Dating Your Spouse

I don’t remember a lot of advice I was given during the newborn haze of the first few weeks of LJ’s life, but I will never forget these words from our pediatrician at his 2 week check-up: “You are the foundation of his life.” Basically, he said we can do a lot of things to help LJ grow and develop but the thing he is going to see every single day is US. The stability of our relationship and how we treat one another is going to be one of the biggest things that he watches as he grows. Our marriage is a huge part of LJ’s life and will form the foundation for his childhood. The pediatrician took a few minutes to specifically encourage Justin and I to make sure not to lose ourselves or our marriage to our new job as parents, but to continue to foster our relationship and prioritize one another as well.

I mean, wow, right!? What an amazing reminder to brand-new, slightly-overwhelmed parents to not get so wrapped up in parenthood that they forget what started the journey in the first place: their relationship. Justin and I were so appreciative of this reminder that we can love our son SO much, want the absolute best for him, try our hardest to be great parents, and still want to prioritize our marriage.

I blogged about our recent trip to Chicago last week. We take LJ with us on a lot of trips, but this was one we took without him. It was so wonderful to have a few days away together and we both felt reconnected and rejuvenated and ready to get home and love on our boy on Sunday! Obviously, it doesn’t always work to do something big like a multi-day getaway; but Justin and I have really tried to take our pediatrician’s advice to heart and remember to prioritize our marriage and spend time together. It doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money, or even any money at all, but it is important for us to connect and enjoy our marriage together every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just talking on the couch during LJ’s naptime. Other times we go out for a movie, sporting event, dinner, putt-putt golf, etc. It keeps our marriage strong, helps us focus on our love for each other, and is just plain fun. We are always ready to come home and give LJ so much love and attention afterwards!

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Together again – ready to love on LJ!

Today I’m sharing a few ways that Justin and I utilize to spend one-on-one time together. These are ways that work for us – they may not work for you and that’s totally okay. I encourage you to find what works for you and your partner and carve out some time to focus on the relationship that started your little family: your love!

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Relax together after LJ’s Bedtime

We have a few shows we both really enjoy watching (This is Us, A Million Little Things, and occasionally The Bachelor depending on the season and main person). Some days one or both of us may still have some work to finish on our computers so we will have those up while we watch but it’s still fun to be together while the show plays so we can discuss our thoughts during and after. Some nights we both are totally finished with work and there isn’t a show we want to see so we’ll curl up together on the couch, usually with bowls of ice cream, and watch a movie together.  It’s such a fun, relaxing way to just spend some time together! Of course, there are days when it feels like Justin and I are just counting down the minutes until LJ goes to bed and we’re both so exhausted from our long days that we just kind of zonk on the couch and do our own thing. It’s always nice though to watch something together.

Screen-Free Time

Occasionally during naptime or after bedtime, we’ll intentionally set 30 minutes of screen-free time. TV is off, computers are shut, phones are away, and Justin and I just sit and talk. We might talk about our days, our dreams for the future, our plans for the week, or whatever else is on our minds, but it’s always just nice to have focused, uninterrupted time to reconnect. The busier the season of life, the more important I think this time is!

Utilize grandparents (if possible)

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I know we are SO lucky to have parents who want to be very involved as grandparents. Both Justin and my parents adore LJ and love to love on him. We are also lucky that my parents only live just over an hour away and frequently babysit LJ (we know Justin’s parents would love to do this too but they unfortunately live several states away). I personally think it’s important to take them up on their offers to babysit not only so Justin and I can have some time to reconnect, but also so LJ can develop a relationship with his grandparents. It is so sweet to watch their bond grow! My mom often offers to come watch LJ at our house so we can have a date or take him to their house for a day/night/weekend. I had no problem leaving him in their care early on (they first babysat him at 2 weeks old for 2 hours so we could attend Justin’s work Christmas party nearby) but I did take much longer to feel comfortable leaving him overnight. They first watched him overnight when he was about 8.5 months old. It went so well though – they loved it, LJ had a great time (they sent lots of pics and videos), and Justin and I got to enjoy a little getaway for my birthday (read the recap here). Once we did it once, it became much easier to continue to do and increase the length of stay. My parents just had LJ for 4 nights while I joined Justin in Chicago and it was amazing. They all had a fantastic time and Justin and I both agreed that it was so nice to have time away together to relax, explore Chicago, and just spend time together.

