A Journey of Wellness

Last week, I took the boys to the pediatrician for a well check. The doctor came in and commented that it had been such a long time since she’d seen us. I told her we are generally pretty healthy, so we have no reason to come in, and as she was looking over the charts, she agreed.

I don’t take for granted for one second that my boys are healthy. I have friends whose kids have struggled with health problems, large and small. Before I even got pregnant with our oldest, I started making big changes in our life. I started by dramatically reducing the amount of sugar we were eating. I slowly kicked the majority of processed foods out of our diets. I began searching for natural alternatives to the products we use in our home: cleaners, soaps, shampoos, etc. The more I learned about the toxins that are in our everyday products, the less I could ignore it. Every single thing we’re putting into or onto our bodies, all the things we’re breathing in, they have an impact on our health and wellness.

If I think back to what was inside our refrigerator and cupboards when we were first married, the difference is incredible. Not only that, but the difference in my own health is amazing. Before becoming pregnant, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Many women who have PCOS struggle with infertility their entire lives. We did struggle to get pregnant early on in our marriage, which was the catalyst for making many of these huge changes. The Father blessed us so richly with our five boys (and one who we’ll meet someday in Heaven!), and I want to give them their best life: for them know how loved they are by God, to teach them how to love generously, and to keep their bodies healthy and strong so that they can live out the purpose for which they were created!

Preparing most meals from scratch, buying local and organic foods, and using non-toxic products in our home can sometimes be inconvenient.. it takes more time to make yogurt at home than it does to buy it at the store. I can’t run to Target and find non-toxic laundry detergent. Buying local and organic meats and produce costs more money, but if our bodies are healthier and we’re rarely visiting the doctor, it’s worth every penny.

Ridding our home of toxic products, laden with chemicals that are unregulated and proven to cause countless health problems wasn’t an overnight task. I tried brand after brand, DIY recipe after DIY recipe. But the so-called “non-toxic” products you buy in the store still have ingredients that I wasn’t happy with, and the DIY recipes were okay, but time consuming. And how can you DIY things like foundation and lipstick??

About five years ago, I discovered essential oils. My sister-in-law introduced me to them, and I was intrigued. It seemed like such a good fit to my sorta-hippie lifestyle. ;)

So I started my hunt for the perfect essential oil… I tried countless brands. I purchased from mom and pop shops, big name brands, and everything in between. I even bought many oils on Amazon (which I later found out was a BIG no-no… they can be easily tampered with and adulterated!). About two years ago, a friend introduced me to Young Living essential oils, and immediately I abandoned all other oils and became a member with Young Living.

The purity and potency of Young Living essential oils – especially when compared to all the other oils I had tried and been using – blew me away. I could tell a difference as soon as I smelled and applied the oils. I researched Young Living as a company, and discovered that their growing practices are amazing, their standards are incredibly high, and their seed to seal guarantee means that their oils remain 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils. I got my Premium Starter Kit, became a wholesale member for life, joined Essential Rewards to earn points back on all my purchases, and never looked back.

It’s been over two years since I made the decision to exclusively use Young Living essential oils. But Young Living is more than just oils. Nearly all of my frustrations for non-toxic products have found answers in Young Living. I know exactly what the ingredients are that we are putting on and in our bodies. Everything from toothpaste to household cleaners, supplements to makeup… it’s all free from toxins, fillers, and added junk!

Keeping my family well and being proactive about our health is one of my highest priorities. What we eat, how we take care of our bodies, and what we have in our home has changed dramatically over the years, and it’s made me so passionate about sharing our wellness journey with others! Helping other people find natural solutions and non-toxic alternatives is something that’s incredibly important to me, because I want everyone I know to live in a place of freedom and wellness!

I would love to help you and your family get started on a journey of wellness! I’m a giver at heart, and if I had the means to give oils away to everyone I meet, I would do it. But until I can do that, I want to offer you support in your journey: a community that will help you learn about essential oils, natural living, and removing toxins from your home. I also have a free gift for you!!

I’m offering you your choice for a freebie with the purchase of a Premium Starter Kit!

The first choice is an absolutely beautiful handmade essential oil pouch! My friend Beth at WeePereas makes the most amazing handmade items – I carry one of her oil pouches in my purse everyday! These oil pouches will hold all 11 of the oils that are in the Premium Starter Kit, plus there’s room for quite a bit more in there!

But if you would prefer (or if you live internationally), you could get $20 cash back on your Premium Starter Kit purchase instead!

