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Looking Up: Phones Down, Family First

 Posted by on April 18, 2016 at 15:14
Apr 182016


Ever since my husband’s first deployment, I’ve been attached to my cell phone. The thought of missing a call from him, however brief that call might be, was unbearable to me. Because of that, I kept my phone on me at all times. It was on my pillow at night, in my hand while I was shopping and by my keyboard while I was at work. I’ll admit to even setting it on the soap shelf in my shower a time or two…or three or four.

After more than one deployment, it just became natural never to be without my phone, even when my husband was home. It became a routine for me. I had moved away from my family and friends, and as social media became more and more popular, I never wanted to miss an update, text or phone call.

Fast forward six years later to the birth of our son. My phone was with me in the delivery room, at home while I nursed and on my nightstand when I finally got a few minutes of sleep. I used it as my alarm clock, my camera and my outlet to the rest of the world.

No matter how anyone gets there, I was there. I was addicted to my phone. It wasn’t until one day when I had a real eye opener that things finally started to change. My baby was lying on his mat doing tummy time and I was taking photos and posting them to social media, then taking videos and emailing them to family. After about 15 minutes, I realized I had been looking down at my phone more than I was looking up at my son. I felt guilty and ashamed, and I knew it had finally gotten to the point where enough was enough.

It’s a hard habit to break, let me tell you! I first started by consciously setting my phone aside during any time with my son and during family time. I continue to use it as my camera, but I stopped posting or texting things immediately. It could all wait. What mattered most was that precious time with my beautiful baby boy. Next, I started removing my phone from the table at family meals. This was huge, and my husband noticed and starting doing the same. After that, I began removing my phone from my nightstand and placing it in the bathroom at night. I still use it as my alarm, but now the temptation to mindlessly scroll social media in bed at night or first thing in the morning is taken away. I’d say this has been the hardest step, and I still forget at times and find myself lying in bed, scrolling through my social news feeds. It’s a process, and like any addiction, it’s taking time to break free.

Finally, beginning in November of 2015, I began taking “social media-free weekends.” I turned off all social media notifications on my phone to avoid the constant desire to scroll through the updates that used to flash across my screen. To this day, I have not turned the notifications back on. At first, I had to completely delete the apps from my phone, but now I simply keep them all in a folder on my phone labeled “Distractions.” Any app or social media platform that distracts me from my family, real life or my work goes in this folder. Any time I want to open those apps, I am reminded that it is a big, fat distraction.

Now I love my social media-free weekends. I look forward to them each month, especially the break and release I feel from not being plugged in 24/7. I usually start these weekends on a Friday evening and stay off until Sunday evening. I find that taking this time once a month is just the break I need to not want to jump right back into it the next day. I look down less, and up more.

The most important thing to me is this —I will not be a parent who looks down at her phone more than she looks up at her child. I keep this phrase with me, repeating it to myself when I find that I’m slipping back in to that mindless thumb scroll on my phone. What matters most is my time with my husband and my son and making those moments count.

Military Mommy Must-Haves

 Posted by on December 4, 2015 at 08:00
Dec 042015


Routines. Do yourself a favor and start a morning and bedtime routine for you and your littles. If nothing goes right or as planned throughout your day, at least you’ll have some semblance of normalcy bookending each day. Write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror; type it up in a note on your smartphone; laminate it and stick it on your refrigerator. Make it visible so you see it and do it, even if you just get one small item checked off. Everyone’s teeth brushed? Awesome! Lunches prepped? Even better! Bedtime story? Great way to end the day.

Baby/toddler music. One word: lifesaver. I started playing music in the car for my son when he was just a few weeks old. It’s even better as he gets older. When he starts to get fussy in the car and I’m driving alone, I cannot stand for him to cry or be upset when I’m in the front seat. I downloaded a variety of fun nursery rhymes, children’s songs, classical music and more to entertain him (or put him to sleep) for the car. I may or may not sing at the top of my lungs and make goofy faces at him from the mirror to make him laugh, but that is, of course, optional. A backseat mirror is also a must for rear-facing little ones!

A trustworthy babysitter. Interview potential sitters, even if they come recommended by a friend! If your spouse is deployed or away, you’ll definitely want a sitter for mommy time. If he’s home, you’ll want to schedule in some date nights!

Baby book. As military families, we’re often separated from loved ones. Whether it be your spouse, your parents or friends and family from home, there are going to be gaps of time between seeing each other. This is why I try my best to keep my son’s baby book updated. This way I can bring it with me when I visit everyone to share his growth and accomplishments, add keepsakes to it to show his daddy and write stories down that I want to remember.

Camera or video camera. Along the same lines as a baby book— capture those precious moments and memories so you can share them with your spouse and distant family and friends!

