How Breastfeeding Made Me A Better Mother

Alicia Juniku Photography - www.aliciajunikuphotography.com

Photo: Alicia Juniku Photography – www.aliciajunikuphotography.com

**Before we even get started let me just say this is NOT a formula vs breastfeeding debate. I fully believe that while formula is a medical food and life saving, breast is best.  However, this post is not ranking one over the other – rather taking my personal experience into account.  I’ll say it one more time – I don’t think I’m a better mother because I breastfeed, but breastfeeding has made me a better mother (not than anyone else – just than my base self) for many other reasons.

I am currently in my 28th month of breastfeeding.  When I was pregnant with Lucas I just assumed I’d breastfeed.  I was breastfed and so was my brother – and 30+ years ago that was less common than it is today.  Breastfeeding wasn’t always easy for me, in fact, I’m still struggling a little nursing my 3 month old.  However, I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that breastfeeding has made me a better mother than I would have been otherwise.

1. Breastfeeding taught me how to advocate for my children and trust my intuition as their mother.  In case you haven’t read it, we had a lot of issues with breastfeeding when Lucas was born.  We struggled for months.  We were told by many people that everything was “fine” and I had a pediatrician look at me and tell me that I should just give a bottle instead of pushing through, but I knew something wasn’t right and that there was a problem we needed to resolve.  I also knew that no one was going to care for my kids as much as I do and, that while a pediatrician would never want to harm my child, they do not want the absolute best for them, like I do.  Lucas is only 3 years old (and Andrew only 3 months old) but I’ve already seen this spill over into other aspects of our life, not just healthcare (although I’ve had to do this more than once when it comes to the physical well-being of both boys).

2. Breastfeeding gave me confidence (well, after a while it did)!  I won’t lie, it’s easy to doubt yourself in those first few months of breastfeeding.  Even with all of the training and experience I have now, I still doubt myself sometimes.  But breastfeeding has also given me confidence.  My body alone is able to provide not only nourishment but also comfort and security for my children.  How bad@ss is that?!  It’s a reminder that I was made to be a mother.  And knowing that gives me the confidence that even though I may know have it all together all the time, I really can do this whole parent thing.

3. Breastfeeding taught me to push on.  As a mom you sometimes need to just put your hair in a “messy bun and get things done!”  There have been days (too many than I should admit) that I just want to stop breastfeeding.  For one reason or another I just want to be done but I push on, because in my heart I know I’m not ready to stop, and neither is my baby.  There are days when being a mom is tough too, especially as a Stay-at-Home-Mom who doesn’t always have any adult interaction during the day.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything though, so in those moments (you know, the ones where you have a crying baby and a toddler who is throwing the black beans you are using for your coal mining activity all over the house while waiting for someone to come and give you an estimate on the cost of a deep clean of said house – which was a baby gift, not something we would do on our own – that now has black beans all over the floor!) I remember that, like some of my breastfeeding struggles, this is just a season.  I’ve got my messy bun and I can get things done – even if that’s just surviving until Daddy gets home.

4. Breastfeeding gave me a purpose and a cause.  I got so much help and support while I was breastfeeding Lucas that I wanted to give back and help others like I had been helped.  The lead me down the path of leadership for a very popular mother-to-mother breastfeeding organization.  Being given the opportunity to help mothers as they are breastfeeding has been huge for me.  It’s given me a purpose outside of being the best mother I can be to my boys – and that has made me a better mom.

5. Breastfeeding gave me my village, and I’m a much better mother for being surrounded by these women as we raise our children.  This has probably been the most “life changing” aspect of mothering for me.  Not only are these the women that I go to when I have a question, they are also the women I go to when I have a success and (more importantly) when I’m feeling down and I need a little pick-me-up!  I’ve meet these women in, and then through, breastfeeding groups.  We all parent a little different – some cloth diaper and some don’t, some bed share and some don’t, some are working mothers while other stay home with their littles.  Somehow, we’ve avoided the “mommy wars” though.  We’ve even avoided the “female wars” – you know, the snide comments, jealousy and downright bitchiness we often find among women these days.  Instead we celebrate the success of others and are there with a shoulder to cry on when it’s needed. These women remind me I can do this, and when I can’t, that it’s okay to ask for help.  They are my village and it really does take a village to raise a child.  We aren’t meant to mother alone, although we often find ourselves doing that for one reason or another.  Having my village, which I give breastfeeding the credit for helping me find, has made me a better woman and therefore a much, much, MUCH better mother!

Now I’m not saying I’m the best mother in the world (in fact, if you ask my mother I’m sure she’ll be happy to list all of my faults, like the fact that I don’t wear socks on Andrew or that I “run too much” with the kids) but I really do feel like I am the best mother I can be for both of my boys.  My parenting style is probably very different than yours, and that’s okay.  As long as you are being true to yourself and your child(ren)’s needs, you are the best mom they could ask for!

