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Admittedly, I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog.

Over the last year, there’s been an inward focus and I’ve dedicated time and energy to better understand what happiness means to me. I have not arrived at a concrete answer but I have discovered what brings me joy and what drains my energy. This list is under the lens of self-discovery (not intended to be preachy!). On my 34th birthday, I’m giving myself permission to reflect and maybe get a little sentimental. If you’re in that mood too, read on!

 

  1. Life is precious.
  2. Prioritize priorities.
  3. Raising a little kid and a big kid is a challenge and a joy.
  4. Taking trips with girlfriends is always worth the logistics and time.
  5. Change is a constant.
  6. We don’t need any more things.
  7. Understanding different perspectives on motherhood is humbling.
  8. Having a strong point of view takes guts.
  9. Having a strong point of view and an open mind makes a lot of things easier.
  10. Food is medicine.
  11. A month without coffee isn’t so bad.
  12. We are all stronger than we think we are.
  13. Always accept hand-me-downs.
  14. There are many definitions of minimalist.
  15. I’d like to be a minimalist.
  16. Green smoothies are a great way start to the day.
  17. Bloody Mary’s are a great way to start the day.
  18. Podcasts are a great way to start the day (and pass the time when cleaning).
  19. I scroll on my phone way too much.
  20. But I just love @picturesoftext on Insta so much.
  21. Running is still really hard.
  22. There is no finish line.
  23. I’m probably more of an introvert than I think I am.
  24. Learning my husband’s MBTI type was eye-opening.
  25. Flowers from Trader Joes are a good investment.
  26. Cheese from Trader Joes is a no brainer.
  27. Getting older isn’t that scary.
  28. Buying stuff doesn’t make me feel happy.
  29. But planning purchases does.
  30. Date nights on the couch with fancy takeout are actually fun.
  31. You’ll never be wrong by trusting your parenting instincts.
  32. In yoga, going upside down is really fun.
  33. Trusting myself to go upside down is really hard.
  34. Finding the root cause is more fulfilling than constantly searching for a band-aid.

Cheers!

Pivot

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This space has gathered a fair amount of dust over the last few months. It would be easy to say that life is busy and I simply can’t find the time to write and share. Truth is, Happy by Design’s mantra hasn’t aligned with my life stage since midway through my second pregnancy. My son Louie just turned one so, yeah, that’s a lot of dust-gathering.

During intense seasons of motherhood, I essentially – and unintentionally – lean back, shut down and outsource. For me, it’s not the time to pursue passions or try something new. I attempted to get into weaving small wall hangings during pregnancy, in order to give my eyes a break from one of the multiple screens. Patience was thin, the DIY loom had issues and work always won.

Our family had to shift to make space for our son, Louie, and I unknowingly took a break maximizing, foraging ahead and trying anything new. Rather, I looked inward and focused on the essentials to keep the family afloat.

So, now what? It’s been a few months since the fog has lifted and, dare I say, it feels like there’s a regular cadence to our life.

My first pregnancy led me to create a personal blog where I tracked my daughter’s progress and confirmed that parenting cliches are indeed true. It was a space for me to share the “firsts” with family and friends and process my thoughts through writing.

Happy by Design was created because we had an itch we wanted to scratch, to explore other things that fill our hearts in addition to parenthood – our careers and health. But here’s the thing, those three topics: motherhood, career and health – they are not on the same playing field. Although training for a race, by nature, requires discipline, mental toughness and running shoes; motherhood is MOTHERHOOD and requires all of you. It’s an art, not science – and art gets messy. 

Today, Happy by Design means living an intentional life that includes big plans and mini-milestones: house projects, travel, community with a few personal and professional goals (vague enough?). What I’m getting at is this site will go on with thoughts on motherhood, wellness and DIY home improvements attempts.

Are you wondering, “What about Jamie?” We are fierce friends and our writing pursuits led us in different directions. Her space is about her thoughts and pursuits in writing, reading, career and life. I highly recommend checking it out and subscribing to her updates. I’m not just saying this because she’s one of my closest friends but her point of view is always spot-on, interesting and hilarious.

I’m thrilled to restart this little engine and refuel it regularly. However, if I need to hit the pause button and this space ends up in the repair shop, once again; thanks for understanding because, life!

