“What’s for dinner?” (Meal Planning 101)

If you are like me, I absolutely hate the question, “What’s for dinner?” and I usually try to ask it to my husband before he can ask me.  As a mommy of 3 littles, I have tried so many different ways to deal with this question. Here are a few recommendations for services and apps to help with your dreaded meal planning for the week:

Meal Subscription Services: Recipes and Ingredients will be sent to you on a weekly basis

  • PLATED: A bit more pricey than some of the other options but they also provide more options.  For example, if you pick the 3 meal per week version, you will be able to pick the three recipes /  meals from 9 options.  For 2 people 3x per week you will pay $74.  If you prefer 4 meals per week it is $96. Many subscribers noted that this is a good choice for a couple, not a family.
  • BLUE APRON: Seems to be the winner among these types of subscription services because the price is a bit more palatable and the recipes are yummy and interesting but not super difficult.  For 2 people, BLUE APRON will run you $59.94 per week for 3 meals.  For a family option, you will pay $69.92 for 2 meals a week and $139.84 for 4 meals per week.
  • HELLO FRESH: The comments in regards to this subscription is that the recipes and ingredients are very basic but still very fresh. This may be a better option for people or families who want very healthy meals.  For 2 person meals 3 times per week, it will cost $69.  For 3 meals a week for a family of 4, it is $129.
As you can see, these are not cheap / inexpensive services and will cost more than if you were to do your own meal planning and shopping list and shopping but let’s be honest, you are paying for convenience and the comfort of not having to think about what is for dinner a few nights a week.
Another option that I have tried is Fresh 20 which sends the customer a list of 5 recipes per week and the shopping list.  The idea is that you only have to purchase 20 fresh food items from the grocery store in order to make all of the recipes.  Initially, I liked this concept because it helped me not waste food and I felt like the recipes were pretty healthy.  I have friends that really love this option but I haven’t been able to keep up with it.  I live overseas though and some of the items just aren’t available to me. This is an inexpensive choice with an annual price of $65, 3 months for $24, and 1 month for $10.
If meal subscription services aren’t your thing and you are a meal planning pro, you may still find these well loved apps helpful:
  • Cook Smarts:  This is similar to Fresh 20 where they will send you recipes and shopping lists for the week. Their aim is to help people improve their cooking skills while making meal planning easier. This will cost you $6 per month
  • Pepperplate:  This is a free app where you are able to import recipes and the app will help you organize them.
  • Ziplist: This is a free app with a shopping tool and organizer
  • Plan To Eat: Helps to organize recipes by incorporating your calendar and a shopping list generator.
  • Paprika:  Another recipe manager with list generator.
As you can see, there are various tools available to help you with your meal planning… now it is a matter of what suits you and your family.  We would love if you comment with your thoughts / ideas on meal planning and what works well for you!

3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Many of you know that I have worked as a baby and toddler sleep consultant for over 2 years and I have interacted with hundreds of families in regards to their children’s sleep.  In considering this blog post, I wanted to think of some of the commonalities among many of these families and what I “usually” recommend to them. The problem with that is that it is always different.  Every family and every child has their own unique situation so sleep is something that is difficult to generalize.  With that said, there are definitely a few things that you could start doing right away to help your little one sleep – regardless of their age and their current sleep environment:

  1. Put your child down in the bed awake.  I’m sure you have all heard this a million times but it is certainly difficult to do.  When your little one falls asleep while nursing or rocking and you have the option of gently waking her or putting her into the crib asleep, it seems absolutely ludicrous to wake her!  Do it.  I know it seems crazy but even if you wake her and then gently pat or rub her tummy to help her stay calm, you want her to know she is in her bed it is time to go to sleep.  It is very important that a child learns to fall asleep without help or you will end up with  a baby that wakes constantly (after just about every sleep cycle) and needs help to go back to sleep.  If you want to give this a try, start with bedtime first.  Once bedtime is going well, then move on to night wakings.
  2. Schedule can make or break you. I have so many families that write in with questions about why their little one was doing well but now is waking for long periods in the night or just a mess all around.  Schedules are key for little ones and toddlers.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I usually do not use a by the clock (BTC) schedule for most babies (with twins being an exception) but rather, look at the wake times or nap gaps. Depending on your child’s age, you don’t want them to be awake longer than a few hours before sleeping again.  For example, a six month old baby shouldn’t be awake for more than 2.5-3 hours before sleeping again. Constant night wakings, long night wakings and early morning waking are all usually attributed to schedule issues.  Never underestimate trying an earlier bedtime.  Many issues will arise from bedtimes that are too late.  Sometimes just a 15 or 30 minute shift forward can do wonders.
  3. Create the Best Sleep Environment.  Speaking of underestimating, so many people do not consider the importance of the child’s sleep environment and their bedtime routine. These things will add considerably to the consistency in your child’s sleep and are worth some thought. In regards to your child’s sleep environment, it should be dark, safe (nothing loose or too fluffy in the bed) and white noise can be an excellent tool to help a child who wakes from noise.  We also recommend blackout blinds (these really help with early morning wakers and naps!). Establish a very consistent bedtime routine and it usually helps to end it with the same song or phrase every night. Recreating this environment and bedtime routine will also really help if you travel a lot with your little ones. Regardless of where you are, they will expect sleep if things are consistent.

