Spring has Sprung!

It seems like Indiana has finally decided that it is spring and we have been loving it! Today I thought I’d just share a little peek into our life lately and how we’ve enjoyed the outdoors the past few days.

First of all, it bears mentioning that this was the weather on March 31. In like a lion, out like…a stubborn lion?

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It felt like spring was never going to arrive. And then, just a few days later, the weather improved and we’ve been enjoying it ever since! Here’s what we’ve been up to:

LJ “helped” with cleaning up the flower beds. We trimmed back bushes, picked up the dead leaves, and just spruced up the beds so they’re ready for new growth.

Justin loves to golf so when he saw this little golf set at the store he couldn’t resist buying it for LJ. It was so cute to see them work on this together! At first, LJ just wanted to pick up the balls and throw them but after a few days he got the hang of it and now will whack the club to try to hit the ball. Looks like I’ve got two golfers in my house now. 😉

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One day when Justin was off work we walked to a park; LJ loved the swing and slide!

There’s been a lot of playing in the dirt too. LJ likes to dig in the little flower boxes we have and when he finds treasures, i.e. clumps of dirt, acorns, pieces of mulch, etc, Mommy is the designated treasure holder. There is something very sweet about him bringing me these little items and I’ll hold just about anything for him (here’s hoping he never finds a worm though).

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So happy to be outside! I didn’t get pictures, but a few days after this pic was taken he finally got the courage to step out on the grass and he has been racing around the backyard with the dogs ever since. He is go-go-go and just wants to be outside all the time. In the morning he walks to the patio door to try to open it and go outside and whenever we come in from the outside, even if we’ve been out for hours, he cries. He loves being outside and something tells me we are going to have a really fun summer!

I hope your April has started off as fun as ours has! Has spring finally come to your area?

 

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Dating Your Spouse

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

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

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

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Together again – ready to love on LJ!

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

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Relax together after LJ’s Bedtime

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

Screen-Free Time

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

Utilize grandparents (if possible)

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

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

Swap with friends

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

Split a babysitter

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

Mega-Swap, or the “Night of Chaos”

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

If nothing else, take him along!

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

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

 

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

A Simplified Nursery

Good morning!

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

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

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

Creating our Simplified Nursery

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

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

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

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

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We got crafty (or enlisted crafty people)

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

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

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

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We prioritized where to spend money

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

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We kept a super simple “theme”

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

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

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

Crib: Ikea (similar here and here)

Crib mattress: Amazon

Art above crib: Hobby Lobby

Basket with blankets: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Lazyboy Slipcover: Target

Salt lamp: Amazon

Sound machine: Target

Light-blocking curtains: Target

Small iron basket: Hobby Lobby (similar here)

Fabric basket: Ikea

Hanging Shelf w/brackets: World Market

Letterboard: Walmart

Cement planter: Magnolia (similar here)

Basket holding plant: Ikea

Fake succulent: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Diaper Pail: Playtex

Diaper basket: Target

Monitor: VTech

Changing pad: Munchkin

Changing pad cover: Aden + Anais

Mobile: Baby Jives & Co

Wall paint color: Magnetic Gray

Trim Color: Alabaster

 

Let’s Look: The People in My Family

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

Let's Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh baby!

We’ve been keeping a little secret over here and I’m absolutely thrilled to finally share it!

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I am currently 14 weeks pregnant with a sweet little one who will join our crew in August!

Justin and I found out that we were expecting another baby on Christmas morning. I took a pregnancy test before our family Christmas and it was such a sweet moment for Justin and I to just celebrate and be giddy together before all the holiday festivities.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little apprehensive in the days following that positive test. As I have shared before, my first pregnancy was ectopic and resulted not only in the loss of my baby, but also my right Fallopian tube. I have an elevated risk for a repeat ectopic so my OB now has me come in right away for blood work and an early ultrasound to confirm pregnancy is in the uterus. Seeing that little bean growing in the correct place was such a relief!

