Cleaning for the Holidays with Pine-Sol Lavender

*Although this post is sponsored, all opinions expressed are my own!*

To say that December is busy for us is an understatement. My birthday, Ryan’s birthday, Christmas, New Year’s….there is a lot of entertaining in our house, and in typical Stephanie-style, my cleaning and prep is usually last minute. For the upcoming holiday season, I’m counting on Pine-Sol Lavender to get me through all my last-minute cleaning.

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Pine-Sol has totally upped their game – it’s the same trusted cleaner, but it smells lovely. Pine-Sol Lavender promises to cut through the toughest grease, grime and stains leaving a lavender scent behind. I can honestly say that the product stands up to their claims! Pine-Sol seemed to take a good product and made it even better. Pine-Sol has always been a reliable cleaner, but now it does the job while leaving your house scented with lavender.

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The thing that I love most about Pine-Sol Lavender is that it is a multi-surface cleaner – meaning I can whip around the house and clean most surfaces with one cleaner, saving me a ton of time. I can do my kitchen, my floors, and my bathroom with the same cleaner. I even used it on my ceramic cooktop when I was in a rush and it took all the burnt little bits off with minimal work on my part.

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The only thing I didn’t love was the bottle itself – while it worked well for diluting and cleaning floors, it wasn’t the greatest for cleaning counters and sinks. I ended up pouring some into a little spray bottle to make the application easier and it was perfect. I would love if it came in a spray bottle where you could twist off the top to pour out of as well.

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I was pleasantly surprised with the lavender scent – I didn’t think it would have any staying power, but it left a nice scent throughout the rooms I had cleaned with it.

Now, I’m not usually one to get excited about cleaning products, but I am genuinely looking forward to trying the other new scents that Pine-Sol is introducing. Along with the original Pine-Sol and Lavender, you can also find Pine-Sol in Lemon, Mandarin, and Sparkling Water Scents at grocery, discount, drug, dollar and club retailers. Price points are completely reasonable, starting at $2.99 for 828 ml, $4.49 for 1.4L, or $12.99 for 4.25L.

Happy Cleaning!

Christmas with Cricut + GIVEAWAY!

I love Christmas. Like, seriously, LOVE Christmas. Whether it’s the extra time with family, the festivities, the decor, or the fact that it is acceptable to have every surface covered in glitter….I love Christmas, and Christmas decor in particular.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I won a Cricut at Blogpodium back in September, and I was more than a bit excited about it! I’ve decided that it’s going to be a Cricut Christmas, and I’m going to integrate as much Cricut as I can into gifts, decor and gift wrapping! (And no, this totally isn’t a sponsored post, I am seriously just amazed by what a Cricut can do!) I’m pretty sure you will be amazed as well.

I’ve teamed up with some other Cricut-obsessed bloggers to show just how awesome a Cricut is, especially for the holidays. We all made Christmas ornaments with our Cricuts, and I think you’re going to LOVE them!

My creation was a work in progress but I’m happy with the way it turned out. My vision was a sparkly snow globe ornament for each of my kids with their initial cut out using the Cricut. It had to be sparkly. Obviously. I headed to Michael’s to stock up on supplies for my project. I bought:

 

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  • clear glass ornaments
  • sparkly metallic confetti
  • glycerin
  • Krazy Glue
  • wide wire ribbon
  • glitter vinyl adhesive Cricut sheets

 

 

 

 

I used my Cricut to cut out letters on the glitter vinyl adhesive – I started out by doing Lily’s entire name but ended up liking the look of just the L – pretty and simple.

Now – learn from my mistakes and fill the ornament BEFORE you put the vinyl letter on! I put the water and the glycerin in a cup and mixed it up well before putting it in the ornament – I’ve been told that the glycerin makes the glitter/confetti float down slower and it seemed to work in mine. Pop off the top of your ornament and carefully pour the water in. Add the glitter afterwards (put in what you think you need and then add a little bit!). Don’t you love my completely precise instructions?