Trust. “Mommy instinct” is a real thing, and I never knew I had it until I became a mother. When in doubt, trust your gut. If you think you child may be sick, if you think something may be wrong, if you think you need help… Trust yourself. Make the call. Your spouse may not be available and it’s going to come down to you. You got this, mama!

Patience. In military life, we know this is a necessity. There is lots to learn when navigating both this and parenthood. Have patience with yourself, your children and your spouse. “Hurry up and wait,” as my husband’s branch says. Sometimes, just the reminder that you’ll always need to have patience makes it easier to manage when you have to muster it up.

Reliable cellphone service. So important! For many of us, our cellphones are our lifelines. They’re how we communicate with spouses who are working late or deployed, how we take most of our photos, how we keep up-to-date with family, friends and social media. And we’ve all experienced lack of coverage at one time or another. If your service is constantly on the fritz, make a change and save yourself the frustration!

Healthy snacks. Totally a must for every busy mom, not just us #milspouses. Have grab-and-go, easily-accessible snacks at your disposal for when you are super busy or super drained. Bag them ahead of time and stock them in your pantry, in a basket on your counter, in your purse, in your car… Figure out what works best for you and work it!

Grace. Life is going to happen. How we handle it is everything. Even in the craziest of situations, try to collect your cool and find your center. Step back if you need to and re-approach such events with grace and a level head.

Someone to call. We all need that “person,” the one who is not our spouse. The one to call to talk to, to vent to, seek advice from, to be heard by. It’s best to have a local “someone” in the event of an emergency as well as someone just for talking.

Deep freezer. Okay, maybe not a “must have,” but certainly a “nice to have.” It’s great to stock pile perishable foods (meat, produce, etc.), to keep extra freezer meals, to store homemade baby food if you make ahead in bulk. And who doesn’t have those nights when you don’t want to cook? A freezer meal can be a healthier option than fast food, depending on what you have in stock. Bonus points if it’s homemade!

Humility. As much as we all want to be supermom, she doesn’t exist. It’s okay to mess up, it’s okay to accept help and it’s okay to let the house go when life gets too busy. Stay humble, give and take, and be your own brand of supermom!

8 Reasons Why Adopting As a Military Family Is Awesome

 Posted by on November 19, 2015 at 20:00
Nov 192015


My family was blessed by adoption when we brought our daughter home from China last year. Even before we brought her home, and we were still in process, we always heard things like “Oh! I didn’t realize military families could adopt!” and “Wow! Isn’t it like almost impossible for military families to adopt?” The logic behind these statements makes some degree of sense, but I want to share the top 8 reasons it is a total advantage to adopt as a military family.

  1. Adoption paperwork has NOTHING on military paperwork. Everything on adoption paperwork makes sense. There is no guess work like filling in your RUC number here, “Gaining command ADSN” number there…… What do these even mean?!! No. Adoption forms are simple because they are about YOU! No weird codes to know or random jargon to decode.
  2. We are used to having to know every address from the last 10 years. Some of us are so savvy we already have all this information readily saved for times such as these.
  3. We are used to the “hurry up and wait.” Military families know allllllllllll about having patience. Adoption is like 13 percent paperwork and travel and about 77 percent patience. Some civilian families struggle with this aspect. Military families are all “pshh… I have been patient through three combat tours, one unaccompanied OCONUS tour, and I have moved three times with the military. Patience is my new middle name. Bring it.”
  4. If you live near an installation you save money on notary fees by going to your installation legal office! #Winning!
  5. Home study preparers tend to love military families because we are so resilient. We face stressors such as major moves and deployments, so we tend to have our coping mechanisms down.
  6. The Department of Defense Adoption Reimbursement Program reimburses up to $2,000 for adoption-related expenses after finalization. Learn more about that here.
  7. We can get things done, and get them done quickly. Instead of stressing over quick-action items, we consider them a personal challenge to accomplish the mission fast. After all, how many times have we had to beat deadlines for PCS and deployment paperwork?
  8. We have superb support in the form of our family readiness programs. Child with special needs? The Exceptional Family Member Program is ready to help. First time mama? Check out the New Parent Support Program. The Child Development Centers and SchoolAge Care programs are on point, too. Plus, our medical care is top notch!

I am definitely not trying to say that adoption is easy, but I do want to encourage those that have considered adopting— it is not impossible. It is definitely a journey with many ups and downs, but not out of reach for military families! Be sure to check out Military OneSource’s adoption section to learn more about all the different adoption options.


