Getting Pregnant while Breastfeeding

*Disclaimer* I am not a medical professional or expert on fertility. All information is based on my personal research and experiences.

Many of you followed along with our journey to grow our family and some of you have found us since then and asked about it. I have been meaning to sit down and write our story down for some time now but pregnancy with a toddler and during a pandemic has been hectic.

Hunter Michael / 11.25.2017

I want to start by sharing that I did not struggle to get pregnant with Hunter. I had been on birth control (the pill) since I was 16 year old to help with heavy and stress induced periods. When we got married, our plan was to wait a year before trying to conceive (TTC). About 6 months in, maybe sooner, I began to beg my husband to start trying. I am not very patient! haha! I was having some suspicions and concerns about what hormonal birth control was doing to my mental health and body anyway, so we agreed to take a break from them and see how things went. Well, 4 weeks later I took a test the morning my period was due and the double pink line showed up immediately! I was shocked at how quickly it worked even after years on birth control. 38 weeks and 2 days later, Hunter arrived!

As we navigated life as parents, we agreed to start trying for another after Hunter turned one. I exclusively breastfed Hunter and was on the minipill for birth control. Honestly, as a new mom, I wasn’t great at remembering to take the darn thing every night. When Hunter was about 6 months old, I forgot it for like a week straight and just decided to heck with it. I, again, suspected it was giving me some side effects (dizzy spells, mood swings, etc.). My period had not returned and I was still breastfeeding Hunter every 2 hours. We just decided if something happened , it happens. Well, nothing happened. My period showed up 10 months postpartum and I will admit, I was a little pissed about it. I fully expected to get pregnant before having a period. But, I was optimistic that now I could track my cycle and it would happen in no time!

Well, still nothing. Month 11 passed. Hunter turned 1. I started to get super upset and confused because of how quickly we conceived him. I took ovulation tests and used my apps. I had a period every single month without fail. Each month, each period I would get a wave of disappointment. I knew breastfeeding could have been affecting things but I also had close friends all around me get pregnant while breastfeeding. I felt like everyone else was getting pregnant, except for me. Why not me? Was something wrong with me? I felt all kinds of emotions during that time. Our family experienced some hardships and transition so we didn’t try as hard during those months but those periods still came and went and I would get upset each time.

I tried asking my OB about it and the only advise she gave was to stop breastfeeding and wait 18 months in between to give my body time to recover. Not super helpful to me. I found myself planning future events thinking “Surely I’ll be pregnant by that wedding or this trip!” The trip came and went and I still wasn’t pregnant. By 18 months Hunter usually only nursed to sleep for naps and through the night. I tried to wean him SO MANY times and it was really emotional for me. I felt selfish for wanting him to quit just so I could get pregnant. I didn’t want to take that away from him before he was ready just for my own desires. (I chose to do extended breastfeeding with him and know it isn’t for everyone but, this was our journey. I plan to share a separate post on breastfeeding beyond a year).

I tried my best to trust God’s timing for our family. I knew it would happen when it was supposed to and that many struggle to conceive at all. It was still HARD. Each month was harder and harder. People would unknowingly ask things like “When is Hunter getting a brother or sister?!” and it stung. If only they knew how badly I wanted that for him, for us.

In July 2019, I was approved for a collaboration with Ava Women. I was incredibly thrilled because this was something I had been wanting my entire TTC journey. Ava is an Ovulation tracking bracelet that you wear while you’re asleep. Each morning, you sync your data to the app on your phone and it helps predict your ovulation cycle. Here is a link to get $20 off of your Ava Bracelet!

The Ava Bracelet was extremely useful in helping me track my cycles and, along with taking ovulation tests, I was able to narrow down when I was ovulating each month. I discovered that I was ovulating late in my cycle. Ideally, you need to ovulate 10-14 days before your period comes so that the egg has time to be fertilized and implant into the uterus. This is also known as a Luteal Phase. My cycles were about 33 days long and I was ovulating about a week before my period. With some research, I found out that breastfeeding can cause low progesterone which, can make the luteal phase too short.

Again, I was a bit stuck. I knew why I wasn’t getting pregnant but, I didn’t know how to change that without weaning Hunter.

Around September, I partnered with Premama Wellness and tried their Fertility Support for Her & Him. Couldn’t hurt, right? While is does have great nutrients to support healthy fertility, it didn’t do much for the progesterone part of my problem. In October, I had a few friends in the essential oil world talk about a blend by Young Living called Progessence Plus. It was supposed to be a natural progesterone for balancing hormones and regulating your cycle. My oily friend, Becca, gifted me a roller bottle with Progessence Plus and Endoflex (for balancing the thyroid) blends. I started using the roller once a day and then morning and night after about a week.

