Gratitude Challenge

This year has been an especially trying one. My husband and I are both teachers, and we BOTH started at a new grade level this year. For those outside the field of education, this seemingly simple change is really quite a drastic shift. It means scrapping all of our plans, activities, grade-level content knowledge, and state standards, and starting completely from scratch! Essentially we are both first year teachers again, learning everything from the ground up. So as you may imagine, our lives have been a bit chaotic and stress-filled these past few months.

I’ve learned that it’s all too easy to let my career stress dominate my life. I think this is especially true in the field of education, where our care and concern for our students stretches far beyond the walls of the school. It’s easy to “leave work at work” when you’re dealing with machinery, computers, business deals, and marketing pitches. But when “work” involves tiny humans who depend on us to teach them, mold them, and foster their growth, it’s a whole lot harder to simply forget that world when I step out of the building. Their lives go on even when I’m not there, so my concern for their wellbeing is never-ending!

Nevertheless, I reached a point this weekend where my mind was so bogged down with work stress that I was forgetting to live in the now. My husband noticed this – noticed me – and found the perfect way to put it all into perspective. He reminded me of our beautiful life, and how our pieces have all fallen together so perfectly. He reminded me how blessed we are to be here – a place we’d only dreamed of when we first met all those years ago. We couldn’t have imagined how beautifully our life would have turned out when our paths first crossed back in college! And how lucky we are to be doing something we love, touching the lives of students every day, and coming home to our sweet little life together when the work day ends.

I know that it doesn’t eliminate my work stress. I will still worry about my students, and lesson plans, and assessment data, and pacing guides, and common core standards. But I will remember to keep that piece of my life in perspective. I’ll remember that it’s a small slice of my beautiful life, and I need to take the time to live in the moment and be grateful for the rest of the picture! This month is a time when we often reflect on things that we’re grateful for, so I’m challenging myself to stress less and rejoice more! I’m challenging myself to live in the now, soak up every precious moment with my family, and be more grateful for the things I have, rather than dwelling on the stress and negativity that I can’t always control.

I challenge you to reflect too! We can’t always control our stress, but we can keep it in perspective. What is one thing YOU are grateful for?

My Favorite Time-Saving Tips to Make the Most of Our Family Time

Whether you’re a working parent, stay-at-home parent, or anywhere in between, for many of us mamas, back-to-school time means spending a lot less time with our kiddos.

As a teacher and a mom to a one-year-old, back to school for me means that I’m back to work and my daughter is home with grandma all day. We’re super fortunate to have our wonderful family helping us out with childcare, and I love knowing my daughter is at home, in her normal environment, being loved on by her grandma when I can’t be home with her. But it does hurt my heart a little to be spending so much time away from my daughter after being home with her all summer!

I’m always trying to make the most of our time together as a family, but I’ve been especially mindful of this now that I’m back to work. I don’t want to be wasting my precious hours of family time trying to clean house, do grocery shopping, fold laundry, and make meals. So I’m always trying to find ways to be more efficient! Here are my favorite tips to save time, make the most of our family time, and make life easier for our family!

Online Grocery Ordering. I stumbled upon this tip when my daughter was a newborn. Dragging her along to the store for an hour-long shopping trip was not exactly a fun experience, and I found myself majorly stressing out about grocery shopping! I’d heard about Walmart’s grocery pickup, and after a few particularly miserable shopping trips with a screaming baby, I decided to give it a try. It was so easy to use, it eliminated so much stress, and it saved us a lot of time too! Now that my daughter is older, we don’t use it quite as much, but when we have a particularly busy weekend, I’ll order the groceries online and select a pick up time to fit our schedule. It is such a time saver, and it gives us back at least an hour of family time that we’re not spending wandering through the chaos of Walmart on a Saturday!

