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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Shinesty. I was given merchandise from the store in exchange for a review. No additional compensation was given. All opinions are entirely my own. I’m fairly certain you know I’m no fashion trendsetter, but I do appreciate nice looking clothes that are comfy and fit my lifestyle. Let’s face it; I’m a mom of two young children who spit up, spill and rub whatever sticky concoction they last got into, onto my clothes. To me, it’s just not worth it to spend money on clothes that aren’t worn often. Most days I’m sporting a t-shirt and jeans, leggings or sweats. However, I’m really making an effort to try to strike a balance. Finding lively clothes that still provide comfort is not a simple task, but that’s where Shinesty’s USA line comes in!

Despite being a military spouse, and my husband being active duty, we may own about 5 items of clothing that one would deem patriotic, and most of those are either unit shirts, deployment shirts of 5K t-shirts. Well, my friends, I’ve upped my military spouse game and found some unique, fun and more importantly, functional apparel that screams “I’m patriotic AF” while adding a pop to any wardrobe! This top is both cute and casual. You all, this thing is so freaking comfortable, which is essential for anything I wear. The material is soft, and it falls just right to provide a flattering fit, which many tops just don’t do. I’m still under the weather and riding the hot mess express, but when I’m feeling better, I’ll snap some pics of me wearing it so you can actually see what I am talking about. The faded American flag design is cool with just the right amount of ‘Merica. If you’re looking for a cute, patriotic addition to your wardrobe, this shirt is it. This is a subtle piece that effortlessly fits into my wardrobe, but they have an insanely large collection of prints and styles that are trendy, flashy and bold. Admittedly, I just don’t have the gall to wear it all. If I were ten years younger sans ankle biters, it would be a different story. Whether you’re looking for a patriotic pop for a party, bonfire, or backyard BBQ, Shinesty is the place to find it!
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Hello friends! It’s been a while, I know.  I’ve taken some time off to devote time to my family. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection, which prompted this post.

As of late, I’ve been torn about what to share or keep private on social media. I don’t share every family outing we take, mostly because I don’t have the time to snap many, if any pictures. Aside from that, I’ve been cautious with what people will think about the content of my posts. Then I realized, I don’t care what people think anymore!

Recently, my husband came home from work with red roses in hand, complete with a note he’d written to accompany them. He knows one of my love languages is words of affirmation, and from time to time he breaks out of his shell and spills his heart into a card, letter, e-mail or just a post it– whatever is on hand when the mood strikes. In this particular note, he penned many things that reaffirmed why I chose him as my life partner, but one line struck a chord with me. He told me he was proud of my hard work and all that I’ve accomplished. I’m going to be 33 this month, and along with another year on this earth comes another year of lessons learned. One of those lessons is to embrace what makes ME happy and whole. Two months ago I went COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone (anxiety-ridden introvert right here) and on a new adventure when I joined Usborne Books & More. Finding work outside the home with 2 under 2 was never in my plan. I wanted to be home with the boys, but I also felt the need to do something for myself. I’d attended a few book parties and never really thought anything of it until an old friend planted the seed of joining. Not going to lie, the fact that’s it was super cheap to join and there were no strings attached really drew me in because we all know I’m a budgeting nerd committed to remaining debt-free. I never in a million years thought I’d be able to touch so many people and share something special with the world while simultaneously supporting my family. I am now able to pay our bills and it feels great to be able to contribute financially to the household! Usborne has shown me I’m capable of so much more than I thought and the library I’m building for the boys is growing by the minute! The books are amazing, my boys love them, I love them, and most of all, I love sharing the gift of literacy and learning with others. I’ve always struggled with learning due to ADHD and learning disabilities. My mom went above and beyond to help me but there were just not enough caring educators or resources, which left me feeling defeated academically. Even so, I was able to push forward with her support and attain a master’s degree. As a book lady, I have the opportunity to put amazing books into the hands of children and maybe, just maybe I can help one struggling child make that connection and discover or rekindle a love of reading, and in turn, learning. The fact that this business awards me such an opportunity is something that brings me happiness and fulfillment. If my husband proudly acknowledges my accomplishments, I should be able to openly feel the same pride. I no longer have any qualms about someone thinking I’m being salesy or pushy when I share things about my Usborne journey. I believe in my work, and in my ability to share literacy and a joy of learning with others. I love what I do and I hope you can join me in embracing your own passion without reservation.
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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1 Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.

Pregnancy and parenting is a challenge in itself, but take into account the military lifestyle and you’ve got your hands full! It’s one thing to handle separations, moves, and deployments as a couple and a whole other ballgame adding kids into the mix. It can seem scary and overwhelming but these tips can help you feel more at ease about becoming a military mom!

