Breaking Free from Materialism and Finding Contentment Where You Are At

I’ve always considered myself a pretty content person.  I am not much for materialism and enjoy the casual, minimal and simple things in life.  So I thought going on a strict budget (read my tips here) would be a piece of cake!  However, I quickly realized how easy it is to feel like you NEED this or that.

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Tips and Tricks for Creating a Family Budget

Budgeting… a dreaded word for some.  I’m going to take a minute and show you how I created the very first Smith Family Budget that’s currently taped to our refrigerator.

Before we start a little back story:

I was a girl who had no clue how to handle her finances.  Before getting married I took out student loans, financed a car AND used a credit card to buy things I wanted but didn’t have the money for.  Then I married a man who was a little better with his money… but not much.

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Focusing on your Marriage after having a Baby

Recently I had someone ask me how my marriage was doing after having a baby.  I answered them really without thinking much about their question.  But then the question lingered with me.  I was touched in a way.  After having a baby people will ask you how you’re doing all the time.  They will ask how the baby is sleeping, or how you’re handling being a mother, or just how you’re coping. But no one had intentionally asked about my marriage.

Ya’ll.  Being a brand new parent is hard and if you’re not careful your marriage can get tossed to the back burner.  My husband and I had some dark moments those first two weeks Gemma was out in the world.  But we also had some of the most intimate moments.  Our marriage is stronger now.  I love my husband deeper after weathering through those first weeks and after seeing him love our daughter so deeply.  But it didn’t happen by accident.  We didn’t coast into a stronger and happier marriage.  We worked for it, day by day, choosing to make sacrifices for each other.

Here are five ways you can intentionally focus on your marriage after having a baby.

PRAY TOGETHER.

There is something powerful and intimate and about prayer.  It brings you to your knees and into a place of humility.  In a time when emotions run high and arguments can spring up out of nowhere it’s important to remember to pray.  And specifically pray together.  Praying together allows you to see each other’s heart.

{RELATED: Prayer for my Daughter}

SPEND TIME ALONE.

Get away together.  Now, I don’t mean go on vacation.  I just think you and your husband should have intentional time with the two of you.  It might have to happen on baby’s schedule.  Dallas and I would always try to give each other attention once Gemma would fall asleep.  Even a few minutes a day could make a big difference in those first few weeks.

LIST OUT REASONS WHY YOU LOVE YOUR SPOUSE

Okay, this is going to sound horrible (unless you’ve just had a baby) but in those first few weeks I needed continual reminders as to WHY I loved and married Dallas.  Yeah.  Post Partum hormones are NO JOKE.  I couldn’t control them and sometimes when I was hurt or jealous or sad or mad or a million other emotions, I needed to take a deep breathe and write out or repeat to myself why I loved my husband.

But the same went for Dallas as well.  In his words, I was a “handful”.  He needed reminders that the emotions would pass, that he would have his wife back.  So there were times that he had to tell himself all the good things about me.  Even when I wasn’t acting any of those things out.

TRY AND EXPLAIN HOW YOU’RE FEELING
& LISTEN WHEN IT’S THEIR TURN.

This is going to sound crazy but it’s honestly how I felt.  In the pits of breastfeeding, when I was crying from pain and stress, Dallas would try to encourage me.  He would tell me how good breastmilk was for our baby, he would encourage me to push through and be strong for our Little One.  And you know what?  Instead of feeling encouraged and confident, I felt jealous.  I was jealous for my husband’s love.  I wanted him to be focused on MY feelings and MY pain… ME.  HIS WIFE.  Seriously, I was jealous of his love and wanted him to give it to me over Gemma.

As shameful as it was to admit that to Dallas, and even though he couldn’t really understand it at the time, it helped.  Speaking it out loud allowed me to hear how crazy it sounded.  But it also gave Dallas a tiny glimpse into the magnitude of my emotions.

And when he would tell me that my attitude was wearing him down, when he would admit how hard it was for him.  I would listen.  I had to.  Even if I ended up crying and needing him to comfort me afterward.

We had to continually let each other know how we were feeling and offer grace to each other.

THINK OF EACH OTHER.

Last thing.  Try, to the best of your ability, to keep your spouse and what they’re going through at the forefront of your mind.  I did my best to include Dallas in every aspect of taking care of Gemma those first few weeks because I know that’s what he wanted.

