Back to Work

After a year of working “part time,” whatever that means, I’ve decided to go back to work full time.

As we all know, as a self-employed biz owner, “going to work” really doesn’t have a specific meaning. I feel like I am always working somehow, whether I’m laying in bed brainstorming about new ideas or I’m quickly answering emails while Joey takes a nap or I’m working in my studio, uninterrupted, getting sheez done. The term “work” for us is very subjective.

So what does “full time” or “part time” look like for me?

Well, it took me a year, a bounced rent check and an emotional roller coaster ride to find out.

I suddenly feel this sense of urgency that I haven’t felt in the last year. I have more than enjoyed my flexible time schedule, the relaxed days with Joey and giving myself the grace to not have time sensitive goals.

It’s time for a change, though. I’m finding that I now have these big dreams, and no patience to do them slowly. I have been oh-so lucky to have this first year with my son with little distraction. I worked just enough to get by, and that was wonderful. It was a great change of pace for someone who’s been close to a workaholic her entire career.

The term “rest” has a whole new meaning for me. I now know how to rest well, and the importance of it.

I missed almost nothing. I got to see Joey take his first steps and say his first word and make him homemade baby food and dedicate the time to build my body again. All of these things have been the most rewarding moments and journeys of my life so far, and I am so grateful that I was gifted the time, and the opportunity, to take them.

Little time has been spent on my computer. Little time has been spent late at night, working on ideas and building my business up.

The tides have shifted, and I’m now excited for the late nights and overloaded computer files and inspiration is flowing out of me and onto these blank pages faster than I can type.

In the midst of this emotional table turning, we had a mini financial crisis, and it opened my eyes to the fact that I not only was craving the change, but we NEEDED it as a family. Flexibility has trumped financial security for the maximum amount of time right now, and now we have to make the switch.

And I’m oddly ok with it.

So what does that look like for us?

Well, Joey is headed to a few full days of daycare, and I am upping my self-discipline game and working from home while Joey naps on the days he doesn’t go there (which is only Mondays…).

Figuring all this out took quite a few post-it notes covered in numbers and time slots, a very emotional conversation with my husband and three sleepless nights for me.

All in all, this definition of “full time” isn’t 8-5, five days a week. It’s three very long days away from my family, early mornings and late nights, and sacrificing my flexibility for dream chasing.

Worth it? Totally. Exhausting? Totally. Is Joey going to care that his momma spent a few more hours a week chasing dreams while he plays with his friends? Nope.

The key to this whole thing? An insanely supportive husband and a God that doesn’t leave me hanging. Oh, and self-discipline. But that’s a story for another time.

See you at the studio, loves.

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Testimony of a One Year Old's Mom

I’ve had so many posts scheduled for this day, the day before Joey turns 1 year old. Including:

  • Things I wish my 1 year old would remember someday
  • Why it’s the best and worst year ever
  • How time actually moves too fast
  • How to figure out why the hell the baby is crying

And a few others that now, seem completely insignificant.

So instead, I’m going to write a short and candid post on how I’m really feeling the night before my baby boy turns one year old.

I’m overcome. I feel like there’s no way in hell I could be a parent to a one year old. I mean, that means that a year ago, I gave birth to another human. That I actually grew another person inside of my body with fingers and toes and a heart and eyes. I mean, really. Who does that? Women, apparently. I had no idea, really, what that meant.

But now I know. I know what it feels like, literally and figuratively, to make a human. To raise them for a whole year, and know that it is only a penny’s worth of time in the grand scheme of life. But it seems like eternity, all the while seeming like a small fraction of my short life so far.

I like to think that so far, we’ve raised a good human. I mean, he’s doing great, as far as one year olds go. I think he has a wonderful personality, he’s kind and outgoing and outspoken. He is walking and laughing and playing like a big kid.

I also like to think that he knows Jesus, and knows that we love him, and that he has a profound purpose in this world. I also know that that’s a lot to expect of a human that’s only been in the real world for 365 days.

Joey has experienced so much in such a short amount of time. He has seen so much of our world. He has seen every emotion we could have in a single year: fear, resilience, passion, happiness, contentment, panic, sadness, grief, worry, joy, heartbreak. You name, he’s probably seen us feel it.

We can so quickly forget that our babies can feel, too. If we feel something, they can too. And how hard would it be to feel something, and not know why? Sweet Joey can feel my anxiety, and it scares him. His empathy is already there, and he doesn’t even know it yet.

You see, the first year of parenthood is a perfect disaster. You will probably cry more than you ever have before, tragedy or no tragedy in your past. You will laugh, and sleep, and also be sleep deprived. You will spend more time in a rocking chair than you ever thought humanly possible. Your hips and neck and wrists will hurt. You will forget that you have an identity outside of motherhood, and that your purpose is beyond this bundle of supposed joy that is currently screaming in your arms.

But then you’ll also do what are supposedly stupid things, like have a litter of puppies and a baby at the same time, and realize that it was actually the most fun you’ve had with little living creatures in your lifetime. You’ll drink wine and nurse your baby and forget that that matters. You’ll consume copious amounts of coffee and lose more hair ties than you even bought and break your cell phone more than once.

You’re going to lose handfulls of hair, from hormones and from your child pulling it out of your head (you’ll realize it’s too precious to pull out yourself, so you’ll drink more coffee instead). You can get your body back, or have a whole new body if you want one, it’s up to you. Your job will either be waiting or not waiting, and you’ll be ok with that.

The first year is just like nothing I could ever explain in the amount of detail it deserves. It’s life changing and life giving and life depleting, all at once.

I can’t say it’s been the best year of my life, but it’s certainly not the worst. And frankly, when Joey stands up in the middle of the living room and walks to the puppy for kisses, my heart explodes. And I’m just so happy that we did all that we did this year. No regrets, no questions. Just pure and utter amazement that we are all still alive, healthy and happy. Thank you Lord, for making that my truth.

