A Day in the Life

A few weeks ago, I noticed #onedayhh floating around my social media. The idea was to document your day hour by hour so you have a little photo record of an ordinary day. I wanted to participate, but that was the day I was in Philadelphia for work so it was anything but an ordinary day for me.

Instead I decided I wanted to do a blog post documenting a normal day in my everyday life. I always enjoy reading these types of posts on other blogs and honestly, I love the idea of having a record of an ordinary day with LJ at this stage of life to look back on someday. I chose Friday, November 16 as a day to document.

A few disclaimers: this post will be long and contain a lot of pictures! They are not perfect pictures. Some pictures are dark or grainy. They reflect our true day (aka no make-up, the house not totally in order) but that’s our real life so I’m embracing it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Lately, I have been trying to get up when Justin leaves the house for work around 6:30/6:45 to have some quiet time to eat breakfast and complete my morning devotions. On this particular morning, I listened to my body when it begged for a little more sleep and didn’t get up until I heard LJ around 7:15 am. I got up, made my bed (which really just involves pulling up the sheets but I feel like this small thing makes a big difference!) and headed into the nursery.

I’m still breastfeeding so LJ and I spent some time in the rocker so he could nurse. These quiet morning moments are so precious to me – I know we won’t always have this time so I’m cherishing it now.

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We headed downstairs around 7:30. I had made a big batch of pancakes earlier in the week so I put LJ in his high chair and reheated two small ones for him. While they were warming up I let the dogs out, put food in the dog bowls, got out some blueberries to cut up for LJ, and poured myself a bowl of cereal. We ate our breakfast together and I loaded up the dishwasher as LJ finished his last few bites.

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We headed into the playroom around 7:55 and played together for the next 45 minutes.

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I put LJ down for his morning nap at 8:40 and quickly brushed my teeth, changed into workout clothes, and headed downstairs. Normally I start working for my part-time job as soon as nap time begins but since I had slept in this morning, I first completed my daily bible study.

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By 9:00, I was at my desk working for my part-time administrative job. (If you’re curious to read more about what I do, I wrote a blog post about it here).

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I quit working when I heard LJ wake up around 9:40. He was in such a good mood after his nap!

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I changed his diaper and outfit and we headed downstairs to the playroom again. LJ played while I checked his diaper bag contents to make sure it was all set, got my tennis shoes on, and let the dogs out again.

I generally don’t worry about picking up the playroom during the day, but since I wanted to run the Roomba while we were gone, I quickly picked up the toys and put them away. I also quickly threw in a load of laundry. (My laundry style is: it all goes in one load. Makes life easier!)

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I grabbed the diaper bag and started the Roomba on our way out the door. (Side note: the Roomba was a purchase I made with money I received recently for my 30th birthday and it was so. worth. it. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a game changer this is with keeping dog hair under control!)

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We left the house around 10:05 and arrived at our local YMCA in plenty of time for me to drop off LJ in childcare and make it to my hour-long bootcamp class.

My Friday bootcamp class takes place in the gymnasium and is set up like an obstacle course involving a combination of cardio and weights. Here is an awkward selfie I took while the course was getting set up. Ha!

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After the class I headed back to childcare to pick up LJ. My friend who works in the childcare area snapped this pic of us before we left. LJ had a great time playing, which was awesome! He’s at the stage where he’s realizing when mommy is leaving him and sometimes he really struggles with being “left behind” so I’m glad today was a good, fun day for him!

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We arrived back home around 11:50. LJ went straight into his high chair for lunch. Since the laundry room is attached to the kitchen, I took a few minutes to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and empty the Roomba filter.

For lunch, LJ had chicken salad and avocado slices. I had leftover grilled cheese and soup from the previous night, as well as the second half of the avocado.

LJ ate a banana for “dessert” and while he ate, I prepared ingredients to throw in the crockpot for a potato soup for dinner.

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By 12:30, LJ was done eating and ready to get out of the highchair so I cleaned him up, changed his diaper, and set him up in the playroom. I wasn’t quite done prepping the soup, but I was able to see him from my workspace in the kitchen so I finished up the soup while he played independently out of the corner of my eye.

By 12:45, the soup was ready to cook so I set the crockpot, piled dishes in the sink for later, and headed to the playroom to play and read some books with LJ.