Dallas would stay up with me at night while I fed Gemma because he knew I needed that support.  I would grow bitter seeing him sleep when I had to get up to feed our baby.  So there were many nights that he would be up as well keeping me company.

 

The truth is having a baby is difficult but it is also so worth it.  I can not describe how much more I love my husband.  I hope these tips can help you through those rough few weeks with a baby!  Let me know of any great advice that you heard or practiced in those first weeks of parenthood.

-Brittany Smith-

Celebrating the Fourth of July Simply and Frugally

I hope everyone has a great Fourth of July tomorrow!

Now that I am married with a baby I’m looking forward to family time during the holidays.  I can’t wait to try out and establish some fun traditions for each holiday and time of the year.  It would be so fun to have decorations for each season along with some family activities and cute outfits and of course FOOD that pertains to each special occasion.

{RELATED: Welcome to Our Home Tour!}

Independence Day is just the epitome of summer time!  Grilling, Swimming, Fireworks.  I love it.  So I was excited to go ALL OUT with Gemma’s first Fourth of July.

But time is moving faster than I can keep up (anyone else?)  So I realized… uhm, it’s already July!  I had no time to go and get a ton of stuff set up for the 4th.  I also had no money. (A post about that will be coming soon)

So I hit up my trusty pal Pinterest.  Praise the Lord I live in the time of Pinterst.  I don’t know how you did it without.  After browsing for a bit… You can check out my Fourth of July Board (TONS of Ideas)… I made a quick trip to Target for the absolute essentials.

$3 Banner | Cute Outfit for G | Strawberries, Blueberries and White Chocolate covered pretzels (I plan on making this American Flag Food Tray)

We are also are going to a local parade in the morning, then spending time with family.  Holidays don’t have to be jam-packed with events.  They don’t need desserts that take 2 hours to make.  You also don’t need to spend a ton of money to make them memorable and fun!  Just stick to one or two things and be flexible with everything else.  Focus on being present and making memories with your loved ones.  Also mamas, remember to try and get in front of the camera for a picture or two!

I have also made three simple printables for you to enjoy as well.  Feel free to print them out for the food table or hang them around the house to keep to the Fourth of July theme!

I’d love to hear what free or frugal things you are planning this Fourth of July!  Leave a comment below!

-Brittany Smith-

Top 10 Basic Newborn Essentials

What exactly do you need to care for your newborn baby?  Because of finances and the small duplex we live in, Dallas and I don’t have the room or money for a lot of items.  We are minimalists at heart and both despise clutter.

So I’ve decide to list out what I believe are the Newborn Essentials.  Make sure you get these on your registry or have them before you bring home your baby.

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When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

Even before my pregnancy I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I researched breastfeeding and the many benefits for mom and baby.  I read articles about the deep bond formed during breastfeeding and I attended the breastfeeding class offered by the hospital.

Entering motherhood I was hopeful and optimistic and possibly naive.  Within minutes of Gemma being born I was holding her skin-to-skin and as I had read in all my wonderful research this was the perfect opportunity to begin nursing.  My hospital nurse helped me latch her on and I was in awe.  This was it.  This was how I would feed my beautiful baby.

Breastfeeding was Painful.

By the second or third time I nursed Gemma, I started noticing the pain.  Everything I had read told me that initial pain was common but it should ease up as she nurses.  Since the pain only seemed to get worse I contacted the lactation consultant.  She told me I was already having some damage.  However, no need to fear.  We practiced some different holds and she showed me ways to help Gemma latch on correctly that shouldn’t be painful.  Everything looked great.  Yet I was still in pain.

Breastfeeding was Tiring.

Gemma cried a LOT in the hospital.  Every two hours a nurse would come in and want to know when I nursed her.  Uhmm, you mean nursing should have a start and stop time?  It seemed like she wanted to nurse constantly!  I found myself questioning… was I doing it right?  Was she getting enough?  Why did she not want to be anywhere except at my breast?  We chose not to use a pacifier because I had read about “nipple confusion”.  The hospital didn’t give us one anyway.  I was the pacifier.  But I had also just given birth.  I was exhausted and hurting and I started to realize that I was not having the beautifully peaceful moments of bounding during breastfeeding.  It just made me more tired and again… it was so painful.

