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.

Sonogram 2

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?

#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

Chicago17.jpg

Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!

Macie & Scout: Our First Babies

LJ tends to steal the show around here, but today I thought I’d share a little bit about the two fur babies that complete our little family. Today is all about Macie & Scout!

Justin and I always knew that we wanted to have a dog at some point. While we didn’t expect to get one at the start of our marriage, when two of Justin’s good friends bred their two labs together and offered us one of the puppies as a wedding gift, we joyfully accepted. In July 2013, on our one-month anniversary we became parents to eight-week-old Macie.

Macie is a pure lab mix. Her dad was a huge yellow lab and her mom was a small, field bred black lab. She was a spunky whirl of energy from the beginning!

MS3.jpg
Puppy Macie with her dad, a 90 lb yellow lab!

Macie is very smart and she picked up on her training really quickly. Honestly, she made puppy parenthood a breeze. She crate-trained easily, she learned new tricks, and while she kept her high-level puppy energy for a full two years, she was usually very obedient. We loved taking her with us everywhere and to this day her enthusiasm for everything (snow, swimming, fetch, hiking, etc) makes her such a fun dog to have around!

After about six months with Macie, we started to feel a little bad for her. She had SO much energy and we were both so busy (me with my full-time job 40 minutes away and Justin with his full-time schooling) that we started talking about getting a second dog at some point so she would have a little buddy and not be bored. Macie is so sweet and fun but she can be a little bit clingy – ha!

While a second dog was in the back of our minds as a “someday” possibility, we weren’t seriously looking into it. But in January 2014, my friend found two small puppies outside her home. She lives in a wooded area and it was clear that the two puppies had been dumped into the woods by their previous owners. Did you catch that it was January? These poor puppies had been dumped in the snow and left to fend for themselves.  My friend already had two dogs and couldn’t keep the puppies; another friend of hers had claimed one of them but the other was still in need of a safe, loving home. We drove out to Ohio “just to see” if this puppy would be the right fit for us but I think Justin and I both knew we were going to take this puppy in. One look at his sweet little brown eyes and we were all in!  Enter Scout.MS6.jpgAfter verifying that no one had called in to the shelter reporting missing puppies and that he didn’t have any collar, tracker, or identification, we took him home and he instantly became the missing piece to our little family.

Macie took to her little brother right away. I think it helped that she had only been with us for six months so she wasn’t too set in her only-dog ways. She and Scout also naturally fit the alpha and beta dog dynamics and fell into a brother-sister groove quickly. It made us so happy to see them bond from the start!

It was pretty apparent from the beginning that Scout had experienced trauma in his early life. The vet determined he was likely about 12 weeks old but it was difficult to tell exactly because he was malnourished. He had two types of worms in his belly and had frostbite on his belly and the tip of his tail. He was super skittish and fearful of new things. He resisted his crate and howled and cried when we tried to put him in it. It was heartbreaking! His training was completely different than Macie’s and our goal first and foremost was for him to be healthy and feel safe and loved.  Scout was never comfortable with crate-training and we decided not to force it for our own reasons. We eventually got to the point where both dogs could hold their bladders all day and not destroy things – since then we have let them roam the house when we’re not there. It was worked really well with very few mishaps.

Today, Scout is still skittish about loud noises (he always hides during thunderstorms) and he likes to perch on our staircase landing where he can see everything going on around him. For the most part though, he has really come out of his shell! He is a happy, lovable dog. He’s content to just snuggle and loves to have his belly rubbed. He warms up to people quickly and has the sweetest personality.

Our dogs were always our babies and we loved doing things with them. We took them on vacation, we went for long walks, we’d go swimming in a nearby river, we’d play frisbee in a park, we’d snuggle on the couch – whatever we could include them in, we did!

When I became pregnant, I worried about how the dynamic would change. Macie and Scout always did great with small children and we knew that they would be good siblings to a human baby, but I wondered if they would mind a baby that was now in their space all the time. I also worried because Scout is still naturally very skittish around new things so I worried he would be afraid of the new baby gear everywhere, the toys, the noise, the stroller, etc. We spent a lot of time letting them hang out in the nursery and sniffing LJ’s things so that when we finally brought him home, they weren’t stressed out by the new arrival.

I needn’t have worried. Macie and Scout LOVE LJ and have totally adjusted to his presence in our house. Scout was pretty quick to learn not to fear any of the baby gear and we’re able to go on family walks without him being afraid of the stroller. It has been so fun to see the three of them learn to love one another. LJ loves to watch the dogs and giggles when they do tricks. They tolerate his baby pats, they lay next to him on the floor, they love hanging out in his nursery. They always want to be near him! They are honestly just the sweetest with each other and it never fails to melt my mama heart!