What First Steps Really Mean

You guys, Joey walked yesterday. He stood up, looked around and walked like he had somewhere to go that was much more important than where he was.

I have never been more proud of anything, or anyone, ever, than I was right then.

Joey also turns a whole year old in a mere ten days.

What happened?

Oh ya, we got pregnant and had a baby. We even kind of planned it. Like we said to each other, “Let’s get pregnant and have a baby and turn our world upside down!”

Not totally sure we were thinking straight, but let me tell you something. It’s been the best year of our lives.

If you had asked me if I ever thought we’d spend so much time watching a baby try (and most often fail) walk for the first time, I would have told you that you were crazy.

I mean, what did we even do before we had Joey? Did we just sit around and talk about other things? Like what? What could we possibly have to talk about that much?

But something else happened this last year, too. I learned so much about myself I didn’t even realize there was to learn. I know that we never stop growing as humans, children of God and as spouses and parents and siblings and friends and all that jazz. But what I didn’t realize is that there is this huge part inside your soul that is completely dedicated to self growth as an individual.

Examples?

  • I’m more self-disciplined
  • I can control my emotions better (still not great, but better)
  • My time is more intentional
  • I realized how to be a good friend and what that meant
  • My multitasking skills are significantly more refined
  • The understanding of what it means to be a great wife change completely


Sure, you can learn many of these things without having kids at all, but notice, none of these things actually have anything to do with being a mom. It’s simply self growth.

How the hell does that happen?

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I still can eat an entire box of mac and cheese and not blink an eye, or cry at a freaking Rocket Mortgage commercial, or scroll Insta while Joey ruins the TV remote, or yell at my sweet husband, or forget I even have friends sometimes, but nonetheless. In general, I have been able to grow so much as an individual this last year.

So when Joey took those first few steps away from me and towards something else, I realized that maybe, that’s the point of this first year.

It’s so hard, so terribly hard. And so terribly wonderful, too.

But if I hadn’t been able to grow, for myself, how would I be able to teach Joey how to grow into himself, too?

Every night I tell him that he is brave and kind and smart - that he is rejoiced over every day. But what I forget sometimes is that I am, too.

His steps reminded me that I, too, am growing. I, too, am learning how to do things I’ve never done before.

Ask me again, in ten days, how I feel. It will probably be different. Granted, Joey is taking an extra long nap at the moment and I am freshly showered and coffee filled, so life seems pretty great. Mid-tantrum about taking away his tupperware hat might have me singing a different tune.

But that’s part of it, right? Growing. Being able to nap and cry all in the same minute (I’m talking about me, not Joey). Or being able to take your first steps, away from Mom and Dad and towards your tupperware hat. It’s all important. And unexpected. And hard and wonderful and freaking weird.

Summer + Baby

The day Joey was born, it was 106 degrees. And in the following weeks, there was no relief. And frankly, staying cooped up in the house with a baby because it’s hot outside was just not my style.

As time went on, I realized that other mommas were having a hard time finding the right things to do with their babes in the heat of summer. Whether it’s the fear of overheating them, sunburn, or just plain “It’s freaking hot,” the heat can be really intimidating to new moms.

So I decided to curate a small list of the things we did as new parents with our new newborn in the heat of summer! These activities fought the baby blues for me and socialized Joey and helped us jump back into life as our new family of 3.

Babywearing.

Before we dive in, I feel as if I should note that I am an avid babywearer. Meaning, Joey is most often found strapped to my chest or back in one of the many carriers I own. I’ll post about babywearing on its own later, but wanted to point out just a few important notes: 

  1. Though it may seem not logical to wear your baby in the heat, it’s actually, in my experience, totally safe. Be careful about which carrier you use (see below), keep baby in cool clothing (or no clothing…), and let them wear a hat to keep their face cool.

  2. I suggest either the Solly Baby Wrap or a linen Wildbird Sling for summer babywearing. If you’re doing something more active, I have other suggestions, but again, another time.

  3. Reasons for this? Well, both are lightweight and breathable, can be packed up small for quick getaway, and both keep baby in positions where you can be hands free and they can still look around.

  4. Quick keys to babywearing: close enough to kiss, keep head and neck support if baby is under 4 months, and keep them in cool clothing or no clothes at all (just a diaper). The earlier you start wearing them, in my opinion, the better life will be.

Watch them eat watermelon

This is my favorite. Because seriously, no matter how old your baby is, this is fun. No teeth needed, no dexterity necessary. Break it up or give them the whole slice, and watch the watermelon juice cover their entire bodies while you laugh, eat your own, and see them smile. It’s simply the coolest.

Take them wine tasting

You heard that right. A week after Joey was born, I loaded him up to meet Adam and our best friends at our favorite winery for their annual blessing of the grapes and wine tour. It was super hot, like, so so hot. We kept Joey in the carseat in the stroller, covered him with a muslin blanket, let him wear only a diaper, and stayed in the shade. I wore a sundress for easy nursing access, and we spent the day sipping wine (well, less for me than everyone else), and stopping to nurse Joey whenever needed. Warm, yes. But perfect, also yes.

Visit family

Joey was a mere 3 days old when we took him to see his first family. For us, it seemed easier to load up a newborn to visit people than it was to have family over to our house. So we loaded up in the nice air conditioned car and went to see great grandma and grandpa, about an hour away. We had lunch and hung out just enough, and once I felt the need to get home, we left. I had to nurse Joey three times while we were there, and eat lunch with him in one arm, but it totally worked.

A week later, my mom and I took him down to the bay area to meet the other side of the family. We did an overnight trip, and stayed with a friend who would of course not mind the waking every hour on the hour baby.

