Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dressing the Bump Part II: Maternity Clothes for the First Half of Pregnancy

Welcome to Dressing the Bump Part II, where I'll be talking about the maternity clothes I bought and wore in the first half of my pregnancy.  You can read Part I, where I talked about non-maternity clothes I've been wearing, here.

Buying maternity clothes is not the easiest.  First, you don't want to buy too many because you'll only be able to wear them a short amount of time. Second, the sizing can be weird. And the fit. Finding fitting maternity pieces has been pretty hit or miss for me, so I'm going to share some of my favorites and some of the things I tried and didn't work. Again, every pregnant body is different. This is just what has worked (or not) for me.

Maternity Tops
In my last post, I said that you can pretty much get away with only buying basic t-shirts and tanks and wear them with cardigans for most of your pregnancy. Especially if you're pregnant during the cooler months. And it's true.  The majority of my maternity tops are basic t-shirts and tanks. I do think that these items are pretty essential mostly because you'll outgrow your regular tees and tanks. That long tank top that used to come almost to your hips and cover your back? Not anymore!  Here are my favorite tanks I've bought.

Motherhood Maternity V-Neck Side Ruched Maternity Tee (photo by Motherhood Maternity)
I personally prefer v-neck tees, so that's what most of these will be, but they also come in different necklines. I picked this tee up from Motherhood Maternity on sale for $8.  I wish I had bought more because they are amazing. They are a nice material, nice enough that you can wear them alone without a tank underneath or under a cardi or jacket. And they are long enough! I found a very similar top at Target under the Ingrid and Isabel line that was only $12.99.  Either of these tops are great layering pieces. I have a black and a white and will be adding at least one more color too my collection.

Target Ingrid and Isabel Maternity Flutter Sleeve Top (photo from
This was the first maternity top I bought for myself. I liked that it didn't look super maternity and that it had some fun detailing. This is a great top that you can wear in the early to mid-stages of pregnancy and after because the ruching isn't there.  Also, it's only $22.99 which makes it totally worth it!

I've also tried other tops in the Ingrid and Isabel line and they just don't work and I'm so sad about it! The line is so cute, but the fabric doesn't give and I either have gigantic arms or they assume everyone has sticks for arms. Either way, the rest of the tops, besides the one above and the tees, haven't worked out for me. Bummer.

Motherhood Maternity Keyhole Side Ruched Maternity Tee (photo from
I also bought myself two work tees from Motherhood that are a super soft cotton texture with 3/4 length sleeves.  I have the above top in black and white. I got it on clearance at Motherhood (I'm not trying to spend a ton of money here). These are great work tops because they're comfortable and easy to layer with a jacket or a cardi when you need to look a little more put together. I have two like this and I rotate them every week. They're very versatile and comfy enough to be worn on the weekend too.

Jeans have been the worst thing for me to find. The first few weeks, maybe months even, you can do the hair tie trick. This allows you to stay in your jeans and not have to buy maternity jeans immediately. This worked for up until about 10-12 weeks. I don't wear low-cut jeans. I wear jeans that hit right below my belly button, so once they hit about one to two inches from being able to close, I gave up the hair tie. 

I tried a belly band. I hate the belly band. Others swear by it and, if you can make it work, that is awesome for you. But I hate it. My pants would need to be adjusted every time I sat down or got up, then I'd have to adjust the belly band, then my jeans and even then it didn't feel right. Half the time, I felt that they were sliding down me worse than maternity jeans! So, this post will not give you a bellyband because I have yet to find one I don't hate. 

Maternity jeans. It has teaken me a while to figure this out, but I feel like a semi-expert now. I have four pairs of jeans. Two full panel, one with inserts and one demi panel.  Here's my hard-earned experience. You are welcome.

Demi Panel and Inserts
Until you get a full pregnant belly (I'm just now starting to get there), the full panel is going to be useless and those jeans are going to wiggle down your body non-stop. Either the demi panel or jeans with inserts are going to be your best bet. Unfortunately, these bands cut right in the middle of your tummy, so they will give you a bit of a fat roll or muffin top. Just stick with looser tops and cardis and you'll be fine. For me, comfort and not pulling my pants up every five steps was worth wearing a looser top. These are the two I own and love.