The Parenting Soundtrack: Crying

 Posted by on April 30, 2015 at 17:00
Apr 302015

My little boy came into this world scaring me to death. What’s that first sound that mom wants to hear from her baby in the delivery room? Crying. It was less than a minute’s time, but he was silent. Nurses rushed him to the newborn station in the delivery room before I could even



hold him. With the last ounce of energy in my body, I shoved my husband to be by our son’s side. All I could do was sit, helpless, staring through a circle of people. My eyes bounced from the table to the faces of the nurses around him.

Then he cried. I think I took my first breath since that last push when he took his first breath ever.

He’s 4 years old now, and his cry still stops me in my tracks. Sometimes it’s just a brief pause to:

  • Hug him
  • Encourage him not to get so frustrated when his little sister wants to “share” all of his toys
  • Remind him to chew his food
  • Explain (again), while nurturing boo-boos, that it’s never a good idea to run in the house
  • Assure him it wasn’t a big deal (the milk he spilled, vase he broke, toy he lost, etc.)

Sometimes it’s the last jab at my patience for the day, like when he cries about:

  • Getting a green popsicle when he really wanted blue (not even an option in our box, mind you)
  • Taking a bath
  • Eating his vegetables
  • Wearing jeans instead of shorts when it’s 30 degrees outside
  • Accompanying me to the grocery store (In his defense, I don’t like going either.)

And, I don’t know if he’s “all boy” like people love to tell me, or if he just gets a kick out of seeing his mom panic. That little boy, after four years, can still scare me unlike anyone else on Earth (thank goodness for his easygoing little sister). He’s fallen off of couches. He’s darted off in a hectic parking lot. He’s choked. He’s been sick. His first week in his big boy bed, he even tried to swing like Tarzan from his nearby curtain which resulted in a gash over his eye. A word of warning for any parent who has never seen a head wound, they bleed like nothing you’ve ever seen. I phoned my parents (since, of course, my husband was still out doing Marine Corps stuff), and I was ready to head to the emergency room. But after applying a cold compress for five minutes, the bleeding completely stopped. I found three gray hairs that night — I don’t think that was a coincidence.

But if there is such a thing as a favorite cry, it would be the one when my kids just need their mom. It’s usually the result of being a little over tired or a little sad (but nothing mom can’t fix). When I dropped my son off at preschool last week, he cried for the first time in almost two years of going to school (including his first day ever). In that moment, I knew he was just overwhelmed — with moving, school, his new bedtime, being rushed that morning, etc. The only thing I could do was hug him while we held up the carpool lane. That’s the best feeling a parent can have — no one in the world could have fixed that moment, just mom.

New parents struggle to learn what their babies need when they cry. I remember being the same way at 3 a.m. — I’ve fed you, changed you, burped you, I’m trying to help you sleep, what else could you possibly need? But now, I can tell from across the house whether I need to drop whatever I’m doing and run to my kids or whether shouting, “Play nice,” is sufficient.

To our kids, though, every cry is important (otherwise, they wouldn’t be crying, I guess). Every broken toy is the end of the world, and every boo-boo is severe. So, I’d just like my kids to know that every time their hearts break, mine breaks. Every time they’re hurt or sick, I wish it happened to me instead. Every time they get in trouble, I blame myself a little and wonder if I was too hard on them. Every time I tell them no (from candy to skydiving) and they cry, it is a test of my willpower to stand my ground.

Through a ridiculous tantrum, mom is there to be the voice of reason (that voice typically says no). I may not give them what they want, but I’m teaching them something. Kick and scream as they might, they’ll come out stronger on the other side. It may drive me nuts, but I love them through each one of their hilarious little foot stomps and scowls. I want my kids to know that I don’t always give them what they want because it’s part of my master plan to groom them into sensible adults. Contrary to what they may think, it’s not part of my master plan to torture them.

Mom is there, too, through the truly necessary cries (boogiemen, boo-boos, broken hearts and bullies). When our kids are hurt or sad or scared, we go through it with them. I will always check their bedroom for monsters (even if I have to drive all night to get to their college dorm room one day). I will always be on their side. I will always stand up for them and speak up for them, but I’ll try as hard as I can to let them try it on their own first. I will always be their biggest fan, even when they’re in last place.

And, just so we’re clear, sometimes mom will cry for reasons you don’t understand, like seeing you in your itty-bitty soccer jersey for the first time or watching you take your first steps. Don’t worry about that; those are happy tears. My kids are just about to wake up for the day. There’s a good chance our day will start and end (and be periodically sprinkled) with someone crying. But that’s a chance I’m willing to take to get to be their mommy for another beautiful, crazy day.

Nov 192014

Blogger Biography: Ingrid McCullough is a play-at-home mom, business owner and survivor of six PCS moves, 14 homes, one overseas birth and two deployments. She is also a proud military spouse for five years and counting!


