Not Your Average Mom

Traveling activities

Traveling activities

After a little travel-hiatus until our new baby arrives, I find myself thinking about where we can go for our next trip and what we can do while we’re there! I never realized how much fun it would be to plan activities that are kid-friendly. There is something so wonderful about seeing your child having a fun time, and it’s never one-sided, we always have fun too! Here is a list of my top seven kid-friendly activities when my family is visiting a new place!

  1. Local museums. The last time we visited Detroit, we went to the Henry Ford Museum. We went for a few reasons: we had the time, my husband really wanted to go, and we had the time. I hadn’t looked up how kid-friendly it would be, but who can go wrong with cars and little boys? It was such a fun experience, and my son had a great time. He got to run around, which tired him out before the flight. My husband and I got to stretch our legs and get some good exercise in before having to sit down for hours on a plane. And we all learned a lot!
  2. Bookstores. I personally love a good book store. They smell great, the look great, and they are full of books. The visual aspect of a library or bookstore is great for kids: lots of different bindings of all different colors with different words of different fonts all coming together to make a pleasing aesthetic. Kids (and adults) are filled with awe and wonder marveling at shelves upon shelves of books. And I’ve never been to a bookstore that gets mad at you for browsing and taking your time walking around. It is a great way to spend time for those interim moments while you travel.
  3. Malls. Who doesn’t love to bring back some souvenirs from traveling? Malls have all that plus food, plus maybe an indoor play place. Malls are a bit commercial and not always my first choice, but they are free and if the weather is bad, they get you out of the rain!
  4. Parks. If the weather isn’t bad though, parks are always a fun place. My son would love any park, anytime, anywhere, but visiting a new one is extra exciting.
  5. Toy stores. I have vivid memories of visiting toy stores as a kid. I know that taking my children to toy stores, especially in an age where everything is ordered online instead of in a store, that he will remember these times too.
  6. Nature trails. Similar to parks, nature trails are fun for kids who can walk longer distances, or love being outside.
  7. Zoos or aquariums. Nothing beats a giant wall of ocean creatures swimming right in front of your face! The last aquarium we visited also had a play area that was a submarine simulator. Whoever designed it was a genius because they put hundreds of fake buttons and switches that could occupy a toddler for hours on end.
Happy travels!

Working mom: How to manage a morning routine

Working mom: How to manage a morning routine

I love sleep. I could easily sleep for ten or more hours a night if I had no other obligations. When I do wake up, I like to wake up slowly. From the time I was a little girl I have never been one of those up-and-at'em people. My brain just takes longer to wake up than the rest of me. I am groggy for at least the first 5 minutes of being awake. Motherhood, of course, challenged this part of me. My son didn’t sleep through the night until right around his first birthday. During that first year, I was getting up every three hours and still making it to work on time in the morning. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Work backwards when establishing the timing of your morning routine. Know by what time you need to leave the house and make that your starting point. If I need to leave the house at 7:00, how much time do you need for everything else? Then, you have your wake-up time.
  2. Pack lunches the night before. My son goes to daycare and his lunches usually consist of some dinner leftovers, so it’s easy to do the night before. As we are cleaning the kitchen, I just pack his lunch as I am cleaning up everything else.
  3. Wake up at the same time every day. As tempting as a few minutes of extra sleep can be, it’s better for you AND your baby to have a routine down. My son is so much happier when the routine is normal. If his sleep pattern changes because of travel or something else, he is far less cheerful than normal. Also, waking up at the same time every day will help you get your morning routine down to a science and (most) mornings will run like clockwork.
  4. Wake up before your baby. This might not work for everyone, but when we were sleep-training our son, we knew we didn’t want him waking up at the crack of dawn every single day. We scheduled his bedtime so that he would wake up in the mornings with just enough time for a diaper change, getting dressed, breakfast, and maybe a few minutes of play before heading out the door. For other people, they might be naturally early risers and enjoy lots of activity and play before leaving the house. Either way, I have enjoyed some peaceful morning time to drink some hot tea before I have my son up and wanting attention.
  5. Give your child some responsibility for part of the routine. We take our trash out a few times a week, and even though he is just a year old, our son has a “job” to do. He knows that he carries the bag of bathroom trash (very small and lightweight for him) outside on the way to the car. He loves having a job to do and it makes him more likely to get his socks, shoes, and coat on without fussing! If he doesn’t have his shoes on, he can’t take the trash out, so he is usually very cooperative.

I must admit, I haven’t followed my own advice perfectly all the time, but the few times when I choose to sleep in a few extra minutes, or leave lunch-packing for the morning, I am rushed and tend to forget things. When I stick to these goals, our mornings are much easier!