The Fog

Ingrid and Louie

 

Over the holidays, my one of my girlfriends took me and the kids out to lunch. I was attempting to eat while holding Louie and had not perfected the “Mom juggle.” Moms who can effortlessly balance their forks, cocktail and children are like narwhals to me – unreal but they somehow still exist. She offered to take him off of my hands and pay for lunch. I politely declined. She insisted, took Louie and made an off-hand comment that I was “still in the fog.”

That comment stuck with me and provided me with perspective. Much-needed perspective. I have this unrealistic expectation I should be back to my normal weight, the house should be a certain way, my meals should be a certain way, my marriage should be a certain way. Self-induced pressures and anxiety, for no real reason.

As a new mom of two, the message from family, friends and society is clear: do not worry about the house, the laundry, meals or your weight. So-and-so and this-and-that will come naturally. Take it easy, let yourself get back to normal.

Lovely idea in theory but we need clothes, meals and a functioning home. That, and, societies expectations don’t align with the messaging.

Returning to work, by definition, gets you out of that new baby mode. There are positives, it’s good for getting out of yoga pants, routines are established. Things that would have fallen into place organically. Probably when my son started sleeping through the night, which happened a few short weeks ago.

So, what’s the fog? A compounding cycle of lack of sleep, long hours at work, quick meals, repeat. It’s tough.

To say it’s tough, is tough.

We’re forced back to work while we’re still in the fog. And that, not sleepless nights, is the real challenge.

We as a nation need to have kindness for new families. Everyone in the family needs to have kindness with each other, as a new baby is stressful for all. You need time as a family to become a new unit.

Think about how you welcome a new houseguest. Make sure they have fresh sheets, pick up their favorite cereal, they visit, pack up and head home. As a new parent you’re making room in the house and having hundreds of boring, necessary conversations. Conversations about where to store the bottles and “Do we have enough bouncers?” I still don’t know. All of that stuff becomes a conversation and everyone needs time to learn how to welcome this new house guest, permanently.

When Louie was born, he needed space we didn’t immediately have. We were a unit of three and enjoyed a flexible routine. We needed time to welcome this wonderful new being into our home wholeheartedly. This process takes time. It takes time to bond, takes time to understand his quirks, and until the ripe old age of twelve weeks, he’s a unpredictable, beautiful, needy mess. Right around the time the fog lifts, moms are forced back to work – awkward black pump bag in hand – and it’s downright laughable.

The fog needs to be recognized, realized, appreciated and valued. It does not magically drift away at six weeks, eight weeks or twelve weeks. It takes effort, time, and patience. A lot of patience and kindness.

New Baby. New Discovery.

Kids

The most stressful times in one’s life include starting a new job, moving and welcoming a new baby. Collectively, Jamie and I tackled all three over the summer. Our family welcomed little Louis Lee on August 2 – all nine pounds and two ounces. Rather than explain the lack of activity on the site, let’s dive into the joys of parenting.

Last week I listened to an interview on NPR. The host with a lovely, unique name, a requirement for all NPR hosts, was interviewing a travel journalist. The topic: career changes after having kids. I always marvel at the questions women are asked and often think “Would she dare ask this of a man?”

During the interview, the host chimed in to answer her own questions – she provided personal anecdotes about her own birth experience and maternity leave. She never thought of herself as athletic or having significant physical strength yet, after having her baby, she felt invincible. She couldn’t believe what she had accomplished. That made her wonder – what else can I do? How strong am I, really? What else can I accomplish?

Then, what happens after this monumental moment of self-discovery? Your world becomes small. Daily geography shrinks to a few rooms in your house. The focus, rightfully so, is on the baby. A very important, isolating time.

I had a C-section with my daughter and a VBAC with son. Although the experiences were vastly different, I felt the same sense of amazement and pride. My body was capable of so much more than I gave it credit for. In hindsight, that’s why I became a runner. I never considered running before having kids and told myself I wanted a quick, effective form of cardio. As I type these words I realize that’s was only one little reason. The real reason is because I finally had the confidence in my body and my mental toughness. When I’m facing a tough run or steep hill, I tell myself “You made another human. You can run up this hill.” And, it’s true. Moms do run up hills.

