A Look Back on Our April Activities

April was a good month around here! Today I just wanted to look back a little on our family’s activities this past month outside of the projects we completed. These posts serve as little mini time capsules for me and I love looking back on life in our family at different stages!

I love this picture because Vi is just as likely to be carrying a doll while dressed up in a princess dress and heels as she is to be up to her knees in water, digging in sand, or touching caterpillars. She has such a fun little personality!

Here’s a little peek at the rest of our April:

Vi’s First Braid

I had been looking forward to this event for a long, long time. Vi’s hair is finally long enough to braid, and thanks to her current obsession with Frozen, she will sit still long enough for me to do it so she can look like Anna and Elsa. Her hair is pretty fine so it’s a little tricky, but I care less about the end result and more about the sweetness of the mother-daughter hair braiding time. I love our little moments together!

My Sister’s Baby Shower

My mom, sister, and sister-in-law all co-hosted a baby shower for my sister Jenni and it was so much fun to celebrate her! It has been so fun to see my sister experience the beginning stages of motherhood and I know she is going to be a fantastic mother to her little one. I also love that we get to enjoy this process together as she enjoys her first and I enjoy my (likely) last. We are due two months apart, and our cousin is actually due right in between us with her first baby as well, so this summer is going to be full of babies and I cannot wait!

Games, games, games

I snapped this picture the other morning – LJ and Vi just got out CandyLand and started playing together first thing in the morning before they even had breakfast. Melt my mama heart! LJ has recently gotten VERY into playing games. He loves to make up his own games and he also loves to play any game he can – board games, card games, iPad games, etc. Justin and I both are big game lovers so it’s been really fun to get to teach him the basics of gameplay and also how to be a good winner and loser (we’re still working on that one ha!) I might have to write up a post of all the games we’re loving right now because there are actually a surprising amount of games that are great for toddlers and young kids (LJ is 4.5, Vi is 2.5). It’s so fun to do as a family!

And speaking of games, I recently discovered that our library has a big collection of puzzles and board games to check out. Jackpot! Justin and I love to play games or do puzzles as an at-home date night after the kids go to bed. Board games can be expensive so it’s fun that we get to trial a lot of different games without having to buy them for ourselves or add more stuff to our house (although we’re already going to buy the first game we tried out because we enjoyed it so much!) We also did a large puzzle together, which was great because puzzles aren’t always fun to do over and over so a new one to do and send back was perfect. It’s been a great way to add some variety to our date nights at home and we can’t wait to try more out.

Soccer Season!

The kids are both in soccer this year and while our first practices were very cold, they both had so much fun! It’s LJ’s second year of soccer and Vi’s first and they’re both really loving it so far. I love this stage of life where they get to try so many new things and see what they learn and enjoy. I also loved that LJ cheered for Vi the ENTIRE time her team was practicing haha. He was so sweet and just cheering her on and encouraging her from the sidelines – it made me so proud.

Busy Toddler Activity

We’ve been outside as much as we can, but April can still be really cold. We’re all over winter and being inside, so I’ve been trying to come up with new activities to do while we’re still indoors. I got the idea for this activity from @busytoddler on Instagram and it was a HUGE hit. It’s just little containers of baking soda in a tub, and I filled little medicine dispenser cups with water + food coloring. The kids used medicine droppers to color the baking soda and had an absolute blast! They played uninterrupted for like 30-45 minutes and only needed my help with water refills so I could clean the kitchen and do dishes while they played. Major win all around.

Happy Birthday Justin

April is also Justin’s birthday month, and while I don’t have any pictures of our celebration for him, it is always such a treat to celebrate my favorite guy. Speaking of treats, he picked his own cake out this year – can you tell? Haha!

I hope you had a great month too!

A Recap of our Disney Vacation with Little Ones

We just got back yesterday from our vacation to Disney World – it was not only our family’s first trip to Disney, but it was also our first true family vacation as a family of four! Due to the pandemic, the only traveling we’ve done with the kids over the past two years has been to visit and/or vacation with family so it was really fun to have a trip for just the four of us to enjoy.

I know not everyone who reads this blog is interested in a family vacation recap, but after sharing some of our trip on my Instagram stories I’ve already had people reach out to me with questions, so I thought it would be best to write up a big post of our trip to use not only as a way of keeping these memories for myself, but also to serve as a resource for anyone else planning a Disney trip with little ones. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip this post!

This post is a bit long and I share quite a few details and pictures, but I wanted to quickly note that I mostly took videos while we were there, so I don’t have pictures of everything. I also have more pictures of Vi than LJ because whenever we split up, I was usually with Vi, and LJ is constantly in motion and it’s hard to get a good non-blurry picture of him right now!

One more note: we scheduled this trip around a work conference that Justin was attending at Disney, which was extremely helpful for our budget since his travel and lodging (which was a room that fit all of us) was reimbursed. We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and it was a great choice for our stay – it had restaurant options available for reservation or mobile order (we exclusively did mobile order there), a game room (more on that later), and the monorail actually goes through it which provides super easy transportation to other resorts and a couple of the parks.