I will say – yes this is a “free” option for us, but we do try to be conscious of the fact that it’s not free for my parents to drive an hour or buy groceries for LJ when they keep him overnight. We try to split driving (I’ll drop him off, they pick him up) and I’ll typically send along some food for him in addition to what they have. If my parents come to watch him so we can go out to dinner, I will try to either have dinner made for them to eat or they know they can always raid our fridge/pantry if they need. We never want them to feel like we’re taking advantage of them and want them to feel appreciated for all they do!

Swap with friends

I realize that many people don’t have the option to have grandparents babysit for a variety of reasons. Justin and I also swap free babysitting with friends. We have close friends who actually live in the same neighborhood as us so it’s super convenient to drop our kids off at each other’s houses. This isn’t something we keep track of, like your-turn-my-turn, but it’s more of a “when we need each other, we’re not afraid to ask” situation. We watch their two little boys if they need us for a dinner (they’re also into intramural sports so we sometimes watch the boys if they have a game in the evening) and they watch LJ if we need a date night or have something else going on. We 100% trust them and vice versa so it works really well for us.

Split a babysitter

There was a night when both we and our “swap” friends needed a babysitter, so since we couldn’t swap with each other, we split a babysitter. It was much cheaper to pay one person to watch 3 kids together and split the cost than to find two separate babysitters. I dropped LJ off at their house and the babysitter was great with all three! Problem solved!

Mega-Swap, or the “Night of Chaos”

One of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a kind of “mega babysitting swap” amongst our group of friends. There are six families with 12 kids between us. Each couple takes one month and picks a night to host ALL the kids at their house so the other couples can have a date night. It’s a pretty hectic night for the hosting couple (hence we playfully dubbed it the “Night of Chaos”) but you only have to do it 2x each year and the other 10 months of the year you have a free babysitter and date night each month! I will say that each couple has at least one member certified in CPR/First Aid and we are all parents who handle a variety of situations, which definitely adds to our comfort level with something like this. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have trust and confidence in each couple that was part of the group. But it works really well for us and it’s a great way for Justin and I to make sure to carve out time each month to do something together!

If nothing else, take him along!

Our friends hosted a Christmas party and we didn’t have someone to watch him so we just took him along in his jammies. We set up a pack n play in their guest room, brought our sound machine and his wubbanub, darkened the room, and just put him down there at bedtime. When we left at the end of the night and got him down from upstairs, guests who showed up after we put him down said “wait, there was a baby up there!?” He didn’t disturb the party and we didn’t disturb him. We’ve done this a few times now and while it is still preferable for LJ to fall asleep at home, this option works well if we need.

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I know not everyone feels comfortable with this and that’s okay. You don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you! I will say that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We travel enough with LJ that he has gotten used to sleeping in places other than his crib in his bedroom and he does a good job in other environments. If we never had him sleep anywhere else, he probably wouldn’t do well with a pack n play in a guest room during a Christmas party. But because he sleeps other places often enough, now it’s super easy to put him down somewhere and have him go right to sleep! He transfers well to the car seat then and back to his crib when we go home. I would just encourage you to try it a few times and see if it works for you. The first time didn’t work flawlessly, but we kept at it and LJ got better at it (and so did we) and I’m glad we didn’t give up.

 

What works for you in making time for your spouse? What dates do you enjoy together?

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Chicago Re-Cap

Last week, Justin had a board certification exam + conference to attend in Chicago. He left Monday morning and I joined him on Thursday after dropping LJ off with my parents. We so enjoyed a few days together in the city!  Beware this re-cap involves a lot of food and March Madness – you have been warned!

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Several of Justin’s co-workers were also attending this conference and I drove up with another spouse on Thursday. We arrived right around lunch and met up with our husbands at the hotel (we stayed at the Grand Sheraton downtown). Justin and I ran up to our hotel room to quick drop off my luggage and then we headed out to lunch at Mother Hubbard’s. It was a sports pub with TONS of TVs which was perfect for us because the March Madness tournament had just begun and we were excited to get to watch a lot of games and smack-talk our brackets.  We ate a light lunch because we had plans for a big dinner and hung out at the pub for a few hours watching games. I love the atmosphere of a sports pub when there is a big game on, and at one point the entire bar was watching and cheering loudly for the Auburn vs. New Mexico State game because it was so close. The energy in the room was awesome! It was a relaxing and fun way to spend an afternoon.

We strolled back to our hotel room to freshen up and met up with our friends to walk to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Justin and I split an entree so I still had room for dessert – Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple did not disappoint!