By purchasing a starter kit, you will receive a wholesale discount of 24% on everything you buy from Young Living. There’s no required monthly fee, you never have to sell anything, and you’ll gain a community of friends who want to help you in your journey to wellness! After you purchase your Premium Starter Kit using my member number (3181679), fill out this form to receive your free gift!

*This offer is valid for new accounts only*

Grab Your Premium Starter Kit!

If you’d like to get more info or ask more questions, feel free to email me at ifonlytheywouldnap at gmail dot com or join my Facebook group for members and non-members! I can’t wait to help you get started on your journey of wellness!

 

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FREE Raglan Cardigan Pattern and Cozy Layers for Fall!

 

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in Wisconsin, which means it’s time to bust out my favorite kind of clothes: cozy layers! Seriously, I love wrapping up in cozy cardigans, flannel scarves, and knit hats. Plus can we talk about my love for slippers? It is deep. And of course, it’s just going to get colder, so I’ve been digging out the wool socks and blankets. If you’re going to stay warm this fall and winter, the best way to do it is with lots of layers. I’ve got a free pattern for a cute and cozy raglan cardigan, plus some tips on staying warm as the weather gets colder.
I’ve professed my love of cardigans over and over here on my blog, and I’ve made this particular one a number of times. After so many tweaks, this pattern is exactly what I want, and I’ve made it in so many different fabrics, I can basically wear one everyday if I want!

We live in an old farmhouse that’s a little drafty in some rooms, so layers are important inside the house too. I like to wear things that can double as cozy at home clothes or cute outfits for when I’m actually going to see someone other than my kids. ;) Anything that I can wear at home with sweatpants but then change my look completely when I throw on some jeans and cute boots is a win.

When I pull out our bins of winter clothes every year, I love that I get to wear my Cuddlduds again. If you live where it gets cold, you probably have a pair or two (or three) of Cuddlduds. I’ve worn them for as long as I can remember, and they are a must-have to surviving the Frozen Tundra winter! This shirt? Cuddlduds! It’s been awhile since I’ve purchased any new ones (because they last forever!), so I got so excited when I saw all the new styles.

This shirt is the perfect layering tee. It’s a modal fabric – sooo soft, thin and warm, but not so warm that you’re not going to want to wear your cute cardi. ;)

Did I mention that I made this cardigan in lots of different fabrics? Yes? Well, I did. And I’m not even a little sorry.

This shirt is my go-to for layering under cardigans. And this french terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics is divine.

But let’s not forget… Saturday lounging! Pair this shirt with these amazing knit leggings, and a great cup of coffee – obviously, and this is where you’ll find me all winter.

I’m not even kidding you when I say that I want to LIVE in these leggings! They are quite possibly the softest things I’ve ever worn, and they look a little like joggers which is super cute. Sleep in them… wear them under your jeans when it’s really cold (hello, fifty below Wisconsin winter, I’m looking at you!)… or wear them under a tunic or sweater as leggings.

Another cardigan sweater? Yes, please. :) I made this one in fleece. It wasn’t the best choice for this pattern, because it didn’t have quite enough stretch (I recommend using a drapey sweater knit or french terry), but it sure does feel warm and cozy. Paired with these fleece leggings, I’m pretty sure I won’t feel the farmhouse drafts at.all.

Do you think my kids will be on board with cozying up in our Cuddlduds and reading all winter? I really might have to make this a thing.

I found some adorable Cuddlduds for my one year old a couple months ago at a local store, and I’ve been dying for cold weather just to see him wear them. I love that there are so many cute options for everyone in the family!

This fabric also happens to be almost exactly the same as the fabric I used to make one of my cardigans – and that wasn’t even intentional. It really is the epitome of cozy!

If you’re not going to DIY your own cardigans like me, Cuddlduds has some ADORABLE hoodies and cardi’s, so check them out if you’re not ready to make your own. Plus I saw a free shipping promo when you snag yours from Bon-Ton.. if everything could come straight to my door and I didn’t have to shop in a store, I’d be a happy girl. ;)

But if your fabric stash is begging for a little cozy sewing, let’s make a cardigan!

Download your FREE Raglan Cardigan Pattern

1. Sew the back piece to the back side of the sleeve, right sides together.

2. Sew the front piece to the front side of the sleeve, right sides together.

3. Repeat steps one and two with the other sleeve piece.

4. Fold the sleeve right sides together and sew down the sleeve, continuing all the way down the side of the cardigan, sewing the back and front piece together.