Within two weeks, my Ava Bracelet notified me that my ovulation prediction had moved up. I took ovulation tests to confirm and sure enough the tests came back positive. I was shocked that I was ovulating early after only two weeks of using the oils. Part of me was trying not to get too hopeful since it had been 12 months of trying. Those two weeks after ovulation before your period are the hardest. You’re doing everything to keep your mind off of how many days are left before you can take a pregnancy test.

I took a test on October 30th and sent a picture to my best friend. She made it black and white and said there was the faintest looking line. I didn’t want to get excited yet. I took another test the morning of October 31st and the line was a bit more visible but still so faint. I’m in enough mom groups to know any line is a line but, I sent Caleb to dollar tree for the pink dye test just to be sure. I had a Big Brother shirt and book hidden in a drawer for a year. I put it on Hunter that morning and sent him in to Caleb to show him. The pink dye line was even darker, so, I allowed my excitement to grow. After our Halloween activities, we had dinner with friends and she gave me a digital test she had. That night, I read the word I had been longing for for 12 long months: Pregnant.

Here I am, 35 weeks later. Writing our my journey with heartburn and sweet Easton Scott kicking away in my belly. I am so thankful and blessed to be these boys’ mama. We cannot wait for him to make his entry into the world!

I did not quit breastfeeding Hunter during this time. He turned two at the end of November and I dried up sometime during my first trimester. Nursing while pregnant is so painful and uncomfortable but I honestly was sick and too tired to think about weaning him and possibly losing sleep. I weaned him from naps first, then from middle of the night nursing, and finally, a few weeks ago, all together. He took it all much better than I expected and I will share another blog about weaning him later on.

I would love to answer any questions about our journey to get pregnant with Easton. Remember, everyone’s body is so different and each journey is unique. I can only share what worked for us and hope it might help someone else!

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Baby Dust to you all!

Fall in Love with your Capsule Wardrobe

Can we all agree that if you look good, you feel good? This year, I have made it a point to get ready for the day, every day. An outfit (not yoga pants) and some makeup has made a big difference in how I feel about myself. I encourage you to do something everyday that makes you feel put together and ready to conquer the day. Whether it’s a cute top, comfy jeans that flatter your curves, or a new lipstick, you deserve to look and feel your best!

Between the ever changing styles, the changes our bodies go through in motherhood, and life’s many seasons, it can be hard to keep up your wardrobe. Not only is it expensive, but so time consuming to think through clothes you have and outfits to put together. It’s definitely not my strong suit. I’ve been a huge fan of the capsule wardrobe concept, but too intimidated to give it a try.

I’m no fashion blogger, I’m just here trying to help my fellow mamas out. We are usually the ones to get ready last, throw on clothes, and head out the door to hop on the hot mess express.

I wanted to share a few simple ways to establish a versatile, “capsule” wardrobe for the fall.

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I was gifted a few of these clothing pieces from Shop Pink Blush and I purchased a few from their site as well. I love that Pink Blush has clothes for maternity, nursing, women, and plus sizes. Many of their clothes are versatile enough to be worn before, during, and after pregnancy!

I will try to link each item or a similar one for you to follow along!

Top
This top would also be cute with a cardigan & booties! Don’t be afraid of stripes or a few prints. An all solid wardrobe would be boring!

The main things to remember with having a capsule or minimal wardrobe is, “How many ways can I wear this piece?” Think through pieces you already have and love and get items that go with them. Switching up your shoes, adding a cardigan or a fun hat can give you many more options. There are even more outfit possibilities with these items that we didn’t explore! Have fun with it and play around with different combinations!

Just because you’re a mama, doesn’t mean you can’t look put together. Some days I wear a T-shirt and jeans with sneakers and other days it’s nice to dress up a little more! You deserve it, mama!

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Fall in Love with your Clothes!

*I had a lot of fun styling and shooting these outfits with my friend and style guru, Leslie, from Leslie Haymer blog. Check out her page for style and home decor inspiration!

How to Flip your Home Decor for Next to Nothing

If you have been following along on my Instagram page, you have seen our house slowly transform. Before the changes, our style was a hodgepodge of Farmhouse Modern decor and hand me downs. The Farmhouse style is all the rage with Joanna Gains’ inspiration. I love the style and it is certainly easy to shop for at all the major retailers. We had lots of grey in every room with blue tones. It was homey and inviting but, it did not really feel like “me.”