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While I don’t want to turn this blog into a pregnancy-focused space, I do want to spend time documenting this time in my life and I’ll periodically post updates with how things are going. Today I’m just going to recap the first trimester and all its glory. 😉

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Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

I’m not going to lie, this has not been the easiest three months for me. I was hit with nausea (I don’t bother calling it morning sickness – it comes whenever the heck it wants, whether I’m out grocery shopping on a Wednesday afternoon, laying on the couch at 9:00 pm, sitting in church on Sunday morning, etc) around 5 weeks and it really didn’t ease up until this week. I had a hard time feeling hungry/working up an appetite and often settled on something bland like a plain bagel or crackers. I would say it was harder to deal with than my first pregnancy because this time I had LJ with me all day. Throwing up is no fun ever, but it’s really no fun when you had to grab a toddler and bring him into the bathroom with you. Ugh. I also experienced a lot of fatigue, which was consistent with how I felt while pregnant with LJ. Again, the difference is when I was pregnant with him, I could come home from work and nap for 3 hours if I needed to. Now I had a toddler with me all day and while I could sometimes nap when he napped, I often felt super tired.

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Energy/Workouts

As I just said, I was hit with quite a bit of fatigue so my energy was pretty low for the first 8-10 weeks or so. I took advantage of laying on the couch whenever I could and LJ would bring me books to read to him or we would curl up and watch one of his little shows on TV (#noshameinmymamagame!) most days. I would sleep in until he woke up (usually around 8) and if possible I would nap when he napped. Luckily, the past two weeks I have felt a return of energy and I’ve been able to sleep less and actually get up before LJ does to get some things accomplished before he wakes. Even though my nausea stuck around longer, I’m glad my fatigue at lessened! I’m excited to finally feel more energized!

I did keep up with my workouts for the most part thanks to the Expecting and Empowered Accountability Challenge, although there was one day where my sickness was just so severe I could not get the workout finished. I also had an unfortunate incident one evening where I misstepped coming down the stairs and twisted my knee pretty seriously. I have a history of knee injuries and surgeries and I think the relaxin hormone that increases in the first trimester of pregnancy loosened up my ligaments to the point where my knee was far less stable than normal and this misstep had drastic consequences. I am still not back to 100% but I have been resting my knee and taking it easy and I am seeing improvement, though it’s meant I have had to ease up with exercise.

Food Cravings & Aversions

I wouldn’t say I have had aversions yet, although I have had some smells hit me and just immediately make me feel sick (everything from Justin’s dinner ribs to peanut butter to Cheez-It crackers; it’s very strange!). I have been craving sweet and salty things though and it’s been a struggle to focus on eating vegetables and not just crackers and chocolate.

Sleep

I am a stomach sleeper, so it’s hard to transition to other positions. When I was pregnant with LJ I transitioned to using a Snoogle sleeping pillow around 9 weeks pregnant and this time around I think I started right at 8 weeks. I love that I can wrap my body around it and *feel* like I’m sleeping on my stomach when really I’m mostly on my left side but just tilted onto the pillow. It makes a big difference for me! For the most part my sleep hasn’t really been disrupted by the pregnancy yet which is awesome.

What I’m Looking Forward To

No more nausea!!! 🙂

I feel like my bump is starting to show (more than just a food baby) and I’m excited to watch it continue to grow. While I don’t love every aspect of pregnancy, I sure do love rubbing that growing belly! I’m also excited to transition to maternity clothes. My jeans are getting pretty snug around the waist and the hairband trick just isn’t cutting it anymore. Bring on the comfy stretchy pants!

Boy/Girl Predictions

I have NO guesses. When I was pregnant with LJ I had two very realistic dreams that we were having a boy so I was pretty sure all along he’d be a boy but so far this pregnancy I haven’t had any baby dreams. I don’t have any gut feelings at this point. Justin and I didn’t find out the gender our first pregnancy and it right now we’re leaning towards not finding out again so we’ll see!

LJ’s Awareness

Little man has no idea what is going on. We took him to the ultrasound but he honestly wasn’t even looking at the image and was way more fascinated by all the machine’s buttons. He likes playing with the sonograms though!

