I'm Alex, an Army wife, a new mama, and chronic list maker. Currently stationed overseas in Germany, I'm learning the ropes of motherhood, exploring our new continent, and working on finding my way in our new world. Come along with me on this crazy adventure!
We’re right in the thick of those “terrible two’s” with Olivia, so I turned to my favorite resource-my IG fam-for recommendations on resources, podcasts, books, and anything that can help us survive (and thrive!) during this testing time in parenting.
Since I got SO many awesome recommendations, I’m compiling them here and as always, welcoming more tips, tricks, and resources from YOU!
I WAS PROVIDED COMPLEMENTARY PRODUCT IN EXCHANGE FOR THIS HONEST REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE MINE, AND 100% AUTHENTIC AS ALWAYS!
Coffee until it’s time for wine, ya’ll. Two of my favorite things are enjoying that first fresh, hot cup of java in the morning before the girls wake up, and sipping a full bodied Cabernet after they’ve gone to bed. Since these delicious vices aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, a teeth whitening kit that stands up to the tough job of keeping my pearly whites gleaming is an absolute must-have in my toolkit. I’ve done the strips, I’ve done the DIY Pinterest experiments, yet nothing passed the test. When I was approached by SmileBrilliant to try their at home teeth whitening kit, I happily accepted, yet set my expectations low; how could this be different than what I had done in the past? Ya’ll, I’ve never been so happy to be put in my place!
When the impression kit arrived I was a bit overwhelmed at the job in front of me, but after reading the instructions and following along-it was so much easier than I originally thought, and though I drooled on myself a little like a Labrador pup (I say puppy, because that’s a cuter visual), it took no time at all and before I knew it I was shipping them off in the mail. *They even give you an extra molding set just in case you make a mistake. I must add, when it comes to shipping to/from our APO address here-I anticipate snail speed, however after shipping off I was pleasantly surprised at the timeliness of the email correspondence I received when my impressions were received and completed. Props to SB for the shipping speed and turnaround time…major brownie points from this impatient Mama!
I received the trays and immediately tried them on, again-very impressed as they were a perfect fit (and incredibly comfortable!). What is this magic?
I read over the instructions a few times, and dove in. There was some sensitivity at first as I had anticipated, but as I had opted for one of their Sensitive Systems I no longer had this issue after my third session. The Sensitive Systems come with an additional set of gel pens that you apply for about 15 to 20 minutes after the 45 minutes to 3 hours wearing your trays with the whitening gel (depending on the level of sensitivity). This extra gel not only greatly reduces sensitivity, but also prevents future staining (bonus!). Wearing the trays for up to 3 hours sounds time consuming, however I can absolutely attest to the time flying by since the trays are so well made you can barely tell they’re in! This is not even CLOSE to the strips I’ve used in the past. Big points to you, SmileBrilliant!
SmileBrilliant suggests the best time to whiten your teeth is before bed, ensuring you’re not introducing new stains. I found this was a nice addition to my evening routine (and prevented me from having that extra glass of wine at the end of the night ). I’m all about a good routine, and incorporating me teeth whitening was an added element of self-care that is so important for moms at any stage. *However please note, these products are not recommended for women currently undergoing fertility treatments. As always, if you have any questions as to if this product is right for you, consult with your dentist or health professional.
I love that SmileBrilliant offers dentist office quality whitening at a fraction of the price (and quick results to boot!). It’s not always easy making appointments out of the house with two littles running around, and I truly felt like the quality of the whitening was pro quality (goodbye to strips that don’t fit!) but flexible for my schedule *and no babysitters required! SmileBrilliant was created by dental professionals and is made in the USA — two more things I love about this brand!
I was so impressed by this system, that I want to share the wealth and give one away to you FREE! Click HERE to enter the giveaway!!
Not feeling lucky? That’s ok…we’ve got you hooked up with a discount code applicable for anything on the SmileBrilliant site! Use code ‘alwaysus15’ at checkout to save 15% storewide!
Tooth Whitening Gel
I swore by one brand of diapers for Olivia (and still do!) but the same brand leaves Emory with blow outs galore! Switching it up to a different brand did the trick and ever since, blow outs are rare. Moral of the story, don’t stock up on a lifetime supply of one brand before babe arrives! If I could do it all over, I would have bought one pack of 3 brands or so, to see what worked best.
