How to Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last

I am finally writing this post (which has been on my agenda for some time) having just had a day that would not qualify as a good “last day” full of happiness. Life is like that though. Despite your best intentions, sometimes days are just tough.

However, I  am not losing heart. I am owning this day and chalking it up as a retry. Tomorrow will be better. I will be more pleasant, I will have a better attitude, and I will exercise more patience. Each of us only has the one life (you know the one) and for the most part, what we do and how we act is up to us. Happiness is a choice.

I feel like it is easy to put your life on hold. To always be waiting for something that will make you happy. I will be happy when I get married…I will be happy when I get pregnant…I will be happy when I land my dream job…etc. Why is it so hard for each of us to just be happy now?

I want you to take a second and imagine what you would do if you knew it was your last day to live (pause for think time.) Would you choose happiness on your last day? (If you are the type of person who would choose panic over happiness this is not the post for you.)

If you are anything like me, your day would be full of happiness. It would include things like time with family, good food, some bucket list items, and reflection.

With those things in mind, here are my six ways to live each day like it is your last, be a happier parent/person, and not go broke.

Spend Your Time and Attention Wisely

This first one is all about priorities. Unless Facebook is your one true love, it probably wouldn’t be high on the list of things to do on your last day on earth. Each day should be at least roughly prioritized in order of importance. Is it more important to visit a friend or do the laundry (the answer to this question may not be the same each day). Just make sure that you focus on the things that are the most important first.

Plan Something Into Your Day That Will Make You Happy

There are a lot of things that make me happy. I love to leave the house. Exercising makes me feel good. I love to create things, watch movies, read books, learn new things, spend time with people I love. . . There are a lot of options. If you make time for at least one thing that makes you happy each day then you will inevitably be happier and more pleasant to be around. Your children will thank you.

As a side note: plan for the big stuff (bucket list items) so that you can make those happen too. Save money for your trip to Italy. Pick a day to go skydiving. Etc.

Spend Time With Someone You Love

I would bet that earlier, (when I asked you to think about how you would spend your time if you knew you were living your last day) someone specific came to mind. Someone you love, someone you need to reconcile with, someone you have not seen for a long time…In order to live each day like it is our last, we need to include the people who matter on a day-to-day basis. You never know when someone will be gone (in one way or another) so it is important to take advantage of whatever time you do have.

Eat Something Delicious

I freakin love food. My waistline can testify to the fact. I think that there is a fine line between eating healthy and going crazy. Life is too short to not eat the food you love,  try new things, and eat decadent desserts. However, you don’t have to overeat. One or two bites of a really good dessert. A bacon cheeseburger once a month. A fruit you love. Just make sure that you include something delicious in your meal plan each day.

Do Something For Someone Else

Service is kind of magical. When you take a minute to help someone else you take a step outside of yourself and your own immediate needs. This grants you gratitude, clarity, understanding, and love for your fellow men. We truly end up loving those we serve. So, doing something for someone else each day not only makes us happier, it also brings more people into our lives to love.

Enjoy The Small Things

Take time each day to just enjoy the mundane. Look at the blessings you are surrounded by and be grateful for them. Enjoy the running water, playing with your baby, a machine that literally washes your clothes, the opportunity to read, multiple grocery stores to buy food from, a brain that works, a job, free time… Whatever your daily life brings you, take a minute to find the positive and enjoy it. Be happy for the now.

Make Peace With God

If I could pick my time of death, it would be during church. I am usually at my best when I am at church (not that I am not good the rest of the time, but when I am at church I am on my absolute best behavior). That is crazy. The odds that I will die at church are like one to 61. That being the case, it only makes sense for me to be on my best behavior all of the time. Pray regularly, study my scriptures, repent, be kind to others, etc.

I know I would prepare to meet God if I knew it was happening on a certain day but it should be enough to just know that it will happen eventually. Like I said last week. Preparation is our best protection.

Anyway, these are my six ways to live each day like it is your last. Most of them don’t cost a dime (unless you have super expensive hobbies and tastes) so completing them won’t mess with your budget. They will also make you a happier person and a better parent. Who doesn’t want that?

What would you add to this list? How do you live each day like it is your last?

