A Letter To Me

Dear Erica –

I know you’re feeling terrified right about now. You just welcomed the most handsome little boy into your world, and you’re not sure what to do next. It’s not like the movies – you aren’t going to fall head over heels in love with being a mother right away. Maternal instincts will kick in eventually. For now, give yourself some grace.

There’s nothing that will rock your world more than having your first child. Your relationship with David will change, your relationship with your friends will change, even your relationship with yourself will change. With Finn comes a lot of change – some of it welcome, most of it, not.

I’ll be honest, those first three months are the hardest. You won’t be sleeping much, and Finn will demand your attention around the clock. Your body will be different – puffier and wider. Your boobs will leak all. the. time. Yes, you will need to wear a bra to bed. You won’t feel like yourself. You won’t want to do much of anything. You may feel a little depressed.

And then one day, you will wake up from the fog of the infant stage and realize that your baby can sit up, and eat real food, and sleeps through the night. He will start interacting with you, and soon, he will start walking, and running and even talking back. It doesn’t get harder, it just gets easier. Each stage has it’s pain and difficulties, but the newness of it all wears off over time. You both have learned how each other works. You fall in love with each other. You depend on each other.

Three and a half years into this motherhood thing, you’ll hardly remember what life was like before Finn. Now you have Reese, too, and unlike the first time, the second one was much easier. You’re an old pro – look how far you’ve come! Reese will teach you new things, too. Like how to take risks and how to feel content.

Motherhood suits you.

You’re not the first mom to feel all these emotions, and you won’t be the last. It’s all okay, it’s all normal, it’s all part of the journey.

It’s okay if you don’t want to take it all in. It’s okay if you need a break. It’s okay if you don’t love every minute of it. Just remember, motherhood will be the hardest job you’ll ever have, and most of the time it will be worth it. If you’re having a hard day, however, go for a run, watch some Real Housewives and drink a little too much wine. The days are long, but the years, they are already going way too fast.

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A Look Inside Our Monthly Budget

monthly budget

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about why we decided to get debt free. I found Dave Ramsey through some other podcasts I listen to, and once I started listening, I was hooked. David and I have been working our way through Financial Peace University – essentially a class about how to get out of debt and build wealth.

The first lesson of FPU is about living on a budget. The word “budget” gets such a bad rap, and I have to admit, even now it sometimes makes me cringe. There are so many negative connotations when you hear the word “budget” – mainly that you can’t afford something or that you’re cheap and don’t want to spend your money.

However, since taking FPU, we have started thinking of living on a budget in a completely different way. In fact, now we kind of get excited about setting our budget each month – kind of. 🙂 We also challenge ourselves to actually stick to the budget, and in the five months we’ve been planning out our spending, we’ve gone over budget twice. It’s harder than you think! FPU reminds you that having a budget gives you permission to spend money, which is a nice way to look at it

How We Set our Budget Each Month

With our FPU membership came a year long subscription to the EveryDollar Budget app. I’ve used budgeting apps before, but this one is beyond any I’ve seen. You can connect it directly to your bank account and each time a charge appears, you simply drag and drop it to the spending category.

Before each month starts, we plan our budget down to the dollar. First, we list all of our income first. Since my income can be a little unpredictable, we always round down, that way we don’t go over budget, and if we have a little extra at the end of the month, we can put that towards debt!

Speaking of debt, this is usually the next budget item on the list. We list our debt payments and assign them the dollar amount we plan to pay. We know this is money going out the door that month, so might as well take it off the top!

Next, we list our other payments including cell phones, electricity and internet. We count these under “living expenses” because they are necessary to live! Other fixed costs each month include childcare, our gym membership and some business expenses.

Next we assign a dollar amount to gas and groceries. These tend to stay roughly the same each month except if we know we need an oil change or something like that. For instance, when we were in the Adirondacks in July, our grocery budget was lower because we knew we wouldn’t be buying groceries while we were there. (That money was assigned elsewhere in the budget).

Our next category is any one time expenses that we may have that month like property taxes, any fees associated with preschool, haircuts, money for birthday gifts, etc.