Living Room
BEFORE

I have always had a special place in my heart for vintage antiques. I love thrift shopping and have been doing it more regularly for months. As I branched out, I had the idea to try and flip our entire home decor and furniture WITHOUT spending money. Mainly, because we didn’t have money to spend but also, because we didn’t have to spend any money. My inspiration was vintage, thrifted items with a hint of bohemian. I wanted each piece in my home to be unique and one of a kind!

Living Room
AFTER

We had a house full of perfectly nice furniture and decor and I simply wanted to switch it all to a different style. I can hear you saying, “How is this even possible without spending money?!” and I am here to tell you!

Living Room
AFTER

They key to a successful flip is to sell the furniture and decor that you already own. You can do this on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Buy Sell Trade pages, apps like Offer Up or Craigstlist, or have a garage sale. Then, you use that money to buy new-to-you items in your desired style. We bought all of our items from Facebook Marketplace, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Restore, Raleigh Rescue Mission, and other local thrift stores.

Typically, large furniture items will sell for more on places like the Marketplace. Then, you can find cheaper furniture at local thrift shops or garage sales.

I am not going to pretend like this was an east way to decorate our home. What is easy is going online and searching for exactly what you want and having it delivered to your door. BUT, you will be paying double or triple what you’re going to be able to sell your used furniture for.

Bedroom (old house)
BEFORE

You will have to spend some time listing things, selling, and treasure hunting for the right pieces. I did not sell all of our things before buying its replacement. I tried to flip in stages so our home was still functional and livable. We definitely spent a little over a month hunting down the perfect couch. I refused to settle and was not finding one I loved. When you’re thrifting for items, don’t walk away with something unless it is shouting PICK ME!

Here is my tidbit on selling and buying used- not all things in thrift stores are gross or junky. You can find very nice items worth way more than what they’re selling them for. Big box stores over price their items a ton and the moment you take it to your house and live with it, it loses about half of it’s value to be resold. So, instead of selling things and buying new, which will cost you money; you sell what you have and buy preloved items to replace them. This will not only not cost you money, but you may find that you make some money for extra decor or plants to liven up the place!

I hope you enjoy the before and after photos of our new home! I would love to answer any and all questions about this process. I plan to follow this post with a How To list and sell your items online.

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Enjoy your Flippin’ & Thriftin’

Suns Out, However-Much-You’re-Comfortable-with’s Out

Summer days by the pool or with my toes in the sand are the best! Hunter has been a little water baby from early on. He has always loved bath time and now, as an energetic toddler, anything involving water makes his day!

While beach days with kids are quite different, they’re still so much fun! As much as I looked forward to our fun in the sun, there was one part about summer I was not sure about: swimsuits.

My body has changed so much and has stretched and deflated and sits way differently than before. I did not look forward to hunting down a swimsuit that was flattering and comfortable.

Last summer, I definitely aimed to cover up as much as possible. Even just the short swim lessons Hunter and I took once a week made me uncomfortable.

This year, I decided not to let those fears interrupt our summer fun! I found super fun matching swimsuits for Hunter & I through Yaffi Fashion. They have so many adorable matching sets for the entire family in all kinds of fun prints and styles!

The first set fits perfectly in my comfort zone. I chose a one piece with a flattering skirt detail that has navy and white stripes. I have a long torso and usually can’t wear one pieces but, this one fit me well! It flatters my curvy figure and was very comfortable for a pool day! The set is so cute with Hunter’s matching shorts! Both of the boys shorts are made out of the same material as women’s swim wear so they’re more like spandex than swim trunks. I personally liked the fit of them better for Hunter and holding the swim diaper under it!

The second set I chose to push myself a little. Do I practice what I preach to so many mamas on here? Do I truly love my postpartum body and rock it proudly?

Y’all, I haven’t worn a bikini since my honeymoon 3 years ago. But, I did it. I wore this adorable palm printed top and black bottoms to match Hunter for our day at the lake. The top fit me well but would have been hard to breastfeed in without exposing more than I’m comfortable with. The high waisted bottoms sat below my belly button but did not feel too tight.

I may have felt a little self conscious at first and then I realized a few things…1) No one cared, 2) my husband LOVED it, and 3) I was having a blast with my family!

All of that to say, wear what you’re comfortable in and don’t worry about anyone else around you! Enjoy your summer and snag your family these super cute matching swimsuits from Yaffi!

