Podcast:How To Have A Minimalist Christmas ( And More) With JoLynn Graubart


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Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!


Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie with Outnumbered Mamas contributor and guest, JoLynn Graubart discuss minimalism. JoLynn is a minimalist- in- progress and gives us tips on how her family celebrates Christmas with their two children.

Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

Guest Host: JoLynn Graubart

Links from this podcast:

How To Have A Minimalist Christmas

Letters From Afar

Dear Working Mama, It’s Okay (And You’re Not Alone)

I know the feeling you had as you held your sweet, little baby and realized your precious time was almost up. I got that feeling too. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.

My heart broke as I realized that, so soon, I would wake up and have to hand my baby off to someone else. Someone else will be taking care of my baby. I’ll have to miss out on watching her grow up. I’ll have to miss out on some of her firsts. I’ll have to miss out on all these important days of her little life.

I know what you were thinking. Why? Why can’t I have more time? Why did the time I had have to go by so fast? Why do I have to leave my baby when we just got in our routine? Why does this have to be so hard?  

Let me tell you, Mama, I understand completely… and it’s okay. 

It’s okay that you don’t want to leave your baby. I mean, who wants to leave their baby all day? Not me. I mean, c’mon it’s my BABY. The little life that I grew for nine months before anyone else knew her. She was a part of me and now I have to give that part of me away for 9 hours a day. It freaking sucks. 

It’s okay to cry. I still cry. I have days that I get back into my car after dropping her off and just cry. All I want to do is walk back in there, get my baby, and go back home… and it takes everything inside of me to put the car in drive and force a smile when I walk through those company doors. 

It’s okay to be mad when people tell you it will get easier. It’s pretty much one of the most annoying things people say to new working moms. It hasn’t gotten easier. It won’t get easier. It’s hard as hell to walk away from my little girl every day.

It’s okay to feel like you aren’t giving it all you have at work. I often feel like I’m not being the employee that I should be because I’m always thinking about my baby or having to miss days if she’s sick. Or not putting in the extra time and effort that I should because I want to get home and have at least a little time to spend with her between dinner, bath, and bedtime.  

It’s okay to feel like you’re not giving it all you have at home. Sometimes I feel like I’m not the mom I should be because she’s at daycare 9 hours a day instead of with me. Chick-fil-A is typically the go-to these days for dinner. The house never seems to be clean and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get all the laundry done. But when do I even have time to do all of this and be able to take a few moments to just stop and play with my baby after working all day?  

It’s okay to ask for help. Being a working mom leaves me with a never-ending list of things that need to be done and for some reason I think that I need to get it all done on my own. Asking for help relieves some of the stress and allows me to spend a few extra minutes with my sweet baby. 

It’s okay to need a break. The transition from doing what you want when you want, to being a working mama constantly on-the-go can be an adjustment. Sometimes I really just need some time to myself. Just a few hours alone to go get my nails done, walk around Target or grab a coffee and drink it while it’s still hot. 

It’s okay to struggle. I struggle daily but I know I’m not alone. YOU are not alone. Other working mamas out there understand the daily struggles we face. Know this Mama… you are strong, one of the strongest women I know and sometimes I just don’t know how we mamas do it all!  

Being a working mom is freaking hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and never let anyone tell you that it’s not okay to not be okay sometimes. You are not alone. 

So, Mama, it’s okay. Cry if you need to. Take a break if you need it. Do what you have to do. Stay strong. You’re an amazing mom! Keep kicking butt and keep loving on those babies! 

Your Working Mom Friend

How to Have a “Minimalist” Christmas

Okay, Mamas. This is an upfront disclaimer that I am a “minimalist in-progress.” Can we just agree that there is a middle-ground somewhere between shaming people who have throw pillows and keeping every book you’ve ever read? Maybe room for a family still clinging to their dying DVD collection, but intentionally inching towards minimalist living? That would be the category my family fits into.

Minimalism is all the rage, right? But what does it have to do with our families? One study found that an average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12 of them on a regular basis (1). Raise your hand if you just started mentally counting all of your children’s toys? (Yes, every Barbie shoe and Lego block counts.)

When I chose to embrace minimalism it was because I saw it as a way to raise content, grateful, and creative kids- the kind of kids who use the things they have with the fullness of their imagination; kids whose general state of happiness floats above the “need” for more and more stuff. Firstly, you’re right if you think that it must be BOTH satisfying and also completely terrifying to purge mass quantities of stuff with small people living in your house. Secondly, the peace found at the end of the process outweighs the energy and time commitment it takes – I promise.