In the best of times, PCSing is chaotic, exciting, busy and, let’s face it, exhausting. But this time you have an infant and you are moving overseas. That was me last summer. I gave birth to my son in the sweltering July heat in Boeblingen, Germany and three weeks later I herded my husband, baby, two cats and three carry-on items for other people on to a plane for an eight-hour flight. There were many things that I wish I had known before the move that would have made it easier, less daunting and even – dare I say it? – fun. So grab a refreshing beverage, prop up your (swollen?) feet, read these tips and prepare for your best PCS to date!


One of the best decisions my husband and I made was to pack out our house two months early. We worked with the housing office to secure temporary quarters on base. Often there are vacancies in on-base housing and, so long as there is not a waitlist and the move is at no cost to the government, the housing office can approve short-term use of quarters. Once we had temporary quarters secured, we packed out our house which turned out to be very wise. First, by the time I was eight months pregnant, I was already pretty useless in monitoring the packers – and this would not have improved with time. Second, it is far easier to pack out without a newborn. Third, if you pack out early enough, your things should be at your destination by the time you arrive which will make settling in a breeze.


Get a direct flight so that you only have to get settled on to one plane and, perhaps more importantly, you are not trying to wrangle your baby, carry-on bags, car seat, stroller and various other accoutrements through a busy airport as you rush to your next gate.


If your infant is old enough to have developed a nap schedule, plan your flights around baby’s nap. My son is a champion flier; at 11 months old he has already been on nine flights and everyone always comments on how great he is. My secret (well one of them) is a well-timed flight. I always choose a flight which takes off around the time my son would normally go down for a nap. This way, he falls asleep at the start of the flight. If your infant is too little to have developed a nap schedule, have no fear! Infants sleep so much that I guarantee your wee one will be lulled into dreamland by the abundant white noise.


Yes, I know. Children under two can sit on the lap of their parents, but this is a reimbursable expense, so get them a seat. You are going to need to sleep on your long flight and the last thing you will want to do is sit up holding your baby in sheer terror that you will fall asleep and accidentally drop him on his head. Get him a seat so you can lay him down.


If you have purchased a seat for your baby, bring his car seat on to the plane. Some flights offer one seat in front where a bassinet can be snapped into the bulkhead. While this option does allow you to safely set baby down, I personally do not recommend using it because it is hard to shield baby from light and air in the bassinet. If you use your car seat though, you can use the sun shade to block some of the light and drape a nursing cover or a pashmina over the front to block the rest.


Pack a change of clothes for all travelers. Everyone thinks to pack an extra infant outfit or three. After all, babies go through a LOT of clothing in a day. But the often overlooked achievement is packing an extra T-shirt for each adult traveler in case baby uses your clothing as a spit-up rag or diaper (knowing nod).


A good, rolling carry-on bag will help contain all of the extra stuff you must now travel with. I like the ones with four wheels so I can move it easily while juggling the baby. Items to ensure you have in this bag include: diapers, wipes, a nursing cover or long pashmina, toys and snacks if your infant is old enough, a baby blanket, warm clothes, a bottle and a pacifier. Now, I know not everyone supports the use of bottles or pacis, but I find they are a must on flights. My son does breastfeed, but it was nearly impossible for him to get a good latch on those tiny airplane seats, particularly in his first six weeks of life. Bottles are much easier to use; just pop it or the paci in baby’s mouth as the plane takes off and lands to help him clear his ears.


A baby carrier allows you to safely hold your wee one while you maneuver on to the plane, stow your carry-ons and get everything you need arranged in your seat-back pocket. It also is quite handy when using the restroom onboard when you have no one else to watch your baby.


Yes! I said it. Relax and have fun! You CAN do this. With a little extra planning on your part, PCSing overseas with a baby can be your best, most exciting PCS yet.

New Parent, New Support

 Posted by on October 7, 2014 at 09:15
Oct 072014


In the days leading up to my son’s birth, I remember friends, family members and even complete strangers asking me if I was nervous about childbirth.

No matter who was asking, my answer was always the same, “I’m not worried about delivery; I’m worried about the 18 years that follow.”

My mindset was that delivery was an inevitable event at that point. I could gather that it was probably going to hurt, but honestly, what was I going to do at 38 weeks pregnant? Ready or not, it was happening.

What kept me awake at night (besides the sciatic pain and 15 trips to the bathroom) were oddly specific concerns about caring for a newborn. How would I know when to feed my son? How often should I bathe him? When could he split a PB&J with me? And what the heck was I supposed to do with little boy parts? Advice from two separate loved ones could be completely contradictory. One parenting book would preach about on-demand feeding while the neighboring book on the bookstore shelf swore up and down that a structured schedule was the only way to go.