5. Option one: with a band –  cut a strip of fabric 41in. x 7in. (or narrower if you prefer). Fold in half, wrong sides together, and sew along the top of the cardigan. (see the purple cardigan for how this looks)

Option two: no band – use a double needle or coverstitch to hem the top of the cardigan (see the grey cardigan for how this looks)

7. Use a double needle or coverstitch to hem down the front of the cardigan with a 1/4 to 1/2in hem, starting at the top.

8. Hem the bottom of the cardigan in the same way.

9. Hem the sleeves with a half inch hem.

Make sure you download your FREE Raglan Cardigan Pattern!

How do you layer for cold weather? Don’t forget to snag your Cuddlduds before it gets cold and grab the free shipping promo from Bon-Ton. Then come back for more layering fun to come later this week.. a free pattern for this adorable hat will hit the blog later this week!

Letter/Number Practice Pack – FREE Download!

The new school year is upon us! Whether you’re homeschoolers like us or your kids go off to school, there’s so much excitement wrapped up in the new school year! The teacher in me loves getting all the new supplies and curriculum. I’m kind of an eclectic homeschooler, in that we use a mix of a few things for our curriculum. This year my boys are in fourth, second, and first. Plus I have a preschooler and the baby (oy… he’s a whole post in itself!) We’re big fans of slow learning in the early years – I don’t push them to read before they’re ready, and we don’t do formal school until at least kindergarten. Because play IS learning for littles!! But sometimes my preschooler wants to “do school” like his big brothers, and my first grader could use some review. So I created this FREE download – a letter and number practice pack for preschoolers to first graders! Print it off and add a few materials that you already have on hand to give your kiddos some fun learning activities!

There are six activities in this Practice Pack, though you could easily use the pieces to create even more!

Here are the materials you’ll need to grab from your house:

  • Egg carton
  • Cardboard tubes (we used our Young Living tubes because we have exactly 13,000 of them)
  • Old magnets (the kind that people send you in the mail with calendars, business cards, etc.) – if you don’t have any on hand, you can buy magnet strips at craft stores or online here
  • Cheerios or other small manipulatives
  • Liquid glue and/or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Download your free  Letter and Number Practice Pack
  • Optional: cardstock or laminator

We don’t use a lot of worksheets for school in our house, but we do like hands on learning activities. When kids are learning about letters and numbers, having something they can hold in their hand helps their brains to make connections. Cheerios is a perfect choice for this! We already have them in our house (Honey Nut Cheerios is literally the number one food my kids beg for at the store!), I don’t have to worry about the baby choking on them when they fall on the floor, and cleanup is easy … it all goes right into their mouths! ;)

I made a variety of letter and number activities at varying levels. Some of them can be used more than one way depending on your little one’s needs.

Here are the different counting activities:
Have your kiddo count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the number of stars on each number card.

Draw a number card (1-20 available). Your child will place the card next to a star and fill that star with the correct number of Cheerios.

With so many kids and homeschooling them all, it’s important for me to have some learning activities they can do without a lot of direction. After I told them the instructions, they were able to do it all on their own!

Of course, your child will need to have a snack mid-activity. This is crucial to their learning. ;)

For this circle activity, your child will count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the numerals around the circle.

Place number cards in each section of the egg carton. Have your little one count out the number of Cheerios to match the numeral. Cut the egg carton in half for kiddos who are just learning numbers, so that it’s not quite so overwhelming.

Here are the activities for Letter Recognition:

This craft has a bunch of different activities you could do with it! Put your magnet strips on the backs of your cardboard tubes. Glue upper or lowercase letter cards to the front of the tubes.

Put the letter tubes onto a magnetic surface like your fridge or a white board.

Have your kiddo say the letter sound as they slide a Cheerio down the tube!

If your little one doesn’t know letter sounds, focus on identifying letters. Ask them to slide a Cheerio down a certain letter tube. This is such a fun activity – ALL my kids liked it, even my almost ten year old! Because who doesn’t love shooting Cheerios down a tube?? ;) I love that I don’t have to worry about my 11 month old getting a hold of the Cheerios as they fall, unlike a marble or some other small manipulative.

You could also print out another set of number cards and glue those onto the tubes if you want to focus on numbers. Then have them slide the correct number of Cheerios down the tubes!

Within each letter strip, have your child find the lowercase letter that matches the uppercase letter at the beginning of the row.

Whether you homeschool or not, these are easy activities to whip out on a moment’s notice with your kiddos. If your littles need a little extra help learning their letters and numbers or if you just need a few fun activities for them to do when they’re begging for some screen time, these are easy to pull out without a lot of prep. If you want your activities to last and be able to use them over and over, make sure you print or glue onto cardstock or get them laminated.