As I’ve introduced this concept to the people in my kids’ lives (in other words, the people who give them gifts), they almost always get around to asking, “but what about Christmas?”

What about Christmas? Won’t there be a full-scale revolt if the pile under the tree shrinks suddenly?! How do you even get started with something like this? First…

Get your kids on board – I think most of us underestimate our kids. Children tend to be open to new ideas when they understand why something is happening. Talk to your kids honestly. Explain how wonderful it would be if their lives (and rooms) were only full of the things that they love and the things that they use. Talk up the beauty of simplicity! They’ll have less things to pick up at “clean up time.” They’ll be able to find that treasured item that always gets misplaced under a pile of junk.

They will follow your lead – Before tackling the playroom, demonstrate the process in other areas of the home and let them be part of the process. Cleaning out the pantry? Mommy is getting rid of things she doesn’t love and doesn’t use. Let them see how you make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix together, and then hit their closets asking, “Does this bring me joy?” (my girls LOVED this part! They even made Daddy do it). Make it fun and exciting, a whole new way of looking at things.

Start the process now, not on Christmas EveBut what about Christmas?! This is a lifestyle change, guys. It’s going to take some getting used to. So the sooner you start having conversations the better. That also gives you the chance to work with your kids towards simplifying their playroom and bedrooms before a huge influx of gifts.

One thing that’s worked really well with my kids is giving them the option of only picking up the things they love. This is a winner in my house especially when the playroom floor is trashed. I frame it like, “guys I’m going to do you a huge favor. All you have to do is put away the things that you use and that you love, and Mommy will handle the rest.” Note: be careful to preserve trust and to respect your children during this process. At our house, the kids know that those trashbags go to the basement before they head to Goodwill. I stash them there for 2 months, and if they aren’t touched in that time, they get donated. The girls understand this process, so they are way more willing to let me haul that singing Elsa away in a plastic bag.

Clue in the relatives –  People are going to think you’re crazy. Get comfortable with that. They’re also going to be really uncomfortable NOT buying loads of stuff for you and your kids. Don’t apologize about going against the grain, but do give them ideas! If you need some, keep reading. Make an Amazon list for each of your kids and share it with family members. Most people want to get gifts that really bless you, and are thrilled to know exactly what that is.

What do you buy them? 

  1. Subscription boxes & magazines: what’s better than one gift that gets ignored in 2 weeks? A give that comes 12 times in a year! There are subscription boxes for everything from cultural cooking to woodworking. Google your child’s age/interest and I bet you find something amazing. Our absolute FAVORITE is Letters From Afar.
  2. Experiences: Museum & Zoo passes, Aquarium memberships, movie giftcards all fall under this category. My in-laws made the sweetest “box of dates” for our girls last year. Each 1st of the month they would open an envelope with a pre-planned date with Nana & Grandpop in it. It was super fun!
  3. Classes: How about getting grandma and grandpa to invest in a skill your kids are dying to work on, like gymnastics, swimming, karate lessons, space camp?!
  4. Open-ended toys: These are toys that can be used in more than one way, and for more than one age-group. I’m convinced that my kids could have happily survived the last 7 years playing with just silk scarves, Animal Figurines, and Magnet Blocks. Those are our top three for sure. (your standard cardboard box also fits in this category)
  5. Consumable items & Handicrafts: Art supplies are a hot commodity around here, and are always a crowd-pleaser. I mean who doesn’t love a fresh box of crayons or an elaborate coloring book.  This is also a great time to invest in a hands-on creative skill like crocheting, felting, sewing, beading, woodworking, or musical instruments.

Focus on the stuff that isn’t “stuff” – Since down-sizing our Christmas, we instead have time, energy, and mental space to pack the whole month of December with memory making. In fact, Advent kicks off the week of Thanksgiving in this house with a cranberry/popcorn/orange garland making fest. We read all the Christmas books, sing all the songs, watch all the movies, eat and bake and just generally pack this month full of good times. Here’s five ideas to get you started:

  1. Read good books together as a family: Sarah Mackenzie at Read-Aloud Revival has a great reading list! Grab a bunch of Christmas picture books from the library, wrap up 24 of them, and open one a day to read as a family. Or better yet, pick a big juicy classic novel like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to read over dinner each night (with Turkish Delight of course).
  2. Drive around the neighborhood with cocoa looking for Christmas lights.
  3. Make homemade salt-dough ornaments or sugar scrubs to give out to friends and family as gifts.
  4. On Christmas Eve make (more) cocoa and have a night picnic under the stars. We always take our popcorn garlands outside at this point, and hang them up on the trees for the animals.
  5. Set up a card making station for your kids full of stickers, stamps, and glitter. We make cards while listening to carols or audio-books all month long, and then bring them to a local nursing home. Focus on the GIVING, not the getting.