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15 Kid Friendly Destinations in Salt Lake City

Let me start by saying that I was never one to actively look for destinations in Salt Lake City, even though it is like 10 minutes from my house, until I was a stay at home mom. Then, suddenly I wanted to be outside doing stuff rather than on my couch watching Netflix (which is all I ever wanted to do after teaching for ten hours a day).

So, after my son turned one and was a little bit more fun to take on adventures, my husband and I started looking for kid-friendly destinations in Salt Lake City. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Groupon for a *Salt Lake Connect Pass which has enabled us to go to all kinds of new places this year without breaking the bank.

So, if you find yourself wanting some adventure in your life or if you are planning a trip to SLC, then check out these destinations! My list starts at the center of the city and moves outwards. I have put * next to the places that are on the connect pass.

-As a side note, kids under two are free at many of these places so if, like me, you have a one-year-old, now is the time to try them and see what is worth going back to later.

Temple Square

City Creek Center

  • Address: 50 Main St. Salt Lake City, UT 84150
  • This is an outdoor/indoor mall and is free to visit. It has a creek running throughout and is the home to many shops, restaurants, and retailers. It is directly across the street from Temple Square and is easily accessible by Trax.
  • Huge underground parking complex that is free for the first two hours (2017).
  • List of Restaurants
  • List of Stores
  • My one-year-old’s favorite things are the centrally located splash pad and fountain, walking along the indoor creek, getting a free balloon from the Nordstrom’s kid section, and crossing the covered see-through bridge from one side of the street to the other.

*Discovery Gateway

  • Address: 444 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT, 84101
  • Admission and Parking Information
  • This place is perfect for kids. My one-year-old loved it but so did my fourth and fifth graders. There are several sections of the museum and many learning through play opportunities.

*Clark Planetarium

  • Address: 110 S 400 W, Salt Lake City, UT, 84101
  • Admission and Parking Information
  • This one is a bit over the head of my one-year-old but he does like to wander around and look at the different exhibits.

Memory Grove Park

  • Address: 300 North Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
  • No admission this is a city owned park.
  • This park is kind of famous for being ideal for photography. It has a beautiful stream, greenery, pillars, scenic buildings, etc.
  • My one-year-old mostly likes to walk through it and look at the water. But it is a great scenic area for a walk and/or a picnic.

Utah State Capitol

  • Address: 350 North State Street, 120 State Capitol, Salt Lake City, UT 84114
  • This is a public building so there are no admissions, however, if you want to see everything, you may want to book a tour.
  • Parking Information
  • I have not taken my one-year-old here yet but have visited many times with my family and students. Depending on the age of your kids, you may want to prep them with a virtual tour or an activity sheet to help them get more out of being there.
  • For older kids (and adults) I highly recommend visiting while the legislature is in session.

*The Leonardo

  • Address: 209 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
  • Admissions and Parking Information
  • I personally found the website for the Leo super confusing but it has been one of my favorite places to visit. It is perfect for adults and kids older than two or three. I did not take my one-year-old when we went there and I thought that that was a good call.
  • Just know that the many of the exhibits change regularly, most of the museum is very interactive, and there are often extra things going on (I participated in a pie eating contest when I was there). So, check out the calendar on their website so you can pick a day that you want to go.

Liberty Park

  • Address: 600 E 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
  • No admission to the park itself, however, there are things in the park that require money if you want to participate (Tracy Aviary, paddleboat rentals, concessions, and rides).
  • There is a lot to do and see in this 100-acre park. Some of our favorites are Tracy Aviary (see below), the playgrounds, the splash pad, the lake, and the other water features.

*Tracy Aviary

  • Address: 5 East 1300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
  • Admission Information
  • Free parking directly outside of the aviary.
  • My son loves this place but he is a little bit obsessed with birds. There is a fun bird show (about 30 minutes), several indoor exhibits, and many outdoor areas as well, there is also a playground and a river. This is definitely worth going to if you have small bird lovers.
  • Wednesdays are usually free in the winter months but check before you go.

