A Day in the Life {9.9.22}

Every so often, I like to do a “day in the life” post to just document a random day. These posts are so fun for me to look back on later and see a peek at our life at a particular stage – things change so much with kids and yet, while we’re living it, it feels a little like groundhog day (just wait until you see how many pump parts I have to wash today ha!) Days slowly shift, routines slowly change, and before we know it, we’re in an entirely new phase. I love just taking the time to document a full day so I can remember the ordinary things that seem unremarkable at the time, but feel so sweet and special looking back on. I decided to document last Friday, the last weekday before preschool started and therefore the last day of what felt like my “maternity leave” at home all day with the kids.

September 9, 2022

Ollie is currently sleeping in a bassinet next to my side of the bed, and I love waking up and peeking over at him! The morning light filtering in through the windows and his sweet little face peeking out of a cozy sleep sack (my little baby burrito!) – it’s moments like these, and the feeling of contentment that comes with them, that I want to remember forever.

Right now, our bedroom is rearranged so we can fit both the bassinet and a recliner and small table for late-night feeding and pumping. It’s not glamorous, but it works well for us in this season.

Sometimes I try to wake up before the older two kids, but often there are mornings (like this one) where I’m exhausted from being up in the middle of the night and they come and wake me up. They crawl into bed and we snuggle a little and I try to keep them quiet to not wake Ollie and it’s one of those beautiful chaos kind of things that I know I’ll look back on nostalgically very soon.

On this morning, Ollie miraculously stayed sleeping after the kids came into my room so I got up to let the dogs out and get breakfast around. I’ve been transitioning us away from cereal every day (it’s just not filling enough and my kids always want a snack soon after) by giving the kids choices of simple, hearty options. Today Vi picked a frozen waffle and breakfast sausage and LJ picked a hard boiled egg.

After breakfast, the kids worked on a puzzle together on the floor while I picked up and re-folded the laundry I had folded on the couch the night before. . .and the kids had messed up the piles when they woke up before me and came downstairs.

Ollie was still sleeping so I headed into the office to work on a blog post (today I was writing a list of my postpartum favorite things).

I had a little visitor playing with her Lego castle at my feet!

After a bit of work, I heard Ollie start to stir, so I quickly went upstairs to wash my face and put in my contacts. Vi loves to come with me and “get ready” too. She’s in a stage of wanting to do anything and everything that mommy does, and this includes skincare haha. I’ll give her a tiny dot of whatever I’m applying and she puts it on too. Notice all the jewelry – that’s all her!

I got Ollie up and out of his sleep sack, changed his diaper, and headed downstairs to snuggle up and breastfeed. I finished up my blog post while feeding (and using my haaka) so this is quite the multitasking moment haha!

I’m not ready to go into all the details, but right now Ollie is not transferring enough milk by himself to get full. I am currently pumping after every feed and feeding him that milk via bottle. This is a very typical view of feeding – one or both kids usually wants to be right next to us. (LJ is obsessed with that farming simulator game right now!)

Once Ollie was finished, I headed into the kitchen to do the dishes. Right now, I’m having to do dishes frequently due to all the pump parts constantly needing washed.

The older two came in for a mid-morning snack of yogurt and granola . . .

. . . while I hard boiled another batch of eggs for our breakfasts. With our shift to heartier breakfasts, I find that it’s really helpful to batch prep something to always have on hand. Sometimes it’s a baked oatmeal or a big batch of pancakes; today it’s a batch of hard boiled eggs! I also reach for these if I need a mid-morning snack full of protein.

Vi asked if she could let her Ariel doll “swim” and even though I knew I’d probably regret it, I set up a small bowl on a towel for her to play with her toys. LJ wanted to join the fun and brought their little stool for a diving board ha! It always does my mama heart good to hear them play happily together, even if it does result in a bit of a mess.

I left them to it and headed upstairs with Ollie to put away laundry and tidy up a bit.

He wasn’t content in his bassinet anymore so I wrapped him up on me. I love my Solly Wrap – makes household tasks with a newborn so much easier!

We headed back downstairs and spoiler alert: the water DID make a mess but you know what, it entertained my kids for a while and truly wasn’t hard to clean up quickly so it was worth it.

I threw together some simple lunches for the kids – chicken nuggets in the air fryer, tomatoes, cucumbers, and an “Oreo” (it’s really a plant-based version of the cookie with some cleaner ingredients that tastes surprisingly good!) LJ couldn’t wait to eat it 😉

For my lunch, I had some leftovers. We feel so lucky to be surrounded by a caring community here – a friend set up a meal train for us and we’ve been receiving three meals a week from friends. It has been SUCH a gift as we adjust to life with another baby and we are so grateful! Today I finished up a chicken pot pie that a friend dropped off a few days before.

After lunch it was time to feed Ollie again. This time, Vi wanted to snuggle up against my arm and “hold” him.

Another feed, another pumping session. I’ve been working hard to keep my supply up and I’m proud that it’s adjusting to get what we need.

Had another visitor during the bottle portion of this feed!

Once Ollie was finished, I gathered all our stuff and loaded the kids into the car to head to a playdate at a friend’s house. It was so good to get out of the house and have some mom conversation with a friend while our kids played – bonus points for it being gorgeous weather and getting to spend time outside! As you can see, Vi made herself right at home in their dress-up collection.

After about two hours we loaded back up to head home. Once we got there, Ollie was ready to feed again. This time, I settled in with a book while he fed.

And of course, we did have a visitor. This time, Elsa came to join 😉

Justin got home and took LJ outside to enjoy the lingering warmth of the day and play some golf in the yard.

Meanwhile, Vi, I mean Elsa, wanted to hang out inside and play in the playroom,

while I did another round of dishes.

Another friend dropped off dinner for us (cannot overstate how grateful we are for this!) It was a yummy salad, chicken tater tot casserole, and sliced pineapple – filling and delicious!

My cousin, who lives nearby, just had her first baby in June and she and her family stopped by for a bit in the evening to meet Ollie. It was so fun to see these two little second cousins meet and I can’t wait to see them grow up together! We chatted about life and ended up feeding our babies at the same time; I enjoyed swapping stories and suggestions for things we’re each going through with our little ones.