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After dinner the six of us walked to the theatre district and enjoyed all the stunning views of the city along the way.

We arrived at the Nederlander Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. Honestly, this was not my favorite Broadway play ever and I thought the plot kind of jumped around a lot but the music made up for it. The performers were all SO talented and two in particular blew me away with their vocal performance. It was a great way to cap off our first day!

Friday morning Justin and I enjoyed the fact that we were kid-less which every parent knows means you can SLEEP. IN. Glorious! We met up with a couple of our friends for breakfast at Yolk, which was super delicious. I didn’t remember to take a picture until all I had left was one piece of cinnamon roll french toast left, but take my word for it that my skillet breakfast and french toast was beautiful and delicious!

After breakfast Justin and I both had a little work to do so we headed back to the hotel to work on our laptops for a few hours. Around lunch we headed out to meet up with my uncle at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel which was an absolutely stunning building! There are different restaurants inside and we chose The Game Room, which has an awesome old-time clubhouse feel. The ambiance was just incredible! Their menu is limited with small portions, which was perfect for splitting a few small plates among the three of us since Justin and I were still pretty full from breakfast. The restaurant had March Madness games playing and since my uncle is a University of Cincinnati alum, we got really into their game vs. Iowa.

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After the game finished we headed up to check out the rooftop restaurant Cindy’s, which has a great view of Millennium Park and the lake. It was the perfect lunch spot to enjoy and catch up with my uncle!

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Justin and I headed back to the hotel but couldn’t resist a pit stop at The Bean for some super touristy pictures. I love the one with “The Bean and our growing Little Bean” haha!

We headed back to relax in the hotel room and watch more March Madness (and I took a nap – once again, kid-free gloriousness!) until it was time to head out to dinner. Because this conference is so huge, there are a lot of schools and organizations that have alumni meet-ups and Justin and I went to his school’s alumni dinner at Pizzeria Due. Nothing like delicious deep-dish Chicago style pizza! It was fun to catch up with a few people we knew from our time in West Virginia and hear what everyone is up to now.

Afterwards we met up with our friends at Timothy O’Toole’s for a few drinks and, you guessed it, more March Madness. I was cheering hard for my Buckeyes! It was extra fun with our group of six because everyone’s brackets were different so our alliances kept changing each game with who we were co-cheering with. Only one other friend had picked OSU to win their first game so we were pretty smug for the rest of the night. 😉

Saturday morning Justin attended a few hours of his conference so I headed to the gym to get a workout in. The gym overlooked the river so it was fun to watch the buzz of city life go by as I got my cardio in.

We met up with all our friends for lunch (another spouse arrived Saturday morning so we were now a group of seven) at Weber Grill, which was fantastic! Once again, I got so into our conversations and enjoying time together that I have zero pictures but our food was delicious and we were all very happy with our choice!

We split off into groups after lunch, as some people wanted to shop Michigan Avenue and others wanted to find dessert. I was in the dessert camp and we ended up at Ghirardelli’s where a friend and I split a delicious sundae and we enjoyed people watching from the window.

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Justin and I, along with two of our friends, had decided to leave Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning so we spent the afternoon packing up and getting ready to leave. We met up for one more group dinner at Pinstripes, which was a fun atmosphere. I got their wood-fired pizza which, while not deep dish Chicago, was still delicious! Next door to the restaurant was Molly’s Cupcakes and as soon as we saw they were Cupcake War winners, we knew we had to give them a try. I was stuffed so we got two cupcakes to enjoy later.

Once back at the hotel, we grabbed our things, said goodbye to the friends leaving Sunday, and headed back to Indiana. We didn’t get back until around midnight but it was worth it to have a relaxing Sunday morning before meeting up with my parents to take LJ on a plane to Virginia (yes! So much travel in so little time!) It was a short and sweet trip to Chicago but we really enjoyed the time away!

Calm & Quiet Mornings

Mornings. All is calm, all is quiet. There is nothing quite like a peaceful start to my day!

Today I want to talk about how waking up early (translation: before LJ wakes up) has made a really positive impact on how my days have gone lately. I have always been a morning person, but I’m also someone who does not function well on little sleep. Motherhood and the subsequent sleep deprivation threw a bit of a wrench in my early-bird lifestyle but I feel like right now I’m back in a season where I can get up early again and it’s made a big difference!