Target Ingrid and Isabel Maternity Inset Panel Jeggings (photo from
These were my first pair of maternity pants (bought with the pink top above).  I wasn't ready for the full panel yet, but the hair tie wasn't working, so I went for these. There are elastic inset panels at the waist, allowing the jeggings to grow with you.  I'm a size 12 and got these in a size 12. They still fit, but are a little more snug than they were before!

Gap Maternity Demi Panel Baby Boot Jeans (photo from
Gap jeans are the best maternity jeans. These babies don't budge, they stay in place all day without me having to yank them up once. It's honestly a big of a miracle. I sized up to a 14 in these jeans since Gap runs a little smaller on me than other brands. I bought these on sale with multiple discounts and rewards and ended up only paying $15 out of pocket for them. I love them so much, I just ordered a second pair!

Full Panel
Loft has been my favorite brand for jeans for a long time, so when I was having trouble finding jeans that fit and stayed in place, I looked for maternity jeans there.  I actually found my pair on Poshmark. They are this same rinse, which is great for work, but they are bootcut.  I didn't find the exact same pair online, but their jeans all fit about the same, to me. I have a 12 in these jeans and they fit perfectly! They slid a little in the beginning, not nearly as bad as the Motherhood Maternity jeans. Now that my belly is fuller, they are fitting perfectly and not slipping at all!

Loft Maternity Skinny Jeans in Dark Rinse (photo from
Work Pants
I said in my last post that you could probably get by with mostly wearing stretchy skirts and dresses. And it's true, you can. But deep down, I'm a pants girl. I've bought three pairs of maternity work pants and two of them were from a consignment sale. One was a pair of black slacks from Gap and one was a pair of gray with light pink pinstripes from Liz Lange. I think I paid $15 for them together and they've been a great addition. However, my ultimate favorite pants are from Loft. And they are the same style as my regular pair of work pants. 

Loft Maternity Riviera Pants (photo from
The Riviera Pant from Loft is actually a crop pant, however, when you're short like me, you can wear them year-round as regular pants (I'm wearing a red pair today!). They are all on super sale right now (40% off clearance) and final sale, so you have to find them when they are in season (spring and summer). But seriously, best. pants. ever. They have the full panel, and unlike jeans, they have fit and stayed in place since day 1.  I've been wearing my current pair since I was around 11 weeks. I'm normally a 12 in these pants and I wear a 12 in the maternity ones as well.  My favorite part about them is the fabric. It's a thicker woven material that also has some stretch, so it's very flattering. If you can find these babies while you're pregnant, they are worth the money!

Final Thoughts
Those are my main maternity purchases. I will say that I do think it's helpful to have a belly band handy. I hate mine, but other than the times I've tried to make it work, I've worn it once to make a suit work for interviews at work. It's a nice option. 

The main thing to remember about maternity clothes is that they make you look pregnant. That's their job. Which is super helpful in that "is she pregnant or did she eat too much Cookout?" phase. However, it's not helpful once you've given birth. My goal is to buy as few maternity pieces as possible while still having good options. I want to feel pretty and attractive and put together, but I also don't want to spend a fortune on pieces that I'll wear for a few months.  I've done a lot of sale and consignment shopping and on Poshmark. Old Navy and Gap have some great basic pieces, jeans and workout wear (once you need it) with awesome sales. Motherhood has some cute options too, but try to find their sales! Mostly, buy what makes you feel good and be smart about it. Comfort and not going broke are the most important parts! 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dressing the Bump Part I: Non-Maternity Clothes for the First Half of Pregnancy

When I first got pregnant, I went back and forth on a lot of things. Was I excited or terrified? Both. I was, and still am, both. I wanted to buy all the things and then none of the things. It was, and still is, pretty overwhelming.  Even if you've always dreamed about being pregnant, which I haven't, there is a lot to get use to. A lot to figure out. Your body does weird, strange things and those things will be different than what your mom and other friends experienced. And on top of all that, your body undergoes this crazy change in how it looks. You're bloated and feel fat, but you don't really look pregnant yet. Some days I still don't look pregnant, others I look super pregnant. It has taken me a while to figure out this whole dressing the bump thing, so I thought I would share what's worked for me. I make no guarantees it will work for you, but here's what's worked best in the first half of my pregnancy.  Also, while there are links in this post, they aren't affiliate posts nor am I being compensated in any way for these items.