We research doctors, create meal plans and tour daycare centers. We write out birth plans while understanding we only have so much control. We eventually recover from pregnancy and birth. We nurse our babies. We fed our babies. We work hard to craft a life that makes us happy and fulfilled. Then we wonder, if I can do ______, what else can I do?

Nostalgia

How was your weekend? This weekend I was able to spend time with family and a few dear friends who live out of state. I rarely talk or email with these friends but our friendship runs deep and we’re able to pick up where we last left off. After a few minutes of “status updates” we’re able to laugh and say things like “you know how it is.”

This morning, Ingrid, Dan and I watched a few old homemade videos before getting out of bed. We watched Ingrid’s first steps and a silly video of Ingrid at the zoo. Then, we hit play on a video called Playdough and I completely lost it.

While I was ugly crying, Dan explained to Ingrid that I had happy tears, tears of nostalgia. Sidebar – the ponytail wasn’t doing anything.

Tonight, I’m gearing up for the series finale of Mad Men. Over the winter I re-watched the series and fell in love with Don, Rodger, Peggy, Joan and even Pete all over again. I love everything about this show – the costumes, Draper’s facial expressions, Draper’s face, the characters and the ability to keep me – the audience – on its feet. Although I’m not weeping over the show’s end (yet) I do have a twinge of nostalgia and was reminded of this famous and classic scene.

Old friends, videos of Ingrid and the series finale of Mad Men. I’m itching to make a Jeopardy joke right about now (what are “things that make me cry uncontrollably for $600?”), but instead I’ll cut this post off early and leave you with these Top 10 Quotes from Mad Men(#4).

A Very Happy Mother’s Day

This morning, I woke up to the sound of Ingrid greeting our dog Harper. She hopped out of bed and squealed “Happy Mother’s Day, Harper!” then came into our bedroom and repeated the sentiment.

We enjoyed a lazy morning followed by a trip to our favorite doughnut shop and then went clothes shopping for Ingrid. She’s growing like a weed and is on the fence between toddler and big girl sizes. Honestly, she needs clothes because I couldn’t bring myself to visit this section of Target or any sites online weeks before. I’m savoring these moments:

Ingrid ran out of paper during her "nap."

Ingrid ran out of paper during her “nap.”

Instead of focusing the moment she danced around the fitting room cheering “I look like a teenager, I’m a big girl!” in her new clothes.

Then, the baby changes positions. A reminder that I’m 28 weeks pregnant and will be doing this all over again, far too soon. It’s scary, exciting and already feels bittersweet.

This pregnancy is so much different than the first – in almost every way. Sure, I was a nauseated mess for the first four months but now, it’s almost like I’m training for the baby’s arrival. With Ingrid, I didn’t know how exactly our life would change, it ultimately changed for the better. With the anticipation of a new baby, I know the first few months will be a blur. Perhaps it’s another form of nesting, but I want to be able to truly enjoy the first few weeks and months with our new little bundle. To do so, I’m preparing a lot of freezer meals and accepting help from our friends and grandparents. There are numerous spreadsheets involved. The Bump keeps reminding me to “relax and get pampered!” and I’m over here like “No! I need to label freezer bags so I can relax with my newborn and not worry about dinner in August.”

But, not today. Today, I’m going thank Mother Nature for the gloomy weather so I can watch the last Harry Potter movie and enjoy the rest of this magical day reserved for mothers. But not before giving out a whole lot of thanks to my mom or teaching me first-hand about the gift of motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day. Get the Kleenex.

meerkats

Happy Mother’s day! Now let’s do some real crying, shall we?

Okay, but I’m being serious here. Tears shall be shed, because on this day, we show that we are human and we have ourselves a good celebratory cry about why we work SO DAMN HARD all year long.

So without further ado, here are my favorite sappy videos that help celebrate the moms of the world. Enjoy!

This one starts off funny, but you will be crying by the end:

 

A new comer, this year:

 

One of my all-time favorites from the Sochi Olympics:

 

Finally, to end on a higher note, this Coca Cola commercial always gets me. Yes, kids are messy and crazy and frustrating and there are super highs and super lows…but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

Happy Mother’s day to all of the fantastic caregivers out there. Now go drink some wine and fall asleep while reading a good book…because this day is almost over!

 

Monday Motivation: Eat, Work, Read, Repeat.