A disclaimer: when LJ was a newborn or going through a sleep regression, waking up early was the very last thing on my mind. In those days I was sleeping in as long as possible and would not get out of bed until he woke up. If he woke up at 4:15 I woke up at 4:15. If he slept in until 8:00, I slept in until 8:00. If you’re a mom to a newborn or baby who isn’t sleeping through the night yet, do not put the pressure on yourself to wake up early. Girl, you need sleep! Take care of yourself and listen to what your body needs.

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For the past 3 months or so, LJ has been consistently sleeping in until 8:00 am, give or take 15 minutes. I was still waking up when he woke up but my mornings began to feel more groggy and disheveled, like I was actually over sleeping. I was going to bed at 9:30 and getting up at 8, which was exactly what I needed when I was being woken up multiple times each night to breastfeed, but not what I needed now that my baby slept through the night. It also started to feel like I was waiting for my morning to wake me up and the days didn’t start on my terms. Since I knew that 99% of the time, LJ would wake up sometime between 7:45-8:15, I started setting my alarm to get up a little earlier. My mindset changed from letting my day wake me up to purposefully waking up and greeting my day. My mornings have significantly improved since I’ve done this!

I typically try to get up somewhere around 6:30. I put on some clothes, splash cold water on my face (I stopped using face cleanser in the morning about 6 months ago after reading multiple dermatologists recommend not over-cleansing your face), apply moisturizer, swipe on deoderant, and put in my contacts. I head downstairs to let the dogs out, fill their bowls with food and water, and pour myself a bowl of cereal. I then jump straight in to my devotions. During the school year, I participate in a Bible Study Fellowship so I’ve been completing each day’s lesson while I eat my breakfast.

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If nothing else, my goal is to get through that entire routine and brush my teeth before LJ wakes up. Some days that’s all I can do but even then it still feels like I’ve started the morning out on the right foot and I feel ready for the day. As long as I get up by 7:00, 99% of days I can get through all that before LJ wakes up.

On the mornings where I get up by 6:30 and LJ sleeps in, I am able to get much more accomplished. Typical things I’ll try to do in this time might be empty the dishwasher (when it’s full, we run it at night so the dishes are dry and clean by morning), start some laundry, wash any dishes left in the sink from the day before, straighten up a room that was left in disarray, or take care of my one cleaning task for the day. I might spend time finishing up a blog post (like I did today!) or get a little work done for my job. Sometimes I will even just light a candle and curl up with whatever book I’m reading and get a few chapters in before LJ wakes up. It feels SO GOOD to be able to start the day off with a sense of calm and accomplishment. Even if nothing else “productive” gets done for the rest of the day, I still feel like I at least have it a little bit together because I had a smooth and relaxing morning.

Of course there are still days where I sleep in. Just the other night, Justin and I stayed up late so I slept in until LJ woke up. When I was in my first trimester with baby #2, I respected and listened to my changing body. If I felt extra fatigued, I just turned that alarm off and kept on sleeping. Sometimes I’m only up for 10 minutes before LJ wakes up. Other days, I get a great night of sleep and wake up on my own at 6:00, ready to start my day. I don’t stress too much about having an exact time or plan but really try to listen to what my body needs while also knowing my days do start so much smoother and happier if I get a little time to myself to start the morning off in the calm and quiet. Just like I said in my self care post last week, I’m a better mom, wife and person when I take care of myself, and waking up early to start the day my way is a form of that.

If you’re feeling like your day wakes you up instead of you waking up to greet the day, try setting your alarm a little earlier and see how you feel. Even just 15 minutes to drink a cup of coffee in silence may make a big difference for you!

 

Refreshed and Recharged: A Self-Care Soapbox

As I write this blog post, I am sitting at a table in Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon. I have a cold pressed juice in front of me, a delicious blueberry scone in my belly, and LJ is 6 miles away playing at a friend’s house. And I’m not going to lie, it is downright glorious.Self Care 7.jpg

I love my role as a work from home mom. I am so thankful I get to spend my days with LJ and also make a small income (read more about how I strive to balance these here). When I got pregnant with LJ, Justin and I decided that the best situation for our family would be for me to take a break from teaching to stay home and now almost two years after that initial decision, we are both extremely happy with how this has worked for us.

That being said, I can’t be “on” as mom 24/7 and never take a break to recharge.  I can’t give 100% of myself 100% of the time and not refill my own tank or I’m just running on empty and that helps no one.