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Every Body is a Swimsuit Body

Blogging and Social Media Marketing | Why it’s Booming and Where to Start

Leslie from the Leslie Haymer Blog and Rachel Breniser from the Unfiltered Mama Blog have come together to bring you a series of blogs all about blogging and Social Media Marketing, also known as Influencing, but not to be confused with MLM (Multi-Level Marketing.)

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In addition to a blogger, Leslie is a wife and mother. She has been married to Tim for 3 and a half years and is a stay at home mom to three boys ages 6.5, 2.5 and 1. She started blogging a mere six months ago and has enjoyed the creative freedom having a blog has given her.

img_1523Rachel is wife to Caleb and a stay at home mama to Hunter. She loves creative writing, crafting, and thrifting. Rachel started the Unfiltered Mama Blog a year and a half ago and loves sharing her journey of motherhood with others.

These days, blogging and social media are taking off at an ever increasing speed. Companies are realizing that the impact of social media is huge, and marketing is much more effective when promoted to people by people they know. Commercial views and numbers have dropped; all the while, time spent on social media is skyrocketing. As a result, companies are now using their marketing dollars to promote their business on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. You’re far more likely to purchase an item recommended by a friend, you know and trust, over something you’ve seen on television.

Due to the increasing popularity of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, the amount of commercial viewers has vastly decreased. Because of this, companies have taken their marketing budgets elsewhere. It has become more effective to work directly with bloggers and popular social media accounts to promote products and/or services. This is known as a collaboration. The most popular way to collaborate is to partner with a particular account or blogger who shares a common target audience. Every company is different, but, generally speaking, when you collaborate, a company provides a product/service and a monetary amount in exchange for social media posts, videos, photos, blog posts etc., fulfilling the terms of the contract.

Social media is saturated with bloggers making part and full time incomes, solely working with companies and promoting products and services on their social channels. There is more to working with companies than snapping a cell phone photo and posting it on Instagram. What you don’t see, are the endless hours that go into every post, caption, photo, and blog. There are so many important things that go into having a successful blog and social media platform.

1. Branding

In the beginning, creating your brand is essential. What is your brand? When someone thinks of you and your platform what would they say is “you.” Do you love coffee? Enjoy yoga? Share recipes? Enjoy a good thrift haul? Or frequent the Target dollar section? All of these things are your brand. They’re what make you relatable and set you apart from other bloggers. How you capture your brand in photos and display it on your social media is your aesthetic. Do you like raw and unfiltered photos? Light, bright and crisp? Warm and simple? Having a cohesive aesthetic for all of your photos will give you a “look” and become part of your brand. Using photos to convey your unique mood and tone will set you apart from others.

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2. Quality Photos

Companies want good quality photos of their products to use for advertising and positive representation. Most smartphones have great cameras and editing applications. To learn more about How to Take Professional Looking Photos With Your Phone, check out Leslie’s blog post here.

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3. Engage

People want to follow and interact with pages that reciprocate and are personable. Likes, saves, comments, and sharing posts go a long way to increase your interaction. Your followers want to feel like they are seen and heard. They want to feel connected to you through their screen.

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4. #Hashtags

To be seen and heard in the virtual world, you need to utilize hashtags. Hashtags are like social media categories. You can find relevant post by following or searching a hashtag. This is also how your posts can be found by others who aren’t following you.

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5. Community

It is important to surround yourself with a community of other bloggers of various style and followings. Social media is an ever changing and evolving platform. It’s crucial to surround yourself with others so that you can constantly learn and improve. Bloggers have different things they can teach each other. Surrounding yourself with a community of women who contribute to each other’s success is a great way to grow and learn.

Social media influencing is booming because your voice is more influential than a television ad between Grey’s Anatomy and This Is Us. These five tips are just a handful of what we have found helpful on our journey to supporting our families through blogging and social media marketing. We hope they will inspire you and give you a better understanding of social media and it’s increasing use as a marketing platform for, not just, companies but bloggers, as well. So the next time you see #ad or #sponsoredpartnership just know that the future of marketing is social media.

We hope this gives you a better understanding of why you are seeing ads on your social media platforms, how bloggers are partnering with companies to support themselves and their families, and how to get started in becoming an influencer, yourself. If your voice needs to be heard, don’t be afraid to take the leap. Everyone has something unique to offer the world, find your niche and run with it. Stay tuned for our next post on Blogging & Social Media Marketing | Knowing Your Worth & How to put your Foot Down.