 

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Pop the top back on and wipe the exterior of the ornament well. I used Krazy Glue to seal the top of the ornament to prevent leakage. I let it sit for about an hour to let it dry and seal. Then you can just peel your letter (or name, whatever you prefer!) and stick it on the exterior of the ornament! Just make sure it’s really dry so it will stick. You can use transfer paper if you’re doing an entire name to keep it neat, but I just used tweezers to place the letter.

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Annnnnnd because I can’t get enough glitter in one project, I topped the ornament with a glittery gold bow! Now – I’ll be completely honest. This ornament really doesn’t photograph well…I’m sure a professional photographer would be able to get a great shot, but with the floating sparklies inside sinking and settling, and the glare off the the metallic, it doesn’t translate the best. But…you get the idea!

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I can’t wait to make even more Christmas goodies with my Cricut! If you have done any awesome Christmas projects with your Cricut, please share below, I would love to see them – I’m a Cricut newbie!

Now on to the part that I’m most excited about! I’ve teamed up with a group of awesome Cricut-loving bloggers to give away a mint green Cricut Explore Air 2.

This contest is open to US and Canadian residents, and one winner will be selected randomly from the widget below.

Good luck!

 

Now that you’ve seen what the Cricut can do, it’s time to enter to win your own Cricut Explore Air 2!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now it’s time to check out the other great Christmas Cricut Ornaments from my Canadian blogging friends!

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From top left, they are:

Christmas Garland from The Learner Observer

3D Christmas Tree from Woman in Real Life

Star Ornament from The Inspired Home

Handlettered Ornaments from Teacups and Things

Paper House Christmas Ornament from Fresh Crush

Easy Christmas Ornaments from Sparkle Shiny Love

3D Snowflake Ornament from Brooklyn Berry Designs

Mini Deer Pallet Ornament from Love Create Celebrate

3D Gingham Trees from Rambling Renovators

Glitter Monogram Snow Globe Ornaments from Bawlers and Crawlers

Paper Geometric Christmas Ornaments from Life is a Party

Atomic Starburst Ornaments from PMQ for Two

The Fall Spike Battle Plan: Moms vs Germs

*Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own!*

One reason I was dreading Andrew starting school (other than the typical ‘growing up too fast’ reasons) is the germ factor. The dreaded Fall Spike – when school-age kids bring germs home from school and spread them to their parents and younger siblings. Not only are colds and flu spread, but there are higher rates of asthma hospitalization and respiratory infections after kids return to school. Ugh. Not good for moms or kids. So far (knocking on wood here), Lily has managed to avoid severe colds, flus, or respiratory infections…and I would like to keep it that way!

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To help cope with the Fall Spike, I have partnered with the Real Canadian Superstore to put together a battle plan! Here are a few of my favourite tips:

  • Hand Washing: handwashing is so crucial…and unfortunately not at the top of kids’ priorities. To encourage good hand-washing habits, buy a soap that your kids will be excited to use. Look for unique scents or branding that will appeal to your kids. At this moment, we have a Spiderman hand soap sitting in our powder room!
  • The elbow cough/sneeze: This one is still a work in progress in our house. Ideally, teach kids to cough into their elbow to avoid the transmission of germs. At this point, I think I would be happy if the kids used anything to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Sigh. We’re totally getting sick any day now.
  • The Flu Shot: Ok, I know this is a touchy subject, and I’m not trying to start a debate around vaccinations…but my husband and I both get our flu shot every year. So if you choose to get you flu shot, now is the time!
  • Saline rinse: When I feel little tickle starting in the back of my throat or nose, I use a saline rinse in the morning and night. I’m pretty sure I can feel the germs leaving my body and my nose feels SO clear afterwards!
  • Eat healthy to keep your body healthy: Stock up on foods that have nutrients that contribute to good overall and immune health during the Fall Spike.
    • Know which foods have the nutrients you’re looking for. Some examples are:
    • Vitamin C: anti-oxidant for overall health, found in citrus fruits
    • Vitamin E: another anti-oxidant important for good overall health, found in seeds/nuts
    • Zinc: helps with immune function, found in nuts and seeds
    • Vitamin A: for immune health, found in orange vegetables such as sweet potato and butternut squash
    • Protein: helps build and repair body tissues and antibodies, found in meats, eggs, seafood, milk products, legumes, nuts and seeds