Further reading suggestions: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquilyn Smith

Listen to JoLynn on The Outnumbered Mama’s Podcast to hear more about her minimalist lifestyle, and how she and her family celebrate Christmas.



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Not The Nanny

I found myself in unfamiliar territory not that long ago. A sweet, young grandma asked me if I was the nanny to my twins. I figured this was bound to happen at some point. Perhaps it’s surprising it took this long. From the outside looking in, anyone could make this mistake.

You see, the twins are about as white as snow with the most stunning sea-green (yet sometimes blue) eyes. Their hair is wavy dirty blonde like their Dad and Valentina has the same dimple placement as her proud Papa. For the record, I really want to believe that Valentina and Victoria have my nose. And that’s about it.

In case you haven’t seen me in the flesh, I have tan skin, dark brown hair and eyes. Big sis, Gabriella is my spitting image. My “mini-me” in every way. There’s no mistake she’s my daughter. When we’re together I get the sweet sideways glances from strangers who seem to say, “Awwww, look at that cute mother-daughter duo.” I relish that we do look so much alike.

When I was pregnant, Ben and I would joke back and forth about how one twin would arrive looking like him and the other like me. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought because it really wasn’t that important to me. I had bigger things to worry about with the twins impending arrival.

Back to this sweet grandma on a random day this Summer. The twins and I were having fun at an indoor gym and a light-hearted conversation started between the two of us. After the usual exchange of niceties, she socked me in the stomach when she asked, “Are you the nanny?” I like to think I’m not easily offended, but it did sting just a bit. And I know this is just the beginning of many times ahead when I’ll be in this same situation. Do I need to buy the matching Lily Pulitzer Mommy-Daughter dresses to send the message loud and clear?

I think most people are perplexed when they see the twins and I together. Working out in their minds if I’m the nanny or the Mom. If Ben happens to be around or come around later it’s almost as if there’s a collective “Aha” from the on-lookers. Now it makes sense!

You may be wondering what my response was to this unassuming lady who just sucker punched me. I said, “Nope, I carried them for 37 weeks and 4 days to be exact.” After the blood drained from her face, we laughed and I told her not to feel bad. And I meant it.

While the physical likeness between the twins and I is almost non-existent, I hope that the intangible mother-daughter bond between each of us supersedes any doubt of my role as their mom. They remind me everyday, that no matter how I look (which is usually pretty tired), I’m their mama. Not the nanny.


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Lillian Sowles is a wife and mom to 3 girls, residing just outside of Charlotte, NC. She enjoys reading fiction, having fun with her family, trying new recipes and sipping hot coffee. You can read more about her here!

5 Ways to Practice Self-Care this Holiday Season

With the holidays quickly approaching it so easy as mamas to put ourselves on the back burner. And while there are certainly seasons where this is absolutely necessary, if you do this for too long, no one will truly enjoy those precious holiday moments. So here are just a few ideas to make sure that you take care of you during this especially busy holiday season.

**NOTE: these are not “get a manicure”. While I firmly believe that sometimes that can be a form of self care, and that you should in fact, get that manicure. I also believe that true self care, the kind that actually nourishes your soul happens daily, multiple times a day. So, with that said, lets get started!


Yep, drink water. I know, you are sitting there reading this like, um, that isn’t self care. But here me out. You should be consuming AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces of water every single day. Your body, your beautiful body, is made up of water. You have to drink it. Period. Yes, that means you’ll have to use the bathroom a lot but who cares. Drinking water will instantly make you feel better. Your body will be less sore. Your skin will clear up. Your attitude will be better. 

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**worth noting that coffee is not water, tea is not water, La Croix is not water. WATER IS WATER. You can add fruit (actual whole fruit) or herbs to it, but you need to drink real water. I promise you will notice a difference. 


