“Ju-ust the two of us, we can make it if we try-y, just the two of us, you and I…”

Ainsley and I have become a pretty good team as of late. We are finally getting into a groove that seems to be working for us both.

Me and AThe mommy learning curve was not an easy one. Part of that was because we had just moved to a new area, along with the fact that my recovery took forever and finally, probably the biggest thing if I’m being honest: I was completely clueless as to how to interact with babies. Even my own.

So we muddled through for months and eventually I began to pick up on her cues and figure her out. Now when she looks at me with those gorgeous, big blue eyes, I melt.

I have discovered recently that our day-to-day routine must be about give-and-take or we both end up cranky and overtired by day’s end. What I mean is, there have been days that are all about her… we wake up and play, go to the park and play some more, come home and play again, only to finish our day splashing around at the pool. Is it fun? Certainly. Are we exhausted at the end of the day? Are we ever! And honestly it doesn’t do either of us any favors to run ourselves ragged in play time. We have approximately 60 hours together while daddy is at work so we don’t have to be on the move constantly. Similarly, there have been days that are all about me… where I haul my patient little lovebunny all across town running errands, shopping, going on walks etc., while she sits – in her carseat, in her stroller, not moving, not active. Also no good.

So I’ve found that we need a balance. We need focused baby time and focused mommy time and we need some solo time as well.

I am trying design a healthier schedule for us for the coming year. Since some of our weekly activities aren’t up-and-running yet, we are currently practicing… in the morning we have an Ainsley activity and a mommy activity and in the afternoon we have one of each. So today we had a gymboree class for Miss A scheduled so I took some of our free time to go on a walk and get some groceries. Right now, baby girl is sleeping and after she wakes up and has lunch we will both go swimming and run a few more errands. Again, one activity for her and one for me.

Now that Ainsley has started crawling, she is a girl on the move 24/7. She refuses to sit still unless forced via carseat or stroller strap. So this schedule has been helpful and wears us both out just the right amount. I also have a list of default activities I know she enjoys for the days when we have nothing on the calendar. She loves crawling around the children’s area of the library, we can do open gym once a week at Gymboree, we have two parks in walking distance, the pool is available until Labor Day etc.

It’s been helpful.

Being a full-time mommy is hard work. Much more than I ever imagined. Naively I thought I would be able to do my own thing while keeping an eye on Miss A in the periphery. I was so, so wrong. Thank goodness. Engaging with her brings me so much joy. We get to discover new things together and what fun life is, when you get to see the world through a child’s eyes.

My friend sent me this video the other day called “Mom’s First Birthday” and I wanted to hug the Japanese Pampers people after I watched it. I totally felt like they got me. And it made me bawl like a baby. It’s a must watch, especially if you’re a new mommy. Enjoy!

Mom’s First Birthday


My Journey with Anxiety

I had my first panic attack in August 2009. The previous two years were by far my busiest to date. It all started with my decision to leave the television studio job I had worked in since graduating from college six years prior. It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave and resulted in a series of changes that continued on for several years thereafter.

First, I started working a new job full-time in conjunction with starting full-time graduate school, where I studied Clinical Psychology, a subject I had no prior experience in. Additionally, I started dating a guy who would later become my fiance and then husband, all within the span of 17 months. We got married during Christmas break and came back from our honeymoon the day before I started my last semester of grad school (which also happened to be the same day we moved into our new apartment together). Our lives were blissfully chaotic. Grad school was filled with the difficult task of self-reflection throughout the many papers we had to write, along with being required to participate in 30 hours of personal counseling. I quit my job and started another part-time job where I got to work in the field I was studying and completed practicum hours doing therapy on college students, an equally draining and exhilarating experience. Life just didn’t stop moving. Days, weeks and months were long – good yet long – and at the same time, they flew by.

In August of 2009, my body, mind, emotions, they all gave out on me. Out of the blue I started experiencing panic attacks. If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you know that the effects are continually compounding. You not only deal with the panic itself, but you also must face the fear that another one might occur. Will you be out in public and begin to panic? Would you begin to feel trapped in the middle of a conversation and start to panic out of the blue?

A panic attack is a physiological response to an emotional stressor. For many, the stressor is identifiable – perhaps a fear of flying could bring on a panic attack. Or public speaking. Or a social situation. For me, the panic never fit the situation. It would occur at times I otherwise felt perfectly safe. I would panic among the company of close friends or coworkers. Or out grocery shopping, something I in no way feared or dreaded. They came out of no where.

I ultimately realized they were the result of an accumulation of two years worth of stresses I hadn’t dealt with. I never grieved the loss of a job I held during the formative years of my working life. I never grieved the loss of my singleness, something I had yearned for years to part with and yet once I did, I found myself missing at times. I never slowed down long enough to appreciate my newlywed status because the moment the honeymoon was over, it was back to the grind again.

Accepting change has never been my strong suit. But at no point in my life have I dealt with it in the way I did that summer of 2009.

My panic attacks lasted about a month. My boss, a pastoral counselor, felt I needed a time of rest after the chaos of the previous two years. She gave me a week off work with pay so I could unplug from the world and take it easy. I gladly took her up on it. I also decided, after much resistance, to try an anti-anxiety medication. I have suffered from anxiety my entire life but I had always been able to manage it. It never stopped me from participating in anything – work, relationships – anything. But the panic attacks scared me. They began to make me doubt whether I wanted to leave the house. Home felt safer. Home wasn’t scary. I never had a panic attack there so it was still a safe place. But as grateful as I was that home was my safe haven, becoming a hermit was not me. I missed getting outside and hanging out with friends and quite frankly – being happy.

