10 Ways You Know You’re a Mom

I’m obviously the same person I was before kids, but I’m still growing and learning too. Motherhood has changed me so much in the past two years. I feel like I’m simultaneously my best and worst self. Children are great magnifiers of our good and bad qualities. I react differently to situations than I used to, and my priorities have shifted to put my children first in almost every aspect of my life. Sometimes I marvel at the differences I notice in myself and Mr. Cookie since having kids, but mostly I’m too tired to think about it too much. This is a real list of the ways I’m reminded that I am a parent, first and foremost.

You Know You’re a Mom When…

1) You can say “no” to things. I used to try and make everyone happy. For example, when we’d go back to Chicago I would attempt to visit all of our groups of friends, but that has become nearly impossible when traveling with children. I still do what I can to be accommodating, but I’m not bending over backward anymore. I don’t have to be busy to decline an invitation. I can simply be uninterested or doing what is best for my little family.

2) You can leave the house less put together than ever before  Let’s just say I wear a lot of ponytails and Target t-shirts. I still have trouble going in public without makeup (years of bad skin will do that to you) but I can leave the house looking pretty grungy. The funniest part is that my kids look adorable when we go out and my shirt is usually stained with baby puke.

3) You think a shower or trip to the grocery store counts as alone time. Sad but true! How did shaving my legs and buying toilet paper become luxuries? Just listening to the radio instead of kids’ music in the car makes me feel like a rebel.

4) You are super excited and invested in things you only moderately cared about before. Yes, my child needs to wear a “My First Holiday” outfit for every occasion, including “Baby’s First Arbor Day.” Yes, I need adorable photos of my children in front of pumpkins, making snowmen, hunting for eggs, and watching fireworks. Yes, our children will be forced encouraged to watch football each Sunday and support mom and dad’s teams. EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT.  QUICK, POST IT TO SOCIAL MEDIA.

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Have Children, Will Travel: Babymoon and Pregnancy Travel Considerations

Mr. Dolphin and I took a “babymoon” before Lion was born and I insisted on taking another big trip while pregnant with Panda. We took both right around the 24 week mark and had very different approaches to the two trips, in part because we had a toddler in tow for our second adventure.

For our first babymoon, we went to Israel and Jordan. For our second, we flew to Venice and spent a few days there before hopping on a cruise that went to Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. They were vastly different experiences, but both were absolutely perfect (even when things went massively wrong) and I would definitely do it again.

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Our traveling koala on the ridge above Petra’s monastery.

Here are some considerations for a babymoon, as well as some general considerations about traveling internationally while pregnant.

Why Babymoon?

Mr. Dolphin and I are passionate about traveling and have been to more than 25 countries together, plus numerous others individually. Before we had Lion, I started having some freak outs over whether we would still be able to travel with children. Having one big final trip helped me delay some of these fears because I was focused on planning our first trip to the Holy Land. We also wanted to spend some time to connect.

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Pictures like this made me eager to visit Petra!

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Backpack Diaper Bags

My designated diaper bag has greatly evolved since I first had StarCakes 3.5 years ago. When I was pregnant I had this Skip Hop diaper bag on my baby registry. I loved that it had so many pockets, was neutral colored and came with snack containers. It made it easy for me to find whatever I was looking for because everything had its own place. Plus, being a first time mom, I thought I needed to bring everything with me whenever I went out with the baby.

As StarCakes got older and his needs changed, I started using this Skip Hop Bee backpack. I would put extra diapers and wipes in the front pocket, a water bottle in the side pocket and my wallet, keys, a change of clothes and snacks in the main compartment. I liked carrying around this bag because it was a lot smaller than the diaper bag, but wearing it was uncomfortable. Eventually, I just started using my regular purse, a smaller version of this convertible hobo bag, as my “diaper bag.”

However, when we went to Maui for vacation I needed to be intentional about what bag I brought with me now that I had two kids. In came the Fjallraven Kanken Daypack. I bought this during Amazon Prime Day with the intention of breaking it in it during our trip to Maui. The product description said it was made of “a highly durable, abrasion and water resistant fabric that softens with age.” I was sold with the water resistant part since it was scheduled to rain during our stay in Maui. Initially when I saw the bag I thought it was too small, but boy was I wrong. I was able to fit all of the items below in this bag.


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Sixties Mod Outer Space Nursery Inspiration

“I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a [person] wants to see something new.”
Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days

Mr. Cotton Candy and I are still TTC baby number two, but the fact that I’m not pregnant yet hasn’t stopped me from fantasizing about planning a nursery for him or her. I had a few ideas floating around, including favorite cities and woodland creatures, but when I came across this poster on Etsy, I knew I had found the perfect theme: 1960s mod outer space. I’m envisioning NASA meets Mad Men, with a bit of steampunk a la Jules Verne thrown in. The color scheme will be raspberry, teal, and brass, with pops of cream and black.


The poster that inspired the theme.

All right, let’s get down to it. Here’s my 1960s mod outer space nursery inspiration board:


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9 Momfessions

While I’ve been thinking and writing about serious topics like restoring peace through budgeting and family mission statements, my mind has often wandered to a different, but related, topic … which is my list of things I don’t really care or worry about that other people do (I call these “Momfessions”).