Now, I know including all these and understanding what they are is easier said than done. You can introduce your family to new ingredients that have the nutrients you’re looking for by trying different textures and colours, and adding them individually to meals so everyone grows accustomed to eating them – Real Canadian Superstore even has in-store registered dietitians that can work with you to understand what nutrient-rich foods you should be eating, and provide recipes to try them in.

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My local Real Canadian Superstore has become a crucial part of my Fall Spike Battle Plan – it is a one-stop shop for all the products to help you stay healthy during cold and flu season. You can get your flu shot in the Superstore pharmacy, access dieticians to help ensure you are getting all the needed nutrients into your families’ tummies, buy all the food while you’re there…and if the dreaded cold or flu still manages to hit your house, you can still visit your local Superstore for all the tissues, disinfectants and medications you’ll need!

Pop into your local Superstore or Loblaws to find out how they can help you battle the Fall Spike!

What is your Fall Spike Battle Plan? Is there anything I am missing on my list to prevent illness now that Andrew is in school?

Why Medela is a Must for New Moms + GIVEAWAY

*Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. However, the opinions on this blog and my love for Medela are my own!*

If there is one thing that all new moms have in common, it is the need for simplicity. A need for things in their life to be easy. With the lack of sleep, a new baby to care for, and a new lifestyle to adjust to, anything that helps make a new mom’s life easier is a must. There is a reason why Medela’s trio of products is award-winning. The Freestyle Pump, Calma Feeding System, and MyMedela app just simply make life easier for new moms. All three products have won the Parent Tested Parent Approved Seal (www.ptpa.com) – this means that they have been tested and approved by REAL moms!

I had all these dreams when I was pregnant of having a baby, putting him to my breast, and breastfeeding him would be all magical and easy. BAHAHAHAHAHA. Not. At. All. Some lucky moms have that experience, but for me and many other breastfeeding moms, those first few weeks look completely different.

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For me, breastfeeding was painful, my supply was low, I was bleeding…it was not a pretty sight. As I mentioned in a previous post, my Medela Freestyle Pump was critical in helping me build my supply  so I was able to successfully breastfeed. But, then I had a new problem on my hands – I had worked so hard at building my supply to be able to breastfeed that I was terrified to give him a bottle in case it made breastfeeding harder. I’m pretty sure every new mom has heard of nipple confusion – I know there are arguments about whether it exists or not, but for me, the possibility of it terrified me. After I had worked so hard to breastfeed, I didn’t want to do anything to make it harder again. I struggled for a few weeks, refusing to give a bottle for fear he wouldn’t go back to breastfeeding. My husband and family gently coaxed me to give it a try.

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On the advice of many people, I tried the Medela Calma nipple, as it is touted to be the closest to breastfeeding. From a technical standpoint, it makes total sense. There are many similarities between how they breastfeed and how they drink from the Calma – they have control of feeding (breastmilk stops when they need to pause and breathe), and they use the same facial muscles as they do when breastfeeding to create a vacuum (which actually reduces the risk of ear infections, who knew?!)

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I’ll be honest here – it looks weird and it’s kind of a pain to put all the pieces together every time but it is TOTALLY worth it. I was able to switch back and forth between breast and bottle seamlessly (even within the same feed when I was supplementing with pumped milk). You know what else? It made my heart melt to see Ryan having the opportunity to feed Andrew and cuddle up with him when he’s all milk-drunk and sleepy…something I got to do every couple hours. It was so nice to let Daddy experience it as well. It made my life loads easier too, because….you guessed it! Someone else can feed the baby now! I could leave for longer than an hour at a time, knowing that if baby was hungry, someone else could feed him too. Is there any bigger relief for a new mom?