On top of the “regular” parenting struggles, like feeding, safe sleep, childproofing and the dreaded potty training, I knew I’d eventually be guiding my kids through challenges totally foreign to me since I didn’t grow up in a military family. Even before officially becoming a mom, I knew that moving and deployments would become like second nature to my kids, which was crazy to think about because I was still trying to understand them both.

Whether you’re confused about the whole new parent thing, parenting as a milspouse or all of the above, the answers you need are closer than you might think – and they’re certainly more convenient than flipping through a dozen parenting book indexes. The New Parent Support Program is easy to join, available at your installation and has services available at no cost to you – which is great considering how much of your budget now goes toward diapers…and laundry detergent.

The program invites you to a network of support that can guide you through frustrating days, tough periods, like deployments or moves, and help you crack the code of your baby’s developmental needs. Through the program, you can participate in prenatal and parenting classes near you, playgroups that offer social interaction for you and your growing child, health care referrals if necessary and you may even be able to take advantage of their home visitation service which allows you one-on-one support for your specific concerns, like breastfeeding, sleeping, behavior management and more.

No amount of forward planning can fully prepare a new parent for life after a baby arrives. You can stock up on the best brand of bottles, only to have your child hate them. The diapers with the best reviews can cause a rash to spring up on your little one’s rump. And everything you decided to do pre-parenthood might fly out the window when you’re in the thick of it. It’s OK to be confused. It’s OK to be overwhelmed. It’s OK to realize occasionally that the thing that smells like spit up is your own shirt. And, most importantly, it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

Potty Talk: The Lost Art of Conversation for Parents

 Posted by on December 5, 2013 at 17:16
Dec 052013


I can’t even quantify the amount of time each day I spend concerned with poop. Why didn’t anyone warn me that this is really all that parenting is about? Where was that chapter in the parenting book?

In the newborn stage, it’s all about counting the amount of dirty diapers to determine whether or not the baby is eating enough. Parents are probably the only people on the planet, other than trained medical professionals, that are concerned with color, consistency and frequency of number twos. It’s gross, it’s more than a little humbling and it is my life.

Do you know who isn’t concerned with your child’s poop? Everyone else on the planet.

It happened so smoothly that I don’t even recall when I went from talking about celebrity gossip, fashion trends and current events – yes, in that order – to tantrums, diaper rashes and nap schedules. But, you know what, I spend nearly every waking hour with my precious little babies, so I spend the majority of my day talking in a tone that I refer to as “the kindergarten teacher” – nurturing, yet stern – and dumbing down my vocabulary with swaps like:

  • Potty instead of bathroom
  • Tummy instead of stomach
  • Tantrum instead of freak out
  • Time-out instead of two minutes of peace and quiet for mommy
  • Nap time instead of two hours of peace and quiet for mommy

My poor husband – and I say “poor” sarcastically because he spends the day with other adults at work and gets a peaceful 20-minute drive to and from work in which he gets to listen to music that isn’t sung by cartoon characters – anyway, my poor husband walks right into a minefield when he comes home. All it takes is one question, “How was your day?” and I immediately spew detailed events from the day starting with our son barely touched his breakfast to our daughter waking up early from her nap because she’s cutting a new tooth.

I can tell that he truly tries to stay interested, but there’s only so much he can hear through the sounds of my preschooler son screeching on the toilet trying to make a number two and my infant daughter whining because she just spit up all over herself.

I tell him all about the kids because he has to care; they’re his kids too. So whether he wants to hear it or not, he gets the good, the bad and the stinky. But if there is one thing I know about conversation with other adults, it is that no one else is obligated to care. Non-parents don’t have a clue what parents are talking about most of the time – and frankly we don’t need to be scaring off potential members of our elite parenting club with our horror stories. Fellow parents may only half-heartedly listen out of pity, but truthfully, they probably don’t care and are possibly even irritated that you’re talking about kids when all they wanted was a night out. Just because we love our kids doesn’t mean we have to love everyone’s kids.

We know it’s true, but we all do it – I’m probably the biggest hypocrite of them all. I used to roll my eyes at those people who posted pictures of their kids’ first everything, and now my own kids have their childhood memories plastered all over social media.

The point is that we love our kids, they become our lives – and that’s OK. It’s natural to talk about them because we’re proud of them, but we shouldn’t ONLY talk about them. The world is still spinning out there and we can still be a part of it – the last time I checked they weren’t casting people out just for smelling like spit up. When you’re a parent – especially a stay at home parent – you have to actively seek out adult conversation and work at maintaining that skill. I’ve only just begun to socialize again after my daughter was born – ahem…over six months ago – and at first I endured a lot of awkward pauses and conversations about the weather, but I think I’m getting better. Right?