I think these trips were really critical for us. It showed me that I could in fact get out of my house for longer than an hour, and that Joey could travel, too. Because we were proactive with this, I really do believe, Joey has since been able to sleep anywhere and loves to take road trips.

 

Walk and drink coffee

The buttcrack of dawn is so freaking early. But it’s also cooler then. I would set my coffee pot to go about 4:30 am, and then if Joey woke with the sun, I could pour myself a cup of coffee and get outside. I would either wear him in the Moby Wrap, where he would normally fall back asleep, or if we was wide awake, we’d go in the stoller. But we’d walk until it got too hot, or he got hungry. Coffee, and Henry, and baby and me are such a fond memory of those hot summer mornings.

Go back to work a little bit

By a little, I mean just a little. Joey and I would go to the office for super brief tasks. Tasks I could do in the amount of time he would be content in an office mate’s arms. So, like 5 minutes. It felt good to get out, back to the grind, even if it was for a hot minute or two.

Visit the farmers’ market

I feel as though I cannot stress this one enough.

Joey has not missed a farmers’ market Saturday since he was born. Not one.

And trust me, people will have an opinion. What could people possibly have to say, you might ask? Well, things like, “Your baby is way to young to be out and about here.” Or, “Have you thought about your vaccinations options yet? I assume you’re against it.” Or, “Can I hold him?” Or, “I hope you have sunscreen on that baby. The sun will burn is skin in a second flat!”

Take what you will, but I needed to be out of the house with people and sunshine and food. And this was the way. I went early, wore Joey in the Moby or Ergo, and did my thing.

Go to church

Newborns are generally easy to take to church. Especially with family. And churches are always cold. Again, I wore Joey (literally, I wore Joey everywhere, everyday, still do), and either stood in the back if need be, or sat down if he fell asleep. He loved the music and the cheering, and I LOVED that I was literally praying and worshipping with my baby, right off the bat, in community. It felt as though he was being baptized every Sunday, head to my chest, ear to God.

Start making baby food with fresh summer produce

There is nothing better than fresh summer produce. And if you have a newborn, you may not think you want to do this yet. But, if you plan ahead, baby food is literally the easiest thing in the world to make, and how cool is it that they can experience fresh tomatoes and peaches in December? Just puree and freeze. Again, farmers’ market, buy the goodies, go home and cook. All my favorite things rolled into one thing.

Swim

Do I need to say more than that? If you’re worried about baby and chlorine, then bring a friend and a baby bouncer, and set up shop right there in the shade next to the pool. You can be in, baby can be right there, and it’s a win win.

Cook

Experiment with food! Depending on how old your baby is, you can even experiment with them. In the summer, it’s enticing to stay inside, of course, and cooking is a great way to occupy your time, keep cool, and keep baby entertained. Generally, the kitchen can be a really safe place for babe, whether you’re wearing them, they are on the floor with some tupperware, or sitting in their highchair eating scraps. Just simply take some things you have lying around in the cupboard, and get to work! Have some old red potatoes? Make some oven baked french fries for you and the babe to snack on later. Some cashew butter that doesn’t seem good on toast? Add some pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips and make yourself some bite sized protein balls (btw, babies LOVE them).  

Backyard picnics

These are my favorite. Especially during those long months of witching hours in the evenings and when the sun starts to go down, just pack it all up and go outside. For some reason, the outdoors seem to calm babies down, give them some new surroundings to coo at, and you can enjoy your meal on a blanket on the lawn. We adored them.  

Early morning hikes

When baby wakes super early, sometimes the only logical thing to do is get outside and watch the sunrise from the top of some hill. These hikes can be so enlightening. Even when you’re tired, feel like you can’t wake up for the life of you, once you start walking up that hill, you’ll feel like a new woman. Again, strap on that munchkin and get to hiking.

Walk around Costco

Costco is literally the coldest place you’ll find. Whether you’re using the stroller, baby wearing or put them in the cart, the cold air and free samples are great. Plus, you’ll keep baby entertained with all the fun things to touch and look at.

Go to the fair

If babe is a little older, take an evening and head to the county fair. The animal smells and noises seem to provide never ending entertainment, and let’s face it, babies love corndogs. It’s a win win, and there’s usually plenty of shade and beer to make the heat bearable.

Baseball games

From what I’ve heard, new parents are generally nervous about packing the baby up to go to a baseball game. But here’s the thing - it’s loud, which usually makes babies happy. It’s full of new smells and people to look at. And french fries. And shade. And if you go with friends, just pass the baby down the line during the game, and then everyone gets a break and gets their baby fix.

 

Anxiety's Name is Money

So I’m sitting in the studio, working away on fun things – like vectorizing this awesome drawing of a woman with a braid, or researching moleskin journals to have embossed, or creating a wireframe for this new community center website.

Then, I remember it’s Monday, and that means admin. So I do the necessary things of creating some invoices for some recent projects and orders, returning some overdue emails and wrapping up some final files for some spec work I did.

But admin Monday also means I have to deal with real money. And this Monday, it means rent.

I handle all the moola stuff for the office. As in, paying all the bills, making sure we don’t get evicted for having a late rent check and collecting rent and utility money from my great office mates. But to do this, I have to do math, and that stresses me out. And I also have to look at my bank statement. Which means I have to see what the balance is. Which means…

Money gives me anxiety. Money also makes me happy. It’s a love hate relationship. But at this very moment, when I type my username into the little online banking window, and go to press Login, my heart literally ends up in my throat. My heart starts beating really fast, my pupils dilate and I feel dizzy, like I could throw up right here, right now. In an office full of people, clients included. In broad daylight, in my safe space, surrounded by people I love, I had a full blown anxiety attack.

