Wednesday, April 19, 2017

5 Lies About Formula Feeding (and 5 Awesome Benefits!)

My mom has always been a bit of a hippy. She was in the La Leche League long before it became cool, she chose not to give my siblings and me most of our vaccinations, she used essential oils before anyone had ever heard of Young Living, and she gave birth to my brother and me un-medicated in her home. So it's probably not a surprise that I grew up believing "breast is best".

I would never have said that giving your baby formula was wrong, but I definitely thought less of moms that didn't breastfeed. Which is crazy!... not just because there is N O T H I N G wrong with formula, but also because I had never had a child! Who was I to judge anyone else's parenting choices? But that's not the point... not yet.

When I got pregnant in January of 2016, I started doing my research. I met with a lactation consultant, I read breastfeeding books, I searched through blogs and articles, I even burned my eyes off when I stumbled upon a photo of mastitis. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I went to great lengths to prepare for breastfeeding.

To make a long story short, beastfeeding was not how God intended for Ezra to get his food (you can read about my breastfeeding and Failure To Thrive story here). And because my way of thinking has been so dramatically changed, I thought that I'd share my newfound knowledge with you!

5 Lies About Formula Feeding

1. You're a selfish mother if you feed your baby formula.

Maybe you're like me and you don't have the option to breastfeed. Or maybe you work and can't pump enough to feed your baby. Unless you plan to sit around eating bonbons and ignoring your child, putting your baby on formula is not on inherently selfish choice. Most of us have been indoctrinated to associate formula with an unloving, neglectful mom that doesn't make time for her baby, but that's seldom the case. Feeding your baby is feeding your baby. It really shouldn't matter where the milk is coming from. If you are getting food in your baby's belly, then you are doing your job, mama!

2. Your baby won't get adequate nutrition if you feed him formula.

Say what? Y'all, this is 2017 not 1853 when babies were fed sweetened condensed milk as formula. I still believe that breastmilk is nutritionally superior to formula, but that doesn't mean that formula doesn't have everything that your baby needs. And in my case, my breastmilk was actually lacking the fat that Ezra needed to grow. Fastforward 6 months and I have a healthy, happy baby and it's all thanks to formula!

3. You don't love your child as much if you give him formula.

I can't believe that I actually have to clarify this, but I do. Even pre-baby Mary believed this baloney. You wanna know why? Because we're constantly being told this crap! We mothers are being fed this biased, one-sided narrative and it's dangerous for babies like Ezra. Feeding your baby formula does not mean you love your baby less and breastfeeding your baby does not mean you love them more. I know some stellar moms and some crummy moms and they fall on both sides of the spectrum equally.

4. Your baby won't become emotionally attached to you if you feed him formula.

This is another lie that's used to make moms believe that formula is a grave and dangerous evil. I know every mom feels this way, but I can't imagine any mom loving her child more than I love my son. And Ezra is just as attached to me as I am to him. My little man is already a grade A momma's boy. When he's playing, he looks up to make eye contact and smile at me approximately every 7 seconds. Emotional attachment has little (dare I say nothing?) to do with a method of feeding and all to do with how you love, care for, and show affection to your child.

5. People will stare at you if you feed your baby formula in public.

This one may or may not be a lie, but here's the deal; people stare at breastfeeding moms too. For some reason, the general public (e.g. pre-baby Mary) have a lot of unwarranted opinions on how, what, and where a mom feeds her baby. The good news is this is easy to get over. If your baby is eating, then nothing else will matter to you. That's how you know you're a good mama!

There are many, many benefits to formula feeding, but these are my favorites!

1. Peace of mind

When I breastfed Ezra, I thought that he was getting more than enough. In reality, he was getting almost nothing at all. When you formula feed, you can see and control exactly how much food your baby eats. This has brought so much comfort to me over the past 5 months.

2. Daddy can help feed, too (and relatives, and sitters!)

This is one of the best things about feeding Ezra formula. Auston gets to experience just how wonderful it is to hold his son close to him, gaze into his sweet brown eyes, and feed him. Not only is it good for the dads to bond with their babies, but it's good for you, too! Now you can share those nighttime feedings. Can I get a "whut whut!"?!