Honestly, although this topic is lighter, coming up with this list was an integral part of coming up with our list of the things that are important to our family, which we are using to create our family mission statement. Because we can’t do and be everything to everyone, at least not right now. Knowing what’s most important to your family is essential, but it’s also important to know what is not essential to your family right now, so you don’t waste your time/ energy/ money worrying about them (at least not right now).

Without further rambling, here is my list of Momfessions:

1) I lay with my 3 year old almost every night to help him fall asleep. Big P used to go to sleep by himself (like back when he was 2). Mr. Peas, however, started traveling extensively for work around this time last year. He was gone many days each week and completely gone for about 2 months this summer. It was very hard on all of us, but especially for Big P. At some point during that process I started laying down with Big P to help him fall asleep, sometimes in my bed but usually in his. It was our special time to read books, snuggle, and talk about our days. Mr. Peas is thankfully back home full-time and done traveling for awhile, but Big P still asks me to lay with him every night. And for now I am saying yes. I am usually ready for bed (or at least to take a little rest) by then anyhow, and we both enjoy having a special time at the end of the day to reconnect.

2) I am terrible at childproofing. I basically did not childproof anything in our previous home, which we raised Big P in for almost the first 2 years of his life (and Little P for 8 weeks). In our current home, we have done some childproofing (mostly covering outlets and my parents thankfully installed some cabinet and door protectors), but we literally JUST installed a functioning baby gate at the top of our stairs. When we moved from a ranch to a 2-story, my biggest concern was the stairs. I did tons of research on top of the stairs gates and spent a ton of money for all these different gates to install in different places. Unfortunately they just didn’t work for us – it took Big P approximately 5 minutes to figure out how to open them and we ended up installing them too high, so no joke both of my kids (and one of my dogs) just slid underneath them when they wanted to escape. Recently I bought this gate, which has been life-changing (and in my opinion totally worth the cost – it’s very sturdy, easy to install even in wide stair cases with weird banisters like ours, and has a motion-activated light, so you don’t trip going up and down at nighttime, plus ZERO escapes thus far!). But I don’t feel inclined to childproof much beyond gates and maybe a few new cabinet latches. My apologies to any other moms who come over for playdates!

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My Kids’ 16 Favorite Korean Foods

I started writing a post about my kids’ favorite soups, then I realized that almost all of them were Korean dishes. So I decided to do a roundup of their favorite Korean foods instead!

Korean food is largely based on brothy soups and hearty stews. I introduced soups like miyuk guk (seaweed soup) to my kids shortly after they started solids. They’re excellent first foods because rice, the base of Asian cuisine, is hypoallergenic, and when it’s mixed with a soup, the consistency is very easy for children to digest. Plus seaweed is so good for you! For the most part the 8 soups I’ve included below have mild flavor profiles, so I think most kids would enjoy them as well. Korean dishes are usually quick and easy to cook with the same key ingredients, so it is my go-to cuisine for dinner.


Kimbap (Korean Rice Rolls) – This is one of the most popular Korean foods that children especially love in their lunches and on special occasions. I don’t make it very often because the individual ingredients can be pretty labor intensive, but I regularly buy it from the market. Kimbap can be made with many different ingredients, and the most popular include beef or Korean sausage, egg, carrot, cucumber, yellow daikon and spinach.

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Lessons Learned Through a Temporary Stay at Home Dad

Shortly after M was born, Mac Daddy’s work situation started to go very downhill. To make a long, complicated story short, there was a problem with the company’s finances, and Mac Daddy and his coworkers were being paid infrequently and very late, if at all. This lasted all the way through my maternity leave, and a month after I went back to work full-time, Mac Daddy and the majority of his colleagues were finally laid off.

In some ways it was a relief, because it was getting very frustrating for him to be putting in hours upon hours of work without getting paid, and at least the government’s employment insurance program would pay him on time. But it was also terrifying, because we had already been through a year of my income being reduced by half while on maternity leave in Canada, and now his would be, too.

At the time M was in a home-based daycare, and we talked to the provider about putting her in on a casual basis as needed — unless he was job hunting or found work, Mac Daddy would be a stay at home parent, something we’d never really expected for our family. But, given that I had just gone back to work a month prior, we were used to the stay at home scenario in general; we were just trading places. Mac Daddy and M were going to get a lot of one-on-one time, and he was really excited about that! It also prolonged our time away from having to navigate home daycare while we waited to get off of the waiting list for licensed care.

Of course, this happened right before winter, so Mac Daddy got a bit of a harsh introduction to stay at home parenting. I still remember him ranting to me about how long it takes to get out the door when you need to get your kid dressed in full winter gear! At the time we only had one vehicle and I used it for work unless the two of them had plans, so they often traveled around town with Mac Daddy pulling M in her sled.

It was about six months until Mac Daddy got a new job, and in that time, we all learned a lot. M was thrilled to be at home with her dad. Us parents gained a new perspective, as suddenly I was the one coming home like why is the laundry not done?! and Mac Daddy was responding with you said you’d be here at 5:30 and it’s six and I haven’t talked to an adult all day! We both had the opportunity to be the working-out-of-home parent and the primary caregiving parent, which really helped a lot in terms of empathizing with one other, even now that we’re both back to work.

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