Challenges of being a working mom

 

Mom kissing baby

By: Ruthie Cody

I knew that I was going to continue to work outside the home after having children. We live in an area with a high cost of living, and in order for us to meet our financial goals each month, my income is necessary. I went into my first pregnancy with the mindset that my child would go to daycare. It was a decision that my husband and I made early, because we knew that we had level heads when we were making the decision. Having a child was uncharted territory, and we couldn’t save a big decision like that for after the baby was born.

After having my son, I had 3 months of maternity leave, half of which was paid. The United States isn’t known for its generous maternity leave policy, but I was able to take more than the bare minimum that some women get. I am grateful for that. When it came time for me to return to work, I cried. Dropping off my 3-month old baby at daycare felt like abandoning him. You are at the mercy of a near-stranger to take care of the human that just changed your life forever in the best way that you never knew was possible.

I know everyone’s experience with their children is different, but we all share common themes. Hopefully I can touch on some of those common themes below. Here are a few of the toughest challenges I have experienced as a working mother, and how I have managed them:

  1. The initial drop-off when you first return to work. My first morning back to work was hard. I do love my job, but leaving your baby with someone else for the first time is emotional. My husband came with us, and we both gave the baby lots of kisses and held him before we left. Walking back to our cars, I cried. Having my husband there helped me not run back inside for one more snuggle, and actually get to work on time.
  2. Driving to work, looking back, and seeing an empty car seat. I hadn’t been alone for the last 3 months of my life, and suddenly, my constant companion wasn’t there. It felt like a sad scene from a sad movie. Even now, over a year later, I still glance in the rearview mirror and see the empty car seat and my heart strings feel a slight tug, but I can promise that it gets easier with time, and the new routine becomes comforting in its own way.
  3. Getting out the door on time in the morning. I’ve never been the best person at waking up early. I have quickly learned becoming a mother doesn’t make it any easier. Not only do I have to dress myself, I have to dress a squirmy toddler who isn’t always in the mood to put his socks on and can’t make his own lunch. Do manage all the extra things that need to be done in the morning, I get as much done the night before as possible. For example, lunch usually involves some dinner leftovers, so I pack them into the right containers, bag them, and stick the whole thing in the fridge so I can grab and go the next morning. I also try to pick out our clothes the night before. (Keep an eye out for a longer post that details our morning routine for tips on how to shorten yours as well!)
  4. Finding the energy to play at the end of a long work day. Most days, I pick up my son from daycare and come home tired. I have found the easiest way to get past this is to stay outside and play before coming inside. For me, coming inside means it’s time to prepare dinner and do laundry and other chores. If I stay outside, the fresh air helps revitalize me for a short while so we can play together.

There are always more challenges to being a mom, whether you stay home or work outside the home. I know that as I continue along the journey of motherhood, I will find new challenges. But I will also find new solutions. No problem is too big for a mother who wants the best for her children!

Saving money: Groceries

basket full of bread and other grocery items www.pogees.com

Written By: Ruthie Cody

Thriftiness is a skill: you can learn it and practice it. When you create a budget, there are fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are the ones that won’t change month to month, like rent or mortgage. Those are pretty set. Choose your fixed costs wisely (do you really need an expensive cable bill when you can just pay for wifi+netflix and stream things for free?) Variable costs are the items in your budget that aren’t the same amount every month. These are the ones you have the power to adjust when you need to make some changes. One of the biggest variable line items in our budget is groceries. I have found that if I want to make a big impact on our budget, this is where I have the most room to make cuts.

Of course, as my kids grow up and get bigger, I’m sure my grocery bill is going to expand. For now though, I am practicing the following things to try and keep us healthy, full, and still saving money:

  1. Meal plan. I can’t stress this enough! Making a meal plan will help you avoid spending money on food that won’t be eaten, or making impulse buys. We plan for 6-7 days at a time, and grocery shop for just enough to cover those meals. (Weekly trips to the grocery store double as fun time for my one-year-old because he loves sitting in the carts!)
  2. Stop snacking. If you plan to make good meals to cover your whole day, you won’t need to snack a lot. For us, when we want something between meals, it’s a piece of fruit or maybe crackers and cheese, but never anything pre-packaged. The pre-packaged goodies are typically less healthy than whole foods like fruits and veggies and cost a lot more. (The one exception I make is when we are traveling because babies need snacks and moms need convenience!)
  3. Eat less meat. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan by any stretch of the imagination, but we don’t eat meat every day. Find some good recipes that you can make over and over again that are simple and tasty. One of our favorites is farro with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper: simple but surprisingly full of flavor, and keeps you full!
  4. Shop sales. Seeing what’s on sale can help you make your meal plan! We live near an Aldi and I check their produce picks of the week to help inform my decisions for the meal plan each week! One week they had 10-pound bags of potatoes for $1.99, so we had quite a few variations of potatoes for meals that week (lentil shepherd's pie, steak fries, mashed potatoes, and coconut curry potatoes!)
  5. I don’t coupon. What? I know. I said it. Most advice about saving money on groceries probably involves some tips for couponing, but they don’t make coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables. Just about all coupons are for things we would never buy. Coupons can be fun, but they might tempt you into extra spending you wouldn’t otherwise do.
  6. Shop the perimeter. Most grocery stores (except my beloved Aldi) are set up so that the perimeter of the store covers 90% of your needs. You might never need to travel down an aisle unless you need some dry goods like pastas, beans, or rice. Everything else (fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, meat, bread) is around the edges!