3. You can eat and drink whatever you want.

For me it was caffeine. I couldn't have a smidge of anything caffeinated or poor Ezra would wind up constipated and unable to sleep. This might not sound like that big of a sacrifice (and believe me, I'd give up Coke a million times over for my son) but it is really hard to stay awake those first few weeks without any caffeine. I mean HARD. Now that he's on formula, I don't have to worry about dairy or caffeine or anything else that some moms do.

4. It's less stressful to feed your baby in public.

I dreaded breastfeeding Ezra in public. He hated the cover and would pull at it, I'd inevitably flash someone, he'd be screaming. It was real fun. I don't think I need to expand on just how much easier it is (and how much less opportunity there is for flashing) when you feed your baby formula.

5. You don't have to worry about pumping at work.

I'm blessed to be a stay-at-home-mom so I've never dealt with this personally. But I remember how hard it was to find the time and privacy to pump when I was on vacation over Christmas. And I can only imagine how much harder it would be at a workplace, day in and day out. If your baby is on formula, you never have to worry about pumping (or washing the bajillion pump pieces) ever again!

What are your favorite things about formula feeding your baby?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2017 Family Photos

I'm so glad we decided to take these before Auston deploys! They're all so dreamy!

Also, there is nothing more classically "mom" than picking out coordinating outfits for your family to wear for family photos. What can I say, I live an exciting life.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Deployment Bucket List

Auston's deployment date is getting nearer every day and if I don't have a solid plan, I already know what will happen. Just like his last TDY, every evening I'll put Ezra to bed and then I'll spend waste hours watching tv and scrolling through Facebook trying to distract myself from how empty my home feels without my best friend. That, plus I'll likely never leave the house other than to go to church and the grocery store. Since having Ezra, I've become a bit of a hermit. For my own sanity and for Ezra's sake, I need to be intentional about getting out of the house a few times a week.

I've made a list of things that I'd like to do during this deployment. Some are boring, some are fun, and some are pipe dreams. But this way, when I find myself with too much idle time, I won't have to try to come up with an activity; I'll already have a bunch of ideas!

Memorize a full chapter of the Bible

Journal every day

Attend PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel is a women's Bible study on base that all of the chaplain's wives lead (and many other military women go to) but I have yet to attend. Oops!)

Run a 5k

Travel to a new place with Ezra and explore the local sights, just the two of us

Memorize 1 new verse every week

Read Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice (I'm still not sure how I made it this far - as a homeschooler no less! - without reading either)

Attend at least 4 FRG meetings (another military group for spouses that I've never attended... military wife of the year here, folks!)

Take Ezra to Disney World

Try 3 new recipes every month

Repaint the baseboards and doors

Celebrate each month down with a little mini celebration (I'm thinking cupcakes and icecream!)

Send 3 care packages to Auston

Paint and add shelving to the laundry closet

Take Ezra to the splash pad and/or beach at least twice a month

Lose the baby weight

Write at least 2 poems a month (an old hobby that I've let die and I'm hoping to revive)

If you can think of anything fun, practical, or hands-on that will help me fill my time while Auston is away, I'm open to anything and I would love suggestions!

Monday, April 10, 2017

$25 Yard Makeover

There's no nice way to say it... our front yard was an eyesore. In our front yard alone, we have a dozen-or-so monster sized oaks and pines that drop leaves, twigs, and even branches all year 'round. While I appreciate the constant shade... my lawn does not. Between the lack of sunlight and an unending cover of leaves, the only green things that will grow in our yard are weeds.

I've come to terms with the fact that my yard will never win yard of the month, but that doesn't mean that I'm ready to give up on it.

I decided to set a $50 budget, but I only ended up spending HALF of that. I'll take you step by step through how I created a stunning yard for only $25!

The first thing you need to do is decide what part of the yard is most important to fix. Since the grassy area of my yard is a lost cause, I decided to stick with the flower beds. As you can see in the picture below, we originally had nothing in front of our deck. Not only did it look unfinished, but you could see clear through to the old, rotting lattice and the weeds and random objects that had accumulated underneath. This was our biggest problem area.

After checking at Lowe's, I realized there was no way I could buy enough flowers to cover this eyesore and stay within my budget, so I had to think outside the box. That brings me to the next step.