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I waited a bit longer than I should have to introduce the bottle (solely out of my own unfounded fear!); it is best to introduce the Calma system around 3-5 weeks. This is so the baby has an established feeding pattern but isn’t resistant to change and the introduction of a bottle. In the beginning, we found that bottle feeding was easier when I left the room and Daddy took over by himself, so baby can’t smell Mama.

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This leads me to the entire point of this post – why Medela is an absolute must for new moms. You can read HERE all about why the Medela Freestyle rocks. The Calma Feeding System allows you to introduce babies to bottles without any worries about it impacting breastfeeding. And finally – they have introduced an app that makes life even easier for new moms. They seriously think about everything. No wonder it’s an award-winning trio!

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The MyMedela app is pretty cool, and is available in English and French in Canada. You should definitely check it out if you are nursing or pregnant, especially because it’s FREE! The app seriously has more stuff than I would ever even think to have – but it is all so useful! You can start by tracking your pregnancy, and it brings up articles that are relevant to where you are in your pregnancy or your baby’s development. You can track EVERYTHING in it. For realsies. You can track: breastfeeding, pumping, sleeping, diapers, height, and weight. You can manage goals and accomplishments, get advice and find answers to everything baby and pregnancy related and you can even find a lactation consultant! One surprising thing that I found on the app was the Breastfeeding Confidence Assessment – it helps you pinpoint where you are totally rocking at breastfeeding to give you a boost of confidence, and highlights some areas that you are still unsure of, giving you articles and tips to help out. The app isn’t just for nursing mommas either – there is tracking for formula on there too! The app is very user-friendly – really easy to navigate no matter how tired you are!

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Another thing that I love about the MyMedela App is that it is like a one-stop shop for information. Most moms usually have their phones with them during their nighttime nursing sessions, which is  usually the time when moms have a million questions running through their head. It’s easy to just pop on to the app to find answers to your questions – it’s a quick and convenient source for trusted information.

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The Medela Trio truly does make life easier for new moms – between the Double Electric Freestyle Pump, the Calma Feeding System, and the MyMedela app, it makes a new mom’s life just a little bit easier!

Now on to the part that I am most excited to share with all of you! Someone is going to win their own Medela Double Electric Freestyle Pump (valued at $495 CDN)!!! All you need to do is enter below! Good luck mommas! (Open to Canada only, excl. Quebec).

Medela #MedelaCanada Freestyle Double
Breast Pump Giveaway

Family Traditions with Giant Tiger

*Although this post is sponsored, all opinions and love for Giant Tiger is my own!*

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When I tell stories about growing up with my family, they are riddled with family traditions – whether it be annual vacations or holiday traditions, family traditions have always been a part of my life. Some of my best memories growing up are intertwined with our family traditions, and always helped with bonding and creating a positive family connections, even in the throes of sibling rivalry and teenage angst. It has been so important to me to incorporate traditions into my own little family.

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One tradition that we have started within our family is Friday Night Movie Night. We curl up on the couch together with some snacks and let Andrew pick a family-friendly movie to watch. It has become one of my favourite times of the week – we all get to put on our comfy pj’s and snuggle up together for a couple hours.

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With the weather getting colder, it’s time to get the fireplace going and get into our comfiest loungewear for movie nights. Thankfully, Giant Tiger has us covered at a price that Budget Master appreciates! I picked up cozy onesies for all of us! You can buy them for the entire family, from teeny newborns, toddlers, kids, and adults – even have plus size! As an added bonus, I picked up all our movie night treats while I was there too!

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One of my favourite things about the onesies were the hoods – mine was purrrrrfect (hah, see what I did there?!) There is a ton of prints for adults, I picked a cute white onesie with pink hearts – girly and cozy, the perfect combination! Ryan got a manly camo-print onesie (although they did have funny novelty onesies as well!). The kids onesies were adorable too – there was a variety or print and animal ones. Andrew thought his dragon onesie was pretty cool with all the details on the hood and body. Lily’s is a sweet pink, white and purple print that is just so adorable for her. The onesies are all so incredibly soft – when I pulled Lily’s out of the laundry, she curled up with it on the floor like a pillow. They are just as soft and fluffy after they have been washed too! Everyone loves their onesies…and the mom in me appreciated how warm, cozy, and affordable they all are! Even the adult ones were under $30 each!