*Red Butte Gardens

  • Address: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
  • Admission Information
  • Free Parking right outside the entrance
  • We love just walking through the gardens, they are spacious, gorgeous, and full of water features, plants, flowers, and animals (specifically fish, squirrels, chipmunks, and birds, though I once saw a bobcat).
  • There are many paved trails but there are also areas that look more like real mountain trails. You can also walk back into the canyon or play in the water features in the children’s garden.
  • Information on Summer Concerts at Red Butte

*Natural History Museum of Utah

  • Address: 301 Wakara Way (literally right next to Red Butte Gardens), Salt Lake City, UT 84108
  • Admission Information
  • Free Parking and Overflow Parking
  • Content/exhibit wise this museum is great for older kids and adults. However, my baby loved walking through it and seeing the fake animals, dinosaur bones, and other exhibits. He also enjoyed digging for bones, playing in the erosion tank, and exploring the children’s room on the bottom floor.
  • As a side note, there is access to the Bonneville Shoreline trail right outside of the museum. If the weather is good and you are prepared it can provide a nice walk or hike. The Living Room trail is quite popular.

*This is the Place Heritage Park

  • Address: 2601 E Sunnyside Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
  • Admission Information
  • Free parking
  • This place offers many activities and a lot of historical experiences including a treasure house,  pony rides, train rides, hiking, a Native American village, and more. My one year old liked walking the streets and seeing the animals.

*Hogle Zoo

  • Address: 2600 Sunnyside Avenue (across the street from Heritage Park), Salt Lake City, UT 84108
  • Admission Information
  • I am not personally a fan of zoos but my little boy loves them. This zoo is not super huge but it is big enough to explore for several hours depending on how much time you spend on each animal.
  • During the winter it usually offers free days if you are willing to bundle your little guys up and brave the cold. In the past, they have been the last Wednesdays of November, December, January, and February but you will want to look that up before you go.

Seven Peaks

  • Address: 1200 W 1700 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84104
  • Admissions Information but if you are going to go more than once then just jump through the hoops and get a Pass of all Passes. These can often be purchased for even less if you go through third party websites like Groupon or CityDeals and use current coupon codes which are easy to google (valpak often works on CityDeals).
  • A parking pass costs 10-20 dollars depending on where you purchase it. However, there is a public park across the street (no crosswalk). Do with that information what you will.
  • This park is a bit of a mess. As an adult, I looked at it and thought that it was in pretty sad shape. As a kid, I didn’t notice any of the less desirable qualities and thought it was awesome. My one-year-old loves playing in the kiddy area and the wave pool and the lazy river. He thinks it is a great time and with the Pass of all Passes we can just go for an hour or two and not feel bad, I think it is cheaper than most rec centers.
  • They do have a no food policy and charge for tube rentals. My advice would be to go with very low standards and know that your kids will probably have a great time.

 

Whew, that’s my list. It is by no means a comprehensive list but it does comprise all of the kid-friendly destinations in Salt Lake City that I can personally vouch for.

*The Connect Pass includes several other destinations not in Salt Lake City but in Salt Lake County. The ones on my list are all within the city itself.

My question for you is, what family friendly activities would you add to my Salt Lake City list?

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Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms: The First 4 Months

As a brand new mom, I didn’t have time for any of my former hobbies. I was too busy trying to decide whether I should sleep, eat, or shower because only one, or if I was lucky, one and a half of those things was going to get accomplished.

Going from a full-time job and enough free time to pursue the things that I enjoyed, to being barely able to shower was a something like a slap in the face. My hobby list pre-kid included things like painting and hiking and traveling. My hobby list with a newborn was sleeping, eating, and getting clothes on. Seriously, I didn’t even wear a shirt some days what with the never ending breastfeeding (see my post on that here).

The loss of freedom, me-time, and hobbies made the first three months of my son’s life some of the hardest of my life. Now, looking back, and reflecting on what I have learned about being a successful stay-at-home-parent, I know that it is important to take care of yourself.

That being said, my hobbies probably won’t be what they once were for many years. I can no longer leave my paint out for weeks at a time or hike whenever I feel like it or drive down south out of the blue. However, just because they won’t be the same as they were, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still important.

The list below comprises five hobbies that even brand new, sleep deprived, overloaded, parents can do to get some “me-time”.

Easy Brand New Parent Hobby Ideas

Read

I hadn’t ever used my tablet like a book until I was nursing. It was far easier to prop it up and turn the light down while I tried to learn how to breastfeed than an actual book would have been. I got reading material by installing the Kindle app on my device and signing up for Book Bub to get free and discounted books. The quality of what I read went down a bit because I wasn’t able to read anything very deep in my slightly comatose state. But, I was still able to live someone else’s life for small snippets of each day giving me some “me-time” even whilst a small human was attached to me.