Step number two is to work with what you have. I know that everyone's resources are different, but you might be surprised with what you can come up with. Even if all you find is an old garden pot, you can plant a pretty annual in it and still save yourself the cost of a brand new flower pot. For us, working with what we had meant digging up some Irises from the massive patch at the end of our driveway. I dug up enough of them to cover the front portion of the deck and I'm happy to say they handled the transfer just fine.

The third thing you can do to save money is remember that one man's trash is another man's treasure. One of our neighbors was getting rid of their 10 year old edging bricks because they were ready to spruce up their yard, too. Though the bricks have some stains and are showing some wear, they were still a big step up from our unkempt yard (plus, they were FREE!).

It only took us 45 minutes to carry the bricks to our yard and set them up. Plus, there were just enough for us to do our entire flower bed. That is sweat equity at it's finest, y'all!

All we needed to buy at that point was 1 bag of gardening soil for the Irises and 6 bags of red mulch for the flower bed. With just a few inexpensive fixes and some elbow grease, we dramatically improved our curb appeal.

This is what we spent on our supplies:

Irises - Free

Blocks - Free

Gardening Soil - $4.48

Mulch - $20

If you're looking to spruce up your yard this Spring, I want to encourage you that you really can do it and you don't have to spend an arm and a leg along the way. Sometimes it's the smallest things that have the biggest impact.

What outdoor projects are you doing this Spring? I would love to hear in the comments!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why I Decided to Give My 6 Month Old Alone Time

Have you ever heard the joke about the little boy who wouldn't talk? It goes like this:

A woman gave birth to a baby boy whom she loved dearly. All was smooth sailing until his 1-year-old check up. When the doctor asked if she had any concerns about her child, the mom responded with, "Well, Doc... he won't talk." The doctor thoroughly examined the baby but he could find nothing wrong with him, so he told the lady to give it some time and he'd talk eventually.

But by his 2nd birthday, nothing had changed. Once again, the mother brought her son to the doctor. He was examined again, but still the doctor could find nothing wrong with the boy. The doctor told the mom the same thing as last time, "Give him some time. Sooner or later he'll talk."

This went on for the next three years with no changes from the boy. When he was 5 and it was finally time for him to start preschool, his mom was a ball of nerves. On the morning of his first day, the woman kept thinking, "What if the other kids pick on him? Will he understand what's going on? How will he be able to ask for help." She was so jittery that she accidentally overcooked her son's breakfast.

When she set his plate in front of him, he startled her by saying, "You burnt my toast!" The mom was astonished. "What did you just say?!" He then repeated himself, "I said, you burnt my toast." His mom was flummoxed. "If you knew how to talk all this time... why haven't you said anything?"

The little boy shrugged. "Up until now everything was perfect."

I never intended on taking parenting advice from a corny joke... but when I heard that one a few weeks ago, it stopped my in my tracks. Let me explain why.

Ezra is just days shy of turning 6 months old and he still can't roll over onto his belly or his back. He's nowhere close to being able to push up onto his hands and knees to scoot (much less crawl), and he's lightyears away from having the core strength (or the desire) to sit up unassisted. In and of itself, none of this really concerns me. Ezra is the most easygoing baby I've ever met. He's often a little lazy, he loves to be held (and I'm always happy to hold him), and he's content to lay on the floor without trying to roll. For Pete's sake, I can still leave him on the couch without worrying about him falling off... and he's 6 months old! Crazy, right?

I don't want you to think I've been turning a blind eye towards this. I've paid attention to all of the baby milestones since day one and I've talked to his pediatrician about my concerns during each well-baby visit. But with his laid-back personality, I really wasn't sure there was a problem at all.

But, there was a problem.


(Even just reading that stings.)

I didn't want to believe that I could be the problem, but I couldn't help noticing some remarkable changes in him when a friend of mine came over two weeks ago. Rather than sitting on the living room floor and doing tummy time with my son, I stayed on the couch with my friend and let Ezra play by himself. Normally, when Ezra does tummy time, I'm right there next to him, handing him toys, continually talking to and engaging with him, reading him books, making his stuffed animals dance and sing, and moving anything that's out of reach close enough for his chubby, uncoordinated hands to grab. And normally, he only holds his head up for a maximum of 3 minutes before he lays down to take a break. But that day... he was a totally different baby.