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I can’t wait to curl up in our snuggly onesies every week for Friday Night Movie Night! Only thing we need now is a doggie onesie for Sookie…she’s probably silently thanking Giant Tiger right now for not making them.

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Do you have any family traditions? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear all about them!

The Teething Egg Review + Giveaway

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I few months ago, I was sent a new teething toy for Lily to try, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! She has been doing some hard core teething lately, and has been gnawing on anything and everything! The Teething Egg is a unique teething toy that I had never heard of before I was sent one to try. It is a smooth egg-shaped teether, that is firm yet has a bit of give to it for chewing.

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Let me share the things that I love about the Teething Egg:

  1. It’s the perfect size for little hands and mouth! Lily can hold it and roll it around in her hands while chomping away.
  2. It has a clip attached! Lily likes to throw things like she’s a Blue Jay in the playoffs, and with the clip I can attach it to her shirt to prevent it flying across the room or out of the stroller. Less throwing = less germs! The clip is really easy to use, and can be unclipped and clipped with one hand.
  3. It comes in so many cute colours, and the tether is an adorable chevron pattern! Because, obviously, the look of a toy is of uber importance. You can get the egg in mint green, pink, yellow, and baby blue.
  4. It’s safe! It is BPA free, Phthalate free, lead free, and PVC-free.
  5. It actually helps! There have been times since I’ve received it when I’ve passed it to Lily in the car when she’s fussy and she will settle right down when she starts chewing away on it. I know she was doing some good chomping because I can see tons of teeth marks on it when she’s done with it!
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And now to the exciting part! One of you lucky mommas is getting a chance to win your own Teething Egg! I have one Teething Egg that will find a new home with one of you lucky readers! Just head over to my Facebook page, and let me know who in your life needs a little teething relief!

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You can check out The Teething Egg on their website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

The Tired Mom’s Guide To Skin Care with Vichy

 

I am almost ashamed to admit it, but…I used to skip washing my face at night, but had no problem complaining about how gross my skin has gotten. Puffy eyes, dark circles, fine lines around my eyes, and dull, lifeless skin. And before you start telling me how important it is to take your makeup off and wash your face every night, I totally know that already. But when I’m faced with “take care of you and your skin before bed” or “your head could be on that pillow in under 3o seconds”, I opt for sleep every time. My lack of skin care is not helping the fact that I’m (GULP) in my thirties, and starting to worry about wrinkles and lines. The lack of sleep situation is working against me as well.

And then I had the chance to try a few of Vichy’s new skincare products, which I feel are made for tired moms. They sent me three products to try together and mommas, let me tell you – they are the skincare dream team.

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Let me take a moment to introduce you to my new best friends!

First up is the Purete Thermale One Step Cleansing 3-in-1 Micellar Solution. If I’m being honest, I was more than a little sceptical of this one, as it is supposed to be a cleanser, toner and eye-makeup remover in one. I thought “uh-huh. Sure. Won’t be putting away my makeup remover just yet.” But guys, for real – this stuff really does do it all! I just pour a bit on a cotton ball, clean off my eye makeup, and then do a second one for the rest of my face. If I have a LOT of makeup one (you know, for the rare times I have a social event that requires full makeup), I will use my eye makeup remover first but still do a secondary clean with the micellar solution. After I cleanse with it, my skin is super soft, and isn’t all tight and dry, like after using some toners. Another bonus for anyone with sensitive skin – no scent!