In this post, I'm going to talk about non-maternity clothes. Because most of what I wear is actually non-maternity. 

Everyone tells you to get a maternity bra. First off, I think they are ugly and don't give a lot of support, at least not the ones that I have seen.  I'm actually still in my regular bra.  I was already a larger cup size, so I haven't gained much in that arena.  In addition, I was on the tightest hooks, so I've had soome room to grow and am now back on the loosest hooks. I have outgrown about 4 of my sports bras, but most are still fitting me.  The key to a good bra in the first few months is comfort and the ability to expand.  I have found that I almost always want to wear a bra of some sort now as the support is necessary. Here are some of my favorites that I'm wearing right now.

Sports Bra - Under Armour Eclipse Mid Impact
The Under Armour Eclipse Mid Impact sports bra has been one of my favorites for a while now. And don't be fooled by the "mid-impact" label.  I'm a DD and it provides plenty of support for boot camp/HIIT classes, running and spinning. The straps are adjustable and criss-cross, distributing the weight across your back. I also loved the Victoria's Secret Incredible sports bra for the high-impact nature, but it's so restrictive that I can't wear it (and breathe) anymore. This one allows for some expansion while still giving good support.

Bralette/Nursing Bra - Gilligan and O'Malley Lace Back Bralette
I said earlier that I hate ugly bras and it's true. I do. My friend gave me some of her nursing bras and I didn't love them. I'll wear them, but they aren't my favorite.  I found this one, that's very similar, but prettier!, at Target.  The Gilligan and O'Malley Lace Back Bralette has the crossover in the front like a nursing bra, light support/padding, but the straps in the back are a really pretty lace that also happens to be really comfortable. And it's all about comfort! I don't know that it would be enough support for me going out in public, but it's perfect for lounging around after work.  I sized up to an XL so that I would have some room to grow into the bra.

I'm giving LulaRoe it's own category on this post. When LulaRoe first came out, I swore it was stay-at-home-mom garb (no offense). I didn't think it translated well into the office, but I was wrong. Honestly, it all depends on the print and how you style.  It also greatly depends on the consultant and how good they are at styling outfits for you.  I have three consultants that I stay true to and they all have great inventory and a great eye for outfits.  I already loved Lula by the time I got pregnant, but now? It's been a lifesaver. I get why women are rabid for it. I wear it at least three times a week. I'm still in the same sizes as I wore before and I love knowing that I'll be able to wear them after, so it's not like I'm wasting my money. While I wear other styles as well, here are my go-to styles for the first half of your pregnancy.

Cassie Skirt
I live in this skirt for work. I go between a size medium and large. This skirt has been great because the waist band is very soft and stretchy. I'm still wearing my same size that I was before while I've been out of regular pants since about 10-12 weeks. These are great with a Perfect tee if you're feeling on the bloated side or a tank/tee with a cardigan for a little more pulled together.

Cassie Skirt, Size large at 10 weeks
Cassie Skirt, Size large, 17 weeks
Julia Dress
The Julia is great for when you're pregnant.  It shows off the bump oh so well.  If you aren't comfortable with your bump yet, pair it with a regular cardigan or the Lindsay Kimono to give you some cover.  I wear an XL in the Julia, which is what I wore before.

Julia dress, size XL, 18 weeks
Lindsay Kimono
If kept to my own devices, I would wear nothing but cardigans. All day, every day. They are an amazing layering piece, in my opinion. And the Lindsay is even better, especially those early months of pregnancy, because it's loose and flowy.  It's great for hiding your growing bump when you aren't ready to tell the world and hiding it when you still feel mostly bloated and not pregnant. These are on the pricier side ($54), but they are worth it! I have three now and rotate them constantly. I have a really pretty jacquard, a silky one and a comfy cotton one. I wear a small in these.

