might not have the photoshop skills for this, let alone a fancy camera…..hello iPhone! But, I’ve got gusto and I think I’m a decent storyteller, writer and I’m a realist. (Did I just compliment myself? Go me!)

At the beginning of this blogging rendezvous there may have been a time or two where I’ve wondered why I’m not famous and getting freebies in the mail. I’m sure I’ve also pissed people off, or at the very least, annoyed people with things I’ve written. I’ve gotta share posts to put myself out there, so my skin has gotten thicker.

I’ve thought about trying to add more glamour to my everyday life, but again, let’s keep it real. Most days are spent bare-faced with day 3 (or was it 4) hair and chasing my firecracker toddler. I’m no Julia Engel, Rachel Parcell, or LaTisha Springer – not even close when it comes to the blogging world. (Ladies, go follow them!)

What I do have that these other bloggers don’t have is an innate drive to share real life moments (good and bad), to try and not be so filtered, and to write thoughtful posts that allow me to remain totally true to myself.

I may never have a following and I definitely don’t have the aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed that these other bloggers do. I may always struggle with the tone of my blog, for fear of others thinking I’m an over-emotional wacko. My main reasons for writing and sharing the things I do is to sort my own thoughts out, to learn from my own mistakes, and to share my limited, yet still valuable life experience as a young mom.

I feel funny saying, “I’m a blogger,” but isn’t that what I am? I have this blogging platform that I contribute to on an almost regular basis, so I’m no wannabe. I’m going to own it from here on out, whether I get sent goodies from companies or not. I’m having a good time doing what I’m doing. That’s what this whole thing should be about anyway!

Putting my thoughts and opinions out there has been hard at times, but it’s teaching me to continue to focus on what’s important in my own life. Plus, challenging myself mentally like this is good for my emotional health!

Go ahead and put yourself out there! Own your truth, whatever it may be. Things might feel uncomfortable, but the growing you’ll do afterwards is so worth it.

Xo

My Week Long Social Media Detox

I’m pretty sure that from the beginning, technology was meant to serve us in a positive way. Social media is supposed to make our lives better by allowing us to have more time and connection to others in our already limited schedules. But are the likes of Instagram and Twitter really adding value to our lives?

I will certainly admit that there are times where I feel like a slave to the social media machine. It’s sometimes hard to totally “log off,” especially when our jobs and lives almost require us to be online. I catch myself scrolling through my Instagram sometimes before even hopping out of bed in the morning, and for what?

Of course social media can be a good thing, but even too much of a good thing can be harmful. For this reason, I decided to take a little break from all things social media for one week. Some of you may scoff and say, “One week is nothing!” While that may be true, at least I’ve remained true to my word for the last week by going completely cold turkey. For me, the main culprit of addiction is Instagram. I use Facebook as well, but Instagram is something that I feel more invested in, for whatever reason.

On day 2 of my detox from the online world, I realized just how much I casually visited Instagram. Day 1 was easy to go without, but the second morning I found my fingers twitching to click that little icon on my phone. Thoughtless Instagram scrolling sometimes serves as a little mommy getaway during nap time or when Gia is happily watching an episode of Sesame Street. But what was it that I was really longing for? Nothing on Instagram that I was “missing” was going to change my life, or make it better for that matter.

On Day 6 of my little detox, I realized I wasn’t even thinking about social media. With this newfound sense of “freedom” I found myself using short bursts of time for more useful things than online scrolling. I’m a pretty productive person, but this past week I’ve been more motivated to just get things done. I’m not sure if it has everything to do with not being so online, but I’ll take it.

During the past week I’ve accomplished a lot – Gia’s big girl bed is in her new room, bedding for it has been ordered, I’ve had family over for dinner, I’ve taken family to appointments and planted in the yard, just to name a few. Along with these to-do’s I’ve also felt more mental clarity. I know that sounds a little wacky, but it’s true. No trying to keep up with the Joneses, less feelings of inadequacy and more pride in the things that I have accomplished. If I can attribute these feelings to less social media usage than I may very well make this a regular thing.

