How To: Self Care Productively and Make the Most of “Me Time”

Hi loves,

I an important question for you. How do you take care of yourself? Here are a few of my favorite ways to relax and enjoy time with myself … productively. Please enjoy my video below. Don’t worry, my words are coming very soon!

I thank you for watching and I hope you’re able to take the time to do something for yourself, by yourself today!

 

Xo.

Jen

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Post Partum Shedding on Natural Hair: How I Survived (and you will too)

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In July I posted about my experience with post partum shedding, in which I vented about losing my hair after having my son.  Now that THAT ship is farther off in the distance, I thought it was absolutely necessary for me to share my advice on pushing through such a trying time.

 

1. Don’t panic. Post-partum shedding is completely normal. The rapid hair loss, shedding, and thinning are frustrating. Shocking. Scary. Embarrassing– and a slew of other adjectives which should be followed by a series of exclamation marks. Please promise me you won’t make any rash decisions or take drastic measures out of frustration. The last place you want to find yourself is on your closet floor having a meltdown at 4am because you just hacked off all of your hair because it wouldn’t stop falling out. (If we were playing a game of “Never Have I Ever” this would be my opportunity to take a sip because that was totally me.) Your hair is taking it’s normal course of adjusting to the changes of your body and hormones over the past year (pregnancy and postpartum) and it’s expecting you to make that transition easier. I know it is so much easier said than done, but try your best to stay CALM. Now is your opportunity to delve into a bit of research, speak with a health care professional, and/or make a few changes to make the next few months easier to tolerate.

2. Take care of your hair. Then leave it alone. During this transitional period, your hair is exceptionally fragile and vulnerable to breakage. The last thing you want to do is create bigger problems by over manipulating your hair or not allowing it to rest. Don’t neglect your hair, but don’t smother it. Baby your hair. Opt for low manipulation hairstyles and avoid styles that cause stress and tension to your edges and the length of your hair. Wash, condition, deep condition, style, and keep it moving. (I relied on a lot of twists and head wraps/ turbans to keep my hair tucked away and my mind off of my hair.)  Continue taking your prenatal vitamins, drinking plenty of water, and keep your hair happy– but leave it alone!

3. Time heals all. Research has shown that post-partum shedding typically lasts an average of three months. When you are dealing with something as traumatic as hair loss, that seems like FOREVER. Trust me, I know. As cliche as it sounds, you have to remember that this is only temporary, and that the worse of this phase will NOT last forever. Continue following your healthy hair and lifestyle routine and TRY to focus on taking care of yourself rather than counting the hairs on your head. Before you know it, your hair will be back and those edges will be LAID.  Remember: “It will all get better with time.”

These truths probably would have saved me a lot of grief when I initially fell into the dark hole of “post partum shedding.” I hope this has helped you in some way, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey of growth and self care. Above all else, remember that you just made a beautiful human and that alone is worth all the love and care in the world!

July 2016

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 November 2016

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Did you know I have a YouTube channel? Here is my video about surviving postpartum shedding:

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My Journey to (Modified) Minimalism

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Over 40,000. That’s how many unread emails I had in one of my email accounts. The other trails far behind with a mere 1700+ but… OVER 40-damn-thousand. It’s a bad habit that never really went checked. I would log into my email account and click on the emails I was interested in, skipping over the others and paying them no mind. Never deleting anything. And there they sat, just piling up. Stacking. It was kind of like this subconscious burden that I carried with me for so long. Knowing that I had to eventually get in there and perform a major clean-up, but I knew it would be daunting and tedious, so I kept putting it off.

Two days ago I finally made the decision to declutter my life, and I wanted to start there. Well technically, I had started minimizing and cleaning out my closet prior, but I wanted to tackle every aspect of my life and I knew that my virtual space was just as important as my physical space.

I couldn’t do it.

I sat there, sifting through emails, unsubscribing from companies, sorting and deleting. This lasted all of an hour. I started deleting but I was only able to do 50 or 100 at a time. My chest tightened. It was a task so overwhelming that I was afraid I would never get through it and I dreaded starting. Nick saw that I was growing anxious and frustrated and her offered his help. Thank God for him. He spent hours deleting over 36,000 emails from that email account, and seeing  “0 unread emails” on my screen was the most liberating feeling I’ve had in a very long time.