The kids played a bit more and then Justin rounded them up for bedtime. Our bedtime routine involves brushing teeth and the kids picking out two books each to read in their beds. We’re currently trading off on bedtime duties and it was Justin’s turn, but Vi likes for me to read one book so tonight I did. Justin started with LJ and then took over both kids while I slipped out. (I decided I prefer not to share pictures of my kids in their beds).

I headed downstairs to snuggle Ollie and wait for Justin to come join. We had to wait for him because . . .

. . . we’re currently binging “Only Murders in the Building” together. It’s so entertaining!

Justin got some time with Ollie awake and alert, then I fed him one more time and we all headed to bed.

What a full day!

To see previous Day in the Life posts, you can check out the links below:

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

February 13, 2021

September 13, 2021 (almost exactly a year ago – my how things have changed!)

June 2, 2022

My Postpartum Mama Favorites

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow Ollie will be one month old! This time of postpartum has been sweet, challenging, beautiful, overwhelming at times, and delightful at others. I’ve been trying my best to focus on savoring this stage because as a third-time mama, I know it goes so very fast.

There are a few things that I’ve been reaching for again and again over the past four weeks and today I thought I’d share them in case they might be helpful for anyone else preparing to have a baby. It’s like a Friday Features: Postpartum Mama Edition! While these are my top favorites, this was by no means an exhaustive list of the things I’ve needed and used postpartum. I plan on devoting a future post to all the things I’m using and loving for baby, or maybe an “if I was registering again” post that includes the essential items I’ve used in my pregnancies and postpartum journeys. For today though, here are my current top items I’m using all the time!

Nipple Butter

Currently, I am both breastfeeding and pumping and this stuff is a lifesaver! It’s organic and you don’t have to wash it off before nursing or pumping, so I feel good about using it for myself and my baby. Right now Ollie is feeding every 2-3 hours and I cannot imagine that much action without a protective balm helping to restore and moisturize. I have not had chapping or cracking at all and it has definitely helped keep the pain level of initial nursing down. I do highly recommend nursing pads too, which help soak up any extra cream and also soak up breastmilk leaks. I love these washable ones!

Sculpt and Recovery Postpartum Leggings

These leggings are a splurge, but have been SO worth it for me. These give me a great amount of compression and helped me feel secure after my c-section. I started wearing them in the hospital and continue to wear them nearly everyday. It didn’t agitate my c-section incision and in fact, I feel like it actually provided a protective layer for my incision to heal without rubbing against moving fabric. I feel like the compression and support these give to my core have really aided in my quick recovery. They are not only super comfortable but are high-quality and made to last. I only have one pair but I used it postpartum for both Vi and now Ollie and they have held up amazingly well.

Postpartum Support Bloomers

These bloomers are also pretty splurge-y, but again, I used them postpartum for both Vi and Ollie and they have held up great. These provide core and pelvic floor support, both of which are so needed postpartum. I sometimes wear these with the recovery leggings, but usually I choose one or the other. The bloomers are comfortable and, like the leggings, don’t bother my incision area at all. I don’t have any other support garments or belly bands or anything – the leggings and bloomers are all I need!

Compression Socks

During this pregnancy, my feet and hands started to swell and tingle. I expected it to stop once I had the baby, but it’s still affecting my feet a little bit. I have found that compression socks are really helpful in keeping the swelling down and reducing the tingling sensation. I don’t wear these with my compression leggings, but I will wear them around the house with shorts or to sleep in for a couple hours.

C-Section Cream

Technically, this is a future favorite since I haven’t been able to use it yet this time postpartum, but I know I will use it multiple times a day! If you have a c-section, scar massage is so important! I have done scar massage each postpartum period and it was a big reason why my scar healed so well. I don’t care if this is vain, but I want my scar to look good. It’s important to me that it heals nice and flat and as smooth as possible. Expecting and Empowered is an amazing resource for pregnancy and postpartum and I highly recommend checking them out. This info they put together for c-section scar care has been incredibly helpful for me! I used this scar massage cream when postpartum with both LJ and Vi and will be using it again this time as well.

Rechargeable Book Light

This is a super random addition to the list, but it has really made my postpartum experience better at night! I am obviously up often during the night and right now, Ollie is sleeping in a bassinet in our room. I don’t want to turn on a light and bother Justin, but I also don’t just want to scroll my phone at 3 am (that backlight wakes me up too much!) This booklight is the perfect solution – it allows me to read while nursing but it really only illuminates my page and doesn’t cause too much light to wake up Ollie or Justin. I love it!

Like I said earlier, this list wasn’t exhaustive of everything I’ve used postpartum, but these are the top things that have made my recovery and newborn mama life better. I highly endorse each item! Now I’m off to go snuggle my newborn – the time with an itty bitty baby around here is going fast and I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

Ollie’s Birth Story

Happy Tuesday! We had a great Labor Day weekend around here, and with “labor” on my brain and some extra time on my hands, I finally had a chance to sit down and write out Ollie’s birth story. Today we’re taking it back to August 10, 2022!

Because LJ and Vi were both c-section deliveries, I knew that this third baby would also be one. During pregnancy, I mostly kept my mind focused on the baby and hadn’t given much thought to the actual surgery but as the date approached, I have to admit my nerves started to kick in. A c-section is a pretty major surgery and there is always a level of risk with surgery, even a planned one. I started to feel more anxious as the date approached and those emotions mixed with excitement for meeting this baby soon to create a kind of nervous adrenaline energy in the last week of my pregnancy.

We encountered some stress in the days before my surgery too: my parents, who were originally supposed to come stay with the kids while we were in the hospital, found out they had been exposed to COVID-19 just two days before they were planning to come here. There wasn’t enough time to wait and see if they also tested positive, so we had to scramble and come up with alternate arrangements. We’re so thankful for our community here, as we had multiple friends step up to offer help and watch our kids while we were in the hospital. The night before my surgery we dropped the kids off with some of our best friends and both our kids and theirs were SO excited about their first ever sleepover. It made me feel so much better about the situation knowing LJ and Vi were safe and having this special experience with their little buddies. It was kind of surreal tucking them in and kissing them goodnight knowing the next time we saw them we’d be a family of five!