Day One: Disney Springs

One thing I would do differently in the future is choose a later flight. Our flight left at 6 am, meaning we had to get up at 3:30 am to shuttle to the airport from our hotel and catch the flight. While it did mean we got to Orlando by shortly after 8 am, it was not necessarily worth having a really tiring day and sleep deprived kids and adults. But all that to say, we arrived in the morning on Wednesday and took a shuttle from the airport to the resort. We couldn’t check in yet, so we just dropped off our bags and headed back outside to the shuttle bus stop to head to Disney Springs.

Disney Springs is not an actual park, but it’s a huge area with tons of shopping and restaurants, as well as a few shows and rides. It’s free to get in, and we spent our day walking around checking out shops (the Lego store and of course, the Disney store were the biggest hits for my kids to look around!) and rode a few small rides (they had a little train ride and a carousel that we rode). We had lunch reservations at the Rainforest Café and that was a really fun, unique experience! The whole restaurant feels like you’re in a rainforest and there’s even a simulated “storm” that happened while we were there. We loved it!

Because of our super early morning flight, we were all pretty worn out by 3 pm or so, so we grabbed a little chocolate treat and headed back to the shuttles to check in to our hotel room. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the room and resting up for our first park day.

Day Two: Magic Kingdom

One perk of staying at a Disney Resort is that you get early access to the parks; even though the park opened at 9 am, we were able to get in at 8:30. While Justin was at his conference, I walked with both kids across the street to Magic Kingdom (he joined us later). We got a stroller rental and headed in to start riding rides!

I won’t give you a play-by-play of the day, but I will say that we rode the following rides: “it’s a small world,” Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Dumbo the Flying Elephant (just Vi), Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, Magic Carpets of Aladdin (just Vi), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tomorrowland Speedway (just LJ), and Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. We also watched a few shows: Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, and Enchanted Tiki Room.

Vi also did a princess meet and greet and was so enamored with Rapunzel and Tiana!

LJ is not really a thrill seeker, so he did not like the rides that spun and went up in the air (Dumbo and Aladdin), meanwhile, Vi absolutely loved those! LJ is over 40″ and could have ridden more, but he preferred the “all height” rides anyways so we just stuck together most of the day. We found that Magic Kingdom by far had the most rides for the ages of our kids, so we chose to spend a little extra and add the Genie+ option for this day. Basically, Genie+ is paying $15 per ticket holder for lightning lane access. Once we purchased, we were able to select the next available timeslot for one ride at a time and skip nearly all of the line. This did involve a little strategy (we picked the most popular ride we wanted, Peter Pan’s Flight, first thing at 7 am when the timeslot reservations opened) and then chose future rides based on timing, not necessarily proximity, for the rest of the day. And in one case, we split up and LJ and Justin did the Speedway while Vi and I did Dumbo. Justin and I both agreed it was worth the extra money and having to occasionally backtrack through the parks to save literally hours in line and get to everything we wanted to do in one day. (Note: There are two rides at each park that are not included in Genie+ and you need to purchase individual lightning lane passes for if you want to skip the line. They’re the most popular rides, but at this particular park, they were both ones we weren’t interested in so it didn’t matter). We used lunch, shows, and less popular rides as fillers in between our timeslots and it worked great! We also stumbled upon two parades, which was super fun!

We did also purchase the automated bubble wands you see everywhere at the park and even though they were insanely overpriced, they kept our kids entertained all day in the stroller and in lines (you do sometimes have to wait about 5-10 minutes using genie+, and there was one ride we didn’t use genie+ and waited about 30 minutes). They used them every day in the parks and they were so fun!

We had planned to go back for naps in the afternoon, but Vi napped for about 30 minutes in the stroller and in my arms during the Tiki Room show and LJ was able to power through so we did the whole park in one go. LJ did have a meltdown for about an hour at the beginning of the day (we’re still not exactly sure why it started, chalking it up to loss of sleep and overstimulation) but the bubble wand purchase got him turned around and both the kids had great attitudes the rest of the day! We headed back to the hotel around 5:30 for dinner and early bedtimes for all of us.

Day Three: Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom was the one park we took a shuttle bus to, so we got on the first one in the morning and headed over to take advantage of our early access. We did not purchase Genie+ for this day, so once we got inside and got our stroller rental, we headed back to Pandora to ride Na’vi River Journey. We walked straight through to the ride (there was no line at that time!) and hopped on. I love this ride – the bioluminescence is so cool! We went from there to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride (HUGE hit with the kids!!) and then walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.

Animal Kingdom basically felt like a day at a really awesome zoo. It was not as heavy on the rides – we just did the Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari, Rafiki’s Planet Watch (we took a train out to a little section where there is a petting zoo and a few other activities, although we just did the petting zoo), and Vi and I did the TriceraTop Spin two times. Justin and LJ were in line for Dinosaur but it temporarily closed for some quick repairs and they didn’t end up waiting. It still felt like there was plenty of other non-ride things for our animal-loving kids to enjoy!

