Five Game-Changers of Our Morning Routine

I have always been a morning person. I love a good morning routine and I love getting a jump on the day. That being said, with three kids aged five and under, you can imagine that our mornings can get a bit chaotic around here. I don’t know about you, but when my morning is rushed, stressful, and chaotic, it can easily mess up my whole day. A couple months ago, I set out to start making some changes to our morning routine to try to make things simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable. I wanted slower, more peaceful mornings that would set us up for great days! And guess what? It worked!

Today I wanted to share the five things I’ve implemented that have been the game-changers of our mornings. Some were super easy changes to make, others took a bit of time, effort, and trial and error. I know everyone’s mornings look different due to school/work schedules and sleep preferences, but this is what has been working well for our family!

One caveat before I share: Ollie has been sleeping through the night for a few months now. I would not have been able to start making a lot of these changes back in the throes of newborn sleep deprivation – at that stage, we were just in survival mode! These were changes I made once we were all getting good, full nights of sleep.

An Early Wake-Up Time for Me

This is probably obvious, but the biggest positive change to my mornings happened once I could start waking up before my kids to get things going. Usually I shoot for anywhere from 5:45-6:15 am as a wake up time; I had to adjust to a goal bedtime of 9:30-10 pm to still get enough sleep but it was worth it! Sometimes, I try to workout but often I’m down in my office getting a jump on some work tasks (I have a part time work from home job with flexible hours so this is a great time to catch up on things). It’s so nice to be able to just hunker down and focus without the distraction and needs of kids.

That being said, there were many many days where LJ would get up, see my light downstairs, and come down. Sometimes he was downstairs before it was even 6 am! Which brings me to my next change . . .

A Digital Alarm Clock in the Kids’ Room

We have a Hatch sound machine in LJ and Vi’s room that changes colors based on the time. They were supposed to wait until the light turned green to come out of their rooms, but this just never really worked well for my early riser LJ. He would wake up and have no idea how much time was left before the light turned green – is it 5 more minutes? Is it an hour? He would get restless feeling like he had been waiting “a long time” and come out of his room before the green light. It was very frustrating for me because I often lost that important solo time early in the mornings and things generally didn’t go as smoothly when that happened.

A few weeks ago, we moved my digital alarm clock to their room and gave a very basic explanation of how to read the numbers. He is 5 and still can’t tell time BUT he is fully capable of understanding “do not come out of your room until the first number is a 7.” He understands number order so if it’s anything but a 6 or 7 first, he knows there is a lot of time left so he should try to sleep again. Even though he doesn’t fully understand time, this has at least given him a little more understanding of it and since moving the alarm clock, he has stayed in his room every day until 7 am!

Dim Lighting

LJ is out of his room at 7 am sharp and while Vi sometimes sleeps a bit longer, she is usually up by 7:15. I stop my work, we have a few minutes of morning cuddles, and then we get our morning going. I used to turn on all the main overhead lights in the kitchen at this point but now, I am very selective. I turn on the little lamp on my kitchen counter. I turn on the overhead island pendant – it’s on a dimmer and I only turn it about halfway up. I turn on the microwave light above the stove, and sometimes I turn on the light above the sink. Choosing a few smaller lights creates a warm, cozy ambiance and feels like the perfect transition between night and day. It’s like dawn in the kitchen and I love how it allows us to keep a slow feel to our morning.

Protein-Packed, Filling Breakfasts

We used to be an exclusively cereal-eating family, but last year I started making some changes. My kids would eat a bowl of cereal at 7 am and be hungry for a snack by 9 am – to combat this, I started trying to incorporate more filling breakfasts. The kids will still do a bowl of cereal maybe 3x a week, usually with a side of fruit, but other days we’re doing things like protein-packed waffles, sausage, oatmeal, eggs and toast, etc. The snack requests have gone WAY down and as a bonus, we linger a bit more over breakfast and can chat together.

For me personally, I have completely stopped eating cereal for breakfast. Once the kids have their breakfast made, I will make mine. My new go-to is two over-easy eggs topped with salt, cracked pepper, and nutritional yeast, homemade hash browns (Justin makes a huge batch at once and it will last us for days), and half of an avocado. Sometimes I’ll add in a couple pieces of air-fryed bacon or chicken sausage for extra protein. It is delicious and keeps me full until lunchtime. It’s so nice to fuel myself with a solid breakfast and it feels like a treat – usually the kids are done and out of the kitchen by the time I’m sitting down to eat so I have 10 minutes of peace to savor every bite. It feels so good to prioritize myself in this way.

No Screens Until XYZ

I am now very firm with my boundary of no screens until 8 am. The kids both have Amazon Fire Tablets programmed in a way that they can’t even access anything until 8 am (highly recommend!) and the TV is an absolute no. Don’t get me wrong, they bickered, they whined, and they protested, but I have held this boundary and they adjusted. They had gotten used to the anything-goes newborn haze so it took some time to form new habits, but they now know 8 means 8 and rarely even mention screens before that. Sometimes they get so busy playing that it’s well after 8 am before they even realize it!

This boundary gives us from 7 am – 8 am to get ready. The kids eat breakfast and play in the playroom/draw/entertain themselves while I eat mine. They may have screen time starting at 8 am, but they also MUST first be fully dressed, including glasses, all clothing, and socks and shoes. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. It must be both 8 am AND they must be fully ready to walk out the door. This has made a huge difference; we are no longer scrambling to find glasses or get shoes on as we run out the door! The kids can enjoy screen time until it’s time to leave, which allows me to have 30-45 minutes (we leave between 8:30-8:45) to get myself changed, get Ollie up, changed, and fed, and get their preschool bags ready. Then when it’s time to head out the door, everyone has everything they need and we can calmly just get in the van.

Of course, there are days where we get out of whack and are still scrambling to get out the door on time, but those are honestly few and far between (and usually, the culprit is that I didn’t do one of these listed things!) Implementing these changes has gone so far in making our mornings feel peaceful and enjoyable and I truly savor this time. Not matter how crazy and hectic the day ends up being, at least our mornings started out right.

The End of my Breastfeeding Journey

On January 15, one very significant era of my life ended: Ollie was given his last bottle of breastmilk.

I breastfed LJ for 13 months and Vi for 22 months. Neither one of them ever needed formula and they rarely had bottles since I didn’t really pump unless I was away from them. I talked about this previously, but Ollie’s needs ended up being much different. I won’t go into all the specifics, but as a newborn, he wasn’t transferring breastmilk directly very well, and after working with a lactation consultant for several weeks, I made the call to move to formula + pumped milk. Ollie was 10 weeks old. My supply has been decreasing ever since and I made peace with that, but it finally dwindled down to nothing this week. I’ve spent 40 months (over three years!!) of my life providing breastmilk for my children and now, that chapter is over.

Almost exactly four years ago, I was writing about my breastfeeding journey with LJ coming to an end. Ollie will be my last baby, and this is the definitive end of my breastfeeding era, so it only felt right to similarly process the end of this journey. Today, I’m sharing my experience with Ollie – from breastfeeding, to combination feeding, to moving to all formula. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone else is interested in reading about this, but for me it was therapeutic to process the end of this era in writing (and I know I’ll appreciate being able to look back on this in years to come) so here we go!