Justin and I went home and got ready for the next morning. I re-used my hospital packing list from Vi’s birth and double-checked to make sure I had everything. The beauty of a planned c-section is you can actually feel pretty prepared beforehand; I showered and washed and dried my hair before heading to bed, so all I needed to do when we woke up (bright and early at 4:30!) was wash my face, put on a tiny bit of makeup, and take my last belly picture. 🙂 I honestly LOVED my round belly – pregnancy gives me a whole new level of body positivity and I savored my bump each time.

We had to be at the hospital at 5:30 am for my 7:30 surgery. Once we got there, we were taken to a room for me to get prepped for surgery.

I had to scrub down with sterile wipes and get in my hospital gown, then was hooked up to all the monitors and IVs – I have to admit I don’t love this part. It was a little uncomfortable for me to just be sitting in a hospital bed with all the wires and monitors and not be able to move around much. Plus, it was around this time that I really start to get nervous about the surgery. This last-minute anxiety happened for me with Vi’s birth too, so I just reminded myself of the same things I did back then: I am capable, I am brave, and I am doing this for my baby! So many friends and family members were checking in with us via text and Marco Polo by this point – letting us know we were in their thoughts and prayers and they were excited for us – and this was also a big comfort to me and helped keep my mind from spiraling to worry and negative energy.

Surgery time rolled around and I got wheeled into the (very cold) OR for my spinal block. This was honestly the worst part of the whole thing for me. I had the same anesthesiologist as my previous two surgeries which was comforting because I trusted her, but it’s just a nerve-wracking process regardless. This time was unfortunately my worst experience with it; I was feeling the burning pain too much on my left side so there was additional poking and pushing as she worked to get it set more centrally. I really had to breathe through the pressure and pain and try my best to relax (tensing makes it harder, but dang it’s hard not to tense when you’re feeling pain!) I was incredibly relieved when it was finished.

Once I was positioned on the table, I said some prayers and mentally prepared to meet my baby soon. Justin was able to enter the room and hold my hand while everyone got ready – I was thankful for that warm, reassuring touch and instantly felt more prepared once he was there. My OB came in and things got rolling! There’s something very energizing about the room at this point – baby is coming soon, everyone is excited and alert, there’s a little suspense as we get closer and closer, and I just have this feeling of being READY. I prefer to have the curtain up during surgery but my OB and Justin kept me informed of how things were progressing and pretty soon, I’m hearing that they see the head and here comes baby! One of our nurses was Justin’s cousin and she graciously offered to take some pictures of the process so we could both be fully present in the moment.

With LJ’s birth, we didn’t find out the sex ahead of time AND we didn’t know we were going to need to have a c-section after 25 hours of labor (which started 10 days early!) With Vi’s birth, we planned the c-section but once again didn’t find out the sex ahead of time. With this baby, we knew the sex, we knew the c-section date, we had the name solidified . . . I wasn’t sure how I would react when he was born because there wasn’t really any element of surprise if you know what I mean. And yet, the MOMENT I heard his tiny cry, I instantly teared up. My heart was just FULL knowing my baby was here. They lifted him up for me to see over the curtain (and he looked rough haha – lots of gunk all over his tiny body!) and I was just so dang happy. I smiled the whole time and couldn’t wait to get snuggled up with him. I had requested skin to skin asap, so as soon as they had him cleaned off a tiny bit and finished their initial assessments he was on my chest.

Justin’s cousin remarked that I looked so content laying there with Ollie on my chest and it is so true – I felt so much peace, love, and contentment in that moment. I think because Justin and I debated for so long whether or not to even have a third child, and then we weren’t sure if we would actually get pregnant once we decided to try, it just seemed even more incredible that he was actually there.

After I got stitched up and cleaned up, we were transferred to the post-op room and then eventually back to our bedroom. The whole morning just felt so joyous and exciting and we loved calling family and friends and introducing them to our sweet Ollie. And later that day, the MOST special moment happened when our kids came in to meet him! I’ll save that post for another day though 🙂

We are so thankful for Ollie – he just feels like he was always meant to be part of our family and I’m incredibly grateful that he’s here.

August 2022 Book Reviews

Happy September 1! Many people celebrate this day as the start of fall but I personally celebrate it as the start of birthday month. 🙂 And it’s also a great day for my monthly book review! After not being able to read very many books in June and July, I’ve been taking advantage of all the time sitting, snuggling, and breastfeeding my newborn to get more books in lately. In August, I read five books, including one brand new children’s book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you. Let’s get started!

Mama, Sing My Song by Amanda Siebert

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I consider myself lucky to be part of the launch team for this book and to have received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Mama Sing My Song is a company that writes personalized songs for children – I bought a personalized song for LJ two years ago and it blew me away! We still sing it to him regularly and I’m planning to order a song for Vi soon (and one day, Ollie will have one too!) This book is like a song written for all children and it is very sweet. It’s a Christian children’s book that reinforces how unique and special the child is and how they have purpose and are so very loved. It’s encouraging and uplifting and the illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. I can see this book being one I reach for again and again for bedtime stories! You can pre-order the book now and it’s set to be released on September 27th.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

Minnie has had a lifetime of bad luck on her New Year’s Day birthday. From losing out by minutes on being the First Baby of 1990 (and the big cash prize that came with it) to getting locked in a bathroom all night during a NYE party, something disastrous always seems to happen and she blames one person for her misery: Quinn Hamilton, the man who beat her out for First Baby of 1990 and took her name along with it. When the two finally meet on their 30th birthday, Minnie is determined to hate him and the charmed life he has seemed to lead. But as they bump into one another more often and their lives start to overlap, she realizes maybe they’re not so totally different after all.