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Blogging is Booming

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Flying with a Toddler

img_0544Last year, I wrote about flying with a baby. Looking back, that trip seemed like a breeze compared to traveling with an 18 month old, very busy toddler.

Not to mention, our first flight departed at 5:30am which meant waking the toddler at 3:30am! Yikes. I thought, surely, he’d fall back asleep on the plane but, he was so interested in everything going on that, it didn’t happen.

Thankfully, he took a long nap later that afternoon and I was able to rest with him. Sleep on vacation gets thrown off so, we just went with the flow and will be readjusting now that we are home.

I wanted to share a few things that helped us during our travels that may be helpful for your during your summer plans!

1. Transporting

img_0548I had lots of trouble traveling with my jogging stroller last year. They airline made me check it and carry Hunter in a carrier. It was huge and heavy and did not end up helping us much while at the airport. I am so glad that I found this wonderful collapsible stroller that is perfect for traveling!

{Ad} The Clutch Stroller, by Delta Children, folds all the way up into a travel bag! It was not too heavy to carry and it fit anywhere we went. This was so much easier than using a flimsy umbrella stroller or a huge jogging stroller.

It was so easy to unfold, stroll him around, and fold it back up to store. I will be sharing a video tutorial on my Instagram page soon!

2. Waiting

Timing your flights and security isn’t always easy. They say to arrive an hour to an hour and a half early for domestic flights. This can leave downtime if you manage to make it through the lines quickly.

I did not want to blow through all of our sitting-still activities before even getting on the plane so, that meant letting my busy toddler run around the airport!

I was prepared for this because, Hunter doesn’t just sit still in new places; or ever. He has to explore everything! We looks at planes, said “Hi” to everyone, watched the K-9 dog, climbed empty seats, and anything you can think of.

img_0909{Ad} If you have an adventurous, independent little one like I do, you may want to grab one of the super, cute Milo & Gabby Animal Backpacks with safety straps by JoliMoli for your trip. The backpack clips at their chest and has a strap for your wrist that can be removed. The backpack has space for some of their favorite things as well! This definitely gave me peace of mind when we were out in busy places and he was done with the stroller!

3. Flying

img_1117While screen time is great for traveling, I brought some other activities to have to help pass the time of our flight and other times during our trip.

Hunter is 18 months old and loves to read and do things himself. I packed a notebook, stickers, and a few crayons, 3-5 of his favorite books, a foam puzzle of the alphabet, tons of snacks, a toy airplane and truck, and a tablet with a Fisher Price game called First Words, and a few shows downloaded on it.

Most of the items can be found at the Dollar Tree and around your house. I tried to have some new exciting things just for the trip.

Note: I do recommend letting dad or someone help take turns but this isn’t always possible. My husband had a broken ankle for this trip and I realize some mamas fly alone with their littles.

58074645326__f4c073ea-629b-47b8-b360-84eb068f7f82Getting their wiggles out before the flight may tired them & bless you with a nap in the clouds. If it doesn’t, some cheap new exciting toys and activities can help. Remember, screen time is okay too. If you have to hand them a tablet or phone, don’t beat yourself up. I always have a twinge of guilt when he’s quietly watching a show so we could make it through the flight or long car ride. Pictured is exactly how I was able to finish my breakfast that morning.

Hunter is exploding with new words and learning so much. One of his newest things is to say is, “Wook! Airpwane!” He plays creatively and loves being outside much more than his shows.

img_1118If it’s what you need to do to get through the security line, flight, or baggage claim, it’s OKAY!

Babies & Toddlers feed off of your emotions so, try and stay as calm and positive about your trip as possible. Expect them to do well, praise them for it, and get excited with them about new places and things!

From Your Unfiltered Mama,

Happy Travels!

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Time is a Thief: A Timepiece Giveaway

Early 2016 Dating

We have all heard how quickly time flies. I heard it from older people so much when I was younger. It was kind of annoying. Mainly, because my high school and early college years were HARD on me emotionally, mentally, and physically. Life was hard and I longed to grow up, get married, and have kids. I could not wait.

August 6, 2016

I recently shared that Caleb and I dated, got engaged, and married in just 8 months time! Then, 8 months into our marriage, I got pregnant with Hunter who arrived 38 weeks later! As you can tell, I am not one for waiting! Once I know what I want, I aim to get it!

October 2017
30 weeks

Becoming a wife and a mama have been two of my greatest joys. I am so thankful to be married to my best friend and to have such a handsome, smart, silly little boy. But, boy oh, boy were those old folks right. Time flies way too fast; especially in motherhood.