Having a conversation once in a while about something other than that precious thing my kid said or that disgusting thing my kid did is refreshing! It’s like that first shower you get in that three-day marathon after bringing a newborn home – you come away renewed and ready to tackle a new day. I recommend it – both the adult conversation and the new parent shower.

Try just scheduling a dinner with fellow parents, and do it in advance because you know everyone needs to find a sitter. If you slip back into potty talk, the judgment will be minimal because everyone else at the table can sympathize. Truly make an effort to leave the diaper talk at home. If you’re finding it difficult to steer clear of baby anecdotes and you’ve managed to relate current events back to that epic diaper you changed yesterday, things have run off course; ask questions to turn the conversation onto someone else.

It’s not easy to ignore those precious kiddos, but it’s healthy to talk about grown-up things every once in a while. Keep up with a hobby, catch up on the DVR, watch the news, read up on pop culture and get back in the game.

The Healthy Road to Postpartum Weight Loss

 Posted by on September 29, 2013 at 08:00
Sep 292013


Pregnancy is a beautiful thing; our bodies transform into cozy homes for our growing babies. When it’s over, though, and I’m changing clothes for the umpteenth time in one day because my little bundle of joy spit up on me (again), I’m just wondering why in the world I can’t fit into any of the clothes in my closet.

Getting our pre-baby bodies back is a process. We can’t cheat and reach that magic number on the scale overnight. Getting our energy, fitness, waistline and confidence back takes commitment, but I can promise you – as a two-time survivor of a postpartum slim down – the results are well worth the effort.

Before diving into what helped me get back into my skinny jeans, it’s important to mention that you should wait for the all-clear from your doctor before beginning any postpartum exercise. Starting too early can lead to injuries or tearing, which will put you on the bench even longer. Your first weeks postpartum are uninterrupted time to bond with your new baby and your body’s chance to heal. Give yourself a break; you just had a nine-month workout with a sprint to the finish.

In addition, I’m a firm believer that your weight loss goal should focus more on health than a number on a scale. If, after reaching your goal weight, you are finding it difficult to maintain, you may have overshot. Listen to your body and steer clear of anything promising a quick slim down. If you achieve health and fit back into your pre-baby clothes on your own, you’ll be proud and confident, and aren’t those the kind of traits we want our growing babies to see in their moms?

Fueling your body

Drink water. Easy enough, right? You wouldn’t believe how many days I got swamped and forgot to drink water. I now pour myself a glass of water first thing in the morning – even before my coffee…GASP! Water keeps you hydrated, improves your skin and can help you feel full.

Don’t count calories. Aren’t you busy enough already without math homework? Unless your doctor has assigned a specific diet, put your calculators away, ladies. Everything is OK in moderation; I know if I deprive my body of something I really want, like cookies, I will go nuts and eat a dozen in one sitting. If you want a cookie, have a cookie – just resist having the entire batch. Make sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods – not empty calories – and be mindful of your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding. ChooseMyPlate has some great pointers for nutrition while breastfeeding.

Revamp your recipes. I’ve made many simple switches for my family that cut unnecessary calories and fat while increasing nutrients without sacrificing taste. In baked goods, I use unsweetened applesauce in place of butter, oil and, occasionally, eggs. Non-fat Greek yogurt is a perfect replacement for sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise, and it’s packed with protein, which can help you feel fuller longer. We also use whole wheat pastas, brown rice and protein-packed quinoa over white rice and pasta. And we swap a meat entrée for legumes a few times a week – it’s an easy trade in some of our favorites: enchiladas and stuffed peppers. There was only a temporary, minor protest from my “meat and potatoes” hubby.

Physically fit

Perfect your posture. Lingering pregnancy-induced lordosis – the common arch in your low back that causes you to push your tummy out, weak core muscles and carrying a baby around all day can lead to “mommy posture.” Do like mama told you: stand up straight, roll your shoulders back and down, and pull your bellybutton in towards your spine (like you’re sucking in to button your jeans – you know what I’m talking about). Check yourself several times throughout the day, and fix your posture if it’s out of whack. Good posture will get you a flatter stomach sooner since you’re strengthening your core without even breaking a sweat!

Take quality over quantity. If you can do sit-ups all day, you’re either an Olympic athlete or you’re not doing it right. Good form will get you the results you want much faster than just going through the motions.

Exercise according to your schedule. Hit the gym on the way to work, hit the pavement for a run (with your jogging stroller, of course) or hit “play” and work out along with a video. I prefer working out at home – a combination of cardio and strength training five to six days per week for roughly 30 minutes each time – because I can do it anytime I have time: during my kids’ naptime, before they wake up in the morning (don’t ask me how many times that’s actually happened) or after their bedtime.