I know, I know. No one likes this one. But lets get into it. If you move your body it scientifically changes the chemistry in your body. Our bodies are designed to move. They are made for challenges. They are not made to spend every moment sitting. Movement doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym for an hour. Movement doesn’t mean you have to run on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Movement means movement. Go for a walk with your kids. I know its cooler, but go. Being outside right now is BEAUTIFUL, enjoy it. Pull up Youtube and do a yoga flow, you will feel so much lighter after. Have a dance party with your kids. This is my personal favorite thing to do during that witching hour right before dinner. This is not about weight loss, this is about mental sanity. I know that it feels like we are doing everyone else a service by always being there for them and taking up the “martyr” role. Mama, here me, this is helping absolutely no one. You want your kids to learn to take good care of themselves right? You want to them to be healthy, happy adult humans, right? The only way that they will learn to that is if you SHOW THEM. Meaning you have to do it first. Also, you are worth taking care of. Did you read that? Let me say it again, YOU. ARE. WORTH. TAKING. CARE. OF. So move your body, every single day. I promise the smile on your face will slowly grow and grow. 



During the holidays everyone is busy. Especially mamas and bonus points if you have more than one kid, even more bonus points if you have more than one kid in elementary school. BLESS. I swear the holidays come around and every elementary teacher ever thinks that your schedule instantly cleared and you have all the literal time to bake cookies and craft and show up in the middle of the day. But that is a rant for a different day. Any who, you are allowed to say no. You are allowed to not do that thing that you don’t actually want to do. Rest, doesn’t just mean sleep. It also does mean sleep, so make sure you prioritize that as well, but also what I actually mean here is mental rest. You have to give yourself some grace. You have to know that you are doing your best and that is great. If you hate baking cookies, don’t. Buy some cookies and call it day. Your kids don’t actually care, promise, they just want cookies. Take some time this holiday season and be present with your babies. Have a movie night. Play a board game. Do whatever you will actually enjoy. There is one other thing I want to add when it comes to grace and it has to do with stress. Mama, now is not the time to attempt to make every single thing by hand. You do not have enough time to cook all the meals from scratch, hand make everyone a present, volunteer for every at school party, and still be the wife your husband needs and a functional mama. Now is when it is okay to order Hello Fresh, buy cute handmade presents on Etsy, pick ONE party to volunteer for and go all out… You get the idea here.  


You are allowed to set boundaries that make you comfortable. All the extended family time that tends to go down during this season can be the most stressful part for some people. Don’t get me wrong, I know we all love our families. It is just sometimes difficult to be around some of them. Do not be afraid to set boundaries for these people. For instance, if at every Thanksgiving, your uncle Billy gets crazy drunk and you always get super stressed about how your kids will react, set a boundary. You do not have to be mean about it, but BEFORE Thanksgiving call uncle Billy and let him know how uncomfortable it makes you when this happens. Let him know that if he chooses to get drunk, you will have to choose to leave Thanksgiving early. Don’t tell him how terrible he is for getting drunk. Don’t lecture him about his life choices. Be clear and concise, if _____ happens then I will do _____. Fill in the blanks for whatever situation instantly popped in your head when you read this, I know there was one. Find a way to have grace and compassion for who ever it is, this is not about being rude. This is about your own mental health.  


This should go without saying but honestly, when I look back a few of the holiday seasons I have endured, I did just that, endure. I didn’t have fun. I didn’t enjoy the whole process. That really stinks, you know? So this one is last for a reason. If nothing else I want this to stick with you. You, as a grown adult human, are allowed to still have fun, especially during the holidays. Schedule one thing that makes you as giddy as a toddler who just heard baby shark for the 100th time in a row. Hire a sitter and go on date night. (hint: if funds are tight make this your christmas present to each other.) Find a way to enjoy the process of purchasing presents instead of stressing yourself out to find the perfect one. Decorate before it is socially acceptable if you want to. Listen to Christmas music if you feel like it. Make it a priority to actually laugh once a day. Whatever that means for you, you deserve to laugh, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 


Mama, I hope your holiday season is full.

I hope its full of laughter and joy.

I hope its full of happiness and grace.

I hope it is overflowing with love.

Be the thermostat in your home and set the temperature this holiday season. Set your thermostat for whatever will bring you the most joy and the most peace. Your family will be the thermometer and meet you there. 



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Ariel Nieto is a wife and mama of 4 little ones, ages 7 years to -9 months. She loves all things health and wellness and loves chatting about mom life. Learn more about her here!

Finding Gratitude Through Tough Times

“I don’t want to carry gratitude in seasons. I want to carry it in my bones. I want it to rest on my tongue like it is a language that I never stop speaking.” -Arielle Estoria

I saw this quote the other night and it really resonated with me, especially with the holidays just around the corner! Yes, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the blessings in your life, and yes we all know we are of course just as thankful throughout the remainder of the year, but do we really focus on that gratitude outside of the holiday season? A lot of us do not. And what about when life has been particularly hard to us? How can we focus on gratitude when we feel like life has been unfairly cruel?