It took me a few chapters to warm up to Minnie – she was a little too woe is me, too obsessed with her luck, and too jaded against money/anyone rich at first. Once I warmed up to her, I enjoyed the rest of the book! I thought the setting was going to keep jumping forward New Years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the timeline actually shifted between moving along in present day, and flashing back to previous New Years. It’s a little far-fetched at times but if you can allow for a bit of unreality, it’s sweet. I loved seeing the progression of Quinn and Minnie’s friendship and I appreciated the growth that each of them went through. I also felt like there were the perfect amount of side plots and secondary characters – just enough to keep things interesting and add to the plot but not too much that it got confusing or took away from the main storylines. I’d rank it as PG-13 for a bit of language (mostly from one side character) and one pretty brief make-out scene. While it’s centered around New Years and would make for a good read to cozy up with a blanket, it’s not so festive that it can’t be enjoyed year round. It’s a cute little read and I liked it!

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Jenny Tate decides a change is necessary after her divorce, which was so weirdly amicable that she has stayed friends with both her ex-husband and his new wife, so she moves out of New York City to set up her wedding dress design shop in her hometown. This puts her closer to her mom and sister, Rachel, who leads an idyllic life with her handsome lawyer husband and their triplet (!) daughters. But things aren’t quite what they appear to be in each of the sister’s lives: Rachel’s perfect marriage is starting to fall apart and Jenny can’t seem to shake herself free from the hold her ex-husband has on her or figure out what the deal is with her charming and elusive downstairs neighbor. More than ever, these sisters are going to have to rely on one another and find their own inner strength to reach for the happiness they both crave in their lives.

This book has been on my list of top recommendations but I read it several years ago – long ago enough that I don’t have a book review on the blog and couldn’t actually remember much of the plot. After re-reading it this month, I’m not entirely sure why this made it onto my list of tip-top recommendations. There are redeeming qualities for sure and I certainly didn’t hate it, but I spent most of the book incredibly frustrated. I wanted to root for Jenny and Rachel, who are both likeable, relatable characters, but their inability to stand up for themselves in their respective situations for so long just made me angry. I think maybe I personally have changed since first reading – as a wife and now mother, there were certain aspects of the plot that I was just so bothered by. While the ending is mostly gratifying, it takes a really long time to get there and I’m not totally sure it’s entirely worth it. On the other hand, the author does a good job of depicting flawed, real humans and the complicated realities of life and relationships. The dynamic between the sisters felt really authentic to me; there is support and love and also they have to work through hurts and mistakes. There are pieces of the plot that break your heart and others that make you want to cheer. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I’ll be removing it from my top recommendations list, as it now feels more like a B+ level read.

With Love from London by Sarah Jio

Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, abandoned Val and her father in Southern California and moved back to her native England, never to be seen or heard from again. Twenty-three years later, Val receives the news that Eloise has died and left her beloved bookstore to Val. Fresh out of her divorce and needing a new beginning, Val decides to travel to London and take over the bookstore, only to discover upon arrival that Eloise left her a scavenger hunt as well. Is it too late for Val to connect with and understand her mother and the choices she made in her life? As Val works through the scavenger hunt, she starts to fall in love with the neighborhood, the cozy flat, and the people who lived with and loved her mother and comes to realize that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever realized.

This book has a charming setting, a likeable cast of characters, and a little bit of mystery – all elements that I love in a book. Told in alternating past and present perspectives from Val and Eloise, it weaves together a story of love, loss, heartbreak, forgiveness, and family. I should have loved it, but I found myself only moderately interested because I kept having the feeling that I’d read it before – it felt like the combined pieces of several other books I have read. It seemed predictable to me but I think if I hadn’t read other similar stories (specifically, it felt a lot like How to Find Love in a Bookshop meets The Forgotten Room) I would have enjoyed it much more. I did also struggle with some of the more tragic elements of the plot; although it portrayed the missed chances that are often the case in real life, I think I was hoping for a little more feel-good escapism? Overall, I this this was a just-okay read for me but I don’t actually think it’s a bad book and would suggest giving it a try if small-town English bookstore vibes are what you’re craving.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Single mom Nora Hamilton wrote a screenplay based on her divorce and now her home and beloved tea house out back have been taken over by lights, camera, and action as it’s now the set for the movie adaptation. After filming is finished and the crew leaves, she discovers one person has remained: the star of the movie and highest-paid actor in Hollywood, Leo Vance. Leo is in need of some time away and makes Nora a deal: he’ll pay $7000 to stay in her tea house for a week. To steal this from the book cover: “Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity, depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.”

I’ve seen a lot of buzz about this book lately so I was very eager to check it out and it didn’t disappoint. I LOVED Nora and wish she was real because I want to be friends! I also loved Leo and how refreshing their dynamic and desire for simplicity in life was. It actually felt like a realistic romance between a 39-year-old mom of two and a 40-year-old Hollywood movie star. My biggest complaint with this book (and maybe this is a bit of a spoiler) is that the conflict takes up a lot of time. I felt similarly reading this as I did reading The No-Show – there was a point where I was like oh my goodness what do I even want to happen here? How is this going to be redeemable? And yet, when I finished, I realized I actually loved the book. I went back and re-read so many parts and I have to say, that part of the reading process was extra enjoyable. The overall vibe of the book reminded me of Evvie Drake Starts Over, so if you loved that book, I highly recommend this one (and conversely, if you hated it, you might not like this one either). I personally really enjoyed it and think it will make it to my top recommendations!

What have you been reading and enjoying lately?

Baby Boy Nursery Reveal!

We’re still waiting on baby boy’s arrival but as of yesterday, his nursery is finished and ready!

This was the first time I’ve really been able to go for it with decorating a nursery space. With my previous pregnancies, we chose to be surprised with the baby’s sex at birth so this is the first time we’ve ever known in advance. We also feel confident that this is our final baby so there’s no need to try to keep things somewhat neutral for the future. It was really fun for me to get to plan and design a nursery with a specific little boy in mind and I’m so happy with how it turned out. My goal was to create a soothing place for lots of baby snuggles, late-night feeding sessions, and (hopefully!) restful nights for our sweet boy. I wanted a blend of graphic prints and organic elements in earth tones that mimic the gorgeous woods you can see right outside his window. [And speaking of window – this room only has one window, never gets in the direct path of the sun, and is always a little moody and dim. I love it in person, but it does make it challenging to photograph well – the room isn’t quite as dark as these photos make it seem!]