The medicine started kicking in after a few weeks and I began feeling like myself again. When I look back on that time in my life, it feels like such a small blip on the radar but back then it was the hardest thing I had ever dealt with. It wasn’t all bad though. I can see that now. For one, it  deepened my husband’s and my relationship early on. It also changed me forever. It changed my perspective on mental illness. The fact that I have always been a worrier and tend to see the world through “poop-colored glasses” as my hubby tells me, is a direct result of my anxiety. It’s nice to have a name for the nebulous, negative feelings I have always known were within me. I have also adopted a new understanding of the benefits of psychotropic drugs. Why they are viewed differently than any other medicine that assists with chronic illnesses is beyond me. When I got on them to alleviate my panic attacks five years ago, they benefited me far beyond the isolated attacks. They also helped regulate my generalized anxiety. I stopped obsessing over things that were out of my control. I found myself viewing the world more positively. They increased my overall sense of well-being and I felt differently than I had my entire life.

I stayed on the anti-anxiety meds for two years, at which point I decided to wean off them. I knew that having a child could potentially bring up new dimensions of both specific and generalized anxiety and told my OBGYN before Ainsley was born that I may request a prescription again at some point. Shortly after A’s six month birthday I made that request. I have stopped obsessing over the many possible things that could happen to Miss A – choking, getting sick, being in an accident etc. I feel free from the trap that is anxiety – a straight jacket I have lived in for so many years.

It is also extremely important to me that I don’t pass on my anxiety to her. Sure, she may inherit it genetically, but the last thing I want to do is freak out about every little thing she does and cause her to become overly fearful in life. I pray that she views life as an adventure – full of opportunity, not obstacles, and that she does not become stuck playing and replaying worrisome thoughts in her head. That she would dream of the possibilities in her future and not dread change like I do. I desire to be the best mom I can be and that means being the best person I can be – optimistic, encouraging and ideally, not a helicopter parent, a role I would likely fall into quite naturally if left to my own devices.

Recently Jake sent me an article he found online about secondary drowning risks for kids. We hadn’t heard of it and were surprised to read the warnings as summer approached and we eagerly awaited going swimming with our daughter. He told me after he sent it that he was shocked at how well I responded, thinking I would mull it over constantly and catastrophize each cough or other incident A might experience in the pool. I have to admit, I did handle this new found knowledge well. There are plenty of scary things that could happen in this world but there are plenty of beautiful things too. I am going to choose to focus on those instead.

My sweet baby covered in a rash from her amoxicillin allergy. We conquered her first double ear infection, 102.7 fever and rash. Go us!

My sweet baby covered in a rash from her amoxicillin allergy. We conquered her first double ear infection, 102.7 fever and rash. Go us!

Why Saying “Don’t Cry” to Your Baby is Harmful

I made a decision when I first had my baby not to say “don’t cry.” It is a rather instinctual statement when she is upset and we have all said it to our kids, and perhaps others as well. Babies cry and we sshh them, hold them, and more often than not repeat the words “don’t cry” until they stop. I am far from perfect and the words do slip out. Yet, I still strive not to say it.

Even though she doesn’t understand my words, the statements I make now could have far-reaching effects. I am establishing habits that will carry over into toddlerhood, childhood and even beyond. The kind of mom I want to be starts now – with the kind of mom I am. So what I do and don’t say matters.

It’s important to me that this tiny human being, whom my husband and I are raising, feels comfortable expressing her emotions. Whether she feels angry, sad, vulnerable or anything else. Many of us feel the need to hide these emotions, ultimately creating a false version of ourselves that we show the public. Because this differs from the true feelings we experience inside, a sort of dissonance occurs and we feel confused, chaotic and often times alone because no one knows who we really are. We may not even know.

While kids receive messages from a variety of settings, their most defining relationships are with their parents. So it starts with us. What messages do we want our kids to receive? How do we want them to interpret our words?

“Don’t cry” sounds harmless, especially when spoken to a baby who doesn’t understand its meaning anyway. But if we say “don’t cry” now, will we say it later as well when our kids do understand the meaning? While we may not mean anything by it, we are sending a message that the emotions our children are experiencing are not okay. That the situation that brought them to tears is not worthy of such deep emotion. This leads to shame.

In working with youth for several years and counseling college students, I was continually reminded of the fact that situations feel much more dramatic a) when you’re young and b) when you’re in the midst of them. (I am guilty of the latter point as an adult as well). Once you grow up and out of the difficult situation, a new perspective emerges. We often laugh afterwards about what a big deal things seemed to be at the time.

What’s important however is that we each discover this perspective in our own way and in our own time. No one can do that for us. Sure it may help to hear someone older and wiser say that things really do get better after middle school graduation. But the drama we all go through feels huge at the time as do the emotions that accompany it. While we don’t want to teach our kids that emotions rule us, we don’t want to belittle them either. They are real, worthy of experiencing, working through and ultimately moving on.

So therefore, “don’t cry” will not be in my repertoire of comfort statements for my child.

A Letter to My Six-Month Old

6 month

Dearest Ainsley,

Wow, sweet girl, you are six months old! How did that happen?? Happy Birthday Miss A!

