Who Am I?

 Who Am I?

Wife to Little Matt. Mother to Mini Matt.

Lady boss. Family-focused. Confident and empowered. Overly independent. Shamelessly honest. Endlessly stubborn. Striving to always be kind. Usually calm. Mostly collected. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Disney addict. Book lover. Always dreaming of travel. Love to dance. Living for the outdoors.


Prepare for International Travel: The Beginner’s Guide!

Prepare for International Travel: The Beginner’s Guide!

Preparing to head across the pond for the first time? Check out these tips from Ister to get you ready!

Call in the pros. Whether this is your first or twentieth time out of the country, consider contacting a travel agent! They can help you make plans, book reservations, and handle problems along the way. It can be a huge relief to know you have someone on your side. Bonus: Most agents are free! (I highly recommend Dream Creators Travel! Deannise is my agent and she’s my savior.)

Grab your passport. If you already have your passport, give it a peek and make sure it’s still valid for travel. Even if it’s not currently expired, you may need to renew it before leaving the country. Don’t have a passport yet? Get to it! Give yourself enough time for it to process (at least 6 weeks) or you’ll be paying a hefty fee to have it expedited. Questions about the process and requirements? Get the facts here.

How about a visa? Assuming you are simply visiting as a tourist, many of the popular travel destinations do not require a travel visa. However, you should always do a quick double check before you’re caught in a sticky situation (and be prepared to apply if you are planning any kind of extended stay). My fellow Americans can check here for detailed government-provided information and instruction.

Vaccinate. Check the CDC’s official site for location-specific information on vaccination requirements and recommendations as soon as you start planning. Know what you need to get in and out of the country, and be prepared with any necessary documentation and records.

Phone a friend. Check with your cell service provider and find out what your options are for international travel. Most companies offer a daily rate or special short-term plan. You can also consider purchasing an international phone card instead. If you don’t foresee any important phone calls during your travels, and are traveling to a developed area with Wi-Fi access, you may be able to get away with an internet-based communication app (Facebook messenger, Voxer, Skype, etc). Keep in mind the communication limitations this will put on you when you are outside the range of an accessible network.

Make the swap. Exchange your money for the foreign currency at your bank ahead of time. Don’t try to do this last minute, especially if you are hoping to exchange a significant amount of cash. Many banks don’t keep much foreign currency on hand and will need to order it in for you. Even if you are traveling with an international credit card, make an effort to also bring a bit of cash. Just like here in your home country, not everyone accepts card payments.

Learn the language. I’m not saying you need to start four years in advance and become fluent in reading, writing, and speaking the language, but make a little effort here. There are plenty of helpful apps (DuoLingo is an Ister fave) and videos (you all know how to use YouTube) out there to give you a solid base. Learn basic words and phrases so you can get by without stressing or putting yourself in a bad place. Keep your planned activities in mind and tailor your bilingual education to your trip. (Ister tip: If you aren’t feeling confident with the new language, research high tourist areas. Those areas will be MOST likely to understand some English.)

Familiarize yourself with the culture. Whether you prefer reading a travel guide or watching a travel vlogger, do your due diligence. You and the locals will both be happier when you come prepared to pay for the public toilet… (Ister tip: Don’t be afraid to dig. Find out traditions and customs, local hot spots, and even common scams in the area. Know the location as well as possible!)

Don’t forget Fido. Find pet care well in advance. Whether its Aunt Marge or the kennel down the street, make plans to leave your babies with someone you trust. Keep in mind: you’ll be a long way from home in case of a pet emergency. If you are using a business instead of family, reach out immediately after booking your trip. Kennels and other doggy digs book up fast!

Pack smart. Check luggage and carry-on cost and size limitations with your airline before you go. Double check dimensions of your bags BEFORE you pack. After everything is packed up, check the weight to make sure you won’t incur any additional fees. (Ister tip: Can’t get your bag to sit on your home scale properly? Weigh yourself. Then weigh yourself holding the bag. Subtract one from the other and voila- bag weight.)

Be realistic with your clothing choices. Consider the climate and your activities on the trip and make smart decisions. Bring options, but don’t go wild. Keep in mind those weight limitations from the previous point…

Bring the things you NEED in your carry-on. In the case of lost luggage, you won’t want to be without your medications, travel documents, electronics/communication, or a clean set of clothes. Also consider carrying on personal items like headphones and any comfort items you travel with, like a favorite pillow. (Ister tip: Contact wearers should always bring glasses and solution, too. Dry cabin air can be killer on the eyes.) If you aren’t checking any luggage, consider bringing a separate smaller ‘travel bag’ to keep with you in the seat for these essentials.