Let us know your thoughts on sleep!  Speaking of… I’m off to catch some zzzzzz.

Is 3 The New 2?

So, let’s jump right in…. I get asked this question A LOT.  “How is it REALLY to have three kids?” “Is it really that much harder than having two kids?”  I find these questions interesting and funny at this point in life (even though I’m sure I have asked these same questions before having my third baby).  But, since you asked, here are my answers (broken into parts because it’s never just that simple):

It’s hard (but everything in life worth doing is hard):

  • You will have to buy a bigger car
  • You will never be bored and you will always be laughing (or crying)
  • You will have to wait 30 minutes longer than 4 person families at any given restaurant on a Friday / Saturday night
  • You will always have someone to hug, squeeze, kiss or cuddle-one of them always needs you at any given time.
  •  It will be nearly impossible to find a hotel room that will accommodate your 5 person family (no, they don’t care that the youngest is a baby – don’t even bother asking) and truly impossible to find an affordable hotel room
  • Don’t even worry about the aforementioned hotel room because you won’t be able to fly your family of 5 anywhere – too expensive!
  • Don’t plan on going to sleep for at least two hours after putting three kids to bed because they will somehow take turns waking every 10 minutes and needing something different.
  • Say goodbye to kid free vacations because three young kids is a bit much for anyone to take on for the long weekend so you are bringing them with you.
  • All your friends will think you are a “super mom” even though you are just barely hanging on but, hey, take the compliment and be happy that you kept them all three alive all day!
  • Your wardrobe might as well consist of black and white stripes because  you will referee ALL day long. Surprisingly, it is hardly ever 2 on 1 but rather they are all for themselves and will fight over anything.
  • You will end up buying diapers for 8 years straight, seriously…

In all seriousness, three, four, five… whatever makes you happy is what works for your family.  There is nothing that I or anyone else will tell you that will make it the right or wrong decision. To grow your family or not is obviously a family decision and I would say that three is the new two if you don’t require a lot of sleep.  I joke a lot about the craziness that is my life but having three kids is amazing. Many moms wonder if it “really is much harder than having 2 kids” and I will  wholeheartedly answer a resounding YES to that.  The jump from one to two kids was really difficult for me but going from two to three was much harder than I would have expected.  People joke about going from a man to man defense to a zone defense and it is a perfect analogy. Going anywhere with all three of them alone is exhausting and usually involves some tears and lots of sweat. When you are that outnumbered, everything is difficult.  The other side of this coin is that even though it is difficult, it is fun.  Having kids in general invites a lot of chaos into your life but having more than one or two kids just makes it a lot more insane. If you thrive in that chaos, as I do, then yes, 3 is the new 2.

P.S.  If you decide to go from 2 to 3 kids… become really good at asking for help :).

Transitions: This one is for the mommies

You know the age old “mommy wars” – outside of home working mom versus stay at home (also working) mom??  Yeah, I’m pretty sure most moms do not even see this as a real point of contention. Let’s face it, we all know that raising kids (regardless of what else you are doing) is way harder than any other thing we could possibly do… that is why God created wine :).  I have had the pleasure of experiencing both scenarios and love things about staying home while I also really love things about working outside of the home.  I am literally writing this on the eve of transitioning back to working full time after staying home with my three littles for the past year and a half.  The emotions are endless and way more exhausting than I thought they would be.  Let’s face it, I worked full time up until we picked up our little family of 5 and moved to Seoul, Korea a year and a half ago. At that point, I had to quit my full time job in order to move across the world, but hey, there was a new adventure brewing. I spent the next year and a half working as a taxi driver (not paid, of course, because my kids only make 1 dollar a week for allowance). I loved almost every minute of it. There was laughter and tears and a lot of candy bribes. Overall, I consider myself lucky to have the chance to experience that with my kids.

