Since Going Dairy Free:


I have recently seen many things on social media, and the internet in general, about allergens. People all of a sudden realizing they are not responding well to dairy or gluten, mama's having to give up certain things in their diet in order to continue breastfeeding their babies, etc. When I was first trying to figure all of this out with Riggins, I felt so alone. I was considering just being done nursing him all together because it was just so much to try to figure out with a brand new baby and healing from a c-section and caring for my toddler. I just kept praying for answers and within a day, I knew that dairy was the issue. I am so thankful for the information I was able to find. Once I ridded dairy from my diet, Riggins completely changed. And once I accepted the problem and had the confidence in myself that I could make the change, everything became easier. I have not had dairy in over three months. The best thing that has happened, obviously, is having a happy and healthy baby again. Weeks of a screaming baby made me feel so hopeless. Since getting into the routine of it and realizing what works and what doesn't, I have now noticed even more changes than just having a happy and healthy babe. I will most likely not be adding dairy back into my diet even once I've finished breastfeeding.

1. My skin is CLEAR. I haven't had horrible skin problems in my life, but it hasn't been wonderful either (monthly breakouts, small white bumps around my mouth and chin, overall soreness). Since giving up dairy, I really have not had a break out in months. My skin is softer, smoother, and I'm actually using way less product on my face. I wash and moisturize every night and exfoliate once a week. In the mornings I just rinse with fresh water and apply my tinted moisturizer and it's really all I wear.

2. My digestion is better.  I used to get horrible stomach aches after eating yogurt or cottage cheese, but I love them so much I just never gave them up. Even coffee would upset my stomach sometimes with the creamers I was using. I've found since ridding dairy completely, I don't have stomach pains. I've also learned about certain breads that contain milk and other foods that I didn't think would contain it but do. I've learned even more so what foods are helping my body and what foods are harming it. When I'm at a restaurant, I typically order a turkey burger with no bun. At home, I rely on lots of proteins and vegetables and Silk Soy Vanilla Creamer. And lactation cookies with coconut oil (probably like 4 a day ha!).

3. Faster Postpartum Weight Loss: I've said this before and it's true. I am in NO rush to lose all of my baby weight. I just can't put that pressure on myself. I workout because it makes me feel good and that is all. I have noticed, however, that my weight with this pregnancy has dropped significantly faster than with McCoy. 

4. Reducing Exposure to Added Hormones: The consumption of cow’s milk has been shown to increase the serum level of IGF-1 in humans by 10%. Consequently, higher levels of IGF-1 in humans have been linked to a significant increase in the risk of prostate, colon, lung, and breast cancers. Dairy free milk alternatives don't contain any added hormones or antibiotics since they are derived from plants.

5. More Energy: I actually have more energy since giving up dairy. This might have something to do with Riggins being happy and not screaming 15 hours a day, but overall, I just feel less bloated and more energized.  I am encouraged to prep smoothies and salads and protein bowls without even really having to think about it anymore.  Comfort foods like lasagna, desserts, and pizza aren't in our house - and I really don't even miss them. Actually, sometimes I do ha!

All of this being said and taken into consideration. I believe the health benefits of not having dairy in my diet out weight the act of missing comfort foods. Once Riggins is done nursing, I am going to continue the dairy free lifestyle, however, I know that having a dessert every once in a while (that includes dairy) is pretty amazing for the soul. If you have any questions about this journey, please let me know! Or if you are living a dairy free (or really anything free) lifestyle, I would love to hear from you! Nutrition and wellness stories I absolutely LOVE, and it's even better when we can keep cheering each other on! 



Our Tips for Traveling with a Toddler and an Infant.


We are not routine travelers by any means. Our honeymoon was a complete disaster filled with food poisoning and hurricanes. We took one trip when McCoy was eight months old and left him with my in-laws. That vacation was relaxing but I spent most of my time missing my baby and making trips up to the hotel room to pump, ha! I was so nervous for this trip. Now having completing this and surviving it haha, I would definitely do it again. Below are the tips Nick and I came up with when it comes to traveling with littles, or even just one. If you have anymore to add, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Keep their Night time Routine and Essentials Consistent to Home: Both of our kids slept amazing on our vacation. In part it was because we had very busy days and McCoy didn’t nap for most of them. But I think another reason why they slept so well is because we kept their night time routine similar to what it is at home. No matter what time it was when we got back to the house from the parks, we gave them both baths and had a little time to wind down.  We packed our Dockatot for Riggins since this is what he is used to sleeping in at home and for the most part he was making it all the way through each night. 