Decide Where You Will Deliver Do you know what Tricare coverage you have? There are different options as to where you can give birth depending on where you’re stationed. If you’re on an instillation with a hospital, you likely have Tricare Prime and can choose to deliver there, or switch your insurance to Tricare Select and choose a civilian provider. If your installation doesn’t have a hospital or you’re not near an instillation, you’ll have Tricare Select and choose a hospital that accepts Tricare to deliver. When I gave birth to my first son, my husband was commanding a recruiting unit and the nearest Army instillation was 8 hours away. Thus, our insurance was Tricare Select and we had the freedom to choose which local hospital to deliver. Whatever option you choose, make sure to do your research to ensure you’re getting the best care possible for you and baby. This is especially important to consider if you have a high-risk pregnancy or if an emergency occurs. For instance, I’m currently stationed at a post with no hospital, but near two local hospitals where I’m able to deliver. One is ten minutes outside the gate and the other is 45 minutes away. I chose to give birth at the one farther away due to its expertise and because it’s located right next to a top-ranked NICU if any complications arose. Thankfully, my birth went phenomenally, but it’s always wise to prepare. You want to make sure the facility you choose is fully equipped to handle emergencies or is close to another hospital that is, for any complications that may arise. Have a Backup Plan for Your Backup Plan As you probably already know, the military dictates much of our lives. Because of this, planning anything proves extremely difficult. When it comes to planning your birth, you have to be flexible. Make a game plan for any scenario that may arise. Who will take you to the hospital? If it’s your spouse, have a backup person (or two) in case he can’t make it due to duty. What happens if you have to PCS in the middle of your pregnancy? Do you know how to transfer care? (Hint: Make sure you collect your records at your last OB visit prior to PCSing to hand deliver to your new provider. Also try to make an appointment at your new duty station before you leave your last one. It makes for a smoother transition.) What if the military springs a deployment for your spouse? Will they be able to Skype or FaceTime for the birth? If your spouse isn’t there, who will you have to depend on during labor? Make sure your support system is in place well before you deliver to alleviate any extra stress and worry So you can focus on a happy birthing experience! Always Accept Help I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling like I’m burdening others, but have learned that accepting help is not a sign of weakness by any means. Caring for children is no walk in the park. Newborns are hard work and require a lot of attention which may complicate things if you have older children or your spouse is away, or both! If you have a friend, neighbor or family member who offers to cook you a meal, vacuum your house, or take the older children off your hands for a couple of hours, take them up on it! With my first pregnancy, I was exhausted and didn’t have the patience or energy to navigate the beast that is Tricare. Thankfully, my husband stepped up and helped with all the details, including getting me a Tricare breast pump. After my son was born, we PCSed when he was a month old and less than two weeks later, my husband went on an extended TDY. So, there I was, a first-time mom, far from family, in a place where I knew no one. I found the neighborhood group page on Facebook and introduced myself. Soon, I met neighbors who were life savers and offered to cook, clean and lend a hand any way they could. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I was. I quickly learned how military friends become family. With my second son, they cooked meals for us for an entire week as well as made quick errand runs when I couldn’t get out of the house. My typical newborn mom exhaustion was coupled with stress of trying to help my older son adjust to his new sibling and their help gave me one less thing to worry about. Knowing your limits and caring for yourself is essential. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Shake off the Mom Guilt Motherhood is rewarding but oh so challenging! Everyone has an opinion about what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your children. Don’t fall victim to mom shaming. If you have a gut feeling, trust it. Mommy instincts are there for a reason and they are usually spot-on. Also remember that everyone has off days, even moms. We lose our temper, question our choices, become overwhelmed, and sometimes we’re just a heap of hormonal mush. But you know what? It’s okay to not be okay all the time. Trust in your abilities and shake off the mom guilt. Right now, in this moment, you are exactly the person your child needs you to be and you are a wise, loving and capable mother. You’ve got this! Utilize Resources for Military Families There are a slew of resources available for expectant and new military moms. I will only touch on a few because there are so many that listing all of them would make this post much too long. Websites such as Tricare and Postpartum Support International can give you a wealth of information. These sites are jam-packed with resources and articles relating to everything from insurance questions to freebies such as a Tricare breast pump, newborn care, registering your baby in DEERS, childcare, breastfeeding support, mental health services and so much more! If you’re located on or near a military instillation, you can contact your PCM or MWR/MCCS for services such as free breastfeeding and parenting classes as well. 1 Natural Way is a fantastic resource for all of your breastfeeding supplies! They carry the most popular brands including Medela, Spectra (my fav) and Kiinde. You can also get breast pump accessories, compression socks and postpartum care supplies and all the breast pump models are covered by Tricare at no out of pocket expense to you. This includes the Medela Freestyle and the Spectra S1 Breast Pump, and the Medela Pump in Style Tote/Backpack. This is awesome because those suckers are expensive! Another major perk of using 1 Natural Way is that they contact your health insurance provider AND your physician on your behalf. That means you don’t have to hassle with Tricare! YAAASSS!  I really hope these tips help you on your motherhood journey! If you have any tips that helped you become an awesome military mom, share them in the comments!
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