I’ve Never Been So Tired
Olivia was a very good sleeper right out the gate, so of course, I assumed Emory would be too…and you know what they say about those who assume! Emmy has been a Mama’s girl from Day 1, and I’m the only one she wants to be held by (and 75% of time she was not buying the Mamaroo as a Mama substitute!). Between the first few weeks of getting her days/nights on track, the feeding and middle of the night pumping, the mastitis (twice!), and also having an energetic toddler running around…I literally had never felt exhaustion like this. (Are you terrified yet?) Now the good news! Emory did get her days and nights on track, she did start sleeping for more than 1.5 hours at a time (we’re now up to at least 5 consecutive hours!) and I feel like a new woman that is FINALLY getting some rest. Now that we’re out of the early day fog of sleepiness, I can take a step back and realize that these days are what Motherhood is made of. The good and the bad, the exhaustion but also the snuggles and sweet smell of beautiful fresh baby laying on my chest. The early days are when you get your Mom badge that you can wear proudly (and hold over them when they’re 18 and think they’re too cool to hang out with you).
Why Didn’t I Stock Up On Things I “Didn’t Need”?
Since Olivia and Emory are only 16 months apart, I thought we were golden in the clothing department. WRONG! First, since Olivia was a healthy 9lb’er we pretty much skipped right over the newborn sizes. When E arrived a week early weighing in at 7lb 14oz, I found myself in a panic for newborn clothes. Thankfully we had bought a few newborn things, but I was amazon prime’ing from the hospital for more (and we were on a solid 2 PJ rotation for about a week and a half before the extras finally arrived!). When baby E finally got into 0-3 sizes (sadly for me) some of my favorite outfits didn’t fit (I blame a combo of Baby E’s random tall genes, and too many times in the dryer for my favorite jammies!). Moral of the story, buy more than you think you need, and either leave the tags on and send back/return if they aren’t needed, or have them on hand to wash and use ASAP if/when the time comes.
I’m In Love With A Stroller
I loved our car seat, and especially loved the click-and-go we had for “quick” trips on the road. Since Olivia is still very much using a stroller, we knew we needed to utilize the double feature we initially purchased our UppaBaby Vista for. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again-the Vista is a 2 Under 2 DREAM! I use the bassinet SO much more with E than I did with Liv, and I absolutely love that we can fit into narrow doorways and on the small European sidewalks with both kids and Tyler and I walking side by side. We bought the Uppababy Mesa car seat to be compatible with the stroller, and it’s just the bees knees. If having two little ones under three is even on your radar, do yourself a favor and buy the Vista + Mesa up front!
Don’t Get So Caught Up Taking Care of Everyone Else, That You Forget To Take Care of Yourself
In all of the cuddles and feedings and diaper changing, and dishes and cooking, all the while making sure your other child/ren continued to feel nurtured and cared for, it’s so easy to put your needs on the back burner. After experiencing some postpartum depression after Olivia was born, as well as pregnancy depression and anxiety during both of my pregnancies, I knew the signs to look for and the steps to take to get out of the fog, but I was so busy, so tired, and so focused on everything else going on around me that I went on auto-pilot to get through the day to day. While I opened up to a few people closest to me about my struggle, it was through online support of other women experiencing the same issues, as well as video conference therapy I was able to do in my own home, that helped me take the initial steps I needed to get healthy for myself and my family. I highly recommend talking with you spouse and making self-care a priority in the first few months. During this time (even just 30 minutes alone) check-in with yourself, take a 20 minute nap, journal, meditate, or sit in silence. Listen to your gut, and if you feel something is off, reach out for help. When I knew something was off with my mind during my pregnancy with E, I did a hashtag search on Instagram #pregnancydepression, and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone or crazy. Even small things like this can make a huge difference in getting back on track. A happy and healthy mama is the best mama!
Having two little ones under two is not for the faint of heart, but it is so rewarding and wonderful to see their bond grow day to day, and watch a family bloom before your eyes. No blog post can possibly prepare you for the chaotic beauty that is motherhood, but I hope these simple tips can help you prepare for this next adventure! If you’re a mom of two under two, share your wisdom in the comments!
One of my very dear military spouse friends (from way back before we had kiddos…now she’s pregnant with her second AND third–twins!) is an absolute inspiration when it comes to creating Montessori inspired spaces. She recently shared on Instagram how she tailored her spaces to fit Montessori philosophy for her daughter, I knew I had to have her write a piece for my blog!