November 26 2017
1 day old

I feel like it was JUST yesterday that my tiny baby was born. I can remember how stressful it was to learn to feed him and care for him. Now, I have an 18 month old who says just about any thing he hears you say. I see newborns and I can’t even remember him being that tiny and I see bigger kids and can’t imagine him being grown.

July 2018
7 months old

On the other side of time flying, mom brain and life with an independently minded toddler means I hardly keep up with time and things going on. I have a strong type-A personality and never used to forget things. I worked 3-4 jobs while taking full time class loads and kept it together. Now, packing for an out of town trip is enough craziness to make me forget two important appointments and to book three separate things on the same Friday because I think I am free!

November 25, 2018
1 year old

These things are very unlike me and I definitely am hard on myself for forgetting things or being late. I try to write things down in several places or ask my husband to remind me but its just hard, ya’ll. I have to remember to give myself grace in this season of little people. Appointments can be reschedules and adjustments can be made. As we know, life is too short and time is too fleeting to stress and worry about the little things. Instead, I need to focus and enjoy these moments that I once longed for so deeply.

{Ad} I am really thankful for a special gift that I received from JORD Watches last week. I chose the Frankie Dark Sandlewood & Smoke watch. I love the color and how light weight the watch is to wear. The wood and modern face makes it a perfect watch to wear with any outfit. I can dress it up or down and it is unlike other watches I have seen! You can also have the back engraved for a special gift or memory!

JORD has been so kind to partner with me and giveaway $100 off a JORD Watch!They have Women’s and Men’s watches to fit everyone’s style! Everyone who enters will receive 10% off just for trying! You can enter this giveaway by clicking HERE!

This gift was so meaningful to me because I really appreciate the natural material used to make it and it is such a great reminder to me to slow down and enjoy this season of life. It may seem a bit odd to connect motherhood, time, and a watch but when you have a special timepiece that you love and brings back memories, it is something you cherish. I am really thankful for this season in our life. Although, it is hard in so many ways, I am surrounded by those who love me and it is everything I ever could have wanted.

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Cherish each passing moment with the ones you love!

May 2019

Creative Play and Hands on Learning

img_8407It can seem very daunting to think of new ways to entertain our little ones. They seem bored with their toys, they destroy your house, and you run out of ideas on how to keep them entertained for more than five minutes. I am right there with you!

I have known about the Montessori Learning for a while but it was not until recently that I began doing more research on it. I wanted to share what I learned about this philosophy and how I have tried to apply it in our home. 

Montessori is an educational system that focuses on allowing children to learn through all five sense, at their own pace. A Montessori classroom is filled with age appropriate activities for children to explore and learn from. Montessori learning encourages independence, coordination, concentration, and creativity in children.
Parents are choosing this learning style because it allows children to learn at their own pace and in a more natural environment. The Montessori teaching method is nurturing children’s natural desire to learn and grow. Parents appreciate that Montessori learning caters to each child and their unique ways of learning. Through Montessori education, children will be learning skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives!
Source: American Montessori Society

I love the idea behind this learning system. I remember my German Kindergarten being very similar to this. Even before having kids of my own, I knew that I wanted to encourage hands on learning and a creative imagination.

With the increase of technology and screen time, studies warn parents of the possible side effects of too much time staring at a screen. But, it can also seem impossible to avoid screens all together. I, definitely, understand that this doesn’t always work with everyone’s lifestyle. We are not a screen free home. Hunter does watch shows on our phones and some TV but, we do try to limit it. I also try to avoid using it as a way to just “keep him quiet” while we are out. We want him to learn how to entertain himself through creativity and his imagination. I want to offer a few screen time alternatives to encourage toddlers and children in their imaginative play and learning.

Activities to Encourage Creative and Imaginative Play

img_75841. Arts & Crafts

Creativity flows through art. Whether it is musical instruments, dancing, coloring, painting, or playing with dough, your child will learn how to express themselves and create art.

img_77902. Outdoor Play

There is nothing more educational than simply going outside. You can teach and learn so much just by stepping out of your front door. Allow your kids to run and explore nature as it is doing what it is supposed to all around them. Hunter loves to be outside no matter where he is and I love watching him experience the world around him.

img_63073. Sensory Play

Sensory play is simply creating activities for your child that encouraging learning through their five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. There are many wonderful ideas for sensory play online and on Pinterest. Hunter loved putting colorful pompoms in and out of an old spice container. He also loved playing in tubs with rolled oats and dried pasta. 