Another way to get e-books is to look into what your library system offers. The Salt Lake County Library System uses an app called Overdrive that can be used in conjunction with your library card number to check out e-books. (Many libraries use this app.)

Walk

The first few months after baby are tough on your body. There is a lot of recovery happening as well as a lot of being a milk factory (if you choose to breastfeed) or turning off the milk factory (if you don’t choose to breastfeed). Walking, for, me, was an easy way to ease back into some kind of workout and routine. I use the word routine loosely because for us it just meant we walked in the morning after one of L’s feedings (roughly between 9 and 12).

I walked with him in the sling and in the car seat/stroller combo business. I started out going around the block, then two blocks, and so on until I could walk without hurting. I  stayed very close to my house at first in case we needed to head home for either of us.

I just walked by myself for the most part and sometimes that was great. Fresh air and peace are very rejuvenating. But, in retrospect, I wish I would have occasionally used the time to listen to talks or books or to call a friend. Walking with another actual person is great too, if that is an option for you, I highly recommend it.

Learn

If you are like me and always like to be learning something new, use the time you have nursing or pumping to learn an entirely new skill. I have found Lynda.com to be a great place to study new material. The site has courses available on many subjects and can help you continue to develop new skills in your sleep deprived state. The site does cost money but if you live in Salt Lake County, you can sign up for a library card through the Salt Lake City Library and get free access to the site. I suggest looking into the photography courses because you now have an excellent subject to work with.

Other learning options I have enjoyed are:

  • Free College Courses are offered at various places on the internet. They don’t give you college credit but they do give you college knowledge. Edex.org is a good place to start.
  • E-Courses. Pick a subject, google “subject” e-course and you will have plenty to choose from. Some are free some are not.
  • Informative Blogs (there is a blog for everything). If you like knitting find a knitting blog, if you want to be more fiscally responsible there is a blog for that. Find a good one and start learning.

Cook

When I got married I couldn’t cook a thing. Learning to make food was just not a high priority for me ever. I don’t know why . . . I love to eat. After I got married I mastered casseroles (which I later found out my husband just barely tolerated). I slowly got better over the next five years but have improved drastically since I had my baby. I figured I was home and making food anyway so I might as well make it good. I started using Pinterest like a recipe book and learned how to make a ton of new meals.

Experimenting and cooking more regularly has also come with the added benefit of making me more comfortable overall in the kitchen. I’m not scared of raw meat anymore and I can look at the food in the fridge and figure something out every time.

Watch TV

If your brain is too tired to learn something new, which makes a lot of sense, picking a tv show to help you through the hard months might be a viable option. I am not generally a big tv person. We have cable and it isn’t even hooked up. When I was nursing though, I watched a couple of different shows that helped me survive the transition to mommyhood. TV was another one of those things I could do that didn’t require much brain power or effort but still helped me get a little bit outside of myself. My personal favorites are Psych, White Collar, and Boy Meets World . . . for reals.

Please comment below about hobbies that you would recommend for brand new parents.

The links in this post are not affiliate links as of June 2017. They are links to products and services I used and enjoyed.

 

 

Outdoor Activities for Indoor People

I love the outdoors but I know, hard as it may be to believe, that there are people out there who don’t. A few years ago I was teaching a youth group and we were setting goals. I remember being slightly shocked that one of the summer goals I saw was “go outside sometimes”.

Sometimes? I am outside as often as I can be. This business of having it be a goal sometimes was new territory. So, I started thinking, what are some of the things that keep people inside versus outside? Regulated air temperature? Entertainment? No decent ideas for outdoor activities? The fridge? General convenience?

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Okay, there is a lot to be said for just staying inside. But there are benefits of being outside as well. Exposure to sunlight. Fresh air. Time to think and disengage from all of the inside obligations. Enjoyable exercise (for those of us who struggle with the gym). Beauty . . .Well, hopefully. I admit I am spoiled when it comes to natural grandeur or even just grace. Utah is gorgeous.

Anyway, I have put together a list of activities that provide outdoor people and indoor people a chance to meet one another. (Since it is possible that they have only met in places like the grocery store where everyone must go to buy chocolate.)

