4 Parenting Things I Swore I Would Never Do Before I Became a Mom

I’m only nine months into this whole parenting thing, and I’ve found myself doing things I said I would never do. Turns out, it’s a helluva lot easier to have opinions from the outside looking in, but when you’re here, in the trenches of motherhood, you do what you gotta do.

 1.  Co-sleep

“We should just put the crib in our room,” my husband said. “He’ll be in here most of his first year anyway.”

“No way,” I said firmly. “I will not be one of those moms that lets her baby sleep in her bed.” My sister was one of “those moms,” and I vowed to be different. We would sleep train our baby as early as possible, and we wouldn’t give in and pick him up when he cried.

Fast forward to now. Baby A is almost nine months old and still sleeping in our bed.

And do you want to know something? I freaking love it. Sure, some nights are difficult, and sometimes I want to punch the moms that post a photo of their 6-week-old baby on Instagram with the hashtag “12hoursandstillsleeping.” But every morning when Baby A wakes up between RM and me, happily babbling and smiling, we soak it in. We stay in bed just the three of us for an extra 15-20 minutes and sometimes longer on the weekend. It’s our favorite time of day.

This is what works for us. Turns out there are some benefits to it as well. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable saying that without feeling anxious that I need to sleep train him soon or his sleep will be ruined forever or God forbid be pegged by moms in the Cry It Out Camp as being weaker. How about none of us judge each other and we accept that we all do what we need to do to get through these early years.

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Crazy hair after coming out from under the breastfeeding cover at Anthony’s restaurant

2.  Breastfeed in public

Early on in our relationship, RM and I were on a double date at Olive Garden (hey, I know it’s not real Italian food, but those breadsticks! Am I right?!) with a guy from work and his wife. Midway through dinner, she began nursing her newborn under a cover at the table.

“You guys don’t mind, right?” Our friend asked.

“Of course not,” RM quickly replied.

I bit my tongue. Afterward, I told RM how uncomfortable I was when she nursed her baby as she talked to me. Couldn’t she feed her in the privacy of her home before dinner so she wouldn’t be hungry when we were out?

RM simply said, “You’ll feel differently some day when we have a baby.”

Another point for RM. Again, I realize how judgy and naïve I was pre-baby.

First of all, I had no idea that newborns literally eat ALL THE FLIPPING TIME. I remember feeling like all I was doing those first several weeks was nursing Baby A. The only way to avoid having to nurse in public would be to never leave my house! And that obviously wasn’t an option if I wanted to keep my sanity.

The more I nursed Baby A the more my breasts felt utilitarian and functional—not sexual or inappropriate at all. I will never stop being amazed at the human body and what it can do—growing a baby and then providing nourishment and strength through breast milk. Incredible!

I’m happy to say Baby A enjoys nursing wherever we happen to be when he’s hungry while enjoy a slice of humble pie.

3.  Make my own baby food

This sounded way too crunchy and hippy to me. I planned to buy the pouches. When would I find the time to make baby food anyway? Fast-forward a few months to when I became a Stay At Home Mom and realized A. those pouches are pricey and B. I actually have time to make baby food.

So I dusted off RM’s food processor and started pureeing away! It’s been fun to try various combinations and watch Baby A experience new foods. We still buy pouches to grab and go—and because sometimes I don’t feel like making food even when I’m home—but I try to occasionally make our own purees to save money and do our part to help the environment. As it turns out those pouches may be organic, but they’re not so eco-friendly, according to this Huffington Post article.

I learned that making your own food isn’t crunchy and hippy at all—it’s just sensible.

4.  Take my baby to a restaurant

How rude of people to take babies to restaurants. Can’t they get a sitter? So disruptive! Why are they even going out to eat? Stay at home with your baby.

Man, I was a B.

As it turns out, when you have a baby, you still like to eat at restaurants. When your baby is tiny and needs to eat every few hours, it makes the most sense to just bring the baby with you. He’ll probably sleep most of the time anyway!

When Baby A was only a few months old, we took him to several nice restaurants. I was always a bit nervous going because I was afraid of getting the stink eye from strangers if he disturbed them—you know, people like me who thought there was no place for babies in restaurants.