Tomorrow, I will return to work full time at the US embassy and I am excited as ever.  A new challenge awaits, new things to learn and people to meet.  However, tears will flow tonight. I will doubt myself and wonder if I am doing the right thing. I will worry about my kids endlessly.  Will they miss me in the afternoons after school? Will they resent that they cannot do all of the fun extra-curricular activities they used to do?  Will they feel a bit abandoned by me?  The likely answer is yes to all of these, at some point. But that is okay!  As Mothers we will constantly second guess ourselves and how we are doing.  We will sometimes wonder if we made the wrong choice or if our kids could be happier.  We will sometimes worry and stress.  Knowing that, I’m ready. I’m ready to show my kids that their mommy can pursue her interests and still be an amazing parent to them.  I say all of this to get it off my chest but to also say that I have been on both sides of this so called, “mommy war” and it doesn’t exist.  We are all just doing what we need to for our families and ourselves. Support each other because we all need someone to say that we are doing a great job once in a while.  Great job mommies!!! Now, I’m off to prep lunches, school clothes and dust off my work clothes… wish me luck

The In-Between: Post Partum Fashion

When I gave birth to my first daughter in 2008, I’m sure I was the joke of the day for the nursing staff.  I literally gave birth and then pulled out my carefully packed hospital bag and asked the nurse how I was supposed to wear my (pre-preggo) jeans and thong underwear with all of the other stuff that you have to wear after birth.  I seriously had no clue.  And it didn’t end there…. I returned home to some maternity leave and then returned to work a few months later with no clue what to wear for months on end.  I find that post partum wardrobes are discussed but only in regards to the immediate post partum time frame. What about women like me, who happen to not return to their pre-pregnancy weight / size for quite a while, if not ever?

I came to the realization that I quickly became too small for my maternity clothing and too big for my pre-mommy clothes but that really left me with nothing to wear other than pajamas and spandex (not the hottest thing to wear when you aren’t feeling superhot to begin with).  Pajamas, sweats and the like were all fine and good until I wanted to go out somewhere in the real world.  Returning to work also proved difficult.  Not only did I have to tear myself away from my little one but I felt like I either looked like I was swimming in my clothes or I had squeezed myself into a skirt suit that was way too small.  Not to mention, any nursing mothers will know that as the hours pass, anything that seemed to fit well before you left the house, now is obscenely small in the chest area… the epitome of “Not Safe for Work”!

The tough thing here is that, not only do we not have time to shop as new moms but we also don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of money on clothes that we will possibly not be wearing for that long.  By the way, why hasn’t someone started a post partum clothing line??? Perhaps there is one and I just haven’t found it but, BRILLIANT!

Here are a few tips that will help you feel great and still allow you enough money to buy toys, food and all that other expensive baby stuff:

Wear a tank top under your shirt.  This will allow you to nurse easily if nursing and will help you feel a bit more secure about your tummy area. I was a nursing mommy for all three of my littles so I wore tanks that I could easily pull down from the top to nurse – this allowed me to pull up my top shirt without exposing my midsection to everyone and freezing to death in the winter months. I also am a fan of the slimming (tight fitting) tanks / camisoles to wear under things because it feels like everything is being held in.

Awesome accessories:  I totally believe in accessorizing paired with solid basics.  You can wear slimming, sophisticated colors like black but it will look so much cooler paired with a gorgeous long necklace. You may have to forego huge statement pieces but a long, eye catching necklace will help direct someone’s eye and just make you feel good. Bracelets are great but sometimes bulky and can just plain get in the way when dealing with a baby so feel free to ditch or if you are going out for the night, sport a gorgeous bangle. No need for too much but it will make you feel like you put some effort in.

I love this necklace from Coco Hill:

necklace

When in doubt and you don’t want to use a necklace, I would add some small gold or silver earrings that baby can’t tug on but will gain you points on the sophistication scale and make you feel more polished.

Jeggings and leggings – The obvious way to look pretty chic but also feel comfortable. The great thing about leggings is that they go perfectly with something loose on top. I like to pair them with something a little longer that covers my rear such as tunics, long shirts, or cardigans. I love Zella leggings because they are thick, not see through and they hold their color. Ingrid and Isabel make some great black maternity leggings and you can fold down the top after baby for continued use!