Keep Toys and Snacks Simple: I packed a large Ziplock baggie filled with McCoy’s Tot Fruit Pouches, animal crackers, yogurt melts, and some Lara Bars for myself and Nick. I probably had too much to be honest with you. I also had water bottles for us but since we were so busy from the time we reached the air port and completing check in and security and potty breaks and several blowouts from Riggins, I didn’t even fill them. We just bought bottled water when we reached our terminal. So I would probably do without the water bottles next time. I also had two small travel size containers of my Thieves hand sanitizers and Thieves wipes for wiping down hands and the plane seats. Paci wipes were also in my carry on and they came in handy. 

Bring your own Car Seats and Stroller: We were really debating on this but I am so glad we decided to bring our own.  First of all, having the stroller to use at the airport really helped free our hands for other luggage and carry on bags.  Secondly, we looked into renting car seats that would come with our rental car and it was an extra $35 PER CAR SEAT/ PER DAY. That would have costed us an extra $560 compared to just being able to check everything for free.  We checked the car seats at check in with our luggage bags and we checked the stroller right before we stepped on the plane at the gate. They gave us our own tags and everything - it was really convenient.

Have Patience with your Spouse: We spent eight days in house with 9 people. There were times that were stressful and I prepared myself for this before even leaving for the trip. To be honest, just leaving our house to get to the airport to head out for vacation was stressful. But each day became a little easier and we got into the swing of things. Nick and I realized that we had to communicate with one another. He made sure I was stopping for water and snacks as much as we needed. I always had the bags and snacks packed for the parks and ready to go the night before. He held the blanket up until I was situated breastfeeding and he always offered to take Riggins’ to be changed. We figured out what worked well and just kept communicating. I will say we did a lot of on the fly diaper changes (on our laps in the plane, on hidden park benches, and even on the floor of the air port). You do what you have to do and move on. It’s all good.

Clip the Important Things Together: Before leaving for the airport, we had our boarding passes printed.  We clipped these together with both of our licenses and the kid’s birth certificates so when it came time to check in, everything was together. We had so much stuff and so many bags and car seats, so I just wanted the important things together for smooth transition through the air port. We left at 4 AM so when we arrived McCoy was sleepy and needed me to hold him basically all the way through security and it was so nice to be able to just have everything we needed clipped and ready for handling.

Be Flexible with their Routine: I wouldn’t say I’m a strict routine follower while being at home with my kids on a daily basis, but we do get on a weekly rhythm. McCoy is still an amazing napper for me in the afternoons and Riggins is just starting to start a nap schedule when we’re home as well. We let all of this go while vacationing. McCoy really only napped one of the eight days unless we happened to be in the car around that time. And Riggins just sort of slept when he could or would while in the stroller or in my carrier. I just remained flexible and in the end, we had some really crabby toddler meltdowns, but it all worked out - and like I said before, our kids slept great at night and until at least 8:30 in the mornings. 


Our Adventure to Disney World

We are coming to the end of our first ever family vacation. Nick and his family have experienced Florida and all of the Disney World parks many times, but it was my first time, and of course McCoy’s and Riggins’ also. After a little recap of our trip, I’d like to offer my best tips on traveling with a toddler and an infant in another post. I am not an expert - I rarely travel, but now having done this [and survived it], I think it will become something we do more often!

First of all, whatever is you’re hearing about Disney World, it’s true. It is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been too. I am 29 years old and I can truthfully say that I enjoyed it just as much as my toddler. The weather was beautiful and such a nice change from Minnesota. And the parks were incredible. The detail in each park, the food and drinks, the rides, and the fact that it is so smoothly set up to get in to and out of the park made it nice when we were traveling in a group of seven plus two littles. 