After the safari and walking the Gorilla Falls trail, we unexpectedly caught a trained bird show that happened right where we were waiting for Justin to pick up his lunch mobile order. It was awesome! We split this day up into two and after doing Pandora, Africa, and lunch, we headed back to the hotel for naps. When we returned, we watched the show It’s Tough to Be a Bug! (not sure I would recommend this for littles; it ended up scaring LJ and the rest of the trip he kept saying he did not want to do the Bug show again) and headed to Dinoland (we skipped Asia altogether). We unfortunately did not catch Festival of the Lion King show because the line was too long, but I’m still glad we did not do Genie+ this day, as that is the only thing we would have used it for.

The kids spent well over an hour playing in The Boneyard, which is a gigantic playground in Dinoland with tons of climbing structures, slides, and a big excavation site for digging. They loved it and would have stayed even longer if it wasn’t dinnertime.

Overall, it was another successful day at a great park!

Day Four: Rest Day at the resort

This was a flex day for us – if the weather was warm enough for the water park to be open, we might have gone, but it wasn’t warm enough and honestly, we needed a chill day without planned activities. Justin was at his conference all morning and the kids and I rested, watched TV, and played in the hotel room. We rode the monorail to explore the Polynesian resort and grab lunch, then headed back for naps. LJ slept for like, 3 hours, and Justin took Vi down to the pool once she woke up and they swam while LJ kept sleeping.

Once LJ woke up, we headed to the game room downstairs and the kids had an absolute blast playing all the arcade games that they see other places but we always say no to – ha! It was a fun little treat and a great way to entertain everyone fairly inexpensively (a $25 ticket card was more than enough to keep our whole family entertained for over an hour and play everything we wanted to!) Then it was dinner and another early bedtime for us!

Day Five: Epcot

We originally planned to split Magic Kingdom into two days, but when we were able to do everything we wanted in one day, we changed this ticket to a day at Epcot, which we could ride the monorail to. We did not do Genie+ for this day, but we did splurge on individual lightning lane tickets to skip the lines for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Both rides are incredibly popular with very long lines and both were ones we thought our kids would enjoy . . . and we were mostly right about that haha.

Vi is obsessed with Frozen and I loved watching her face during the ride – she was enchanted! But it is a boat ride and we sat in the front row and didn’t realize there is a drop that does splash you more than we expected. LJ really didn’t enjoy that part (honestly, I didn’t love walking around with a wet butt for an hour afterwards either), but overall the ride was still really cool and definitely worth it! Ratatouille was also super fun, but it’s 4D and there is one part that startled Vi pretty badly and she was in tears for a while until I could assure her it isn’t real and she was able to calm down for the rest of the ride. She’s usually not afraid of jumpy things, so we were surprised that this affected her so much.

Other rides we chose were Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin’ Around the World. For Soarin’, there was a 4o” height requirement so we did a rider swap – Justin and LJ went (LJ loved it!), then I could skip the line and go by myself once they were done so someone was always with Vi. Vi really enjoyed Nemo so we rode it again while Justin and LJ waited in line for Soarin’.

Epcot doesn’t have a ton of toddler rides, but we enjoyed walking through World Showcase and grabbing snacks throughout the countries. There were a few shows we caught as we walked around – The Jammitors (three guys dressed up like janitors playing drums on garbage cans) and another culturally-specific drumming show in Japan, both of which the kids enjoyed. There’s also a pretty sizable model train display in Germany that LJ especially loved.

We also spent time in the ImageWorks play lab after riding Journey into Imagination and there is a big aquarium after the Nemo ride that the kids loved exploring.

We didn’t break this day up into two because Vi fell asleep in the stroller again and so I just hung out with her while LJ and Justin did Spaceship Earth – LJ wanted to ride it because it looked like a giant golf ball but Justin said LJ actually thought it was really boring once they were on it. We ended up leaving around 5 pm and got to say goodbye to Goofy on our way out!

We headed back to the hotel for dinner, and then the next morning we headed to the airport to catch our flight home. It was an exhausting, but very very fun vacation full of memories I will cherish for years!

A Few Random Notes:

-With the exception of the Rainforest Cafe, which we made a reservation for, we exclusively did mobile orders for meals. It was more convenient for us, because we could just order for when we were hungry rather than try to guess when we’d want to eat and make an advance reservation. If you do want to make reservations, make them EARLY! You can make them up to 60 days early I think and most places were booked when were were there.

-We did not pay for any character dining or character experiences. There weren’t as many characters out and about as Justin and I both remember from our childhoods (it used to be that you walk around and they were just roaming everywhere!) but we did get to see several in passing. We spotted Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Joy (from Inside Out) and Elsa (but dressed as the Frozen 2 Elsa, which Vi didn’t understand haha), as well as the characters in the Magic Kingdom parades. As mentioned before, Vi also did a princess meet and greet and saw Rapunzel and Tiana.

We also got to see a few of the characters in the character-dining restaurants as we passed by even though we didn’t actually eat the meal there (character meals are way more expensive than other meals). It was enough for us to feel like we got a good share of character sightings without paying extra money for them!

-We packed a ton of snacks in our luggage and took lots of snacks into the park each day. We also took our kids’ water bottles and filled them up at water refill stations – this saved us a lot of money on snacks and drinks in the park!