Tunics, blouses, and cardigans / Shawls. I’m just going to come out and say it: tunics are awesome. They are long enough to cover the booty but short enough to still be categorized as a shirt so you can wear leggings underneath and not worry about shaving your legs. Tunics + leggings are an easy and fantastic combo for weekends or work at home mommas. For a casual look, a bright colored shirt may work well for you and make you feel like you are sporting something other than black. If you have to go into an office, I would opt for a blazer or a cute longer cardigan to feel comfortable but still look stylish. Long cardigans are a must actually if you want to hide any lumps or bumps. Anthropologie has a great assortment of cardigans and shawls.

cardigan

If you google this topic, you will see a lot of people mention wearing comfortable flats. I would disagree unless the outfit calls for flats. I love me some heels and, let’s face it, you have probably been in flats for months while you were pregnant so I say glam it up with some gorgeous heels. Wedges or shoes with a thicker heel can help the transition be a little easier. It will make you feel sexy, fun and will even make your work outfit feel more polished and professional.

Dresses:  If you have a baby near the summer months, consider yourself lucky. You can throw on some maxi dresses and slip out the door looking cute as can be!  Flowy skirts and dresses are every woman’s best friend when it is warm and sunny outside.  I personally prefer solid or block colors as opposed to prints when I feel like I need something flattering. Something along these lines would be beautiful:

skirt

I also love blouses but I personally always need a camisole of some sort underneath or my belly feels a little too “out there”… if you know what I mean.

Office Look:  For the office, invest in some nice black pants that fit well and make you feel good. These are a good investment… even if you end up losing baby weight, you can have them tailored and still wear them.  If you are going to spend some money, spend it on nice black pants.  Black for work is very slimming, makes you feel great and works well.  You can pair this look with a few accessories and look and feel fantastic!

Now, let’s be honest… your outfit can be amazing but if your hair and makeup are a mess, it’s all for not.  The problem here is time… moms just don’t have it! So let’s go over some great hair and makeup hacks, tricks and ideas to help you look and feel your best:

If you can, splurge on a trip to the salon within the first three months of having your baby!  It will make you feel great.  If you don’t want a cut or color, you can always make your way to a blowdry bar and pamper yourself a bit.  Dry shampoo will seriously be your BFF… don’t leave home without it. A favorite is Kevin Murphy Doo Over – it smells great and it’s a combination dry shampoo and setting spray. If you don’t have a great dry shampoo on hand, you can also use translucent face powder on your roots!

Now on to make-up!  I was never great at makeup and to be honest, my “day” and “night” makeup looked exactly the same. That, added to having three kids and no time, makeup took a backseat.  I treated myself to a skype one on one makeup course with Behrens Artistry which has helped me in so many ways.  Let’s make this simple and quick because most women just don’t have time in the morning… kids or not.  Start with some concealer like a BB or CC cream (there are so many great brands but I love SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50 or BeautyCounter’s Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer).  Throw on some blush or you can even use lipstick as blush if you don’t have any with you, some mascara and lipgloss and you are out the door!  I also have been known to use a little oil (like BeautyCounter’s Lustro Oil) as a hightlighter (dab some down the bridge of your nose and under your eyes / on your cheekbones).

Let us know your post-partum fashion thoughts!! This is a beautiful time in life and you should feel beautiful too!

Here We Go!!

Hi All!

If you are reading this, you are probably a friend of either Minsun or mine (Lauren) because we are just starting out our adventures in blogging.  We appreciate you taking the time to visit our site and check out what we are up to!  It is now officially 2016 and now that the New Year is upon us, we are geared up to really pursue some adventures!! So, this is both scary and exciting and I’m praying that my writing gets better with time (it has been a while since I have had to write anything other than a work email). We have started this blog in order to discuss whatever is on our minds but also to document our adventures in entrepreneurship.  You heard it here… we are currently working on a project that we hope will be much more than an application.  I will let Minsun explain her vision more in a post but it all started with the need to express what is really going on in life and ask REAL questions with UNFILTERED discussions. So much of our social media lives are really just a highlight reel, right (be honest)? I don’t know about you but I need somewhere to ask more personal questions, find information, be genuine without the fear of someone judging me and support my friends, family or a stranger in need of help. We realize that we are embarking on an uphill battle.  Our incredibly busy lives don’t need extra work added, yet we still get excited and brainstorm and draw out screen shots on napkins in front of the Apple store (yes that really happened).  We are doing this and we hope that you support us along the way by reading our blog posts / adventures and give us feedback ;).  I know it isn’t really clear what we are doing yet… I actually am keeping it somewhat vague because I haven’t spoken with Minsun about how much we want to put out there yet but just know that it will be really cool.  We will be documenting a lot of our process through this blog but will also be blogging about things happening in our lives, work, love, kids… everything.  If you have made it this far, thank you for enduring my terrible writing skills for a few minutes and Happy New Year!!! 2016 will be a year of hurdles and firsts for us!!  Follow along with us and let’s have some fun!