Your dad and I didn’t think we would make it to six months when you were first born. You were a precious little pumpkin but we were sleepy and to be honest, we weren’t sure what to do with you! As time has gone on, we’ve gotten to know each other better and fallen head over heels in love.

The love of a parent for a child is one that is hard to explain. There aren’t many – or perhaps ANY – words in the English language to adequately describe it. It’s so strong and so deep and it’s not something I could ever fully comprehend until I was suddenly in the midst of it. I had always heard that this kind of love is the closest thing we’ll ever feel to the love God feels for His children, only His is even greater, if you can believe that! What an incredible God we get the pleasure of knowing and serving.

You sure have come a long way in six months, my dear. Although you will not remember these early days we shared together, they will forever be imprinted in my mind. Here’s a brief picture of your life so far…

You were a bitty little thing when you were first born. You were swimming in your newborn onesies. Now you wear anything from 3-6 month clothes all the way up to 12 months depending on the brand. You are a very good eater and growing so much!

We are beginning to see glimpses of your personality now. So far, you are a bit timid in new situations but once you start to feel comfortable you are a chatterbox! You have really discovered those lungs recently and I get nervous sometimes during the day that our neighbors are going to think I am torturing you due to all the screaming. I am not sure they can tell you are making happy noises. Your “words” bring us so much joy. Every so often it will sound like you actually spoke a word of English. I think I heard you say “kiki” just yesterday, which would make sense since sometimes we call you “kiki ooh la la.” It also sounds like maybe you say “hi” every so often but it’s usually in the midst of other undecipherable sounds. And then a while back, in an epic feat of baby genuis, I think you said “agua.” Not too shabby, speaking Spanish already.

Just as you feel shy in new situations, you have also never been fan of new toys when you first try them out – that is, until recently. One toy you loved from the start is your pink convertible. Your legs wobble around and your mouth hangs open in awe of the fact that that a toy can be Just. That. Fun. It’s pretty darn cute. You also loved the musical instruments your friend Eden played for you last week. You giggled and squealed in excitement as she shook the tambourine and moroccos. I’m not sure I have ever seen you that tickled!

The past three nights you actually slept through the night. You were such a good sleeper at a really young age, sleeping through the night before you turned three months old. But then it all went downhill for a bit. I think maybe you started going through some growth spurts and were always hungry – even several times a night! Now you’re back to sleeping well again, only really waking up when your legs get caught between the bars of your crib. It’s a pretty sad sight actually and I haven’t figured out how to teach you not to do that yet. You have also gotten pretty skilled at rolling onto your tummy but not so much at rolling back the other direction. So occasionally I will have to help you out with that too. Silly munchkin.

You have been to quite a few places in your short life. We’ve driven to North Carolina twice and two weekends ago you took your first trip to Rhode Island to meet your cousin Wesley. We drove through, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut before making it to Rhode Island. You were such a trooper! You adjusted well to your first hotel stays and happily played with your picture book, monkey paci and birdie toy most of the drive. The few times you got upset, you were easily cheered up again. Your dad and I were talking about the fact that we cannot believe you are our baby! You’re so good to us.

Well love, I could go on forever but I think I’ll stop there. You truly are a gift. Each day I treasure my moments with you – snuggling in bed in our pj’s, cradling you in my arms while you nap or after you eat, singing, reading, chatting, hanging out in the kitchen while I cook or unload the dishwasher, going on walks and simply being together.

I love you sweet girl and hope you have the happiest of birthdays today.


One proud mommy


Guest Post: How to Emotionally Prepare for Parenthood

Quinn-Hafner-Headshots-287x300The below guest post is written by Quentin Hafner, an old friend from Grad School who I have a ton of respect for. He is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in practice in Orange County, CA where he specializes in marital therapy for prenatal couples and couples with young children.  He is a new dad himself and lives with his wife, Hillery, and their son, Levi.

For more information about Quentin, please visit:  http://www.QuentinHafner.com

Lots of wisdom here… Enjoy!

Introducing children into the marital relationship will be one of the most difficult transitions new parents will ever make.  Multiple marital satisfaction studies have shown again and again that having children is one of the biggest stressors any relationship will undergo, and the results are depressing when considering how many marriages end shortly after the baby arrives. When working with couples in therapy that are considering having children, the work typically evolves around considering the emotional impact children will have on their lives and their relationship.  It’s so easy to become enamored by the innocence and idyllic beauty of babies, but then be swept off our feet and overwhelmed when we realize how difficult the reality can be. For many, the fantasy of family life is incongruent with the likely reality of family life, and this disparity can catch a lot of new parents off-guard.  So, what can potential first-time parents do to prepare themselves emotionally for this transition?  Here are a few suggestions:

Evaluate Your Marriage:

Although babies are a significant stressor to even the best marriages, babies also get a bad rap for many relationships falling apart.  The truth is, many relationships that struggle after having a baby were not in great shape prior to the baby arriving.  Having the baby was the final straw, but certainly not responsible for an unhealthy relationship.  Preparing emotionally for the introduction of babies is also about having the hard conversations that no one wants to have.  What a downer, right!?  But these conversations are so important for prospective parents to participate in because it sets the stage for what’s most likely to be expected for new parents. Study after study shows that marital satisfaction is at its lowest level when there is a child in the home under the age of 5.  That’s a difficult statistic to digest, but it doesn’t change its validity.  Are we ready for that?  Does your relationship feel strong enough to endure that statistic?  Marital satisfaction is at its all-time high prior to children, and then it shifts drastically to its all-time low very rapidly.  Is this something we’re prepared for?  Find a trusted marital professional to help make your relationship as great as possible before your baby arrives.  Having your relationship on solid footing before the baby comes is the biggest advantage successful parents have transitioning into parenthood.