If you are looking to save money in your budget, think about your grocery bill first. You have so much control over the final number! The more you practice making thrifty (and healthy!) decisions, the easier it becomes.

Keeping Your Budget As Your Family Grows

artwork pregnant woman made of flowers


Written by: Ruthie Cody

Artwork by: Laura Villareal


I know, another blog post on how to save money with a growing family. They seem to be everywhere! If you do a quick online search for money saving tips with kids, you will get all sorts of advice and opinions. One thing that always amazes me is how much stuff we think that babies need. We knew before having children that we didn’t have space for a lot of stuff, in our small or apartment nor in our budget. Since having our first and expecting our second, our budget has stayed almost exactly the same in terms of how much we save each month. I know once my boys are older they will have bigger appetites, so grocery bills might have to be adjusted, but I am still pretty proud of fitting diapers and other baby supplies into the budget without sacrificing our savings. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Pick your number. Know how much you want to save every month and work your budget around that end goal. Don’t ever think that you can spend all the money you make every month. That’s bad. Always have some savings for emergencies and peace of mind.
  2. Meal plan and make a grocery list. Making a meal plan will automatically fuel the items for your grocery list. Once you have your list, stick with it. Don’t go for impulse buys.
  3. Cook at home. My husband and I both work full-time, but cooking at home has always been a priority. There have been so many times when I have wanted to order food from a restaurant instead of cooking (SO many times), but my future-self always thanks my present-self when I decide to suck it up and cook, even when I am exhausted.
  4. Find cheap or free entertainment. We don’t have a cable bill, we don’t have expensive date nights, and we don’t get random cups of coffee or tea at Starbucks. We do have wifi and Netflix, which gives us some movie dates after the baby is in bed, but if our budget ever got tight we would probably cut out Netflix, too. For our son, we take him to the park, or the free play gym at the local shopping mall, or even some free museums. Little kids love climbing, running, and playing, all of which can be done for zero dollars.
  5. Use your local library. I mean you are technically paying for it anyway. If you use it even a handful of times, you have probably gotten more value out of it than you paid in with taxes. I have found that reading books with or in front of your child is one of the best ways to spend time together. If you are reading your own books, it sets a good example for good habits in the future too. Libraries also host events for kids, which makes it like free entertainment too!
  6. Shop used. We have been fortunate to have been gifted many baby clothes, but when my son does need something new, I always look to the thrift store first. Baby clothes, especially ones for special occasions, are never worn more than a few times and can look new at thrift stores. I have gotten some really beautiful clothes for my son, some with tags still on, for a fraction of the original price. The same goes for adult clothes! Always check the thrift store first, you never know what you will find.

Babies on a Plane

baby sitting on two hands

By: Mommy Blogger Ruthie Cody

 Another lesser-known horror-comedy-drama with a similar title to a famous movie. Babies on a Plane, unlike Snakes on a Plane, has far fewer bad words because as a responsible parent, you have to keep things G-rated for your kid - even if what goes through your head might sound a lot more like Samuel L. Jackson.

I have flown with my one-year old son and husband five times. In fact, and as I write this, we are packing for another flight this weekend. I’ve been fortunate to always have my husband with me when we fly, so I can’t take all the credit for how smoothly it has gone for us most of the time. My son has also always been a good eater, so nursing him or preoccupying him with snacks has worked well too.

A few tips for flying based on your proximity to the plane:

Booking your ticket

  • When booking your ticket, if you can help it, plan the flight time around when your baby might be napping, sleeping, or some other activity that calms them (for us, it’s meal time!)
  • After you book your flight, call the airline and have them walk you through the process of adding Infant in Arms to your boarding pass. We learned the hard way that some planes only have the extra oxygen mask on the right side of the plane, and our seats were on the left. They had to go through a long process to switch our seats and add Infant in Arms to the boarding pass. We almost missed our flight!

Arriving at the airport and getting through security

  • Get there early. If you have a baby who you will be holding the entire flight, chances are you will need to get the phrase “Infant in Arms” added to your boarding pass, and you might have to wait in line at the airline counters to do that. Another benefit of being early is not needing to rush with bags + baby + passports + stroller/car seat/etc. And risk the chance of dropping something along the way.
  • Avoid wearing belts and heavy jewelry, or shoes that are hard to take on and off. Security can be a pain when you have to take your shoes, scarf, jewelry, and belt off. Try doing it while holding a squirming toddler. Yeah, not happening. I don’t advocate people dressing in pajamas when they fly, but try to find a presentable travel outfit that is also easy to get through security with.