-I found this website incredibly helpful when planning our trip. They have a ton of very specific blog posts covering various situations and strategies for maximizing a Disney trip, and they had a toddler-specific one for each park that was huge in helping me plan our days.

-We did not try to do everything and kept this more low key. Our kids are so young, they don’t know the things they “missed,” they just know the things they did. LJ likes to try to avoid stepping on cracks because they’re “lava” – it takes longer to get places, but that’s ok. We just let it happen. We allowed time for breaks to look at random things or go back to do favorite things again. At this age, flexibility was really important for our family and that helped this be a really good trip full of great memories!

LJ is Four!

Today, my sweet boy turns four years old.

I can’t believe it has been four years since heard the words “It’s a boy!” That moment changed my life.

LJ is energetic and playful. When he’s in motion, he’s really in motion – running, jumping, and climbing. He loves to be active and play outside. Some of his favorite activities are riding his balance bike, golfing, driving his little gator, digging in the sand, swimming, fishing, and running around on playgrounds. He also loves to help Justin mow the grass or his grandpa drive the tractor. If something is happening, he wants to be a part of it!

LJ is also incredibly affectionate. He gives hugs and kisses generously and loves to snuggle with us. He tells me he loves me frequently and greets me with a tender little hug every morning. When Justin comes home from work, he makes sure we give each other a kiss and hug 😉 and it’s really sweet to see how much value he places on seeing his parents show affection to one another.

It’s been really incredible to watch him grow in his role as big brother too. Don’t get me wrong, he has his fair share of moments where he’s annoying Vi and making her squeal, but he also spends just as much time loving on her. He gives her hugs and kisses, looks after her, and encourages her in whatever she’s doing (“You are doing it! I’m so proud of you!” or “Watch me, this is how you do it.” or “Be brave! God is with you!”)

One quick little side story about LJ: I was able to go on a little field trip with his preschool class to the pumpkin patch. As we arrived and walked up, three girls came running, calling his name excitedly. They all started running around playing together and the parents all said “Oh Levi! We hear all about him!” It was so fun to see that he has little friends at school that were so excited to see him and immediately play. I haven’t really gotten to see him in that role outside of playdates that I plan, so it was fun to see how he makes those connections without me around.

I just love this little boy so much and I’m so excited to celebrate him today! Now I’m off to make some sprinkle pancakes before he wakes up 🙂

Friday Features: A look back at our October Activities

Every once in a while I like sharing a Friday Features post with some little snippets of our life lately. Today I thought I’d specifically share a look at all the special activities we’ve been doing lately. October is such a fun month full of fall festivities and it has been so great to get to watch my kids experience so many things this year!

Pumpkin Painting

This is the first time we’ve ever painted pumpkins but I know it won’t be the last – it was a huge hit with the kids! We did it early in October when the weather was still fairly warm and sunny and we spent a big portion of the afternoon outside enjoying the sun and working on pumpkins. Major mom win! We used this washable paint and it was very easy to clean up afterwards.

Fall Festivals

We spent back-to-back Saturdays at local fall festivals and had a great time at each one! There were so many awesome activities for kids at both – rides, tractors, animals, little shows, inflatables, a corn pit (which my kids both loved), and more. The first two weekends in October were gorgeous and fairly warm still so we enjoyed the heck out of each festival.

Pumpkin Treats

My kids both love to help in the kitchen so when I saw this Rice Krispie pumpkin treat kit in the Aldi Finds aisle, I knew it would be a perfect activity for them. We spent a really sticky, messy, (Vi is shirtless for a reason!) and fun afternoon making these – the kids had a blast and were both so proud of their little pumpkins.

LJ’s First Field Trip

LJ had his first ever little field trip to the pumpkin patch with his preschool class and I got to go along. It was so enjoyable for me to get to see him interact with his classmates, learn a little about pumpkins, and hunt through the patch for the perfect pumpkin to take home. It was also a great little bonding experience for us!

Zoo Trip

We go to the zoo so much in the summer, but we’ve never gone in October before. A friend of mine asked us to join her and her kids one Friday morning and so we bundled up and headed to the zoo. Even though it was cold, it was actually really enjoyable to spend a day at the zoo! They had gone all out with fall decorations – giant spider webs and pumpkins and hay bales galore – it wasn’t crowded, and the animals were super active and entertaining. We had a blast and will definitely go again in future Octobers!

Trick-Or-Treating

I have always loved Halloween and the fun of dressing up (check out this post to see some costumes from past years) but it is even more fun to experience this holiday through the eyes of a child. My kids have been getting so excited for trick-or-treat and we went last night to my hometown so we could enjoy their trick or treat night with my parents, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles. I won’t lie, wrangling two hyped up, sugar loaded kids through the streets with a light rain drizzling is wild and exhausting but it was 100% worth it. The magic of holidays is so much sweeter through a child’s eyes! We had such a great time and the kids loved their costumes since they’re currently pretty obsessed with the Minions movie.

Plus, it was extra sweet to get to trick-or-treat at my grandparents’ house. I am truly so very lucky that my kids and grandparents get to know one another and share in some of these precious memories together. We cherish our time together!

Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween!