Lj with ultrasound

Misc Stories

My original due date was calculated for September 4 (we joked we might literally celebrate Labor Day this year). We’ve had two ultrasounds now and baby was measuring ahead both times, so the OB actually changed my due date to August 28. It was pretty fun to bump up a week and anticipate meeting our little one even sooner!

When I was part of a local breastfeeding support group, there was another little boy with the exact same birthday as LJ. His mom and I were both September 1988 babies and we both got married in 2013. We joked that we were basically leading twin lives. Once I announced my pregnancy on social media, she told me she was also pregnant and her due date is three days after mine! I mean, how crazy, right?! Twin lives – ha!

And that’s a wrap on the first trimester! So so thankful for this baby and the fact that we are ⅓ of the way to meeting him or her!

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While we are so excited for this new little life, I know that for many, announcements like this are bittersweet at best and agonizing at worst. A huge part of my heart goes out to all who are enduring the pain and struggles of pregnancy loss or infertility. I have felt the feelings of injustice to be denied what I most wanted, the ache of empty arms who long for a baby to hold, and the sting of another person’s happy announcement reminding me of what I had lost. It is a pain that no one should have to endure and my heart breaks for all who experience it. If you are struggling with infertility or loss of a baby, I know there’s nothing I can really do or say to take away the grief and ache of longing, but I want you to know I acknowledge you and am sending you love and holding you tight in my prayers. I hope that our journey gives you hope that your story isn’t finished.

Vacation Re-Cap: Florida 2019

Good morning!

Last week I was pretty quiet on the blog and social media because I was busy soaking up sunshine and warm weather with my little family in Florida. Justin had a conference to attend for work in Sarasota so LJ and I happily packed our bags and joined him for the week. Today I’m just going to give a recap of our trip – spoiler alert: we didn’t want to leave!

Saturday

We flew out early Saturday morning and the plane ride went smoothly. I’ve blogged about my tips for plane rides with a baby before and even though LJ is now a toddler, we still do things pretty similarly. I still swear by bringing a boppy pillow so your lap child has something to sit or lay on and it doesn’t feel like you have to actively “hold” them the whole time. I also always keep him in a sleeper so I don’t have to worry about socks/shoes getting pulled off and he’s mostly covered from airplane germs. After reviewing the flight safety packet (ha!), LJ was able to sleep most of the plane ride.

Side note: a few weeks ago I posted on Instagram that I found my old GameBoy Color and a Pokemon cartridge and my excitement got Justin sucked in too and now he’s playing too! That little light kills me! #beforebacklitscreens #relivingchildhood

Flight 3

We landed in St. Petersburg and got a rental car to make the hour-long drive to our hotel in Sarasota. Before checking in at our hotel we stopped at Trader Joes to stock up on some groceries and diapers (I don’t waste precious luggage space on diapers if we’re gone this long – it’s easier to just buy a pack when you get to your destination!). We stayed at the Westin in downtown Sarasota and it was gorgeous! Since we had been traveling most of the day, we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing in the hotel room, leaving only to grab some dinner. It was nice to just let LJ run around and explore the hotel room. It’s always fun to see what he thinks of a place…and where our items might end up. 😉

Hotel Room Surprise

A general rule for hotels with toddlers: if something goes missing, check a trash can.

Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty lazy with a makeshift breakfast in bed and playing in the hotel room.

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We got LJ down for his nap (a difficult process when you’re all sharing a room!) and he thankfully took a pretty good nap. I’ve blogged previously about hotel rooms with a baby and two of my standard tips are bring a sound machine and your own crib sheet – we try to make it seem as much like home as possible and I do think it helps!

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Once he woke up, we let him run around and burn off some energy while we packed up to head to the beach! The view from our room showed a gorgeous day and we were excited to take advantage. We ate a very quick hotel room lunch and headed out!

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We headed for Siesta Key beach and after circling for a while, managed to snag a parking spot at the main beach pavillion. I had never been to Siesta Key before but this beach is AMAZING!

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The sand is a gorgeous white and feels cool to the touch. It was so pleasant to walk on even though the day was hot. We set up camp and LJ immediately got to playing in it. We enjoyed a couple hours of soaking up sun, sand, and surf.