Self-care is an overused buzzword these days, but I do truly believe that it is critical for a healthy, balanced life. While I love my days at home, I know I need to have a little “me” time in order to be the best mom, wife, woman I can be. It’s been on my heart lately to write a post about the importance of taking care of yourself, so that’s where we’re headed today. And just for the record, self-care isn’t important for just moms. If you are single and work full time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are in grad school and working part time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are married, dating, divorced, no kids, seven kids, mid-20s, mid-60s, etc. you need to take care of yourself. This is important for everyone! I’m going to be specifically speaking to why it’s important for me as a wife and mom, but you just insert your own labels to make this fit you. It is important for you, regardless of where you are in life, to take care of yourself.

Better self = Better wife, mom, and human

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. In fact, taking a little time to recharge and refresh is actually selfless, because it allows you to be your best self when it comes to pouring into others. Before every plane ride, you are given the safety instruction that if the oxygen masks are activated, you need to take care of yourself first before helping someone else. You must make sure that you are functioning well enough to be able to adequately help someone else.

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Photo Credit: The Commoneer

If I spend my day in sweats and I don’t take a few minutes to wash my face or brush my teeth because I’m so busy taking care of my son, I feel pretty crummy about myself. If I spend every single nanosecond of LJ’s awake time personally engaging him in play, preparing him food, feeding him, and diapering him, and every nanosecond of naptime cleaning my house, preparing food for dinner, completing work for my job, doing laundry, etc, I feel completely depleted and exhausted by lunch.  If I don’t get a little mental escape occasionally, my brain feels fried.  If I don’t move my body and get a workout in at least 2-3x a week, I feel sluggish and low energy. And when I feel crummy, depleted, sluggish, and exhausted, my temper shortens, my frustration heightens, and my patience wanes. Sounds like a happy, fulfilling life, right?

But. If I take a few minutes to quick wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into clean clothes (even if they’re just clean sweats), I feel refreshed. If I take just a few more minutes to swipe on some make-up, I feel put-together and prepared. If I allow LJ to play with his blocks independently while I finish my morning devotional nearby, I feel centered. If I carve 20 minutes out of naptime to read a book or paint my nails (or take a nap!) I feel recharged. If I take advantage of the YMCA childcare or complete one of my E&E workouts at home while LJ watches, I feel energized. And if I take a friend up on her offer to watch LJ for a couple hours one Wednesday afternoon so I can have some time to myself at a Starbucks, I feel rejuvenated. When I feel these things, I am kinder, more patient, flexible, and happier.

Now. Crummy, depleted, sluggish, exhausted, short-tempered, frustrated, and impatient OR refreshed, put-together, prepared, centered, recharged, energized, rejuvenated, patient, kind, flexible, happy. Which version of Sarah do you think is at her best mom/wife/woman self? It’s not a very tough call is it?

Sounds great. But I’m still a busy mom. HOW can I take care of myself?

Find “mini” boosts. I wrote a whole blog post about small ways that I can get a little mental boost and recharge my batteries on days where I need a little lift but don’t have a ton of time. It doesn’t have to take an hour or cost tons of money. Most of my mini boosts take just a few minutes or can be done with LJ. These things are extra beneficial on days where Justin works a super long shift (sometimes up to 24 hours) and I have to fill both our roles at home.

Communicate with your partner. If there is a week where Justin has several long shifts or we’ve had a lot going on and I need a little break, I communicate my needs with Justin. This might be “hey, I’ve had a crazy day today – can you take care of figuring out dinner or should we order pizza?” or it might be “this week is about to do me in – is there an afternoon or evening where you’ll be home with LJ so I can go to a coffee shop for an hour?” I thrive on a time to myself in a coffee shop to read a book, prepare a blog post, catch up on work for my job, etc. This does WONDERS for me. I always return happy, refreshed, and ready to jump back in to life and be the best mom and wife to my guys. It’s gotten to the point now where if we have a slow day at home, usually on a Sunday afternoon, Justin will ask me if I want to go have “me” time for a while without me even mentioning it. (Once it even involved me going to Panera and actually eating dinner uninterrupted by myself. Nirvana.) He has seen that this time makes a difference for me and I appreciate that he’s supportive. On the flip side, I support when he needs time away too. Just this past weekend, he got asked to join some friends for laser tag and I wholeheartedly supported this. He enjoys golf in the summer and we find days in our schedule where he can work it in so he can recharge and be his best self for us. It’s a give and take! But it doesn’t happen if you don’t communicate what you need. It’s not helpful if I am frustrated and snappy and just expect him to know what I need.