I felt a burden lifted. And so my journey to a decluttered life was resurrected.

Fast forward to today and the beginning stages of this “journey” aren’t quite what I expected. I’m running into road blocks in confronting things I never considered needing to purge. Cosmetics. Nail polishes. Venturing into other rooms like the kitchen and the garage. Oh the garage. I guess I imagined it being this big prolific moment where I would go into my closet and start packing things into bags, and an hour or two later I would be left with a neat, simple Pinterest worthy wardrobe. No mess. No junk. No clutter. Just a simple space and a clear mind. I’m learning that this journey to minimalism is definitely… a journey.

Let’s be honest, my version of minimalism isn’t typical. I’m not going as far as limiting myself to a certain number of pants or shirts. I’m not For me it’s all about living simply and valuing Thing’s I’ve always believed but haven’t reflected in my day to day life because I have children, or a man who likes hoarding collecting things (sorry babe), or crazy tendencies to form random clusters and piles of things because I have a million projects floating in my head that never get completed. Then of course there’s the “what ifs” we share. I’ll keep this “just in case” I need it in the future. I’ll hold on to this as my goal dress because “what if” I can fit it in a few months? Guilty. These are things that I don’t want to hold onto any longer. I’ve always been the person who values time and experiences over material things, and in some humbling way, having less really helps you realize that sometimes that’s all you need. That less really is more.

So with this modified version of minimalism, I want to really emphasize one thing. I am not becoming an extremist. I am not placing any rules or restrictions upon myself or my lifestyle. I am simply making a conscious effort to keep a healthy balance in my life, by accumulating less and valuing more. I am committing to putting more time and energy into myself and my family. I am committed to only keeping things that we absolutely love and those that bring us joy.

I am hoping that this journey brings a clearer space both physically and mentally, because Lord knows I can benefit from the two.

Stay close loves, I will be updating you as I go!

 

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Lost in Motherhood and Embracing New Adventures

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Facebook sent me a memory notification today. Seven years ago today I updated my Facebook status to let everyone know that I had just made it to Korea. I traveled there to spend– what I know now to be– an amazing year teaching English and traveling throughout parts of Asia including South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. It took me back to the old Jen, one that loved adventure, and everything that came with it. The memories. The sense of feeling liberated and accomplished. The beauty in exploring new things. The love. It took me back to when I had such a sense of freedom. These were without a doubt (after my adventures in motherhood) the best times of my life.

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Reading that post made me sad and inspired me, simultaneously. It awakened a part of me that I thought for sure had died when I became a more “responsible” adult with children to care for, and no time or money to do such things. Somehow life had shifted and while I was killing the game in the momming department, I was forsaking myself and losing myself day by day, moment by moment. Yet, I would look back on photos and videos, proud of how far I had ventured and accomplished, but realizing that I’d probably never reach that level of carefree happiness again.

I’d been so busy dreaming of reliving those years that I didn’t see the possibility of embracing these new dimensions of my life and bringing more of myself into my relationships with my family. Being a mother didn’t mean I couldn’t travel and explore, and introduce this world to my children.

I want to show my children a world of adventure. This is who I am. Beyond playgrounds, theme parks, and ice cream shops. I want to explore waterfalls and hidden gems. I want to travel and explore, and I want to make beautiful memories in places beyond our comfort zone. Why should this stop because I am a mother? Why do I need to call for help if I want a vacation? (Aside from mommy time, and a couples retreat, of course.) For so long I’ve been enslaving myself mentally because of other people’s perspective of traveling. Adhering to the norm or settling for agendas because my spouse doesn’t like this, or my kids aren’t old enough to appreciate that. “It costs money to do ___” or ” When will we get the time off to ___?” I’m tired of hearing that. I’m tired to giving people and circumstances power over my happiness. My goals. My adventures. My life. This ends today.