Around 1:45, LJ was rubbing his eyes so we headed upstairs. I nursed him and put him down for a nap, then headed back to my desk to complete the rest of my work for my part-time job.

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By 2:50 I was finished for the day with my job and LJ was still sound asleep. I headed into my bathroom with the monitor to take a quick shower. (My monitor screen is sound-activated. It’s black when his nursery is quiet and the screen will automatically turn on if he’s making noise. So I can just have the shower curtain pushed back a little to see the monitor screen and keep track of his nap).

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After the shower, I had a few things I wanted to get done while LJ was still napping but wasn’t sure I had enough time to do everything so I prioritized the things that are harder to do when he’s awake. I went downstairs and brought up the laundry from the dryer. I left it in the basket and just changed my own clothes.

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My days are too busy to devote a ton of time cleaning but I’ve found if I have one cleaning task each day, I can maintain a decently-clean state of my house more easily. Friday’s task was vacuuming the carpet, which is on the stairs and second floor (the Roomba stays on the first floor). I knew this had a chance of waking LJ up but hoped it would blend in with his sound machine.

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I swept the stairs, the hallway, and all bedrooms except the nursery, which took about 8 minutes. LJ was still asleep so I began to fold some of the laundry, although I didn’t get through much before he woke up.

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LJ woke up at 3:20. I got him up and held him while I quickly vacuumed his nursery. Then we headed into my bedroom where he played with the toys I keep in there while I finished up folding and putting away laundry.

We headed downstairs around 3:40. LJ had a snack of puffs and water while I quick put away the vacuum, watered my plants and returned the downstairs laundry. By 3:50 we were out the door to run a few errands.

Our first stop the Verizon store to pick up new screen protectors. Since it was such a quick stop, I took LJ inside in his car seat and he was not a fan. Ha!

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I stopped for a quick pick-me-up at Smoothie King and we headed to Costco.

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It is all decked out for Christmas and it was so fun to see LJ’s reactions to all the gigantic holiday items.

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By 5:30 we were done with errands and back at home. I grabbed the mail on the way in and sorted it in the playroom with LJ’s “help.”

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We headed back in to the kitchen and I finished up the last few steps of the crockpot soup while my sous chef looked on from his high chair.

By 5:55 we headed upstairs to my bedroom where LJ played with his toys while I did my hair and make-up.

The best part of our day happened at 6:30 – Justin came home from work! LJ is always SO excited to see daddy and today was no exception.

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We ate a quick supper together and I nursed LJ one more time before leaving my boys at home around 6:55 to head to a Favorite Things Party with a women’s small group I am part of.

I had never been to a Favorite Things party before but I compare it to a White Elephant gift exchange except every item is something you actually want. We each brought two items (a $ value is set so everyone’s gifts are about the same price) of the same thing and left with two different items. I took nail polish and nail buffers but there was a huge variety of items – candles, coffee, books, snacks, kitchen utensils, you name it! It was so so fun!

I left with a pair of cute earrings and nesting houses.

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I got home a little after 9:30 and immediately changed into pajamas. Justin was watching TV and I caught up on social media and settled in with The Book Thief. It was so cozy to snuggle up with a book and blanket in front of the Christmas tree we had put up earlier in the week on Justin’s day off.

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We headed up to bed around 11 but I was hooked in my book and nearly finished reading so I stayed up until 12:00 so I could finish. Thank goodness the next day was Saturday!

Looking back, I’m so glad I have an ordinary day documented. LJ is changing so much and our days already look so different than they did six months ago. I think I’ll have to do one of these posts every so often because I love that they serve as a kind of time capsule for our life!

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Balancing Work at Home with a Baby

In Tuesday’s post, I shared a brief recap of last week’s trip to Pennsylvania and mentioned a bit about my work-from-home job. It made me realize I haven’t shared about my job in this space so I thought I’d take a minute to expand a little more on it.

I have a part-time job working remotely as an administrative assistant for a nutrition counseling company based in Philadelphia. I got connected with the position through a friend from college and started working in July 2017. (I previously spent 6 years teaching special education but took a step back from teaching after the 2016-2017 school year to become a stay at home mom). LJ was born in November 2017 and after a six week maternity leave, I’ve been juggling work- and stay-at-home mama life ever since.