After a full day of traveling, we began our trip at Island’s of Adventure and Universal Studios — Ahhh-mazing for both little kids and adults. The roller coasters weren’t like any I have ever experienced in my life! This is where it came in handy to have a large group as my in-laws were so willing to stay with the babes when my hubby, myself, and my sister and brother inlaws went on rides [as long as Riggins was fed ha! - more on breastfeeding in a park later]. The next park we visited was Sea World. Riggins, 99% of the time is the most laid back little baby in the world. This day was a struggle for us and him. McCoy loved this park though! So much sea life, rides, shows, and again, amazing coasters for us adults. With Riggs having a hard day at Sea World, we decided to rest the following day and spend our time at the pool. Then we did back to back weekend days at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom which were definitely McCoy’s favorites! If you have littles and are going to Disney World, these would be the parks I would recommend most to go to! The food and drinks at Animal Kingdom were so fresh and good also - especially since I am still on a strictly dairy free diet for breastfeeding Riggins. On Monday we rested in the morning and hung by our pool again and then spent the evening at Disney Springs doing some shopping. It’s a boardwalk style of stores with several restaurants and coffee shops. We have really had awesome weather this entire trip, most park days were low 70’s and mostly sunny with some scattered clouds which I was really thankful for. Our last day was high 70’s and pure sun, so we spent it at the pool while we just relaxed and packed for our flight home the next day. I loved every park, and this whole experience for me was so amazing. I have always wanted to come here and I’m so glad I finally did and I’m so happy that I was able to experience it with my littles and my family. We will for sure be coming back as our boys continue to grow - and I’ll be so thankful I’m not breastfeeding!

Speaking of that - here’s how it went, ha! Truthfully, I’m grateful Riggins was not on solid food quite yet as I think that would have made things a lot more complicated. He basically just needed me and that’s all which was good but also hard at times. He seemed to need to eat more often as being out of his routine and environment made him need a little more comfort.  I always made sure to wake up early enough so that I could feed him and then let him lay and kick for an hour or so before we left for the day. I didn’t do this on the Sea World day and it threw him off. He needs that play time and flexibility with his little legs before being in a wrap or stroller seat all day. Then when we got to the parks I would take him out of his car seat and feed him again in the car so he was good to go before we even entered the park. And then from there he was happy literally the majority of the time - he’s really my go with the flow baby and I’m so thankful for his calm personality. Every couple hours or so he would eat and I would just find a spot in the shade and we would all take a little rest or someone would take McCoy on a ride. It really worked out well. I’m not saying it was easy by any means. There were times where it was so hot for him and me while he ate haha (hormones), and times where I would have to nurse him while standing in a line for a ride that we were going on as a family - I’ve become pretty good at walking and breastfeeding! I always had extra hands to help hold a blanket, etc. etc. And each time he ate, he’d be happy for a few hours and just hang out in the ergo carrier or in the stroller, like magic!

We are currently about 36,000 feet in the air heading back to Minnesota. To be completely honest, our most stressful part of the trip was getting to and through the Orlando airport to our terminal. We sat in an hour of traffic, had to return and unload our car, and wait over an hour to check in and then again to get through security all with two car seats, two luggage bags, a double stroller, and four carry ons. Everything sort of seems like a complete blur, but we made it. Thank the Lord we made it. This trip was amazing. I sort of feel like I now need a vacation from this vacation haha but it truly was so wonderful to spend time with family and experience this with our babies. 

I’ll be sharing my top tips for traveling with littles in another post to come soon. For now, Riggins is asleep on my hubby’s lap, McCoy is watching Paw Patrol, and I’m going to celebrate the end to a sweet adventure with the Starbucks soy latte sitting on my lap. 

Guest Blog: I had a baby and my fitness routine is better than it's ever been.

Good morning friends! I have a treat for you today! We are vacationing in Florida these days, and it's been wonderful. One of me dearest friends is helping me out on the blog today and offering a guest post for you. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, mama to Abe, and she also works part-time from her home. She's a busy gal with a heart that radiates kindness and giving, and HEALTH. She is my go-to person for anything fitness/yoga/meal prep related and I am so excited to share some her fitness tips with you! You can find her on Instagram here: @jessalifebydesign, and her website is

You’re probably reading the title of this blog post and thinking, “Really?! How is that even possible?” Before my son was born, I would’ve thought the exact same thing. I mean with all the tips/advice you receive from people (including the unwelcomed) while you’re pregnant, I think, “less time” and “less sleep” were at the top of the list for me. First of all, I love sleep. I’m a girl who needs a minimum of 8 hours per/night. As a Personal Trainer, I also know it’s a necessity when it comes to success in the gym, (less sleep equates to increased amount of adipose tissue, aka: fat around the tummy) as well as your overall mental health, which let’s be real – The internal drive is absolutely KEY to any fitness program. So how in the world did my fitness routine IMPROVE after having a baby? Let me explain…