Then I decided to stop caring. I needed to get out. If for some reason he was extra fussy, I would take him out of the restaurant. Thankfully, he always quietly slept or nursed.

Now that he’s a bit older and louder, we probably won’t take him to quiet dinners at fancy restaurants as frequently, but you can bet your ass we’ll still be going out to dinner. Instead, you’ll find us enjoying a basket of bottomless fries at Red Robin.

Baby is Coming.

We’re all aware that winter is coming… but did you know that BABY is coming?!

In honor of the upcoming season premiere of Game of Thrones… I present you… our GoT-inspired pregnancy announcement.

We are SO excited to announce the upcoming arrival of our first baby together–a baby boy!

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Moving On

Selfie in my African garb ;)
Selfie in my African garb 😉

Today is a day that I will never forget. I am moving on from a career that has shaped my entire adult life. In some ways, it was a difficult decision to make, but in other ways, it was the easiest decision of my life. As many of you know, RM and I have been living separately since we’ve met and even since we’ve married. We spend a TON of hours on the road—he put 40,000 miles on his car last year alone. Not only have we HATED living apart, our current jobs require frequent relocation, oftentimes overseas. Our time in the Seattle area was set to be up this year.

We’ve decided together that it’s time to put down roots for our family, so today is my last day at my current job. RM also has a new job. No more distance. No more moving.

While I may be closing the door on this career, I’m so excited for the one I am about to begin. I feel incredibly thankful that I’m able to put my family first while also continuing to develop professionally.

I made a video to encapsulate how I’m feeling today. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey!  Click here to see the video!

 

The Comeback

Hello. Hi there. It’s me. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? My apologies! We’ve been a little busy over the past several months. Here’s what you’ve missed…

We bought a house. A real, grown-up house! Can you believe it?

We renovated said house. In THREE weeks. Apart from having lice for several weeks last year, this might have been the most stressful time period we’ve been through as a family! We all spent hours—no, days scraping FIVE layers of wallpaper off the walls before we painted. That’s one layer of wallpaper for each decade, in case you were wondering. The kids worked hard, and we are so proud of them. Don’t worry—we weren’t using them for child labor, not officially anyway 😉 #2 worked so hard that we rewarded him with a trip to iFly to indoor skydive! It was a great way to further enforce with the kids, “when you work hard at things in life, you will be rewarded.”

Moving to the new house meant saying good-bye to friends with whom we had spent the previous year building relationships, which was sad, but it also meant we would say “hello!” to lots of new friends in the Snoqualmie Valley. As a bonus, the “old” friends aren’t that far away, so we can still see them, just not quite as often.

The kids love our new home, and RM and I couldn’t be happier with it as well.  It is the perfect mix of cottage and cabin with a wonderful view of the mountains. It’s been fun to combine all of our things to make a cozy, warm home for our family.  The list of things we still need to finish seems to be never-ending, but I’ve been told that will always be the case.  “Welcome to home ownership,” they say 😉

We’re so excited to spend our first Christmas here! I’ll be updating the blog as we celebrate the holidays. Stay tuned!

How Marrying a Single Dad Has Impacted My View of Father’s Day

IMG_1372This year, Father’s Day means more to me than it ever has before. You see—this year, I am married to a man who is HANDS DOWN the most wonderful father I’ve ever known. You’ve probably heard that before, but it clearly wasn’t true until now. Obviously.

Never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself ending up with a divorced man with three kids, but I have to tell you—I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, our life is often pretty complicated as we have several schedules to coordinate and regular interactions with a woman with whom at one point in time he was in love and began a family. Ouch—that one hurts to think about. However, with those complications comes the incredible blessing of being with a man I have more respect for than I could even remotely begin to explain to you.

One of the first things RM talked about when we met was his kids. His cubicle at work was decorated with photos of them and pictures they had drawn for him. His face lit up when he talked about them. Even though I knew that dating a man with kids was a HUGE deal and wasn’t sure it was something I was prepared to take on, I couldn’t help but be drawn to his positive and sweet spirit (not to mention his dashing good looks), and so much of that had to do with seeing what kind of dad he was.

