Achieving My Greatness

Okay, so I’m nine years removed from my days of sitting in a lecture hall full of twenty-something’s with aspirations of being the next CEO of some Fortune 500 company. I’m also two years removed from my “I’m going to be a mommy!” moment, and two babies into this gig.

I’ve always had dreams of greatness. Ever since I was young, my parents instilled the value of hard work. If I worked hard in school, sports and whatever activities I participated in, I would be great. “Always try your best, never give up, and you can do it,” were things I heard from my mom and dad on a daily basis.

After practicing what my parents preached, I was able to achieve things I’d always hoped to achieve. Those dreams of greatness as a child, and later as a college graduate shifted once I became a mom. Time has had this funny way of continuing to put numbers between myself and what my dreams once were. It’s nearly impossible now for me to even think of the dreams I once had. Why, you ask? Because there’s a two-year-old in front of me who is constantly asking questions. (For those of you wondering, Gia is in the “why” phase of toddlerhood.) There’s always a face to wipe, a diaper to change, discipline to enforce and a night of sleep interrupted.

The idea or thought of being something great comes to mind on a regular basis, asking me to believe that it’s true: I wanted to be something great and now I’m just a mom.

It’s not that I don’t love motherhood, because I truly love it, even the hard parts. Outside of a few hundred shared photos on Instagram, does anyone really see my motherhood?

I feel like my destiny of becoming something great is in this role as mom. But can I still be great if no one sees me?

The answer is yes, because it is how I define greatness. I don’t let someone else define it for me.

After spending countless hours in study hall during my college years, and stressing over papers, mid-terms and finals, I wish I could tell my college self a thing or two.

The work I did then was important and it helped me to learn and grow. The work I do now is invaluable because I am truly making a difference. I’m mostly treading water, but there are three other people in my life who I get a chance to serve everyday. And when I really start to think about it, my greatness doesn’t lie in what jobs I’ve held or what titles I have. My greatness lies solely in how much of myself I give away to others, to my family. I wanted to be something great, and my husband and daughters give me the chance to do that every single day that I have them.

A Different Kind Of Mom Bod

I’m supposed to say, I love my body. I made little humans. I really like the cellulite that showed up on my butt. Aren’t these the things I’m supposed to believe with all of the body positivity, motherhood vibes and girl power that I champion??

Postpartum feelings are confusing and after both of my pregnancies I haven’t felt how I thought I would. For the last three years or so I’ve given my body away in a pretty substantial way, by going through two pregnancies in a relatively short period of time. Truth be told, I still give my body away every single day. I nurse my almost three week old, I hoist my two year old into the car, I schlep the dog up the stairs, I wipe dirty little faces and I pick up an endless array of toys.

It might sound selfish (and it feels selfish) that I want my old body back. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking, “Ashley, you’re not even three weeks postpartum. Let yourself heal. Give it time. It took months to make those beautiful babies, so allow yourself to take the time to get back to where you were.” I get it. I agree, but it’s not that easy.

Seeing your postpartum body for the first time can be a pretty big shock. It’s hard (and amazing) for any woman to see such a huge transformation. Being that I recently shared with all of you that I had history with an eating disorder, it feels even harder seeing this change in my body, especially for the second time.

The good thing is that I’ve been through this all once before and I know what my body is capable of. I know I will lose the baby weight, regain my strength and feel like some semblance of myself again. I just hate the waiting game. It’s uncomfortable, but life can be uncomfortable.

While I was pregnant with Gialina I worked out 5-6 days per week, ate a balanced diet and treated myself when it felt right. With Viviana I did the same routine. The only difference that I can think of is that with Gia I stuck with more cardio based workouts, and with Vivi I continued my weight training with my cardio.

I gained 43 pounds with Gia and 40 with Vivi. The only reason I tell you this is because I’m a firm believer that your body is programmed to gain a certain amount of weight while pregnant, regardless of what you do. I did everything “right” through both of my pregnancies, yet I still beat myself up for not gaining the recommended 25-35 pounds.

Obviously those numbers can’t apply to everyone. The woman who is 5’2″ will very likely gain differently than the woman who is 6’0″. We aren’t the same and neither are any of our pregnancies.

Trust the process. This is my own reminder to myself to do just that. Sometimes when you put things out in the universe (like sharing vulnerabilities) good things happen. Healing happens. Support is given. People feel less alone. That’s my intention here. I’m reminding myself that I will get where I want to be soon and if you’re in a similar season in your life, you will too.

I’m sure you may have heard the saying, “people only show their highlight reel” through social media outlets. A friend of mine reminded me of this the other day, and it’s so true. Of course we are all quick to share the great things in our lives, but I find it just as important to share our bumps in the road or messy moments. We are all so much more alike than we realize. The moment we stop pretending that we are better than one another or comparing our highlight reels, is the moment we will all feel more connected.

¬†This is about my entire self, about all the parts of me – more than just getting my body back. It’s about the parts that existed before two little people filled my arms and my heart, and the parts that will continue to exist long after those people have fully grown.

Share your experiences – good and maybe not so good. I having a sneaking suspicion that someone else will reach out in appreciation, creating a ripple effect. Pass on kindness, pay it forward and if comfortable, share your truth.

Xo

Prepping For Baby #2: Three Things I Wish I Had The First Time Around

As much as I’d like to think this second pregnancy thing is a cake walk, it’s isn’t. The “been there, done that” mentality is there, but only to a certain degree. I hate to say it, but the fact is my pregnancy symptoms have been totally different than with Gia. As far as resting goes….well there is no rest when you have a toddler!

For me, there’s more to this than just getting my body ready to have our next baby. I’ll be adjusting my social life once again, my home and preparing a two-year-old for the arrival of our new family member.