Randy T
The Randy was the first piece of Lula I truly loved. I've always been a sucker for a good baseball tee.  The Randy is great when you're pregnant because it's longer, so there's plenty of room for your belly to grow without stretching out the top.  It's also super comfy! I wear a size large in this, the same size as before (see a trend?).

Randy tee, size large
Perfect T
I went back and forth on whether to include this top, but I think it's great for most of the first half of your pregnancy, especially up to month four where you're either hiding your bump or the bloat. It's an A-line top, so it doesn't really accentuate your bump. Depending on how you want to show off your bump, it might be a great long-term solution or early pregnancy solution. I wear either a small or medium in this.

The other style I really want to try, but haven't yet, is the Ana dress. It's a maxi style dress that looks so cute on pregnant ladies! I just haven't found the right pattern yet (or been quick enough to grab it!)

I didn't include leggings under LulaRoe because I actually wear leggings from more than just LulaRoe. But wherever you get them, leggings are a lifesaver. I have a great pair of black leggings that I wear to work that I got at Nordstrom Rack by Vince Camuto.  I also have LulaRoe leggings that I wear around the house and under dresses.  Leggings, especially when pregnant, are an important layering piece if you're pregnant during the fall and winter.  A lot of my dresses are too short now, so the leggings are helping extend their life! Also, maternity jeans and pants can be hit or miss in the beginning, so utilize those leggings!

Stitch Fix Maeby Dress (L) and OS LulaRoe Leggings. 10 weeks here, I'm wearing the same outfit today at 20 weeks
I have mentioned my love for cardis multiple times already, but I haven't explained why I love them. Simply put: they make your wardrobe last. You can honestly get by without buying more than a few maternity tees and tanks if you have cardigans. I have about 10 right now that I'm rotating through. I have work cardigans, comfy weekend cardigans. I have shorter ones that work great for jeans and work pants, I have long open cardigans that are great with skinny jeans, leggings and skirts. You don't have to close cardigans, so you can still wear the ones you owned before and, if you purchase new ones, you'll be able to wear them after. They are your best friend. Promise. My favorite cardigans are from Target and Stitch Fix. Here are a few examples of ones that I own.  Fair warning, most of these photos are pre-baby me, but I'm still wearing all of them!

Stitch Fix Aubriana Cardigan, large

LulaRoe Lindsay, small
Stitch Fix, Honey Punch Cardigan, Large (13 weeks here)
Tomorrow, I'll talk about the maternity specific items I've purchased and why. What non-maternity clothing did you wear throughout your pregnancy?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Baby Zinn Gender Reveal - A Simple, Stress Free Reveal

When I got pregnant, I wasn't sure that I wanted to do a gender reveal. It sounded exhausting doing all that planning and I'm really not a surprise kind of person. I knew I would want to know what we were having and that I would be really pissed off if one of my friends knew what I was having before I did. But when we realized that our doctors appointment would fall on a weekend that wasn't covered in weddings or showers, I decided we could do a modified gender reveal.  We basically had our friends over, set off multiple smoke bombs, almost gave it away multiple times and ate lots of awesome food!

We normally try to do potluck parties to help spread out the cost.  But that also sounded like a lot of effort to me, so I pleanned a really simple cookout menu and did everything myself

Baby Zinn Gender Reveal Menu

Grilled Burgers and Hot Dogs
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (similar recipe)
Bush's Maple and Bacon Baked Beans
Fruit Salad with Orange Vanilla Syrup

The mac and cheese recipe is an old famiily recipe that we really don't give out (I can't give away my secret party recipe!), but I've linked to a similar one.  And the fruit salad is one of my absolute favorites! I was able to put everything together ahead of time, so I didn't have a lot of prep work or cooking right before the party. And the best party? All of my serving dishes were in the dishwasher at the end of the night!

For the decorations, I bought some baby pumpkins at the grocery store and painted them with acrylic paint.