Prepare to Grieve:

When working with prenatal couples that are getting ready to make the transition into parenthood, I talk with them about the importance of grieving. Grieve, you say?  Yes, grieve.  Becoming a parent is filled with many joys, much beauty, and a multitude of overwhelmingly happy moments.  And we are so grateful for this! But having a baby also brings with it a multitude of losses that parents must feel free to honestly acknowledge.  We may grieve our changing roles, our changing identities, our limits to free time, the financial strain, the loss of friends, the changing relationships with extended family, and the loss of connection from your spouse.  Talking about these losses is difficult in our culture because we’re told things like, “you should grateful”, or “don’t you feel so lucky!?” which carry implicit messages that unintentionally may disallow new parents to freely acknowledge the  hardships of being a parent.  Engage your spouse in conversations that find balance in talking about what you look forward to, and what you imagine is going to be most difficult.  These are conversations that increase intimacy with your spouse.

Know Your Past:

For better or for worse, none of us can escape some semblance of pain from our own family histories.  We all experienced it, and part of our journey of “growing up” into adults is taking an honest appraisal of how early family experiences impacted us.  Some of us were impacted more than others, but no one comes from a perfect family.  To prepare emotionally for having children of our own, we need to become conscious of our own family histories – conscious of the parts that were healthy and conscious of the parts we want to leave behind. From my perspective as a family therapist, I often see new parents unconsciously carry forward with them the “baggage” or unresolved emotional pain from their family of origin that gets in the way of having a meaningful family life that is rich with peace, happiness and contentedness. One of the first questions I like to ask people when I meet them in therapy is to have them tell me what they enjoyed most about their family, and what they enjoyed least.  Many people have a hard time recalling the parts of their family they didn’t like, and this can present it’s own set of problems.  And others, adamantly proclaim they will be “nothing like my parents”, but unfortunately repeat the very same unhealthy patterns they were desperately trying to avoid.  As we prepare emotionally for the journey of parenthood, it’s vital that we become increasingly aware of what was modeled for us as we grew up in our own family of origin, so as to become conscious of what we want to repeat, and what we want to leave behind.  This is all part of the emotional preparation of becoming a family.

Having a baby is one of the most wonderful experiences that life can offer any of us.  It’s filled with such awe, mysteriousness, and joy beyond measure.  But just as the cliché suggests, anything worth having doesn’t come easy.  And this is the story of having a baby.  We love our babies, and that goes without saying, but we need to do ourselves justice by fairly acknowledging the challenges of having a baby as much as we celebrate the joys.  The more we can be comfortable with acknowledging the “negative” parts, the more we move toward becoming increasingly prepared for the journey.

Quentin Hafner, LMFT

How Babies Change Your Marriage and Funday Monday Link-Up

Life changes on every possible level when you have a kid – but especially your marriage. Jake’s and my situation is unique in that we were dealing with several big life changes at the same time. We moved last September to a city where we knew no one, Ainsley was born one month later and then Jake started his new job at a fancy (read: high stress and long hours) DC law firm five days after that. Our situation is (hopefully) not the norm.

However, when you introduce a third person into any pair of people, a new dynamic is naturally going to form. The previously stable duo has been rocked by the third person and now needs to adjust. If it doesn’t find it’s footing, it could collapse.


It’s like when I was in middle school and my BFF and I hung out everyday at lunch and over the weekends. But one day, I saw another classmate crying at lunch and invited her to hang out with us. My relationship with my best friend was never the same because now there were three. And one weekend when we were all going to have a sleepover but I couldn’t make it, it’s like in an instant, I was out of the group. (Cue middle school drama). They still had the sleepover and suddenly a new pair of BFFs was formed.

In family systems psychology these three-person dynamics are called triangles and more often than not, there ends up being an odd man out. It’s easy when you have a baby to revolve your whole world around the adorable little nugget. But in order to be a unified pair, we need to make sure that the spousal relationship is protected. I love my sweet girl but as Rachel of reality TV fame says, “No one gets between me and my man.”


Here are some things to keep in mind when you bring a baby into your tight-knit duo:

  • You will have less “couple time”: You now have to balance couple time with alone time and family time, all of which takes place before and after business hours. Here’s a taste of our schedule… Jake leaves the house ever morning at 6:30am and gets home between 6:30-7:00pm. I am usually up with Ainsley at least once each night still so there is no way I’m getting up at 5:30am with Jake to hang out. Which leaves evenings. We are still trying to get Ains into a schedule so she usually goes to bed between 7:00-8:00pm. That means at least the first hour of Jake being home is spent bathing, feeding, changing and putting Ainsley to bed. Occasionally we manage to feed ourselves during this time as well. By 8:00pm we are both spent and are faced with the decision: Hang out together or go our separate ways till bedtime around 10pm. Usually we spend the first hour on our own and the second hour together. That works well but it is a huge change from our previous life when we had more energy and there were more free hours in the day to be together.
  • You lose the ability to be spontaneous (unless you have a lineup of babysitters available for hire on a moment’s notice): This goes hand-in-hand with the above point. We used to be pretty spontaneous people. I mean, how spontaneous is this: The week before Ainsley was born we went out every night between 10:00-11:00pm to get McDonald’s shakes. The doctor actually asked me at my appointment that week what was going on because I had gained 5 lbs. That one week! She thought I might have pre-eclampsia or something.  Anywho, I don’t advise doing this on a regular basis, but if you don’t have kids, you can.
  • Lack of patience and other effects of sleep deprivation: We had to make some decisions right when Ainsley was born in order to alleviate the effects sleep deprivation was having on our marriage. We can be feisty creatures when we are tired – short, snippy, critical. Not to mention, with Jake’s uber-intense job starting, he needed to be at the top of his game. So we decided I would handle all nightly duties. Then on the weekends when he wakes up I go back to bed for however long I choose and he has daddy/daughter time. This works well for us. We didn’t discuss this prior to having a baby but I highly suggest you do. It will save you the learning curve later.


Sounds kind of negative right? Well, there are some really cool things that happen too.

  • You learn the art of negotiation: Take the above example of how Jake and I arranged our new sleeping habits. We had to do a little discussing and negotiating to figure out a plan we both felt was fair. We knew he needed a strong start to his new job and technically I can nap when Ainsley naps. This doesn’t always happen though so those weekend hours of extra sleep are lifesavers. We discussed, negotiated and came up with a plan that would work for both of us.
  • You learn the art of teamwork: Guys, I wish you could see our bath time routine. We’ve got it down. I change Ainsley and pass her to Jake. He carries her to the tub singing “Bath time with Mrs. A, we’re doing bath time, me and Mrs. A dum, dum, dum, dum.”  (I try to tell him one day she is going to be confused by the “Mrs” part but he doesn’t listen). Anyway, they giggle and have fun tub time and when they’re finished I get the “Mrs. Mommy we’re done” call. Ains gets passed back to me for her nightly lotion/massage and gets dressed for bed. We reconvene together after that for a quick bible story, prayer and then it’s “night night time for Mrs. A.” The routine is absolutely flawless now.
  • You bond as you grieve and celebrate: Life looks different when you have a kid but there is something bonding about being in it together. Some days it’s us versus her as we try to figure out what the heck that girl is thinking. We grieve the loss of our old life but we celebrate the gift we’ve been given. We would trade McDonald’s shakes for our baby girl any day.


How have you seen your marriage change since having a baby? Comment below and be sure to link-up too!

funday-monday-button-300x288Welcome to Funday Monday! Here are a few of our favorites posts from last week’s link-up:


/ The Juice / Floral Moto Jacket / Lucky in Love / City Walk /

The Rules for #FundayMonday Link-Ups:
    1. Follow your hosts Molly @ still being [molly], Carly @ Lipgloss & Crayons and our guest host Angela @ A. Charles Coach.
    2. Grab a button and / or post a link back here in your BLOG POST (NOT your blog’s main page) so your readers know what all the #fundaymonday-ness is about. We love you guys linking up and we do go through and read all your posts… so if you do not give credit, we will have to remove your link. That’s no fun, right? Right. So be nice and share a link! Pretty please?
    3. Link your blog post up using the linky tool below! It can be ANYTHING! An outfit post, a giveaway, a story, a recipe, whatever. Why? Cause it’s #fundaymonday!
    4. Visit a blog or four that you’ve never been to before and leave a #fundaymonday comment – you never know, you might “meet” someone new that you will lurve!
    5. Have fun! Cause it’s Monday!

Want to cohost #FundayMonday? We are currently accepting weekly cohosts! Please email us at carlybrydon@gmail.com  for more information!

The Cure to My Miserly Ways?

Last week I was over at Mom It Forward talking about an idea Jake and I had to give back to others and ultimately model that mentality to Ainsley. We’re calling it our Blessing Jar. Here’s the back-story on how it came about:


It’s easy to ignore my ugly qualities when I’m the only person affected by them. But when my kid is involved, that’s another story.

One of my biggest struggles is giving financially. In fact, years ago I took one of those online spiritual gifts tests and guess what showed up at the very bottom of my results list? Giving. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit actually.

It’s just really hard for me to give money away when Jake and I have so much debt. It feels like we will never get it paid off. Plus, I associate money with a sense of security. That’s always been the case so I can’t blame the outrageous cost of college admissions for that. In order for me to feel safe, I need to know we have plenty of money in the bank.

Now that I have a kid, I am realizing I may need to rethink things. I don’t want giving to be dead last on my daughter’s list of anything. Not last in her mind. Not last in her heart. I want her to be generous. But that’s wherein the problem lies. How will she ever learn generosity if she has the least financially-giving mom ever? I had been reflecting on this question for a while, when suddenly on Facebook, a possible solution appeared.

Several people shared the link to “The 52-Week Money Challenge” on a blog called The House Made Home. They talked about how this would be such an easy way to save up for something fun or add some cushion to our bank accounts. Every week you save a little bit of money starting with $1. The next week you save $2. And so on. By the time the year ends you will have saved $1,378.

Jake and I decided this was doable. A dollar here, two dollars there. We started dreaming about what we could spend the money on. A weekend getaway or a shopping spree?