There is a reason why women hit on men with babies at the grocery store and can’t help but say “aw!” It ignites something biological in us. I’m going to go pre-historic for a moment and say, that at a certain level, our cave woman is looking for that provider. We want to know that a man will be a good father. That he’s going to stick around. So often when we’re dating, we have to imagine what kind of father the man would be. Well, lucky me; I didn’t have to imagine it. I was able to see it firsthand.

You’re probably wondering at this point—what are the things about RM that make him such a wonderful father? Well, here it goes…

He makes a concerted effort to show each of the kids attention and ensure they feel loved.

He has developed a relationship of trust with them, in which if he says the words, “I promise,” the kids understand that is the real deal. Daddy doesn’t break promises, and neither do they.

He teaches them life lessons like what it means to build credit, how to manage money, and how to compromise and solve problems amongst themselves.

He gets up early every Saturday morning to make the kids a special breakfast. And if I’m still sleeping, he serves me breakfast in bed.

He teaches them about the Gospel and encourages them to pray.

He doesn’t expect me to jump in and do everything for the kids, like I’ve heard so many men do to their new wives/stepmoms of their children. He allows me to be as involved as I want to be and respects that sometimes I need time to myself.

He teaches the kids survival skills. They know everything from how to start a fire to how to fend off an attacker.

He knows the exact balance of when to tell them to buck up and when to let them cry on his shoulder (even when they’re not really hurt).

He rarely raises his voice, and if he does, the kids almost always listen immediately. (Okay, sometimes they have to go to their rooms.)

Despite being pulled in several directions, he gives 110 percent to ensure everyone’s needs (including mine) are met—even if that means putting 40,000 miles on his car in only a few months.

He encourages the kids to play outside, and in the past two years, I’ve only seen the kids play a video game ONE time at our house. That was two weeks ago, and it was a really old version of Pac Man. 😉

While he sometimes puts movies on for the kids for the long drives, the majority of the time, he prefers to talk to them to hear about what’s going on in their lives and spend quality time with them.

I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the picture. So why am I writing this? Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve been racking my brain over what to give RM for Father’s Day, but I’ve realized it’s this. I need him to know that even though there are times when I get frustrated or tell him that I need more time sans kids, I am more grateful for the father that he is than I’ll ever be able to relay or show in some gift I pick up from the store.

RM, I am so proud to call you my husband. Happy Father’s Day.

Hitched in Seattle: How to Have a Wedding on a Budget

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Phreckle Face Photography

I’m back!  My apologies for the radio silence over the last several weeks, but I was busy doing a little something called planning a wedding!  That’s right–RM and I got hitched!  I’m officially an old married lady.  You heard it here first… or you’ve already seen it on Facebook because I’ve obnoxiously shared several photos of the big day.

We were blessed with an amazing 70 degree day full of sunshine with a view of the Olympics Mountains as we said “I do” on the Puget Sound in Steilacoom, Washington.  I decided early on in the planning process that I would be the kind of bride who delegated as much as possible, and thankfully, we had so many family and friends who were willing to help out that this method worked wonderfully.

We were also striving to keep our big day under $5,000, which in this day and age is pretty much unheard of.  The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is in the neighborhood of $25,000.  WHAT?!  We had no interest in spending that kind of money and starting our marriage out in debt!  We could think of several other things to spend that kind of money on… a down payment on a house, a honeymoon, kids’ college, etc.  When we first began the planning process, I was so discouraged when I found that most of the venues we were looking at started at $3-4k.  –And we would still have the expenses of food, decorations, photographer, dress, etc!  How were we going to do this?

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Steilacoom is such a cute little town.  We couldn’t resist a photo by this building!  Phreckle Face Photography

We knew about Steilacoom Townhall because RM is originally from the area, and while we thought it was the perfect venue at the perfect price (only $100/hour, what?!), the Townhall isn’t big enough to set up for a ceremony AND a reception, and we couldn’t be sure that the weather would hold up for conducting the ceremony outside.  This is Seattle, after all.  The thought of cramming in folks in the Townhall for the ceremony then asking them to stand in the rain while we set up for the reception just didn’t make sense to us.