I painted them over the course of two days. I did half pink and half blue.  I think they turned out really cute!

For the reveal, I had my friend Sarah make cupcakes.  Then Aaron decided he wanted to do smoke bombs, so we did those too! Here's our video from our reveal.


Not shown in the video, is our friend Josh ready with the hose in case we caught anything on fire!

At the end of the night, I made sure to get a photo of everyone all together. I loved having most of our friends with us to celebrate.  It made an already exciting event that much more special.

Here's to our little man, we can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tips for First Time Moms Shopping Consignment

I love, love, love a good deal. And babies are expensive, holy crap expensive.  So we've been trying to find ways to lessen the blow some. And consignment sales are the perfect places to get a good deal! Now that I've been to my first round of consignment sales, I thought I'd share some tips for first time moms shopping consignment and how to avoid the "I don't want that stroller" meltdown that happened to me!

Consignment shopping is an art form. You need to know when to go, what you want, what constitutes a deal, and how to shop. It's not like shopping at a regular store. There aren't multiple of the same item and they aren't always in the best shape. That's when knowing your products comes in handy! Here are some tips that I learned myself the hard way!

1. Pick the right shopping partner and be on the same page.
The first time you shop a consignment sale(s) it helps to have a partner. My mom went with me to a smaller one and then Aaron and my friend Sarah went to other sales with me.  Mom was good in that she helped me find a few items, but it was smaller consignment sale and didn't have the big ticket items that I wanted.  My friend Sarah was the best to shop with.  She's had three kids and was able to give me good advice as to what's worth it and what's not.  She also found me a basically brand new convertible car seat for $125. Score.  My husband, however, was the worst to shop with, but only because we were NOT on the same page. He wanted a good deal whereas I wanted to try and find what I wanted for a deal. So we ended up buying this Graco stroller that I don't like and refuse to use because it was $20.  I've told him that is his stroller to use. A ridiculous meltdown and fight ensued, I went to bed crying. It was really bad. Over a $20 stroller. My advice? Take a girlfriend that's had a baby or two and call your hubs with what you find. It's much better that way!

2. Sign up for early access or even volunteer!
A lot of sales will allow first time or expecting moms early entry to the sale. This is key! You can shop all the good big ticket items like strollers and car seats before they are super picked over. I signed up and was able to shop early at all three sales.  Some sales, though, will let you shop even earlier if you volunteer or consign.  Since you don't have anything to consign yet, volunteering is the way to go.

3. Know what you want to look for and have multiple options. 
I went to sales looking for a stroller. I wanted a jogging stroller, knew they were expensive and wanted to try and get one for a good deal. Yes, I know that I'll have showers and stuff, but that's one less thing for someone to buy and more money for them to spend on something else. My first mistake was that I only wanted two brands of strollers (City Mini and UppaBaby) and didn't have other options. I found one stroller at the second sale that was one of the brands, but it was older and dirty looking. I hadn't done any research on any other brands and didn't really feel prepared to just buy whatever.  For the third sale, I knew that I wanted a jogging stroller and had looked at a bunch of other brands and was able to get myself a nice Baby Trend Expedition stroller for $50.

4. Know the layout and get the big stuff first. 
Before my first sale, I did a bunch of research on Pinterest. Shocker, I know. A lot of people recommended getting your big items first and it makes total sense! These are the items that go first, so make sure you look at them.  One consignment sale I went to was at a huge basically abandoned outlet mall and they had a map of where items were.  Research the sale first, find out if there is a map and then map out your hit list. Most places will have either a check out for the big items or a holding room for you. They know how this works!

5. Set a list and a budget.
If you've never been to a consignment sale before, it can be super overwhelming. I've done big sales before, so I had an idea of what I was getting in to, but Aaron was all, "so many deals!" I made a list of the items that I was looking for, the prices I wanted to pay and the budget I had set for myself.  I was looking for maternity clothes (consignment sales are awesome for these, by the way!), stroller, possibly a car seat. We don't know the gender yet, so it was hard to do clothes. And really, people are going to buy you clothes. There were also tons of rock and play/sleepers, boppy pillows, pack and plays, etc. The idea of a consignment sale is to SAVE money, not spend extra. So make a list of what you want to find, set a budget and stick to it!