Well, not surf so much. The water was pretty cold and LJ was not a fan! But he had so much fun playing in the sand, finding seashells, and watching all the other beach-goers. We ended up staying out there much longer than we anticipated because he was doing so well and enjoying it!

After we’d had enough of the beach, we headed into the little village area where there are lots of cute little shops and restaurants. We enjoyed walking around and stopped for some food, ice cream, and a souvenir magnet (a tradition on every vacation!)

We headed back to the hotel in time for LJ to go to bed. Since we had to be so quiet and couldn’t watch TV, I opted for reading the book I had brought along before bed.

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Monday

Justin’s conference started early Monday morning so LJ and I hung out in the hotel room all morning. I finally got him down for a nap after 40 minutes of trying (usually it takes 5 at home) and since I couldn’t make any noise and I was so tired after the effort that I decided to take a nap too. I posted about this on Instagram, but this is one of those situations where I tried to see the silver lining. It’s not always easy to travel with a child, but it leads to some special moments that don’t happen otherwise. I haven’t slept next to LJ since he was a six week old baby in a bassinet in my bedroom so it was pretty sweet to hear his sweet little baby snores while I drifted off.

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Justin’s conference was only half-day so once he got back, I quickly headed down to our hotel gym to get a quick workout in.

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We ate lunch in the hotel room and then headed up to the rooftop pool for the afternoon.

The pool was heated and had a fantastic view! It was 82 degrees outside and just the perfect day to lounge poolside and swim. Glorious!

We hung out at the pool until we had to head back inside for naps, dinner, and bedtime.

Tuesday

After Justin’s conference Tuesday, we checked out of the hotel because we were going to spend the rest of the week staying with two of my college friends, Eric and Kaitlin, who live in Sarasota. We dropped off our stuff at their house after lunch and headed to the Jungle Gardens for the afternoon. This place was awesome! It was basically a little zoo with a lot of interactive opportunities for kids. LJ got to go in the petting zoo where he was in goat heaven. He also loved looking at all the different animals!

The paths are all shaded and it really did feel like we were in a jungle. It was very pleasant to walk around!

My favorite part was when we got to a free-roaming flock of flamingos! I’ve never seen one up close before and they are so cool! We got to feed them and they would just walk up to us at eye level – it was awesome!

After the gardens, we headed back to the house to get ready for dinner. Eric and Kaitlin love to play games and so once we had dinner and put LJ down we spent the evening playing card games and catching up on life. We’re all pretty competitive so it was a fun evening!

Wednesday – Friday

The rest of the week we settled into a good routine. Justin would head into the conference in the morning. LJ and I would hang out at the house and play a little. He would go down for a nap and I would get a little work done (perk of my work-from-home job: I can do it anywhere!) Justin would come home around lunch and we would hang out in the afternoon. Our friends both work from home so if they finished up working they would join us in games or just lounging. We’d all do dinner together and once LJ was down, we’d play games until bedtime. Rather than recap each day individually, I’ll just share a few highlights from the second half of the week:

-Their backyard pool was the perfect place to lounge and read during naptime when everyone else was busy! It was seriously like being at a resort!

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-Owen’s Fish Camp was a fantastic restaurant for dinner! I wish I had taken more pictures but the back patio (where you can hang out where you wait for your table) had delicious appetizers, live music, and such a fun vibe!

-Games, games, and more games. They taught us a new one called “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” which we all got SO into. The final night we beat a really hard level that we had been working on and we all were super pumped!

-Everyone had a light day Friday so we headed to the beach after lunch and it was a great way to end the week! We are so thankful for the great hospitality of our friends!

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Saturday

We left early Saturday morning to catch our flight back to Indiana. It was hard to leave the 80 degree sunshine for 32 degrees with some snow on the ground! But we had a fantastic week and I’m so glad we had the chance to get some mid-February sunshine! Until next time, Florida!

 

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Three

Good morning! We’re back with another installment of the January #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge! If you missed them, be sure to catch up on week one (bathrooms and closets) and week two (kitchen).