Meal Prepping. Another big time and energy drain for me is packing lunches for work and making dinners at night! So last year I started meal prepping our lunches, and often I’ll do breakfasts and dinners in advance too. I wait until Saturday or Sunday night when my daughter is in bed, and then I can crank out a weeks worth of lunches in no time! I’ve been trying out a keto-ish diet, so I bough a pack of bento-box-type containers from Amazon, and I just cut and clean all my fruit and veggies at once, add in my protein, and keep them all stacked in the fridge. It makes work week mornings a snap, and it also helps to keep me on track with eating healthy lunches all week! Sometimes if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll make an egg bake to have all week for breakfasts, or a casserole or something for the week as well. Now that fall is on its way, I’m eager for chili and other crockpot favorites that make for easy meals that last throughout the week! While it takes a good chunk of time to do the meal prep up front, I’d much rather spend an hour or two doing it on a Sunday night once baby is in bed, and then not have to worry about it Every. Single. Day.

Time-Delayed Laundry. This one doesn’t save a ton of time, but every little bit helps! I recently discovered that our washer has a delayed-start option that allows you to throw the clothes in, add the soap, and then delay the wash cycle for any number of hours. So on weekday mornings, I can throw a load in the machine and set it to start about an hour before I’m home from work. That way, I can just toss the load in the dryer when I get home, and then it’s all ready to be folded once the baby goes to bed! That way I’m not having to run around switching loads at night, and I’m also not leaving a load of wet clothes in the machine all day while I’m at work.

The Toddler Drawer. It didn’t start out as a time-saving effort, but it kind of worked out that way! When we were baby-proofing our kitchen, we conveniently ran out of drawer latches with one drawer left to go! So thinking on my toes, I did a little re-arranging to make sure that everything in the drawer was baby-proof. A few plastic bowls, some silicon ice cube trays, wash-clothes… you get the point. And it’s all at toddler height so she can pull everything out. So now when mommy is making dinner and my daughter wants to “help,” I can open up her drawer and she can get to work tearing everything out of it. It keeps her happy for a while when I’m busy in the kitchen, and I still get to talk to her and play with her while getting dinner in the oven.

Scheduling Chores. Before my daughter, I didn’t mind spending an entire Saturday afternoon cleaning house. But now that I have a little one and a full time job, I hate wasting precious time with my daughter to do cleaning and chores on the weekends. I also hate having a messy house, so I had to find a happy medium! I’ve found it helpful to map out a rough “schedule” in my mind of what chores need to get done each week, and I plan to do a few things each night after my daughter goes to bed. When I spread things out throughout the week, it’s much more manageable to vacuum and fold laundry one night, clean the bathroom another night, and so on.

Taking Advantage of Bedtime (and naps!). You may have noticed a theme throughout — a lot of my housekeeping, meal prep, and other chores get done once my daughter goes to bed for the night. We have a strict 8 PM bedtime for her, so once she goes to bed, I can usually fit in a handful of chores. It sometimes means late nights for me, but I’d much rather sacrifice a little sleep if it means another precious hour with my daughter when I get home from work! One weekends, I can usually squeeze in some extra chores or school work when she takes her naps. But then again, sometimes mama needs a nap on the weekends too!

So much of motherhood is a balancing act, and even with a year of experience under my belt, I don’t claim to be an expert on managing it all! However, when I find something that works, I tend to run with it. And when it comes to spending time with my family, I’ll do just about anything the get the most out of our time together! Do you have your own time saving tips and tricks? Share them in the comments!

❤️Megan

Summer Hiatus

If it seems like you haven’t heard from me in a while, that’s because you haven’t! Summer slipped away all too quickly, and even though I’ve been off work these past few months, this summer has felt even busier than the school year! How is that possible?

It has been absolutely amazing being off and home with our little one-year-old all summer long. Being a teacher has many pros and cons, but spending the summer home with my family is definitely one of the sweeter perks of the job! It has been such a blessing getting to spend so much time with her, and now that summer has reached its end, my heart is breaking for all the time I’m going to be spending away from her now. But I have to keep reminding myself how fortunate I am! How blessed I am to have had these months at home with her – months that many non-teacher parents do not get. How lucky I am to have a teacher husband who also spent the summer home! How fortunate we were to soak in so much family time together. And now that I’m two days deep in the work week hustle, I can’t help but feel very lucky that we have family – namely two doting grandmas – who help look after our little munchkin now that we’re back to work! It doesn’t completely erase the heartache that I feel when I have to hand her off each morning, but it makes it a lot easier knowing that she’s in the capable and loving hands of her grandma, who loves her ((almost)) as much as I do!