I had a revelation, and I’ve come to a turning point.

I’m starting with myself. I’m starting with where I am, and what I can do. I’ve come to the realization that I  haven’t been capitalizing off of my free time the way that I should. I’m not paralyzed by my circumstances, I’m blessed by them. I have this opportunity to create something beautiful. I have this chance to explore, spend quality time with my children, and embrace lasting, teachable, beautiful moments by combining all of the above. I have the time, and I’ll have to create the energy. Is it rough trying to “get up and go” with two small children? Hell yeah. But I will have to continue to pray for strength, patience, and growth. And woosah the hell out of my days. I’ll have to remind myself that even though I’m drained, exhausted, frustrated, and bent all out of shape– that I’d much rather expel these emotions for my children than an employer, any day of the week. And I’ll have to remind myself that when I’m getting these waves and feeling overwhelmed, that indeed it is time for adventure. To get the hell out.

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I’m delving into ideas and I can’t wait to get my palette wet. I am an adventurer. That’s who I am and that’s who I am proud to be. I can’t wait to explore beyond these walls with my children.

 

If you have any ideas for family vacations, traveling on a budget or free to low cost adventures, please share them below!

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What I Learned From Post Partum Shedding

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I started to notice how bad my hair fall was when my son turned 3 months. That’s textbook according to when post partum shedding usually begins, and it scared the hell out of me. I’m not talking about hair shedding during a detangling session. I mean hair is literally sitting on top of itself, waiting to be touched before it falls to the floor. I would run my fingers over (notice I said over, not through) my hair while washing, and I’d have hair covering them.

I remember having a breakdown one morning at 4am and making the decision to chop my hair off in an attempt to “heal” it. I had no idea what I was experiencing was normal; I figured I must have been doing something wrong. I must have been using the wrong products, or not deep conditioning enough (guilty). More importantly, I thought my hair shedding may have been a sign of a deeper internal problem or health crisis. My hair was thriving and blossoming during my pregnancy, why was it all of a sudden coming out in clumps?

I was scared. I was sad. I was embarrassed.

I researched and I found a lot of insightful, helpful information. I’ve taken away great advice about the do’s and don’t during this trying time (i.e., don’t over manipulate your hair, do deep condition, don’t stress, do continue to take your prenatal vitamins and eat healthy) and I’m waiting desperately for this stage to pass. I came across this article on Simone Digital and I swear I love this perspective. It lightened the mood for me, and it was at that moment that I put on my big girl pants and said “Ok, I’m ready to attack this.”

This is an unusual type of post being that I’m posting during an experience rather than after it, in hopes of giving advice. I’m still researching, hoping, praying, and freaking out every time I wash my hair. I find myself somewhere between happy that I’m taking better care of my hair and sad that I didn’t realize what was going on before hacking off my hair. Yes, it’s just hair. Yes, it grows back. But hell, I want it back NOW.

What I can say is that this twisted setback is teaching me to be patient with my hair and take better care of it. I’m on week 3 of weekly deep conditioning and focusing on moisture retention, and I’ve noticed that the amount of shedding has decreased a bit. I’ve learned that curl creams may be better alternatives to the thicker gels I’ve been using for my wash and go’s because they cause less friction. I’ve learned that deep conditioning with heat on a weekly basis is not optional. I’ve learned that I have to pay attention to what I do to my hair and what goes in it. And through it all, I’m learning to treat the hair on my hair ever so delicately because the goal is to keep it there!

 

What are your tips for length retention and healthy growth? Do share!

P.S. I can’t wait to get these healthy locks back!

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post partum shedding, the little in jen that could blog

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Swaddle Designs Review (and why I love muslin blankets)

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Muslin blankets are loved because they are breathable, lightweight, and perfect for swaddling. Although we stopped swaddling shortly after we realized baby boy sweats easily (we now rely on a sleep sack; it’s such a game changer!) I still love my muslin blankets (read on to find out my top 7 reasons). Especially because living in South Florida, the last thing you want to do is use a heavy blanket for your baby.

I must say, muslin blankets are everything.