You see, I know what my panic attacks feel like, and I can feel them coming on like a freaking freight train. I know I have a hard time stopping them, and most of the time, once I’m in it, I have to lock myself in a dark room and cry before it passes. To stop them, even if it’s at all possible, I have to distract myself. Fast.

I also have to make sure that there aren’t other underlying issues causing my freak out moment. And then ask myself if I hydrated myself adequately today. And have I had enough to eat, or is my blood sugar plummeting along with my sanity.

Ya, this ain’t my first rodeo.

And they are so stupid. To me, anyway. I mean, I just had an anxiety attack because I was too afraid to look at my bank account balance. I know it’s fine, I’m not overdrawn. I haven’t made any extraordinary purchases that would surprise me. I haven’t received an alert in my email telling me I’m too low, or that there was unverified activity, or that I couldn’t make a payment.

It’s fine. It’s totally fine. Yet, I can’t look. Physically cannot press Login.

So I didn’t. I gave up. I walked away. I went over to the couch and drank some water and looked at some photos of Joey.

Then I prayed. Then I remembered this conversation I had just hours earlier with a dear friend.

Just give it up to Him. Whatever your turmoil, your struggle, your fear. Give it up to Him.

Jesus is not telling me that in order to live a full and wonderful life, that I have to “face my fears.” He’s telling me that I need to let Him handle it. Pass it to Him, and give myself grace.

I gave my fear to Him today. Or at least I tried. Even as I write this, my hands are still shaky. I feel like I need a shot or a nap or a cup of coffee. I think I’m more frustrated that I’m not a “secure” enough person to look at my own bank account balance. That I manage. That I put money into, and take money out of. That number is not a reflection of who I am. Nor how hard I work. Nor my value to Him. It’s just a stupid number.

Anxiety can be so scary. It’s something I deal with Every. Single. Day. And money usually plays a part. Or lack of time.

And to those who also have this struggle. You are not alone. I am here, sitting on the couch, dealing with the aftermath of an anxiety attack, knowing that the rest of my day might be shot to hell because I have to deal with what feels like an anxiety hangover.

And to those who don’t… well… are there any of you?

Motherhood & Co.

Currently, sitting in the recliner in the living room, watching a rerun of The Voice, looking down to find a piece of half chewed cheese quesadilla stuck to the back of my hand.

You see, I just finished picking up said half chewed pieces of cheese quesadilla off the floor while Adam put a very cranky and moody and teething, allergy induced, pink eyed Joey to bed.

So it makes total sense that there is a piece of it stuck to the back of my hand while I type this.

By the way, it’s still there. It’s safer on the back of my hand than it is on the floor where I might step on it, or on the arm of the chair where Adam will put his hand later and yell at me for leaving it there.

I also just trapped my husband in a not-so-kind conversation and totally set him up to fail.

I also have pink eye. In both eyes.

Earlier today, I let Joey chase and crawl all over Rudy the Roomba, which is not a rare occurrence, fully aware that it is not good for said Roomba, as Joey is quite strong and very capable of breaking it in two. And frankly, as of that moment, I’d rather pay for a new Roomba than get up from my seat to move Joey to a new location with a new toy, knowing full well he will be back to the Roomba in a minute flat.

Also, yesterday, I watched as Joey pulled the dining room chair over on himself. Seriously, stood there, frozen in my tracks, like a statue. It was like I knew that I couldn’t help him, but even if I could, I didn’t know how to. So I just watched, let it all fall, and then picked him after, hoping to God that he was not suffering from a concussion which I think I may have, might have been able to, avoid. If I had just moved.

Joey has a bruise on his eyebrow as well, from falling down on the edge of the coffee table.

Yep, I’m that mom right now.

See, we are all the same. Every night we put the babies down to bed and know that if we kept all the humans, animals, Rudy the Roomba and most of the plants in the yard alive, it’s a win.

But there are some things that are a little bit different, I’m realizing. And putting all moms into the same category as the “organized chaos” type really, actually leaves out so many of us.

Because yes, my life is complete organized chaos. And on most days, I feel like a hot mess. A blessed hot mess, but a hot mess nonetheless. But also on most days, my role as a mom is not the only role I play. And it’s important to know, though I am a mom, this is not my entire identity. And for so many other woman, it isn’t theirs either.

Many of the things we do fall into the cliches, however they roll. Such as the top knot, wine drinking, yoga pant wearing blogger. Yep, I am that mom.

I also am part of a Mommy and Me group, but instead of talking about our baby’s teething situations while sipping too much caffeine, we wear our babies and aren’t afraid to lift really heavy things.

I am a business owner, but I’m rarely ever a business owner and a mom at the same time.

I drive a mommy car, but it’s a badass mommy car, and I take the top off, a lot.

I read books to my baby, but they are things like “People Over Profit” or “Rising Strong” or the latest Nic Sparks book, because he doesn’t care what the book is about. As long as he gets to hear my voice.

Here is my point: you do not have to be ordinary, even as a mom.

This idea that moms “can’t do it all” is very true. It’s also incredibly false.

You see, we actually can. We can do all things. We can do all things well. And we can do all things THAT WE WANT TO DO.

We are all just winging it. Seriously. Nobody knows how to actually do this parenting thing. But the thing is, though there are millions of things to read and “experts” to talk to, it doesn’t seem like anyone is really sharing the ins and outs of HOW they did it.

We can keep using generalities, or we can talk specifics. And if you really want help with this mommy business, generalities don’t help any of us.

A friend told me, when Joey was a mere two months old, that I was doing it. I was doing what all moms wanted to do, but couldn’t. I was working on my businesses, I was working on projects for my clients, working on my body, my marriage, my faith, my cooking skills, my breastfeeding form, to name just a few.

I remember feeling like that was completely ridiculous. I was just trying to survive. Make it through the day without losing complete control of all I held dear. Turns out, those things I held dear? They held me together, too.