So tell me, what do you think has made YOU a better mom?!

Another Hello Fresh Review

HelloFresh Review

Several months ago we tried our first HelloFresh box.  We really enjoyed it and have done several more since then.

We had taken a break from it for a while (mainly b/c my first trimester I was having a hard time cooking ANYTHING and I didn’t want it to go to waste) but got another one last week and I was really impressed with some of the changes they had made to the packaging.

The box itself seemed more stable and the separation between the meat and the rest of the product was better.  I also feel like these ice packs were “nicer” – they just seemed sturdier.

HelloFresh Review

Instead of the produce and other ingredients being in a bag they were nicely packaged in individual boxes.  This kept the produce from being crushed I think (not that I’d had a huge issue with that in the past but I know a few people said that was an issue).

What didn’t change??  Well the meals themselves were amazing as usual!  The recipes are creative yet not too hard to put together (even if you aren’t that experienced in the kitchen).  The flavors are always amazing!

The meals I chose were:

Chicken & Butter Bean Cassoulet with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

 {Ingredients}

Hello Fresh Review

 {Finished Meal}

Hello Fresh Review

I had SO much left over for lunch the next day it was crazy!

Pan-Seared Steak with Cipollini Onions, Roasted New Potatoes, and Tomato Pan-Sauce

 {Ingredients}

HelloFresh Review

{Finished Meal}

HelloFresh Review

Autumn Risotto with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Pepitas

 {Ingredients}

HelloFresh Review

 {Finished Meal}

HelloFresh Review

This was only 1/2 of my portion. Darrin’s was even bigger!

The Risotto was, by far my favorite, but the Pan-Seared Steak was pretty awesome as well.  The Cassoulet was good but I couldn’t get the stock to reduce down enough and it was pretty “soupy.”  If the stock would have reduced more I would have loved it because the flavors were amazing.

So now the nitty-gritty…How much does this all cost?  The total cost for 2 people for a Classic Box is around $70.  That’s $70 for what could have been 3 dinners and 1 lunch each for 2 people.  In my house that’s a pretty good deal!  It’s a tad more than what we would spend for 3 meals (and leftovers) if I was just purchasing it at the store but I’m also getting simple and fun new meals to try and really fresh ingredients delivered right to my house!

If you’re still a little hesitant, like I was, I have a code that will get you $40 off of your first box!  That means for around $30 you’ll have at least 3 dinners for 2 people (and probably some lunches as well)!  Now $30 for 3 meals for 2 people (plus leftovers) is a super great deal in my book.  It’s totally risk free – you can cancel after the first box in just a minute or two.

So, what are you waiting for? Try the new and improved HelloFresh for yourself today! I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as we do.

Pantry Organization – My Latest (and GREATEST) Organization Project!

This post has been a long time coming!  Before Christmas I started getting really frustrated with how messy our pantry was.  And L’s art supplies.  And the playroom.  And our guest bedroom.  But alas, I digress!  The pantry was in need of some help.  I tried to organize it a little before the holidays but made a promise to myself that after the new year I would do something about it.

I began to pin inspiration and then I started some Amazon Wishlists.  After I priced out my Amazon Wishlist I realized my husband would probably file for divorce if I spent $450+ on reorganizing our small pantry.  With that in mind I changed up my game plan but still ended up with a pantry I love.  No, really, ask Darrin, I talk about how much I love that pantry All. The. Time!

So first things first…what did our pantry look like before?  This wasn’t as bad as it was before Christmas but it still makes me a little shaky just looking at the picture!

{BEFORE}

Disorganized Pantry

So not awful, but take a look at this beauty!

{AFTER}

After - Organized Pantry

And a view from the side:

Organized Pantry

Y’all I am totally in love!  The whole project cost under $200 to complete.  So yes, I get that may seem like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a pantry but we had some Christmas money and Darrin said I could do what I wanted with it (he really is a gem!).

Now let’s break down what I did so you can recreate my masterpiece in your own house.

I was really, really coveting the OXO Good Grips Pop Containers but since they’re close to $20 each I decided I needed to rethink that aspect.  I ended up going with Better Homes and Gardens Flip Tite storage containers that you can buy at Walmart.  I purchased a few of the sets (4.5 cup, 7.5 cup and 10 cup containers) and then some individually (2 cup, 4.5 cup, 7.5 cup, 10 cup and 11.5 cup).  I really, really like these containers.  I wasn’t too sure of the quality at first but I asked some people who had used them and they had positive things to say.  I’m so glad I went with these and saved some money.  The 3 containers set was only $15!