Obviously, the main focus of a nursery is the crib. I’ve had the same Ikea crib for all my babies and it has served us so well. I’ve also used this little cloud mobile in all three nurseries (although not always above the crib) and I love how sweet and whimsical it is! The dinosaur sheet was a clearance find from back when LJ was still using the crib, but I never actually used it for LJ. It wasn’t exactly what I was envisioning for this nursery, but it’s hard to argue for buying new when you have a nice option on hand already and I’m satisfied with this choice.

I decided to forgo one large print above the crib and instead create a gallery wall, specifically choosing to center it on the wall instead of over the crib. I wanted a collected look so I pulled together some digital download prints, a maternity photo, the baby’s sonogram, and a simple dried fern in a variety of frames, some new and some thrifted.

The chair we had in here previously was a handmedown La-z-boy from Justin’s grandma with a slipcover over it. It is comfortable and worked just fine, but when I spotted this dark mustard colored recliner with a grid pattern in a local thrift store, I just couldn’t resist! I knew it would be perfect in this room and I was right. The only downfall is that it doesn’t rock, but we are currently brainstorming solutions for finding a way to make it rock.

I asked Justin to create a few little book ledges for baby’s book collection and he made three for me following the same process as the ones we made in our secret nook. They turned out great and all of baby’s books fit!

I kept the same dresser from Vi’s nursery, but decided to re-paint it in Sherwin Williams Iron Ore and swap out the gold drawer pulls for matte black ones. I did a little mirror switcheroo and moved the round gold one that used to hang here into the kids’ room and brought in the black oval one from the kids’ room.

I had the giraffe-patterned changing pad cover from LJ’s nursery and I think its colors and whimsical pattern translated well to this nursery. A little basket full of diapers, wipes, and ointments and we have ourselves a changing station!

I enjoyed spending time on some of the little details throughout the room as well – repainting the little side table we thrifted a decade ago, hanging plaid blackout curtains high and wide, finding vintage brass wall planters on Etsy for a unique touch, filling a basket full of soft baby blankets. Throughout this room renovation, we’ve painted the window and updated trim, replaced the thin baseboards with a chunkier version, upgraded the old worn carpet with this soft greige, and installed a new matte black ceiling fan. I painted the doors and Justin re-installed them with new matte black hinges and handles. I painted the ceiling Sherwin Williams Shoji White and painted wooden outlet covers – it’s the little things that really finish off a room!

Now the only thing we need is one sweet baby boy to enjoy this room!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Evergreen Fog in Eggshell

Ceiling Color: Sherwin Williams Shoji White in Flat

Crib – no longer sold (similar here)

Crib Sheet

Cloud Mobile

Curtain Rod

Plaid Blackout Curtains

Faux String of Pearls

Diaper Pail

Changing Pad

Sound Machine

Black Oval Mirror

Ceiling Fan

Prints: Rainbow, Black and White Rabbits, Oak Tree

Gold Frame with Mat

Black Frame with Mat

Monitor

Door Hinges

Door Handles

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July 2022 Book Reviews

It’s finally August, which means one thing around here: IT’S BABY MONTH! I’m so excited to meet our newest little love! The nursery is 98% ready, the hospital bags are packed, and we are all just counting down the days to meeting this sweet little boy.

We crammed so much into June and July because we knew August would be a slowdown month full of rest and baby snuggles, but I was able to carve out some time for reading. In July I read four books, and while only one of them is a certified winner in my book, it felt good to get back into reading! Let’s discuss, shall we?

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Alexis is a sexual abuse survivor and café owner who has received shocking news that turns her world upside down. She turns to her best friend, genius computer geek Noah, for comfort and help. He’s the only man she truly trusts, and he’ll do anything to keep that trust, including keep his own feelings of being in love with Alexis to himself to prevent ruining their friendship. With some help from their friends (and Noah’s reluctant participation in a book club), can they each start to find the courage to be truly honest about their feelings for one another and have a chance at happiness beyond just friendship?

This was a random library find that I saw and decided to try. It’s part of a larger series of Bromance Book Club books and while I like the concept, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of these books. The idea behind the Bromance Book Club is a group of male friends reading romance books to better understand love and women, and also to try and dismantle some of the toxic masculinity they’ve been surrounded with their entire lives. A good premise, but honestly the book club was a pretty small section of the story. I enjoyed Noah and Alexis’s dynamic and watching them finally get to the point of being honest about their feelings beyond friendship. Unfortunately, the book had too much going on with side plots (there was major stuff going on with both their families and histories, within the friend group, Alexis’ history as an abuse survivor and café owner, and the author was obviously spending time setting up another character for a future book). The group of friends is entertaining, but pretty large and it’s hard to keep track of everyone. It maybe it wouldn’t have been so overwhelming if I had read the series in order? It’s definitely rated-R for language and steamy scenes, so if that’s not your thing, you likely want to avoid this one. While I probably won’t read more of the series, I found it to be a decent, but very skimmable, friends-to-lovers romance.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

After her grandmother, Mags, dies and gives her possession of her home, The Hideaway, Sara is tasked with restoring the home to its former glory but it’s not such a simple request. First of all, the house is full of things and in desperate need of repair and upgrades. Second of all, it is being inhabited by a crew of her grandmother’s friends, some of whom have lived in the home for decades. Third of all, it’s located hours away from Sara’s home and business in New Orleans. Should she cut her losses and sell the property to the overeager developer targeting the land for his next big project? Or can it be restored and given new life? And what answers might this house still hold about the mysterious life of Mags?

I happened to see this book in a thrift store a while ago and it had been sitting on my shelves since then – I finally noticed it again this month and decided to give it a try. I loved envisioning The Hideaway and its restoration – it seems like such a charming home and following along with the renovations was a treat for me and probably my favorite part of the whole book. Other than that, this was the kind of middle-of-the-road book that leaves me without a whole lot to say. The story is told from both Sara’s present-day perspective and Mag’s past perspective but I have to say, I didn’t love most of Mag’s storyline. I don’t want to give a lot away, but it made me frustrated and sad and even a little skeptical. I did enjoy the cast of characters, and the very Southern setting is part of the book’s charm. It’s a little cheesy at times, but I think overall it hits a sweet, mostly-PG note and touches on legacy, loyalty, family, and love. Not my favorite, but still a pretty enjoyable, B or B- level read.