Modify. Ease your body back into exercise. Push-ups are a great example. You can do a beginner version on your knees, then graduate to a traditional push-up, and when you’re ready, lift one leg off of the ground at a time for a little extra credit.

As with any weight loss goal, anticipate a plateau. I seemed to hang on to that last 10 pounds for weeks, and it was incredibly frustrating. For a little extra motivation, involve your family and friends in your weight loss journey. When they know your goals, they’re less likely to pressure you into that ever-so-small piece of cake.

When you do give yourself the green light for that sliver of cake, let yourself really enjoy it! If you scold yourself the entire time, then what’s the point? If you work hard, don’t beat yourself up for occasionally indulging or skipping a workout when you’re exhausted. You make your choices, and if you’re happy where you are, your good enough is good enough!

Happy at Home: Making SAHM Work for You

 Posted by on August 6, 2013 at 16:00
Aug 062013


What is the quickest way to anger a stay at home mom? Ask her what she does all day. If you really want to dig yourself a hole, be sure to add extra inflection on the “do” to convey your genuine confusion as to what a mom could possibly do with all that free time around the house.

Naps? Rarely.

Catching up on DVR? Doubtful.

Sipping fruity drinks poolside? Is that a joke?

If anyone has a genuine curiosity of what we, SAHMs, do all day, the answer is everything. We wake up early, go to sleep late, fold mountains of laundry and cook everything from PB&Js with the crusts cut off to – well – something fancy and restaurant-ish that my toddler would sneer at. We are doctors without all the fancy education; we are mediators between screaming siblings and we are teachers of manners, ABCs and toilet training.

Our decision to stay home and focus on raising our kids may be planned and permanent or temporary due to current circumstances (current duty station, summer vacation or work hiatus, for example). Whatever the situation, it’s admirable work!

Unlike other career choices, there’s no four year degree to teach you how to balance years of juggling appointments, practices and nap times. Since there is no “right” way to raise our kids and run our households, we learn as we go. Every day we learn – sometimes the hard way – what works and what fails miserably.

Each home is different, each parent is different and – of course – each child is unique, so what works for one SAHM might be a flop for another, but here’s what works at our house.

Making our jobs look easy

Of course, we want to be good at our job as SAHMs. We want to raise intelligent, polite and nurtured kids, and we want to make it look easy. The million dollar question is how do we do that?

Organization. Personally, I like to plan activities at least a few days in advance. I make weekly meal plans and grocery lists to simplify grocery shopping and the chaotic hours surrounding dinner. Most importantly, I (try to) keep cabinets and closets organized so my kids, my husband (for the most part), babysitters and I know where to find “stuff.”

Consistency. Although the tantrums just before nap time might say otherwise, kids like routines. When my son was capable, I began asking him to clean up his toys before nap- and bedtime. Sometimes he’s excited to do it; other times I have to ask 400 times and he replies with WAY too much sarcasm for a 2-year-old, “Aye, aye, captain!” But the rule stands. My kids are also schedule babies. It works for us. I know every day around 12:30 both kids go down for a nap, and I get some kid-free time to work, exercise, clean or whatever else I need to do.

Flexibility. Yes, this is a complete contradiction to the previous bullet. I’m aware of that, but there are exceptions to every rule. Otherwise, “I” would always come before “E” – end of story. Sometimes my kids are late for their nap because we don’t make it home from a morning outing in time. Kids get sick, they get cranky, parents have off days and sometimes the only time you can schedule a dentist appointment is smack dab in the middle of nap time. Kids will adjust. Life is a constant adjustment; just turn it into a teachable moment for your kiddos!

Preparation. I’ll admit with my first child, I over packed for any trip out of the house. Even a trip to the grocery store required a morning of packing the car and the diaper bag for every possible scenario from a simple wet diaper to the simultaneous onset of hunger, boredom and fatigue. Now I realize it’s quality, not quantity. I still pack the car or diaper bag the night before if I know I have to get out of the house early with the kids; it just makes mornings easier.

Busy kids. I’ve realized that my son only gets in trouble if he’s bored. When I’m interacting with him, he’s learning or he’s trying something new, he is always excited and (relatively) well behaved. I try to plan at least one new or tried and true activity each day. We also try to get out of the house to go to the museum, park or aquarium a few times each week because a change of scenery does everyone good.

“Me time.” Even the most dedicated SAHM needs some “me time” occasionally. Anytime I find myself unable to participate in an adult conversation that has to do with anything other than funny stuff my toddler just said or poopy diapers, I know I’m due for some kid-free time. It does a mommy good, so don’t feel guilty about leaving the kids with family or a sitter every now and then.