Things I wasn’t expecting

Not to state the obvious, but I wasn’t expecting this to be our journey at all. I had no major issues breastfeeding my first two babies and expected this time to be no different. My milk came in in full force while I was still in the hospital. I used my Haaka in the beginning and quickly amassed extra milk (I’ve always had a great supply). I thought it was going to be smooth sailing again. Then his two-week appointment came and I learned that he was still six ounces under birth weight. I was blindsided. We started doing weighted feeds and I started pumping, only to be shocked again to realize my initally-amazing supply had already adjusted to his lowered demands. That was honestly the most discouraging part for me: had I just known to pump from the beginning, my supply would have stayed up. Instead, I had to work on boosting my supply and building it back up while still breastfeeding AND pumping AND supplementing with formula. It was pretty stressful and I couldn’t keep it up very long, but I do wonder about how things would’ve been different had my supply stayed high from the start.

This experience kind of popped my newborn bubble a little sooner than I wanted. I absolutely LOVED the first two weeks of his life – snuggling just the two of us in the recliner in my bedroom, sun streaming gently through the windows, skin to skin contact, just soaking up the sweetness of his newborn-ness. It was an amazing experience and I will cherish it. After learning about his transfer issues, some of the joy got sucked out of my experience – I felt sad and guilty for not realizing he wasn’t gaining weight, and I was anxious about how to correct our course. I will say, I could feel that the joy was getting sucked out and did NOT want that to be what I remembered, so I worked hard to keep noticing and appreciating the sweet newborn moments too. I’m so glad I didn’t spiral and allow stress and anxiety to make me miss out on everything, but it still put a damper on things.

Things I’m SO glad I did

I’m so glad I worked with a lactation consultant. She was wonderful and supportive and encouraging and empowering. Working with her and doing regular weighted feeds gave me actual data on how he was doing, which in turn helped me make rational decisions about what to do. Thanks to her help, I feel like I did everything in my power to make breastfeeding work, which made it easier for me to let go of when it didn’t. I did what I could, it wasn’t what was working for him, and I feel no shame or lingering guilt over that. [Side note: I felt nothing but complete support from my entire circle. My pediatrician, my husband, my family, my friends – everyone was so supportive and I never felt one single ounce of judgement or shame from anyone about my decision. While I felt confident enough in what I was choosing, it certainly helped that I didn’t have people casting doubts or judgement over my choices and I appreciate that so much.]

I’m so glad I reflected on my experience with LJ and Vi. I think being a third-time mama made me a little calmer about the whole thing – once I got over the initial shock/disappointment/guilt, I could see that I wasn’t doing anything differently this time around. I wasn’t doing anything wrong or failing him or anything like that, he just had different needs than my first two kids, and it really helped to keep that perspective.

I’m so glad I knew my limits. I technically could have done more to try to make breastfeeding work, but it would’ve come at a cost. I have two other children, two dogs, a house to take care of, a husband to be in relationship with, and life I want to enjoy. I wasn’t going to be able to pump around the clock or power pump or completely change my diet or do more than I was already doing without it affecting other areas of my life. I was at the limit for what I could handle with all the things on my plate, and I’m glad I could recognize that and prioritize my own mental health and family life too.

I’m so glad I invested in a new pump. I’ll be honest – I’ve always thought pumping was a drag. But exclusively pumping? I had no idea how much of a drag it could actually be. While I loved my Spectra pump for the occasional pump here or there or when traveling, for day-to-day use, it was cumbersome and inconvenient. We invested in the Elvie pump and it made my life so much easier. I just tucked it in my bra (no need to change to a pumping bra like with the Spectra) and went about my day. Even though I ultimately only used it for about 3.5 months, I’m glad I got it. I’m absolutely positive I wouldn’t have lasted this long with the Spectra, so I’m glad I got to extend the time I provided breastmilk.

Things that were challenging

Did I mention pumping is a drag? Ha! While I’m still so thankful I used the Elvie, I never truly enjoyed pumping.

All. The. Dishes. Between pump parts and bottles, pumping creates a lot of extra work and it often felt like I was living in a groundhog day of constant dishes. I’m so glad someone gave me the advice to keep pump parts in the fridge in between pumps to at least eliminate some dishes during the day, but it still is a lot of work.

Using formula requires a lot more mental energy than breastfeeding did. Before leaving the house, we have to make sure we have filtered water, a container of formula, a clean bottle, etc. It’s not always easy to measure out formula and make bottles depending on where we are. It’s just – again – more work than whipping out a nursing cover and feeding him whenever and wherever he needs with no other supplies.

I never fully appreciated how breastmilk is free (I mean, there is an unpaid labor + mental load cost, but you know what I mean) until I had to start buying formula. To say I had sticker shock is an understatement, especially as time went on and I provided less and less breastmilk and we went through formula quicker.

Things I’ve enjoyed

With LJ and Vi, I was basically the sole provider of food. With the exception of a few bottles here and there, I was involved in every. single. feed. Now, Justin and I share the load equally. We can each give bottles, we can each prepare the diaper bag, we can each wash the dishes. It’s the most involved he’s been with feeding at this stage, which has been really sweet to see, and it’s nice that I can have some breaks. The kids even occasionally help give a bottle – melt my heart! It’s also been easier for grandparents to be involved and babysit.

With breastfeeding, I often had to leave to find comfortable surroundings, especially if we were away from home. This often meant leaving the table, leaving the group, leaving the conversations, and missing out on whatever was going on in order to comfortably breastfeed somewhere else. There were times it felt isolating. With bottles, I can feed wherever and don’t have to miss out on anything, which has been really great.

I’ve still enjoyed feeding and snuggles. I still get to bond with this baby. Formula and bottles hasn’t changed that.

I’m proud of the fact that I did what I could for Ollie for five months, and I’m proud of myself for recognizing that it’s time to close this door and move to exclusive formula. I’ve been breastfeeding or pregnant for the better part of SIX YEARS now and it will never cease to amaze me what bodies can do. Leaving this chapter behind is bittersweet, but I think it was always going to be that way. I leave it behind with tears in my eyes, but they aren’t tears of guilt or sorrow. They are tears of gratitude – it’s been a joyful, challenging, sweet, empowering, exhausting, and ultimately beautiful journey and I’m so extremely grateful for it. They all took different approaches to feeding, but I have three happy, healthy, thriving children and that is all that truly matters to me.

A Day in the . . . Thrift Store!

I’ve done several “day in the life” posts in the past that have covered an ordinary day in our house, but today’s post is a look at a completely different area of my life. I enjoy decorating our house (probably pretty obvious by now, ha!) and one of my favorite places to look for things is a thrift store.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of things in my home from places like Target too, but there is something I just love about hunting through a thrift store. You have to sometimes sort through a lot of stuff to find a gem, but I have found some seriously awesome, unique, good quality items when thrifting. It’s also a sustainable and relatively inexpensive way to shop – better for the planet and your wallet! I’ve come to have my favorite thrift stores where I often find good scores and those are now the ones I stop in most frequently. I particularly like the one in my parents’ hometown, so when I was visiting last week I stopped in to browse around. I thought it would be fun to take you along with me to see the types of things I considered, including what I passed on and what I ultimately bought. So today we have – a day in the life of Sarah at a thrift store! 😊

Planter: Passed

I’m always on the hunt for containers to hold my growing plant collection, but I’m pretty particular with what I pick up these days. It has to be a definite YES, not just a “yeah okay, this will work” – this planter was cute, but not quite a strong enough yes for me, so I passed it up.