As a result, we decided to do an intimate ceremony with just family, and if it rained, it would be easy to have the ceremony inside with most of the reception tables set up since it was such a small group.  Problem solved.  We lucked out and had the most beautiful day, so we had our small ceremony outside on the water.  We were happy that we chose to have a smaller ceremony though because we preferred the intimate feel of having our family stand around us.

Lavender sachet wedding favors. http://www.phrecklefacephotographyblog.com/
Lavender sachet wedding favors made by my mom 🙂
Phreckle Face Photography

My mom made lavender sachets for the favors, and in keeping with the French theme, they were all stamped with “Merci.”  She also made the ring pillow out of an old handkerchief from the early 1900s.  My sister, also my matron of honor, made my garter.  She and my bridesmaid, M, were there to get me into my dress and do things that only sisters and besties do, like adjust things that you can’t get to yourself because there are just too.many.layers.

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Phreckle Face Photography
https://www.facebook.com/Joleemakescakes

I didn’t see the decorated venue until RM and I were announced at the reception, and it was so exciting to see how everything came together exactly how I had pictured it.  RM’s mom did a fabulous job decorating with several family members and friends assisting, and my friend A who flew in carried much of the water making sure everything on my checklist was just how I wanted it.  She even darted out and bought us beautiful champagne flutes for the toast at the last minute when I realized we had forgotten to get them!  RM’s aunt made our cake and cupcakes, and they were gorgeous!  I was seriously blown away.  We gave her a picture of what we wanted and tah-dah–exactly like it!  RM’s cousin put together a string quartet for us, and they played beautifully.  We bought the flowers from Costco, and a family friend arranged them for us.  Talk about DIY, right?

Phreckle Face Photography
Phreckle Face Photography

All in all, we had an amazing day!  We’re so grateful to all of the helping hands we had to make our day so special.  We are very lucky to have so much love and support in our lives.  I wish I could bottle up the feeling that I had as I started to walk down the aisle and found RM’s eyes.  The sun was shining.  The water and the mountains were just gorgeous.  It was exactly how I had pictured that moment to be.  I thought to myself, This is it.  The moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life.  Soak it in.  I wanted to remember it forever.  It was the happiest moment of my life thus far, and I can only imagine that there will be even happier ones in our life moving forward.

Here’s a rundown of the deets for brides who are also on a budget (if you see something I didn’t mention, feel free to drop me an email at seattlestepmom@gmail.com):

Wedding invitations:  Target.  Found here.

Wedding dress:  David’s Bridal, found here.  It was the only dress I had bookmarked on my computer for about a year before we were engaged.  I went in and found it on the “slightly defected” rack, which basically means the sizing or some tiny bead was off, so they aren’t allowed to sell it at full price.  I’m not superstitious, and I know a good bargain when I see one.  It just so happened to be in my size, and only $300 instead of $799.  Sold.  The only dress I tried on.  When you know, you know 🙂

Ring pillow:  Hand-sewn by mother of the bride out of an antique handkerchief

Wedding favors:  lavender sachet bags made by the mother of the bride.  Bags purchased from Etsy, similar bags from same seller found here.

Wedding signs/decor:  JoAnn Fabrics (tip:  google JoAnn coupon on your smart phone to get 20% off!), TJ Maxx, Pier One

Chair covers:  Craigslist

Tree cakestands:  World Market.  Found here.

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Phreckle Face Photography

Wedding cake and cupcakes:  RM’s aunt JoLee.  You can see more of her work on her Facebook page here.

French macarons:  Belle Pastry in Bellevue, WA.  Website: here.  This was an added cost that wasn’t

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Phreckle Face Photography

necessary, but it was one of those things that I just had.to.have.  It was a French theme!

Photographer:  Finding a photographer was one of the most frustrating parts, as most range from $2-4k.  WHAT?!  We lucked out with a crazy talented photographer who we found through the google, called Phreckle Face Photography, who has much more reasonable prices.  You can see some of the photos on her blog here.