He watched me for the first few minutes and I returned his glances with smiles, with "Hey, Bubby!"s, and with silly noises. But he soon became engrossed in his toys and forgot all about me. Even though he wasn't looking at me, I continued to watch him as he held his noggin up off the ground for a solid 25 minutes before resting on the floor for just a moment. I also witnessed him try to move himself closer to the out of reach toys (hello, problem solving skills!!). To say I was shocked would be an understatement!

"That silly monkey has been playing me this whole time!" I laughed to myself. I was finally starting to realize that I was the mom in the joke. I had made life "perfect" for my baby. Why would he ever exert himself to get a toy if he knows mama is going to hand it to him? Why would he hold his head up to look at the book if he knows mama will move it to the side so he can look at the pages even while laying down.

I am by no means the first one to figure this out. I took to Google for some e-research and sure enough, it's a pretty well known fact (to everyone but me apparently) that children learn a skill/concept/task better when they learn it by themselves.

This was tough for me since I have the tendency to confuse what's best with what's hardest (e.g. what's most taxing on me). It feels unnatural to leave him to his own devices when I see him struggling to reach for a toy, even if I know that I'm only letting him be by himself for 5 minutes (and that it's giving me a quick reprieve, too).

Hopefully the "problem" was caught early enough that his milestones will all even out before long. Until then, I'll keep doing my best, inevitably making mistakes, and learning as much as I can along the way.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Red Empire Week 2017

Today kicked off 7th Special Forces Group's Red Empire Week! Ezra and I joined Auston on base and were given a sneak peek into some of the cool things that the soldiers do. There were about 2 dozen tanks that we were allowed to climb in, live dog demonstrations, machine guns that we could shoot (without ammo, of course!), and tons of booths to visit.

5 soldiers Halo jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and landed on their feet. No matter how many times I witness this, I will always be blown away that they can hop out of an airplane and walk away unscathed.

Auston and I have been ships in the night as he gears up for deployment. I assumed that the Army would lighten his workload or give him some time off before he shipped out, but I was sorely mistaken. The past few weeks, he has had to show up earlier, stay later, and often goes days without seeing Ezra. Since that's the season of life we're in right now, I'll take family time any way I can get it.

Oh, and you can blame Auston for the Patty Melt sticker on Ezra's forehead. What can I say... dad's gonna dad.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tornado Warnings & Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I woke up today, it was beautiful outside. The early morning sunshine had just started to peek through the trees and landed in splotchy patterns on my bedroom floor. Sadly, it didn't last long. The sky soon turned grey and the clouds opened up. While I normally love the rhythmic thudding of rain against my roof, today we were under a tornado watch... which is never fun.

Between the yucky weather, the virus Ezra has been fighting for almost a week, and the headache I woke up with, I had no motivation to get out of my pajamas and be productive with my day. And seriously... why be productive when you can play with this little nugget instead?

I live and die by chunky, baby thighs.

As the mama of this tribe, I made the executive decision that we would stay in pj's all day and bake (read: stuff our faces with) chocolate chip cookies! Isn't it great being the mom?

Is there anything more satisfying than cookie dough?! (If you said, "yes" then this is not the blog for you!)

It's a miracle I didn't eat all of the cookie dough before it went in the oven.

I'm a firm believer that chocolate chip cookies can make almost any situation better. While they may not have cured Ezra's virus or gotten rid of my headache, they sure did taste good!

What do your "lazy days" look like? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Essential Oils for Acne Treatment

I'm not normally one to freak out over a zit, but last week when a volcano appeared on my chin just 2 days before our family photos, even I started to panic. I knew I needed to take action to clear it up before I was in front of the camera.

I poured Sweet Almond Oil into a 10ml roller bottle and added 5 drops of Lavender Oil - my all time faaavorite oil - with 5 drops Tea Tree Oil.

Why Lavender and Tea Tree? Lavender Oil is well known for its healing qualities and its ability to minimize scars and soothe irritated skin. Tea Tree Oil has cleansing properties and many use it for acne, sunburns, or even regular household cleaning!