The majority of my work tasks involve scheduling clients, contacting insurance companies, and keeping up with referrals, all of which I can do via email or phone. It is flexible and very organizationally-minded if that makes sense (lots of spreadsheets) and I love it! In looking at the past six months, I’ve averaged 1 – 1 1/2 hours of work each day (around 7 hours/week or 27-ish hours of work per month).

Every day looks different but I’ve come up with a pretty good little system that works for me. Today I thought I would share some of the things that help me to simplify the chaos of keeping up with work while still balancing life as a stay-at-home mama. Keep in mind, every mama and baby is different and there are so many factors with working from home. This is what works for me and might not work for everyone. I hope in sharing what has helped me, I can help just one work-from-home/stay-at-home mama who is feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to manage it all.

Have a designated work space

Work from Home Office

We don’t have room in our house for a true office so I set up a little workspace on our upstairs hallway landing with everything I need for my workday. I used to work here every day, but since the desk is right outside LJ’s nursery I end up working downstairs at the kitchen table if I have to make phone calls. I still prefer the desk space though because it’s too easy for the kitchen space to become cluttered with my work things. I also think it mentally helps to have a designated work space because I know when I’m sitting at that desk, it’s work time and I don’t get distracted by anything else (because there’s nothing else there), whereas in the kitchen I can see other household things I could be doing.

Prioritize work during nap time

At this time, LJ is still taking a good morning and afternoon nap (I know this won’t last forever but let’s not focus on bursting that bubble right now). As soon as I put him down, I get to work. It’s hard to predict how long it’ll take me to get through my tasks, answer emails, etc and my time worked varies each day so I want to make sure I have time to get it all done. I will say it’s pretty rare to work less than 30 minutes or more than 3 hours, although it does happen. On the busy days, I need every minute of nap time for my job and everything else has to wait. On the light days, I can quickly finish up work and then move on to cleaning or laundry or whatever else I need to do. I always want to make sure my job tasks get finished, even if means laundry or cleaning has to wait another day, so I start with work and don’t let myself get distracted with other things until it’s done.

Improvised work from home

Obviously, it doesn’t always happen that I get 100% of my work done during nap time and I sometimes need to finish up with LJ awake. When he was little, I often had him sit in a booster seat and play with a few toys next to me, like pictured above, but now that he’s bigger I just take my laptop into the playroom and quick finish up while he’s playing nearby. I try to focus on my “must-do” tasks if he’s awake and any non-urgent work tasks I usually just save until his next nap or the following day.

Remove distractions

For me personally, I don’t work with the TV on or podcasts going or anything that might shift my attention. I will sometimes listen to a Pandora station for soft background music, and I will definitely have some Christmas music playing in a few weeks, but I often prefer silence when working. It just helps me stay focused and efficient to finish up quicker.

Set hours and keep them

One of the biggest pros of a flexible work from home job is that many of my tasks can be done at any time, from any location. This can also be a stumbling block though: I used to check emails or do work at all hours, which made me feel “on the clock” all the time. Now I make a conscious effort to honor my business hours and not work after 5:00 pm. If 5:00 hits and I’m still working, I finish up whatever I’m doing and then don’t check my email again until the next morning. There is still the occasional day where I’ll work on a project in the evening hours after LJ goes to bed; however, this is usually something I have planned in advance to do so I don’t take up more of my daytime hours working and is typically reserved for extra projects I’m assigned outside of my normal daily tasks or days when LJ just didn’t nap well and I couldn’t finish everything. Maybe you have a job from home that doesn’t need to be during regular business hours but I still highly recommend trying to set a designated time frame for work so that it doesn’t become something that takes over your day.

Find simple ways to make work a joy

A few simple little things that have helped create a pleasant little work day are:

  • “splurging” $5 on my favorite pens + cute paper
  • lighting a candle when working
  • keeping a blanket over my work chair to cozy up in the winter
  • working outside at my patio table in nice weather

These things are small but they create an enjoyable atmosphere for working!

Set realistic expectations

This is probably the biggest one for me. It is so important that I am realistic with what I can accomplish in a day and start each day with a flexible mindset. Babies are unpredictable! There are some days where LJ naps a long time and I have time to get all my work done, clean, and even read a book while he sleeps. Then there are days where he doesn’t nap well and I’m lucky to scrape by with just getting my work done. There are days where we have obligations outside the house that throw off our schedule. There are days where one or both of us feels sick and we just need lots of cuddles on the couch.