I was first introduced to
Maria Montessori and her educational philosophy during routine coursework while
getting my undergrad in elementary education. I was intrigued with her respect
toward children, her outlook on peaceful learning, and the idea that children
learn best through play. Fast-forward a few years and we are expecting our
first child. I knew that this philosophy fit well with our beliefs and that
this is something that we could implement into our own home. In true military
fashion – we had a baby, PCS’d 2 months later, and dad was “come and go” with
new work responsibilities. After establishing our own home, I can look back and
say we “began” a Montessori way of life when our daughter was 6-9 months. Over
time, her spaces have changed and evolved based on her needs. This includes her
Top 5 Tips to Creating a Montessori-Inspired
Montessori is about making things
accessible to the child. Sit on the floor in your child’s room and ask
yourself, “Is this room for my child, or for me?” Can they reach the books you
have out? Can they climb into their own bed? Turn the light on and off? Reach a
change of clothes? If not, this is the place to start. While you’re asking
yourself these questions you also need to ask yourself if the room is SAFE for
your child if they are in here alone. Consider cords, plugs, anchored
furniture, etc. If this is your child’s room, why not make it a room for them?
Making this room accessible means more independence. In turn, you
have a child building confidence, self-worth, and a child who feels proud to be
apart of the household.
2: Sleeping Space
When it comes to sleeping, Montessori is often associated
with the floor bed: A futon or mattress on the floor for the child to crawl in
and out on their own. This promotes more accessibility and freedom of movement.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. We started as simple as a mattress
on the floor. In Montessori fashion, our daughter’s space has evolved with her
needs and abilities. She is now in a low toddler bed where she can easily get
in and out on her own.
We have tried to keep our Montessori spaces minimal, beautiful, and practical. This is also true for the bedroom. Her bedroom is for sleep, not play. Therefore, we have chosen to keep any work (play) minimal or nonexistent. This has also helped created a nap and bedtime routine that has a purpose. As our daughter has grown, we now just have books available. The books are low and at her level. If she chooses to get out of bed or move around before she’s ready to leave her room, then she has books (which she loves).
are also paramount on our bedtime routine. We rotate her book selection,
keeping things fresh, as needed. Teacher tip: Displaying books with the covers
facing out helps the youngest readers establish those beginning concepts of
Valuing a child and trusting their abilities to
succeed at tasks is a foundational belief in the Montessori world. Learning to
dress and undress is a prime example of that. While it may require patience we
never knew we had, allowing children to make these choices on their own builds
pride and reinforces that self-value. Learning to dress and undress takes
modeling, repetition, and again… all the patience. Here, all the basics are
available for dressing and undressing. Limiting choices (2-3 shirts/pants) is a
great way to foster this decision-making. Too much can feel overwhelming.
However, learning the importance of self-care is essential to the independence
we hope for.
A self-care area or station looks different in
ever home. We have the room to use a stool and faucet extender in our bathroom
for tasks such as brushing teeth, hand washing, and using a washcloth. In this
bedroom, a small vanity station has been created for our post-bath routine.
Again, at her level, she can practice using the mirror for putting on clothes,
combing her hair, and applying lotion. Before she was potty trained, we also
used this area to store wipes and extra diapers. A changing pad on the floor
was sufficient for us. As she has grown, we’ve also caught her taking care of
her baby and watching herself dance like no one was watching.
We all start somewhere. So, if making
a transition into a more Montessori-Inspired space is something you’re
interested in – just know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can
take time, adjustments, and learning to set new expectations for yourself and
your child. The most important thing: it CAN be for everyone and everyone CAN
About The Author:
Mom, military spouse, educator, crossfitter, creative artist, coffee obsessed, and believer that champagne is acceptable at any time of day. A wearer of many hats (which is what you have to be as a military spouse and toddler parent) is also expecting twins any day! Originally from Tacoma, WA, with four PCSs and 11 years of Army under her belt, Theresa has learned to take her passion for early childhood education wherever she goes, and adapt as needed. Formally (and briefly) a public school Kindergarten teacher, Theresa holds a more specific passion for Maria Montessori’s approach to learning, and fosters a Montessori approach into her own child’s way of life. Theresa values Montessori as a philosophy that respects the child as a whole person, as a learner, and a functioning member of society-starting from birth.