But rather than dwelling on the somber ending to a wonderful summer, I wanted to reflect on some of my favorite moments from this most memorable summer!

Family time. I am doubly blessed! Not only do I have the summers off, but my teacher-husband also has the summers off too! It was so amazing being together as a family all summer long. Even on those lazy days where we didn’t really do much of anything, it was always so nice just all being home together! We had so much fun family time just playing in our living room and taking walks around our neighborhood!

Lambeau field. If you know my husband, you know that he is a die-hard Packer fan. So it may come as a shock that I am rather indifferent when it comes to football. I would still consider myself a Packer fan, but I just don’t have much interest when it comes to watching football. So when my husband suggested heading up to Green Bay one day for a tour of Lambeau field, I was not exactly jumping up and down with excitement. However, I knew it meant a lot to him – to show me and our daughter one of this favorite places in the world – so I agreed. And boy am I glad that I did, because it ended up being one of my favorite days all summer! The tour itself was a lot more interesting than I expected, and it was just a fun day together as a family!

First steps. We were so lucky that our summer vacation lined up perfectly with our daughter starting to walk. At the start of the summer she was taking a step or two on her own, and throughout the summer we got to watch her blossom into a full-fledged toddler. It was amazing getting to watch her transition for a wobbly walker in June, to a confident little toddler by the end of the summer!

North Carolina. We traveled to North Carolina with my family at the end of July for a week long stay at the beach. The 16 hour drive turned into an almost 20-hour trek with our one year old, but we made it eventually and had a great week! We stayed in a beautiful house a few blocks from the ocean front, and enjoyed more family time, daily trips to the beach, great food, and we even got to watch a nest of sea turtles hatch.

First Birthday celebration. Our sweet girl turned ONE this summer! I don’t know how that is possible, I swear just yesterday I was bumming around the house on maternity leave with my newborn baby. I must have blinked, because somehow my baby is ONE! We had an awesome party at the house to ring in her first birthday, and were so lucky to have almost 40 people join us on a Tuesday night to celebrate our sweet girl! She was such a good sport, hamming it up for all her guests and keeping that sweet smile on her face despite all the company and chaos! She loved digging into her cake and stuffing her face with purple frosting, and she was so excited to play with her friends!

Dells weekend. We ended our summer with a long weekend getaway to the Wisconsin Dells with my husband’s family. And honestly, it was perfect to have a trip to end the summer! It was close to home, but still far enough to feel like a vacation. We had a great time with family, enjoyed hitting up the water parks with our curious one-year-old, and snuck in a duck tour and a showing of the Tommy Bartlett show (both of which my daughter slept through!). It was the perfect distraction from the impending ending to a wonderful summer.

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer! It always goes way too fast, but I hope you all were able to sneak in some fun, family time, and relaxation! I’m going to try to get into a better routine with my blogging again, so you can expect to hear from me again soon.

Finding the Perfect Diaper Bag

When I was pregnant and building our baby registry, I had no idea how important it was to have a great diaper bag. I registered for and received this one, which was cute, compact, and easy to carry around. There were a lot of things I liked about it, but I didn’t love it. I’m the kind of over-packer that needs to have everything in my bag, and this one just wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have enough pockets and pouches for everything, and I quickly grew frustrated with always digging though the whole bag to find things.

A few months in, I started searching for a better bag. And when I say searching, I mean scouring the internet for the perfect bag. I read reviews on every diaper bag I could find, but nothing was checking all my boxes. I even looked into the pricey designer bags, willing to pay a little more to get a great product, but even those weren’t cutting it. They all had a few of my “must-have” qualities, but not all of them. I wanted backpack straps for those days when my hands are full. I wanted stroller clips to hang it on the stroller or shopping cart. I needed plenty of pockets, and I wanted it to be cute but not overly girly, as I knew my husband would be toting it around too.