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Say BUH-BYE to any guilt.  Mom guilt, man. What a crock. I have had to come to terms with the fact that self-care isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It doesn’t mean I’m loving my child any less. I cannot, I repeat, can NOT give 100% of myself to my husband and child every moment of every day. It leaves nothing left. How can I function on nothing? Not one person would try to tell you it’s a good idea to keep driving another 150 miles once your gas light comes on, yet it seems that our culture often makes moms feel bad for taking time to take care of themselves. That is crazy! I know that when I take care of myself I am able to actually do a better job. I am a happier, more patient mom. I can be my best self, which is what I want to be. I want to give Justin and LJ my best and I’m at my best and brightest when I’m running on a full tank. And my tank is fullest when I’m making myself a priority too.

What do you enjoy doing to take care of yourself?

 

 

 

A Simplified Nursery

Good morning!

Now that I’m 16 weeks along with baby #2, I’ve begun to start thinking about how our living arrangement will soon change. We live in a 3 bedroom house and use the third bedroom as a guest room since we frequently host out of town guests. Right now I’m taking a “wait and see what works best for baby #2” approach. Perhaps he or she will need to stay in our bedroom longer (LJ transitioned to his crib at six weeks) or maybe we’ll figure out a way to have a combo guest room/nursery situation and just move baby back with us when we actually have guests. Or maybe we’ll transition LJ into the current guest room and move baby into his nursery. We’ll see what works best when the time comes!

Since I’m not planning out a nursery this go-round, I thought it would be fun today to share a peek into LJ’s nursery and how we planned and prepared for his arrival (before we knew his gender). Our goal was to create a sweet and simple (and inexpensive) little bedroom for him. I don’t have an exact number, but when I calculated up approximately what our nursery cost us, it was around $400 (some things we already had and others, like our crib mattress, diaper pail, changing pad, etc, were gifted to us at our baby shower and not counted towards that total).

Before I begin I want to clearly state: if you are all about trendy, matching furniture and decide to spend $2000 on a brand new crib/dresser/nightstand set from Pottery Barn, or you splurge on the gorgeous $1600 Tufted Wingback Upholstered Swivel Glider (and the matching $700 ottoman) from Restoration Hardware, OR you don’t have space or money for a nursery and keep your baby in a pack and play in your room (because when it really comes down to it, all babies need in a bedroom is a safe place to sleep), that’s your choice and you will get 0% judgement from meTruly. You do you, mama. You know your preferences, you know your finances. The decision is for you and your partner to make. Justin and I agreed that babies cost a lot after they are born (clothes, diapers, wipes, food) and we didn’t want to spend tons of money on stuff before the baby was even here but we did want to create a space for our baby in his or her own room. For us personally, we chose to find ways to keep the nursery simple and inexpensive. That’s what worked best for us, and so I’m sharing how we made that happen. If you choose to do things differently, you do you.

Creating our Simplified Nursery

We re-used or re-purposed a lot of what we already had.

When we registered for LJ, Justin and I both really loved a glider that we tested at Target. It was our style and the color went perfectly with our color scheme, but it was $400. We knew that there was a very small probability that it would be bought for us and we had other items in the pricier range that we needed to prioritize (like a stroller and car seat). So we said no to the glider and instead bought a $70 slipcover to go over an old, but still very comfy and functional, tan recliner that we inherited for free from Justin’s grandparents several years ago. It’s maybe not *exactly* the look we would have chosen, but for a $330 savings, we could absolutely live with it. 😉 I do want to say that while I’m so glad we could find an inexpensive alternative, I am thankful we had a comfortable chair in the nursery. We have spent a LOT of hours in this chair breastfeeding, rocking, reading books, comforting in the middle of the night, even sleeping on the nights LJ would.not.sleep. without being held – I strongly recommend a comfy place to sit in your baby’s room!

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We reused an old crate that Justin’s mom gave us several years ago. When we were first married, we needed a TV stand so she gave us this crate she had in storage. At the time all we did was sand the rough edges and stain it. We decided to use it as a combo bench/bookshelf/toy storage/nightstand in the nursery and I actually love how it looks there!

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My favorite re-vamped piece was this mid-century dresser we got off Craigslist a couple years ago for $30. We painted everything except the legs (I believe we used Slate Tile from Sherwin Williams and we just needed a quart of their Color to Go sample) and I spray painted the existing knobs gold and then roughed them up a little with sandpaper to look antiqued a bit. I absolutely love the way it turned out and the paint+spray paint supplies cost less than $15 total.