I take advantage of my “free time”

Before having a baby, I had extra free time. I’m not arguing that I had a ton, as I am the type of person that likes to fill my plate, however I definitely had more. After having my son, my free time was…well, shortened. I work part-time from home, and also teach yoga in the evenings. My husband works full-time. Our son is not in daycare and my gym does not have child care. My opportunities to exercise are slim. There is a small window when I’m able to go every day. Typically, it’s in the evenings when my husband gets home from work; Lately it’s been in the mornings before he heads out the door. I figure out when that time is and plan around it to make sure I’m ready to go. I lay out my clothes the night before for a morning workout and I prep snacks/dinner ahead of time on the weekends for the evening workouts. I’m thankful for a husband who understands that this is important to me. I know exercise is important for my overall well-being, so I make sure that the excuses are G-O-N-E. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Success comes from within.

Strength > Cardio and HIIT training

Alright cardio bunnies, I’m not raining on your parade. Cardio is good for the heart, runners love their post-run endorphin high, and yada yada yada…All I’m saying is, I’ve got X amount of time, (sometimes I’m in and out in 20 minutes, weekends might be more like an hour or so) and I’m using it to my full advantage. With that being said, I opt for strength over cardio most of the time. Cardio is a mental escape for me and helps me just zone out and have a mental break. Strength training however is where my success comes from. When I’ve got a little extra time in the gym, I prefer to do my heavy lifting, alternating muscle groups a few times a week. When my time is cut short, I’ll focus on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training,) using body weight/bands/TRX straps/etc. for a total body strength/cardio combo workout.

I focus on “movement” every day

My son was a terrible sleeper for the first 7 months of his life. I’m talking, waking up every 1-2 hours, co-sleeping, nursing to sleep, passing out in the rocker, etc. You name it. It was hard. Somewhere along this postpartum journey, I was reminded of this concept I had read about a while back, “focus on movement every day.” So I did. Sometimes it was vacuuming my house while my son was sleeping, other days I made it out of the house for a walk with a friend, or even strolling the aisles at Target when the Minnesota winters got tough, (and I didn’t even buy anything! Gasp!) These small movements helped me stay on track. Sure, it wasn’t a 500-calorie burning boot camp class, but it was something. Still today, when I find myself feeling like I got nothing accomplished, I like to create what I call a “Got Done” list, (as opposed to a “To-Do” list.) I write down everything I accomplished that day. Seeing it on paper helps me feel accomplished. It helps me feel fulfilled and worthy. Self-worth is pretty important to confidence if you ask me. How do you feel worthy?

I give myself grace

For new moms, listen up. This is HUGE for your mental state. The postpartum journey is HARD. You basically spend your days changing diapers and feeding a baby. Yep. 24 hours of that every day. Your glued to the couch. Your independence feels like it just escaped your life entirely and don’t even get me started on the hormones…Oy. So, what do you do? How do you stay sane? Well, you cut yourself a TON of slack. Did you shower today? Did you make a trip to Target with the babe in tow and maybe even the gas station too? Did you spend the baby’s nap time digging into that favorite book or streaming the new Netflix documentary? WAY TO GO! Give yourself grace. Goals are important. When it comes to fitness, your head needs to be in the game. I get it. But what I also get, (and what’s often left unsaid) is that the more negative self-talk you do to yourselves, the less successful you’ll be in every other area of life, including your lofty fitness goals. It’s not worth it. Give yourself grace. Celebrate the small victories. We all need rest days. We all need time to slow down and zone out. These are basic human needs, especially if another (or multiple) human is solely depending on you too. Grace. Say it with me: “Grace.”

Your Photography Wedding Questions Answered


I receive a lot of the same questions from couples inquiring about wedding photography so I've compiled some common ones to share with you here! Let me know if any others come to mind.

What is your photography style? I always say that if I can capture a person’s personality, I have done my job well. My photography style is seeing the natural and raw moments that a couple or family shares with each other. I’m a lover of candids, warm hues, and being able to share your story through my photos, from the very beginning of the session until the end. 