A Day in the Life {9.13.21}

Every so often, I like to do a Day in the Life post – it’s never a “special” day, just a regular old day in the life of my family. Vacations are fun and special events are good memories, but the every day normal is what really makes up our lives and I love having little snippets of our life at different stages documented. It’s been seven months since my last one so I documented last Monday, which just so happened to be the last day of “summer” before my kids started preschool on Tuesday.

Monday, September 13, 2021

I woke up around 6:00 and was downstairs in my office by 6:15 for some quiet time + morning devotions. On this particular morning I was prepping for a discussion I was leading on Thursday for a small group I’m part of.

LJ woke up around 6:55 and came downstairs. He often likes to snuggle on my lap a bit while he adjusts to being awake but on this morning, he was ready to hit the ground running!

I got him breakfast and while he was eating, I let the dogs out, fed the dogs, and emptied the dishwasher (we have the dishwasher run overnight so it’s ready to unload first thing).

I ran upstairs to brush my teeth and quickly made the bed. I’m really trying to make this a habit because I love how it makes the room feel!

I started a workout in our basement while LJ watched a little TV. I’ve been slacking with exercise over the past year but I’ve been getting back into my Expecting and Empowered postpartum workout guide – my days always feel better when I get in some movement!

Vi woke up around 9:00 while I was still in between my sets so I got her up and fed her breakfast in between rounds. She then joined LJ on the couch while I finished up!

After my workout, I dove right into work mode. I finished up and published a blog post and then completed my tasks for my work from home job (I’m a part-time virtual administrative assistant!) while the kids watched some TV and played around me.

Around 10:00, I finished up my work and got Vi dressed and the diaper bag packed for a trip to the zoo. We got there around 10:45 and were ready for a day of fun! I caught a spontaneous kiss on our way in – my kids absolutely fight and get on each others’ nerves but I love that they are also super affectionate and loving too.

A highlight was getting to feed the giraffes! I was actually really impressed with my kids and their patience today because they waited at least 15-20 minutes on the platform before a giraffe came close enough to feed – their patience paid off! Usually Vi loves this part but she got a little nervous today so LJ fed the giraffe both pieces of our lettuce.

We ate lunch at the zoo which allowed us to stay a little longer and we headed home around 1:30. Vi and I headed upstairs for her naptime while LJ wound down with a little TV. She insists on sleeping with SO many things these days, I’m surprised there is even room for her in the crib ha!

LJ and I enjoyed a bit of leftover birthday cake when I got back downstairs, then he played independently while I did a little more work for my job.

We had had some friends stay with us over the weekend, so after Vi woke up I spent some time getting the guest room back in order and cleaning the guest bathroom. The kids played in the shower with a spray bottle filled with water while I cleaned the rest of the bathroom which felt like a double win – entertained kids + clean bathroom!

The kids jumped in the bounce house while I read a little bit, but it didn’t last long because . . .

. . . we decided to relocate outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. Gotta soak up summer as long as we can! The kids love playing in the sand (and don’t worry, yes I had a book but I was always very alert with making sure they were only playing in the sand and not the water).

We stayed outside until Justin got home and he brought dinner home from a local BBQ joint – yum!

After dinner Justin hung out with the kids while I headed upstairs to fold some laundry (that had been in the dryer for several days haha).

We settled in for a little TV as a family before heading upstairs for bedtime – I love end of the day snuggles!

After the kids were down, I actually had to head out to grab a few things – we were totally out of milk (happens every now and then) and diapers (honestly never happened before haha) and I needed to print off a picture for LJ to take in to his first day of school the next day.

Once I got back home, Justin and I settled in for a cozy night on the couch – him watching Monday Night Football and me reading some more. A perfect way to end the day!

If you’re interested in reading some past Day in the Life posts, you can find them all here:

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

February 13, 2021

Friday Features {8.27.21}

We are currently en route to Pennsylvania for the weekend for Justin’s grandma’s memorial service. We’ll be gone all weekend so I thought it was a good day for a small roundup of Friday Features – just the random little things that have happened around here lately!

Cozy Bedroom Corner

A few weeks ago, I shared how I brought this gorgeous rust colored chair into what was a somewhat awkward corner in our bedroom and this week, I finally got around to finishing off the space. I considered adding artwork above the chair, but since I’ve included so much in the gallery wall I decided to print off and frame one of our new family photos instead. I like that the asymmetrical mat makes it feel a little extra unique! I snagged a small black table from Target and topped it off with a dried floral arrangement from a local florist with a candle and book. I also tossed a soft textured striped throw blanket over the chair. Now the awkward corner that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with is such a cozy spot in the room – I love it!

Playing Chalk

On Wednesday, Justin had the kids for most of the day while I got lots of work done and ran multiple errands. When I got home from one, they were all playing outside. LJ saw me and asked in his sweet little voice “Mommy, will you come play chalk with me?” It was one of those perfectly ordinary moments that stopped me in my tracks. I love that he loves to involve me in his activities and genuinely wants to play with me. He has such a sweet, tender heart and it was so nice to put everything else on the back burner and spend some time drawing shapes and lines (LJ “taught” me how to draw an x haha) with my little boy.