Pantry Organization Project

Next I needed to get something to hold cereal and oatmeal.  Darrin loves his cereal so I went with two 1.5 gal containers for cereal and another for the oatmeal.  I really like the Rubbermaid Cereal Keepers I ended up choosing! **As a side note, I made sure I put the waffles/pancake mix recipe on the Flip Tite container and the oatmeal cooking instructions on the Rubbermaid container just so I knew I had them.

My baking supplies needed some organizing as well.  I found these great containers at TJ Maxx for my flours and sugar.  I ended up using more Flip Tite containers for the rest of my baking item.

Next up was finding some baskets to store items that I couldn’t put in storage containers.  I ended up finding some really nice nesting baskets at Old Time Pottery for a great price!  I also ended up needing more than I thought so I had to make multiple trips.

Nesting Baskets

I also needed something to hold our tupperware-type containers.  The baskets I bought just weren’t big enough so I made yet another trip to Old Time Pottery and found that awesome black and white bin you can see at the bottom left of the AFTER photo.  It was perfect!

The last step was getting some labels for the baskets.  I had a vision of what I wanted but I couldn’t find them anywhere.  I ended up going with plain Avery Shipping Labels and making them a little fancier with markers!

Here are some more photos of the finished product:

Pantry Organization Project

After3

After it was all said and done I realized I needed to do something about our plastic bags so I hung a 3M hook on the back of the folding door and they fit perfectly!  Plus they are out of sight, which I love.

I also chose not to label most of my storage containers.  This is because what’s in them changes often.  I even keep an empty one or two in the closet to fill as needed.  I didn’t want to have to peel labels off all the time when I went to wash the containers.

The basket containing my oils and vinegars also has honey and hot sauce and a few other things like that.  It can get pretty messy so I made sure to line the basket with some aluminum foil to keep the mess contained and easy to clean up.

I thought about painting the inside of the pantry but didn’t want to have to deal with drying time.  Then I thought about using contact paper to add a design to the walls but after a disastrous experience trying to cover our kitchen table with contact paper I decided to give up that pipe dream and just let it stay white!  Maybe someday, when I do Pantry Organization 2.0 I’ll add some color!

So now our pantry is super organized and finding what I need is so easy.  Plus I know when we’re running low on something and I need to get some more.  And on top of that it’s so pretty to look at and makes me super happy!  I did this several weeks ago and I STILL smile when I open the doors.

Pantry Organization

And there you have it, my organized and easy to use pantry!  Life is just so much simpler when things are organized.  And with a toddler, a husband and three dogs I need all the simple I can get!

Do It Yourself: Homemade Carpet Powder

DIY Carpet Powder with Essential Oils

Some of you may know that we have three dogs.  If you don’t, well, now you do.  Now, unless you have three dogs, you may not realize what a mess they make.  The shed, they track in dirt, the don’t believe food should be kept in their bowls.  It gets a little crazy keeping up with them.

Before Lucas was born I used a lot of carpet powder to help keep the carpets looking clean and the odor at bay.  Once I had a sweet precious baby who was laying on the floors and then crawling everywhere I just didn’t feel comfortable using it anymore.  I was always so afraid I’d miss a spot vacuuming and somehow Lucas would get some in his mouth (I was a crazy first time mom worrier!).  So I just stopped using it all together.

About a year ago I was introduced to the world of Essential Oils.  They have changed the way I treat injuries and illness and even how I clean!  With just two ingredients I have started using carpet powder in my house again and my carpets (and my nose!) are so grateful.

Here’s what you’ll need:

DIY Carpet Powder

  • Baking Soda
  • Essential Oils (I used about 25 drops of lemon)
  • Mason/Canning Jar (with lid)
  • Poster Board
  • Hole Punch
  • Knife

This is really super simple to make – it takes about three minutes!

First, add the baking soda to your mason jar – I had a 32 oz jar so I filled it almost to the top.

Add in your essential oil.  Like I said, I used about 25 drops but you can adjust it depending on how strong or mild you want the scent to be.

DIY Carpet Powder

Use the knife to stir it up.

Then I took the sealing part of the lid and used it to trace a circle in the poster board.

DIY Carpet Powder

I cut it out and used my hole punch to make holes.  I only have a 3-hole punch so my holes are all around the perimeter but you cut put them where ever you’d like.

Secure the hole-punched poster board with the screw on portion of the lid and you’re ready to go!  See, I told you it was super easy.

I’ve refilled my jar a few times now and played around with the scent a bit.  I am loving this natural, kid friendly and awesome smelling powder.

If you haven’t used oils before, there are several places you can purchase them.  Just make sure they are of a high quality.  I purchase mine from a local shop, but I have a lot of friends and family that use Young Living Essential Oils.  My friend, and fellow blogger, Christa has been a great resource for me in learning about oils.  You can find out more about Young Living and even place an order by visiting Christa’s site, Love Little Oils.

Are you making your own cleaning products?  Share some of your favorite “recipes” below!