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We got crafty (or enlisted crafty people)

Justin made this shelf for me a few years ago based on a picture I found on Pinterest. He used reclaimed wood and it was the perfect fit for above the changing table dresser!

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My sister is super creative and talented so she made most of our nursery artwork (the Peter Rabbit print was a farmer’s market find but the rest are my sister’s handiwork).

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I was able to snag a few pillows and fabric from a JoAnn’s that was going out of business so I made some simple pillowcases to spruce up the little bench area for a very low cost.

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We prioritized where to spend money

There is SO. MUCH. INFORMATION. out there about baby gear. It’s overwhelming! Before registering, we read the latest version of Baby Bargains and this was one of our best decisions. This organization does use affiliate links but does not take money from the brands it reviews or participate in partnerships or sponsors or anything like that. I felt like we got good information from the book and it really helped Justin and I decide what items we wanted to splurge on (car seat, stroller) and what we could feel comfortable with a less expensive option (like a crib). We went with a simple Ikea crib for $100 (I couldn’t find our exact one but this one is similar) and love that we didn’t have to spend a ton of energy (or money) on the decision.

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We kept a super simple “theme”

Again, if you are all about a coordinated nursery and dream of a woodland/nautical/Parisian/etc room for your baby, that is totally your choice.! Since we re-purposed many items and wanted a gender-neutral space, it was easier for us to select individual items that fit a general vibe instead of buy themed items. We chose a gender-neutral color palette (white, gray, and shades of blue that didn’t feel like too “boy”) and selected fabrics, paint colors, and decorative items that worked within that palette. I found I preferred simple, whimsical items so I picked up little things here and there that fit that vibe. I mixed in plants for a splash of color and included some items from Justin and my childhood for a touch of nostalgia (on the triangle shelf sits his Winnie the Pooh and my bible from my dedication at church). I think think the result was a simple, sweet space that we were really pleased with.

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I’m really happy with how this space turned out and have really enjoyed spending time here over the past 15 months. Talking about all this nursery prep is sure getting me excited for another baby to snuggle in a few more months! What are your nursery must-haves?

And in case you’re interested, here’s a general source list of where I picked things up. I included links if I could find the exact or similar item (I make $0 off this, just sharing what has worked for me!)

Crib: Ikea (similar here and here)

Crib mattress: Amazon

Art above crib: Hobby Lobby

Basket with blankets: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Lazyboy Slipcover: Target

Salt lamp: Amazon

Sound machine: Target

Light-blocking curtains: Target

Small iron basket: Hobby Lobby (similar here)

Fabric basket: Ikea

Hanging Shelf w/brackets: World Market

Letterboard: Walmart

Cement planter: Magnolia (similar here)

Basket holding plant: Ikea

Fake succulent: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Diaper Pail: Playtex

Diaper basket: Target

Monitor: VTech

Changing pad: Munchkin

Changing pad cover: Aden + Anais

Mobile: Baby Jives & Co

Wall paint color: Magnetic Gray

Trim Color: Alabaster

 

February 2019 Book Review

Today it’s time for one of my favorite posts each month: book review day!

I’m reviewing three books this month even though only two are pictured because the third book I read while on vacation in Florida. Overall, I enjoyed all three books so I’m excited to dive on in to the reviews!

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The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

You know the game “if you could have dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would you choose?” Well this book is a story of that actually happening. Sabrina thinks she is going to her birthday dinner with her longtime friend but when she shows up, it turns out the rest of her “list” of people are there too even though some of them are dead (oh hi, Audrey Hepburn). The plot jumps between the actual dinner and various times in Sabrina’s past that explain her connections to each person and why they are on her list. I was pretty intrigued by the premise and since this is the book I took on vacation to Florida, I flew through it in the hotel during LJ’s naps. There were sweet parts, surprising parts, sad parts, and downright shocking parts. While I did enjoy this book, to be honest, I got frustrated a few times due to some of the dynamics between the main characters. The more I thought about it though, I think that’s pretty indicative of life, right? Sometimes people are amazing, sometimes they are jerks. We all have our moments of triumph and weakness. This book gave me a lot to think about – it’s one that I can’t discuss too much more here for fear of spoilers, but I would love to discuss in person with someone who has read it because I have a lot of thoughts I’d like to work through!