4. Learning Toys

I am a big believer in “less is more” when it comes to toys. If kids have too many toys, they become bored with them all. I find that only keeping one bin of toys he actually likes to play with, allows him to not have to sift through junky toys and throw them all over the house. It is also good to rotate toys as well. Keep one bin put away and switch them every few months. I keep one bin upstairs and one downstairs.

Wooden Toys are becoming more popular as they are said to encourage imaginative play. They are also better for the environment than your typical plastic toys. As I have learned more about learning toys, I have come to love the idea of wooden toys and toys that “do less” and allow room for them to create and invent. 

img_9331Wooden Toys can be more expensive than plastic toys because they are handmade. I have found a small shop with a great selection of wooden toys to encourage Montessori imaginative play. {ad} PoppyBabyCo gifted us this adorable wooden moose on wheels and has a large selection of other wooden toys and games. She also has a blog where she shares more about creative learning through toys.

I know it’s not financially practical to throw out all the plastic toys and switch to handmade ones or to even change your lifestyle completely. We definitely can’t afford that! But, there are steps you can take to slowly integrate more creative learning into your child’s day to day activities.

Ways to make the Switch

1. Donate or Sell toys

Dump all of your kids toys out onto the floor. You may be shocked at just how many they have. Only put ones back in the bin that you’ve seen them play with in the last week or two. If you come across special keepsakes or favorites, keep those or store them in a memory box. Whatever doesn’t fit into one or two bins, needs to go! Sell them online or donate them instead of throwing them away (unless broken) reduce unnecessary waste and to help someone else.

2. Request Specific Learning Toys for Gifts

Send family or friends a list of shops or toys that you want for your children. They may not always follow the list but, I know some people really appreciate getting guidelines of toys your children will actually enjoy.

57825117430__0784464b-c7dc-49ed-ad7c-bc46c3bb79123. Buy Used

Look for second hand toys at thrift stores, antique shops, or online. You may find great learning toys, gently used, for much cheaper!

4. Replace Slowly

Buy a few toys here and there as you can afford it. No need to spend hundreds. Kids get excited about rocks and sticks. They don’t need thousands of dollars worth of toys.

img_7721Finally, give yourselves grace! Plastic toys aren’t going to ruin your child. We have plenty of plastic toys around our home, still, and Hunter does watch TV just about every day. I am trying to be mindful and balance the time with other creative play and learning activities that I listed above. I hope this helps you gather a few ideas of things you can do to encourage creativity with your children.

I would love to hear more about ways you are encouraging learning and imaginative play in your house!

From your Unfiltered Mama,

Feed their Imagination, Not Their Boredom 

 

Loving Your Postpartum Body

The moment you conceive your tiny baby, everything changes. Every minute, hour, day, and month your body is working hard to stretch, grow, and create another human. It is so incredible what happens in the female body while she’s pregnant. It’s beautiful, even though it does not always feel that way. You may feel sick, bloated, emotional, huge, uncomfortable, and so much more during those months of constant change. But, they are worth it! Right? Without a doubt.

img_0855Once the baby is born, much of the attention and beauty is turned to the tiny bundle of perfection that you birthed out of your body. Here you are, a bloody, stitched up, sore, emotional, swollen mess of a new mama feeling anything but beautiful.

You go home looking 6 months pregnant and have to figure out what in the world to do with you engorged, leaking boobs and your adult diaper butt.

Months go by and you’re still rocking Pjs or maternity clothes. Your belly shrinks slowly but not in the way you expected. It looks like a raisin with lines and dimples.

img_0697If you’re like me, I gained over 70lbs during my pregnancy and was wearing a size 10 open toe shoes (stretchy sneakers, crocs, and croc flats). My wedding rings got tight before I was even 20 weeks pregnant. And after Hunter was born, I shoved them back on just to find that my body wasn’t going back to “normal” the way I planned. The box of all of my favorite shoes never fit again and my jeans stayed too tight.

img_1827I have plenty of days where I am down on myself and mourn my pre-baby body and all I had then. But that doesn’t help anything. And a friendly disclaimer– I’m not the least bit interested in fitness or dieting to get a six pack. Instead, I am here for this season of my postpartum body. And I am trying my best to love her the way she is. She is still beautiful. This belly made the belly I now tickle and fill with milk from these once engorged breasts.

How did I get to the point of loving my postpartum body? I will share a few things that have helped me move on and enjoy her for who she is now.