Well, back to the problem I have with giving money away. I need to improve on this. I need to change my whole perspective so that I can be a better role model for Ainsley. I want her eyes to be open so that she is aware of the needs not only in our neighborhood but also around the world. I want her to believe that she has the power to make things better. This encompasses all kinds of things – not just money – but that is one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Right around the time that we made the decision to save up more for ourselves, my MOPS group did a craft. We made Blessing Jars. They are little plastic containers that we decorated during our meeting and could use for whatever we want. We talked about using them for ticket stubs and other random keepsakes or writing down date ideas and drawing one each week for date nights. These are all great ideas but it hit me later that one way we could use the jar would be to collect money and give it away instead of spending it on ourselves, as tempting as that is. It just made sense. We had already decided to do the 52 Week Challenge but instead of keeping the $1,378 we would donate it.

And that’s when our very own idea of a Blessing Jar idea was born.

We made the decision to practice what we hope to eventually pass on to our daughter. We are going to use the money for the good of another person or perhaps many other people and make it a yearly tradition.

As much as it pains me to give money away – and as much as it pains to me say that it pains me – I am looking forward to the challenge. I hope this can be a stepping-stone to becoming a more generous giver. And, that as my baby girl grows up, she not only sees this lifestyle but that she desires to emulate it.

Do you have any yucky traits that you are trying to change since becoming a parent?

Guest Post: Observations of a Working Dad

This guest post is written by the incredible husband of yours truly and can I just say, he is the best man I know. Check out his perspectives on being a working dad and what he thinks about stay-at-home parents too. This guy is a class act.


A few years ago, Anne Marie Slaughter’s engaging article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” sparked an extensive discussion about the scope and degree of professional success women could achieve without sacrificing their commitment to family.  Many who were critical of the article, myself among them, nonetheless agreed with Slaughter’s central premise that women have for far too long been denied the kind of professional advancement available to men.  And that much more needs to done to open those doors.  But what us critics disliked was Slaughter’s implicit assumption that it was only women who desired the appropriate (and ever elusive) “work/life balance.”  She scrapped the stereotype of the homemaker mother only by reinforcing that of the distant and career-devoted working dad.  I’m not going to rehash that debate here—though I think it’s an important one that has continuing ramifications in public policy and private enterprise.

J and A 4

I’d simply like to make some observations about parenting from the perspective of a working dad.  A working dad who yearns to more often snuggle his sweet baby girl as she wakes up in early morning, read to her as she drifts off to sleep at night, bathe her and play with her and laugh alongside her.  And yet a working dad whose chosen profession makes many of those yearnings unfulfillable.  That’s not necessarily a bad a thing.  On this, Slaughter and I are in complete agreement: because of a set of deeply engrained cultural expectations, no one, man or woman, can rise to the top of American industry and at the same time show up to every after school dance recital, Saturday soccer game, and weekend swim meet, not to mention supply the innumerable intangibles that it takes to be an engaged parent.  In short, no one can have it all.  This has been a hotly resisted but inevitable conclusion I’ve drawn since joining the workforce and parent-force simultaneously.  It’s not new, but now it’s mine—my very first observation about parenting: it’s hard trying to excel at both fatherhood and work.

J and A 3

Jolting though it was, that’s not the observation that most surprised me upon entering parenthood.  What most surprised me was how exhausting it is to be a stay-at-home parent.  This one is a true observation; I’ve had no first-hand experience at this (which I’m confident is largely the reason our sweet daughter is turning out so well).  I’ve gained a new respect for moms and dads who’ve taken on these ’round the clock parenting duties—and somehow managed to stay enamored by their little ones’ every new discovery.  While I haven’t been there, I get a glimpse into this world each Saturday morning when I hang out with Ainsley so her mother can make some headway on the aggregated sleep lost the prior week.  After this mere half a day, I’m always stunned by how demanding and disorienting full-time, complete responsibility for another’s life is.  And as much as I dislike my work some days, I honestly don’t envy the always-on-call, never-get-a-break rhythm of stay-at-home parenting.  I don’t think I could do it.  And so I often watch in awe and amazement, baffled by the combination of her acquired insight and motherly instinct, as my incredible wife identifies and satisfies all our daughter’s needs.  I have no clue how she does it.  She is truly unbelievable.  This was my second observation: stay-at-home parenting takes a rare combination of patience, fortitude, persistence, humor, diligence, and an endless supply of love.  I’m convinced those who do it are super-human.

A and J

My third observation is more prosaic.  But it’s one that only those with the unique vantage point of a working parent can make, perched where we are between the frantic attempt to balance personal and professional success and the recognition that we could never do what our super-hero spouses do at home all day.  This last observation is the surprising rapidity and consistency of Ainsley’s development.  It’s something that you just can’t pick up on when your days are consumed with constant changing, feeding, burping, holding, both wiping tears and shedding them, and so much more that stay-at-home parents miraculously accomplish each day.  But I see it; I see the almost-imperceptible trends of growth hiding beyond the seemingly random array of noises, movements, and discoveries.  I see the gradual yet linear development in Ainsley’s pre-verbal communication, hand-eye coordination, head- and body-control, and much more.  And I see how quickly it goes, in real time.  Understandably, days at home can drag on for my wife.  The little things consume her time.  When Ang was pregnant we were once told that when we became parents the days would drag and the weeks would fly by.  That’s the perfect way of putting it.  Except that the working parent sees more of the flying and less of the dragging.  And boy is it fast.  We try to cherish each moment, but it seems that by the time we catch our breath, Ainsley is on to the next stage, discovering new facets of being a tiny human.