For this round of consignment shopping, I spent $240 and got:

  • Coach diaper bag ($30)
  • Baby Trend Expedition jogging stroller ($50)
  • Chicco NextFit Car Seat ($125)
  • 2 pairs of maternity work pants ($15)
  • Graco Stroller ($20) 
Make sure to check out Pinterest for other articles about how to measure and size your kids, the best items to shop for at sales, etc. Have you shopped consignment sales before? 

Happy saving!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Measuring Success and Bumpdate 9/29/17

I decided to keep doing my monthly progress update and combine it with baby update, now called bumpdate (I think I'm hilarious, bumpdate)! I don't feel the need to report on pregnancy every month, but I feel like once a month would be fun and not annoying. In addition, it'll be interesting (at least for me) to see what changes as we move further through this process!

How far along: 18 weeks (as of today!)

Size of Baby: Sweet potato

Cravings: I've decided that cravings are "I see it and want it." So, basically anything terrible for me.
And sweets. I want something sweet every day. It doesn't have to be a lot, sometimes just two cookies will do it, but man I want it every. single. day.

Weird stuff: Round ligament pain. I'm over this mess. Thursday was especially fun and it makes spin class interesting. Some days I come out of the saddle just fine, others is a big ol' nope.

Fun stuff: We find out the gender next Friday! I'm pretty excited about it, even though I don't always look excited when people ask me. Lack of energy is a real thing. We'll be doing a gender reveal for our friends next Sunday. Let's be honest, though, I'll already know because I'm a control freak. Own what you are.

Weight gained: Ah, back to the good stuff. I've gained 10 pounds. I'm not weighing myself between appointments and the one before last was after two weeks of travel and refused to look at the scale so I'm not sure if that made the overall gain worse or not. I'm trying to eat healthy and make good choices when I can, but man is it hard!

Exercise: So, I'm in the second trimester. Things are supposed to be grand. They aren't bad, but they aren't grand. Which is pretty much like the first trimester. I'm still averaging four classes/workouts a week.  This week I'll actually have five!

Endurance: It's slowly leaving me. I've had some really good classes where I've felt like my normal self and burned about 400 calories, but that's not really the norm. There are some days where I feel like a bus hit me, cancel class and go walk two miles instead. I listen to my body and take it easy when I need to. Running is pretty much non-existent and hard these days. When I walk, I try to jog a little. I can make it about 1/3 of a mile before I'm completely out of breath. We run in class sometimes and it's pretty hard to accept that I'm the slowest one in class because that's where I was when I first started. I know, I know. Baby, pregnancy, yada, yada. But still. It's hard. Also, stairs are my nemesis.

Classes/Exercises: Weirdly, boot camp has become my class of choice lately, mostly because it's the easiest to modify.  I can do spin, but it's hard to be the only one sitting and that round ligament pain is no joke going from the saddle to standing. I still do spin because I love it and I like to switch things up, but I'll probably do more boot camp as I get further along. I've also started doing some push-ups on my stairs.  I'm in a health/accountability group on Facebook and someone suggested doing push-ups on the stairs instead of on your knees. Those are no joke! But I feel like they're working my upper body really well. It's the equivalent of doing them on your toes, but at an incline to help.  Plus, it gives me more room.

That's about it! Happy Friday folks! How are your journeys going?!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Favorite Planner by Plum Paper Designs

I've been using the same type of planner for the past three years, just changing out the layout and add-ons as I go.  I've been using the ME Planner by Plum Paper Designs on Etsy.  This isn't a sponsored post and I don't get any compensation from it, I'm just sharing one of my all-time favorite organizing tools!

I'm a paper planner kind of girl. But I'm also the "I need my phone to remind me of appointments" kind of girl.  For the past three years, I've been using a planner by Plum Paper Designs on Etsy.  I started using them because they had a direct sales section (back when I did Jamberry), but now I use them because they have a blog planning and fitness section.  Next year, I'll probably add the baby section!