In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer

After being unexpectedly laid off from her job, Franny boards a crowded subway train and gets her favorite dress caught in the doors, causing it to rip all the way open in the back. To make matters worse, a subway lurch causes her to literally fall into the handsome man in a suit next to her. He offers her his jacket to cover herself up and after an awkward conversation, gets off the train. Franny just wants to get home and forget this awful day, but that’s going to be hard since another subway passenger not only documented the whole encounter on her phone and posted on social media, but the story is going viral and she and this mystery man, Hayes, are now being shipped as a couple.

This book was about what I expected – a little rom com about two opposites who are seemingly mismatched and don’t even like each other initially. I liked Franny and Hayes well enough, I liked the supporting friend characters, and I liked that Hayes in particular was not your average leading man but was actually kind of socially awkward. That being said, I feel like this story could’ve had more depth. There were underdeveloped side plots, particularly with each of their families, that I wish would’ve been given more time. The conflicts were a little forced and clunky, and honestly, I think I enjoyed the banter between the friends more than between Franny and Hayes. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly about the execution didn’t work for me, but I think the story as a whole was a bit underwhelming and I got a little bored – while I think there are those who would really enjoy this as an easy breezy read, it ends up falling in the C+ range for me.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

In early 1900’s Korea, Sunja is a young and naive teenager, the only child of a widowed boardinghouse manager. When she discovers that she is pregnant, and worse, that the father of her child is married, she rejects her lover’s offer to become a mistress and instead accepts the offer of a sickly minister who had been nursed back to health by Sunja and her mother: he will marry her and give the child his name to save her from disgrace. Sunja accepts and travels with her new husband to Japan, setting off a chain of events that will change the course of their family’s history forever.

Wow, I surprised by how much I enjoyed this one! Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea and how that affected Koreans for generations. This book was eye-opening to say the least! From the very first chapter, the writing style hooked me right in, although I will say things got a big slow for me for a while before picking back up. The plotline is character-driven and by no means fast-paced, plus it clocks in at 480+ pages, so it’s definitely not a quick read, nor is it for the faint of heart. While I typically enjoy reading in long stretches or spending all my spare time reading (once I’ve started a book), I found this novel to be a good one to read a bit, then set it down to pick back up later. Being able to walk away and then digest it in smaller increments helped me make my way through the book – it’s a really good read to savor! I really enjoyed taking my time with it; I got invested in all the members of the family and their storylines and while this book does cover a lot of really difficult, and often sad, topics, there is so much to keep your interest. I read one review that compared it to a hike where the journey along the way is more important than the view at the end and I’d wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. It’s not one to choose if you’re in the mood for a light, quick read, but if you’re interested in a well-written story with history and depth, I do recommend giving this one a chance!

Here’s to lots more reading while snuggling a sweet baby in August!

Baby #3: Third Trimester Update

All photos in this blog post are credited to Natalie Joy Photography.

This past Tuesday I hit the 37 weeks pregnant mark which means baby boy is officially full-term!

While I have a repeat c-section planned, he could decide to surprise us early at literally any moment now so I’m soaking up each day as the potential last day of pregnancy. Knowing this is most likely our final biological baby has made this pregnancy a bit bittersweet – each milestone is a huge blessing and is also a goodbye to another stage of this journey. While I am so so SO excited to snuggle this sweet little babe, I’m also enjoying the final days of feeling his kicks, rubbing my belly, and feeling all the pregnancy feels.

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

Up until this past week, I had honestly been feeling really great! I’m still overall feeling pretty good but hitting 37 weeks has really started to shift things though. I’m feeling some increased nausea, some changes in my GI system, and more stretching/pain in my pelvis as things shift around. I’m also feeling more uncomfortable (things are pretty squished in there now!) and quite a bit of lightning crotch. Baby has officially dropped too! I felt him really turn around maybe 3-4 days ago and now it’s like my belly is reversed – where I used to always feel his butt is now where his limbs are and vice-versa. My belly is markedly lower than it was before so honestly, at this point, we would not be surprised at all if he surprises us early.

I’ll also say – my fatigue has also increased and I’m wishing I could nap more during the day. My quality of night-time sleep has dropped significantly but every once in a while I still get a decent night’s rest. Hoping for a few more of those nights before his arrival!

My Preparations

I’ve joked that I don’t know if I hit nesting mode so much as panic mode, but I’ve been very busy with preparations over the past week or so. It dawned on me in the grocery store about a week ago that I hadn’t bought any supplies for baby – no diaper cream, no diapers, no nipple cream, nothing! I’m blaming my lax approach to third-time motherhood but even so, I needed at least a few things! Thankfully, my family had already planned to surprise Justin and I with a little sprinkle on Saturday and they brought us lots of diapers and wipes (so sweet!) I also had a friend offer to bring dinner for us a few days ago and she brought some diapers and wipes too. I’m so grateful for the love and support from family and friends!

I’ve also spent time getting things around this week. I bought and set up a new video monitor as well as all-purpose ointment, diaper cream, baby shampoo, and nipple cream. I’ve packed the hospital bag for myself and baby. I’ve dug out and washed the parts to our infant car seat and baby bassinet. The boppy pillow is freshly cleaned, I’m caught up on laundry, and things are finally feeling ready for baby.

LJ and Vi’s Awareness

The kids are so aware of the baby’s impending arrival and are beside themselves with excitement. They constantly talk about the baby, rub my belly and give it hugs and kisses, and talk to the baby. When we’re out and about, whether we’re meeting a new person or literally next to a stranger, they’ll share that their mom is having a baby. LJ regularly asks how many days until baby comes. The other day Vi started talking to my belly and I asked her some questions about the baby and she said “Shh, I’m talking to him!” I guess she didn’t want mom to interrupt their conversation – ha!

The kids both say they’re excited to hold the baby and change his diapers and I think they are going to be the best big brother and sister. I just know my heart will feel so full and happy seeing my three kids all together at last!