I’m not even kidding when I say that my boys would eat cereal all day if I let them. Ha! I really appreciate that Cheerios has no High Fructose Corn Syrup (one of the biggest no-no’s in our house), and I love that they’ve removed the preservative BHT from their cereals.

When I was pregnant with my youngest, oh my goodness I craved Cheerios!! Unlike my kiddos, I’m not usually much of a cereal eater, but I think I have some childhood nostalgia around Cheerios, because I love a big bowl with bananas. So yummy! :) As we get back into our homeschool groove, having quick and easy breakfast options is important to me. We can toss them in a Ziplock bag for mornings when we need to leave the house early. Plus, can I get an Amen for Family Size boxes?? A total big family necessity!

So grab your FREE DOWNLOAD of the Practice Pack, grab some Cheerios from any local retailer, and have a smooth transition into the new school year!

Download your Letter and Number Practice Pack

Hiking With Kids: How to get started and what to bring!

One of our family’s favorite things to do together is go hiking! It’s something we’ve done together long before we had kids, and it’s been such a consistent part of our family’s routine that our kiddos have grown up hiking regularly. A lot of people are overwhelmed with the idea of hiking with kids, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds! Getting kids out into nature is an incredibly important part of their development and health, so I have some tips for helping you get started, including what you should bring along with you!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve never taken your kids hiking, you probably want to start small. Find a small trail at a local park and give it a whirl. Work your way up to longer, more challenging hikes. If you’re headed out for a short time, you probably won’t need all these supplies. But let’s face it, when we go out with little kids, it’s better to be slightly over prepared. ;) Depending on the ages of your kiddos, you might decide to leave some of these items out of your pack. Or you may add some more in depending on the weather or particular place you’re hiking.

Comfy, sturdy shoes – since it’s summer, Keens are my favorite shoes for shorter hikes. Longer hikes or cooler weather obviously require different shoes.

Baby carrier – the Ergo works nicely for us for the length of our hikes and having a small baby. It’s also great to stuff into a backpack for a toddler/preschooler who suddenly decides they can’t walk another step. If you’re going to hike really long distances or big mountains, consider getting a camping backpack carrier that gives more support.

Diapers and wipes (I like the Seedlings wipes, which you can buy here) in a pouch for easy locating in your bag

Portable changing mat, in case the ground is wet or rocky.

A baby toy or two for babies who are being carried is a nice distraction when they get antsy.

Sunglasses to protect those precious eyes!

Water bottles for the whole family.

Extra change of clothes for baby (especially little ones who are prone to blow outs!) During colder weather, you might toss in hats or gloves, long sleeved shirts or sweatshirts, or other warm clothing.

Burp rags – these are obvious if you have a baby who spits up a lot, but I toss them in even after we’ve passed the baby stage. They’re great for wiping up messes or big scrapes. Baby wipes are great, but these are so nice and gentle!

Snacks… because kids want to eat eleventy billion snacks a day, so they’re obviously going to be starving the moment you hit the trail.

Insect repellent, sunscreen, itch spray (the Lavaderm after sun spray is perfect for this), waterless hand purifier – all of these can be found here

Band-aids for the inevitable scraped knee, tweezers for slivers or ticks, and all the oils! These are my must-haves when we’re out for a hike:

KidScents Owie oil (for all those bumps and owies on the trail)

KidScents TummyGize oil (in case someone’s tummy feels icky)

Purification/Geranium (great for helping to keep away the creepy crawlies – add some to hair or shoes)

Basil (for those nasty stings!)

Deep Relief (for any aches and pains that happen while you’re hiking)

Lavender (to help calm any irritated skin)

Valor (for the inevitable meltdown … from you or your littles!)

*All these oils can be purchased here

I have to give a shout out to my girl Beth who has an amazing shop. Weepereas sells amazing oil pouches, baby shoes, and toddler backpacks. They are incredibly well made, and I carry my oil pouch with me all the time. It holds more than just oils too!

Not pictured: hats (especially for babies), baby bottles or sippy cups. I bring ours in a small cooler that fits in the bottom of my backpack. I usually toss some cheese sticks or other small snacks in, depending on how long our hike is. Then I also have an ice pack in case we need one on hand.

Pack it all in a backpack that’s comfortable enough to wear for a long time:

Now go off and enjoy the adventure!

What do you take along when you hike with your family? Happy hiking, friends!

Want to learn more about essential oils? Join my private group on Facebook!

FREE Summer Breezy Shorts Pattern for Boys!