Fabric: Bought

I really enjoyed wrapping Christmas presents in fabric this year and want to continue doing that in the future. I was able to save many of the fabric scraps I used but my niece also kept several pieces to use in her sewing lessons (I love that!) I found a plaid print that would be perfect for Christmas presents!

I also snagged this sweet floral print for $1 – it would be a fun option for wrapping gifts but I’m also thinking it would make for a cute throw pillow cover.

Fabric Ribbon: Bought

I also snagged a couple rolls of fabric that had been made into ribbon. Such an easy way to elevate a gift and I love that it gives new life to fabric scraps!

Wrapping Paper: Bought

While wrapping in fabric is cute and sustainable, there are still situations where I know I’ll want traditional paper. I dug through the gift wrap section and snagged two new rolls for $1 each – one fun sprinkle print and one plain brown paper. I like that these are both gender-neutral and can be used for a variety of events!

Books: Some Passed, Some Bought

It can take a lot of time to sort through books, but when I take the time to do it, I usually find at least one book to take home! On this trip I found three I’ve been wanting to read: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth, Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, and The Bodyguard by Katherine Center. Sometimes I’ll also choose books that I’ve never heard of but seem intriguing and occasionally I’ll find a book I’ve already read and loved and buy to add to my collection.

On this day, the only book I found that I’ve read before was The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle and since that isn’t a huge favorite of mine, I decided to pass.

Baskets: Passed

Baskets are another category I always check out – I love using them for functional decor! There were many baskets available, and one I considered, but ultimately none that I needed or had an immediate place for.

Copper Mug: Passed

This little mug was so cute, but I don’t think I’d use it much and since it’s not part of a set, it would likely just sit on my shelf.

Green Vintage Glass Bowl: Passed

I’m becoming pretty particular with tchotchkes because I don’t want a bunch of clutter, but I’m always looking through the decor sections for fun and unique pieces. While I loved the look of this green glass bowl, I couldn’t really think of a place to put it or a use for it so I decided to just appreciate it for a few moments and then move on.

Pink Vintage Glass Stemmed Dish: Bought

My heart stopped when I spotted this piece. It’s so pretty and unique! It’s the most expensive thing I bought on this trip ($8) but felt 100% worth it. I love the vintage glass charm mixed with the sweet pink color and will enjoy pulling this out to elevate a table spread for holidays, evenings with friends, or anytime I just want a little something extra. I also love the idea of having a some sort of “fancy” party with Vi and her friends in the future – maybe a little tea party or princess luncheon or something like that! I picture 6 or 7 year old girls in dress up dresses having cute little snacks on sweet little china pieces and just feeling fancy and fun. This would be the perfect type of thing to have set out on the table holding pretzels or candy or another fun treat!

Vintage China: Passed

In this hypothetical future party for Vi, these type of china dishes are exactly what I picture using – I don’t need a whole set, just a few plates to make it feel special. I was very tempted by this set of 5 plate for $3, but ultimately passed because a) Vi may not actually be interested in having this kind of party in a few years, b) it’s a long time to store plates that may or may not get used, and c) there are ALWAYS vintage china pieces for sale in thrift stores. If this party happens someday, we’ll be able to find something similar (wheras I will likely not be able to find something similar to the pink glass container!)

Frame: Bought

Similarly to baskets and planters, I’m always on the hunt for frames! I choose based on size and style but don’t worry about color since I often spray paint them. On this particular trip I snagged a small 5×7 frame for 50 cents that I plan to spray paint and use to expand a gallery wall.

Rugs: Passed

I really loved these rugs made from fabric scraps! A group of volunteers makes these for the thrift store using scraps from donations they receive and I think it’s such a brilliant, sustainable way to give new life to old demin and other fabric. I was tempted by the yellow and white striped one, but don’t have a place for it right now. In the future, if I need a rug for a doormat, I’ll look here first.

Furniture: Passed

I don’t have a need for any furniture right now, but I was surprisingly tempted by these two pieces. I’m actually super into the colors used and the floral pattern. They’re not a set but the individual pieces work so well together and I found myself wishing I had a spot for them. It was fun to be inspired!

Washable Paint: Bought

My kids do not need any more toys, but I saw this box of (new!) washable paint in the kids’ section and couldn’t pass it up. My kids love using these paints for art projects so I was thrilled to get another box for when our current supply runs out.

And that was my trip! I spent a total of $28.42 which felt like a pretty good deal to me. Hopefully this inspired you to give secondhand shopping a try – you might just be surprised by what you can find!

Ten Simple, Inexpensive Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

All my Christmas decorations are down and my house feels ready for a fresh start – all I want to do is clean, purge, organize, and just freshen things up around here! What I do not want to do is spend a lot of money.

The Christmas season is so fun, but it can get expensive. Gifts, food, travel, experiences, holiday cards . . . it all adds up and January feels like a time I not only want to reset my home, but reset my budget. I’ve been thinking about ways to give my house a little refresh without spending money (or at least spending very little) and I came up with ten things to do. These things are either free or low-cost and I thought I’d share them today in case you’re also looking for easy, inexpensive ways to give your home a little refresh.

These ten things are what I’m doing now to refresh my home for the new year, but they can all be done at any time throughout the year!

Add in Seasonal Greenery

Faux seasonal greenery can be purchased from a variety of stores and there are items out there for lots of different budgets, but the most budget-friendly option is: head outside! This is obviously a bit easier in the summer, when there are abundant types of tree, bush, or flowering plants to collect from, but it’s still possible in the fall and winter. For example, you can snip a few branches from an evergreen tree or winter berry tree or collect pinecones to display in a bowl. If you plan ahead a bit, you can dry some flowers or leaves to use too. I dried hydrangeas from our yard last year and they looked great all winter long! I’m currently loving the look of dried fern stems in our bedroom and also kept an unlit, potted evergreen tree on display instead of packing it up with the rest of my holiday decor (when you subtract lights and ornaments, it feels wintery instead of Christmas-y!)

Clean Out Your Fridge

Since we were going to Virginia for a week over Christmas, I purposely tried to get our fridge stash super low so food wouldn’t just spoil when we were gone (although it wasn’t as empty as that first picture – I had already started taking things out to wipe down!) This ended up being a great time to just clear out all the remaining items and give every shelf and drawer a good wipe down. Pull everything out of your fridge, wipe down all shelves, drawers and items (whyyyyy does my ketchup bottle always get so sticky and gross?) and check dates before you put things back in. It’s so satisfying to open my fridge now and know it’s clean and nothing is expired. Also, I know I’m not the only one who gets on a health kick for the new year . . . here’s hoping my fridge still contains this many vegetables in August, ha!