Food:  We decided to go with hors d’oeuvres since we were having an afternoon reception from 2:00-5:00.  We wanted a more relaxed vibe that encouraged mingling, vice a more formal plated dinner feel.  Sometimes hors d’oeuvres can be more expensive, but a friend of RM’s sister just started a catering business with her mother and has very reasonable prices.  The food was so tasty, and everyone raved about it!  Highly recommend her.  Info:  Hearthstone Culinary Traditions, Gini Wicklund Chef/Owner, email:  giniwicklund@comcast.net.

Ceremony Venue:  Pioneer Park Bandstand (just down the hill behind Steilacoom Townhall).  $350 for 3 hours.  $250 separate refundable deposit.

Reception Venue:  Steilacoom Townhall.  $100/hr, plus a $250 separate refundable deposit.

Costco flowers. http://www.phrecklefacephotographyblog.com/
Costco flowers.
Phreckle Face Photography

Flowers:  Costco–can you believe it?  We planned on hitting up Pike’s Place the day before the wedding, but when RM and I went to scout it out the week before, they didn’t have ANY of the flowers/colors that I had in mind.  Surprisingly enough, Costco had exactly what I wanted.  We didn’t order them in bulk beforehand because I didn’t realize you could do that until two days before, and you need nine days notice.  However, we didn’t need quite that many flowers, and I think it would have been more expensive that route.  We handpicked the ones we wanted and went to two Costcos to get enough of them.  RM’s mom’s friend, who works part time at a florist shop, arranged the bouquets for us.

Honeymoon to Paris:  http://www.honeyfund.com.  We printed out business cards with the website address on it and hand stamped them with the Eiffel Tower and included it with the invitation.  We would highly recommend this!  Since RM and I are more established than some folks getting married, we really didn’t need a lot of stuff as wedding presents.  We were just happy for folks to come to the wedding (especially those who had to travel far!), but if they felt inclined to give something, we asked that they consider helping us go on our dream honeymoon to Paris.  People were incredibly generous, and we just returned from a wonderful week in Paris following the wedding.  That will be the next blog post 🙂

Here are some more of my favorite pics from the day courtesy of Phreckle Face Photography:

Phreckle Face Photography
Phreckle Face Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phreckle Face Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phreckle Face Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phreckle Face Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phreckle Face Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh yeah, and we rode off on a Vespa.  We're that cool. http://www.phrecklefacephotographyblog.com/
Oh yeah, and we rode off on a Vespa. We’re that cool.
Phreckle Face Photography

Dear Taylor Swift…

So here’s the thing:  I love Taylor Swift and her music.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you probably already knew that from this previous post.  The kids also just so happen to LOVE Taylor Swift.  They decided to write her letters asking her to come to our wedding.  The best thing about kids is that they come up with these larger than life ideas, and they believe ANYTHING is possible.  I promised the kids I would do my best to get the letters to T. Swift, and with that in mind, I figured what the heck?  Let’s post this.  Here are the kiddies’ sweet letters and pictures 🙂

#1’s letter (our 11-year-old daughter)

#1's letter to T.Swift
#1’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear Taylor Swift,

My name is —–, age 11.  My whole entire family loves your music.  My dad and his future wife “Christina” are getting married, we are wondering if you could come and sing some songs!  My sister and I went to your concert not to long ago and you are my favorite singer of all time!  I have a sister and a brother.  We also have an adorable puppy named Frodo!  We have lots of cousins, one of them is —-, as you can see she loves your music more than anyone, and again if you could come we would love it!

Sincerely,

—-

#2’s letter (our 9-year-old son)

#2's letter to T.Swift
#2’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear Taylor Swift,

My dad and Christina are getting married and if you could come and sing that would be great.  My sisters went to the concert not to long ago but I diddint go I have wanted to hear you sing for a long time so once again can you please come.

Sincerely,

The … Family

#3’s letter (our 7-year-old daughter)

#3's letter to T.Swift
#3’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear, Taylor Swift

My dad and his fiancée are getting married.  And I was at your concert last year.  And can you come and sing at the wedding?

Sincerely,

….

And Taylor Swift they are in deep love.