For many of you, summer is starting to wind down. Here in Wisconsin, though, this is the time of year that keeps us going all winter long. So we are living it up outside as much as we can! My boys have been pretty rough on their wardrobes this summer – and have grown a LOT. So they were in need of some new play and sleep shorts. This FREE pattern, The Summer Breeze Shorts, is perfect for both! It’s a really quick sew (those are kind of my jam, in case you’re new here), and it’s also great for upcycling old pants!
My boys love to wear comfortable pants that they can move around in when they’re playing outside. They want to be able to jump, play basketball, and climb trees. But they’re also at the age where they don’t want little kid pajamas anymore (I can’t talk about it… I’m in denial that they’re that old). They love pants and shorts that double as lounge wear or pajamas, and these shorts fit the bill. Depending on the fabric you use, they can easily be sleep shorts, play shorts, athletic shorts… whatever your kiddos need!

These shorts are drafted for boys, but you may find them appropriate for your girls as well. For the pants above, the black pair is upcycled from a pair of my husband’s old athletic pants (I reused the waistband and pockets) and the grey pair is made from sweatshirt fleece. They are made to be a little more relaxed fit, longer shorts.

Materials:

  • knit, athletic fabric, sweatshirt fleece, french terry
  • 1inch non-roll elastic
  • sewing machine, thread, etc.

You can download your FREE copy of the Summer Breeze Shorts in my Facebook Group. The instructions will remain here on my blog. The layout of the pattern pieces is shown below:

Let’s Sew!

1. Cut out two front and two back pieces of your fabric. Put one front and one back piece right sides together. Sew down the long side and sew up the inseam (as shown by the pink lines). Repeat with the second leg.

2. Put one leg inside the other, right sides together. Sew along the crotch seam (shown in the picture not sewn).

3. Measure your child’s waist to determine elastic length. I used 1in. elastic, but if yours is slightly bigger, you will be just fine. Sew the ends together so it forms a circle.

4. I use a coverstitch for my waistbands, so I simply fold the waistband down over the elastic circle and sew the raw edge down. Do not sew over the elastic. You could also serge the edge of your fabric and sew it down with a stretch stitch for a similar effect. See the next photo for what to do if you don’t have a coverstitch.

If you don’t have a coverstitch, you could use a double needle or simply fold the raw edge under, pin in place, and sew the fabric in place. Do not sew over the elastic.

*You could also create a casing in the fabric and insert your elastic, but I much prefer to sew waistbands like this.

5. Hem your cuffs with about an inch hem (I recommend trying them on your child first).
So easy and Summer Breezy!!

Like I said, these are perfect for jumping. Ready, set…

…GO!

Don’t forget to head over to my Facebook Group to download the free pattern! This pattern would pair perfectly with the free Surfer Tank pattern, so grab that one if you don’t have it yet. 

This post was part of the Summer Fun series hosted by Emily of Life Sew Savory. I love this series, and it was so fun to be a part of it again! You can see the fun pool noodle boats I made for this series two years ago here!

Be sure to check out all the other summer fun posts over at Life Sew Savory!

Handmade Fish Toss Game by Patchwork Posse

Kids Hat Pattern/Tutorial Round Up – Made by Sara

Cute Dolls – Sprouting Jube Jube

Ruffle Knit Play Dress – Bonnie and Blithe

Cactus Cross Stitch by Story Piece

Free Boys Shorts Pattern by If Only They Would Nap

Travel Tic Tac Toe – Straight Stitch Designs

Dollhouse Rag Rug – Once Upon a Sewing Machine

 

10 Skirt Refashion Tutorials for Skirting the Issue

July is such a great month for wearing skirts! They’re perfect for summer, easy to throw on after a day at the beach, and they can take you from the pool to date night with a quick accessory change. The lovely ladies at Simple Simon and Co. have an amazing series that they put together every July called Skirting the Issue. You can read all about it over on their site, but they spend the month gathering tutorials for skirts, pillowcases, and quilts. Then everyone who participates sews something to donate to kids in foster care! I love this idea so, SO much. This year I’ve collected 10 tutorials for refashioning skirts out of other materials, everything from shirts to dresses to pants! Most of these are super easy to sew and would be great for re-using materials that have gone unloved or even some of those XXL garments you find on the super clearance racks!

1.Dress to Skirt

This is one of my favorite upcycles that I did a long time ago! I took a thrifted dress that never fit on top and turned it into a skirt in just a few minutes.