I also want to be clear that I do not do it all. I might get through the day with all my work done and a clean bathroom but there’s a pile of dishes still in the sink. Or the kitchen is sparkling but the laundry basket is overflowing. I can’t focus on everything or it becomes too overwhelming to do anything. So I focus on realistic expectations. My #1 goal each day: LJ and I are both fed, happy, healthy, and alive at the end of the day. If nothing else, that’s all I really have to accomplish each day. Then my goal is to finish my work tasks, or at the very least, get to all tasks that must be addressed that day. Then I’ll try to clean a room or empty the dishwasher or finish laundry. But if it all that doesn’t happen, I have to be willing to be okay with that. I start out each day with goals, but I have learned to give myself grace if the day ends and I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped.

If you have a work-from-home job, I’d love to hear what works for you!

Simplified Packing for Travel with a Baby

Last Monday, LJ and I packed our bags and flew to Philadelphia for the week. We spent a few days visiting Justin’s extended family who live in the area. Since Justin was unable to come with us, my mother-in-law was gracious enough to drive up from Virginia to visit her family with us and then watch LJ during the day on Thursday when I was busy. It was so wonderful to get to introduce LJ to his great-grandmother, great-uncles and -aunts, second cousins, etc. I also got to visit a few college friends who live in the area.

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How cute are these three generations? We had such a special time together!

On Wednesday evening we headed back towards Philadelphia because Thursday I had all-day meetings and professional development with the company I work for. For those who do not know, I have a part-time administrative job with a nutrition counseling company based in Philadelphia. While I am able to complete all of my work remotely from home (mostly during nap time), the opportunity arose to travel out to participate in this day with many other members of the team and I jumped at the chance. Then LJ and I flew back to Indiana on Friday – it was a full, fun week!

I have now flown solo with LJ a few different times and while I am by no means an expert, I do feel like I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way. I have previously blogged about tips I use when flying with a baby (find that blog post here), but motherhood is a constant experiment and I want to share what I’m learning as I go. One of the key things I have found when flying with a baby, whether you’re the lone adult or have some help, is to pack as light as you canIt is difficult enough to navigate an airport with a baby but to try and juggle 17 things makes it that much harder. Today I thought it would be helpful to show exactly what I prioritize packing when traveling with a baby, as well as how I organize everything and cart it through the airport. As always, these are things that have worked for me – my tricks might not work for everyone but they sure have helped me simplify the chaos of airport travel! I hope you can find something here that is helpful to you.

Packing Tips for Flying with a Baby

Carry On Suitcase

When I travel solo with LJ, I try to get everything that I won’t need on the actual flight in one carry-on if at all possible. I know I could take a purse or something too but I prefer less bags to keep track of. I always roll my clothing items and utilize every square centimeter of space. Here is exactly what I packed in my carry-on for this 5-day/4-night trip:

Clothing Items for LJ

Packed for LJ

  • Crib sheet (I always bring my own from home even though we use the hotel’s crib. I talk more about this in my post on tips for hotels with a baby here)
  • 3 Pants (two leggings, one jeans)
  • Four onesies
  • Three sleepers
  • Socks
  • One Shirt
  • One Sweatshirt
  • Hat

In addition to these items, LJ wore a sleeper to the airport with a zipper hoodie over it. (Bonus Tip: LJ is in a super *fun* stage of pulling his socks off every chance he gets. A sleeper gave him a little more coverage in protecting from airport germs and also ensured he didn’t pull off and lose his socks. Win-win!)

We could have eliminated one sleeper, one pair of leggings, the shirt, and one onesie, but since my mother-in-law was kind enough to bring her sound machine for LJ to use so I didn’t have to pack mine, I had a little extra space to pack a few more items.

Clothing Items for Me

Packed for me

  • White nursing tank
  • Four tops
  • One pair dress pants
  • Pajamas (top + bottoms)
  • One pair ballet flats

In addition, I wore a navy nursing tank, shirt, scarf, jacket, jeans, and my Converse sneakers to the airport.