Change Up Your Textiles

Swapping out bedding is such an easy way to freshen up the whole feel of your room. I love cotton and linen in the spring and summer, but once temperatures drop, I’m a flannel girl. I usually choose simple, graphic patterns so they’re easy to mix and match in different seasons and spaces. Adding wool or knit blankets to beds or couches in the winter feels so cozy too – I expect to use this vintage pink-and-cream checked wool blanket all over my house this winter! If you don’t have extra sheets on hand to swap out and don’t want to buy a whole new set, you can separately purchase pillowcases that coordinate with your existing bedding for a fresh, mix-and-match feel.

And speaking of textiles . . .

Launder Infrequent Items

You likely wash your sheets regularly, but what about your duvet cover, quilt, or comforter? What about throw pillow covers or the blanket that hangs out on the couch? Maybe it’s just me, but I recently realized there are a lot of textiles in my home that rarely get cleaned! The last time I did laundry, I was pulling things out of my hamper, which has a cloth liner. I noticed that the bottom of the liner was looking super dingy and realized I hadn’t washed it in . . . ever? I tossed it in with the load of laundry and it looks so fresh and clean now! It’s a little thing that makes a big difference. My goal this week is to go through our house and wash all the textiles I can find – all bedding, removable throw pillow covers, blankets, hot pads, oven mitts, small accent rugs, etc. – to give everything a fresh start.

Clean Out a Drawer or Cabinet

It can feel daunting to declutter, so keep it small and manageable and start with just one drawer or cabinet. Take everything out, wipe it down, and only put back in what you need (bonus points if you can add some method of organization to keep it this way and even more bonus points if you can donate any item still in good condition so someone else can use it!) It’s amazing to me how empowering it can feel to get a small space in order – it will make your house feel more streamlined, functional, and fresh! It also just might motivate you to tackle another drawer, cabinet, closet, or room. 🙂

Test all your Writing Utensils

How frustrating is it to be searching for a writing utensil to jot something down quickly, only to find a broken pencil tip or pen with dried out ink? This is a great time to go through your house with a little notepad and sharpener and test every writing utensil. Sharpen dulled pencils and toss pens that don’t work anymore. It’s an easy task that will eliminate the inconvenience of reaching for something that doesn’t work, and it can also help you corral pens and pencils that have made their way to random spots around your house, making it feel so fresh and organized.

Rearrange!

When your eyes are used to seeing the same thing in the same spot everyday, it’s easy to not even really notice it anymore. You know when you take the same drive every day and then one day you suddenly realize “whoa, I’ve never noticed that house/barn/unusual thing before!” It’s been there, but you’ve just driven by the same thing day after day and haven’t really registered it. The same is true in your house. We get used to a certain arrangement and we stop really even noticing what we have. One of my favorite free ways to freshen up my home is to shop my own stuff and rearrange – it creates a fresh feel but also a renewed appreciation for what I already had! This can be as big as rearranging furniture, either within the room or moving something to a different room, or as small as just moving a piece of artwork or a plant from one spot to another. Try not to get stuck on things “but this is the blanket I’ve always kept on this chair in my living room” – it might look fantastic on your bed too! Trust me, even if you’ve had the artwork/decor/piece of furniture for years, it can feel fresh and new just by moving to a new location in your home.

Incorporate Seasonal Art

I love original art and will always encourage supporting and purchasing from artists if and when you can, but it’s also nice to find inexpensive ways to add quality art to your home. I’ve recently been introduced to an extremely cost-effective way to add some art to your home: the public domain!

Did you know there are millions of pieces of artwork in the public domain? Generally speaking, art becomes public domain 70 years after the death of the artist; what this means is the artwork becomes free of copyright restrictions. Museums like the Met and Smithsonian release it into the public domain and it’s free for you to use and reproduce without permission (I would include the caveat that it’s still important to credit the original artist every time!) The plus side of using public domain artwork over a digital download from a print shop is that it is completely free to download the image, but in exchange, you are giving up the curation that print shops provide. It’s daunting to sift through millions of images! I was thrilled to discover that A Home is Announced has a free curated public domain shop – she has taken the time to curate some beautiful public domain work that you can sift through and download what you like. It’s a great place to start when first exploring public domain art!

I searched through her shop and found five different pieces of artwork that felt like “winter” to me. I downloaded them (for free!) and had them printed at my local FedEx print shop on a matte cardstock for less than $2.50 per print. I put them in various frames I’ve thrifted over the years (anywhere from $1-$3 typically) and voila! Beautiful seasonal artwork for about $5 a piece, and it will be easy to swap out a different print in the frame if I want a change in another season.

Wipe down switch plates, door handles, and wall scuffs

Okay this isn’t an exciting one, but it can make a big difference! These high-contact surfaces get dingy over time and it often happens so gradually that we don’t notice it. Walk around with a multipurpose cleaner and cloth for the knobs and switches and a Magic Eraser for the wall scuffs and see what a big difference it can make!

Swap out scents

This one might be obvious, but changing up the scents in your home is a simple way to make your home feel fresh. Whether you use a candle or diffuser – scent is powerful and can make a big difference!

It might seem like these are all little things that won’t make much difference, but I’m a firm believer that refreshing the way your home feels can affect the way you and your family feel, and that is no small thing! I’ve already done a few things on this list over the past few days, and I will be checking off the remining items in the coming week or so. My home already feels so much better for me and my family, and I hope these ideas do the same for you and yours.

Our Transition from 2 to 3 Kids

We’ve been a family of five for four months now and it’s hard to even remember back to life before Ollie. Our life, house, and hearts are fuller and happier than ever! As we’re now out of the newborn haze and settling into more of a routine, I thought it’d be a good time to check in and talk about our transition from two to three children. Today I’m sharing an honest look at how things have been going, and I included some questions I was asked on Instagram last week when I brought up this transition. Full disclosure, it’s a LONG post – maybe the longest I’ve ever had? – so grab a warm drink and a cozy blanket and settle on in. 🙂

How have the big kids adjusted to having another baby in the house?

They have both been beyond-my-wildest-dreams wonderful with a baby! I was bracing myself for jealously, tantrums, and regressions, particularly with Vi. She has always been my shadow and a big mama’s girl and I worried that a baby taking my attention would cause her to revert back to more babyish behavior, but thankfully that never happened. For both big kids, meeting their baby brother was literally love at first sight.

They were both smitten with their little brother and wanted to hold him all the time at first. We had to constantly remind them not to get in his face, only kiss his hands or his feet, give him some space – they were just smothering him with their love! It was very sweet to see how purely they bonded from the start.

I kind of expected the novelty to wear off and apathy (or a delayed jealousy) to set in eventually, but it hasn’t happened yet. They are patient and understanding when I need to be focusing my attention on him. They’re not as obsessed with holding him these days, but they still greet him every morning, kiss him good night, want to see him, be near him, watch him, and sing to him (melt. my. heart!)

Now that he’s more interactive, they like giving him baby toys to see if he’ll grasp them and they love trying to make him smile and laugh by doing silly things in front of him. I’m incredibly grateful that this part of the transition has been smooth sailing.

What has been harder than expected? What has been easier?