1. Box up the Maternity Clothes.img_1486

Yes, all of them. Even the stretchy jeans. They are so comfy, I know! But trust me. Get a box and fold all those clothes up and put them away until your body is growing another tiny human or lend/gift them to another mama.

2. Buy to fit your New Body

I would wait a good 3-5 months before splurging but you CAN find good, comfortable jeans and pants that are inexpensive. You can thrift them or shop somewhere like TJ Maxx or Ross. I, personally, have loved the Democracy jeans because they have a stretchy waistband. I also love Old Navy jeans.

3. New Shoes!

img_8532If your feet grew, like mine, it can take a while to build your collection back up. As a new mama, most of your shopping trips start to be more about that new baby, anyways. BUT, it is okay for you to get a few staple shoes that go with many things and are comfortable!

My two favorites were my Lotta From Stockholm clogs and my Pons. And you can never go wrong with a pair of Birkenstock’s.

4. Wedding Rings

During pregnancy, it is common to have to remove your rings. Some women go without one, some buy a fake one, and some wear the rubber ones.

I took mine off around 5 months in and got a cheap one that turned green so quickly. I wore rubber ones from Amazon until having Hunter and then those got too big after he was born. I missed wearing my ring and tried to put it back on but I knew it was wayyyy too tight. Eventually, I came to terms that it wasn’t going to fit. I had to have a jeweler remove them for me.

Caleb and I knew we did not have the money for a new wedding set. We didn’t really want to pay to resize them, either. (I’ll explain more on that in my IGTV video coming soon!) For our second anniversary, we spontaneously got tattoos of our initials on each other’s ring fingers. But, I still missed wearing rings.

img_8524I came across another option that I found to be a perfect solution for anyone in my position or just someone who wants a beautiful, affordable, diamond alternative engagement and wedding rings! {ad} Tiger Gemstones makes the most beautiful sterling silver and rose gold plated rings.

img_8716I chose the 1.5ct Art Deco Oval Halo Set and it is gorgeous. It fits me perfectly and is just want I wanted. Because it is a sterling silver engagement ring, it will not turn colors and the diamond alternatives sparkle just as beautifully.

img_8717Tabitha, owner and maker, is so talented and has been a joy to work with. She’s been kind enough to offer my followers a 15% discount. Use the code: RachelH when you checkout with your gorgeous ring!

For more on their beautiful rings, you can check out Tiger Gemstones on Instagram @tigergemstones and on YouTube.

img_4061This ring, the clothes, and shoes are just small contributions to the way I have chosen to love my new body. She’s bigger, lumpier, and saggier. But, she also worked tirelessly to make another human and still works day and night to provide for her young one.

You’re working so hard, mama, whether you’re back to your original size or 4 sizes bigger. You are beautiful. Inside and out! Don’t ever let any social media bootcamp coach or celeb mom ever make you feel less than beautiful. At the end of the day, we all left the hospital in diapers; even Beyoncé.

From your Unfiltered Mama,

“If you like it, put a ring on it!”

img_8633

An UnfilteredMama Review: NubyUSA Cups and Plate

I recently became a Parent Blogger for NubyUSA. Essentially, they share a few items with me and I share my review of them with you! Although I was gifted these items, my thoughts and opinions are my own!

The first sippy cup we tried is the 360 Grip n’ Sip with a hygienic cover. This cup is amazing. It’s the perfect transitional sippy cup from bottle or breast for babies starting solids. It even has a weighted straw so, they can drink it from any direction! Y’all, this cup does not leak and it comes with a plastic top to keep the nipple clean. I love this cup and Hunter even took milk from it which, is a miracle in itself!

The next cup is for 12+ months and it’s the perfect grab n’ go cup! The Snack N’ Sip cup is a straw cup with a top compartment to keep your kid’s snacks in! I want one of these in an adult version! It’s perfect for on the go to keep Hunter content while out and about.

img_8198-1Nuby also makes super cute and fun suction mat plates. The Sure Grip Miracle Mat Suction Plate is a plate and a placemat in one! We got the monkey one with two large compartments and two smaller ones. I love separating Hunter’s food and having somewhere to put his beloved “dip”! It’s even dishwasher safe!

One final bonus item is their Tear-Free Rinse Pail. This pail has a silicone front to better form to your child’s head when you rinse their shampoo. It’s hard to get them to understand to look up but Hunter gets quite the kick out of it if I make it a game!

I hope you found a new item to add to your home and love as much as we do! I’d love to see what you’re loving and what’s making mom life easier for you!

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~NubyUSA Parent Blogger~