Personal Care Items

Personal Care Items

  • Jewelry (3-4 options)
  • Curling wand + carrier
  • Clutch to take for my work day
  • 3-1-1 liquid bag (makeup remover, baby body wash, contact solution, mascara, moisturizer, toothpaste, eye cream, nail polish)
  • Other toiletries bag for non-liquids (see below)

Toiletries

Random Items

Extra Items

A few random items I had in the front pockets of my carry-on were:

  • my laptop (not pictured)
  • a couple magazines (I only ended up taking two of the three pictured)
  • hairbrush
  • booklight
  • glasses
  • phone charger
  • socks, bra, underwear (also not pictured but you get the idea 😉 )

All of that stuff listed above fit into my carry-on. I make sure none of it is stuff I’ll need on the plane in case I end up having to gate-check the carry-on due to limited overhead space (which I did end up having to do this time). It’s also helpful to have a carry-on with a handle and wheels for easy transport!

Mom + baby carry on items

Diaper Bag

Many airlines let you bring a diaper bag as a “bonus” item and it does not count as a carry-on or personal item – check your airline’s policy!

Luggage at airport

I have a blog post dedicated to what I carry in my infant diaper bag and other than a few snacks for both LJ and myself, I didn’t pack anything extra in the bag. I find it’s helpful to keep this mostly the same set up as usual so I can quickly find what I need in the bag and have a little extra room if I need to stuff something in it (like LJ’s sweatshirt). I did not pack tons of diapers since it is very easy to buy some once at my destination. I also did not pack extra toys other than what I typically keep in the diaper bag. LJ was so interested in all the people and new surroundings that he didn’t really even need toys to be entertained.

Bonus Tip #1: I keep headphones in my diaper bag and always download a podcast or a Netflix episode or two since LJ often sleeps during the flight and it’s too difficult to read with him on my lap. And even though I try to limit LJ’s screen time, there is no shame in my mom game with downloading an episode of The Octonauts for use in a pinch – we’re all just trying to make it to our destination happily. 🙂

Bonus Tip #2: Attach the diaper bag to your carry-on. Back when I used my Ergo to carry LJ through the airport, my hands were always free to hold/pull luggage. Now that I needed one hand to push the stroller and one to pull my suitcase, I needed to come up with a strategy for carrying my nursing pillow, car seat bag and my diaper bag until I could check make it to the counter and check my car seat bag. My diaper bag comes with clips to hook it to a stroller, and these clips came in handy when I had my car seat bag on my back – I just clipped the bag to my suitcase handle and could easily navigate with everything in tow. I didn’t actually realize I could do this until I was already in the airport and wish I had known it all along as it makes things so easy! If your diaper bag doesn’t come with clips, I think a couple carabiner clips would do the trick.

Nursing Pillow

LJ and Boppy

Okay so this isn’t a bag and I’ve already shared this tip but it bears repeating. If you are flying with a lap infant, regardless of if you’re breastfeeding, a nursing pillow is a personal item must. It gives your baby a place to sit/lay down during the flight without you feeling like you need to “hold” him or her the entire time. LJ usually falls asleep on it and my arms can stay free. I can’t recommend it enough!

Car Seat + Bag

Your destination may have a car seat for you or you may plan to rent one upon arrival, but I have always taken our car seat along. Most airlines allow you to check a car seat and/or stroller for free. I bought this bag on Amazon and I honestly LOVE it. It makes carrying a car seat (and base if you want) super easy, lightweight (yes, really!) and manageable.

Umbrella Stroller

I have previously used my baby carrier to carry LJ through the airport and around at our destinations. This worked great when he was smaller but he’s getting a little too heavy for me to want to carry him for long periods now so I bought an umbrella stroller for $4.50 at a consignment store. It’s certainly not the best stroller out there and I could have taken my nicer stroller from home; however, the umbrella stroller served its purpose through the airport and at our destination and since it’s inexpensive I wasn’t worried if it got banged up or damaged on the flight. Also, since I gate checked my stroller (remember, many airlines do this for free!), I could push LJ through the airport super easily. It was easy to transport around when we got to our destination and didn’t take up much space in the car, which left room for other luggage. Search yard sales, FB groups, etc for a used one or you can find an inexpensive one like this at stores like Walmart, Target, etc.

What tricks have you picked up from flying with a baby? Share your tips below – I’d love to hear what works for you!

 

 

Tips for Hotels with a Baby

Good morning from the hallway of a Holiday Inn outside of Philadelphia.

Never thought I would begin a blog post with that sentence, but such is life. Ha! We’ve had a busy week in Pennsylvania and I plan to have a little recap post next week with more details. For now, as I am sitting outside my hotel room door while LJ takes his morning nap, I thought now would be a good time to share a few tips I’ve learned from hotel stays with a baby so far.

