A Day in the Life {9.9.22}

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

September 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had another visitor during the bottle portion of this feed!

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

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

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

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

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

while I did another round of dishes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a full day!

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

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

February 13, 2021

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

June 2, 2022

My Postpartum Mama Favorites

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

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

Nipple Butter

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

Sculpt and Recovery Postpartum Leggings

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

Postpartum Support Bloomers

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

Compression Socks

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

C-Section Cream

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

Rechargeable Book Light

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

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

Baby #3: Third Trimester Update

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

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

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

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

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

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

My Preparations

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

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

LJ and Vi’s Awareness

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

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

What I’m Looking Forward To

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

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

Final To-Dos before Baby Arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!