How important is having a second shooter? I very very rarely do weddings without second shooter. I often have clients inquiring for weddings and requesting no second shooter to save them some money. I get it, I really do. But you will not regret having one. They are my backbone, they catch things that I often miss because I am focused so much on the bride and groom. And when it comes to weddings, I truly believe it is all in the details. For example, seeing your grandpa or mama shed tears as you walk down the aisle is just as fun to see as they expression your groom gives.

Do I need to have both a photographer and a videographer? I have shot many weddings for couples who have also hired videographers. My advice is this: If you like seeing your wedding day through still photos that enable you to make prints or share with friends and family, photography should be your first choice. If you prefer a video of your day (often to music), then that should be your number one. A lot of brides choose both and I think they are equally beautiful, just in different ways.

How many hours should I hire you for? I suggest 8 hours if you are looking to get photos of you getting ready all the way through the first dance. 

What is it like being the one that photographs a wedding? Being behind a camera on your wedding day is truly my dream job. It is everything to me. I don’t do the best in front of a camera, but for some reason God has given me a gift to capture people in a beautiful and natural way. I hate awkward poses. My sessions are free flowing, and I allow my creativity to take over in whatever atmosphere I’m in. I get completely lost and fulfilled in your day. I love details. I love people. I love pets and babies and decor. And I Love, love. I am reminded at every single wedding how thankful I am for my family and my babies.

How many photos do I get? Typically you’ll receive between 600-1000 edited photos, depending on how many hours you’ve hired me for. I create a gallery that gives you and your family members access too. You can download, upload to social media, and purchase prints if you choose all through the system and it makes viewing your photos extremely easy!

Do you have any tips when designing the timeline for my day? I am so flexible when it comes to the layout of your wedding day. I always tell my clients to do whatever they’d like and I work around that. From a photographer’s standpoint, however, I will say that It is easiest for us to schedule and ensure time for everything if the first look is done prior to the ceremony. I understand couples wanting to wait to see each other as well but for photos and making sure we get everything, it is easiest to do them beforehand. Your wedding party is much more likely to want to take photos as well during this time. After the ceremony, they are pretty much ready to party ha!

What inspired you to become a photographer? From the time I took my very first desk job (8-4:30), I knew in my heart that wasn’t for me. My heart is full of emotion - creative emotion, that I like to get out anyway that I can. My husband bought me my first camera when we first married and I wasn’t sure if it was the route I wanted to take career wise. I shot my first wedding in 2014 and I honestly have never looked back. It’s a job that I can be home with my kids, but also have an outlet to release my creative energy that gets locked inside.

What if we are camera shy? It’s Okay! I hate being in front of the camera. Honestly most of the photos my hubby takes of me and my kids and I just store on my computer knowing that someday they will want to see them. So coming form me, I totally understand if you do not like being in front of the camera. I promise, I ensure that my sessions are laid back. I don’t make you do awkward poses or anything you’re not comfortable with. Mostly, I just as that you interact with each other like you regularly would - I find it creates the most natural images. And from there, I just guide you on where to look at any certain time. EASY PEASY - I swear!

Is photography worth the investment? I am not here to take your money. I truly believe that having a photographer capture your wedding day is something you will not regret. Not only do I capture the two of you, but I get friends, family, co-workers, and all of the details of your day that will be so fun to look back on many years from now. You spend all of this time planning a wedding, I think it’s so important that it’s remembered! I set my prices based on what I think is comparable to what you’re receiving. I am so willing to be flexible with my clients and create a package and price that they are comfortable with!

Vegan Lactation Cookies + a Workout

Finally! I have FINALLY found/formulated a lactation cookie that is dairy free, egg free, and made with oats instead of flour! I'm a huge lactation cookie fan over here. I find them extremely helpful to have on hand when I'm craving something sweet (Dairy Free options are very limited when you want something sweet because most all sweets have some form of dairy in them). And they boost my milk supply - I've actually got a large supply of frozen milk in my freezer, and I think having these is really helping with that.

I also love this particular recipe because they do not contain eggs. Eggs don't seem to harm Riggins like actual dairy does, but they do cause him to spit up a lot so I really try not to eat them often unless I am extremely lacking protein. But these ones have zero eggs.

I have been searching for the perfect recipe to share and I think I have found it. I got this recipe from Detoxinista, and just made some few minor changes and I really really love them.