Justin and I obviously anticipated being outnumbered, but we didn’t really think about how being outnumbered translates to very little downtime. Previously, we were pros at the divide-and-conquer method: we’d each take a child and address their needs or just spend time with them one-on-one. We could also give each other breaks since one of us could take both kids to do something and the other would have time to themselves. Nowadays, the divide and conquer still happens but there’s not usually an “off” parent. A big example of this is bedtime; we previously took turns doing bedtime. Since LJ and Vi share a room, only one of us was needed for brushing teeth, reading books, and tucking in, so the other would get the night off. Now, we’re both doing bedtime every night – one of us has Ollie and the other has the big two.

When we do get “off” time to ourselves, we can feel kind of guilty or have a hard time truly enjoying the time because we know the other one has all three at once. Justin went hunting for a few days this fall; it’s a passion of his that I wanted him to enjoy AND it was really hard for me to be the “on” parent to three kids for all those extra hours. Justin gives me time to myself to read a book or go get a pedicure with a friend; he knows I need the mental break and is happy to give it to me AND it’s hard for him to take on all three after a long, exhausting day at work. We both truly want to give the other one the space and time we each need to recharge AND it’s just hard to take on extra hours with three kids. I will say, it’s getting a little easier with time so hopefully this is an area that keeps improving for us!

As for easier than expected, it’s been surprising to me to see how much I enjoy what I now call “me+three” outings. Starting when Ollie was five weeks old, I often take all three kids somewhere on Fridays – a playground or the zoo for example – and we have a little adventure. Somehow, these excursions have been way easier than I expected, and I think it’s for two reasons. One, I PREPARE. I take lots of snacks, full water bottles, and choose family-friendly locations where my kids can run and jump and get energy out (the grocery store is still decidedly NOT a fun place to take all three kids by myself). I choose times of day when we’re not yet tired and cranky and I go without a time limit – if we stay 30 minutes, it’s a win. If we stay 3 hours, it’s a win. It other words, it’s high-prep, but low pressure.

The second reason it’s easier than expected is because honestly, I have grown a lot as a mom over the past five years. I’m more confident and calm in most situations and am willing and able to just roll with most things these days. I also feel like I set myself up to say YES in these excursions and actually enjoy taking along a little picnic or staying at the stingray exhibit for 20 minutes. I’m proud of the growth I’ve seen in myself as a mom!

How is everyone’s sleep going?

It’s always a little hard to say this when you know other people are having rough times with sleep, but Ollie has been my absolute best sleeper. He was sleeping long stretches of 3-4 hours at just a week old and was fairly consistently sleeping through the night before he turned a month old. I did nothing significantly different with him, it’s just how he’s been. I realize we’re incredibly lucky and as I remember the first weeks with baby Vi cluster feeding round the clock every 60-90 minutes, I do not take that for granted.

Knowing he’s my last baby, I kept him in the bassinet in our room a little longer than I did with the other two, but at 10 weeks we moved him over to the crib in his nursery and the transition was smooth. If he does wake up, it’s usually just because he wants his pacifier popped back in although we do occasionally have to get up and feed him sometime between 3-5 am. For the most part, he sleeps from about 7 pm – 8 am. Hallelujah.

Now naps are a different story. With my first two kids, I could count on 3 regular naps that lasted over an hour each but Ollie mostly just cat naps. Fifteen minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes a randomly long hour nap, but nothing is regular. Part of that is we’re on the move a lot more and not home to put him down consistently so I think he’s never really had the chance to settle into a daytime sleep schedule. Luckily, he’s very adaptable and will take good naps in the car seat as we drive around or when pushed in the stroller so I count that as a win.

I also can’t talk about sleep without mentioning the older two and…woof. They’ve started having some nightmares and as the way lighter sleeper of the two of us, Justin is getting up with one or both of them nearly every night (and usually multiple times a night). I’m really hoping this improves soon!

Logistically, how do you travel? How is your vehicle arranged?

We have a van and we put the two big kids in the back seat and the infant car seat directly behind the driver. We collapsed the bucket seat on the passenger side down into the floor which is SO helpful for the kids getting in and out of the van and for me crawling in to help them get buckled. We actually have a road trip planned to Virginia in a couple weeks, which will be our first significant trip with all three so I’ll have to report back with how long travel goes!

Are you breastfeeding? How do you juggle the time commitment of feeding with the demands of other kids?

Our feeding journey has been a bit of a roller coaster actually. I breastfed my first two kids without issue (LJ for 13 months, Vi for 22 months) and expected to do the same this time. My milk came in right away and I had a great supply. I was confident and went along on my merry way.

I actually loved the first few weeks with a newborn at home. There was always another adult around so I would savor the time just him and me alone upstairs rocking and nursing and cuddling. Some of my sweetest memories!

At his two week check-up, we realized that something wasn’t right. He was still six ounces under birth weight. I was given the instructions to start pumping and supplementing with more milk to help him gain weight. I started working with a lactation consultant doing weighted feeds and we realized he was only transferring about an ounce total per feed AND my body had already adjusted to this lack of demand: my supply had gone way down. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was extremely frustrating to know that my supply had come in strong initially and had I just known to pump a bit from the beginning, I could’ve kept it up to where it needed to be. Instead, I was trying to breastfeed AND them pump AND work to try and build up my supply with extra hydration, lactation cookies, supplement drinks, etc.

I quickly went through the small stash of breastmilk I had accumulated as well as a stash a friend with an oversupply generously shared. I researched formulas and chose one to use in addition to breastmilk. At one point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, feeding him what I pumped, and giving formula to make up any deficit. It was exhausting and a little defeating because the truth is, Ollie just didn’t do well with breastfeeding. I worked with a lactation consultant for about eight weeks and gave it my best, but when things were only marginally improved (and the improvement had plateaued) by ten weeks, I made the decision to give up nursing. Everyone – my family, my lactation consultant, our pediatrician – was so supportive of this and I appreciate that not one person ever made me feel even slightly guilty about this. I was confident in my decision, but it did really help that there weren’t negative opinions being thrown at me.

Honestly, I thought this would be harder for me but I think because I had two good experiences breastfeeding my other babies, I know this isn’t something I did wrong. It’s just one of those things that didn’t work out for him and I was truly at peace giving it up at 10 weeks. I still continue to pump 2-3 times a day just to give him a bit of breastmilk but the majority of his nourishment now comes from formula.

As far as how I handle the time commitment of feeding with other kids around, it’s the same as it was when I was breastfeeding. They’re there! They like sitting right next to me as I feed him and now that there’s a bottle involved, they even sometimes want to help. I utilize screen time when necessary but they’ve pretty much adjusted to knowing when mommy is feeding they just need to wait. It is also really different having a 5 and 3 year old this time around – they can actually be (sort of) patient and wait if I’m feeding him. They can also bring me things I might need as I’m feeding him, like a burp cloth or diaper, or fulfill their own simple needs, like getting a glass of water or snack.

Having never really used bottles before, I had no idea what a time commitment it is to pump, wash pump parts, wash bottles, make sure you’re stocked on formula, make sure you have supplies for leaving the house . . . whew! It’s a whole different beast. When we moved to exclusive pumping + formula, I invested in the Elvie pump which is a game changer – it’s so SO nice for being able to pump and multitask with the other kids. I keep my pump parts in the fridge throughout the day so I don’t have to wash them each time and we have enough bottles to get us through at least half a day before needing to wash any. It makes a difference!

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep trying to pump or at what point I’ll move to 100% formula but for now I’m content with where we’ve landed.