What I’m Looking Forward To

Other than seeing LJ and Vi meet their new baby brother, I’m most excited to just see what he looks like. Will he look like LJ and Vi or will he have a totally different look? They take after me more, so maybe he’ll look more like Justin? I can’t wait for baby snuggles and tiny coos and that sweet newborn smell. I can’t wait to just meet him and start to get to know him – I already know he’s a very active little boy by the way he’s constantly moving in my belly but I’m so excited to get to know more.

I’m also looking forward to the simple moments like gently rocking on the porch swing and snuggling on the couch and going for stroller walks. I’m just excited and ready for the next stage of parenthood! Whenever you’re ready baby boy, we are ready for you. ❤

Final To-Dos before Baby Arrives

Yesterday Justin and I were sitting outside on our deck and I remarked on the fact that it’s finally sunk in that we’re about to have a teeny tiny baby in our family. It might sound strange, considering the fact that I’m 36 weeks pregnant and have known about this baby since December, but it has always seemed like a “future” thing. And now, it’s sinking in that it’s not very far in the future at all and in fact will be coming in just a few short weeks – we will soon be a family of five!

We got our maternity pictures back and to say I’m in love is an understatement. Knowing that we plan for this to be our final pregnancy has made every milestone that much sweeter this time around and I loved having the opportunity to document this special time. While I want to continue to soak up every little baby kick and belly rub in the remaining weeks, there are also a few things I’d really like to accomplish before baby arrives:

1 – Finish the nursery! It’s come a long way since it was Vi’s bedroom and I’m really happy with the progress, but I still have a couple things to check off the list. We just installed bookshelves last night (more to come on that soon!) but I still want to put up some artwork on the wall above the crib, add some plants to the room, touch up the paint on the little side table, and re-install the doors that I just painted yesterday. I think I’ll be able to finish all that this weekend so we’re super close!

2 – Finish the Outdoor Space Refresh. A goal of mine this summer was to refresh the outdoor space. While I didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, we did add seven tons of sand to the beach area, complete a DIY umbrella stand (a game changer on our deck!) and added a few updates like a new patio umbrella and outdoor rug and a few Adirondack chairs around our firepit. We have two more chairs to assemble and I’m hoping to snag a couple side tables to fit in between because our firepit has been a huge hit this summer and will continue to be well into the fall. I also think it’s not too late for us to try to get our string lights hung – our travels are done for the summer and the next few months are going to primarily be spent at home, with a lot of time outside, so they’ll still get use.

3 – Finish the Kid’s Shared Bedroom. This is a project that has gone on way longer than expected thanks to a wallpaper fiasco. I had finally decided on a wallpaper and was really excited about it . . . then it came in the wrong scale and was unusable. The correct scale was smaller than I wanted, which was disappointing, and my enthusiasm for the project kind of drained. I haven’t been too motivated to finish up this last wall, but I’d really like to try to do that before the baby arrives – whether that means find another wallpaper or go with a painted accent wall. I also still want to replace the baseboards and paint the doors, so a few things to accomplish!

4 – Actually prepare to have a tiny human live here. I realized yesterday in the grocery store that I have not bought anything for baby yet – no diaper cream, no baby wash, not even a single newborn diaper. Whoops! I stocked up on some all-purpose ointment, diaper cream, and baby wash but I still need to get diapers and wipes. I also need to pull out and clean things like the infant car seat, breastfeeding pillow, and my breast pump + parts as well as dig out things like breastmilk storage bags and the bassinet. You know, just the things that I need to actually have a tiny human live here in this house, haha!

The list feels long, but luckily everything on it is pretty manageable. And for the most part (other than the things on #4), nothing really has to get done before baby arrives. Whatever gets accomplished will be good enough, but it’s nice to have this list as a guide to help me focus over the next three weeks to prepare!

How we made a DIY Umbrella Stand (with built-in storage!)

When we first looked at this house as potential buyers, we weren’t quite sure what to think of the pond. We never specifically looked for a property with water and had no experience with maintaining a pond; however, one step out onto the patio looking out onto the water and we were hooked. We knew this could be a very special place for our family and now three years later, we absolutely love it and are out there all the time. The previous owners created a small beach area along the edge of the water and installed a little wooden deck beside it. This has become my favorite spot to lounge and read a book while watching the kids play in the sand and swim. The one thing it was missing was an option for shade and this year I decided it was high time to come up with a solution – and we did!

We looked at weighted umbrella stands, but most options would’ve cost around $500 and we weren’t even confident what we chose wouldn’t tip over since the deck is not near anything to block a strong wind. Instead, we came up with a DIY version that not only looks much cuter (in my humble opinion haha) but is sturdier and MUCH less expensive. Granted, we used a lot of scrap wood and supplies we already had, but this version cost us right around $200. Today I’m sharing all the details with how we did it step-by-step. Here we go!

Materials

Umbrella Stand

16″ x 16″ outdoor planter

-umbrella – I used this one

-4×4 wood for filler (optional)

-level

concrete mix + water

-5 gallon bucket

-large stirring stick (we used an old broom handle)

-spade

-large piece of cardboard (we used the box the planter came in)

-box cutter

Tabletop

-3/4 inch plywood

-1 x 1/2 inch slats of wood (I used pine)

-black spray paint

-wood stain

-wood glue

-nail gun + 1 inch nails

spar urethane spray paint

-other tools used: table saw, miter saw, jigsaw

Umbrella Stand Directions

I wanted something that felt streamlined and modern so I bought this planter off of Amazon for the base of the stand. Justin took an old wooden 4×4 post we had in our scrap wood pile and cut it down to create a filler border around the inside edge. This is not a necessary step, but he did it to reduce the amount of concrete used and the overall weight of the finished product.

We plugged the hole at the bottom with the plastic gasket that came with the planter and moved the whole thing around outside until we found level ground.

Justin poured the concrete mix into a bucket and added water according to the directions, using an old broom handle to stir the mix.

Once the concrete mix had reached the desired consistency, he poured it into the planter and used a small spade to smooth the top flat.

Justin ended up using about 1 1/3 bags of concrete. I think one bag would have been sufficient if your umbrella is going to be near a house or other structure that would help to block wind, but since ours is out on a deck with no windbreak around it, we wanted a little extra stability.