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Since I finished The Dinner List so quickly and still had a lot of vacation downtime left, I borrowed this book from my friend Kaitlin’s bookshelf to read poolside while in Florida. Christopher is a bright 15-year-old boy and though the book never explicitly states this, it’s pretty obvious that he has autism. One night he is walking through his neighborhood and discovers that his neighbor’s dog Wellington has been killed in her yard. He decides to become a detective and figure out who killed Wellington and his search leads him to a trail of discoveries and adventures. I loved that the whole story was told through Christopher’s point of view, which I felt the author did very well, particularly with his experiences of sensory overload. I enjoyed getting to know Christopher and all his quirks and preferences. I also enjoyed the little touches the author gave, like numbering the chapters in prime numbers, because this was very much something Christopher would have done. That being said, I did find the book to be fairly predictable. There are a couple “twists” in the story but I saw them coming, though this is because I can read between the lines where Christopher takes things literally. (Perhaps the author meant for it to be this way, showing the difference between the way the mind of the reader works and the way Christopher’s logical train of thought works? Hmm…)  I also got a little tired of all the unimportant/irrelevant details that Christopher gives and started to skim a lot in the second half of the book. Overall, I thought this was a good choice for an interesting, quirky, pretty easy read on vacation.

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Oh my gosh. This book! I had been on the library wait list for months and finally got my hands on a copy and it was worth the wait! Kya, known by locals as “The Marsh Girl,” has lived most of her life in solitude in the North Carolina marsh. She is remarkably in tune with nature and rarely interacts with the locals in the nearby town. One day, a murder occurs and suspicion is thrown to Kya. I don’t want to give away more of the plot so I’ll just say that while it took me a chapter or two to really get into the story, once I did I was absolutely swept away. This book is just beautiful and incredibly well written, a captivating tale of love, heartbreak, prejudice, and survival. The descriptions of the marsh life are vivid and enchanting. And the characters are expertly crafted and human, with flaws, mistakes, regrets. And Kya’s strength and resiliency despite the rejections of her life is remarkable and makes her endearing to the reader. As the book works its way towards solving the murder, my heart was pounding and I was just flying through chapters. I highly recommend this one!

 

I’ve got a lot of other books that just came off the library wait list so I’m extra excited for what’s coming up in March. What have you been loving reading lately?

Let’s Look: The People in My Family

Once again I’m joining Erika and Shay‘s monthly link-up Let’s Look and this month’s topic is The People in My Family.

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This guy right here is the rock of our family. He is the calm to my crazy, the laid-back to my Type-A, the fun to my focused. He is energetic and easy-going. He makes me laugh daily and challenges me to be a better version of myself. He is far from perfect but I am so very thankful every. single. day. to have him in my life.

Justin and I met my senior year of college and we started dating in August 2011. I knew pretty early on in our relationship that he was the guy for me. We got engaged in July 2012 and he moved two hours away for school in August. We made the long-distance engagement work and got married in June 2013.

Since then we’ve moved states, he’s graduated school, we’ve brought two fur babies and 1.3 human babies into our family. We’ve laughed, cried, shared our best and worst moments with each other, and are truly a stronger couple each day. It’s cliche for sure, but I honestly love him more today than I did on our wedding day. We’ve worked together through some really tough moments and we’ve also shared some amazing adventures together. I can’t imagine my life with anyone else! Okay I’m done gushing now. 😉

This boy has only been in my life for 15 months but he has captured my heart forever.

LJ’s little personality is just the right mix of sweet and spunky. We love his sly smirks when he knows he’s doing something sneaky that he shouldn’t, we adore his sweet hugs when he sees us after any length of time apart. His little coos, his sweet claps, his over-the-top affection for his fur siblings. . . this kid just makes me smile!

Parenting is not easy and there have been days where I can. not. wait. for bedtime to roll around but I picture life without him anymore. He is just such a light in my life and I love him so!

And of course, soon there will be one more person joining our family!

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I am also lucky enough to have grown up in a really supportive, loving family. I have two amazing parents who have been married 31 years and have been such influential role models in my life. I’m the oldest of three siblings (one brother, two sisters) and I’m thankful that we all get along and enjoy spending time with one another. Not a week goes by without a phone call from my mom or one of my sisters (sometimes all three) and I love that we want to be part of one another’s lives.

My in-laws all live in Virginia but I was lucky enough to get to spend lots of time getting to know them in the early days of Justin and my relationship when I lived out there. We visit several times each year and vacation annually together (always a great time!) Most of us have also been in a Fantasy Football league together which was a fun way to stay connected despite physical distance. I’m so thankful to have a second family who has welcomed me in with open arms!

And of course, these two goobers are an important part of my family. I love my sweet pups!

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