J and A 2

These three observations—that a sustainable work/life balance is hard (read: impossible), that stay-at-home parenting is harder, and that infant development is both rapid and consistent—likely seem commonplace to veteran parents.  After all, none of them are particularly novel.  In fact, they’re fairly predictable.  But they have, nonetheless, shaped the way I approach both parenting and work.  And for me there is value in pausing to make these observations.  And pausing to consider their implications.  It might follow from these observations, for example, that I need to let go of some of the sweeping ambition that has hung around from my single or young-married days.  Or maybe I need to give up some of my (vanishingly scarce) personal time to study more intently my daughter and her needs.  These observations remind me that she’s worth it.  She’s worth any sacrifice, any dampening of ambition, any changing of plans, any expending of energy.  She’s worth anything.  Because she’ll only be my cuddly, tiny, adorable little baby for so much longer.  And that’s something I need to cherish.  Life’s too short for it to be about anything other than investing in the ones we love.

J and A 5

Have thoughts to share? Comment below!

5 Observations From 5 Months of Parenting

Ainsley turned five months old yesterday. Five months, people! Being a mom has been the weirdest experience ever… I’m convinced stay-at-home moms exist in their own time continuum, where the days sometimes trudge along at the same pace in which I am running these days (i.e. SLOW) and yet the weeks and months fly by. Seriously, how have five months come and gone already and what happened to that tiny, porcelain doll who used to fit perfectly snuggled against my chest? She has been replaced by this real, live, squirmy, squeaky human being.

5 months

They say babies change a lot between three and five months of age. I am not exactly sure who “they” are but they’re right. She has a personality and I am beginning to understand what makes her tick… and what ticks her off.

Here are five observations from five months of parenting:

1. The Parental Exaggeration Phenomenon (aka PEP): It’s kinda funny how as first time parents every little thing is a big deal. Like how the first time Ainsley got the smallest stomach bug and had one bout of diarrhea we almost took her to the ER. One bout. Emergency Room. And also how the first time Ainsley let out the tiniest little decibel of sound we started telling the world she laughed. We didn’t know it at the time but we were totally lying to everyone. I am not even sure what that sound really was but a laugh it was not. And then it happened. A real laugh was born in the 3-4 month range and it was the world’s sweetest sound. And mommy and daddy also laugh at how silly we were, thinking that first, whatever-you-call-it, was actually a laugh. Check out the real deal here.

Belly Laughs

2. Mommy Cred: At the beginning I was terrified of everything. I was afraid my baby would stop breathing in the middle of the night. I was afraid to drive with her. I was afraid she wasn’t getting enough food. I was afraid she was getting too much. I was a wreck 23 hours a day. So last weekend, Jake, Ainsley and I went on a road trip to North Carolina. The timing was perfect because a while back our preggo friends jokingly asked if we could come to their gender reveal party. Naturally we laughed in their face a little bit and said “yeah right, we wish.” I mean, a weekday road trip, are you kidding? Just a few days later though Jake was asked to attend a recruiting event for his law firm in Durham, NC. Divine coincidence? Hard to say but it sure worked out well for us. Jake was able to stay in town an extra day for the gender reveal but had to fly back early the next morning. So while we all made the 5-hour trek together, it was just Ains and me on the drive home. My goal was to make it to Richmond which was a little more than halfway. I have a friend who lives there and this seemed like a good opportunity to visit and break up the trip. Sadly, Ains woke up to eat before we made it to Richmond and then at some point after that had a silent-but-deadly blowout. I have no idea when but when she woke up from her nap she was screaming bloody murder. Of course at that point in our journey there wasn’t anywhere to stop so I pulled off the road and stripped her naked in the passenger seat. While seemingly impossible, she managed to increase the volume and intensity of her screams while laying in her birthday suit with the door open and 32 degree air blowing on her tiny body. (Please don’t call CPS on me, she has totally recovered I promise). It was both my saddest and proudest moment as a mom thus far. I felt terrible for my lovey all cold and stinky and whatnot but at the same time, this formerly frail mom turned into a bada$$, diaper-changing superhero over the course of five months. Mommy cred – through the roof but please note, I will not be including pics of the aforementioned event.

3. Easing in: Just as I couldn’t be the diaper changing whiz I am today overnight, sweet baby girl needs time to ease in to things too. I have noticed that whenever I am introducing a new toy or activity, her gut reaction is to resist. I don’t blame her. I am the same way. Here is when we introduced the Exersaucer for example:


Also like her mom, she doesn’t do much to hide her disgust. Here is when we introduced the tray that attaches to the Bumbo:


Also not a fan at first. A hundred bucks says she will be loving both of these in the next week or two. She is her mother’s daughter.

4. I am the student and Ainsley is the teacher: Whereas at the beginning of my parenting journey, I obsessively read everything I could online and anywhere else in order to figure out what the heck I was doing, I have since become a student of my daughter. She is my best teacher. I realize now that all kids are different and while I want her milestones to be met perfectly on par with all the other kids, she is her own unique person and I want to treat her as such. In observing her I have become a much more astute mommy and can now predict when my kid is going to have a meltdown or start giggling, fussing, etc. The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out still is when she is going to have a major poop blow out. If there were any rhyme or reason to that it would really help me out when we’re out in public. Oh well.