Breastfeeding was REALLY Painful.

By the time we took Gemma home I had already lost faith in this beautiful dream of breastfeeding.  Oh I was still nursing but I no longer wore rose-colored glasses.  I was in so much pain it was excruciating to even where a shirt.  I was cracked and bleeding.  Yet, my little bundle of joy needed to be fed.  I reached out to another lactation consultant.  We met up with her and again she helped with positioning and how to latch her on correctly.  I left feeling hopeful.

That hope lasted until the next feeding.  I would cry every time I nursed her.  I dreaded when ever she was hungry.  Talk about a lot of GUILT.  How could I dread when my baby was hungry.  There were many times when Dallas held our screaming baby because I just needed a minute.  One minute with her not needing to eat from me.  The pain was so unbearable.  At two weeks old I finally couldn’t take another night of torture.

The night before I had cried for almost an hour as I fed her.  I wasn’t going to do it again.  I was miserable and Gemma could sense that.  So I defrosted one of the stored bags of breastmilk I had already collected.  All the research said to wait.  If I gave her the bottle she might not go back to the breast.  But I couldn’t wait.  I was an anxious mess.  The thought of nursing could send me into hysterics.

So I gave her a bottle of breastmilk.

Ya’ll.  It was so glorious I cried tears of joy.  So I gave her another.  And another.  Two days later and I realized I had become a mom who exclusively pumps.  I kept telling my husband and family I would start nursing her soon.  I just needed to heal.  However, after the two weeks it took for me to heal and I would still cry, thinking about attempting to nurse her.

Pumping was hard too.

I jumped into exclusively pumping.  I set timers and bought equipment and I would lug that pump anywhere and everywhere.  It was better than the pain… but it became a pain.  After four weeks of exclusively pumping I had completely healed and the inconvenience of pumping was really starting to weigh on me.  I had shoved the guilt of failing to nurse deep down inside but it was slowly starting to rise to the surface.  Yes, I was feeding my baby breastmilk… but it was out of the bottle.  Could I really pump every 2-3 hours and make enough milk to keep her satisfied.  TWICE I had come close to running out.

So, I finally attempted to nurse her again.  There was a lot of prayer and some tears beforehand.  She wouldn’t latch without a shield but she did drink from me.  TWICE.  But that was all it took for the pain to begin coming back.  Maybe it was partly mental.  It didn’t matter.  I didn’t want to dread feeding my baby.  So I stuck with pumping.

At 7 weeks old, I finally had to supplement some formula.  There were tears because of that as well.  I had gotten a clogged duct and my milk supply dropped drastically.  Gemma girl was HUNGRY.  So she got a few bottles of formula.  My normal milk supply returned but I could no longer keep up with my growing baby.

There is no Shame.

I’m still learning not to blame myself.  Gemma is now eight weeks old and gets about half of her milk from me and the other half is formula.  I try not to read too much about breastfeeding anymore.  There are so many wonderful women who overcome MOUNTAINS to breastfeed their babies.  I did not overcome my mountain.  But Gemma is growing and healthy and so happy.  That counts for something!  Maybe that counts for everything.  I’m not sure.

I will keep giving her breastmilk for as long as I can but I’m no longer putting pressure on myself.  I’ve realized while it’s disappointing that my breastfeeding dreams didn’t come to fruition that I’m still caring for my daughter the best I can.  I am a better mother when I’m happy and healthy and when I don’t cringe at the thought of feeding her.

So I’ll enjoy my full on formula baby girl and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that maybe with baby number 2 I’ll finally get to see the beauty in breastfeeding.  No pressure though.

I’d love to hear your breastfeeding thoughts and journey.  Send me an email or leave a comment.
Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest for all different breastfeeding, pumping and milk supply information!

-Brittany Smith-

Keeping Busy on Maternity Leave

 

As a teacher, I could not work up until my actual due date.  I decided to take my maternity leave about two weeks early.  The plan was to help me get off my feet and accomplish a lot of baby prep that I had put off for so long.  Yikes!

One piece of advice I heard repeatedly was “work as long as possible”.  Supposedly, most first time mothers go past their due date and maternity leave can get boring quickly.  (Especially if you’re anxiously awaiting your little babe to make their appearance!)  So, I’ve put together a little list of everything I’ve been doing this past week to help me pass the time and prepare for sweet Gemma’s arrival.