I get questions all the time:

How do you balance mommyhood and your businesses?
What tools did you use to combat your postpartum depression?
How are you able to cook dinner most nights and still get Joey to bed on time?
How did you get your body back so fast?
How do you justify using or paying for daycare?
What do you mean Joey sleeps all night long? How?! (that’s a fun one…)
Or my favorite, “How do you find time for it all?”

It’s time we got specific. It’s time us moms come together and actually outline how to do this thing. How to be a mom. AND all the other things we want to be.

Not one piece of our life that we find important is negotiable. And just because being a mom comes first does not mean that we need to have a numbered priority list, and start from the top and work our way down. All those things matter.

And so, since we all in this together, let’s talk about it together. I’d love to hear some of your really specific questions. About any, all, some, of these things we do in our lives. I want to help, or find some help, and make motherhood not so scary, for all of us.

Something is in the works for this, I promise, and with your help, we can put all the tools together, and have a very real, very candid conversation. Together.

PLEASE SEND ME YOUR QUESTIONS!

I truthfully, honestly, want to hear

xoxo

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How To : Be the Best at Baby Showers

I have to admit, I am not a huge lover of showers of any sort… bridal, baby, engagement, regular (we can come back to that). I am, however, a huge lover of heartfelt gifts. So when the baby shower comes along, though I love any excuse for a good party, the gift part always feels a little weird. Opening up the obligatory gifts in front of everyone, while the crowd oohs and aahs at the seventeenth pack of overpriced onesies is really not something I enjoy, as the gift giver or the gift receiver.

Some of my favorite moments of my own baby shower was when the few people pulled me aside, before or after, to give me their gifts in private. Those moments are engrained in my memory, and to this day, I pull out the bibs or the books or the bottles that were in those gift bags, simply because they remind me of that moment.

I do understand, however, that isn’t always possible. Baby showers hold so much more significance than just the gifts, and the gathering of the people there is the part that matters. Whether you play games or do ice breakers or simply sip Virgin Marys while chatting with your tribe on a Sunday morning, it’s the company that counts.

So if you are going to do the gift thing, however you do it, I have a few tips.

  • If you have had a baby recently, rather than consulting a new mom’s registry, go ahead and take the initiative and buy some things that helped you out. First time mommas, and we’ve all been there, don’t always know what they might need, so their registry will be full of the obligatory bottle warmers and swaddles and crib sheets. And though important, there are things they might not realize they need, in which now, you are an expert on. Share your wealth, my friend.
  • Handmade is great, and keep their style in mind. Coming from a monotone and neutral lover, though I ADORE the handmade things I received, I don’t use them as much as I’d like to, simply because they don’t go with the other things I love. So if you want to do something handmade, keep her style in mind, and try to make something she will for sure use!
  • They are only newborn for like, one minute. Newborn sized goodies are so needed, but remember that they will probably be used one whole time. Instead, opt for sizing up in things, so they can be used a little longer and later. 3-6 month is fab, but the 9-12 month is even more fun, as we get to pull them out later and enjoy the gift for so much longer.

Now that I’m in a season of “friends having babies all the time,” I have got a nice little gift-giving routine down. There are some things that I absolutely must share with my friends, as they were life-savers for me, and then I like to throw something in there that I know they will love, and though I am not really a hand-made type, if possible, I see if I can pull something together (that honestly never happens, but hey, I try).

So here I’m sharing just a small snippet of my favorite baby shower gifts, in hopes it will help another new momma or two out there. God knows it takes a village, I’m just glad to be a part of it!

  • These knotted gowns from Candy Kirby.
    It’s no secret I love these, and I gift them to every new baby momma.
  • Momosas book
    Adam got me this book when we first found out we were pregnant, and it was really fun to be able to feel like I was enjoying a cocktail with everyone else. Especially with the heat of summer towards the end. When a glass of bubble water won’t do the trick, it’s great to be able to experiment with a “cocktail.”
  • Gripe water
    Don’t skip this one. It seems like so many still don’t know about “magic water,” as we called it. It solves hiccups and colic and gas and fussiness. And it’s ultra safe, totally natural and made by mommas. Really, it’s magic.
  • BabyWise
    At first, I hated this book. And I usually put that disclaimer in my card to the new momma before she dives in to read it. It wasn’t until after the first few months that I realized that BabyWise was my lifesaver. It was a fantastic solution for us, and Joey is now one of the best sleepers I know. Even if they don’t want to get “parenting” advice, this book is great for all sorts of advice. We really enjoyed it. (I will do a full review on BabyWise come Joey turning one year old).
  • One of these wooden teething rings
    Remember my comment about matching the momma’s style? Most teething toys are bright and obnoxious looking, but the wooden teething toy trend appeals to everyone, is mighty safe for baby and can work for anyone. We have at least 6 of these in all different sizes and types and colors and they are super easy to throw in the purse for on-the-go. And cute. That helps.
  • Gift card to the app store for this baby monitor app
    This is a new addition to my arsenal, and I realize I should have used it sooner. Now that the weather is nice, I don’t really want to carry around the baby monitor outside while we do things while baby naps. This app goes device to device, so my music playing iPad in Joey’s room transmits to my phone. Has video too, if you are so inclined.
  • This phone case with an easy-hold back
    She will need it. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will.
  • A stack of these washcloths/burp rags a mile high
    Again, no surprise I love these. I give them to everyone. Softest, most portable, durable and high quality out there. Seriously.
  • This snot sucker, nail clippers, thermometer kit from Target
    For some reason, we didn’t have these things before baby came, and someone dropped this gift off on our front porch shortly after. It’s those little things you don’t realize you need until the moment you need them.
  • Gift certificate for one month of diaper service
    Can’t go wrong. Because even though they might be stocked up for the first month or two, that sizing up challenge is real, and Costco is just not feasible on month number two.