Swaddle Designs did not disappoint in the concept and design of their blankets. I love that these blankets come with a step-by-step swaddle pictorial sewn right on the tag! Its such a brilliant idea and I definitely needed the refresher. (We swaddled for the first two weeks or so.) Equally impressive is the interactive barcode that comes on the tag, which is perfect for access to free white noise and calming sounds and baby care videos, via the website that it links to.

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swaddle designs review, the little in jen that could blog, mommy blog, mom blog, nursing cover, muslin blankets

I am in love with the adorable designs of these blankets. Not only because they are gender neutral, but the black and white is great because you don’t have to worry about colors fading over time through use and washing. The material is 100% cotton, though I will say it feels a bit more abrasive than the brands I’ve previously used. Still light and airy, still comfortable, but not as soft. Also– please, please wash before use. I was so excited to use them for my little that I draped one over my shoulder right out of the box, and I was met with a few lint particles that triggered sneezing.  No big deal, just a reminder to always wash materials before using them!

I am so grateful that Swaddle Designs reached out to me for this review and gift away. These swaddle blankets are definitely a staple in my baby bag, and I can’t get over how cute they are! Lucky for you, we’ve teamed up to give a single blanket to one lucky mama. Comments below are automatically entered to win, and head over to my Instgram profile  for details on how to score an extra entry. The deadline is Friday, May 6, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST. The winner will be announced in time for Mother’s Day! Good luck boos!

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Without further ado, here are my top 7 ways to use a muslin blanket:

1. swaddle wrap
2. nursing cover
3. car seat cover
4. photo prop, background for baby photos
5. burp cloth
6. blanket for draping (for shade or keeping baby warm)
7. Fold and roll it up to use it for propping. When J was a little older than baby is now (but still tiny) I used rolled up blankets to help position her in her baby gear (please always follow safety guidelines). One of my favorite mommy hacks is placing a rolled blanket under my breast for hands-free breastfeeding.  (I have to use hands because my boobs are huge!)

How do you use your baby blanket? Leave your mommy hacks below!

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My First Week as a Mother of Two

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I know that eventually some of these things will change, evolve, or dissipate completely. But I wanted to take a moment to honestly document what I was feeling in my first week after having my second child. A raw, unedited version of what I experienced in my first few days of being a mother of two. Here goes nothing.

Physical changes

I’m not talking about a “snap back” here. Frankly, getting down to a smaller version of myself is one of the last things on my mind right now. I’ve gone through this before and I know that the weight will come off, especially with the help of breastfeeding. I struggled with the physical toll that labor took on my body. Yes, I had a “quick” delivery. Yes I only did one to two rounds of pushing before baby came. But it’s important to remember one thing here. I STILL GAVE BIRTH. People tend to trivialize the amount of pain/work I went through to get to hard laboring at the hospital, AND the fact that I still pushed a baby out of my vagina, and I hate that. Nobody is handing out awards for the mother who endured the most or least amount of hours of labor. I still put in work, and the way my body feels is a testament of that. Nobody warned me about the after birth pains being five times worse after your first child. Well, none of my friends or family did. The nurse in labor and delivery gave me a heads up, and explained that round two onwards is worse because your uterus is more “elastic” after having a child so it has to work harder to get back to it’s normal size. I took this in, but figured if I could make it through contractions and labor, I was capable of a few stomach cramps after delivery. Oh. My. God. The pain is real. It felt like hard labor contractions, menstrual cramps, and a horrible stomach ache was overcoming my body simultaneously. Of course it worsened with every nursing session, which made the desire to do anything but curl up in bed and cry, very minimal. I was prepared for the aches and pains, sore and stiffness, abdominal cramps, and sore nipples from breastfeeding, but nobody warned that I would have to hand my body to the devil on a silver platter to be tortured. Recovering physically has been… rough to say the least.