Having a special needs child has completely changed the way I celebrate gratitude. Madison is a constant reminder to be thankful. When you have watched your child fight for their life, and when they are left with needs in which people can’t tell you what to expect or how long you’ll have with them, every single day with that child becomes a blessing you are immeasurably thankful for. Every moment with her is a reason to be thankful because I truly don’t know what her future holds.

And special needs or not, the day to day of motherhood is HARD. There is no question about that. In fact, for many women their journey to motherhood is HARD. It doesn’t come easy to everyone. And when you’re longing for a family of your own, the holidays can be tough to bare.

When in the moment each day seems so hard, it can be difficult to be thankful. There are days when I just curse this universe for what it’s done to Madison and my family. How can I feel thankful when the daughter I’ve waited for my whole life was stolen from me at just 11 days old? And sometimes I let myself feel that way. I let myself have days where I’m angry and sad and that’s ok, because I have every right to be. That’s right mamas, you can be thankful AND be sad! We can be grateful AND be angry. We can feel all of our feelings, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the sad ones.

I have a lot of hard days as a special needs mama, but then I remember how much sadder I would be had Madison not survived. I think of all of the incredibly strong superhero parents that I’ve seen lose their children far too soon, and I know that I’m lucky I have this time with her. So even though I don’t always like this special needs journey I’m on, there are still things to be thankful for. There are still things all of us can be thankful for, even through the darkest times when it may not feel true.


Personally, I am thankful for my husband and his unconditional love and support. I could not get through life without him. I’m thankful for our family and friends who stand by us everyday, help us when we need, and simply check in on us to see how we’re doing. I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses, specialists, and therapists who saved Madison, who continue to make her care a priority, and who have helped her get to where she is today. I’m thankful for the other special needs mamas that I’ve connected with over the year. These mamas have helped me immensely in learning about new treatments or side effects, have given me stories of hope, and also been those I could vent to knowing I would not be judged because they are the only ones who truly know what I’m going through. It’s a tribe I never thought I’d be a part of, but I’m blessed to know so many incredibly strong women.

It’s important as mamas that we find our tribe and hold onto them. For some of us our community consists of family or friends. For others, a yoga class or coworkers. Hell, your community might be an online support group of women you don’t even know in person, it doesn’t matter! Let’s value those relationships ladies, and be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile and lift you up, even when you may not realize it.


Sometimes it’s hard to see how far Madison has actually come, but when I think back to last year I realize how much more fragile she was. It’s so easy to focus on the areas our children struggle, especially when your child’s developmental goals are things that come so easy to a healthy child, but we need to remember to celebrate the inchstones too. Any progress is better than no progress and is something to be thankful for. No matter what Madison is able to accomplish, you can bet I’ll be proud of her. We cannot compare our child’s accomplishments to another’s. Try not to stress on the missed milestones or areas your child is struggling. Take it from the mama of a medically complex babe, these things truly don’t matter! Celebrate their health. Celebrate the things they CAN do. Celebrate the fact that you have a child when so many women long to be mothers. Celebrate your child for exactly who they are and watch how much fuller your heart becomes.


Being on the special needs journey will mold you into a completely different person. I can’t tell you how many times people compliment me for my strength, but in all honesty, I have no other option but to be strong. Being an advocate for a medically complex child will make you more resilient, unafraid to speak your voice, smarter, more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I have no time to worry about anything in life other than Madison and my family. Nothing else matters. And I’m thankful for this strength that has allowed me to think like that. It can be hard to be confident in our mothering abilities. We all wonder if we’re doing enough, even though most days it feels like we couldn’t possibly give any more. But trust me, you are enough. There is no one stronger than a mother. The days may be long and hard, but remember to be thankful for them; for they have made you the strong, badass woman you have become!


I’m also extremely thankful to have so many educational resources at my fingertips. With each diagnosis and with each failing medication, all I do is research what else I can do for Madison. What meds haven’t we tried that might work? What alternative treatments are available? What therapies have worked for others? I can’t imagine going through this journey in a country where the access to education and resources is limited. We’re lucky to be able to research and learn on our own and to have the ability to travel freely to esteemed medical professionals. Fertility struggles? Marriage problems? Addiction? The list goes on and on for the plethora of difficulties we might face, and yet there are so many resources available to help us through. Going through hard times can cloudy our want to be thankful, but it’s important to remember that we have resources to help pull us out, and that is a blessing in itself.