2. T-Shirt to Skirt

This awesome tutorial from my girl Melissa at Sew Like My Mom is quick and can be for girls or women. The best part is that it’s so comfy because it doesn’t have an elastic waistband!

3. Jeans to Mini Skirt

Emily from Life Sew Savory turned a pair of jeans into this adorable mini skirt! It looks super easy, and I could imagine wearing this one at an outdoor summer concert!

4. Shirt to Baby Circle Skirt

How adorable is this little circle skirt?? My friend Dana at Sew Thrifty made this one from a t-shirt:  simple and comfy for little ones! You can use this same idea to make a circle skirt for yourself too.

5. Prom Dress to Skirt

I adore this super fun refashion from Fleece Fun! What a great way to use an old prom dress or even a bridesmaid dress that you normally wouldn’t get to wear again.

6. Shirt to Skirt

Here’s a different way to take a T-shirt and make it into a skirt from Make It and Love It. Re-using the existing hem makes it so fast!

7. Flannel Shirt to Skirt

How fun is this cozy upcycle from Randomly Happy Blog? Take a flannel shirt and turn it into a fall or winter skirt! Perfect for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere right now.

8. Sweats to Skirt

Here’s another comfy skirt from It’s Always Autumn. Take a pair of sweatpants and transform them into a skirt! She also has a tutorial for a kid’s version on her blog.

9. Sweater to Skirt

Since we’re talking cozy skirts, this refashion from Pearls and Scissors takes a sweater and turns it into a warm winter skirt. I’m imagining this with tights and tall boots – so cute, right?!

10. Vintage Sheet to Skirt

Here’s another one of mine that I loved – a favorite vintage sheet turned skirt! I added some doilies as pockets for a functional accent. :)

I love taking a garment that’s lost its luster and using it to create something brand new. It’s a great way to breathe new life into something that would otherwise be bound for a landfill! Search through thrift shops and clearance racks (or the back of your closets!) to find your fabric. With so many skirt tutorials to choose from, you should be set! Now get sewing – for yourself and also for Skirting the Issue! Make sure you pop over to Simple Simon and Co to get all the details on what to do with your skirt and to check out all the awesome ideas and inspiration. Love these ladies and their generous hearts!!

Happy sewing, friends!

When Motherhood Isn’t What You Expected 

Anytime you bring a new baby home, your life is going to change. Most of those changes are so, so good. And many are just as difficult. But babies grow and (eventually) sleep through the night, and what was hard yesterday isn’t so hard today.

So when we brought home baby boy five, I expected certain challenges. I knew there would be countless sleepless nights ahead of me. I knew there would be crying – from both baby and mama. I knew there could be some rocky days as his brothers transitioned to this new person in our home. I knew that I should expect the unexpected.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

But this most recent season of motherhood has been more exhausting and more challenging than I was prepared for. In the nine plus years since I became a parent, I’ve been a proud breastfeeding mama. Not in an “I’m better than you if you don’t breastfeed” kind of way, but in an “I’m willing to work as hard as I can to make this work, because this is what I believe is best for my baby.” And it has been hard work.

So of course, I expected the same for our newest babe. After all, fifth babies come at least with the blessing of experience – every little thing isn’t new and confusing, as it was with my first.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

In the beginning, it was easy. He nursed like a champ, and we had very few problems. We settled into a groove and everything was going well. Until it wasn’t.

At a well-check, we discovered he wasn’t gaining weight. Even though I thought he had been nursing so well, he wasn’t growing like he should have been.

This felt personal. I’m the one responsible for this little life. I’m his sole source of nourishment. I’m the reason he’s not growing.

It took awhile to find the cause of his lack of weight gain, and in the process, we began to supplement. I cried when my husband gave him his first bottle. Not because formula was going to ruin my baby, but because I felt like I had failed him. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do – what I was made to do.

Through my own persistence and refusing to simply believe that my milk wasn’t “enough” we discovered our little one had a significant lip and tongue tie that had been over looked for months. Once we began down the road of supplementing (which was necessary, even if it was heart wrenching), baby decided he didn’t want to nurse anymore. Who could blame him, really. He hadn’t been physically capable of getting all the milk he needed when nursing, so when we introduced a bottle, he didn’t have to work so hard to fill his little belly anymore.

So my life revolved around feedings – pumping, attempting to nurse only to be met with screams and tears – his and mine, and bottle feeding. I felt like all I did was feed and pump, feed and pump.

My free moments were few and far between. When the baby was sleeping, I was pumping and homeschooling and trying to keep up with the daily tasks of mothering a small army of children. I was spending every second of the day – and throughout the night – caring for a child. I put all other things on the back burner – sewing, exercising, self-care. It was a hard and difficult season.