Let’s be clear, I know I am blessed. I’m still mobile and I’m able to take care of myself and my littles, just not in the capacity and speed I’d like to. As I write this I am 9 days post partum and at times still moving at a tortoise’s speed. I rely on Nick for help with cooking and cleaning, but even that is difficult because I’m still up doing work more than I should. Not to mention he is going back to work next week. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself and overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations but I just wish I were me again. Its been so frustrating with being placed on bedrest at 31 weeks, that I’m ready to just get up and do the things I want and need to, without having to “take it easy” or being physically limited bc of body aches. I mean, if I were being waited on hand and foot it would probably make the resting phase more desirable, but because I’m doing so much already, I’d rather just have myself back so I can do it well. But I know the road to recovery isn’t always one without it’s bumps in the road.

Emotional changes

I expected to be all over the place emotionally. Feeling guilty for taking time away from J. Wanting time and space for bonding. Surprisingly the raw emotion I’m struggling with the most is frustration. In wanting help. In not wanting people in my space. In not being able to skip “this part” and go straight to play time at the park and little adventures. In getting little sleep, in being the last to eat, in having to decide between a hot shower and missing the first half of my “show” (Cookie didn’t win that battle). In just trying to find balance in making sure everyone is happy but feeling like a failure at doing so. It’s all just so damn… frustrating! I find solace in knowing that –as cliche as it sounds– this is a fleeting feeling. It is only temporary. I know that tomorrow will come and I’ll have bigger fish to fry and more reasons to stay positive and hold on to faith. I know that my hormonal and energy levels will have balanced, and I’ll find better ways to deal. And I’m comforted in knowing that if I don’t, I’ll always have fudgesicles. (I had to do it.)

Family changes
This has been the most rewarding part of the evolution. Watching J as a big sister makes me so happy. She can’t get enough of her baby brother. Not a cry goes unattended, not a moment goes by when she isn’t kissing him, asking to kiss him, or wanting to make sure he is okay. She tells him she loves him a hundred times a day. I feared for so long that I would fall short of knowing how to love another person as much as I love J. It sounds incredibly shallow when I write it out, but that is genuinely how I felt. How would I know how to “split” my love, time and affection? Everything changed when I saw my son’s face. It’s like our world just instantaneously shifted and I felt like I had loved him forever. Sharing or “splitting” the love I have hasn’t been a thought that has crossed my mind since. My heart is so full with these two in it, and I love them immensely. Since being home with the both of them, I’ve learned to appreciate them individually and together as my two babies.

At times I do feel like J got a crash course in being a big girl. I have to tell her, “no” and “I can’t right now baby” more times than I’d like to and honestly, its heartbreaking. Sometimes I just look at her playing by herself or reading quietly in her chair, and I want to cry. I don’t want her to feel lonely, or think that mommy doesn’t have time for her anymore. I don’t want her to resent the way our family has changed. But I remember how I would encourage her independent play when I was at home on bedrest, to prepare her for times like this. And though she loves being under mommy and daddy, she has really stepped up in terms of finding time to do things on her own as well. I try to take advantage of baby brother’s nap times to spend time with her– reading, talking, playing, watching movies, whatever she wants to do– just as I use her nap time to bond more with the baby or even get a little nap in myself. It’s not easy, I can’t even pretend that it is. But its rewarding.

My first week as a mother of two has been okay. Pits and peaks, highs and lows, but all the while humbling. I am so happy that I have a beautiful son that was born happy and healthy; he is such a precious baby and he is pure perfection. I’m so blessed to have a smart, free spirited, beautiful girl that calls me mommy. Together they are magic and they make me such a proud mother. When people ask me how I’m adjusting, I don’t really know what to say. I’ve only been here just over a week. It’s exciting. Frustrating. Perfect. Overwhelming. Loving. Scary. A blessing. Tiring. Sometimes it feels like a game of ping pong or a tag team wrestling match. Just as I think I’ve gotten a breather, it’s someone else’s turn to need mommy. I know it will most likely be an emotional roller coaster from here on out, and that’s okay. One thing that I keep telling myself is that, “its not the load that breaks you down, its how you carry it.” I’m praying that as I continue in this journey of motherhood, that I remember that and remain inspired by it. I pray that I continue on a healthy path towards being a better person for myself and my children. Lord knows I need the positivity and good energy to keep me close to my faith, sound judgement and patience, happiness and health and my sanity!