Vintage Sale Finds

I love going to @carpendaughter‘s vintage sale and this year’s was another great one! I scored some really cool pieces that I’m excited to incorporate into our home. I shared this on Instagram: “There is something about being able to find little treasures that are unique and come with a story and some history. They have passed through different hands, been part of different homes, and now they’re going to be part of ours. It makes me so happy!”

Unlocked Memories

While putting together our gallery wall, I wanted to include some special mementos of ours. It was so fun to comb through our memory box and find ticket stubs from concerts, movies, and museums, a coaster from a Wisconsin bar, our honeymoon boarding passes, notes, cards, and letters we wrote, chips from a casino event we attended, the list goes on! I loved how each item unlocked a memory of trips we’ve taken, events we attended, things we’ve done together. It’s just a special little collection of our relationship and I really enjoyed picking out a few things to display on our wall, including this museum pass from our trip to Italy several years ago. Art doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be the most special and/or valuable things. Frame what makes you happy – and this memento definitely does!

National Dog Day

Apparently yesterday was National Dog Day? Thanks to social media for letting me know! I don’t share much about the dogs these days, but they are definitely a big part of our family life at home! Macie is spunky and playful and always up for swimming, playing fetch, or doing anything with people. She’s slowed down a bit over the last couple years but she’s still our energetic girl! Scout has always been our more reserved boy – he loves to curl up and cuddle for most of his days, but he perches up on our landing so he can see out the window and is so faithful with letting us know when someone is coming up our driveway. He’s our little guard dog! We love our fur babies so much.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Vi is TWO!

I can’t believe I’m typing these words, but my baby girl turns two years old today!

Vi is my totally fearless adventurer. She eats pretty much any new food that is placed in front of her and she is always up for trying new things. She always wants to be thrown high in the air or climb up on the big kids playground or jump around in the bounce house. I think she’s a bit of a thrill-seeker!

She absolutely loves anything to do with water. Whether it’s splashing in the bath tub or playing in the water table or participating in swimming lessons or jumping into the pond (with her floaties on!), she loves to be in and around water. She loves to run into the pond and swim and swim and swim. Her current favorite movie is Luca and I think it’s because of all the water!

She also loves animals – she is interested in everything from a dog at the park to a horse in a pasture to a bug crawling on our floor. She loves going to the zoo (a surprise zoo trip is her birthday present today!)

Vi is a mama’s girl through and through. She insists on mama putting her down for bedtimes and naptimes and she’s always reaching for me and wanting to be with mama. I’m trying to soak it up now, because I know being the preferred parent won’t last forever!

Vi wants to do anything and everything her big brother does. While they often bicker and struggle to share, they are also really great about looking out for one another and loving one another well. They color together, play together, hug one another in the morning and blow kisses good night. I love watching their sweet sibling bond develop!

Recently, she has become very into dressing up. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve found her in my bedroom, trying on all my bracelets and necklaces. She also loves getting her nails painted and has started requesting dresses to wear during the day. For her birthday I made her a clothing rack for dress up clothing and asked our family members to contribute something to a dress up collection. It was a HUGE hit!

Her party was simple and didn’t have a theme or much in the way of decorations, but we did order some Luca-themed cookies for our water-loving girl.

My sweet V, I love you more than words can say. You changed our lives two years ago and we are so so grateful for every day with you. ❤

How We Minimize Gifts at Birthdays (+ Inspiration for Vi’s Birthday Gift!)

I cannot believe I am typing these words, but in one week from today, Vi will turn TWO. YEARS. OLD. What!?

We are having a small birthday party on Saturday with family to celebrate our sweet girl. I’ve shared this before, but until our kids turn three (in my opinion, the age they start to actually understand birthdays) we keep birthday celebrations very low key. Gatherings are small and family-only, food is simple, decorations are minimal, and we get a little creative with gift-giving.

To be clear, I’m throwing zero shade at people who like to go big on baby/toddler birthdays or shower their young children with gifts. Truly, you do you; we’re not judging anyone else’s choices. For me personally, planning an elaborate party feels like a lot of work and stress for low reward (my one year old is as happy with a single balloon as an entire balloon arch). And when it comes to gifts, which are generally toys, Justin and I just personally want to keep things at a level that is manageable for our family. Our house feels better when it’s not overrun with toys, our kids play with toys longer when they aren’t overwhelmed with choices, and at ages one and two, our kids don’t realize what they’re “missing out” on by not receiving toys anyways. Cards are always appreciated though and our kids love receiving them!

Today I thought I’d share what we do for their first and second birthdays (at age three, we ramp things up a bit – LJ had balloons and gifts and understood enough to be so excited to celebrate!) I’m also sharing our plans for Vi’s birthday gift this year, which also just happens to be my next DIY project.

First Birthdays: No gifts, but donations are appreciated!

A straight-up “no gifts” request can be awkward. Some people feel bad showing up with no gift, so they bring a little something anyways; unfortunately, this can then make those who listened to the request and didn’t bring a gift then feel bad because others brought gifts and they didn’t. It’s uncomfortable for everyone and can be frustrating for the hosts who truly didn’t want gifts. We have found that a solution that works for everyone is donations. No one feels uncomfortable arriving empty-handed, but no gifts are given and a great cause is supported. Win win win!