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Next up is the Vichy Idealia Eyes. I was first intrigued by the tube – the cream comes in a little tube with a little silicon applicator. You squeeze a bit onto the applicator and then brush it under your eyes, and up into your crows feet, if you have them like I do. I actually saw a difference almost immediately with this eye cream. The dark circles under my eyes lessened, became less puffy, and looked much brighter overall. Even my husband noticed a difference! I will say that the applicator takes some practice to get just right. At first I found it pulled the skin a bit, or I put too much cream on and it didn’t sink in right away. Once I got the hang of getting the perfect amount of cream on, I can have both eyes done in under a minute. Now I put it on quickly, it doesn’t pull the delicate skin around my eye, and the cream absorbs very quickly. My fine lines are unfortunately still there (I don’t think anything will get rid of them short of Botox – but hey, maybe that’s another blog post for another day), but regular usage of the cream definitely lightened them so they’re not as noticeable.

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The last step in my new skincare regimen is the Vichy Idealia Day Care Cream. I started using this cream every morning. I first fell in love with the pretty pink jar, but then I also began to adore the stuff inside! It is a light moisturizing cream that hydrates your skin but isn’t sticky or greasy. I can put it on and start putting makeup on right after. It leaves my skin feeling refreshed and soft every day!

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Overall, I found that the using all three products together made a tremendous difference in my skin, and makes me feel better about dragging my tired butt out of the house every day. My fine lines have lessened, my skin has lost that dull appearance, and looks brighter and more refreshed. My eyes are less puffy, my dark circles have gone down. And the best part about it? The whole routine only takes a few minutes before bed. Seriously. I’m in and out of my bathroom in under three minutes with soft, clean skin. Who doesn’t want that?

#VichyWorksForMe

My Breastfeeding Journey with Medela + 8 Essential Tips for Pumping

*Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. However, the opinions expressed on this blog and my love for Medela is my own!*

As you may have guessed from previous posts, I am a big advocate of breastfeeding (but I understand it is not for everyone, and not everyone is able to successfully breastfeed – the most important thing is that your baby gets fed, no matter how you do it!). As a mom that has successfully breastfed two kids (with one still on the go!), I feel like I have a little bit of advice to share. New moms can be overwhelmed with all the information and (often unwanted) bits of advice from friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, and even strangers. When Lily was a newborn, an elderly woman came over to me at a restaurant and started cooing over just how adorable and beautiful Lily was…and then reached over, patted my boob and asked “Has she taken well to breastfeeding?” She’s lucky that I was just too tired to react before she walked away. But, I digress. Back to the issue at hand.

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When I started breastfeeding Andrew, it was anything but easy. I had a low supply, and he had a terrible latch, which made feeding a nightmare. I’ll spare you the details, and just say that it wasn’t pretty, and it was pretty painful. I wasn’t ready to let go of breastfeeding, so I had a lactation consultant come in to work with us, and the first thing she told me was that I had to pump, and I had to have a good pump. I started a routine of pumping for 15 minutes on each side after every feed. Yeah – that’s a lot of time pumping. I seriously could not have fought through that without a double electric pump. To all you new moms and moms-to-be that are going to be breastfeeding: if there is one thing not to scrimp on, it’s the pump. The Medela Freestyle double electric pump is a lifesaver. To begin with, it saves time – you can pump both sides at once, getting it done in half the time – which means you get back to your nap (or baby snuggles) even faster. The Medela Freestyle is the most popular Medela pump for a reason – it uses Medela’s patented 2-Phase expression technology, scientifically proven to produce more milk in less time, and it is specifically designed for frequent, daily-use, which can help grow your milk supply if you’re lacking in that area like I was!

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Because I pumped after EVERY feed for weeks on end, and refused to stay home all day every day, I had to pump on the run. I have seriously pumped anywhere and everywhere – I even pumped one day at the spa in the bathroom between spa treatments. This is another instance where the Freestyle pump saved me – you can totally pump on the run. It has a built-in, rechargeable battery that can be used for 3 hours of pumping! My pump has come to the cottage, to the spa, to friends’ houses, to holiday get-togethers…you name it, I’ve brought it! The portability is a huge selling feature – it is small enough to throw in your diaper bag, and it also comes with a compact cooler and ice pack that is designed to perfectly fit 4 bottles.