But because this was my fifth baby and not my first, I knew that it was just that – a season. Sometimes I would pump in my sewing room and look at my stacks of fabric, and my mind would fill with ideas for what to sew next. I would spot the half finished projects sitting on my sewing table, and wonder how long it would be before I could get to them. And then I would remind myself that it wasn’t always like this – and one day, it would get better. I would dust off my sewing machine and we’d pick back up like the old friends we are. This season was hard, but it wasn’t going to last forever.

About a month ago, I chose to stop pumping. Instead of feeling guilty for not nursing a full year or more like I had with my other kiddos, I knew that it was the right choice for me. I needed to step out of that hard season and create a little more margin in my days. My milk supply had been dwindling, and I knew that my body and my soul needed some restoration.

I’ve since returned to my trusty sewing machine and finished projects that I had begun months ago. My brain made space to create something new. I still have days or weeks where my sewing machine sits untouched. The dishes pile up and must be washed. The baby learns to crawl, gets into everything he shouldn’t, and suddenly I’m trading sleepy snuggles for chasing him around the house. Summer comes and we spend hours at the park.

Motherhood always brings the unexpected: joys, tears, adventures, and challenges. But I always come back to sewing, even if it comes in 15 minute increments, because this is my self-care. When life throws something at you that you weren’t expecting, the small moments of taking care of yourself become even more important. I know that if I don’t take care of myself, there’s no way I can take care of these littles of mine. When the season changes, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for an uninterrupted hour spent with my sewing machine. Here in this season of sleepless nights and countless bottle feedings, though, I’m okay with slow sewing with a side of baby snuggles.

Thanks, Jodi, for inviting me to be a part of the Ease Into Motherhood series.

Party in the Back Dress FREE pattern

It’s finally summer, so that means it’s time to wear dresses! I’m joining up again with Melissa at Melly Sews for her 30 Days of Sundresses series! You can check out my last year’s post with free pattern here and the previous year’s tutorial here. This year I decided to stick with my knit dress theme (because knits are my jam) and make a cute little sleeveless dress with a slightly gathered yoke and a super fun cut out back. So I had to name it the Party in the Back dress! :) Keep reading for the full tutorial and to download your own FREE pattern!This dress is really simple to sew and SO comfy to wear. The slightly gathered yoke gives it a little bit of interest while still letting the fabric be the focus.

Unless, of course, you’re looking at the back, and then this fun cut out is the focus!

And hopefully the fun cut out in the back is enough to distract you from the weird short hairs that are growing… I blame the baby. ;)

I have a one-size pattern (size medium) free for download. If this size doesn’t work for you, you can use this tutorial to use a pattern you have on-hand to make your own cut-out back dress.

Download Your Party In The Back Dress FREE Pattern

Quick note on fabric: you want a stable knit with good stretch. Really drapey knits will not work well for this dress.

1.Print out and tape/glue together the pattern pieces. The pattern is tiled four across.

2. Gather the front and back pieces. They are very slightly gathered until they match the front and back yoke pieces. Sew the back yoke to the back gathered piece, right sides together, and repeat with the front.

3. Cut out a strip 14.5in x 1.25in for the binding for the back cut out. Sew the binding onto the cut out, the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the cut out opening. 

4. Fold over the seam, folding the raw edge under.

5. Sew the binding down. You can do this with a double needle or a coverstitch. I used a coverstitch with a single needle.

6. Overlap the ends of the cut out about an inch to form the circle. Pin or clip together.

7. Sew the shoulders together, right sides together.

8. Sew the sides together, right sides together.

9. Cut a 24.5in x 1.25in strip for the neckline binding. Sew the short ends together, right sides together.

10. Sew to the neckline as you did with the cut-out binding. *only here, use a 1/2in seam allowance. Make sure you secure the ends of the cut-out binding in your seam.

11. You can hem the armscye with a double needle or coverstitch as I did. Or you can cut a 16.5in x 1.25in binding and sew it like the previous bindings.

12. Hem the dress to your desired length. I took a couple inches off the pattern, because I am short (5’3″) and I wanted the dress to be a fun above the knee summer length.

13. Press the bindings and hems really well.

Download Your Party In The Back Dress FREE Pattern

 This dress is super comfy and is going to be a staple in my wardrobe this summer!

To check out more sundresses, make sure you pop over to Melly Sews to see what everyone else has been sewing.

Happy sewing, friends!