For the past two months my mornings have consisted of baby alarm clocks. Crying, chaos, feedings, changings, and gathering the littles downstairs to start the day. For a new mom running on little sleep, battling postpartum depression, and trying to regain a sense of identity, this start to each day was draining and I couldn’t help but feel like I had little control.
It’s easy to ignore the term “self-care” as a buzz word and think,”I’m way too busy right now, I just need to get through the day and take care of my babies”. This is something I’ve been doing for two months (and probably longer if I’m being honest with myself!) They say change happens when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and one day a few weeks ago, I woke up one morning and just decided something needed to change. Ever since that morning, I’ve set an alarm so that I can wake up before the girls and take some time for myself. Sometimes it’s only 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes I’m awake with Emmy every two-hours at night, and the last thing I want to do is wake-up early, so I keep sleeping. The point is, I’m making the choice, and I’m in control. I can tell a difference when I get my morning time, and it feels good! I feel like even with 15 minutes to take a shower, or wash my face, put on makeup, have a cup of coffee, I can better show up for my girls because I’ve started the day on my terms. I’ve googled, gotten great advice from my Instagram friends, and experimented with a handful of ways to kick off the morning on a fresh note, and I hope to help other Mamas who might need this as much as I did. *I think it’s important to note that although this is what I strive for most of my mornings, it doesn’t always happen! If your kiddos are still napping, a morning nap is another great time to squeeze these in, but like I always try to remind myself, it’s never too late in the day for a reset!
But First, Coffee
I am one of those people that can’t think until I’ve had a cup of coffee. Like most Moms, I usually end up drinking my coffee cold, or reheating it at least 3 times before I get around to drinking a full cup. One of my Instagram friends suggested trading in a coffee mug for a good thermal tumbler, and ya’ll this trick is for real. Our friends got us these tumblers for Christmas, and I had honestly only used them when leaving the house until this suggestion came in. If the girls are awake and I’m drinking coffee, this keeps it hot and not bitter. Since I’m a multiple cup gal, I usually drink my first cup out of one of my favorite mugs then switch over to this little gem for the rest of the morning. Brilliant!
Take a Shower!
Is there anything that can make you feel like a new person more than taking a shower? I love a good warm shower to wake me up in the morning, but I absolutely hate blow drying my hair (so it usually gets put on the back burner until the dry shampoo literally just won’t cut it anymore). When I’m forced to actually wash my hair, I don’t have a ton of time, so I’ve absolutely fallen in love with these organic t-shirt hair towels. I swear they cut my drying time in half, which allows me to enjoy a cup of coffee (or if I’m doing this mid-day, check social media or e-mails)!
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Girl, Wash Your Face!
I don’t shower every day (no judgement…#momlife) but everyday I do wash my face. To me, a clean face is symbolic of a clean day, and sometimes I even do a quick mask too (YOLO!). Since Emmy has a tendency to fall asleep on me in bed, I have a horrible habit of going to bed without washing my face, so my morning face wash is sooo necessary. It’s a great start to the day, but also great for your skin. After I wash my face, I put my contacts in, put on a fresh face of makeup…the trifecta of good things!
Make a Plan
If I know I’ve got a lot to do (which let’s face it, is most days!), I’ll sit down and make a list for the day before the girls are awake. I love handwritten lists because the satisfaction of crossing off a task gives me that feeling of accomplishment. I love scouring the paper goods section at TJ Maxx for notepads and notebooks like this.
Prepare for Babes!
Once I’ve gotten myself ready to take on the day, I set us all up for success by getting Olivia’s high chair and breakfast ready downstairs. She’s an instant gratification kind of gal, and to avoid her immediately getting into her toys or getting side tracked, this lets me change her diaper + clothes, and put her right into her chair for breakfast (allowing me to then change and feed Emmy in a more relaxed setting).
If I’m in the middle of a task when Olivia wakes up, I’ll move her high chair into the living room (where I do most of my work) and turn on Sesame Street while she eats breakfast and I finish up my work (or if Emory is already awake, while I feed her). If I’ve got something to do in the kitchen, I’ll leave her high chair in there and she can eat while I unload/reload the dishwasher, make my own breakfast, etc. *I love IKEA’s Antilop chair because it’s so light and easy to move.
Multi-tasking is a Mom’s best friend!
What’s your morning routine? Share your tips in the comments!