Which was the most challenging transition: 0-to-1, 1-to-2, or 2-to-3?

Hands down, Justin and I agree that going from one child to two children was the most challenging transition for us. LJ and Vi are only 21 months apart and it sometimes felt like we had two babies – we had two in cribs, two in diapers, two non-verbal (LJ had some speech delays that started to resolve after he turned two). LJ had very few independent skills and still required close supervision in everything; the mental energy and physical demands of two-under-two felt like a lot, all the time. Needs were extra high and sleep was extra low. Obviously, any time you add another person to your family there are going to be unique challenges, but for us, that transition was the hardest.

How did you know you wanted to try for a third child?

I’m happy to share but I do want to first acknowledge: I know not everyone is able to time the gap between children or choose how many children they have. I have experienced pregnancy loss myself, and I always want to be sensitive to those who may be struggling with loss, infertility, or any other complicated factor in their parenthood journey. If you’re in a tough spot with this, I see you and am sending you a big virtual hug.

Justin and I always knew we wanted multiple kids, although when we got married he wanted three and I wanted four. After LJ, we were on the same page with wanting more and were ready at the same time – and along came Vi. At that point, our feelings for future children had shifted. As mentioned earlier, the transition from 1-2 children was SO incredibly tough on us. We originally thought we’d want all our kids close together in age but after Vi we knew we couldn’t do an < 2 year gap again. We tabled the discussion for more children until she turned one year old. At that point, Justin was really content with two and didn’t want to try for a third but I still really wanted to go for a third. We prayed, we talked, we went back and forth, back and forth, for another full year. We could each see the other’s point of view and understand the pros and cons each way, which actually made it more difficult I think. It was our ultimate analysis paralysis! In hindsight, I really wish we had seen a therapist – I think counseling would have absolutely helped us talk through our feelings/worries/hopes/dreams/etc and we would have saved ourselves a lot of cyclical discussions that went nowhere. Even though we didn’t do it, counseling is my #1 tip if you’re struggling to be on the same page with your partner on this.

We both agreed we did not want more than a 3 year gap between Vi and any younger sibling (nothing against bigger gaps, and I know it is amazing in some families – it’s just not what we wanted for ours for various reasons). As that date approached, we actually both came to the decision NOT to have a third. We were at peace with just two and decided not to try for more, final decision. A month or two went by and I just felt a nagging on my heart that would not quit. It’s like once I was truly telling myself we were done and it wasn’t going to happen, my heart kept nudging me to try. I went back to Justin and essentially say “hey, I know we agreed to be done but my heart just will not let this go and I really and truly feel like we need to at least try.” We talked, prayed again, and ultimately (finally!!) got on the same page.

We decided to try for a third, but only in a very specific, and pretty small, window. Essentially, we decided to try to the point where there would be a 3-year age gap and stop at that point. We both felt complete peace with this and truly believed that whatever happened was going to be the right decision for our family. We prayed quite a bit, and low and behold, we got pregnant. It was surprising to us that it actually happened but we both immediately felt like this baby was meant to be. After all that back and forth, in one moment it all just clicked into place.

We can both wholeheartedly say now that we cannot imagine our family without Ollie. This transition has had its ups and downs but we’re adjusting to life as a family of five and we wouldn’t have it ANY other way.

I am so so so so so incredibly and endlessly grateful for this family of mine.

A Toy Purge Experiment

Our playroom has gone through a few changes lately!

The playroom was the very first room we tackled in this house and since the initial update we’ve slowly been making other changes like swapping out the light fixture, adding chunky window trim, and building the play kitchen and dress up clothes rack. Two big projects remain: flooring and trim. My hope had been to first replace the carpet with a hardwood and then update the baseboards and trim with painted, chunkier versions; however, when Justin and I recently decided to delay the flooring project, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer to at least make the trim more cohesive with the space. While I didn’t replace it, I did paint the existing trim and that made a big difference!

I also planned to add a big, soft rug to the room once we put down hardwood but now I figured, why wait? When I saw this rug debut in the recent CLJ x Loloi launch I instantly knew I wanted it for the playroom. It’s perfect – and SO soft!

The other big change lately has been a pretty significant reduction of toys, and today I want to give a deeper dive into what I call “The Toy Purge Experiment.” Because truly, the room can be beautiful but that means nothing if it’s not actually functioning well – and for our family, it doesn’t function well when it’s too full of toys. After all, it’s a PLAYroom, not a TOYroom. Let me explain!

The Toy Purge Experiment

Last month, I read the book Simplicity Parenting (you can read my full review here) and it made a huge impact on me. The author, Kim John Payne, advocates for simplifying life in four major areas, one of which is the child’s environment. The biggest suggestion with simplifying environment was addressing toys, and I found myself very aligned with his perspective. It’s not just that I don’t like clutter and don’t want my entire house overrun with toys, but it’s also that the author and I both believe that kids actually need less in order to play more.

Over the years, I have talked openly and often about my desire to not let toys get out of control in our home. I’ve written blog posts like Finding Balance with Toys, Non-Toy Gift Ideas, Intentionally Gifting Toys with a Greater Purpose, Keeping the Playroom Manageable, How We Minimize Birthday Gifts, and Meaningful Gifting.

AND YET.

It’s been nearly five years of parenting, and toys have accumulated. Of course they have! Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, random gifts received from friends and loved ones, plus something I didn’t expect: all the trinkets that come with being in preschool. Seriously, I was not prepared for all the little things that come home with my children – prize box toys and small items in treat bags and novelty knickknacks in Valentine’s cards. And don’t even get me started on fast food kids’ meal toys or promotional toys from businesses and sports teams (whyyyyy are those necessary!?)

I know that our efforts over the years definitely helped keep things manageable, but things have slowly been spiraling. It happens! I’m honestly not mad about it either – I’m not trying to deprive my kids of the fun of a holiday treat bag or the joy of receiving gifts from people who love them. That being said, many of those toys don’t have a long rate of return. The prize box slinky gets bent out of shape. The cheap plastic holiday trinket gets broken. The cool racetrack toy is fun the first few times but it only does one thing so interest is quickly lost. These toys don’t actually produce play or spark meaningful joy anymore, but they contribute to the clutter and overwhelm of the playroom. These pictures may make it seem like the playroom was “fun” but what was actally happening was things were getting dumped out . . . and then were quickly abandoned or worse, not even really played with at all.

As Kim John Payne stated, “nothing in the middle of a heap can be truly valued.” It was time to remove the heap to let the valued toys be easily seen. Plus, the heaps were starting to spill out of the playroom and into all other areas of the house, and this mama does not thrive in that utter chaos!

Step One: The Purge

I’ve purged our playroom at various times throughout the years, but inspired by the book, I decided to go bigger than usual and see what happened. On a weekend where my kids were with their grandparents, I went through and analyzed every single toy in the playroom.

Anything that was broken or no longer worked well was an easy decision to get rid of. It was also pretty easy to remove the “young” toys that LJ and Vi have outgrown, though I saved a few for when Ollie gets older. I also removed anything we had duplicates of, even if it was something that is liked. Vi had five tutus in her dress up collection. She loves tutus! But she doesn’t need five options. Similarly, LJ still plays with matchbox cars on occasion, but he doesn’t need 15 of them. We don’t need seven puzzles that are pretty similar to one another or ten sensory balls. I also had to come to terms with the fact that some toys I got that I really liked weren’t actually toys that my kids played with. So out they went.