You would think that after giving birth only two years ago that I’d be pretty well versed on doing the whole newborn thing again. Truth is, mom brain is real and I’ve forgotten a lot about those early days. I know most of it will come back to me, but new babies bring on different challenges.

One thing I do know about being a second-time mom is there are a few items that I’ll be needing that I didn’t have with Gia. Two of the three things I need for this go-round are solely for baby #2 and one thing is for both children.

So what are they you ask?

#1: Dockatot

Dockatot is a multifunctional sleep aid for your babe. It’s like it’s own little bed that can also serve as a place to sit, do tummy time, play and snuggle. It’s also great for safe co-sleeping and you can bring it anywhere. I don’t plan on using it for co-sleeping, as we did not co-sleep with Gia, but never say never.

I like the idea that it will give the new baby that cuddled feeling while sleeping. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s amazing and helps babies sleep for longer durations.

Gia was in a bassinet that has been in my family for years. While I love the idea of continuing that tradition, I also want to do what I think works best for us and baby. Thankfully Gia was a good sleeper, so I pray this baby will be the same!

#2: Rock ‘n’ Play

The great thing about having a sister-in-law who had her second baby before me is that I can ask her tons of questions. One thing that she got for her second boy was a Rock ‘n’ Play. She used it all the time for her baby. If it weren’t for her encouraging me to get one I’m not sure I would have thought of it myself.

What I think I’ll use it for most is to have a free hand to help Gia. Eventually when I’m home alone with two kids, I will quickly need to figure out how to balance their needs. I’m sure a lot of Gia’s needs will require me to set the baby down in a safe, portable environment. What’s great is that I’ll be able to bring it outside while Gia is playing.

There are quite a few versions of the Rock ‘n’ Play out there. I was able to purchase one on Amazon Prime Day for $30 off the original price. Who doesn’t love a deal?!

#3: Double Stroller

Stroller shopping can be overwhelming because there are so many options. With Gia we bought a Peg Perego stroller and car seats. Naturally, since I loved them so much I immediately gravitated towards the brand’s Duette Piroet stroller.

The hardest part about deciding on what kind of double stroller to get was the side-by-side set up versus the tandem set up. Ultimately, after seeing both options from Peg Perego in person, Craig and I agreed the tandem version is what we prefer. My gut says it will be easier to maneuver and it will just work well with our lifestyle.

Beyond these items, I’m pretty much good to go. I have plenty of beautiful clothes that I’m excited to see our new girl in. We have all the toys and play accessories a baby could need. The last few things I need to do are along the lines of rewashing baby clothes, packing a hospital bag and making sure I have what I need for my own recovery.

I’m sure if we were to have a third child, I’d have a brand new blog post listing what I’d need for baby #3 that I didn’t have the first two times. There’s always new and amazing products, as well as things we think we just need to have.

For now, we are very happy to become a family of four and we’re planning on keeping it at that. Four has always seemed like the right number for us.

Now I just need to stick out eight more weeks of being hot and uncomfortable. We can’t wait to meet our newest girl. Gia is especially excited….for now! ūüėČ

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

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

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 Рimitation 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

Raising Strong, Confident Daughters

One thing I’ve already begun to realize over the last year and a half, or so, is that bringing up daughters is complicated: Messages of empowerment and achievement are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety plague so many.

I know these things because I am still a daughter even though I’m now also a mother. I know these things because I never want Gialina and her sister to go through the hard things that I went through. I want to raise my girls to be their best, well-rounded selves despite so many negative outside influences in our world.

During a routine morning not long ago, I was looking in our downstairs mirror. I lifted my shirt to look at my stomach – I’d recently found out I was pregnant with Gia’s sister. I was checking for any signs of a growing baby in my stomach and caught myself feeling a little bit upset. I was upset because I selfishly thought about how hard it will be to watch my body grow through another pregnancy. Although the creation of life is truly an amazing miracle, it can really do a number on a woman’s mindset and body confidence. In my case, I suffered from an eating disorder during my early twenties and although I am healthy today, the negative voices are still there and will always need to be tamped down.

After checking myself out for a quick moment I realized that my daughter Gia had been watching my every move, as she always does. To my surprise and slight horror, she walked over to where I was standing and proceeded to lift her shirt to show her tummy. She clearly was just mimicking mommy, but this instance just goes to show you that your children are always watching, listening and learning from you.

I love having a daughter and I am thrilled to be a girl-mom once again, but nothing annoys me more than when someone says, “Oooh, two girls! You sure are in for it!”

I feel like I was born to parent girls because of the challenges I overcame that tend to overwhelmingly affect women. God gave me not only one, but two girls so that I could teach them to love themselves as much as I should have been loving myself through my eating disorder. I’m excited to be raising two strong little girls, but even this early on it can feel like walking a tightrope.

Part of me is so excited for their future. There are so many female role models out there for them to aspire to be like. Unfortunately, there are also things like stress, anxiety and depression that come with high achievement. When my girls grow up and are doing everything possible to be all that they can, I want them to enjoy it. Like any parent, I want my girls to have boundless opportunity, but more than that, I want them to be happy. The bigger part of that is making sure they are ready for whatever challenges they will someday face.

Know the impact you will have on your child – celebrate their uniqueness, praise their imperfections and instill social confidence.

I know that I will always try to raise strong, confident daughters, but I also realize that they will be who they will be. I can’t make my daughters be something they weren’t meant to be. I just hope and pray that I continue to be the best parent that I can be through their challenging teen years and young adult lives.

Looking at Gia sitting beside me right now also makes me relish the simplicity of toddlerhood. She is completely unfiltered and totally herself in this moment. In a couple of years she will be more aware of the opinions of others, but I hope she holds on to her own opinions while remaining kind, strong-willed and unique.

Xo