Then around Christmas time my hubby and I were strolling the aisles of Target, and (surprise, surprise!) we ended up finding something we had absolutely no intention of shopping for! We were cruising the baby section, and I found this beautiful, magical diaper bag. I looked it over, counted up all the pockets (TEN!), and was practically jumping for joy. My husband must have thought I was crazy, but I suppose he’s known me long enough to expect these kind of things. We bought it on the spot, and I’ve been in love with it ever since!

We can easily fit everything we need in this bag, it even has two insulated bottle pockets inside (bonus!), and it has stroller clips, backpack straps, purse handles, and a shoulder strap. You can also remove the straps you don’t want and store them in the built-in pouch. It’s a pretty large bag, but it’s been perfect for us!

My advice to new parents – don’t underestimate the importance of a good diaper bag! I’m sure other moms don’t always carry around quite as much stuff in their bag as I do, so if you’re a little more low-key, this bag might be too big and bulky for you. But I’m a huge fan of Amazon reviews, so if you’re building a registry, I’d recommend doing some research on diaper bags before adding one to your registry! That bag will be your best friend through many blowouts, spit-ups, tantrums, crying fits, hungry meltdowns, and so much more. So make sure you do you research and find a bag that’s going to work for you.

Summer Highlights – Week 1

Our first week of summer break has officially drawn to a close, and it has given me a glimpse into all the summer fun that is to come!

Our first weekend of summer featured a fabulous summer photoshoot by my amazing friend, Jennifer! This amazing lady is just breaking into the photography business, but she is phenomenal! She is super creative and has such great ideas for beautiful shoots. Every time she does a photoshoot for us, I spend at least the next week constantly looking at the photos! If you’re looking for photography of any kind, you should definitely check her out! Needless to say, I’ve been looking at our new photos of our sweet girl ever since!

We kicked off our first official weekday of summer with a zoo trip on Monday! I’ve been dying to go to the zoo again ever since our all-school field trip in May. I absolutely love the zoo, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect when experienced as a teacher, toting around a group of 2nd graders on an 80-degree day. So I’ve been begging my husband to go back ASAP, and he willingly obliged. We made sure to get an early start on Monday morning, packed our lunches for the day, and were pulling into the lot of the Milwaukee County Zoo right at 9:00 when they were opening. I’ve never experienced the zoo right when they’ve opened, but it was AMAZING, and I’d totally set my alarm for another early morning the next time we go. We made it through several of the indoor animal exhibits with virtually no lines or crowds, and it was so enjoyable! I grew up at the zoo, so I’ve been there quite a lot. But I’ve never seen it so uncrowded! Maybe it was the fact that it was a cooler, slightly-overcast day too… or maybe there just aren’t a lot of early birds this first week of summer! Either way, it was great. We brought back our souvenir soda cup we bought earlier in the season, and made sure to pack plenty of snacks. Save for the buck we spent on a soda refill, our zoo pass made it a virtually free day of fun! The best part with the zoo pass was that we didn’t feel guilty ditching out shortly after lunchtime to get our daughter home in time for her afternoon nap! We closed out Monday afternoon at the softball fields for my husband’s softball game. It was definitely a long day, but it surely felt like a great way to kick off our summer!

The rest of the week was pretty low-key. We’ve been dealing with some teething again, so our daughter has not been sleeping well at night. This obviously means that no one is sleeping well at night, so we’ve enjoyed not having much going on this week! We spent some time with family and friends, enjoyed lots of snuggles and play time at home, and caught up on some binge-watching. We also did some yard work, caught up on cleaning around the house (how do other moms find time to mop their floors?!?), and made a trip to Costco. We went for lots of walks around our neighborhood, splashed in our blow-up unicorn pool, and cut some fresh flowers from our yard to brighten up our kitchen table!

Testing out the pool before we took it outside and filled it up!

My favorite part of summer so far has been the afternoon naps! Now that I’m off, I’ve been laying down with my daughter for her afternoon naps. She sleeps well when she’s snuggled up with mama, and it’s been nice catching up on some of the sleep I’m missing at night!