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After my struggles with breastfeeding and pumping, I feel like I have a bit of wisdom to share…so for all you nursing/pumping moms and moms-to-be, I give you my 7 Essential Tips for Moms when Pumping:

  1. Get comfy: you’re going to be there awhile. Rest on some pillows, put on the tv, and put baby somewhere they will be safe and happy (or, as happy as they can be when not being held!)
  2. Buy yourself some big cups and put them everywhere you will be pumping and breastfeeding. When nursing or pumping, I often found that I would be completely fine, and suddenly become as parched as the Sahara. Drinking tons of water is essential when breastfeeding or pumping!
  3. Nursing cover – if you need to pump or feed somewhere not-so-private, a nursing cover is great to keep your tatas hidden away!
  4. Get yourself a sterilizer. I had an electric steam sterilizer, and I use it constantly when pumping. Between all the parts and bottles, my sterilizer is on rotation.
  5. A good pump is worth every penny. You can boost your supply, cut down on pumping time, and stash away breastmilk in the freezer. The Medela Freestyle pump is hands down worth it!
  6. If it hurts to pump, something isn’t right. Uncomfortable, maybe. But definitely not painful. Look into other options if you are in pain when pumping – it was painful when I first started pumping, and after a bit of experimenting, I realized that the flanges that came with the pump weren’t the right size for me.
  7. All in one systems save a ton of time. If you can pump right into the bottles or breastmilk storage bags that you will be using, you don’t waste time transferring milk into other containers (or risk spilling it!), and you have less stuff to wash. That’s a win for any mom.
  8. The Freestyle comes with straps that attaches the pump to your bra for hands-free pumping…but if for some reason you don’t have them, invest in a cheap sports bra for pumping. Now, I know some women can stick the pump on and go hands-free with just the pump, but if you’re a bustier gal like me, you may not find it that comfortable. There are specific pumping bras out there that you can buy, but you can just buy a cheap sports bra, cut little holes in the front and stick the pump. Just like that, you have 15 minutes hands free!

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The major bonus that all you new moms will come to love about pumping (because let’s be honest, it’s not exactly a fun experience) is that it gives you FREEDOM! That’s right moms. That breastmilk you’re pumping out is liquid gold. That little bottle gives you a few hours to yourself, to spend however you please. You can go party with your friends, go to a movie by yourself with no little people attached, shop without a stroller…or if you’re like me, you’ll just wander around Target or Walmart.

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For those of you new moms who are actually aware and rested to have a functioning brain, you might be happy to know that all of the pump parts that actually touch the breastmilk are made without BPA, DEHP, and other phthalates.

It sounds so cliché, but Medela played a huge role in my success in breastfeeding, including their Calma Feeding System…but more on that in the next post!

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Change is on the Horizon

As some of you may have noticed, I was a little absent from my blog the past month – but I promise it was for a good reason! I recently accepted a new job starting in September, and took most of August to spend as much time as I could with my little ones before starting school, daycare, and work…all in one week. Needless to say, we are in for a lot of change this coming week.

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We’re big on group selfies around here

August has been full of emotion for me. Just the choice to go back to work has been a big one, and it didn’t happen without a lot of thought and consideration. I have always been torn between staying at home with my kids and going back to work. I love being with my kids more than anything, but for me, there was so much more to it. Other than the obvious financial benefits of a dual-income household, there were a few other big issues going through my mind.

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Soaking up the end of summer at the waterfront

I love my profession. I’ve never really written about my work on my blog, but I am a social worker. Over the years, I have worked with kids and their families in different capacities, and I truly love what I do. I consider myself so fortunate to be in a profession where you often get the warm fuzzies at work, and see heartwarming stories of success. But to me, it is more than that. I have worked so hard over the years to get to where I am (not to mention the years of schooling!), and being a social worker is a big part of me. It is a huge part of my identity, and it is something that I am incredibly proud of. I know that as much as I love being with my kids, giving up that part of me isn’t something that I am ready to do.