 

Seven in Seven

Everyone talks about how having kids will really change your life. What they don’t tell you is how. How will they change my life? Exactly. Not hypothetically. How is it going to turn my world upside down?

Well, as I’ve found out, they don’t tell you because it is really hard to articulate exactly what it’s like. Sure, you can say some superficial things, like:

  1. Spontaneity has no place with an infant.
  2. Poop and puke will no longer disturb you. It’s everywhere. All the time.
  3. Sleep may evade you. Get it while you can.
  4. Your arms will get nice and buff from lifting this god damn carseat everywhere.
  5. You will fight with your spouse, mostly due to hormones taking control of your life.

Yes, all true. But honestly, those tidbits don’t really give me any perspective on how to actually handle life with an infant. So, my friends, I am here to tell you the seven things I’ve learned in the first seven months of motherhood. Real, practical, you-need-to-know ahead of time things. Or maybe you’re too late and you’ve been there, done this, but still, read this. You’ll laugh.

1.     Some babies sleep. Some don’t. Some sleep at night. Some sleep during the day. And some do a little of both. Don’t believe them when they tell you that newborns sleep all the time. Some don’t. And please, don’t make plans for your post-baby life that rely, or really hinge at all, on the fact that newborns nap. If they do, kudos. If they don’t, well, the whole work-while-they-nap thing goes straight out the window. And if someone ever says to you, “Aren’t the newborn days of sleepy scrunchy babies just the best?!”, kick them. And then ask them to babysit. In conjunction with this life-changing realization I had for myself when Joey was 6 weeks old, I also realized that my no-napping baby was a prime example of a baby that sleeps through the night. Take your wins where you can get them. Mine was nighttime. Yours might be afternoon naps. But seriously, sleep train and don’t make plans that rely at all on sleep. Period.

2.     Hormones do take over. But they don’t have to. There is help out there. And honestly, I’m really going to say, out loud, this next part: there will be moments of utter and complete and enraging sadness. Moments when you ask your mom, “Did we make a mistake having a baby right now?” And then bawl so hard because you’re so hungry and your clothes still don’t fit. Literally. I had a total meltdown one afternoon because no one told me that I still wasn’t going to be able to wear my favorite clothes, not because they didn’t fit, but because BREASTFEEDING. Sorry, still no sundresses with sleeves or anything you can’t pop your boob out of in less than 5 seconds. Nevermind sleeping on your belly. Pregnant? Sorry, no belly sleeping. Boobs full of milk? Sorry, still can’t belly sleep. Ok, rant over. But really. Sadness is a thing and it’s ok. But don’t deal with it alone. Be honest with your spouse about how you’re feeling. Yes, they will think you are being ridiculous, but it doesn’t change how you’re feeling. See your doctor. Be honest with them. There are ways to cope. Most importantly, if someone asks how you’re feeling, don’t say, “Great!” Say, “Just ok. Hormones are no joke and I’m learning how to deal.” Most likely, it will open up a conversation that will lead to great things.

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3.     Good baby gear. Worth it. You can see my post on Joey’s favorite things here, but in short, get the good stuff if you can. I’m talking things like car seat, stroller, bouncer, carrier and swing. So worth it. They don’t break, they keep your baby in the perfect positions which makes them happier, and will most likely last until the next two or three babies grow out of them. Just sayin’. Speaking of good baby gear, let’s talk working out. I’m convinced that God’s greatest gift to women is baby wearing gear. Get one, really doesn’t matter which, and wear those babies while you do EVERYTHING. Including working out. Squats and tricep dips and rows and lunges and backpeddling. Get with it, wear that baby, and get your body back. Pronto. You’ll feel like a badass afterwards, and it’s really fun to tell your husband that you can do more squats than him, even with a baby strapped on you. Word.

4.     What babies cost. Ok, I looked, and there really isn’t a good “baby budget” worksheet out there that I can find. If you find one, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll be making one soon as a free download y’all can have. The world needs it. But anywho, what they cost. Plan ahead. The first few months, honestly, isn’t too bad. Mostly because you, and the baby, won’t be doing much other than trying to figure out how to breastfeed, sleep and shower. And I’m not exaggerating. But after that, when their diapers get a little bigger, their clothes a little longer and their appetites a lot larger, the cost goes up. Add in daycare, extraneous medical bills (that we are still getting from the hospital, 6 months later), and the fact that you want to literally buy everything that your baby will fit into, you’ve got yourself a little extra mullah going out. Just prepare, is all I’m saying. Oh, also, moms, those first few breastfeeding months, you’re going to be SO FREAKING HUNGRY. Your grocery bill might be a little out of control there for a bit. Just go with it. It stops.

5.     Ok, now to some of the good stuff. The stage where they sit up but don’t crawl is the freaking best. I’m talking like right at six months, give or take depending on your baby (also, baby-accomplishment envy is a total thing. Sammy, I’m looking at you, you little scooting 7-month old). Sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing with literally anything (water bottle, report control, dad’s notebook) is the most invigorating and relaxing thing you’ll ever do. Pure joy, pure satisfaction, pure bliss. Floor. Baby. Blanket. Happy. The end.

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6.     Let’s talk dinner dates, plans with friends and the such. Ok, for the first few months, my suggestion is to take that baby to everything. Make plans. Go out. Visit friends. Have the steak dinner. They may or may not sleep through it. If they don’t, I promise there is someone that will help you. In our case, our favorite restaurant also happens to belong to a friend of ours, and she just walked around with Joey while we ate our food. Or if you’re at party, people love to hold babies. And feed them. And rock them. Let them. They make baby noise-cancelling head phones. Use them. Go to your church that is too loud. Go to Sunday brunch after. Honestly, you can still be so freaking social. Just make sure to have your diaper bag and maybe a pac-and-play in the back of the car. We’ve set that thing up in the most random places. Seriously though, go anywhere you want. In our experience, that whole “spontaneity is dead” thing didn’t exist. We just took Joey with us.

