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This is the year I take better care of myself

Last spring, my husband started a new job that includes a hefty dose of travel, and adjusting to a schedule with a lot of solo parenting stretches has taken its toll on me. In my scramble to make sure I'm not overlooking anything and am being all the things to all the people all the time—it's easy to let my own needs fall by the wayside. And when that happens, I end up burned out and grumpy and that's not good for anyone.

The truth is, when I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of anyone else.

To avoid burning the candles at both ends, I came up with 10 resolutions for this year that are me-focused so they can serve as reminders to include myself on the list of people I'm caring for.

My goal is to make sure my tank is full so I'm ready for whatever life (and motherhood) may throw at me.

1. I am going to make time for myself.

And I'm not going to apologize for it.

As moms, it's all too easy to "should" all over ourselves. I should be able to keep going. I should be more intentional during playtime. I should plan more activities. I shouldn't pay a babysitter just to go sit at Starbucks. The problem with all that should-ing is that it leaves us feeling like...well, crap.

This year, I'm giving myself permission to claim my time. I know that I need a few hours away every week to stay sane, and I'm not going to feel bad about that.

2. I am going to be intentional with my time.

There's one small thing I can do every morning that makes the difference between starting off on the right foot or the wrong one—getting up before my kids do.

One of my friends calls this waking up TO your day, rather than being woken up BY your day. I will set my alarm for at least 15 minutes before my kids' typical wake up time.

That gives me time to brew a pot of coffee and do a quick devotional or maybe just watch the sun rise. Waking up to peace and quiet rather than cries of "Mom, Mama, Mommy, Maaaa-mmaaaaa!" will help ease me into my day.

3. I am going to take care of my body.

I'm kicking this year off by running a 15K and I've also committed to my first triathlon in June. I'm not an athlete (not in the slightest)—I will be slow and the training won't be easy—but breaking a sweat and getting my heart rate up a few times a week are critical to my state of mind.

In the famous words of Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don't kill their husbands."

4. I am going to accept help.

I'm not very good at asking for help when I need it. I have a very "I can do it myself" mentality (my 3-year-old daughter shares this trait), but it often leaves me feeling burned out and overwhelmed.

In the name of taking better care of myself, when someone extends a dinner invitation on night three of solo parenting, I'm going to say yes.

5. I am going to take care of my mind.

I'm going to read one book a month. I love to read but, truth be told, haven't done much of it since I became a mom—and I miss it. It doesn't have to be highbrow literature, just a good story I can lose myself in for a few hours.

6. I am going to be kind to myself.

Scrolling through Instagram can make it real easy to feel like I'm not thin enough, fashionable enough or sufficiently well-lit in my photographs. Pinterest can lead to dissatisfaction with my small house and disorganized closets. Facebook can leave me longing for more vacations or a more successful career.

Social media is great for maintaining connections, but not so great for encouraging satisfaction and contentment. I'm going to be kinder to myself and more appreciative of what I have by spending less time on social media.

7. I am going to prioritize friendships.

In this season of raising young children, it's been all too easy to neglect my friendships. "They'll understand," I reason. "They're busy, too." And they do, and they are, but it's so rejuvenating to take the time to reconnect.

So every week, I'm going to reach out to a friend—whether by text, email, or over a cup of coffee. Just a quick check-in, to see how things are and let them know I'm thinking of them.

8. I am going to spend more time being present.

I work part-time from home. It's great because there's no real set schedule and I can get my work done whenever it works for me. Of course, these are also the precise things that make it difficult. If I'm not careful, I spend a lot of time on my laptop or phone when I'm with my kids, because I think I can check just one more thing off the to-do list real quick.

This year, I'm going to do a better job of drawing lines around my time with the kids—the first hour after school and the hour before bedtime will belong solely to them, as will mealtimes. Work can wait.

9. I am going to make space for my passions.

I love to write. It's how I make sense of my emotions and how I capture memories. But it doesn't pay the bills, fold the laundry, keep the house clean or take care of the kids, which means it often ends up at the bottom of my priority list.

I know I can't move it to the top of the list, but I can carve out time every week just for writing. And I will.

10. I am going to give and accept grace.

Some days, my 3-year-old is going to wake up in a bad mood. My 7-year-old is going to spill his milk all over the kitchen floor (again). I'm going to skip my workout.

Typically, these are things that would make me roll my eyes and my temper flare. But what if I met mistakes with grace instead? "That's okay; let's wipe it up together." "No problem; I'll just set my alarm early and workout tomorrow instead."

In my opinion, an unexpected dose of grace never fails to make an impact.

New Year, I'm ready for you.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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