Signed,
A new mother of two

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Hello From the Inside: Being on Bed Rest While Pregnant

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“I’m almost 32 weeks pregnant with my second child and I’m parenting from a hospital bed. If I weren’t working on my self there would have been an explicit in that last sentence bc that’s how overwhelmingly frustrated I am.”

That’s the farthest I got. I was emotionally, physically, and creatively drained, and unable to ideally parent, much less write about it. I spent 4 days in the hospital being treated for signs of pre-term labor. I missed my baby girl. I was worried about my baby boy. I was helpless and an emotional wreck. To be quite honest, I still am.

As I write this, I am home on bed rest and nearing my 34th week of pregnancy. Being on bed rest while pregnant is no joke. God is so good. Though I know I am extremely blessed to have come this far given how close I was to this ending another way, I am still feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt for the way in which I must temporarily parent.

I don’t want your judgement. 

I am tired of people telling me it’s only temporary and that it’s what is best for the baby and I. I know that. I don’t want your sympathy. I guess me writing this post is a way for me to put my emotions somewhere. For me to release my frustrations, and try to make sense of what I am dealing with. I don’t expect someone who isn’t in my shoes to fully understand what I am dealing with emotionally. I appreciate the concern and support I am receiving, but please, I don’t want a lecture, and I don’t want your judgement.

I am doing the best I can to keep my unborn little safe, happy, and healthy– while caring for my daughter too. Being on bed rest is no walk in the park, and it’s damn sure not easy when you have an active two-year-old who needs your attention. I’ve never been the parent to plop their child in front of the television to keep them entertained. I’ve never had to tell her I can’t pick her up or take her to the park to play. She is never stuck within the same four walls for days at a time, until someone is able to come “rescue” her or be her hero because mommy can’t be. The other day she cried to her father that she “wanted to do something else” and my heart jumped out of my body and broke into a million pieces. This is NOT what I envisioned for my family. I am NOT this mother and I hate that being on medical restrictions is making it seem that way.

I don’t want to hear that I should rely on other people to help out.

I appreciate the help we have. I have a great support system of family that is willing to watch J while I “rest” or when she needs a few hours of interaction with other kids, or some play time outside of our home. I love that. But I am her mother. I enjoy spending time with her and being there for her. I don’t want to be slighted of my role as a parent because I am depending on someone else to always be there. That’s not my parenting style and I never want it to be.

Being on rest is not all fun and games, but I’m trying my best to make it so.

I’ve been thinking of creative ways to accommodate the both of us in the healthiest, most productive way. We do arts and crafts. We learn. We watch movies. We play and build. We read stories. We have play dates. We cook. We sing and dance.

So no, I am not laying in bed or on a couch all day with my feet up and a bell at my side while someone tends to my needs. But I am resting. I have substantially limited the amount of activity I partake in. My spouse takes care of the household activities when he is home, and I try to help out as much as I can from a comfy seat or in small increments.

I am doing the best I can given that I want a healthy, full term delivery– but a happy, engaged child at home as well. As out of control and frustrating as my situation seems, I am doing my best to stay positive and keep my faith strong. I thank the Lord that I am at least in the comfort of my own home, and not in the hospital at someone else’s mercy. I thank the Lord that I am able to spend this time with my daughter– though not in the ideal way I wanted for my last trimester– but quality time in the least. I pray that she doesn’t lose sight of who her mommy is. The fun loving, adventurous mommy that is so full of life, takes her places and never seems to lose energy. I pray that her vision of this new mommy, who has had so much life drained from her and “doesn’t do as much” quick fades and isn’t a memory that she keeps with her.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. I tell myself that each day conquered is a small victory for the progress of our family and our bond, and I want to keep that perspective. I pray that overall, when I am holding my son and hugging my daughter, that I am able to remember how truly blessed we were to overcome it all. I hold this vision in my head of me pushing J on the swing, her baby brother in his carrier, at the park on a beautiful day. That’s what keeps me going.

 

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