  • 2 cups old fashioned oats*
  • 4 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup water + an extra splash
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut sugar - I did use coconut sugar but I think you could use regular sugar as well, I just love the flavor of coconut in my cookies.
  • 1/4 cup debittered brewer's yeast*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (optional) - I used Enjoy Life brand DF chocolate chips and added a tad more than 2/3 cup.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and spray cookie sheet with baking spray. Pour the 2 cups of oats into a blender, and process them into a fine flour.

  2. In a large bowl combine the ground flax seeds with the water, and stir well to mix. Add in the coconut oil, coconut sugar, debittered brewer's yeast, vanilla, baking soda, and salt, and stir again until well combined. Gradually stir in the oat flour until a dough is formed, then fold in the 1/2 cup of oats and dark chocolate chips.

  3. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the lined baking sheet, then use your fingers to flatten the cookies.

  4. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes so that they are crisp around the edges, but still nice and soft in the center.

  5. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

I also had some time this evening to do a workout in my basement. It felt good to do something different - I've been running outside a lot and here in Minnesota today it's pretty much a blizzard. 

I walked at a 4.0 speed at an incline of 10 for 12 minutes on the treadmill, then immediately went into this circuit 4x through.

  • 15 Squats with 25 lb Kettlebell
  • 15 Bent Over Rows with 15 lb dumbbells
  • 10 Tricep Extensions with an 8 lb dumbbell
  • 25 crunches

It's gotta be quick and efficient around here these days when it comes to exercise. This took me about 28 minutes to complete, and that included the walk! Happy Monday Mama's.

Fitness After a C-Section


On Tuesday, I ran my first 5K since giving birth to Riggins. It was a slow and steady run but it felt amazing. When we first came home from the hospital, I had no exercise or body expectations, but I had a goal of running a 5K when he reached 12 weeks of age. That day was exactly on Tuesday.  I had some mama’s reach out to me mentioning that they are too recovering from cesarians and asked about my transition back into the world of fitness and running while trying to heal, raise two babies, and breastfeed. I really hadn’t thought about it that much until I was asked questions like what are you eating? when did you begin exercising? how did you transition back into running?

When these questions came up, I really had to think back to when I was six weeks postpartum and what I actually have done to bring fitness back into my life.  Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. It hasn’t always been a positive part of it, unfortunately.  I was an athlete in high school and my degree is in Exercise Science. To this day, I still am not sure why I chose to study it, but at the time, I believe it was because I so badly wanted fitness to always be associated with who I was. I was teaching cycling classes, training for half marathons, working out in my apartment complex twice daily, and I never really enjoyed any of it. To this day I still have not run one half marathon - but for some reason back then labeling myself as ‘training’ for one made me feel significant. Quite honestly, I did not enjoy running when I was 23 years old. Not at all. 

I realize now that my exercise back then was completely motivated by fear. Fear of weight gain, fear of losing the fitness label I had worked so hard at earning, and really, I was completely insecure about my body and who I was as a person and for some reason if I exercised constantly, they became insecurities that I never had to face. 

For as much as I exercised, l really wouldn’t have described me as fit. A better description of the way I looked and felt was tired, overworked, sad, lonely, and afraid of who I was and who I was becoming. I was never overweight by any means, and I definitely had the motivation mentally to run 9 miles and teach a cycle class all in one morning, but I was not happy. I was 155 pounds and the only thing I had to show for a long and strenuous workout was a torn IT band and sadness written all over my face. I became really good at pretending to love it, pretending to be happy, but inside I was really confused. 

When I met my husband, I was a complete wreck. We were married after a year of dating and to this day, I have him to thank for pulling me out of a really dark hole. God puts people in our lives to make us better, and I have so much gratitude in my heart for his patience in helping me heal.  He helped me on this path of believing that I am wonderfully and beautifully made, and that there is a world beyond health and fitness that I had yet to discover.  Almost five years and two babies later, I have a completely different outlook on fitness, and a completely different perception of the way that I view myself and ultimately everyone around me. I became a photographer because I have a very strong creative side to my heart. But I also became it because I love to capture the beauty in people - their body language, their smiles, their personalities. It is always my goal to capture who that person is, who the couple is, so that they may embrace their shape, their color, and who they are on the inside as well. If I am able to photograph and share who someone is on the inside through an exterior photo, I know that I have done my job well. 