Then it was time for the most meticulous part – getting the umbrella stand perfectly in place. This can be done solo but was easier with two people, as one of us used a tape measure from side to side in each direction to find the exact center while the other carefully set the pole in place, then we used the level to make sure it wasn’t crooked. We also stepped back and visually confirmed with one another from all angles that the pole looked straight up and down. We really took our time with this step and it was well worth it!

Once we were fully satisfied that the pole was not crooked, I took a piece of cardboard from the box the planter arrived in and used a box cutter to cut an “x” in the center. I slid the hole made by the x down over the pole and it created a kind of holder to keep the pole from moving in the wind. We weighted it down with some scrap wood and shovels and left it to dry and set for about 36 hours.

Our original plan was to stop here and fill the top half of the planter with soil and flowers, which I think would’ve been lovely! But before we could do it, we actually used the umbrella over the weekend when friends came to visit and we quickly realized that the base made an awesome catch-all spot for sunscreen, books, phones, etc. I was immediately inspired and came up with a vision for a removable tabletop that allowed us to access the storage underneath.

Tabletop Directions

Once I explained my vision to Justin, he was excited to jump right in. He used his table saw and miter saw to cut down a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to size (in two pieces) to fit inside the planter.

He then used a jigsaw to cut a small notch on the edge of each piece of plywood for the umbrella pole to fit through.

Tip: Justin spent a lot of time on these first two steps measuring and re-measuring to make sure the pieces would fit as flush to the inside edges of the planter as possible. We’re not including dimensions, because every planter and umbrella will be slightly different and it’s important to measure your own to make sure it fits well!

Once the pieces were cut to size I spray painted each one black.

I wanted slats for the tabletop, but rather than buy new wood, we had leftover pine 1×5’s from the DIY clothing rack I made last year and Justin took one and ripped it down into one inch wide strips. He cut them to length so that they would hang over the edge of the plywood by a half inch and I tested a few stains from my stash before landing on Varathane’s Golden Oak.

Justin applied a small bead of wood glue to the back of each piece, then used a nail gun and one inch nails to secure each slat in place (he used a thin piece of scrap plywood in between each one to evenly space them out). This is one step where I didn’t communicate my vision with Justin well and I wish we would’ve spaced the nail holes differently, but honestly, it’s fine and doesn’t bother me too much!

He used the jigsaw again to cut a notch in the top slats that matched the one in the plywood underneath and I stained that little notch as well.

Since this is going to be outside, I sprayed several light coats of clear spar urethane over everything to give it a good protective coat. We let it dry overnight and then we installed it in the planter.

I am in LOVE with how this turned out – it honestly looks like it was always meant to be this way! I love that Justin took the extra time to make sure the slats were cut and spaced in a way that created an equal amount of space around the edge all the way around. It looks so good!

The top lifts off easily to provide plenty of storage underneath – it’s so nice to have a shaded place to store things out of the way!

Here’s a close-up of how the top looks in place. The plywood goes all the way to the edge inside and the slats keep it in place with a half inch overhang.

I have to give a huge shoutout to Justin here. This umbrella stand was my vision, as was the design of the tabletop, and he worked to execute my vision perfectly! I am so thrilled with how it turned out.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to do here. The deck actually needs completely replaced (boards are warping and breaking off) and we have plans to expand it to accommodate more people. For now though, this is such a nice little spot to hang out and enjoy and I’m thrilled that we now have the option for shade. In fact, it’s calling to my eight-month-pregnant self and I think I’ll spend some time out there today!

June 2022 Book Review

Good morning and Happy July!

Our June was absolutely nuts around here. For one thing, we went on two different vacations: eight days in Virginia Beach with Justin’s family and then six days in Maryland with some friends. That’s 14 days of being on vacation (with kids!) AND roughly thirty-eight hours in the car total on the road trips. That’s right. THIRTY. EIGHT. HOURS. In a car. With two small children and a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking haha, but suffice to say we made lots of memories!

We’re thankful that we had the ability to get some traveling in, but traveling with kids is basically just parenting in a different location. While each trip was fun, neither was what I would call particularly relaxing and I had virtually no time for reading. When we were home, I was either packing, unpacking, repacking, or going about our normal days of cleaning/laundry/playground days/home projects/etc. It was such a full month that I was only able to get through one book, but it was one I have a lot of thoughts about!

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

Teenaged Roya is growing up in Tehran, Iran in the 1950s amidst quite a bit of political turmoil – there are people passionately loyal to the Shah, those who think Russia and the communists have the right idea, and those who are striving for democracy and have hopes pinned on their prime minister. An encounter in her beloved stationary shop introduces Roya to Bahman, a young man with a yearning for justice and democracy, and it isn’t long before they fall deeply in love. But certain forces are at work to keep them apart, and on the date they are supposed to get married, violence erupts – a violence that will change their country, and their lives, forever.

This was historical fiction like I’ve never read before. Prior to this book, I knew next to nothing about the Iranian Coup. While these characters were fictional, many of the events talked about really did happen and it was eye-opening for sure. I will say, Roya and Bahman are characters you want to root for, and it’s such a mixture of feelings to see how their lives play out. The book started out a little slow but picked up as I went along. While there are some lighthearted, enjoyable parts, overall this book is a sweeping read through the decades and covers some heavier moments – while it’s hard to use words like “enjoyed” when I think about my feelings, it is powerfully written and poignant and I can almost promise you’ll have thoughts afterwards. We read this for my book club and there was no shortage of discussion! It’s got romance, it’s got some mystery, it’s got some tragedy, it’s got some hope, and it’s got a lot of references to Iranian people, places, foods, and events. If you enjoy historical fiction about lesser-known events in world history (I don’t think anyone in my book club knew much, if anything, about this history in Iran and how the United States was involved as well), I think this is a great choice!

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Now I’m curious – do you find you read more or less during the summer months? I would normally say more, but this year is definitely much less. Our July is hopefully going to be much calmer – we’re staying home and hosting quite a bit, but I think there will be much more room for reading in my life in the coming weeks. I’m excited to get back into my reading stack!