Keep your travel bag simple and realistic. Skip multiple books (will you really read 4 novels on your flight?), excessive food (bring snacks, not 3 square meals), or excessive toys for children (think about their usual day and how many items they’ll ACTUALLY need). Avoid digging through your bag for the 2 items you actually use or lugging around a 20 pound carry-on.

Don’t forget to find out if you’ll need a universal outlet adapter! You may be able to find one when you get to your destination, or even in the airport, but skip the stress and grab one ahead of time.

Batten down the hatches. Arrange for a friend to pop by the house every few days. Turn off your water. Have the post office hold your mail. Secure the locks, take out the trash, and straighten up the lawn. Give the homestead a once-over and ensure you don’t come home to a minor (or major) disaster.

Fly smoothly. Keep your boarding pass, passport, and any other important documents together in a folder or small bag. This will help keep them safe and easy to grab any time you’re asked for them.

Know and properly follow all TSA rules and regulations. This is not the time to get creative or try out that snazzy “life hack” you read online.

Save time after you disembark the plane by making your luggage easily identifiable. Consider purchasing unique luggage if you don’t already have some, or jazz up your basic suitcase for the trip with a ribbon or fun tag. A pink Minnie Mouse suitcase is easier to spot than yet another big black bag. Should your luggage go missing, this also makes it easier to describe to the airline service people.

Chances are, if you are taking an international flight, it’s a long one. Dress in comfortable clothes, if possible, and remember that you’ll have to slip out of your shoes at airport security. Avoid buttons, belts, collars, and anything that may irritate you in your plane seat. Do your best to stay away from ‘difficult to put on’ shoes, like work boots.

Arrive prepared. If you are planning on doing any sightseeing or made any transportation plans ahead of time, print out all tickets, vouchers, and documentation before you leave home. Tuck these documents in with your passport and boarding pass and avoid the struggle of trying to find a printer or pull anything up on your phone. (Ister tip: Planning on traveling in a taxi? Pre-print slips of paper with your planned locations and “home” address on them. That way, you know there will be no communication issues getting you where you need to be!)

Try new things. Use your trip as an opportunity to try something you may never experience at home. Don’t be afraid to submerge yourself in the culture and have a real adventure.

Take photos. Or don’t. This is your trip and these are your memories. Want to bring home snapshots and video clips to share and look over again and again? Do it. Want to live in the moment and not look at a single thing through a lense? Do that instead. Experience it your way.

Enjoy. Soak up your surroundings and appreciate every second of your trip. Don’t let little bumps in the road get you down. Laugh at miscommunications and create memories from mishaps. Take mental photos of your favorite views and breathe in delicious smells to be remembered later. Live in the moment. Enjoy.

Comment below, wonderful readers. Share with me where you are headed in your international travels!

The Beginning

The Beginning

Anyone who is close to me or follows my Facebook page knows that I’ve started a new journey to better health recently. I’ve been lazy for too long and making too many bad choices for the sake of convenience. My 1 year post-baby pass is over and it’s time to get it together. That same baby is now watching me and learning from my habits and there’s nothing I want more than to be a good example in all that I do. Plus, I need to be in good health to run and play with him and ensure I’m here for him for the long haul.

I know I can do this. I’ve done it before. During my struggle to get pregnant, I found out I have PCOS, which in the health and diet short-terms means my hormones are insane and carbs and sugar are enemy #1. Pre-baby this news sent me into mission mode. I read endless articles online, bought books, saved recipes, and generally overhauled my way of eating. As a result, I lost 20 pounds kind of like magic. If you’ve ever found out you have a medical diagnosis to explain some of your weight gain and inability to lose, you know what I mean. It’s exciting to have the secret to fix your diet just for your body. Unfortunately, after a few months I hit a point where it felt useless, if you’ve ever struggled with infertility you know what I mean here, too, and I gave up my efforts and gained back some (most?) of the weight. In the end, of course, I did get pregnant and actually came out of the hospital weighing LESS than my pre-pregnancy self. (I don’t recommend this as a goal. The pregnancy was not pretty, especially the extended morning sickness part and slow growth of my Mini man.)