Waiting to board

  • Exercise your baby! If you get to the airport early enough, you should have a good chunk of time to let your child run around, especially if they are already walking. The best babies on planes are the ones who sleep through the whole ride, so the more tired you can get them before, the better. My son’s favorite thing to do is to run up to strangers who are waiting for the flight, stare at them, and run away. It’s kind of weird, but most people are good-natured about it, and it will help them on the flight because my kid will probably be worn out.
  • Gate-check things you won’t need on the flight. Every airline we have flown is always happy to gate-check items for us because it frees up cabin space. It also is less for you to fumble with when you are getting in your seat. Every airline we have flown has also allowed us to check strollers and car seats free of charge.

Boarding

  • Usually, people with small children have priority boarding. Take advantage of this.
  • If you are boarding early, get to know the flight attendant and let them take your kid for a walk if they are so inclined. On our most recent flight, we told our flight attendant that she was more than welcome to take our son and walk him around at anytime. She was so kind and even picked him up once when he was getting restless in our seats. He loved being able to go up and down the aisle and see the other passengers.

Take-off

  • Nurse your nursing baby, or give a bottle/snacks to an older baby. This will avoid any discomfort they might feel with the change in altitude as the plane ascends.
  • If your child is a little older, let them look out the window so they can see what is happening, our son loved that (warning: this could backfire if it scares them)

Mid-flight and landing

  • Use any routines or cues that might initiate sleeping. For our son, it’s reading books.
  • If sleeping is not an option, then break out the good snacks. They will associate flying with yummy things and maybe be on better behavior for it!
  • When the seatbelt sign is off, let them stand in the aisle for a few minutes at a time (until someone needs to pass them) to let them stretch their legs and get a different view.

De-boarding

  • Unless you have a connecting flight or are in a hurry, wait to let everyone else off the plane first. Watching people get their bags and walk by is entertainment for kids. It also lets you gather your things without feeling rushed by the people around you, and if you de-board early, you will need to wait around for the gate-checked items anyway

Always remember, flights don’t last forever, so even if it gets bad, it’s temporary! It might even make for a funny story in the future. Happy flying!

Challenges of being a new mom: Information overload

Sad mom with a baby in front of a computer

When I became pregnant with my first son in November 2013, I was ecstatic. My husband and I were so excited to have children and grow our little family. I immediately signed up for different websites that would update me each week of the pregnancy. I read lots of little blog posts and snippets of information to prepare for this change in my life and my husband’s life. Who doesn’t love knowing which piece of produce their baby is like this week? After only a few weeks of this though, I pretty much gave up reading all the articles and advice pieces for pregnant women and new mothers.

In this age of information where everything is available at our fingertips, it’s hard to sort out which information is the good information. I was reading a lot of things that seemed silly, or even wrong. Right away, I was seeing how sometimes too much information can be overwhelming and stressful. A simple search for why your newborn is running a temperature can turn up all sorts of results that can panic even the calmest person. So many of the things I read left me wondering how the human race survived up to this point if every symptom could spell doom, but at the same time that left me comforted because we have survived! All my ancestors before me figured it out without the internet, so I could probably manage.

I am lucky to have something that my internet-less ancestors had too, a tribe of sorts. I have a close family who is always there to help (and offer tried and true advice), great friends who are experiencing or have experienced the same things, and a supportive spouse who loves me through it all! My “tribe” helps tremendously, but even for those women who don’t have the same support that I might, what do we have that can help us with the information overload? Since I clearly don’t like too much information to overwhelm you, I only have two things to share:

First, try to understand what your gut feeling is telling you. We are biologically programmed to want to keep our babies alive and well and loved. New moms with their crazy hormones and under-eye bags are more powerful than they might think. For example, when we first brought our son home from the hospital, we were surprised at all the strange noises he made in his sleep. Is he still breathing, is he choking, does he need a new diaper since his last change 5 minutes ago? It didn’t take long to understand what those little noises meant. I could even know, by the sound of the cry, why my baby was crying (99% chance it’s a wanting-to-nurse-cry).

Second, and finally, when in doubt, call your pediatrician. You trust your pediatrician (if you don’t, get a new one!), that’s probably one of the reasons you picked them! Any lengthy internet search you do that turns up inconclusive will inevitably lead to you calling your pediatrician. Sometimes you just need to cut out the middleman and call the person you trust (who conveniently has a medical degree and specialized knowledge).

So mamas, trust yourself, rest if you can, and enjoy knowing you are enough for your baby.

--Ruthie---