The Chaos

The pure chaos of motherhood may seem like something silly to be thankful for when it’s also the thing that drives us crazy, but trust me, it is. So your house is a mess? Be thankful to have a roof over your head. Be thankful your child is able to make that mess. It means they are learning and playing and figuring out this world, a joy that a mama of a disabled child, like me, would give anything for. So you’re juggling therapy and doctors appointments for your medically complex child? Be thankful you’re able to offer them care and opportunities to grow. So you’re balancing fertility appointments or childcare with work? Be thankful you have a job, a safe place to send your child, or the means to explore the wonderful advances science has to offer in helping you start or grow your family. The chaos, as exhausting as it might be, simply means we are living!

Let’s also remember that feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. No one feels grateful for the bad things that happen to them, but despite those things, we can choose to BE grateful for the things we do have. Being forced into some really tough times has showed me not to take anything for granted, as I’ve seen firsthand how quickly life can change. When you learn that the things you love most can be taken away in an instant, you become immensely more thankful for them. My gratitude for the good times has also provided me hope and the will to keep going.

So as you sit with your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on how hard this year may have been, remember to instead focus on all that you DO have. There were moments and people and learnings and even your own bravery through these times, that you can and should be thankful for. Let us remember to be thankful every single day, and not just during the holidays. And above all, please be thankful for the health of yourself and your children. Not all mamas, like myself, are as lucky in that regard. Hold those babies close and I promise you, you’ll feel more reasons to be thankful than you ever imagined possible. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season mamas! We’ve got this!


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Kelly Backiel is a wife, and SAHM to her daughter, Madison. Madison was diagnosed with meningitis at 11 days old, leaving her with severe brain injuries and complications. Kelly blogs about her experiences as a special needs mom, and hopes to spread awareness and support to others in similar situations. She is a fan of the beach, and a nice glass of wine! Read more about her here!

Your Life Doesn’t Have to Be Over: 5 Ways To Reclaim Your Life After Baby

I hate to admit this, but I’m one of those girls who thought she had it all figured out BEFORE she had a baby of her own. I wasn’t so bad that I said my child would never use an iPad in public or would only eat organic food… I know better. But I thought I knew what life would be like—what I would be like once I became a mom. Spoiler alert: I had no idea.

 When we found out I was expecting, my husband and I talked about it and I decided I would quit my job and stay home with our son. I had wanted to be a stay at home mom for a while, and my husband was very supportive, so we figured out a way to make it work. Bryant was such an easy baby; Sleeping through the night at just one month old, really only crying when he was hungry or tired, and settling into his routine fairly quickly.

I on the other hand… did not adjust so well. I had zero routine. I was somewhere between going with the flow and getting run over. My husband would call me during his lunch break and ask what I had been doing, and sometimes my answer would be 100 things before 10:00AM! And other days, all I had done was watched Real Housewives and eaten a bowl of cereal.

I was constantly criticizing myself, feeling like a failure at the end of most days. Did I read Bryant enough books? Did he do tummy time for long enough? When was the last time I showered? What’s for dinner? I felt like the days were going by and Bryant was growing up, but what was I doing with my life? Was motherhood the only thing that defined me now? Did staying at home mean my life was truly over and all about Bryant?

I knew had to get some semblance of control back, but how would I do it? I decided I would set some non-negotiable “daily rules” now that I was staying at home. I do these things consistently, every single day, and I think it has made me feel so much more confident in my choice to stay home, so much happier as a mom and just makes me feel successful day in and day out!

1. Wash your face and brush your teeth.

I do this every morning before I get Bryant out of bed. In 20 years, your baby is not going to tell their therapist about all the times you didn’t go get them out of their crib the moment they woke up. He/she will survive you taking 3 minutes to practice a little personal hygiene.

It just makes me feel alive and awake and ready for the day ahead!

2. Get dressed.

I don’t mean get dressed up, by any means! If I’m being honest, sometimes I just change out of a pair of pajamas and into a pair of leggings! But some days I do put on a bra and a cute top. It just depends on what that day holds! But this is just a simple way I can feel like I accomplished something.

3. Set up a cleaning/laundry schedule.

This has saved me. I am a extremely distracted person, so having things planned out and written down is VERY helpful. At the beginning of this year I wrote out a cleaning schedule and stuck it on the fridge and it has been so helpful! Each day I clean one room in my house during Bryant’s naptime. For clarification, this isn’t a deep clean. I just do the basics: dust and vacuum and pick up clutter. But it helps! And it feels like I really got something done, and there’s usually still time to watch an episode of Law & Order before the baby wakes up!