In the months following, I’ve given myself a 1 year pass to just survive and focus on baby. A lot of that time was spent eating out of convenience, stress, or treating myself something, ANYTHING, indulgent to do something for me.

That leaves me where I am now – up 30 pounds from my son’s birthday and more out of shape than I’ve ever been in my life. Now that Mini is 15 months old his favorite activities include running around like a nut and needing to do, have, and see everything I do, have, and see. More than anything, this has been my wake-up call. When I can’t share half of what’s on my plate because it’s junk or give him a sip of my drink because it’s soda, it’s time to change. And so it begins…

Previous Health Journey post HERE.

My Health Journey: A Journey of Another Kind

My Health Journey: A Journey of Another Kind

I’m not a health nut or a fitness guru or some kind of expert in nutrition. I’m just a woman, a mama and a wife, trying to do her best to get back to healthy. Follow along with my ramblings, recipes, and real struggles (oh, the struggles) as I do my best to become my best self.

Just so we’re clear, this isn’t some ‘get thin quick’ or ‘2 weeks to toned’ kind of journey. I’m not focused on the vanity of all this, though I won’t deny looking forward to losing some of my post-baby chunk. I’m making these changes for my health and for the health of my family. I have zero interest in quick fixes and fad diet products. I’m here to make a lifestyle change and stick with it.

These are my genuine thoughts and experiences, and it will never become some kind of fitness mania or sales pitch. I’m here to share because it’s therapeutic. I’m here to share because I KNOW I’m not the only one going through these things and feeling the way I do.

So what do you say? Are we ready to do this thing?!

First Health Journey post HERE.

5 Items That Saved Me While Breastfeeding

5 Items That Saved Me While Breastfeeding

Happy World Breastfeeding Week, Mamas!

In celebration and support, I’m sharing 5 items that saved me on my ‘way less than perfect’ breastfeeding journey. Here we go…

Lansinoh Soothies: These gel pads made by Lansinoh were an absolute heaven-sent. My nipples were destroyed by a poor latch for 3 months and these patches made the most progress in healing them up between nursing sessions. On one side of the Soothie is a glycerin-based gel that cools on contact, and on the other is a soft fabric backing to help prevent your bra from rubbing (and does a wonderful job keeping the pad in place instead of getting caught up and sliding around). Any mama experiencing cracking, bleeding, or soreness NEEDS these (and a good ibclc to help you fix the problem).

*Note that these are a “solid” gel material but it is still recommended to gently wipe off the breast before nursing to avoid any loose gel particles or dirt from being consumed by baby.*

Lansinoh Lanolin: If you’ve ever perused the breastfeeding section of a store or done a quick search online, you know there are about a billion brands of nipple creams, butters, gels, etc. While I tried quite a few brands in my hunt for relief, Lansinoh HPA Lanolin was the definite winner. The texture and coverage was just right and created the ideal barrier from irritating bras and breast pads. I used this stuff for probably a solid 6 months. The struggle was real. Lansinoh’s single-ingredient lanolin is not only super effective, but also hypoallergenic, 100% natural, ultra refined, and safe for both mom and baby. I was not at all surprised to see this is the #1 recommended nipple cream by doctors and lactation consultants in the U.S.- It’s an absolute must-have for anyone experiencing mild irritation.

Haakaa: This is the #1 breastfeeding item I wish I had found sooner. My Medala breast pump was not my friend. It hurt, it leaked, I couldn’t find the correct size flanges or get the proper pumping technique down… It was such a nightmare that I ended up expressing by hand when I needed to store milk away. (Thank goodness I work from home and never needed much.) At one point during this fiasco, I heard about the Haakaa, a magical manual pump that you just suction on to your breast while baby eats, or you pump, on the other, and it collects milk. It took me WAY. TOO. LONG. to buy one and try it. I thought because I didn’t have crazy leakage or intense letdowns, this product would be a waste of money. Eventually a friend shared a link to a knock-off on Amazon for a price I couldn’t deny, and I was immediately in love. This thing is incredible, ladies. Every breastfeeder needs a Haakaa. I’m serious. Go. Go now. Shop. Buy. Do it. Stop doing so much work for your milk. Thank me later. No, really. Bookmark this and thank me later. 😂

A Carrying Caddy: This silly little thing seriously simplified my life. To maintain a successful breastfeeding journey with our issues, I found Mini and I needing a lot of STUFF: breast pads, nipple cream, Soothies and post-Soothie wipes, sterile water syringes, constant water to stay hydrated, snacks… (priorities, ladies). It was after experiencing such a hassle lugging these things around from room to room, and quite a few times not having them because I wasn’t able to get up (never wake a sleeping baby), that I decided to pack them up in a simple Thirty-One caddy. Instead of trying to gather individual items and lug them around, the caddy kept everything together. Simple time-and-stress-saver.