If I had to pick one thing that really sealed Macie and Scout’s love for their little bro, I think it would be the high chair. Meal times are now their favorite time of day and if LJ is in his high chair they are never far away. They’re always ready to catch dropped scraps. Haha!

It has actually become a liiiiiiiittle bit of a problem because LJ loves to feed them and will often intentionally throw food down to Macie or hold food out to Scout. We’re going to have to work on that one!

While things are a little different now that we have a human baby, our dogs have always been our babies. We love them so much and are so happy as a family of five. ❤

 

A Simplified First Birthday

It doesn’t seem possible, but I now have a one-year-old.

I can’t believe LJ’s first birthday has come and gone. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I had the sweetest little newborn snuggled up on my chest. At the same time, it’s so hard to remember what life was like before him. He has changed our whole world and we’re so grateful for this year of his life!

Justin and I decided a long time ago that we wanted to keep LJ’s birthday party very low-key and simple. We know some parents choose to go all out with themes, decorations, coordinating food items, etc. and if that’s your thing, that’s great and we totally support you!  For us, we decided we wanted to focus on finding a few small ways to have a special celebration without a ton of work or stress. Today I wanted to share what we did to keep things sweet, simple, and fun!

A Simple 1st Birthday Party.jpg

LJ’s First Birthday Party

Our situation was a little unique in that LJ’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year and we were going to spend the day at my grandparents house with extended family on my dad’s side celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead of having a separate party on another day, we just decided to have a small celebration after the Thanksgiving meal but before the Christmas gifts. We called it ThanksBirthMas. 😉

After people were mostly finished with the meal, I set out a small dessert station on my grandma’s kitchen island.

BIrthday Cupcakes.jpegI had purchased cupcakes in three flavors from a local baker (chocolate with peanut butter frosting, vanilla with buttercream frosting, and blueberry with cream cheese frosting) and I set out a few toppings people could sprinkle on top if they wanted. I already had the cake stand and three dish serving set so I just brought those along to have a cute little way to arrange the items. I also set out my Letterfolk board to round out the display.

Our baker had also made a smash cake for LJ based off a picture I found of a cake I liked on Pinterest and I stuck a “1” candle on top. I also attached a gold “1” balloon to LJ’s high chair.

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I passed out party hats to everyone as a fun way to say “okay, it’s birthday time now!”

LJ First Birthday Party Hats.jpeg

We all sang Happy Birthday to LJ and ate cupcakes while he dug into his smash cake. His cake was vanilla with peanut butter filling and he loved it!

He was upset when we decided he had eaten enough and took it away. I think he takes after his mama’s sweet tooth!

LJ after cake.jpeg

Justin and I had decided we wanted a “no gifts” party and had let our family know this desire a few months ago so everyone was on the same page. In lieu of gifts, we asked people to bring a donation to a local charity. We chose a local organization that distributes books to hospitalized children throughout our region. This organization is near and dear to our hearts because LJ had to spend a week in the NICU after birth and he received three books from them during his time there. We so appreciated this kindness during a very stressful time in our lives and wanted to pay it forward to other families.

Our families were totally on board with this and were more than happy to bring donations instead of gifts. Some people chose to wrap the books and LJ had fun tearing off the paper and opening his birthday cards. We were thrilled to get to make a donation to a great organization in LJ’s honor.

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Once we had collected the books and LJ had opened his cards, we thanked everyone and the birthday portion of the day was finished.

Justin and I were very happy with how the party turned out. It wasn’t perfect or Pinterest-worthy. It was simple but still felt very special and celebratory. Even if we wouldn’t have had a combo Thanksgiving/Christmas on the same day, I doubt we would have done much more with the party. The point for us was to hang out with family and celebrate and we have lots of wonderful memories of our time together!

And just for a little walk down memory lane…

Happy birthday my sweet little LJ! We love you SO much!

 

 

A Simplified Halloween

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

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

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

j-o-l

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

Family costume

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

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

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

Trick or Treat

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

LJ twizzlers

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

J and Pooh

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

On days when I need a little boost

Being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mama is a joy for me and I love it, but it does have its challenges. It is not just lounging on the couch relaxing at home – it is a true job and I work hard each and every day. Sure, some days I stay in my pajamas all day long but that doesn’t mean I was lazing around. It just means I was comfortable while I worked. 😊

LJ and books

Let me be very clear: I love staying at home and am very, very grateful that I can do so. Justin and I talked it through and we were both 100% agreed that this was the right thing for our family right now. I am thrilled that I get to spend my days as the primary caregiver for our son. I am so thankful for a flexible administrative job I can do from home to bring in a little income. I am really and truly happy with our current situation.