7.     You are allowed to leave. As in, leave the baby with Dad or Grandma or Auntie. And go. Joey was four months old when I left for 3 days to go with friends to Napa. Him and Adam were GREAT. Before this adventure, Adam and I had a multitude of date nights, a say-cation or two and a day trip while Grammy and Papa took the reins. It’s healthy for you, and the baby, to have some time with other people. The baby will do so much better than you think they will, and so will you. Happy mom, happy baby. And visa versa.

So, seven in seven. Which, coincidentally, is what I’m drinking tonight. We’ve officially made it into the second half of Joey’s first year. It’s been the hardest, fastest, longest, most grueling and the most exciting year of my life. It’s not a walk in the park, but it’s definitely not a sprint either. If you can stroll, smell the puke covered roses, and then skip and hop and then maybe run backwards a bit, but then remember that if you walk too fast, you’ll miss it. Your arms will be buff from lifting the car seat, sleep will have a new role in your life, and you and your spouse might spat (ok, probably but that’s the hormones talking, remember?).

I’m so excited to see where the next half of this year is going to take us. Honestly, you feel kind of under water for the first little bit. At least we did. But now, a measly few months down the line, we are swimming smoothly through the current. And by swimming, I mean playing in the dog hair on the floor while we marvel at Joey’s ability to roll over, yet again. It’s the best.

Why God Invented Wine

Hey you.

Ya, you. Feeling a little down?

What is it with this season? Every entrepreneur I know is major struggling right now. Like, we need to have a major vent sesh over some wine. Preferably on a patio, with twinkly lights and no babies and where the wine is free. Because, to be totally honest, we are all feeling broke as a joke. And no, this is not a joke.

Here’s the thing: we get the ebb and flow of business ownership. Highs are super high, and awesome, and usually really productive and most often turn a nice little profitable paycheck at the end. But then we hit that low… when we feel like we’ve officially run out of ideas, energy and money.

You at a low? Ya, me too. So are my friends.

Rach said today, “Let’s just build a compound where we can self-sustain and create things, together!” I agree. But it’s not feasible. We know that, you know that, and God didn’t teach us to run away and hide from our problems.

Though to be honest, I’m totally down for a neighborhood full of my best friends and where we could all walk to a collaborative studio right down the street and our kids could all play in the court and we’d have intellectual conversations over cheese plates on the front porch.

#tangent. Whatevs. It’s a nice daydream.

There is no answer. I would love to be able to write a blog post that has all the answers, that contained enough motivational words of wisdom to pull us all out of this funk and prove to us that we were MADE to do this.

There is no proof, either. We are trusting God, the universe or whatever higher power you believe in that what we are doing is the path that was laid for us. Our prayer today is simply “Isn’t it time for some proof?”

We haven’t earned anything. There is no magic equation that equals “you did this, so you get this as a reward.” Everyone goes down their own path, has their own journey. Some are similar, some feel parallel, and some feel so different from one another that we wonder if there is a possibility that we aren’t both human.

My only tidbit of knowledge is this today: you are not alone. There is no need to sit on your kitchen floor eating mac and cheese and drinking wine, alone. Worst case, at least call me so I can do that with you. Best case, remember that there is someone else out there (eh hem!) doing the exact same thing.

Oh, one more tip. Some great advice that was once given me. Don’t quit when you feel like giving up. You know the saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” You will make a much more rational, educated and clear headed decision later. It’s ok to quit (or so I’m told, it’s a hard concept for me), just do it with a clear head on your shoulders. Not crying on the couch while watching Chip and Joanna wishing you could be them.

And also (see, I wasn’t done), don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t feel like a fraud. Trust us, our doctors, therapists, mom’s cell phone and now this tribe all know us well. Your bank account balance is not a representation of your success, and neither is your current email inbox.

Wine?

The Design Tribe | A New Collaboration and a GIVEAWAY!

Owning a business is, like, freaking scary.

Want to know what has helped ease the terror a bit?

Our tribe. At the beginning, it’s easy to feel kind of feel alone and like you’re walking on fire, hoping you don’t get burned. But then, all of the sudden, someone picks you up, slaps your booty and says “Hey friend!”

This is our tribe. We are entrepreneurs. We are ladybosses. We are lighthearted and funny and ambitious and quirky and authentic and NEED EACH OTHER.

The Design Tribe is our little version of a true to heart tribe. We started our businesses, grew our businesses, helped each others’ businesses and shaped our businesses TOGETHER. And now, as creatives, we have so many ideas. So why not collaborate instead of compete?

The Design Tribe, a collaboration between Rachel Allene and Nicole & Co. is for the ambitious, lighthearted entrepreneur. Like you. And we are so excited to share with you!


So my fellow tribe, you have decided to take the leap, too.

First of all, Pop Clink Cheers! I’m raising a glass in congratulations to you.

Second, holy hell, are you so freaking scared right now?

Ya, been there. It’s like you’re staring over the edge of a cliff, and making the decision to jump. Question is, do you have your parachute ready? Or better yet, a hang glider. Then you don’t actually have to hit the ground at all!

We can fill this little post with tons of motivational fluff and entrepreneurial spirit-power quirks and all that jazz. It’s always lovely to hear how awesome you are.

OR

We could talk about what to do next. You already know how awesome you are. You are doing the bravest thing in the whole wide world. You’re awesome, duh.

Now that that is out of the way, what to do.

You gotta get your business built, babe.

Cue, our sweet little giveaway that is not so little

We are giving away a Neon Headquarters Launch package! Ya, the whole thing. The entire shebang. As in, you don’t have to do anything other than win this shindig and you’ve got yourself a business ready to rock and roll.