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Another big factor in returning to the workforce is that (and please don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me-hear me out!) I truly believe that daycare played a huge role in preparing Andrew for school. I’m not putting down stay-at-home mamas at all, all kids are different – but for me and Andrew, it was definitely the right choice. He needed the time away from me to learn to be him and he flourished socially and intellectually at his daycare centre. With that being said, I had the best of both worlds. After I had Andrew, I only went back to work for a few days a week, so he had the benefits of the daycare centre and we both had the luxury of extra time together just the two of us to explore, play and learn together. I believe that daycare has been an amazing experience for him.

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Lily has started phasing into daycare to prepare for next week when she starts full-time, and unfortunately has not gone as smoothly as I had hoped. This is my first time having a child in daycare full-time, and I have experienced a tremendous amount of guilt, although I know I’m lucky to have spent the extra time at home with her (Lily is 14 months now). With that being said, I have confidence in the daycare staff. I trust that they are going to do an amazing job getting her settled, just like they did with Andrew. I feel bad for Lily, and I feel bad that her teachers (and probably everyone else in the building) is going to have to listen to my little angry bird Lily shrieking for the first couple of weeks. With that being said, the staff at the daycare are absolutely phenomenal – I don’t have enough words to write how grateful I am for the love and patience they showed Andrew over the past few years. I was in tears on his last day – I don’t think those wonderful women know just what a big impact they have had on our family.

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My decision is not without anxiety, guilt or worry. Far from it. Every day I have been worrying about everyone in our household – What if Andrew is scared and lost when he starts kindergarten? What if Lily is miserable and hates daycare? What if Ryan feel overwhelmed when he needs to take on more things around the house when I’m working? What if I regret my decision and would rather be at home with my kids? The worries are endless, but I’m slowly learning that these worries can help make me a better mom. I can prepare myself and my kids for different outcomes. They can become a little more independent and experience new things that I can’t teach them. They will be exposed to new people, things, and concepts every day.

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Thankfully Ryan has taken next week off to help us all transition into this next phase in our lives – Andrew is starting a new daycare and starts junior kindergarten, Lily starts at her daycare, and I start a new job. I am so overwhelmed with emotion and anxiety (and there have been enough tears to flood the Sahara) about all there is to come, but I know in my heart that I have made the best decision for my family and I. As I’m writing this now, I have begun to cry, so I know it’s time to wrap up this novel of a post. Change is hard, but change can be good. Somehow my sweet babies have started to grow and it is time for momma to give them a little push to spread their wings. Time to fly my sweet babies!

Last-Minute Summer Planning with Groupon

*This is a sponsored post , however all opinions and love for Groupon are my own!*

Somehow, it’s already August and the end of summer is too close for comfort. Am I the only one that looks back and wonders where the time went? I always have these big ideas about all the things I want to do and places I want to see with the kids in the summer.

So…now here I am, trying to cram as much fun as I can into the last few weeks of summer before school and work start up. An easy way to start planning and looking for places to go is with Groupon!

I’ve been using Groupon for years, and it’s always been a great place to buy products, and find great deals for local attractions, restaurants, spas and getaways. Not only is it a great way to save, but you can easily discover new places to visit locally that you’ve never heard of before! I’ve discovered quite a few new restaurants through Groupon, simply because it looked like a great deal so I decided to try it. They always have new deals, so make sure you check back often to see what they have added. As an added bonus, if you sign up for their emails, you can get new deals emailed to you daily, and they often send discount codes to save even more money!
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The website is really easy to use, and you can quickly browse and sort through the different categories to see what is available in your city. I really can’t emphasize enough how great the deals are on local attractions – I’ve used it SO many times. We’ve even bought tickets before to see the Wiggles when they were here! Andrew was Wiggles-obsessed at the time, so he was thrilled to see them and Budget Master was pretty impressed with the killer deal I got!

Pop over and check out Groupon Things to Do to see what is available near you to cram in some last minute summer planning, and visit them on Facebook and Twitter too!