I'm going to go through the planner, what I like, what's different and the two sections that I added on.  Cause I'm nerdy like that and, if you're reading this, you're probably nerdy like that too!

Each month of the planner opens with this page.  You can set goals for the month, birthdays, events, things to remember, etc.  And then there's a page for notes.

The next page is the monthly calendar, which lays out the entire month.  There is room on the side for more notes and lists.

I changed my overall calendar design for the 2017 planner.  In my last planner, I did a fitness planner (left) and chose to arrange the days by morning, afternoon and night. The fitness planner had a fitness goals and weekly checklist for each week plus space at the end of each day for recording your workout.  You could also record your morning, afternoon and night calories. I found that I didn't really like the morning, afternoon and night because I was still needing to specify times to be most accurate (and on time!) and that I only utilized the workout and goals section each week.  I use an app to track my calories and didn't feel the need to do double the work.

So for 2017 (right), I changed to a basic planner format that breaks down the days by hours.  This works much better for scheduling purposes.  I still have room to write my goals, checklists, etc.  The fitness stuff now gets tracked in its own section, which works better for me.

In addition to the monthly section, there's a place for passwords, birthdays and special dates and notes at the end of the planner.  There's also a half pocket that I use for random paper.

The fitness section is now its own tab.  The first page has a start and end date and start and end weight. You can set your affirmation statement, long-term and short-term goals and major milestones and rewards.  While I'm not using it as much as I would before, it's a good way to set goals that aren't scale related.  We aren't really friends right now.

Each month has a two page spread.  On the first page, you can track your weight weekly, measurements, monthly goals, etc.  On the second page, you can track your exercises and water.  This is honestly the page that I use the most.  I like that it's all in one section because I update it a few times a week versus every day.

The blog planning section is my favorite.  I had it in the last planner and like the improvements made to it in this one.  Before, the stats section was it's own page and you tracked it by week.  Now, it's all on the same page as the goals, post schedule and income and expenses.  The stats are tracked by the month, which I think is a bit cleaner.

There's also a monthly task page.  I don't use it as much but as I start growing the blog, I plan to use it more.

A giveaways and reviews page tracks all of that on one page, where before it was a two page spread.

Finally, there's an annual blog planner.  This is great for planning out specialized and seasonal posts, sponsored posts, etc. For me, the blog planning section has really helped me plan out my posts, keep some consistency and track my stats.

If you're looking for a good paper planner, check these guys out! They are on Etsy and have a bunch of different sections to add on including a baby, teaching, meal planning and family planning sections. Not to mention, the designs are super cute and you can customize them with your name, family name or monogram.  Just a note - give yourself some time to order as they take about three to four weeks to ship.

What's your favorite planner to use?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What I'm Reading: Hunger by Roxane Gay

In the beginning of the year, I made a goal of reading more than just smut romance books. I've been in the smut romance book rut for a while now and wanted to challenge myself to find new genres that I love. You know, being a former English major and all. By doing so, I've learned that I love memoirs. This doesn't surprise me as Jen Lancaster is one of my favorite authors and she writes mostly memoirs. And when I was in college, I mostly wrote memoir style in my creative writing classes. Deep down, I just love learning other people's stories.  Hunger by Roxane Gay was recommended by Jen Lancaster on her Facebook page, so I gave it a shot.

I'm just going to put it out there - this book made me all kinds of uncomfortable. And I think it should. So often we talk about bodies without considering the person that lives inside the body. We are all very specific about what should and should not be DONE to a body, but we don't think about how we talk about the body and that, in actuality, it's a super intimate topic.

The premise of the memoir is the story of Roxane Gay and how she came to be fat. That sounds harsh, but in the book she describes that fat tends to have a harsh connotation instead of just being a description. She's in the 600 pound range. That qualifies as fat. The book details the decisions she made and how she arrived at her life as it is now. 

Instead of doing a book report, I'm going to tell you why this is one of the hardest books I have read and why, if you struggle with weight, skinny or not, you need to read this book.