4. Meal Plan

I’m not big into meal prepping, but I ALWAYS meal plan. This is something that just makes me feel like I have a little bit of structure to lean on when the days are chaotic. I start at the beginning of each month and write down anything going on that month, and then plan meals week by week. That way I can see our schedule at a glance, and then plan supper around anything we have going on. I try and plan ahead for eating out and picking up fast food, too!

5. Journal

This is not something I did pre-baby, but I wish I had. I take time each day to write down something—anything! It doesn’t have to be a page full of your deepest hopes and dreams, but just what you’re feeling or what you have planned for the day. I usually do it in the morning, but doing it at night could be cool as a way to reflect on the day before you go to bed. I think journaling is just an easy way to feel connected to your life, especially when it feels monotonous.


Of course, you don’t have to follow all of my “rules” – in fact, you don’t have to follow any of them! But when I felt like my life was spinning somewhat out of control, these are just some of the ways I found helpful to take back control. What about you? What “rules” have you set to make life run a little bit more smoothly day to day?



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Laura Beth Harpe is a wife and mother, living in small-town Georgia. She loves connecting with other mamas as they stumble through the new season of motherhood. She loves shopping and binging Bravo and Law and Order: SUV. Learn more about her here!

Podcast: More Than A Cold: The Dangers of RSV


Paige and Leslie talk about the dangers of RSV, after Paige’s daughter spent almost 2 weeks in the pediatric ICU with it as a newborn earlier this year.

Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

img_3442Paige wants to add a special thank you to all of the amazing doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and the rest of the staff at St. John Moross ( Ascension) in Detroit for taking care of Maisie. If you are in the Metro Detroit area and need hospital care, the staff at this hospital is absolutely amazing and highly recommended! ( This is not sponsored.)

An Unexpected Journey : Teen Pregnancy

It was the November 2003. I was 15 years old, and had been dating him for a few months when I decided that I was going to have sex for the first time. Again I was 15, never really had a clue about monitoring periods, pregnancy etc. A little naive, if you will.

Fast forward to May 2004. I was getting ready for prom with my friends (after a pretty rough few months being in the middle of a custody battle between my parents) and I noticed the dress I had just bought a month before no longer fit like it did when I first bought it.

So did my mom.

I went off to prom, had a great time and finished up the weekend at home. The next Monday I went to school and received a note that I was going home for the afternoon. It was my mom picking me up to take me to the doctors because she had a feeling I was pregnant. In the car on the way there I remember laughing at her and saying she was crazy, it only happened one time and it was back in November.

We walked into the doctors office, went back into a room and the doctor came in. I remember at that time getting extremely nervous, but I did not know why. She gave me a cup, I went to the bathroom and came out. The doctor came back within 10 minutes to tell us the results.

I was pregnant.

I instantly got sick to my stomach and thought to myself “What the heck am I going to do!?” My mom was in shock and she did not say much after that. The doctor asked me a series of questions, none of which I could really answer because, like I said, I never really paid attention to when I got my periods. She sent me to another room and did an ultrasound to determine how far along I really was. After she completed her exam and measurements of the baby she told me I was due around August 19th, 2004 and ITS A GIRL! August 19th?! That was only 3 months away! How did I not know?

On July 22nd, 2004 after being in preterm labor for around 2 weeks, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl, Michelle Elizabeth. One look at her, and I knew I was destined to be her mother. It was 8 days shy of my 16th birthday, and I was a mom. I promised her on that day, I would never give up and I will always do my best to be a great mom to her. I was not going to let the stigmas surrounding teenage pregnancy affect anything.

I was going to beat the statistics.

For two days I sat in the hospital just staring at her, holding her and loving her. For a moment, I forgot that I was just a baby myself.

Fifteen years later, I still hold those same promises to her (at least I think I do, with a few bumps here and there… I AM STILL HUMAN).

I proved every person that doubted me wrong. I graduated high school with HONORS, went to college and got a degree. All while working and taking care of her without much help.

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Life was definitely not easy. I still dealt with all the teenage drama, breakups, being broke etc. But I never let it steer me from my ultimate goal….providing Michelle with the best life possible.

Now I am raising a daughter, who is 15 (along with another 14 year old bonus daughter, and two 10 year old boys; biological and bonus). She is the same age as I was when I became pregnant with her. She is smart, sassy, beautiful and completely obsessed with school. When she first got a boyfriend, I was worried. But hoped I had raised her to know she can always come to me and how to prevent teen pregnancy. It is a conversation I have openly with her, because it was not a conversation my parents were willing to have with me. While I do not regret being her mother, as it has made me who I am today, I do not want the same for my children (or bonus ones). There are times where I wonder who I would be today if I had not become a teen mom, but the answers are blank.