Step Two: Donate

The toys all got donated – my sister works for a school for young children with disabilities and she was thrilled to receive toys and puzzles to take to her classroom. It made me happy (in a way that probably shows that I grew up watching Toy Story) to see these things get to move on and find new life with other kids who will love and use them. Dress up clothes, which were mostly duplicates or things Vi has outgrown, were donated to a thrift store so another little girl can hopefully enjoy them.

The exceptions were what I call “the just-in-case favorites.” I decided to make some bold choices and remove some toys that were still considered “favorites.” For example, Vi is obsessed with Frozen and loves Elsa. But she had three Elsa dolls and that felt so excessive to me. I decided to remove one even though she still regularly played with it. (To be completely honest, I removed the one that I personally found to be the most annoying because it sings the same song over and over!) I also removed a few things that did still get played with, but that didn’t encourage much creativity or imagination (i.e. fixed toys). Rather than donate them, I kept these “favorite” items in a cabinet just in case this came back to bite me and a child was distraught over a missing toy. I didn’t want to get rid of something they really and truly valued. But guess what? It’s been almost six weeks since the purge and there has not been ONE. SINGLE. REQUEST. for these toys. Not even one comment about the missing Elsa! I’ll admit I’m shocked, but maybe I shouldn’t be.

Step Three: Let the Open-Ended PLAY begin!

My kids did not make a single comment about the playroom feeling empty. They haven’t said one word about any of the missing toys, favorites or not, but what they have done is PLAY. In fact, they’ve “re-discovered” some toys that they hadn’t played with much lately! I specifically chose to keep things like Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles, and Legos. These toys inspire building, creating, and imagination and it’s been so fun to see my kids focus in more on those things.

I also kept a wide variety of items to mix and match play in the dress up collection and play kitchen area – my kids invent play scenarios with these things daily! In our house, fewer open-ended toys will always trump a multitude of fixed toys that only do one or two things.

I truly feel like they’re playing more frequently because they’re not overwhelmed by choices. When there’s fewer options in front of them, it’s easier to see toys and select something that seems fun. In our experience, it hasn’t led to boredom; they are still playing and coming up with new things to do every day. And as a bonus: the playroom stays contained much more easily and is quicker to clean up. A win-win-win for this mama!

Step Four: Plan for the Future/Maintain

Things feel great for us right now, but more is coming. LJ’s birthday is in about a month, and Christmas comes a month after that. I’m trying to be intentional about what we ask for, but also, I’m not going to be super controlling over this. My kids have a say in what they ask for, and toys are a big part of that (I wouldn’t have it any other way!) So I may steer them towards choices of open-ended toys, but ultimately, I’m sure they’ll get a variety. That’s okay! I plan to do a mini purge right before Christmas and maybe I’ll try to involve them in that one. Now that I’ve seen that they really don’t miss the toys that aren’t there, I know I’ll be able to do smaller edits of the room over time to help keep things manageable.

While it can seem like you’re depriving your kids if you don’t allow for tons of toys, I really and truly believe giving the gift of play actually comes from having fewer, more intentional, choices. If you’re wanting to try this but not sure if you can commit, start with the things you KNOW your kids never play with. Keep them in a cabinet and see if the absence is noticed. Give yourself a length of time (one month, six weeks, three months, etc) and if your child hasn’t requested it by then, you can feel good about donating it. I also know people who never have all their toys out at once – they’ll have some out and some in a cabinet and will rotate through toys so things feel new and fresh. Maybe that type of toy-cycling feels better for you. Regardless, I would encourage you to give editing down the number of toys in your home a try! Like me, you too might find that less really is more when you simplify the chaos. 😉

Six Weeks as a Family of Five

I’ve popped onto the blog sporadically over the past six weeks, but mostly I gave myself this time as a maternity leave. For these past six-and-a-half weeks, I took off time from my job, I paused or greatly reduced my volunteer commitments, and I cut back on my time spent on the Simplify the Chaos blog and social media. In other words, I actually simplified the chaos of life and reduced my days to one major purpose: adjusting myself and my family to life as a family of five.

It’s been wonderful to have this time off, but I’m feeling ready to ease back into more things, including this blog. Last week I shared a Day in our Life and that gave a pretty accurate look into our life right now, but today I thought I’d give more of an overview of the past six weeks. Fair warning: this is a mammoth post! Since ultimately, this blog serves as a type of journal for myself and the things I want to remember in the future, I decided to just accept the length. Grab a coffee, get comfy, and settle in!

Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Photography

I shared Ollie’s birth story here – I had a scheduled c-section that went according to plan and spent the next 2.5 days recovering in the hospital. We had a great hospital stay but were ready to get home and settle in. I felt such contentment in the first few weeks of his life – knowing he is our last baby made me want to just savor everything as much as I could.

Thanks to having lots of help from Justin and our two sets of parents, I was able to spend the mornings sleeping in (after being up in the night) and snuggling with Ollie. We have a rocking recliner set up next to the bassinet in our room and I spent many mornings just sitting there with him; I often wouldn’t emerge from our room until like 9 am or so. I have specific memories of just feeling so content and happy – I’d finish breastfeeding and just gently rock with skin-to-skin snuggles as the warm morning light filtered in through the nearby windows. Truly some of the most fulfilling memories of early motherhood I have and I’m extremely grateful!

Mr. Ollie

Ollie is a super sweet baby. I personally think he’s a pretty chill newborn – there is obviously still a certain level of crying and fussing that we expected, but overall he has been content and easy going.

From day one, he has been a good sleeper. Even in the hospital he was snuggly and hardly ever cried. He started giving us long stretches of sleep at like, 10 days old, and has been pretty consistent ever since. Of course we’ve had some rough nights where he’s up more often, but I’m typically only getting up 1-2 times a night with him which has been a wonderful surprise.

As a third-born child, we needed him to kind of just slide into the family and go with the flow. He started tagging along to swimming lessons and daddy’s softball games and various errands in his very first week of life and has been an absolute trooper from the beginning.

He almost always falls asleep in the car seat as he is shuttled around to preschool drop-off/pick-up, gymnastics, church, grocery shopping, and other events. He takes it all in stride and has been a sweet little tagalong.

Around the house, he naps fairly well if I put him down, but I also like to carry him around in my Solly baby wrap. Sometimes he naps, other times he squirms, but I do love wearing him around as I get things done around the house. I love this picture Vi took of us swinging on the porch swing with him in the wrap. ❤

One area we’re struggling in a bit is with breastfeeding, but I’ve been working with a lactation consultant and I’m confident we will get to a good place with this as well. I’m grateful that Ollie takes a bottle well, which allows Justin to help with feeding when he’s home. It’s been quite the journey and while I am not quite ready to go into details with this, I anticipate sharing more about our feeding journey at some point in the future.