Can’t wait to see what this next week of summer will bring!

Dog Treats

When my daughter was first born, it was a tough adjustment for our dog, Sawyer. She was used to being our only “child,” and she wasn’t too happy to be sharing our attention with this new little creature who was sucking up all our time and making lots of noise! You can read more about this adjustment in my previous post about dog mom guilt.

However, my dog has recently found a whole new reason to love her baby sister. And in true dog fashion, this reason has everything to do with food!

Now that my daughter is eating a full plate of real solid foods, she has discovered a fun new game. Dropping Throwing food off her tray to the waiting mouth of our little vacuum dog! Initially our dog just did the cleanup duty of picking up the stray crumbs that the baby dropped, but my daughter has now started purposely feeding the dog. She picks out her favorite foods first, and tosses her least desired foods to the dog. Sometimes she even holds her hand out, covered in sticky mushed up raspberry or scrambled egg, and lets the dog lick it clean.

I will say I am grateful to our dog for saving me from having to mop the kitchen after every meal, but when my daughter looks me in the eye, smiles, and throws the dog a piece of chicken that I just cut up for her, I can’t help but imagine the future. I’m sure we will see many peas and green beans discretely tossed under the table for our sneaky dog to munch up!

While I don’t love this new trick my daughter has discovered, I’m grateful for this new bond between my girls! The dog still doesn’t love the slightly-too-rough pats on the head or tugs on her ears, but boy is our daughter enamored with that dog! She squeals with delight when her doggy walks into the room, and she loves chasing her around the house. So if this new game is a way for them to bond, I guess I won’t be too upset about my balsamic roasted broccoli florets being wasted on the dog!

An Ode to Pumping

Let me start off by saying that my breastfeeding and pumping journey has not always been an easy one! I have struggled with recurring thrush throughout this journey, which has been painful and challenging. If you don’t know what thrush is, a quick google search will clue you in, but it’s a painful infection that is relatively common in breastfeeding moms. I’ve tried all the recommendations – I modified my diet, I take herbal supplements, I use vinegar in my laundry, I sterilize my pump parts daily… it still keeps coming back. There have been days I wanted to just give up altogether, be done with breastfeeding and pumping and pain, but I pressed on for my daughter.

But now that summer is here, one part of my breastfeeding journey has come to an end, and I am bursting with excitement! As a teacher, I have the next three months off to spend with my daughter. This means: No. More. Pumping.

I had started my pumping journey before I even came back to work. My last few weeks of maternity leave, I started pumping in the mornings so that I could build up a freezer stash before going back to work. Then, once I returned to work, I added in two pumping sessions during the work day, taking up both of my prep periods. And because I was so worried about not keeping up with my daughter’s demand, I added a fourth pumping session after I’d put my daughter to bed at night. For a while there, it felt like I was hooked up to my pump almost constantly!

Some time around the 6-month mark I ditched the night time pump session, but throughout the school year, I was pumping 3 times a day on work days, and every morning on the weekends too. It truly felt exhausting. I was up before 5 on weekday mornings to have time to pump, feed my daughter, and get everyone ready for the day before leaving for work. It almost felt like I was working a second job!

Needless to say, the prospect of ditching the pump was exciting! I didn’t realize how time consuming, exhausting, and stressful this journey would be. And honestly now that I’m done pumping, I feel like a large chunk of stress has been lifted! At work, I always had to worry about a prep getting moved or changed. If we had an assembly or special event or field trip, I had to plan accordingly and find someone to cover my kiddos so I could pump. If we had plans on the weekends, I missed out on sleeping in so I could be up early to pump before leaving the house. I wasn’t fully aware of how much stress it had been causing me, but now that I’m done pumping, I feel so relieved!

I will say that while this journey has not always been easy, I’m grateful for it nonetheless. I’m grateful to have been able to nourish my daughter all these months. I’m in awe of my body’s ability to respond to my daughter’s needs and meet her ever-changing demands. I’m thankful for all the money we’ve saved. I’m grateful for the bonding experience that it has been. It has been a path of many obstacles, but it was a memorable and worthwhile trip.