 

 

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Planning a Family Vacation Without Losing Your Mind (plus FREE packing list printable!)

                                     
Summer is here! Schools are letting out and everyone starts thinking about pool days, park time, and family vacations! When you’re planning a vacation with kids, it can be easy to stress about lots of details: where to sleep, what to eat, what to bring, etc. I have a list of ten things to help you plan a family vacation without losing your mind (plus a free packing list printable, so keep reading!)

1. Don’t overplan.

Kids are unpredictable. You may arrive at your destination only to find that your kids are content with doing one activity the entire time you’re there! Have a few preplanned outings or activities, but keep your schedule loose and allow for flexibility.

2. Bring snacks.

This is basically a given when you’re traveling with kids, but it will make your life easier. Rather than having to search for food to eat when those inevitable hangry meltdowns occur, pack some healthy snacks that your kids enjoy. It also helps for those “You want me to eat WHAT?!” moments that happen a little more often when traveling. ;)

3. Schedule nap/rest times.

When you’re away from home and filling your days with activities that aren’t the norm, your kids are going to need some down time. And let’s face it – so are you! Plan to spend at least an hour each day (or more, depending on the ages of your kiddos) resting and doing quiet activities like reading, card games, or taking naps. This will help everyone to recharge and have more energy – and fewer meltdowns!

4. Pack light.

Unless you’re vacationing in a remote village somewhere, you probably don’t need to pack everything you own. Many hotels and water parks have laundry available, so you don’t have to worry if baby goes through all five outfits in the first day. When my kids were younger, I would pack lots of toys for them to play with, only to discover that they were so excited to be in a new place, they barely looked at their toys! So bring the bare minimum and know that you can always grab extra supplies at a nearby store if you find you absolutely need them. You’ll be happy to carry fewer suitcases!

5. Pack a few familiar comforts.

Whether it’s a lovey, an essential oil diffuser, or a cozy bathrobe for snuggling in after swimming, everyone likes to feel at home when they’re away. I always let my kids chose one stuffed animal or blankie to have on long car rides or in hotel rooms. That familiar feeling tends to help everyone sleep a little better!

6. Make a list.

I just looove lists. Whenever we take a trip, I make a huge list of everything I need, so we don’t forget anything. I really adore checking off boxes. :) I have a great packing printable for you free at the end of this post!

7. Choose a kid-friendly location.

Not all vacation spots are made for kids, so choose wisely. We love vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells, because there’s something for everyone. The Kalahari Resort is family friendly and has activities for all ages. They have both indoor and outdoor waterslides, so you can have fun even when the weather isn’t that great.

The Kalahari Resort here in Wisconsin recently added an awesome new outdoor waterslide, which just opened this Memorial Day. The new ride “The Smoke That Thunders” looks amazing! You can pile on these big rafts with your family and friends and thunder down the epic waterslide. I can’t wait to try it!

Over the years, my family has traveled to the Wisconsin Dells many times, and the Kalahari Resort is perfect for families with multiple ages. Since there’s such a wide variety under one roof, you don’t have to get in your car to go elsewhere unless you want to. One-stop vacationing is my jam. Because once I’ve gotten everyone out of the car, I really don’t want to get back in unless we’re going home! Mom can hit up the spa (um, yes please!!) while the kids are playing arcade games, then we can all meet back at the waterpark. There are water activities appropriate for every age level, so no one feels left out. That’s important for a big family like mine. ;)

Since there’s so much to do in one spot at the Kalahari Resort, you really don’t need to pack much. They have towels, food, fun activities, arcade games, and more. So you just need to pack a few personal items! I’ve made a free printable to help your packing go a little smoother.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING LIST PRINTABLE

If you’re not close enough to drive to the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari location, be sure to check out the Sandusky, Ohio location!

What packing tips do you have to help keep your sanity?

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DIY After Sun Spray

It’s that time of year for fun in the sun! Going to the beach, the park, meeting friends for cookouts… I love it all! But with all that time in the sun, sometimes your skin can end up needing a little soothing at the end of the day. This After Sun Spray is just what you need to cool down your skin after a long day outside.

DIY After Sun Spray Recipe

This post contains affiliate links

Ingredients:

after sun spray ingredients 1. Drop in your 100% pure essential oils

2. Pump in your aloe gel

3. Fill the rest of your bottle with witch hazel

4. Shake to combine

5. Label your bottle with washi tape!

after sun spray

So easy! Now you’re all set to support healthy skin after a long day in the sun!
Want to see a video of how to make this spray? Check out the live video I did on my Facebook page!