Whether you’re just beginning your SAHM career, picking up a few shifts as some seasonal or part-time work, or you’ve been doing it for years and are looking for some new ideas, consider looking at the parts of your day that are the most stressful (like dinner time, for example). Think about what you could do to alleviate some stress and try something new! Before you know it, you’ll be hearing, “How do you do it?” and “You’re amazing,” which are a welcomed change from, “What do you do all day?”

Apr 262013
Staff Blogger Kristi


I can remember looking around our living room shortly after my son J was born and wondering why the smallest person in the house required the most “stuff.” I was surrounded, and I suddenly felt like we needed a bigger house. All of this stuff taking over the house can be a little intimidating. If you’re like me, you may find yourself wondering why in the world you need it all, why it’s so hard to clean and why you’re always missing at least one block from the set.

What you really “need”

As any commercial or your persistent child will tell you, you need it all! Your child’s life just won’t be complete without the brand new, ultra fabulous, deluxe model of everything. Don’t ever tell my husband that I said this, but you don’t need it all. Several things I insisted that we needed for our son turned out to be completely unnecessary and more of a pain than anything else.

Take those adorable little shopping cart and high chair covers, for example. They were a touchy subject at our house for a while. I argued that it would be much more sanitary and keep J from getting his legs pinched in the shopping cart like our generation experienced (and survived, by the way). The first time I tried to put that cover into a shopping cart with one hand at a busy grocery store entrance while holding a heavy and squirmy baby, I knew I was dead wrong. We did not need that thing, and I am still eating my words.

What’s just not worth it

Other objects that I’ve discovered to be unnecessary in J’s first two years include:

Wipe warmers. The wipes at the bottom of the warmer always dried out and were ruined, and that’s money out the window!

Free-standing high chairs. So cute, but so messy and always in the way. A better alternative for us is a chair that safely straps onto one of our dining room chairs. It works perfectly. It’s all plastic, so it’s easy to clean and it takes up no extra room.

Shoes in the pre-walking months. What is it about miniature shoes? I just want them! Full disclosure—my soon to debut daughter already has a closet full of these useless shoes. If you have more restraint than I do, just know that children don’t need shoes on their feet until they start using them.

Crib bedding sets. These usually come with a comforter, crib bumpers, a crib skirt and a fitted sheet. All you really need is the fitted sheet and possibly the crib skirt if you plan to use the area under the crib for storage. J’s comforter was never used and the bumpers are actually a suffocation hazard. You’re better off buying fitted crib sheets and breathable crib bumpers.

Bulky travel systems. We did get some use out of ours, but the stroller was so bulky that I abandoned it for an umbrella stroller that didn’t take up the entire trunk of my car. Whatever stroller you decide on, test it out first. It should be lightweight and easy to set up and put away with one hand.

Flashy trainer toilets. J’s potty consists of two pieces of plastic. I can wipe it clean without breaking a sweat. Does he like it? It’s blue, and that’s all he cares about.

Toddler beds. While we haven’t made this transition yet, we are planning to simply put his mattress on the floor until he learns not to roll out of bed. If your crib is already equipped to convert to a toddler bed, then go for it!

Speaking of convertible cribs, when you do make purchases, look for multipurpose items to avoid making a new purchase every six months. The bassinet that we used for J and again for our daughter, R, is an attachment to our playpen. So, instead of using a bulky bassinet for a month or so, then tossing it in a closet until baby number two, we got all kinds of use out of the playpen in the meantime. We also discovered baby bottles that had interchangeable sippy cup lids, so when J was ready to switch to cups we just had to buy new lids instead of a new set of cups as well.

A word on cleaning

Now that I know how messy kids are (thanks for that lesson, J), I refuse to buy anything that isn’t machine washable, dishwasher safe or easily wiped clean. Any piece of baby equipment with a fabric component should be removable so you can regularly toss it into the washing machine. The best baby and toddler toys are the ones that are plastic and free of small holes and crevices. If I can’t drop it in a sink of soapy water, hose it down or wipe it with some non-toxic cleaner, I just don’t want it.

Older kids—if you haven’t already noticed—are all about toys with tons of pieces, like blocks, puzzles, toy cars or play sets with a gazillion pieces. You can’t avoid these toys completely, but you can stay one step ahead with some organization bins or toys that come with their own storage boxes or bags. A little organization goes a long way; if you don’t believe me, just wait until you step on your first wooden block on the way to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night.

Whatever you decide, keep safety and convenience in mind. Ask around before you make big purchases and check recalls on the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.