Hey Monday, go step on a Lego.

Isn’t that a great quote? Thank you, Some eCards.

A new week, a fresh start and cold temps. It’s the middle of January and the cold weather is having a major impact on the “word of 2015.” I’m trying to focus on my accomplishments instead of the lingering items that never get done. Why is that such a tall order? Instead of sharing a ball-busting quote, here are some of my favorite sources of motivation:

  • Tone It Up – Great resource for weekly workouts, fitness tips, and healthy, clean recipes. Not only are these two women fit and fierce but they are positive and motivating. Although I doubt they are trying to target mothers the recipes, workouts and weekly plan align with my family’s tastes and my schedule. I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously and remain authentic.
  • Skinnytaste –  Do you guys have a solid meal-planning method? Binder? Print-out or email yourself recipes? I have yet to find the best method for our family but time and time again, I visit Skinnytaste and find easy, delicious recipes. Our faves include: Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and BananasCrock Pot Chicken Taco Chili and Cheesy Baked Pumpkin Pasta (such a fall favorite).
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – How good were Amy and Tina last night on the Golden Globes? Over the holiday break I read Poehler’s new book and loved nearly every page. My favorite chapter, “Treat your career like a bad boyfriend” was a quiet little reminder that your goals can’t be reached overnight. After someone plopped a script down in Amy’s lap (as she was sleeping on a train) she writes:

Good or bad, the reality is most people become “famous” or get “great jobs” after a very, very long tenure shoveling shit and not because they handed their script to someone on the street. People still think they will be discovered at the malt shop, even though no one cal tell you what a malt is anymore…People don’t want to hear about the fifteen years of waiting tables and doing small shows with your friends until one of them gets a little more famous and they convince people to hire you and then you get paid and you work hard and spend time getting better and making more connections and friends. Booooring.

  • Goodreads – I love to start the day by reading The Skimm. Read it – be informed and smirk at all of the wittiness.

There you have it. Motivation from a lot of women. A lot of strong, honest and authentic women. I didn’t plan it that way but I’m not surprised. Please, we could all use a little more motivation (and coffee). Share your favorites!

Monday Motivation: The Best Laid Plans

 

A last minute trip up to the Dells with friends? No problem! Let me just squeeze on back here with you guys.

A last minute trip up to the Dells with friends? No problem! Let me just squeeze on back here with you guys.

Today’s Monday motivation post is going to be about taking it easy…but trying just a little bit.

A recap of sorts…

Has your vacation started yet? Ours is basically in full swing and it’s quite the roller coaster of ups and downs.

The ups so far have included a last minute trip to the Dells and water park adventures (Friday through Sunday) with some amazing friends. Then we went back to the Watertown area for a Christmas family gathering and a visit with some old friends (Sunday afternoon). Tomorrow, we have a play date set to go to Jump country in the morning…which I think the husbands are more excited about than the kids are, and then on Wednesday (Christmas eve) we’ll be heading up to the Hudson area to visit with my family until Sunday. We’ll do Christmas with them, and then we’ll also be celebrating our niece’s 3rd birthday party.

The downs? Well lots of driving for one. Up to the Dells, back to Milwaukee. Up to Hudson (5.5 hours) and back down on Sunday. We manage, and Jackson is becoming a great little road tripper, but still, we all wish the time would pass quicker than it does.

The other bummer is that Jackson has a nasty cough/cold combo and if it were up to him he would just chug children’s Motrin. (Sorry buddy…there’s a waiting period before the next dose). Sleeping through the night in the Dells on Friday and Saturday night was a little trying, but we made it work (and by “made it work” I mean I let him sleep in the bed with me which really was just a lot of him changing positions every five minutes and then coughing in my face…but hey you do what works). Yesterday, though, he took a turn for the worse. I don’t think it’s the flu, but he was running a high fever, his cough was making him gag which made him puke at one point, and we were doing the tylenol/motrin switch off throughout the night to keep the fever down. This morning, he finally got a couple hours of hard sleep in and stayed sleeping until 8:30 (which is really late considering he’s typically up by 6am). So today we’re lying low, playing with a new puzzle he got from Jake’s aunt and watching Toy Story while playing with his new basketball hoop in the basement.