BUT. There are some days that just hard. There are days that feel monotonous. There are days when I get a little stir crazy. There are days where it feels like my husband will never get home from work. There are days when I feel lonely and crave adult interaction. There are some days when I just need a little boost to lift my mood or my energy level. Today, I thought I would share some of my tried-and-true mood-boosting, spirit-lifting pick-me-ups for days where I just feel overwhelmed, stressed, lonely, etc. and need a little something extra. They work wonders for me now in this season of staying at home, but many were also strategies I used when I was teaching full-time and had a hard day.

My mood-boosting, spirit-lifting pick-me-ups

1) Listen to a podcast

I have mentioned my love for Gretchen Rubin on the blog before and one of the reasons I love her so much is the podcast “Happier” that she does with her sister Elizabeth. I started listening to it after LJ was born as I washed dishes, cleaned the house, drove him to appointments, etc. I quickly became obsessed and went through all the episodes (there are over 190 of them)! It is uplifting and fun and has given me a ton of practical, manageable tips and tricks for building happier habits into my daily life.

Other podcasts I enjoy are The Purpose Show, Rise Together, and The Goal Digger Podcast. I also occasionally listen to Binge Mode (they are currently binging Harry Potter!), The Minimalists, and The Dave Ramsey show. Each podcast gives me some type of insight into a part of my life and I enjoy having a moment to uplift and uplevel my mind during the day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

2) Go for a walk

Sometimes I get pretty stir crazy in the house and just need a change of scenery. Going for a walk never fails to give my spirits a lift and calm my stir-craziness. Often, I will just put LJ in the stroller and walk around our neighborhood. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll also take our dogs along (we look like a traveling circus but it’s fine). There is also a nice public trail near our house that I sometimes drive to for an extra change of scenery. If it’s a rainy or cold day, I will drive to the mall and walk loops indoors. This may surprise you since I just professed my love for podcasts, but I typically do not listen to anything while I’m walking. Walking is a chance for me to shut my brain off and just enjoy the sounds of nature or the buzz of people around me. It refreshes my mind and the movement gives me an energy boost.

3) Light a candle

Something about just lighting a candle feels indulgent to me. It makes my house smell good and is so cozy and festive (right now I’m loving Farmer’s Market from Yankee Candle – the perfect fall scent). It instantly gives me a little mood boost!

4) Carve out reading time

Some days, when nap time rolls around I put housework or other tasks on pause and take a little mental escape into a book.  I feel so relaxed and refreshed and ready to jump back in to work after 30 minutes cozied up on the couch with a snuggly blanket and a good book!

Side note: I often hear people say that they don’t have time to read. Honestly, I just don’t buy that. You have time to do whatever you prioritize doing. If you have ten minutes to scroll through your Facebook feed, you have ten minutes to read. If you have an hour to binge something on Netflix, you have an hour to read. Reading might not be what you choose to do with the time you have, but you can make time for it if you want. For me, I just love reading so it is what I find the time to do instead of other things.

5) Exercise

I really cannot emphasize this one enough. Exercise has so many positive benefits for both my mental and physical health. The feel good endorphins that I get from a great workout will keep me energized all day long. I love the classes offered at my local YMCA and try to go to their spin class 1x/week and bootcamp class 2x/week. This is only possible for me because of the YMCA childcare, which I am so thankful for. If your gym does not provide childcare, consider trading babysitting with a friend so you can swap going to the gym or find an at-home workout you can do during naptime (there are tons of free workouts on YouTube).

6) Enjoy a phone call

I am really close with my sisters and mom and I talk to at least one, if not all, of them every week. While they all work at jobs outside of the home, they each have breaks in their day and if there is a day that I really need to chat with a human over the age of one, I’ll send one of them a text to call me over their break. Spending a few minutes catching up always perks up my mood!

7) Put on real clothes

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days where I stay in my sweatpants all. day. long. But I often put on jeans and a casual top instead – it might sound crazy but real clothes make me feel put together and accomplished and sometimes I just need that mental boost.

Bonus – Go to a coffee shop for a hot chocolate

Some days are just extra hard. Maybe LJ was teething and extra fussy. Maybe one of the dogs threw up on the carpet. Maybe LJ skipped a nap and our whole day was thrown off. On days like this, I communicate my needs with Justin. We have a coffee shop about 3 minutes from our house and I might say “hey, when you get home, I would really like to just go to the coffee shop by myself for a little. Is that okay?” He is always so supportive of me going and it feels like such a treat to just sit by myself drinking a hot chocolate and reading a book or working on my laptop for an hour. It gives him quality one-on-one time with LJ and gives me a mommy break so I can come back refreshed and ready to love on both my guys with my best self. I’ve only done this maybe 3 times since LJ was born so each time feels special and indulgent and SO rejuvenating!

 

What is your go-to trick that gives you an instant mood boost on the days you need a little something extra?