One day, all the things.

NHQ Launch is like a beer flight – get a taste of all the different aspects of running your business. Indulge in the whole experience while still savoring, appreciating and satisfying each important characteristic of launching your dream.

It’s collaborative. It’s in person. And it happens in ONE DAY.

What do we do?

Business Paperwork
Insurance
Business Plan
Strategic Content and Message Development
Branding
Website
Marketing
The Visuals
Digital Newsletter
Pep Talk From a Pro
Strength Finding
Goals

In our experience, starting a business goes like this:

Get really excited.
Google “how to start a business”
Cry
Lose faith in humanity

Let’s change the status quo of starting a business. Let’s do it this way:

Get really excited.
Call NHQ.
Cry for totally different reasons.
Restore all faith in humanity.

We get it. Starting a business is like crawling through the labyrinth of insanity. It feels daunting and confusing and freaking expensive. It does not have to be this way. Hence our little NHQ system, built for creatives going there by creatives who have been there.

Sound better? Yay! Totally!

So what better way to get your business off to a kick-ass start in the New Year than little “kick in the ass?”

Follow @rachel_allene and @nicole.and.co
Like the photo posted
Tag a friend. Or two. Or three. The more you tag, the more entries you get.

And win this year. Literally. It’s 2017. Time to rock this shindig.

Let’s do it.

Want more info on NHQ? Go to neonheadquarters.com. Extra entry if you can find the Cookie Monster.

Okey dokey. One more thing! We wanted to give you the opportunity to snag a FREE print from our new collection. So, if you want to snag this goodie (pictured below), be sure to sign up for the newsletter, boo.

Sig up for our newsletter and GIMME THAT PRINT!

Name
Name

Nicole & Co. | A Rising Story

Let’s be real about this.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. Everyone has a struggle, a strife, an inspirational experience that is worth sharing.

Everyone has risen up from the rubble.

Not too long ago, I realized that some people fall well, and some people rise well. Some of us prefer to find motivation while we are falling. Like the saying, “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds wings on the way down.” Or, on the contrary, some of us (like myself) fall off of said cliff, hit the dirt, and then decide to build a barrier so it doesn’t happen to someone else.

I am not quick witted. I am not really very funny. In fact, my husband would “quick wittedly” tell you that I am actually kind of non-observant and aloof. It takes me a long time to understand jokes, and I often Google things that were talked about over dinner later in the car on the way home. This makes it somewhat hard to “fall well.” I am not nearly quick enough to think about how to save myself from falling. With that said, I coincidentally tend to fall hard. I easily get caught up in the moment, and things tend to hit me all at once. My body likes to get sick when I have been working too hard; I get anxiety attacks more than I’d like to admit; crying is part of the most-everyday routine. I have been told that I feel too much, or that I’m oversensitive. This all may be true, but I like to consider this instead : I just don’t fall well.

Face down in the dirt is not my favorite place. Not that I think it’s anyone’s “favorite” place, but I really, really, really despise it. When I’m down, I almost always just break down. I cry, I kick and scream (or in mommy terms, I throw a tantrum), I reach blindly for help up, and worst of all, I am just straight up pissed off that I got my clothes dirty.

Most of all, I hate the feeling that I know I will be there soon. I can recognize when I’m falling almost immediately. And instead of trying to figure out how to stop falling, I always, always start thinking about how to get up.

I fall hard. But here’s the thing : I rise really well.

I am a strategic risk taker. I don’t mind falling if I have a plan to get back up.

Example : once (okay, wayyy more than once), I was riding a young horse who I knew was eventually going to buck. It’s usually on cold, foggy mornings after a few weeks of time off, and he’s fresh and giddy and has some energy he needs to burn. When I feel this horse hump up, I ALWAYS look for the safest place to land. The muddy puddle is usually a safe bet, soft landing and he probably won’t run over me. I strategically don’t go uphill, as I know downhill means speed which means energy which in turn, usually means bucking. You get my gist. I know I’m going to fall and instead of preventing the fall, I’m just working on how to get back up.

I do this all the time. With everything. A lot of it probably has to do with experience. A lot has happened in these last 28 years.

Which leads me to this. So many stories are told about the fall. Most of the story time is taken up with blind anticipation of an exciting incident. It’s funny how little time it takes to fall, but how much time is spent talking about it. It’s even more peculiar how it takes so much time to rise up, but so little time is spent talking about that part.

It’s time to tell my rising story.

Sure, I’ll have to spend some time on the fall, but that’s not the helpful part.

Experiences teach you things. But more importantly, what you do with those experiences MAKES you who you are. You can choose how to react to situations, and you can learn from your own, and from others’.

If you’re one that falls well but has trouble rising, I’d like to help. If you’re one that falls badly but rises well, well, call me. We should drink wine together.

So what does this mean? Ya, I’ve totally rambled on for way too long. There’s a point, I promise. Well, a few points, actually.

  • This year, I’m proud to announce that I will be writing and publishing my first book. It will be the first glimpse into my rising strong story (thanks, Brene Brown – you have officially coined the coolest term ever). My goal is to have it written by early fall and in the publishing spectrum before the end of the year.
  • But further than that, I am launching a lifestyle brand. This business will be focused on helping others rise – in life, in business, in God, on purpose. Nicole & Co. will be socially focused, reaching an audience through blogs, social media platforms and speaking engagements.
  • Finally, Nicole & Co. will be spending much more time on sharing what I know. Be looking for a fun little online shop, casual and quirky Insta stories and blog posts, behind-the-scenes of my days and oh-so-many collaborations with my favorite people.  

I hope you’ll follow along, share and engage with me. My goal is to be a small part of your life, and for you to be a big part of mine.

More details to follow. Rise well, my friends.

“And in the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.”