As always, these are things that work for our family. I share them in case there is even one person who might benefit from reading what works for us but I realize every family has different preferences and needs and so these things might not work for everyone.

Tip #1: Ask the hotel for a crib/pack and play

LJ Hotel Crib

There may be some hotels that do not provide them, but every time I have made a reservation, I ask the hotel if they have cribs or pack n plays for guest use. So far, every hotel has had some. You want to make sure to request it when you make the reservation, because each hotel only has a limited number. Some will reserve the crib for you and some may say you need to call the day-of to reserve a crib so make sure to ask their policy. It saves a TON of space and hassle to not have to bring your own pack n play so I highly recommend using the hotel’s option. (Also, a side note: I realize looking at this picture that the lamp looks close to the crib but in reality it was against the wall out of reach of the crib).

Tip #2: Bring your own crib sheet

A pack n play takes up a ton of space. A crib sheet does not. I always bring my own and put it on top of the crib mattress for a few reasons. It smells like home and is a familiar thing for LJ to sleep on, which I truly believe helps him sleep easier in a new room. I also know with certainty that it is clean to my standards and is a material that he will be comfortable on.

Tip #3: Bring a sound machine

LJ does sleep with a sound machine at home, so the noise is consistent with what he is used to. Even if he didn’t regularly sleep with a sound machine, I would still bring it to a hotel room. Since I’m sleeping in the same room, this helps mask the small night noises that either of us might make and helps keep us from waking one another up over small noises. This trip, my mother-in-law brought her sound machine to save me some space but on past trips I have just packed it in the carry on.

Tip #4: Don’t overload the toys

We brought a few small toys to entertain him in the room but honestly, LJ has had just as much fun playing with the plastic water cup provided by the sink and sitting in the empty pool area and listening to the echos made by his voice (my mother-in-law’s idea! He looooved this). The point is, utilize what is at the hotel that your baby might like. Everything there is new and interesting for your baby and there’s no need to bring tons of toys or other entertainment.

Tip #5: Think through naps (aka – be prepared to hang out in the bathroom)

Hotel Bathroom

Okay this one is more of a preference thing, but I find it helpful to think ahead about what I want to be doing while LJ is sleeping. He goes to bed much earlier than I do and takes naps during the day and I obviously can’t leave him during this time but I don’t want to twiddle my thumbs in the dark. If you’re going to want to read during these times, bring a book light to read in bed. Or bring magazines and nail polish to have some “me” time in the bathroom. Or your laptop to work on the floor in the hallway outside the door. Or bring headphones to watch Netflix on your phone in bed. I just think it helps to think ahead about what you might like to do during this time so you bring what you might need (a book light, your computer, magazines, headphones, whatever).

What tips do you have for staying in a hotel with a baby? Share them below!

October 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m wrapping up the reviews for the books I read in October – if you missed Part One be sure to check it out here.

October 2018 Part Two

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Charlie St. Clair is a college girl in search of her cousin who went missing in France in WWII. Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner, a former WWI spy harboring bitterness and regret over long ago happenings within the spy organization known as The Alice Network. Charlie and Eve (along with Eve’s hired helper, a Scottish man named Finn) set off to France to try to discover the truth of what really happened to those they’ve known. The more information they learn, the more entwined their two separate stories and searches become.

So first off, I am a historical fiction junkie. Give me historical fiction about an obscure female heroine from WWI and I am ALL over it. I absolutely loved reading about The Alice Network and devoured information about the real Louise de Bettignies and her story on Wikipedia after finishing this novel. I enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie, Eve, and Finn and thought the characters came to life throughout. That being said, the stories alternated between Eve’s WWI experience and Charlie’s post-WWII quest and I often found myself hoping perspectives would shift so things picked up. Some parts went too slowly for me and the book seemed a bit long. I kept wanting to find out more information and the slow reveals and little hints were just tantalizing. Eve’s chapters were fascinating but I wasn’t as into Charlie’s stories. I found her equations (a strange mental game she plays) unnecessary and boring and her backstory wasn’t as interesting to me. However, I was eager to find out how Eve and Charlie’s stories were connected and as truths came to light I became very invested in how things would turn out. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it probably could have been a little condensed.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives

In general, I love Beatriz Williams and I really enjoy her Schuyler family stories. Sometimes they connect with one another and have overlapping characters, but this book 100% stands on it’s own. This novel is set on Winthrop Island, a small New England island where the community is comprised of the wealthy summer Families and the working-class Portuguese population who live there year-round. The plot is divided into three different time periods (1930, 1951, and 1969) and events that happened over the course of the summers in each of those years. While the narrators and time periods change, I didn’t find it hard to keep the story lines straight and understand events and how everything connected. (In fact, I followed it almost too well and figured out where the plot was going around page 150, which was a little disappointing because I like to be surprised). I loved the characters, the setting, and most of the plot line, although I will say that there was a lot of unnecessary rated-R content that took away from the story for me. There were also a few times, particularly with the 1969 timeline, where I felt like the story dragged a little but for the most part I was drawn in and intrigued by how the individual stories were woven together. Overall, I thought this was a great read!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature.jpg

Back in May, I read The Dry and was told that Harper had another book following the same main character so I immediately added it to my reading list. In this novel, Aaron Falk is working on a big money laundering case when his key contact within the company, Alice Russell, goes missing on a corporate retreat in the isolated Australian wilderness. The four other women she was in the woods with all return together and each remembers things that happened slightly differently. The story is told through Falk’s present investigations/the search for Alice and flashbacks alternating points of views from the women in the wilderness. One thing that Harper does really well in her books is to describe the scenery so well that it becomes like an actual character in her stories. I could feel the claustrophobia of being surrounded by thick bushland, I could imagine how turned around and scared I would have become had I been lost in this vast wilderness. I felt the paranoia of the women in the woods as their panic levels rose and feral instincts kicked in. As the story twisted and turned, Harper dropped enough small tidbits that I formed various ideas of how things might play out but I was still surprised by the final turn of events. I do wish the author would dive a little more into Falk’s personal life, because I love reading about his character and she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it; nonetheless, it was an exciting thriller without being too creepy and I flew through it. I recommend it, but I suggest reading The Dry first because there are a few tiny mentions of that plot in this story (plus it is just a fantastic read)!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

A Simplified Halloween

In Tuesday’s post, I talked about lowering the bar and not stressing out so much over perfection. For me, this is never more important than during the holiday season.

Halloween is the kickoff to the holiday season and while that always feels magical and exciting, it can also feel a little overwhelming. It’s easy to look around (in real life and on social media) and feel like you aren’t doing enough and are falling short in trying to do all the things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with homemade costumes, elaborate decorations, holiday-themed treats, etc. If that’s your thing, go for it! That is awesome and I’m cheering you on. For me, Halloween is one area of the holiday season where I lower the bar and just enjoy the time with family. Today I’m giving a quick little recap of our low-key Halloween festivities this year.

My little hometown had trick-or-treating on Tuesday this year, so we drove out (it’s around an hour away) after Justin got off work to surprise my grandparents and pass out candy with them. LJ wore a sweet little jack-o-lantern onesie before putting on his costume and it was so adorable!

j-o-l

I absolutely love dressing up and doing themed costumes, whether couple or group costumes; however, since LJ wasn’t going to actually go around to houses this year, we kept things fairly simple. I got a little Pooh costume and some animal ear headbands and a tiger tail and boom – Tigger, Rabbit, and Winnie.

Family costume

LJ was such a trooper in his Pooh costume. He did not like the process of putting it on but once it was on, he didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I think it helped that he loved looking at all the kids in costume and sat in fascination the whole time. My grandparents have a really popular neighborhood for trick-or-treating and they had 278 kids come by in 2 hours! We had so much fun that I forgot to take pictures. Oops!

Real life Halloween
Just a friendly reminder that for every perfect picture taken with an 11-month-old, there are likely outtakes like this 😉

Wednesday was our neighborhood’s trick-or-treat which felt like a little bit of a let down after my grandparents (we maybe had 60 kids total) but my mom came by and LJ loved extra snuggles with her.

Trick or Treat

He also loved the crinkly sound of the candy wrappers and commandeered two Twizzlers to “eat” and play with.

LJ twizzlers

We hung out outside and passed out candy until we got too cold and then we headed to our neighbor’s house for some soup and trick-or-treat re-cap. It was a perfectly fun and laid-back Halloween!

J and Pooh

Now the real question is, how many of you are already decorating for Christmas? 😉