We all know that social media sells a false reality, which can be especially toxic for women. We all usually post our best pictures – many times showing us on our latest adventure, silently proclaiming (with or without intention) how great our life is. Herein lies the comparison problem. It’s extremely difficult to remind ourselves that people post what they want others to see. If you say you don’t, you’re probably lying.

When I first looked at my Instagram feed after not seeing it for a week there was a couple things I noticed. I realized that I didn’t miss much of anything and I immediately had a negative thought creep into my head. After seeing a pregnancy Instagram account post a photo of a woman who was 25 weeks pregnant, I found myself comparing my pregnancy size to her. First off, I’m a couple days shy of 23 weeks, and second – it doesn’t matter! Everything I’ve been trying to stop doing the past week came racing back. I’m just pleased I was able to instantly realize how irrational and ridiculous I was being for thinking I should look like that woman.

The thing about comparing our lives to each other through social media is that it’s completely unfair. Nobody’s profile is perfect – it’s all filtered and sterilized! So why do you and I keep feeling a twinge of despair for not having as many likes and followers as the next person? Here’s where I insert a friendly reminder: Comparison is the thief of joy. A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms. Lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep either. Wish I could say I came up with those quotes, but I didn’t. They are just words I try to remember when I catch myself feeling inadequate after looking at the hottest blogger’s Instagram feed, or my mom friend who seems to always have her stuff together.

One of 30 newly planted friends in my front yard – my beautiful hydrangea:

I understand that we live in a day and age where social media is truly a big part of all of our lives. There’s lots of tangible benefits too – keeping us connected with friends and family from all over, and augmenting our social lives, rather than replacing them.

My biggest takeaway from this personal experiment was that there is so much more to life than meets the eye. My perspectives have been shifted and I’ve been reminded of what’s most important in life – our family, health and happiness.

I read an article prior to going offline for the week about a man who takes a month long break from social media every December. I thought this was a really great idea and would be something that I could benefit from. If I implement this same practice the only thing I will miss are sharing photos of my daughter. (Soon I’ll be saying daughters! Crazy!) Other than that, it sounds like I need to pick my month of the year to go on my vacation from the online world.

Have any of you taken a deliberate break from social media before? I’m curious to hear what it did for you. Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts about what the app addiction is doing to our world.

Xo

Why We Are Having Another Child

As parents, it seems like Craig and I have finally fully adjusted to life with a little one and now we are adding a little sister to the mix.  Yes, we know we will have to referee many backseat battles and likely have to buy two of everything when it comes to toys – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course!  But what we are most excited for is to witness Gialina and her little sister play with one another and embrace each other in warm hugs.

When Gia was born I realized I would do anything to protect her.  I hope and pray that Gia will experience a similar feeling growing up with a younger sibling.  When baby girl number two comes along and starts to become more independent, our children will learn how to split the last chocolate chip cookie that I made, and hopefully learn how to divide TV time when their favorite show is on.  Obviously these little lessons will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they will come in handy when they are in school.

Craig and I both grew up with siblings and we couldn’t imagine not giving Gia that same gift.  She might not see it that way in the beginning, but as already experienced by Craig and I, having a built in “playmate” and lifelong friend is wonderful.  There won’t be an urgent need to schedule playdates when Gia’s best friend is in the next room.  I know that some of this talk of being best friends can be wishful thinking on my part.  I am fully aware that siblings fight and sometimes they fight a lot.  I’m also keen to the idea that we are going to raise our children with a strong moral compass, so with that, we believe that our children will love and respect one another for a lifetime.  It’s all about setting a good example and instilling proper values.

In Gia’s almost two years of life, we’ve witnessed such empathy, compassion, humor and intelligence on the daily.  Whether it’s mastering a puzzle or learning to hit a plastic golf ball, we know that Gia will teach her younger sister so many things.  In the same regard, as an older sibling she will learn a lot of patience from our new addition.

As I’ve gotten older, I share so many of my thoughts and problems with my younger brother, Zach.  I hope that Gia and her sister will turn to each other for guidance, just as their funky Unkie and I do.


Pictured here is my brother Zach explaining the finer points of surfing to Gia.  I can’t wait for her to know the bond siblings can share.

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As sister’s they will celebrate so much together – from birthdays to a walk down the aisle, I hope they stand by each other’s side through all of life’s monumental moments.  With those good times also comes tough times – bruised knees, a less than perfect grade, a broken heart.  No matter the problem, siblings should be there to dry each other’s tears and act as a shoulder to lean on.