Outdoor Movies

The Salt Lake area is especially good at outdoor movies. Individual cities and resorts show them throughout the Summer. Indoor people get their entertainment and their food and outdoor people get their fresh air and sunlight (if they go early enough for the sun to be out). See the list for Salt Lake area movies for 2017

See a list of outdoor movies for the Salt Lake area (2017) here.

Reading

Admittedly this isn’t a great way to meet people, but it is still a good indoor activity that can be done outside. It can be simple. Take your lemonade and book out on your deck or porch or into your backyard. It can be a little bit adventurous. Try a park bench or take a blanket with you and find a nice spot. It can be rejuvenating. Take your book and hammock and head for the mountains.

Games

If you are an indoor person, there is a good chance that the type of game you enjoy has something to do with an electronic device, so bear with me. Yard games can be just as fun and they allow you the opportunity to engage with other people (most of them are not as fun when played alone). Heck, they don’t even have to be yard games. You could take a deck of cards outside and call it a yard game. Either way, games outside equal entertainment, socializing, fresh air, and sunshine.

Barbeques

One of the first things we did when we got our house was put a fire pit in our backyard. It is one of my favorite parts of Summer. We love to invite old friends and potential new friends over to roast hot dogs, eat Dutch oven food, enjoy smores, and talk. Often, we do the same things up the canyon . And on those days when we don’t want to start a fire, we just use the regular old BBQ. Regardless of the food eaten or the method it is made, there is still food and fresh air and fun.

Swimming/Sunbathing

I am not really into tanning, I want my super paleness to stay cancer free. However, I still enjoy being in the sun in my SPF 50+. An outdoor pool or lake is a great place to get those rays. It also provides the opportunity for exercise, socializing, play, and fresh. . .ish air.

So this summer, make sure you get some green time into each day if you can. I firmly believe that being outside is good for the soul.

What are your favorite low-key outdoor activities during the hot summer months?

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Five Ways to Get Exercise With a Toddler (Who Loves the Outdoors)

The other night, my son woke up screaming at about 10:30 pm. Now, sleep training and crying it out are a whole other matter that I will get into later. Suffice it to say we fall into an in-between camp and pay close attention to what his crying sounds like. We always go comfort him when it is his panic or pain cry. This was his panic cry, which we have come to guess coincides with nightmares (it is very distinct), so I went. He put his arms around my neck and sighed and started speaking rapid baby to me.

 

I wasn’t smart enough to teach him sign language early on, so our communication consists mostly of the word da (with various emphasis and intonations) and lots of pointing and hand gestures. This usually works well enough but exhausted charades in the dark was a bit too much for both of us. He was sobbing again before I realized that what he wanted was not his stuffed animal, or a story, or a bottle . . . he just wanted to go outside.

I tried to explain to him that it was dark and that it was night time but he just pointed at the window and cried. It was at that moment that his Daddy came in and realized what it was he wanted. Before I knew it, he was being wrapped in a big blanket and Nick was taking him out the door. The three of us ended up on a short walk around the block in our pajamas.

Being outdoors has long been a source of comfort for him and he calmed down significantly on our short nighttime adventure. When we got home, he gave us each a hug and went right back to sleep.

My point is, my toddler loves being outdoors. I am incredibly grateful that the thought of going outside brings him comfort and happiness because I am the same way. This being said, we have been experimenting with safe activities that allow us both to be outside to get exercise and fresh air.

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Hiking

I am blessed to live in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and we take advantage of that gift at every opportunity. I wrote a post about what I learned hiking with my baby and most of it still applies to a toddler. But let me tell you, hiking with a toddler is so much more fun. I love watching his eyes light up when he sees new places and things. He loves to throw rocks in the water, watch animals, collect sticks, and touch trees.

In order to help us both get our exercise and outside time, I hike for a mile or two then let him out of the carrier to explore.  The key to a successful toddler hike (in my mind) is three-fold. I get exercise, he gets exercise, we both have fun.

Notice, I didn’t say we make it a specific destination. Pinning your hopes of waterfall grandeur on a toddler is not wise. Hike for the journey, not the destination.