First off, it makes you think. Think long and hard about what you think about bodies and how you talk about bodies. I have an entire blog that I created because of my body. I wasn't happy with my body, so I started doing something about it. Which is what we expect everyone that's not happy with their body to do. But what if you created your body the way it is? What if that person loathes the body they created, but also finds their security in it? What if what makes you uncomfortable about someone's body is what makes them comfortable? Are you okay with that thought? Because it took me a while to be okay with it. 

Roxane made a statement about how there are overweight people that talk about being fat but they've never been fat fat. Like more than 300 pounds fat. I'm that person. I'm bigger than I should be. I heard the change in someone's voice recently when I told them my weight. But I haven't been 600 pounds fat. I honestly hope to never be even close to 250 pounds fat. I've experienced the change in attitude towards me because of my weight, but yet I can't lie and say that I didn't feel the same reaction towards here, just a little, when she talked about her weight. We all have issues with what we think is fat. Reading a book about someone's feelings about their 600 pound body made me uncomfortable. 

It's causes conflicting thoughts. I went back and forth on how I felt during this book. There was a time when my heart broke for her. There were times I was disgusted by what I read.  There were times that I had no sympathy for the issues she was describing. Not being able to go out to eat because she wasn't sure there were chairs that would hold her. And in the next moment, I was amazed at her. That she would go out to dinner, sit in chairs that would cause bruising and pain for days for some semblance of normalcy. My mind was pretty much at war with itself the majority of this book. As a writer, I would take that as a huge compliment because in a memoir, you want someone to feel something. She felt hate, loathing, self-pity, all of those things and I felt it with her.

The ideal body isn't always ideal. This was one big hard idea for me to grasp. I've spent most of my life, all of my adult life, fighting my weight. Even in high school I wasn't skinny, but more along the lines of average. It wasn't until college that I hit both my highest weight and my lowest weight. And I've had that fight ever since. In this book, Roxane started out average. Not skinny, but not fat. But after a horrible, and I mean horrible, event, she changed her body to protect her. Her ideal body became the one that would hide her, that no one would look at.

How different is that from our usual ideal body?

The ideal body changes as you mature. My ideal body used to be something I could easily put a bikini on and never feel any insecurity.  I never found that ideal, by the way. Just in case you were wondering. Now, my ideal body is strong, healthy and has good numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. My how we change our ideals. But none of those ideal bodies look anything like Roxane's.  I watch shows like "My 600 Pound Life" and always wonder how someone let it get so bad. But I never thought, "Maybe this was by design." She mentions that she's tried to diet, to workout and be healthy, but when she starts losing weight and becoming a "normal body," a part of her freaks out and she goes back to her usual weight. Deep down, that's her ideal body. Whether she likes it or not. And that's hard to think about, to consider. What if what my mind wanted most was not to be healthy, but to be invisible, to be hidden in a body that no one would want to look twice at? That breaks my heart just thinking about.

Family and love is everything. Roxane talks about how no matter how far she pushed her family away, they loved her. Her brother went to a college just to be near her. And at the same time, many of the terrible choices she made as an adult were in search of love. Of comfort and another person. I think back to my childhood and to my parents. My mom never pushed me on my weight, even pushed back on her mom when she talked about my weight as a kid. It's never been a "when are you going to lose weight, Sarah?" but rather a, "That's awesome what you're doing, but you're beautiful no matter what." And I can't tell you how invaluable that is. And I think about Aaron and how we push each other to eat better and work out more with the understanding that it's so we can be better, not that we want a different person. And I think about my friends and my gym tribe that I have been so, so supportive through everything I've done, especially the past year and a half. We were made to love and to be loved and everything that we do, deep down, has to do with love. Loving ourselves, someone else or someone else loving us.

If you've ever been on a health or weightloss journey. If you've ever watched "My 600 Pound Life" and wondered how the hell things got so bad. If you've ever looked at someone and thought, "Ugh, they need to lose weight," then you need to read this book. We talk about bodies as if they are an item on a shelf we are examining to see if they are worth taking home. But a body is attached a person, a real live person with thoughts and feelings. It's not a book asking about sympathy, but rather offering you another view, another idea to consider.