(Thinking about this next part makes me emotional and teary eyed.) Above all else, we are making our family a family of four because we want Gia to have someone to grow old with.  Friends come and go, but family is forever.  Unfortunately our parents aren’t able to physically be around forever, so having another sibling ensures that Gia will have a blood connection long after Craig and I are gone.

I’m aware that not everyone wants another child, let alone one child.  (I’ve addressed that in my blog before.)  I try to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is free to live their life exactly how they wish, with child or without.  I also know that those who want kids may have difficulty conceiving and may never experience what Craig and I have.  I feel great pain for those who want kids but are unable, and I have great respect  for those who choose to live their life without children, as these are very personal things.  All I know for myself is that I would absolutely regret not having a second child.  I feel like I would be robbing Gia of something that I know is so amazing.  This is why we are adding another girl to our gang.


Soon Gia will be picking flowers with her built in bestie.

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Sidenote:  I know my blog invites opinions of others, but I want to remind everyone to be kind.  By no means do you need to agree with any of my opinions, let’s just be respectful of one another.

I’d love to hear from friends and strangers alike – Why have you decided to have a another child?  Feel free to comment here and don’t forget to follow more of my adventures on my Instagram page, @mrsbennigson.

xo

Not So Frequent Flyer

For those of you who follow my Instagram account, @mrsbennigson, you already know that Gia and I took off for a weekend adventure.

For the last few weeks I’ve been wanting to head to Newport Beach to visit my brother. We don’t get to see him all the time and in turn, he doesn’t get to see Gia on the regular. We do what we can with technology and FaceTime, but the real deal is always our first choice.

Initially this trip was just going to be my mom coming down to visit Zach – I always have her for Mother’s Day, so Zach was long over due to have some mom time with her. I thought this would also be a good chance to visit Zach with Gia before baby #2 gets here, because Lord knows that we won’t be hopping on a plane with a toddler and newborn right away.

First of all, my hat is off to parents who regularly travel by air with their little ones. Flying can be stressful with or without kids – delays and being surrounded by loads of people means we aren’t really in full control.

Now, I know a flight from Oakland to Orange County is nothing compared to a transcontinental or international flight, but we had to start somewhere! Thankfully our flight was just over an hour and I armed myself to the teeth to make sure Gia and I would be prepared.

I have to say, we had it pretty easy when it came to luggage and necessities. My mom opted to drive down a day ahead of us because that’s just how it worked out. Luckily enough, I sent the stroller, car seat and our luggage with her. Yes to semi-free hands in the airport! All I needed to concern myself with was the little umbrella stroller and backpack with extra undies, snacks and books for Gia.

I think my biggest worry was the whole potty situation and not being able to get up on the plane during takeoff and landing. Fortunately, Gia was awesome about using the potty exactly when I needed her to.

I tried to think ahead and reserved our seat close to the lavatory. (My pregnant brain/mom brain didn’t fail me with that idea!) Once we boarded the plane Gia just hung on to me so she could snuggle, which is a rarity these days. Right after takeoff she dozed off and later woke before our decent. I offered her some crackers and we took a potty break before getting ready to land. Success!

Once we deplaned we were promptly greeted by my mom, or Gagi (gah-ghee), as Gia likes to call her. Needless to say, I was so proud of Gia while she was at the airport and on the plane. I think she must have been proud of herself too.

Anytime we try something new and unfamiliar it has the potential to be a little nerve wracking. I knew we would ultimately do fine on our first flight (and without daddy), but we all want things to go smoothly, especially with tots in tow.

As I’ve said on my blog many times before, just go for it. Don’t let your nerves or fears stop you from anything! Take the flight, apply for that dream job, go on the date, follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. Once you do it you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll wonder what your hang up was in the first place.

Maybe I’m a little preemptive in this post, as my flight home isn’t until Monday, but in the spirit of positivity, I’m sure we will do just fine on the way home too. I realize not all flying experiences go as planned, so I’m sure I’ll have more travel stories to share in the future – good and bad!

Happy travels and wishing all of the moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Xo