Yes, I am often asked how old she is and how old I am, and I watch those who ask do the math in their heads and just stare at me. I just simply say, “Yes, I was a teen mom.” My daughter often gets the same treatment from people that ask her the same questions. She just smiles and tells them they’d be lucky to have me as a mom. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED. No matter how many times we argue or “I’m ruining her life” because I take her phone; she always knows I always did my best.

As a probation officer, I often come in contact with girls in similar situations. Not the best family life, lost in the world, and making poor decisions. I try to use my struggles and most importantly my accomplishments to help them get on the right path in life and not dwell on what could have been done and focus on what CAN be done. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But just like 15 years ago, I never stop trying.

It is true that your current life is, to a large extent, the result of your past actions, choices and experiences. The great news, however, is that your future is determined by how you act in the present moment. In other words, your past does not have to define you or your future.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Michelle Elizabeth, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and water

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Nicolette Geigle is a wife and mom to 4 amazing kids (2 bio, and 2 bonus). She works as a Parole Office and resides in Metro Detroit. You can usually find her supporting her daughter at dance, or on the sidelines cheering her sons on in sports. Read more about her here!

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay: To The Mom On The Brink

I often find myself lying awake after a late night feeding coupled with a pumping session and my mind tends to wander. I always end up questioning myself, am I a good mom? This is the burning question that every mom has thought about at least once. Are you a good mom?

As a mom with two littles, I am always on the go and find little time for me lately. And honestly, sometimes I need a break while they are both awake – and you know what, I have come to realize, that’s totally okay! We do the best we can as moms, working or stay at home. But mom burnouts are real. Being a little selfish is okay and encouraged. There is no way you can make your kids feel their best if you don’t. They are little monkey-see-monkey-dos. So if you are feeling down, chances are your kids will catch on and might even act out to seek your attention. I know my son mimics me all the time, from taking my pumping parts and pretending to pump to simply pointing at the cats and yelling “no”.

I can’t emphasis this enough – it is so important to take care of yourself. You deserve it! I mean, you grew a tiny human inside you after all. That is hard work. Trust me, I know, it’s exhausting and I bet most of you worked while doing so. So go get yourself a pedicure, splurge on that pumpkin spice cold brew, and get that top from Old Navy. You deserve it girl! The moral here is that it is okay to be selfish, especially if you feel a burn-out coming on. If you need help, reach out. Even if it is just to your mom. We all have been through it, are currently going through it and or eventually will go through it and what we feel matters. If you need a little break, it’s okay. No shame on taking a little me time! I know I do when my husband comes home and after the kids go down, I go downstairs and walk on the treadmill while I watch YouTube videos and if the kids wake up, he knows I’m having me time and he will go and check on them.

Some days you might feel like you’re crushing it. Balancing kids, your job, and what have you. You’re doing everything right, riding high on motherhood and just like that, poof…that time has passed and you feel no good. I feel you and I see you. I’ve been there. That’s a mom burn out and it is okay. The tricky part is that we still have to keep going. We still have to do the dishes, fold the laundry, make breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, mop the floor, smile at our kids, answer emails and etc. It is hard, mamas! So hard! But the next time you feel a burn out coming on, it’s an alarm telling you to put your own needs first! For once. Because after all, you deserve it!

Motherhood is a journey and us moms sometimes need to stop and pause for a second to take it all in. We have real emotions, real blood, real sweat and real tears. We are stronger for it, but we also need to treat ourselves. There is only so much we can handle and taking a step back and doing some things for ourselves is just as important as giving your baby belly raspberries or making silly faces at your toddler to the point of you both laughing so hard you tinkle. I hope you can recognize just how much you are managing. How much you are accomplishing from sun up to sun down. You are a warrior, but even Wonder Woman gets burnt to a crisp. As strong as you are, you have to take care of yourself too. The best part is that everyday is a new day and everyday is a new start. You got this!

So to answer that silly question, YES you are a good mom. You are a rockstar. You are enough. You are a living Wonder Woman. You just need a little me time to accomplish it all. The next time you even think of questioning yourself, just remember – we all get burnt out and that it is okay and tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start. Motherhood is weird, it has so many ups but also so many downs. It’s raw, but you hold it all together like the stickiest super glue. You are a great mom!

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Rachel is a wife and SAHM of two, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. She loves baking, gardening and all things DIY. She enjoys writing about life with 2 kids under 2, the stresses the NICU has on mothers and the ups and downs of her breastfeeding journey. Learn more about her here!