Sibling Love

The two older kids have been truly amazing with this transition. I expected tantrums and regressions, I expected jealousy and sibling rivalry, I expected the initial excitement/novelty of a baby to wear off and they’d be over it and ready to send him back to the belly . . . I mentally prepared myself for struggles and a hard transition but none of that happened. The kids have been smitten since they first met Ollie. Just look at the first moment they saw him:

Initially, they both wanted to hold him all the time. After a few days, LJ’s interest in holding him kind of faded but Vi still was really into it. Then after a couple weeks, she stopped asking for it quite as much too.

Now, they ask to hold him every once in a while, and particularly like to practice holding him while standing up (with close adult supervision), but mostly they just want to love on him. First thing in the morning, they come into my room and head straight to his bassinet to check him out. Throughout the days, they want to know what he’s doing and where he is and if it’s at all possible, they want to be touching him in some way.

They love to be close to him. They’re constantly wanting to hug him and kiss him or touch his little hands or feet. I often have to remind them to give him space, especially when he’s trying to nap and they’re trying to bombard him with love. Whether he’s snuggled in his bassinet or tucked in the car seat or breastfeeding on the couch, they are not short on affection for him!

When Vi was born, LJ was only 21 months old. He was practically a baby himself: mostly nonverbal, in diapers, needing help and supervision for almost every task and heavily dependent on me. This time, the kids are older and more capable and actually helpful! They will bring me my Haaka when I’m breastfeeding. They can grab me a diaper/wipes/burp cloth/whatever I need from another room. If Ollie starts fussing, they’ll pop his pacifier back in. They can complete simple tasks like getting their own water and filling it up or grabbing a snack without needing my help. Obviously, they still have their own needs for my help too but it’s just so nice to have older kids who can be somewhat independent and helpful in this newborn stage.

They also like to bring him toys to tuck around him while he’s sleeping or breastfeeding – so sweet! Now I’ll be honest, while I’m so glad the kids love him and have adjusted well, there have been some major challenges to moving to three kids and we’ve had our fair share of struggles and learning curves. I’m planning a blog post that details more on the transition for us going from 2 to 3 kids and will share more there, but just know it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows.

Our Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and we have been SO grateful for ours. I don’t share any of the following to brag, and I know we are lucky to live near some family and have other family willing to travel. I just want to be honest and give credit where credit is due: this transition time would absolutely have looked different had we not had the generous support of many people and we are incredibly thankful.

I’ve already shared how multiple friends came through in watching the big two when we unexpectedly had to change childcare plans right before giving birth to Ollie. We also had invaluable help from both sets of our parents who came to stay with us (mine for 8 days, then Justin’s for 10) and provide help with meals, cleaning, diaper changes, allowing me to nap (!!!), and especially taking care of the older two kids. (I actually think that is part of the reason the kids did so well with the transition – even once Ollie was home, there were enough adults around to give them plenty of focused love and attention.) I really appreciated having extra hands around so I could focus my energies the first few weeks on recovery, breastfeeding, and bonding with Ollie.

We also had many friends offer to bring us meals, and a meal train was set up to begin after our parents all left. It has been SUCH a gift to have the mental load of figuring out meals to feed our family taken away, especially on the days where it feels like I just move from child to child taking care of needs and don’t have time to think about much else! These sweet people in our lives are not only bringing delicious food, but also just this incredible feeling of love and support and we’re so so grateful.

My Recovery

I think this has been my best physical postpartum recovery yet. Once I left the hospital, I stopped taking my heavy pain medication and then at about a week postpartum, I stopped needing to even take Ibuprofen. I wasn’t trying to be superwoman; I truly felt good and didn’t feel the need for medication. I hesitate to even share this because I know not everyone’s experience is the same and truly, MY OWN experience hasn’t been the same each time. Recovery after LJ’s birth was ROUGH and I was in a ton of pain for a while, so I’m very grateful this time was better.

I think there are probably a lot of factors that helped this time around: lots of help so I wasn’t needing to overexert myself, getting up and active early on by taking gentle walks pushing Ollie’s bassinet down the hospital halls, and also, I think my body kind of remembered this process and what to do. I also gave myself grace to listen to my body – if I felt good, I did more and if I felt tired, I took it easy. Again, this was only possible because I had help from others in the first few weeks. Once all the grandparents left and Justin went back to work (he saved his days off for after they went home), I was almost a month postpartum and had recovered enough to be able to keep up with the kids well. Since we had slashed ALL unnecessary commitments and preschool hadn’t started yet, I had time to slowly adjust to a 3-on-1 dynamic during the days. And when Justin isn’t working and is home, he’s super involved with taking the older two kids so I have time with Ollie, or has even taken all three for periods of time so I can rest or get things done. It all helps!

Now at six weeks, I’m going to start easing back into gentle exercise for my body and scar massage at my incision site. I feel good and ready to do more!

Mentally, I’ve had periods of ups and downs. I’ve been overcome with gratitude, love, and contentment AND I’ve also been overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated. I’m trying my best to remind myself that the roller coaster of emotions and hormone shifts is so normal, but there have definitely been tough moments.

I know this is likely my longest post to date so I’m going to wrap it up, but I do want to give a little shout out to two other major things that happened in the last six weeks:

Vi’s 3rd Birthday!

Our sweet Vi turned 3 years old in August and we had her birthday party 10 days after Ollie was born. We invited our family and I had a few simple decorations: our usual Happy Birthday banner, two large balloons, and a princess cake. I picked up an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and they just so happened to have one with Disney princess rings on top – it was absolutely perfect for our princess-loving girl! I added a ton of fun sprinkles and three big candles on top and she was absolutely thrilled.

Vi is so much fun to surprise – she is easy to please and gets excited for everything. She is just as joyful getting a ring pop as she is getting a big present and it was a blast to see her eyes light up and hear her delighted squeals with each gift. I especially enjoyed that LJ wanted to get her a little gift (he picked out nail polish for her!) and he was genuinely excited for her to open presents and feel celebrated.

We loved celebrating our girl! She is sweet and spunky and adventurous and wild and just the most fun three-year-old I know.

Preschool Began

LJ and Vi both started preschool a couple weeks ago! We were all ready to start some sort of routine and the start of the year has gone so well.

They both love their teachers and are making new friends and I’m grateful to have some one-on-one time with Ollie in the mornings while they’re at school.

WHEW!! If you’ve stuck around this long, I’m impressed. It’s hard to squeeze in such a monumental six weeks of life into a blog post, but I’m glad to have all this documented to look back on someday. The days are long but the years really are so short. Ollie already has lost his newborn baby look and things change in what seem like the blink of an eye. This six weeks has been full of ups, downs, love, support, challenges, triumphs, and so much gratitude. I am thankful for this life and this family of five and want to savor every stage as best I can.

A Day in the Life {9.9.22}

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

September 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had another visitor during the bottle portion of this feed!

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

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

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

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

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

while I did another round of dishes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a full day!

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

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

February 13, 2021

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

June 2, 2022

My Postpartum Mama Favorites

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

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

Nipple Butter

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

Sculpt and Recovery Postpartum Leggings

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

Postpartum Support Bloomers

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

Compression Socks

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

C-Section Cream

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

Rechargeable Book Light

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

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

Baby #3: Third Trimester Update

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

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

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

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

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

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

My Preparations

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

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

LJ and Vi’s Awareness

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

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

What I’m Looking Forward To

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

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