We then give ourselves and the kids some spending money – even Juneau gets a category, although he usually spends all his money on treats. We find that by giving ourselves a limit of spending money each month we don’t feel guilty about buying things we may want, but it also keeps us in check. This item is last on our list because it’s usually anything extra we may have. It’s nothing crazy (the kids get $25 and we each get $100) but we think it’s a necessary category to have!

How We Manage Our Budget

The great thing about the EveryDollar app is that you can update it every single day and you can adjust as the month goes on. For instance, if we notice we are going to be way short of our gas budget for the month, we can move that little extra to our debt snowball and get ahead on those payments.

David and I discuss our budget before each month begins and then check in every week or so. Now that we are a few months in, things tend to stay the same from month to month so it’s not necessary to adjust as much as it was when we first started.

To be honest, we weren’t very good at sticking to our budget at first! But just like anything, we had to do it for a while to become good at it. We like to give ourselves a little grace, and as long as we are paying off the debt that we planned to each month, we tend to think of that as a success!

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How to Embrace the Season of Life You Are In

embrace the season of life you're in

We have a tendency as human beings to wish away time. The ironic thing is, as soon as we do, we wish that time hadn’t passed so quickly. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself to stop and smell the roses. Because seriously, time flies whether you’re having fun or you’re not, so why not try to enjoy it!

A year ago, I remember crying to a coworker about how I was “in the hardest season of my life.” In reality, I was depressed and pregnant and probably hot cause Virginia in August is the worst. I remember her looking at me – also a mom of two – and nodding. The next day she came in with a basket full of goodies and I cried some more, this time because of her thoughtfulness.

At that point in time, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my baby girl. I had just bought a house. I was working fulltime in a dead end job. David and I seemed to be passing in the night. I was looking for a way out. Little did I know, everything would change as soon as I stopped feeling bad for myself and started to take action.

The point is, everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad months. It’s how you react to it that really makes a difference. You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself for a year (like I did) or you can embrace what you’ve been given and take a leap of faith.

When you stop letting life happen to you and start taking control, it’s crazy how much easier it is when you are dealt a bad hand. You feel prepared. You feel like you have a plan.

Pay attention to the things that bring you joy, and actually do them. Wake up early and schedule out your day. Celebrate the small wins, and definitely celebrate big ones!

Things, in theory, should have gotten harder for me when Reese was born. However, it was in having her that I was given the clarity that I needed – that I needed to stop and slow down and realize that these are the days. Instead of feeling bad for myself, I woke up feeling grateful for all the things I was given. I remember early on thanking little Reese for allowing me to watch an entire episode of Game of Thrones completely uninterupted. On that day, it was exactly what I needed.

All this to say, if you’re going through a hard time, stop pushing back. Embrace where you are. Understand that whatever it is, it will pass. And if you are in a wonderful season of life, embrace it even more! Take lots of pictures and write down the memories!

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Reese at Nine Months Old

reese at nine months old

How in the world did we get here?! My little girl is already 9 months old and time is certainly not slowing down. I love this age so much! I loved it with Finn man and I love it just the same with Reese. She is just the sweetest thing.

Parenting:

I gotta say, I’m just so much more in the groove the second time around. I’m not worried about little things, I’m a little more flexible with her schedule and I let her eat things I probably shouldn’t. HA! But in all reality, I’m just feeling lucky and like I’m totally meant to be doing what I’m doing right now. I love my long days with the kiddos, and I love nap time just as much :). I’m sleeping very little and working very hard, but it’s everything I ever wanted. David and I are on the same page, too. Kids definitely change thing, but I stand by what I’ve said before – going from none to one is SO MUCH harder than going from one to two!

Physical Growth:

Reese is such a chunker, and is wearing mostly 9-12 month clothing. She wants to crawl so badly, and has been assuming the position for about a week now without being able to move. I know she can, but I don’t think she knows she can. Within a few weeks, though, she’ll be moving and grooving.