For their first birthdays, we asked that in lieu of gifts, anyone who wanted to could bring donations for a cause that was special to us. We are so thankful that our families were super supportive and happy to donate instead of buying gifts. For LJ’s first birthday, we collected books for a local organization that distributes them to hospitalized children and for Vi’s first birthday, we collected household items (paper towels, cleaning supplies, basic hygiene items, etc) for our church’s ministry supporting local families in need.

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I especially like this because it works for many budgets. People could bring one small, inexpensive item or multiple items. We didn’t unwrap them, there wasn’t a big production – just a table set aside for people to put donations on when they arrived.

I think it helps people to honor your requests if they can hear your reasonings for it and understand the impact they can have with their donation, so we send an email with the party details ahead of time. I usually say something like “While we are requesting no gifts for [child], if you would still like to bring something, we ask that you consider bringing a donation to xyz. This organization is important to us because of ____ and we’re looking forward to making a donation in [child]’s honor.”

Second Birthdays: One “big” gift + family participation

For LJ’s second birthday, we decided to give him one big gift – a secondhand train table – and we asked everyone in our family to decorate a train to go with it. This was actually a really fun way to get our families involved without getting a ton of gifts, and we loved seeing everyone’s decorated train. We have some super creative family members and it’s a truly unique train set that is so special! LJ loves it and has gotten SO much use out of it – much more than he would’ve gotten out of 15 individual toys.

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Which brings me to Vi’s birthday! We wanted to find a big gift that family could contribute items to in a way that fit her unique needs and interests. I came up with the idea to gift her with a small clothing rack (she is currently obsessed with trying on all my jewelry and shoes!) and ask family members to consider contributing something to a dress up collection.

As I said in my email to the family: “This can be a costume, play shoes, accessories, whatever! It can be new, it can be hand-me-down, it can be found secondhand, it can be an outfit, it can be a small item like a necklace or hat or something.” I didn’t want anyone to feel an obligation to spend lots of money or find something fancy because she will honestly love anything.

Trying on mama’s bracelets after church

My plan is to DIY the clothing rack so it fits the dimensions in our playroom perfectly. I don’t have much time (the party is in five days!) but it’s okay because I’m imagining a relatively simple design. I just want it to include a rod for hanging clothes and at least one shelf for storing a bin or two for shoes and accessories.

Here’s some of the inspiration I’ve gathered so far:

Credit: Target

Let Operation DIY Birthday Gift project begin!

Friday Features {5.14.21}

Good morning! It’s been a big week this week, so today I’m sharing some of the things that have been going on with our home and family.

Kitchen Island Light Fixure

Our kitchen refresh is officially finished! I shared the first part of the reveal a couple weeks ago but there was one thing left on my to-do list: replacing the fluorescent light over the island! I ordered a new light fixture over a month ago but the original estimated delivery date was between July 29-August 2. Well for once, I’m thrilled that a shipping date was off by a couple months because the fixture arrived earlier this week! Justin installed it and we are both thrilled with how it elevates the look of the kitchen.

$1000 Kitchen Refresh

Piggy-backing off that, I love looking at these before and after shots of the kitchen. Justin and I have always intended to do a gut renovation of this kitchen and change the layout, but that is several years down the road. This refresh was a way to make the kitchen feel like the rest of the house without a huge investment of money. Fresh paint on the cabinets, walls, and window trim + updated backsplash from repurposed beadboard + new LED can lights + updated light fixture and bar stools = a kitchen that feels brand new. And the best part of this transformation is that it was right around $1000. Totally worth it!

Last Day of Preschool

And speaking of before-and-afters, yesterday was LJ’s last day of preschool. I cannot believe how much this boy has changed this year! The days are long, but the years really are so short. I went back and forth so many times about whether or not to send him to preschool, but looking back I’m so glad I did. He had a great year!

Mother’s Day 2021

We had a sweet little day with our family on Sunday. LJ went with Justin to the store after their haircuts on Saturday and picked out the brightest flowers I’ve ever seen. Justin said when he saw the balloons he immediately asked if he could get one for mommy. Melt my heart! I will always take the handpicked or handmade gifts over anything fancy. I love his sweet little heart!

We stayed in comfy clothes all day and it was pretty much what you’d expect for Mother’s Day with toddlers. I love being their mama!

Although I have to also include this picture – the day after Mother’s Day, things went back to their normal chaotic selves around here. This is truly my life as a mama haha!

Happy Birthday Mom!

And speaking of moms, today is my mom’s birthday! She is one of the most important people in my life and I am grateful for her everyday. It’s been so fun to watch her thrive in her grandma role these last few years – she is one-of-a-kind and we love her so much!

Have a great weekend!

Friday Features

Happy Friday!