A Soft Blanket: I’m not sure if it was me or my baby or just “not so great for us” products, but there was not a single nursing positioner on the market that worked for me. I couldn’t get myself comfortable. I couldn’t get Mini at the right angle. It was pressing on my c section scar. I didn’t understand how to fit my baby on it without suffocating him in my breast. (True story. The large chest issues are serious.) Finally I gave up on all the easy-fix pillows and products and just used a $15 fleece blanket. It was soft and gentle and completely customizable for whatever position we needed. This thing came with us everywhere, too, so it was a bonus that it traveled easily. (Imagine me walking from my car into the hospital for our breastfeeding support group, carrying my newborn and diaper bag, with a big fleece blanket trailing behind us… messy hair, tired eyes, bleeding nipples: perfect picture of motherhood.) Super bonus points here: I also used this blanket to support Mini when we used the side lay position at home, as a pillow when I was trying to get comfortable post-surgery, and even during labor as a comfort. It’s the simple things that work the best sometimes.

Alright, breastfeeding mamas! What were your bf’ing must-haves? What do you think of mine? Anything you DIDN’T love?

*Always remember, while breastfeeding may start out uncomfortable, it’s not “normal” to have serious pain for an extended period of time. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding your baby, don’t be afraid to reach out to a board-certified lactation consultant or your local Le Leche League or other support group. Let ladies with experience and expertise help you. You aren’t the first or last mama to struggle. Seek and accept help and pay it forward in the future.*

Our First YouTube Video

Our First YouTube Video

Yesterday I recorded and posted our first YouTube video. I’ve done a few before when I was a JamGirl, and my sister and I dabbled in YT for her business, but this was my first video of me just being me. Less than an hour after I posted it, I deleted it off the site. I took a moment to rewatch it and had decided I would record it again in the morning and do much better. While it was fine and fun and natural, I told myself it wasn’t good enough. I could tell it was rushed (There was, after all, only 5 minutes of recording time available on my phone with the 8,000 photos of my son already taking up so much space.) My hair looks a mess and my make up was fading. My double chin made an appearance multiple times (I’m working on it…). There were things maybe I should have mentioned to better inform the viewer of the awesome AlvaBaby deal. My child decided to get violent with a defuzzer brush (I swear. This isn’t clickbait.) and I laughed at his insanity multiple times. Definitely could do better, NEEDED to do better for the people watching…

This morning I woke up, watched it again (ready to delete it from my phone), and it made me laugh and smile and I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. That’s when I decided I had it all backwards yesterday. My “target audience” doesn’t need to see BETTER, they need to see REAL. Mommas scrolling the internet, flipping through videos, and desperately searching for info on a knockoff cloth diaper brand don’t need perfect; They need real. Sure, maybe next time I’ll do better brushing my hair and work on my camera angle, but this is just fine. If you can’t appreciate some silliness and real motherhood, you’re on the wrong page right now, anyway.

So here it is mommas, daddies, grandparents, aunties and uncles of the internet… Our first YouTube video.

Sorry, not sorry.

Bucket List

Bucket List

My Bucket List

1. Ride a jet ski

2. Ride a quad in an exciting location

3. Visit Canada

4. Zip line somewhere exotic

5. Visit Japan

6. Spend time at every Disney property

7. Ride on a train

… Constantly Being Updated …

Comment with some of your bucket list items!

Daytay’s Travels: Here We Go!

Daytay’s Travels: Here We Go!

I’m a girl on the go! From shopping trips to beaches to historical sites, zoos, and beyond, I’m always on the move. Keep up with our family and all our ‘go and do’ adventures with the “Daytay’s Travels” series. Live vicariously through us or prepare for YOUR next big (or little) trip!

The adventures begin here: COMING SOON!

P.S. Looking for a place to go during travels or need a solid review on a local place? Don’t forget to also peek at my “Reviews” section. In my family I’m known as the girl with a million questions so I’m here to provide thorough, honest reviews for fellow ‘need to know’ seekers of knowledge. 😉