Reese also loves to stand. She has a walker that she is now able to pull herself up on and she will just stand there happily for the longest time. She wants to move and gets frustrated watching her brother move around, but like I said, once it happens, she’s not going to stop!

Right now, Reese has 8 teeth and is currently cutting more!

Brain Growth:

Reese knows her name, she knows her mommy and daddy and definitely her brother. She loves to clap when we say “yayyy!” and demands attention all the time. She also enjoys sitting back and watching, especially when Finn man is flicking around the room.

Sleeping:

Reese goes down at around 6:30 each evening. I dream feed her around 9:30 and she will usually wake up once around 4am to feed again. Then she wakes up for good around 6:30am. She had dropped the middle of the night feeding for a while, but since starting solids more, she doesn’t nurse as much during the day, hence still waking up at night. She does nap twice a day for about two hours each which is magical. She loves her nap and rarely, if ever, makes a fuss.

Eating:

Gosh, my girl is an eater! She loves everything we’ve given her thus far and just eats until we stop feeding her! Ha! She loves to double fist, too. We’ve been doing a lot of baby led weaning with her – basically just giving her small bites of food and letting her feed herself. I’ve done some purees as well, just to make sure she is getting a good variety of things, but she’s been a great eater since we started.

Reese still exclusively nurses, too. As I mentioned above, since eating more solids, she’s dropped her mid-morning feed. It’s good in that I can leave her for a longer period of time. It’s bad in that I have to wake up at 4am to feed her. Can’t have it all I guess!

She has started taking a sippy cup more and more. We basically just give her water in it at this point, but it does make me less nervous about weaning her from nursing completely!

Things I don’t want to forget:

  • Finn tickles Reese and she gets the biggest shit-eaten grin on her face whenever he plays with her. OMG I melt.
  • When I go to get her out of her crib when she wakes up, she is usually on her belly doing what appears to be the worm dance, just purely out of excitement!
  • Her little sticatto-like grunts are hilarious and clearly her way of communicating with us.
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How Motherhood Made Me a Risk Taker

photos by naomi johnson

As I type out the title of this post, I’m giggling a bit. I used to think I was a huge risk taker – I mean I moved to new states, gambled on some decisions. What I’ve learned is that was more spontaneity rather than risk taking. It was more, “sure! What the hell, I’m down for anything!”

Taking risks is different – taking risks mean that you do something, knowing full well that you may lose or fail, but you do it anyway.

Something changes in you when you become a mother. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m just not the same person I was before. I enjoy the same things, but I enjoy them more deeply. I value time spent rather than money spent. I feel less shame about silly things. I feel calmer, more at peace and at the same time worried sick and fraught with anxiety about the unknown.

One thing that I can grasp is how little I care about outside opinions anymore. Mommy guilt is a real thing, but I read a book not long ago that put this into perspective for me, too. The book essentially said that there are women in the world who would give anything to be able to provide a good life for their child. So if you’re a working mom, or just a mom that needs a break from mommy-ing, just know that you are blessed to be able to do so! In addition, I truly believe that no matter the mom and no matter the situation, God made you your baby’s mom because He knew you would be the best mom for your baby. No one else will ever love Finn and Reese like I do, and that’s why I was blessed to have them be mine!

The biggest thing motherhood gave me was the freedom from other’s opinions. This alone let me feel comfortable in my new role as mom, but in my role as wife, my role as friend, sister, daughter… you get the idea. It also allowed me to see more clearly the direction I wanted to take my life. Without the worry of what others thought, I’ve been able to make decisisons based on what I want and what is best for my family.

Motherhood has given me a confidence in myself that I never knew I had. This confidence has allowed me to start a business, meet new people and try new things simply because my focus is on what really matters in life.

Quitting my job was the biggest risk I’ve taken in my entire life. I left a “sure thing”, a great income, healthcare, the respect of my colleagues to go out on my own. The motive behind this? To spend more time with my kids! Even on days when I question my move and wonder if entrepreneurship is really for me, I remember that I’ll never regret spending this time with my kids.

I wonder if other moms feel the same way. Did motherhood change you? Did you become more “yourself” in the role?

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