Biking

Before I got pregnant, I used to ride my bike all over. However, after months of puking and no exercise, I had to give it up for a bit. Then I had the baby and surprise . . . babies can’t ride bikes or even sit in bike trailers right away. Then it was winter. So, now that he is 14 months old we are starting our rides.

He loves feeling the breeze and watching the nature right outside of the trailer and he keeps himself busy eating snacks and reading books while I ride. Each time we go, I try to make the halfway point a park. That way he can get out and run around and play before heading back. Once again, we both get exercise and enjoy the outing.

Walking

I know, pretty basic, but sometimes it is all we have time for. Hiking and biking both require a certain amount of preparation and a larger time commitment. Walking just requires some tennis shoes and the stroller. We like to go early (by early I mean before noon) when it isn’t too hot. I try to walk all of the blocks near my house so that we are never too far from home should an emergency arise.

I let him get his exercise either at the park as our halfway point while I stretch. Or in our backyard when we get home.

 

Gardening

My son loves our yard and will run through our juniper trees with his rake for hours while I get everything weeded and cut. If you are thinking to yourself that gardening does not count as a workout, then you are not doing nearly as many squats as you could be while weeding. I just figure since I am already bending over to pull weeds, I might as well do squats and stretches. Gardening often leaves me more sore than any of the other activities.

Playing

Okay, here me out. This, like gardening, is not a workout in the traditional sense of the word. But it can definitely provide some exercise. When I stop worrying about being an adult and play with my son (be it at a park, in our yard, on the hike, in the garden, in the basement, whatever,) I find I am exhausted.

Playing with a one-year-old requires lots of running and crawling and lifting and stretching. A good half hour session of free play burns calories and builds relationships.

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How do you exercise with your toddler?

 

5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

My stay-at-home mom journey started about a year ago. It feels like yesterday that I left my empty end of year classroom for the last time. I had already packed everything up and hauled it out. My baby was 3 months old and I was just there to finish up the year and say my goodbyes. The summer loomed ahead of me and I was both dreading and excited for it.


 

The Transition

After having been a parent for three months I knew that parenting was harder than I had anticipated. I distinctly recall thinking that it would be so nice when I didn’t have to wake up at 7:00 and go to work. For some reason, I had it in my head that I would be able to sleep in and play with my cute baby at my leisure. . . I was clueless.

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After three months of maternity leave, I knew that being a parent was harder than being a teacher (and teaching is mentally and emotionally exhausting). In fact, being a full-time, stay-at-home mom was hands down the most difficult job that I had ever had. Breastfeeding was awful (see my story here), I was never off the clock, I hadn’t slept for more than four consecutive hours in months, I felt like nothing ever got accomplished anymore, my cute little baby wouldn’t play at all (let alone at my leisure), and I felt like I was disappearing.

Teaching included a lot of 10 hour days, extra meetings, planning, preparation, and pressure from everyone (students, parents, administration, legislature, etc.) . . . but it gave me sense of purpose. It was also easy to look at a day of teaching and see what had been accomplished. Furthermore, I got to sleep at night. For me, sleep seemed to be key to my well-being.

As I closed the door to my classroom that last time, I wondered if my new job was going to kill me. Going from full-time teacher to full-time mom permanently had suddenly become a very daunting task.

The Secrets to Success

Success is defined by many people in many ways. My definition of success coincides closely with my family’s health and happiness. That includes me. I have been home for over a year now and through a lot of trial and error (and exhaustion, and tears, and loneliness) I have figured out five things that keep me sane, make me happy, and leave me feeling successful.

1. Take Care of Yourself

This is a difficult task physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is often physically difficult to leave your baby if you are breastfeeding and most of your free-time tends to go towards things like sleeping, eating and showering. Mentally the days and nights blur together and it’s hard to think outside of the necessities. Emotionally, it’s easy to feel guilty for even thinking about putting something you want or need to do above something your baby or family needs.

It wasn’t until about four months in that I realized I needed to do something that was genuinely for me. Hiking was what I missed the most, so asked my mother-in-law to babysit so I could go to my mountains. IT WAS REJUVENATING. When I got back after the two or three hours, I was ready to be the mom again. I missed my baby, I suddenly had some energy to spare, and I was happy.

The saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, is so very true. It’s okay to leave your baby somewhere safe and take care of yourself sometimes. My mother-in-law graciously offered to watch my son at the same time every week. My husband agreed to go to work early every Thursday. Both, so that I could do what I needed to do for me (hike). I look forward to those four hours all week and boy can I tell if I don’t get them. I know that I am a better mom and wife when I take some time to do the things I love.

2. Create a Schedule (But be Ready to be Flexible)

The combination of not having to get up and be somewhere at a specific time every day and a tiny human who does whatever he wants whenever he wants can really throw a person off. A few weeks into Mommyhood, I sat down and wrote out a very ambitious weekly schedule for myself. It was a very teacher-y thing to do. I had my days planned down to the hour and more goals than I probably could have accomplished in a month at that stage. I realized fairly quickly that that wouldn’t work and came up with a simpler system. I have one BIG goal each day and two to-do lists.

My big goals repeat weekly so that we both have consistency. My first to-do list is full of things that I need to do each day.  The second to-do list is full of things I would like to do if I manage to find some time. I keep all three lists in the same app on my phone and check them off as I go.

I love a good checklist. Something about watching an item disappear when I check the box gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Some of the things I check off each day are fairly basic. BUT I STILL DID THEM.

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Some days are super successful and I make it several items into my second to-do list. Some days I throw everything to the wind and do something spontaneous (there are some perks to being a stay-at-home parent). Other days I can’t even accomplish my one big goal. Regardless of the daily success or lack thereof, the lists and basic schedule help me use the time I do have to do the things I want to do.

3. See Other People

After my husband went back to work, the loneliness set in quickly. It was just me and this tiny guy who didn’t do much of anything for hours and hours and hours. Most of my friends were at work and I felt really alone. I spent a lot of time waiting for five to roll around and my husband to be home.

Eventually, I decided that I needed to find ways to get out and find people to talk to. (so what if the people I was most comfortable with were still working a nine to five?) I started by visiting my parents and in-laws. Next, I planned play dates with my friends who did have kids. Then, I started going to library storytimes and group activities. Later, I started my own play group and found some community service to participate in. It has taken time and effort, but I have found that finding ways to be around people is super important for my mental health. 

4. Listen Politely to the (crazy) Advice that You Get . . . Then Decide What Works for Your Family

I have heard a lot of different advice. Some of it has kept me up nights because it made me feel like I was parenting wrong. Some of it was exactly what I needed to hear. People tend to mean well and assume that what worked for them will work for you. That may or may not be true. Only you can figure that out.

Remember that regardless of what your best friend’s sister or second cousin insists upon, you have to do what works for your family. That will probably take some guessing, research, and more than one attempt but you will figure it out. There is no perfect way to be a stay-at-home mom.

5. Don’t Ever Forget the Reason that You Decided to Stay Home in the First Place

It is terribly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day craziness that is the life of a stay-at-home parent. It is also easy to become disenchanted with the monotony of the everyday routine. Do yourself a favor and take time each day to remember why you are home.

For me, that reason was that I wanted the opportunity to be the one who raised my son. I wanted to be his teacher and his exploring partner and his soft place to land. When I take the time to think about my original goals, the hard parts of staying home suddenly seem worth it.

 

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What are your reasons for becoming a stay-at-home parent? Or, what is your best advice for a new stay-at-home mom?

8 Things I Learned Hiking With My Baby

 

Before becoming a stay at home mom I was a teacher. Now, I truly loved the school year and all that came with it (most of the time) but even more than that, I loved the summer. June, July, and August are great reasons to teach. Pre-baby, I would spend my summers hiking and biking and reading. After I had L, I didn’t want too much to change in the way of adventures. I took him on his first hike at five weeks old (end of April) and we haven’t really stopped since. Here are eight things I have learned about hiking with a baby (5 weeks – 12 months).

Take someone with you. 

I have probably taken L on over 30 hikes in his first year of life and I have only ever done three alone. Taking a willing buddy makes everything from moving the baby, to changing a diaper, to carrying all the baby gear easier.

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Breastfeed if possible.

Now I know I have a whole post about how I hate breastfeeding but hiking is one of the few times when I wished I was better at it. There is nothing like hauling bottles around in your backpack especially if they are full of pre-pumped breastmilk. Depending on your hike, your baby will drink butter if you aren’t careful. That being said, I did haul bottles around because I was terrible at breastfeeding.

