Today’s blog post is a special one – this weekend my youngest sister turns 27 (on the 27th – golden birthday!) and I wanted to take some time to give her a shout out. So if you’re not Ruthie, feel free to skip this one 😉
Ruthie is the biggest, most loyal supporter of my blog. She refreshes my site daily to look for new posts, she is always super encouraging, she gives me ideas for new posts, she finds my typos, she celebrates milestones and cheers me on every step of the way. Simply put, she’s my ultimate hype woman and it only feels right to surprise her when she refreshes the site today with a post about her.
I feel very lucky to have the type or relationship where Ruthie is not only my sister but one of my best friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, we talk multiple times a week and are very much a part of each other’s lives. Ruthie is a safe space for me to be wholly myself and I can share my stresses, triumphs, failures, worries, joys, and everything in between with her. She’s supportive, she’s non-judgemental, she’s thoughtful, she’s compassionate, and she’s always willing to give perspective when I need it or just listen when I don’t.
Ruthie is an intentional friend, sister, daughter, and aunt. She sends my kids little notes in the mail and makes sure they feel special and loved even from afar and it makes my heart so full!
Ruthie is also the life of the party. She’s energetic, she’s outgoing, and she can make friends with absolutely anyone. She’s just a fun person to be around. To know her is to love her, and man do I love her.
Happy birthday Squirt. You’re one of my favorite humans on this planet and I hope your weekend is as golden as you are. ❤
On Friday, I turned 32! I’m one of those people who love their birthday and if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen all my birthday week updates in stories. I love getting flowers, wine, chocolate, cards, phone calls . . . it doesn’t have to be big and fancy, but I love celebrating and I love the warmth and appreciation that I feel with each birthday wish. It always feels a little extra special when my birthday falls on a Friday, so today I’m recapping my birthday weekend since I love using this blog as a way to document our life.
Note: I’m going to be sharing photos and talking about different activities we did. I’m not going to include the many many many times we wore a mask, used hand sanitizer, washed our hands, made sure to socially distance, etc. Navigating life during covid involves a lot of things and rest assured, we were very conscious and took precautions with everything we did. Just because it’s not easy to see in a blog post doesn’t mean it didn’t happen ❤
Friday afternoon, my parents came to pick up the kids and take them for the weekend. My parents were so excited for time with their grandkids, my kids were so excited for special time with grandma and grandpa, and I was SO excited for a few adults-only days. It was a wonderful gift!
Friday night, Justin and I went out to dinner with a few friends at one of my favorite restaurants downtown. It was a nice day so we could enjoy patio seating and it was so fun to have a delicious meal and a night out. Afterwards we went to get ice cream and ran in to a few other friends unexpectedly so it ended up being a fun little hang out on picnic tables outside.
Saturday morning we got to sleep in (heavenly!) and I got a quick bike ride in on our stationary bike. I love morning workouts but it’s hard with little kids so it was a treat to get to take my time today. We got ready and headed down to Indianapolis for the day. First stop, Ikea! I drew some serious inspiration from their displays. Just look at this gorgeous green kitchen!
I had so much fun participating in the One Room Challenge for our basement kitchen that I’ve decided to join again for the fall challenge. I’m going to tackle our our office, and while I’m still working out a few details, I knew I wanted to do built-ins along one wall. Online it said the cabinets I wanted were out of stock but we asked the lady in store and she had the exact amount we needed – it felt like a birthday gift haha! She drew everything up in their program which was awesome to see and get absolutely everything we needed. I’m so excited to get started!
After Ikea, we picked up lunch from a place called Thaitanium (delicious!) and headed over to our friend’s house to eat lunch with them. They recently adopted twin boys and we haven’t had a chance to meet them yet. It was so nice to get to catch up with them and meet their boys!
We didn’t have plans for the rest of the day – our only goal was to explore and have some fun! We utilized the bike sharing program to rent bikes (our favorite way to navigate new cities!) and biked in and around downtown.
Once we got to monument circle, we decided to trade in our bikes for electric scooters – while initially this was pretty stressful for me (there’s a bit of a learning curve to balancing and the scooters go so fast!), once I got the hang of it, they were so much fun! We ended up scootering all over the cultural trail which was a fun way to explore the city.
My favorite place to explore was around the canal. It’s beautiful and peaceful! I of course had to take the most touristy picture possible. 😉
On our way back downtown we stopped in at a place called The Whit, which is an adult arcade. Lots of fun retro games to try out! I was impressed by all the covid precautions they had in place there and we enjoyed getting to play some very old but new to us games.
We started to get hungry so we headed back to Mass Ave to walk around and find a place to eat. The vibe of this street is so fun – lots of patio seating, people walking and biking around, pedal taverns (Justin made friends with some guy on a passing one which was pretty hilarious), etc. It’s just a fun place to go! We ended up grabbing some pizza at a place called Goodfellas and eating out on the patio while people watching. Then we slowly meandered back down Mass Ave, grabbed some more bikes, and headed back to our car to head home.