For 2 days I used the oil roller twice a day (morning and night) and by the time we arrived for our photo shoot, the blemish was all but gone! This recipe was a L I F E S A V E R!

What oils do you use for blemishes?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why I Bought Cow Udder Cream

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. No, I don't own any cows. And, no, this isn't an April Fool's Day prank. But I did buy cream made for a cow's udders.

I have fallen so head over heels in love with Bag Balm that I feel like I'm in a committed relationship with it.

About a week ago, Ezra started to get a bad diaper rash after having a reaction to something he ate (I'm almost positive that bananas are the culprit). I tried everything under the sun: Desitin, baby powder, airing his bottom out, breastmilk, lavender oil, an oatmeal & baking soda bath... but nothing was helping. It got so bad that his whole bottom was red with 2 dime-sized open, weepy sores.

I felt so guilty that I couldn't fix it, and guiltier that I might be making it worse by trying so many things. I had exhausted all of my options and my sweet son was the one who had to suffer through it.

While I had Ezra outside for some diaper-free time, my neighbor, a newly retired nurse of 30+ years, came over for a chat. I mentioned Ezra's diaper rash and how nothing was helping. She ran back over to her house and came out carrying a green, square tin. She scooped out some yellow, petroleum jelly-ish goop and rubbed it onto his bottom. "Don't panic when I tell you what this is." She said, "This is actually made for chapped cow udders. It's called Bag Balm and I used to use it on my daughter's diaper rashes. Nowadays, I use it on burns, cuts, and even on our cats."

I was skeptical, of course. But I was willing to try anything to find some relief for Ezra's sore bum. I made sure that I cleaned him well and reapplied the balm with every diaper change and within the first few hours the open sores were completely closed. By 48 hours, the rash had shrunk to 1/3 of the original size and was no longer red, just slightly pink. There was no more pain or tenderness.

I haven't had time to use it on anything else, but I'm already a believer. I can't imagine what would have happened to Ezra's bottom if my neighbor hadn't shared this with me... so I think it's only fair I share this information with you, too. This stuff works miracles, y'all!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pre-Deployment Thoughts

Right now, I'm a few weeks away from what will likely be the hardest thing I've ever done. My husband will be deploying halfway across the globe and I will be staying stateside with our 6 month old. Even typing those words gives me anxiety. I know from past TDYs just how crippling anxiety - which is something I had never experienced before - can become. How I stay up way too late when he's gone because I'm too petrified to go to bed alone. Or how my heart starts racing at every little noise I hear.

I've been told that the anticipation of deployment is almost as bad as (sometimes worse than) the deployment itself. But that's where I'm at; wanting to smother Auston and spend as much time as possible with him before he leaves, yet hating myself for how clingy I've become.

What makes it harder is how excited Auston is to deploy. This is no fault of his own. He's been in the Army for long enough that he needs to deploy in order to further his military career and make it to retirement. But I have to constantly remind myself that his enthusiasm is not a slight towards me... even if it feels like it.

When he thinks of deployment, he thinks about getting to do something important, something that matters, and something that will financially benefit his family. When I think about deployment, all of my thoughts go something like, "How could my husband possibly be excited to leave me and our baby? Doesn't he want to be with us, no matter what extra pay we may get, no matter what the Army requires?"

When he was gone on TDY earlier this year, I was reading a John Piper book called Pierced by the Word and a few paragraphs really stood out to me. It affected me so much that wrote it out on a piece of paper and taped it to my bathroom mirror. I did change a few of the names and words to fit my current situation (instead of David's situation!) but I kept most of it original. Every night that we were separated, I would read the quote to myself. And every night I marked one tally mark as a visual representation of how far I had made it. Even though he's back from his TDY, I've kept it up so I can keep making tally marks when he deploys.

I have no secret sauce. No tips to share and no clue how I'm going to get through the rest of 2017, but I do know that I won't be alone. In a spiritual sense, Christ is always with me. But in a physical sense, I have a wonderful church, numerous military wives that can relate to every emotion I experience, and family just a few hours away.

For now, my prayer is that I can relax and enjoy every moment I have with Auston and, when the time comes, God will supply me with the strength to lean on Him and others for help rather than trying to make it through an eternity apart from my best friend on my own.