Through all of this, I can actually say I have a complete and profound love for health and fitness again. I do nothing with my degree and I don’t teach exercise classes but I am so over the moon thankful for my body and what it’s able to accomplish every single day, whether it’s exercised or not.  I have an appreciation for pregnancy, childbirth, surgeries, long workouts, short workouts, fast walks, slow walks, five days in a row of moving and eating right and five days in a row of resting and indulging in amazing foods.  The exact moment I started resting and eating more and giving myself grace and no longer fearing who I was if I didn’t workout, was the moment my mind and my body began to change. I have a passion for running now. I love yoga. I love food. I am 140 pounds and I feel so incredibly healthy. Sometimes I weigh a little more than that and sometimes a little less. But there is absolutely zero stress about that number or who I am if a don’t exercise. I move because it feels good and I eat because it tastes good and I don’t judge anybody’s journey in health or wellness, I only cheer for them. Always. 

All of that being said, I had no intention of losing my baby weight fast. I still have a few pounds to go and am in no rush to get there. But I do still give myself goals - and one of those was to run that 5K on Tuesday. And for those of you who asked or who are interested in how I healed and transitioned back into the world of fitness post-baby, see below :)

  1. Do absolutely nothing for 6 weeks. Truly, I didn’t do anything besides hang with my littles.
  2. I went for my first walk/run around 6 1/2 weeks. It was a total of 20 minutes and I was freezing and tired.
  3. I started incorporating a lot of stretching into each day whenever I had the chance. It helped my muscles remember what it felt like to work a little bit.
  4. I try to run 2 to 3 times a week. Each time I try to go a little further than the last. 
  5. Don’t focus on your speed. Before Riggins I was running 8 minute miles. Right now I’m running 10 minute miles. It’s all good.
  6. I am so not a lover of strength training but I do believe this has helped me heal and earn some strength back. Once a week, I try to do squats with my kettlebell and body planks and arm work with my resistance bands.
  7. I eat very often. I cannot have dairy currently which makes my diet pretty bland, but I do eat fairly often and I think this has helped my metabolism, energy for exercising, and to maintain my milk supply.
  8. Exercise when you can.  It doesn’t need to be first thing in the morning. Most days we aren’t even fully fed and functioning around here until after 9. Give yourself grace on your workout schedule. It will be interrupted when you have littles running around. I accepted this right away so that when it does happen, I’m not flustered or irritated.
  9. Give someone else a compliment.  We are all on this health and wellness journey together. Rather than comparing yourself and your body to others, cheer them on. Whoever they are and wherever they’re at in this journey, be kind. The best thing you can share with others is kindness.
  10. Have fun. If you are at a place in your life like I was at five years ago, please reach out. I have two really great ears that would love to listen and hear your story. I promise you that exercise and health and putting an end to shaming your body and fearing it is possible. 

Oh, and if you're pregnant and reading this. YOU ARE AMAZING. YOUR BODY IS AMAZING. Give your belly a rub and be thankful for your body’s ability to do what it is doing. Creating a home for a baby is an incredible task and I pray that we can all find complete beauty in it. 



What is bringing you joy lately? One thing I’ve learned and accepted as a new mom is that often times it is the simplest things that can bring us the most joy in our lives.  As a stay at home mama with two littles, my mind and body often go on autopilot. This time of year we often do the same activities, eat the same foods, and watch the same cartoons on a daily basis. I get so caught up in the acts of daily living and don’t take the time to really appreciate what I have or the things that truly bring happiness to my life and the culture of my family.

I’ve been thinking about how stay at home mom’s, and even just mom’s in general, can get into small ruts and how sometimes being at home with their babies all day can make them feel lonely, isolated, and sometimes even depressed. It can be difficult to create an atmosphere of joy in your life when you fall into a routine of same old same old each week. While I feel completely blessed to be home with my babies and would not change it for the world, I realize that sometimes I just need a little spark in each day to bring a genuine feeling of happiness and gratitude in my heart. 

Joy attracts more of what you love and desire, and I think it is so important to allow yourself to do the things that make you happy every single day.

I truly hope that you can find a mixture of hope and gratefulness during this time in your life.  Whether you are a happy and positive person on the regular or going through a period of unknowns and doubts, having little ways to create a joyful culture in your home and in your heart will benefit you now and in your future! 