Week three of the challenge centered on decluttering toys and to be honest, this is not an area I feel overwhelmed by. From the very beginning of parenthood, Justin and I decided that we don’t want our home to feel overrun by toys. Of course, we want our kids to have toys and to enjoy playing with them, but we don’t want to have such an excess that it becomes unmanageable. We’ve always been very intentional about the amount of toys in our home, so I spent very little time decluttering last week (honestly like 20 minutes). Today’s post is going to be more of an update on how I consistently manage the intake of toys, since that is the main reason this week wasn’t a big one for decluttering. I realize everyone makes their own choices when it comes to toys for their children; this is just what works for us.

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I have previously posted how we find balance with toys and you can read all about what toys LJ has and how we store them here. Since I first posted that in October, we have had both LJ’s first birthday and Christmas and I still feel that our toy situation is manageable. For LJ’s birthday, we asked for book donations to a local charity. This worked out so well – we got to support an organization we love and LJ didn’t get a bunch of toys (We had a little celebration, but he actually got no gifts at all, which was our goal. He had no idea what was going on or what he was “missing out” on, and we knew he would get plenty of gifts for Christmas in a few weeks). We won’t do this for all his future birthdays, but we’re really glad we did it for his first one!

When Christmas rolled around, LJ received several gifts, including new toys. Both of our families requested wish lists for presents, and LJ’s list was mostly filled with non-toy items (he got things like wipes, a stroller attachment, money towards a convertible car seat, clothing, socks, etc). Like I said before, he is too little to know that he’s getting the “boring” gifts and there is no shame in my mom game to limit the toys and ask for other things he really needs. That being said, I did include some toys and books I knew he will use throughout the next year. There were also a few toys my mother-in-law texted me about that she found while out and about and I was honest about what I thought he would love and use and what was pretty similar to something he already has. Communication is key! I appreciated that she asked me what I thought so I could give feedback on what I thought he’d like best. For the most part, we got things on our list. We also got a few extras and that was 100% okay!! The goal for us isn’t to be super controlling and only allow x number of toys or these exact things into our home. The goal is to just keep things manageable and a few extra toys does not push us over the edge. At the end of the day, we focus on being grateful for the generosity and loving spirit behind the gifts. It’s fun to see the things our families find that make them think of LJ and sometimes, an “extra” gift ends up being one of LJ’s favorites!

When we came home from Christmas, I immediately looked at the space we had for toys  and decluttered before putting anything away. While I do keep a few small amount of toys in his bedroom and my bedroom (see my toy post for more info), most of his toys are in the playroom. In our playroom, we have a green cabinet where we store toys and we have a rule that unless a toy doesn’t fit because it is too large (like his activity table), it must be stored in the cabinet. This allows for plenty of toys but keeps the overall amount to a manageable number. If the cabinet doors don’t close, we have too many toys!

We’ve always kept a loose definition of toy and LJ had things in his toy cabinet like a snack can and a plastic waterbottle with a straw. These are things I easily got rid of to make room for his new toys. I also took out some toys he never showed much interest in or that were really similar to other toys. Once I streamlined and made room for his new items, I put everything back in the cabinet.

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When it came time for this week of #DeclutterLikeAMother, our toys were mostly already streamlined from Christmas, but I did find a few more things to get rid of. Our book bin was pretty full and it was hard to fit everything in there, so I got rid of a few he never chooses to read and a few that won’t be age appropriate for several years (like one for learning how to tell time – that’s helpful, but I can find something like that in a few years when we’re ready to teach him this). We had several stuffed toys so I got rid of a couple he doesn’t use. And I set aside the two bigger items we had borrowed from a friend, a music table and push toy, so they are ready to be returned to their owners.

Even with all we got rid of, LJ still has plenty to keep him busy. Ha!

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For me, the key is to just keep an eye on what is being used and what is fostering imagination. LJ doesn’t really have many toys that are passive entertainment; most of his toys require him to move them or do something with them. If I notice a toy isn’t working well anymore or he’s never wanting to play with it, I take it out to sell or donate. Just a little effort every now and then to make sure we’re using what we have helps keep things at a manageable level.

If you are a parent, what tips do you have for keeping your toy inventory manageable?