**This post contains affiliate links.  Disclosure in the sidebar**

 

Keeping Busy on Maternity Leave (BEFORE Baby’s Home)

1.Daily To Do List.

On my phone I have a daily to do list that never changes.  I wake up, have a quiet time, eat breakfast, make the bed, get ready for the day and do a quick de-cluttering of the house.  It’s the same checklist everyday but it’s helped immensely.  Getting out of bed is no easy task.  It is painful to sit up and it is painful to stand up.  Having such a simple list on my phone that I check off every morning has helped me get up and get moving.

 

2. Finish the Nursery.

Okay, so this should have been done awhile back…  I’m still washing some of Gemma’s precious clothes, organizing diapers by size, separating clothes by size and going through all her books, toys and blankets.  Baby Girl was blessed with so much!  I don’t want her little room to become too cluttered.  I still need to hang some more artwork. But we’ll see if I get around to it. Probably not.

[Here are the Amazon links to the glider (which I love!).
The bedding (which I also love!)
The closest black sleigh bed I could find (ours is actually a hand-me-down so I’m not 100% sure it’s the right one).
Also, don’t worry, the crib bumpers will be removed before Gemma transitions to the crib]

[Here are the Amazon links to the changing table. (we had a missing part and they were quick and efficient to replace it for us)
The Diaper Genie.
The baskets I got from Dollar Tree!]

 

 

3. Make Freezer Meals.

Okay, this is one I wasn’t sure I would be able to do… but after 3 hours with my mom (which included grocery shopping)  I have ten gallon sized freezer bags stocked in our freezer for when Baby comes home.  [Dallas keeps tempting me to try one out before she arrives!]  I used the provided meal plan and grocery list from HERE. I also added one more recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup.  My mom and I were able to knock it out quickly.  We only spent $80 at the store! (We did have a lot of staple items already.  I didn’t buy any herbs or seasonings and we even had a lot of the oils and vinegar as well.)

 

 

4. Pack the Diaper Bag. 

I have been scouring Pinterest looking for any and all lists as what to bring with us to the hospital.  I packed the diaper bag for Gemma with what I am sure is way too much stuff but I didn’t want to forget anything.  I also packed mine and Dallas’ bag with extra clothes, chargers, and toiletries.  Hopefully I won’t forget anything crucial!  I will let you know what I ended up using.

[Sunflower DuffleBag is borrowed from my sister.
The grey and white Kelty diaper bag is from Babies “R” Us]

 

 

5. Rest, Relax and Wait.

I’m just trying to prepare myself mentally and physically to what it will be like to bring home a baby.  In just a few short weeks Dallas and I will have a little human being.  She will rely solely on us for care.  What a terrifying and exciting thing!

 

 

Any other momma’s want to share what they did once their maternity leave started and before their bundle of joy arrived?  Leave a comment!!

-Brittany Smith-

Date Night Ideas

How can it be that I only have EIGHT WEEKS until Gemma’s due date!?!  Time needs to slow down now.  Seriously.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can not wait to finally hold my baby girl.  I want to see her little face and I want to see her in Dallas’s arms.  That being said, I know that our lives our about to change DRASTICALLY.

 

Date Nights Before Baby

Right now, Dallas and I can have date night pretty much any and every night.  It’s just us.  Yes, we still like to schedule out special dates and we still set aside specific times to make sure we don’t get too busy.  With work and school our lives can feel so fast paced sometimes and if we aren’t intentional we’ll realize that a week’s gone by without us making time for each other.

However, we have the freedom to make every night date night if we wanted to.  After work and school (most nights of the week) we are together from when dinner is being cooked and consumed until bedtime.  Only us two.  It’s lovely and a privilege.  One we won’t have for much longer.  Pretty soon our sweet Gemma will make her grand debut and we will have a tiny little human that will get the majority of our focus.

Date Nights After Baby

Now I can’t actually give you a run down of what dating looks like post baby… well, because I’m not post baby yet.  The only thing I can share with you is my thoughts on the matter.  *If you are marred with kids, I would LOVE to hear any and all advice concerning dating your spouse after the baby comes*

Dallas and I really want to make sure our marriage is still getting the focus it deserves once Gemma is here.  We want to make time for *us* and we want to continue going on dates.  So, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I have created a list of 28 date ideas.  These ideas are not necessarily a check list but more of a brainstorming list to help us be intentional about dating once we have our baby.