5. Strange Sadness: I never imagined how sad it would be to say goodbye to some of her old clothes. Ains is still super tiny. 9th percentile in weight. Up from 6th percentile though! So we are just now getting rid of her 0-3 month clothes and it really made me sad. I spent at least an hour the other day looking through old pics of her wearing the stuff that is now folded up in Trader Joe’s bags and tucked neatly away in the closet. While I am glad she is growing, I wish I would have just sat and stared at her a little longer in some of these outfits. They represent my little newborn and the fact that she can’t wear them anymore shows just how fast time really flies. One day she will be wearing the clothes with the little T next to the number and then small, medium or large outfits and I will surely lose it then.

Here are some of the cute outfits that no longer fit. Top row: handmade necklace onesie from cousin Dawn, blue polka dot onesie and cupcake hoodie. Bottom row: Santa dress which Jake picked out the day we found out we were having a girl and Duke onesie with ruffly sleeves.


Anywho, that’s that. Five months have come and gone. Soon she will be six months and that just sounds really old. What have you observed your first few months of parenting?

Linking up with Still Being Molly

My 5 Favorite Non-Essential Baby Items, Ages 0-6 Months

When Jake and I first went out to register, we spent over three hours in the car seat section of Buy Buy Baby. I thought I had done enough legwork – you know, asking friends on Facebook for their top registry picks, talking to fellow mommy friends, researching on the internet. I printed out, like, 10 pages of comments along with other info I could find online and brought it with us to register but it wasn’t enough. We still spent more than three hours with the Buy Buy Baby salesperson asking questions and looking at every model of car seat they had. By the time we were done, my big, preggo body was so tired that the only other section I could handle  was the nursery where I just sprawled out on a rocking chair and lulled myself into a catnap.

We finalized our registry and got most of the items we asked for along with many generous gifts we didn’t ask for too. Lovely handmade quilts, tons of clothes (I would kill for even half of Ainsley’s wardrobe) and enough gift cards to purchase furniture and whatnot.

We all know what the essentials are right? Diapers, wipes, somewhere for baby to sleep and so on. But you could spend a small fortune purchasing the many, many, many other items the baby store people try to convince you that you’ll need. Some of which are helpful. Some of which are totally unnecessary. If you’re on a budget, like we were, you will need to narrow things down. In addition to the obvious stuff, here are my favorite non-essentials. Obviously, you need to make your own choices but here is what we’ve loved and our reasons why:

1. Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play

r n p

Ainsley was diagnosed with reflux at three weeks old so lying flat on her back has always been uncomfortable… up until about three weeks ago when we transitioned her to her crib at night. Before that though, Ains was in her Rock’n Play all the time. Day and night. As evidenced by the above pics. One thing that is great is she can subtly move the chair while sitting in it which allows her to rock a bit. Babies love that. We even bring it with us on vacation. Most essential, non-essential piece of furniture by far.

2. Snap-N-Go Stroller


The Snap ‘n Go Stroller has been a lifesaver. My delivery was brutal and it took weeks to heal. I could hardly carry around my six pound baby let alone heavier objects. The great thing about the Snap ‘n Go is that it is light and easy to use. All you do is place your infant carseat in the frame until you hear it click. Sadly, Miss A is not loving being in her carseat anymore so I am not sure how much longer we will get away with using this as our primary stroller but I will keep trying as long as possible.

3. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer Book


This book totally changed the way I view my child and helped me create a realistic schedule for our days. It was recommended by several people before I finally went out and bought it. I’m so glad I did. Here are my takeaways:

  • Ainsley is a tiny person. She is not “the baby” but rather Ainsley Grace Charles and although she has not been on this earth for long she still deserves to be treated with respect.
  • E.A.S.Y. – Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time. It doesn’t work perfectly. At least not in our house. But it does help. Let’s say Ains is fussing and I can’t figure out why. It helps to have a framework for the day that I can use as a guide as I figure out what’s wrong. If she’s just eaten, it may be that her diaper is wet. Or if I can rule those out, maybe she’s tired. There are also some charts that help decode baby body language (like what it means when they arch their back or frantically kick their legs). Those alone are worth buying the book for. You can get a used copy for crazy cheap on Amazon.

4. Carseat Canopy

carseat canopy

One of my favorite showers gifts was our carseat canopy. An awesome family friend made ours and it has come in handy on more than one occasion. For starters, with the winter we are having it has helped Ainsley stay warm and protect her adorable porcelain skin from getting too dry and cold. The other thing though, and people said this would happen, is that strangers will touch your child. No joke. This just adds an extra layer of protection between you and those who aren’t aware of the concept of boundaries.

5. Security Binky Blanket


I can’t remember when but Ains reached a point when she learned how to grab at things. She will grab at anything within reach now.  It’s fun seeing her reach this new milestone but the problem is, she grabs blankets and pulls them over her face when I am not looking. So I found this tiny blanket that attaches to her paci and she absolutely loves it. Now, in addition to her loving the way it feels, I don’t have to worry about her being suffocated by a bigger blanket.

Like I said – it’s all a matter of personal opinion. These are a few items we have grown to love. What essential, non-essentials do you recommend?

Linking up with Still Being Molly

Follow Me!
Get every new post delivered to your inbox!

Join other followers

Powered By WPFruits.com