Pack milk carefully with an ice pack and bring more than you think you will need.

In order to avoid the aforementioned butter, pack milk carefully. If it is breast milk, I suggest bringing at least two bottles in an insulated bag with an ice pack. Formula is much easier to pack than breast milk. Just have your bottles of water ready to go and have the formula premeasured. I love these containers for formula.

Baby Needs Shade

This may seem obvious but I am a bad mom and didn’t even think about it the first time. When I asked my pediatrician how much I could have L outside and what precautions to take, he told me, “as much as you want but make sure he is covered”, not in sunscreen, mind you, but in material and shade if possible. So, L usually hiked in a bucket hat and his light cotton PJ’s because they covered everything but his neck and hands (it is really hard to keep the bottom of a baby leg covered when they are in a front facing carrier). I also slathered him in sunscreen, after making sure his skin had no reaction to it, before and during every hike (especially his hands, neck, and face).

Use Hiking Poles

I was never one for hiking poles and didn’t start using them until I tripped while wearing L. I was lucky and tripped on nothing on a completely flat trail and nobody got hurt. But had I tripped twenty minutes earlier it could have been bad. Ever since that day I have hiked with poles because it just isn’t worth falling. Wearing a baby that moves of his on volition can throw off your balance.

Have a Comfortable Carrier

This one is so important. Use a comfortable carrier. I know some people love slings but I really don’t and I wanted something a little tougher for hiking. I think that because I am a hiker, I prefer to have the weight on my hips, not my shoulders. So, I did my research and found one that I thought would work for me. Admittedly, the one I got was kind of difficult to use when L was a little floppy newborn (I still don’t know if that was me or the carrier though). It did work, however, and I have absolutely loved it ever since he got to the point where he could hold his own head up. He is 32 inches tall now and I’m not sure how much longer it will work but it is still comfortable and we both like it. Anyway, do your research and find one that works for you. (Borrow some from mom friends first to see what you like.)

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Pick an Amount of Time to Hike Not a Place to Get To

Not only does picking an amount of time help you pack better but it allows for flexibility. Hiking with a baby requires a lot of flexibility and patience. So instead of deciding that you will make it to the top of a mountain, decide that you will hike for two hours. This allows for stretching breaks and diaper changes and tree touching (Link loves to touch all the trees)  without the fear of not meeting a goal.  It’s okay to have fun, introduce your baby to nature and take it slowly if you need to. Just remember that your baby might have different plans than you do. They might not want to make it to the top of the mountain or even make it for your planned two hours.

What to Take for Baby

I know it is hard to pack your own stuff and your baby’s stuff. Even if you have a willing helper who carries everything it’s hard to know what to take. The things I have found necessary for baby on a relatively short (1-3 hours) day hike after this first year are as follows:

  • Diapers and wipes: determine how long you will be gone and figure out how many diapers you will likely need, then take at least two more. Sitting in a carrier for too long against your sweaty body can irritate your baby’s skin, you don’t want them getting a diaper rash as well. Be brave and change them on the hike.
  • A spare set of clothing (or an extra pair of pajamas): L has completely peed and/or pooped out his clothing no fewer than four times on hikes. Something about that spread eagle position makes blowouts more common.
  • Food (bottles or boobies): see above.
  • Burp cloth: I always take two and tuck one behind him and one in front of him in the carrier. This protects me in case of a blowout and gives him something to suck on. Your baby might not want to suck on the front of the carrier but mine sure does. They also come in handy for other things (see swaddle blanket).
  • Sunscreen: I put the baby sunscreen in a travel size container and we both wear it.
  • A light swaddle blanket: These don’t add a lot of weight but they are super useful. I have used one as a changing pad, extra shade, extra warmth, a pillow, a prop for pictures, and we even stuffed one into the leg of his jammies to keep him warm after he peed once and we didn’t have extra clothes.
  • A jacket: I usually take a larger jacket for me and zip us both in.  During the last couple of months of his first year, I brought him a jacket each time as well.
  • Snacks: I didn’t need much in the way of snacks for L until about 11 months. He preferred the bottles on hikes. Know your own baby.

I would love to hear anything that you have learned hiking with your baby. Comment below with your own hiking tips!

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