28 Date Ideas
  1. Movie Marathon – I don’t really know how this will work post baby but we’ve always wanted to take a weekend and watch the Lord of the Rings or other movie series.  Bust out the popcorn and we’re ready to roll.
  2. Dream of the Future – This is always fun for us.  Add some coffee or ice cream to the mix and we can talk about our ideas for the future for hours.
  3. Plant a Garden – okay, this is already on our to-do list… however, if we’re doing it together it counts as a date, right?
  4. Yard Sales – Wake up early one Saturday and scope out some yard sales.  Believe it our not Dallas has asked to do this a few times already.
  5. Draw or Paint Something Together – I’ve seen a Painting with a Twist couples group where one person paints the Dallas Skyline and the other paints the Fort Worth Skyline.  It would be perfect for us!!  I’m determined to do it one day… Or attempt to do it on our own.
  6. Questionnaire – Come up with a list of questions to ask each other.  Serious, Personal, Funny etc. It’s always crazy how you can still learn things about your spouse when you feel like you know them so well already!
  7. Game Night – bust out some two player games and let your competitive sides loose.
  8. Learn a New Hobby – juggling, sewing, a magic trick, playing the ukulele… The hobby doesn’t matter, just choose one, watch some YouTube videos and start learning together!
  9. Farmer’s Market – Another Saturday morning date.  Hit up the local farmer’s market for some fresh herbs and veggies.  Take your time and stroll around enjoying each others company.
  10. Volunteer– I know it doesn’t sound like a date but seeing you significant other show generosity and selflessness is definitely a turn on!  Do something good TOGETHER.
  11. Hiking– This is a personal favorite of ours.  We also plan to do this a lot with Gemma as well.  Get outside and walk a trail or around a park.  Enjoy nature and each other, as well as getting good exercise.
  12. Bookstore– There’s something magical about a good bookstore.  We could spend an hour or more in a good bookstore.  We tend to like different types of books so we can easily get separated.  However we enjoy telling each other about the fascinating books we’ve found.
  13. Drive-in Movie – a twist to the normal movie date night.
  14. Puzzle – I really love puzzles, but I’ve haven’t done one in years!
  15. Tourist Spot– We live in a city with tons of tourist locations and we’ve never visited any of them!  Just be sure to do you research to find the discount days.
  16. Bake Something New – We found this really cool apple pie bite recipe while we were engaged and baked them together.  It was so fun and they turned out delicious!  We definitely need to try it again sometime.  There are so many great places to find recipes now a days.
  17. Photoshoot – I’m talking set up the tripod and get some photos of us together!  We both really enjoy photography and neither one of us mind being in front of the camera either.
  18. Roadtrip – whether it’s twenty minutes or two hours away just get in the car and go someplace new.  It doesn’t matter where!
  19. At Home Spa Night – candles, music, oil… need I say more?
  20. Coffee and Dessert – Some of our favorite dates are just to a new or local coffee shop or out to get ice cream.
  21. Eat outside – Maybe it’s a picnic, homemade dinner on the back porch or the local food trucks.  There’s something so fun about eating outside!
  22. Double Date – Split the cost of a babysitter and go out with another couple!
  23. New Restaurant – Take a look at nearby restaurants that you’ve never been to and choose one to venture out to.
  24. Science Experiment– Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher but doing science experiments together is always so much fun!  Dallas and I had a blast creating and testing out circuits before I taught them to my students.
  25. Exchange Love Letters– There’s something so rejuvenating about writing a love letter to the love of your life and then reading one written to you!
  26. Go Dancing – Take dance lessons or just turn on the music and dance at home.
  27. Explore the Neighborhoods – take a drive and check out the surrounding neighborhoods.
  28. Go to a Play – It could be a fancy play, a local play or even a high school play.  Doesn’t matter!

So there you have it! Just a few ideas to hopefully help out when you’re unsure of what to do on a date night.  Just remember to be intentional about date nights!  I have a FREE printable of the dates listed above that you can download here.  Also, you can check out my Pinterest for even more date night ideas!

28 date ideas to fall back on
28 date night ideas from Tale of Two Smiths Blog

-Brittany