Today, I felt inspired to write up a different kind of blog post than my usual. I typically share a lot of our day-to-day moments on Instagram and save the bigger things for the blog (like finished home projects, family milestones, etc). I’ve talked about this before, but as much as the blog is a fun way for me to share things with others, it’s also a great way for me to document parts of our life for us to look back on in later years. There are a lot of little things that, while they aren’t worth dedicating an entire blog post to, I’m feeling inspired to create a little space for on the blog. Friday seems like the perfect time to round-up a random hodgepodge of things from the past week or two and I love that it just gives a little glimpse into our life right now. I do plan to write little Friday posts like this more often, although I’m not sure how often they’ll pop up. We’ll see! For now, here’s what’s been on my mind lately:

Summer Weather

This week we had several days in the 70s which is just fine with us! We broke out the water table and other summer toys and cannot wait for fun in the sun.

Plant Refresh

I had several plants that were getting too big for their planters so the start of spring felt like the perfect time to do some transplanting. I bought a few new pots and just switching out a few plants and planters has everything feeling so fresh around here!

LJ and Vi Comparison

Earlier this week we went to a park we haven’t been to in a long time. Vi has recently started doing slides 100% independently and she is so proud of herself! I snapped this picture of her and it immediately gave me a flashback to LJ using that exact same slide when he was about her same age. I had to dig through my archives and I found a video of LJ that I screenshot so I could do a little comparison of my babies!

Spring Cleaning Closets

This past week, I went through LJ and Vi’s dressers and removed anything that they’ve outgrown or is not the right season (LJ is still in 3T, but doesn’t need sweaters for the spring/summer months). I also checked for anything that was stained or had holes or other major signs of wear – anything that fit this category went straight into a bag that I’ll drop off at a local company that accepts fabrics in any condition for textile recycling.

I keep large clear tubs in each of their closets to store clothes they’ve outgrown. I keep the bin organization simple – I keep sizes separate by using a piece of cardboard as a divider and slipping a piece of paper with the size marked in the bin so it’s clearly visible. It’s nothing fancy but this system works!

Consignment Closet Refresh

The vast majority of my children’s clothing is either hand-me-down from friends or was bought secondhand at a consignment store. I don’t like spending lots of money on their clothing. They outgrow sizes so fast that it doesn’t seem worth it to spend $20 on a shirt they’ll only wear for a couple months. Plus. let’s be honest. Kids are messy! I’m constantly removing stains from food, dirt, markers, etc. I prefer to spend $3 or less on a shirt – if it is still in good condition after it’s outgrown and can be passed down to another child, great! If it has holes or stains and needs to be recycled instead, it doesn’t feel too wasteful because it’s already been worn a lot. Secondhand clothing is cost-effective for me and sustainable for the planet – a win win!

We’ve already received a lot of hand-me-downs that will fit my kids this summer, so after going through their closets and getting the next sizes ready, I made a list of things they still needed. We took a trip to the consignment store yesterday to fill in their wardrobe gaps – LJ especially had fun getting to pick out some shirts for himself! We got all these items (plus one shirt he already wanted to wear) for $40.

Herself Podcast

I’ve talked before about the HERself podcast but I listened to episode 69 while painting the kitchen cabinets that really resonated with me. Their guest, Elicia, is a stay-at-home mom and talked about the balance of staying at home but also wanting to have something for herself outside of motherhood. She personally had a passion for her kids AND also had a passion with connecting with other women so she’s joining the podcast as an employee while staying home with her kids. They talked a bit about finding little opportunities to fulfill a passion or have a role outside of the role of mom. This spoke to me so much! I am so thankful that I am able to stay home with my children (though I’ve been honest that it isn’t always easy) and love being able to fill this role for my children and our family, but I’m also a wife and a woman who has passions and interests beyond motherhood. Reading is a way for me to rest and recharge, and I also find a lot of joy in using this blog as a creative outlet. Over the past two years, I’ve also really leaned into updating our house and sharing all our projects, big and small, and it’s become a huge passion of mine. I’m learning the value of the word and. I love my kids AND I enjoy some alone time. I like completing home projects AND reading bedtime stories. I love to nurture AND create. My kids are a priority AND so am I.

Aldi Juice Find

Does anyone else love Aldi? It’s my favorite place to stock up on all our basic grocery needs! I love that it’s inexpensive and you don’t get decision fatigue because there aren’t like, 82935792348 brands of ketchup to choose from. They also have lots of great organic options at a fraction of the cost of other grocery stores. I saw these juice pouches in the Aldi Finds section and decided to try them out – they have been a HUGE hit with my kids! They don’t drink juice very often but these pouches make for a nice little treat with less sugar than other brands of juice.

ASMR Home Video

I’ve been watching this video on repeat – it’s so satisfying to hear all these little sounds of home!

First Covid Shot!

Indiana opened up eligibility for those 30+ last week and I jumped at the chance to schedule an appointment. I got my first dose of Pfizer last Wednesday and was SO excited! My only side effects were a sore arm and some fatigue around the 24-hour mark (but after a nap, I felt great!) I’m so thankful for the efforts of scientists to make this happen so quickly. I’m feeling hopeful for the future and “normal” activities resuming soon!

Note: I’m not interested in debating vaccines on the internet. There are lots of great resources out there to help make your own decision – I personally found @kinggutterbaby and @jessicamalatyrivera to be great sources of information for me.

Have a great weekend!