Connect with People: As a stay at home mom in Minnesota, this time of year we don’t get out much. But I’ve found that even a coffee date with a friend, a walk with my hubby, or a dinner gathering at my parents makes me feel so connected with other hearts. Relationships are so important and I think just being able to connect with someone other than your kids each week will bring warmth to your soul. I had a phone conversation with a photography friend for 10 minutes this afternoon and I felt like I had just spent the afternoon with her - it was amazing!

Get Outside: It’s cold, I get it. But any chance I get I try to either take my dog for a run or take McCoy outside to play. If it’s way cold, even just stepping on my porch to shake the rugs or getting the mail makes me feel connected to the outside world. A little vitamin D goes a LONG way. Soak it up as much as you can.

Create an Identity for Yourself: Besides being their mama, what else defines you? It is so important to have a purpose other than being a parent. While being a mom completely fulfills me, I love being able to identify myself with something other than the one that makes food, cleans the house, and wipes butts. What is it that makes you, you? What makes you happy? How do people describe you? Take these traits and implement them into your life every day. 

Simplify Your Home: If you are at home for the majority of the time with your kids, I highly recommend this! I started feeling trapped in my own home. I felt like there were things everywhere that were serving no purpose - and definitely NOT bringing joy to my life. I slowly started going through drawers, closets, toys, etc. and separating them into keep, donate, and sell piles. It is amazing what creating space in the home can do for your soul! I’m no longer afraid to open drawers and I can actually see which clothes I own and which clothes my kids own. McCoy actually plays with his toys now that he isn’t overwhelmed with bins filled with pieces that lost their counter parts. My home is filled with simple decor, toys, and foods and it just makes me feel like I have space to move and breathe in the environment where I spend most of my time! Happy de-cluttering friends, it is so worth it!

Listen to Music: We listen to music every single day. The songs and artists are always changing, but I find the background noise is good for all three of us (and 4 of us on the weekends)!  McCoy loves to dance, Riggins seems to enjoy the noise, and music overall makes me a really happy person. So in our home, it’s a must!

Learn with your Kids: It is amazing what these little minds can teach you. I was reading a book to McCoy the other day and I called an animal a llama and he corrected me and said, ‘no Mama that’s a camel.’ He also taught me what a vortex was - a mass of whirling fluid or air. I am a fairly smart person actually but when you don’t see or speak things on a daily basis you kind of forget what they are sometimes. My point is, take he time to learn what your kids are learning, haha, it’s amazing what their minds absorb and remember!

Move: Another one of my top choices to bring joy into your life. Movement is without a doubt one of the best ways to get happy juices flowing. I really don’t even like the word exercise anymore. A good friend of mine always promotes ‘movement’ instead and I’ve totally hopped on that train. Move in which ever way your body feels like today.  No need to force it, just do what feels good!

Unplug:  I am currently on a break from social media. I still have been doing some posts for business related things, but I have been sharing nothing personal and have definitely not been scrolling feeds.  I’ve said it before: I love social media platforms because they allow us to share our real lives with the world. They can build businesses, relationships, and lead you to fellow bloggers and writers that share your same interests. But as a mama at home with my kids, I often feel like when my phone is in my hand constantly, I become completely distracted from my primary job, and that is to be their mama. So every once in a while I like to take a week or two off of all social media platforms and focus more on conversations, reading real books, and laughing with my babies without it having to be recorded.

Have a Hobby: This goes along with finding an identity for yourself. Besides being a parent, what is it that you enjoy doing and that brings joy to your life? I understand it’s hard to find time to do these joyful things sometimes, but even if you make an effort to implement a hobby into your week a couple times, you’ll feel as though you serve a purpose other than being home with your children. Writing and photography are huge outlets for me I love making time for them a little bit each day.

Sip: Honestly, nothing makes me happier than slow mornings with my babies while I listen to music, make a healthy breakfast, and sip on something warm. Having something to drink throughout your morning or even your day can bring you a lot of joy. I’m a Starbucks girl through and through and I never deviate. This has become my staple and something that I look forward to every single day. Sipping on something yummy = joy. 


I hope you try one of these to create an atmosphere of joy into your daily life.  Mama’s, you deserve the world and deserve to be happy!  How do you bring joy into your life? I would love to hear from you! Message me below or on my Instagram feed @bethdonelson.