About those plans…

Now this isn’t all to say “woe is me.” Really, it’s the time of the year, he hasn’t had so much as a runny nose in the last couple months and it was to be expected. But, it has thrown in a kink in the aforementioned “best laid plans.” Today was supposed to be Mommy/Daddy break day. It’s the only day where he was going to go to daycare for a couple hours so that we could relax, get things in order and get some energy back up for the long week of activities ahead of us.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. I couldn’t imagine sending him to daycare right now, and I’m actually thankful that this happened during break and not during a busy work day. But still, we’ll just have to manage with the precious few hours of a break we get during naptime and after he goes to bed (if he goes to bed unassisted).

So instead of using this day to go work out, go to a coffee shop and write for a while, wrap presents, bake, take a REALLY long shower, do some reading….well, I’ll be okay with the small workout I got done, and the fact that I’m currently writing a blog post during nap time (but I have to hurry because I think he’s already waking up), and I may get Jackson to help me with some baking, later on.

It’s a lot. Yeah…

We don’t normally take on this much right around Christmas, but there were just some really great things that we didn’t want to miss out on. And we’re young, we’ve got enough energy to keep going. But it does get a little tiring. So here’s to another Monday of filling your cup with some really strong coffee and enjoying the time you have with your loved ones before the actual Monday morning grind starts up again. For me, that’s next week, already. For some of you it might not be until the 5th. Regardless, make it a good one…no matter your circumstances.

Cheers!

The Best Parenting Advice

 

Put on your oxygen mask first in order to make this little one laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Put on your oxygen mask first in order to make this little one laugh, and laugh and laugh.

 

What was the best career advice you’ve ever received?

My favorite words of wisdom came from marketing professor extraordinaire, Chuck Tomkovick.

What about fitness or running advice?

Instead of focusing on time or mileage, I tell myself “put on your shoes and get out the door.” When I agree to accomplish “little steps” – get out of bed (the hardest one), get dressed and head out the door – they somehow add up to a satisfying run.

What about parenting advice?

The best advice I received has become my motherhood motto: Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.   

At face value, this could be interpreted as “put your needs before the needs of your children.” Sounds a bit selfish, doesn’t it? It’s not. We all have needs. Are we going to address them after our kids are done with their requests? That time is not going to come. I’m at my best when I’m present with Ingrid. How do I stay present? By making sure my needs are met and then move onto the needs of my daughter.

The early bird gets her pants on first.

When Ingrid wakes me up instead of my alarm, it’s a real bummer. The day is already off to a rocky start. Instead of getting myself ready and having a few quite moments with my beloved coffee, she’s in our bedroom chatting about bracelets and princesses. In 20 minutes, I know I’ll be half-dressed, running around like a crazy lady trying to get both of us ready. Or, Dan will have to hustle to get everyone out of the door.

Everyone is hangry.

Don’t mess with us when we’re hungry. Ingrid and I will both turn into crabby monsters when our blood sugar is low. If we’re running errands, I like to pack snacks for everyone, not just Ingrid. Sure, I could nosh on some of Ingrid’s Goldfish crackers* or we could split a banana.  I’d rather pack two bananas and throw in some almonds for me and call it good.

Out for a run, you’ll thank me later. 

While training for a half-marathon last fall, I experienced a lot of guilt during Saturday morning long runs. Physically, I was on the road but my head was at home, thinking of all of the to-dos I needed to address. And knowing that in order to address those to-dos, I wouldn’t be able to spend quality time with Ingrid. Guilt spiral! Then, I started making crock-pot meals before lacing up. A good run, a meal in the “oven” and time with my family. Take that guilt spiral!

Just get to the point already. 

The idea of putting on your oxygen mask before assisting others is simple and works for two reasons. First, I’m happier and more present with my family when I take time for myself. Second, it’s important to me that I show my daughter that mothers are people too. I want her to be a balanced and interesting person. In order to do that, I want to be a balanced and interesting mother and role-model.

 

*If you have not already tried Flavor-Blasted Goldfish please do so. Feel free to thank me later and also comment with your favorite Goldfish flavor. More importantly, what’s the best parenting, career or fitness advice you’ve ever received? 

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Sunday runday + Sunday funday + meal prep and getting real with the laundry situation = pass me another beer. 🤗

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