Initially, we thought we might stay overnight in Indy but I’m so glad we headed home instead. Sunday morning was so relaxing – we got to sleep in, watch church online without the distraction of two small children, and I got to lounge and read a new book while Justin went to pick up the kids. There is something so great about just getting to chill at home without worrying about a to-do list. It was such a nice, refreshing, restful day and the perfect way to cap off a great weekend!
I am undoubtedly a blessed woman. I’m so thankful for all of the past 32 years – the ups, downs, good days, bad days. They all led me right here and I am so thankful for each and every day. Cheers to the next 32 years!
When Justin and I first became parents, we decided to make a conscious effort to minimize the amount of stuff we accumulated. The baby/kid market is oversaturated with things and from the very beginning we’ve tried to be very intentional with what comes into our home. Yes to a breastfeeding pillow. No to a baby bathtub. Yes to a baby carrier. No to a wipe warmer. Amid all the decisions like those, it really wasn’t too challenging to avoid stocking up on toys at first – a few books, a couple rattles, a wubbanub (we had no idea how beloved that thing would become!) and we were good to go.
As LJ grew, we started to accumulate a few more toys. We rarely bought him anything, but he would get occasional gifts from grandparents and receive a few things around the holidays. I wrote this blog post about two years ago and showed all the toys we had during his first year of life and how I stored them and kept them manageable. (Look at baby LJ! Where does the time go?! Also, notice the musical lion walker – we’ll circle back to that in a bit).
We’ve slowly added to our toy collection over the past two years as LJ’s interests have grown and changed and we added another baby to our family. While we obviously have more now than we did then, it still feels very manageable. Today I thought I’d share some of the things I do to keep our playroom from becoming overwhelming. I definitely don’t have all the answers or think this is the only way to do things – these are just the things that work well for our family to keep our playroom a fun space where everything gets used!
Low-key holidays and birthdays. For each of our children’s first birthdays, we asked for no gifts (read about LJ’s here and Vi’s here). Honestly no judgement here if you love gifts for your one-year-old, but asking for donations to different organizations in lieu of gifts was a great alternative for us. Then for LJ’s second birthday, we got him one big gift (a train table) and had our families decorate their own train car as their gifts to him. This was a great option for making his day special without going overboard.
Obviously, there will come a time when our kids have opinions and desires for their birthday gifts and we will honor that, but when they’re this little, it’s nice to keep birthdays very simple and intentional.
We’re not at all opposed to gifts or toys and Christmas is always a fun time for our relatives, particularly our parents, to gift things to our kids. I’ve previously blogged about how we usually ask for things like non-toy gifts and experiences or toys with a greater purpose (looking for toys that either support a small business, are made in the USA, are sustainable, use proceeds to support a cause we believe in, etc). These types of gifts do sometimes cost more, which means our children might get fewer gifts, but that is okay with us. We’d rather have fewer things that are meaningful than a bunch of stuff just for the sake of more. Do our kids still get toys and gifts outside these lists? Of course. I’m not going to stress myself or my relatives out with being too vigilant about this. It stops being fun when we try too hard – we just do the best we can.
Borrow (and return!) Toys. I am a big fan of swapping toys and baby gear with friends. There are so many things that your child only uses for a short window of time, so instead of cluttering up your house or filling up your storage spaces, see if anyone you know could make use of something. Remember that musical lion walker from earlier? That belongs to a friend of ours. Our kids are alternating ages, so when their oldest was done with it, we borrowed it for LJ. Then we gave it back when LJ was done so their second child could use it. Then when their second outgrew it, we borrowed it again for Vi. We used this same system for their rock n play, and we’ve borrowed a few other things over the years like a musical activity center and the beaded maze toy you see below.
We’ve also lent things like our baby swing, bassinet, and slumberpod out to friends and family as well. Toy and baby gear sharing is such an awesome way to save money, space, and sanity! You’re not only not spending a ton of money on ALL this stuff that will likely only get used for a short period of time; it’s also more sustainable and helps keep your homes less cluttered because you’re not storing a bunch of unused stuff in the interim between children. Win, win, win!
And on the topic of borrowing toys, I also “gifted” LJ three library books for Christmas last year. I chose three I knew he’s love, we read them a ton in our three week loan window, and then returned them. He had gotten enjoyment out of them and it didn’t result in permanent clutter. Score!
Purge Regularly.Even with borrowing toys and being intentional with gifts, we still accumulate more over time, so it’s important to regularly check in and assess what you have to make sure it’s manageable. At the end of the day, I like to be able to clean up ALL the toys and restore order to the playroom (and all the other rooms toys have migrated to) in under five minutes. Now, if every toy – every single block, train, ball, book, etc. – was taken out of its storage container and was strewn about multiple rooms around the house, it would definitely take me longer than five minutes to clean up. That’s okay though because that situation is rare; normally, not every toy gets played with every day. I want the average, everyday toy mess to be manageable and for me, that means able to be cleaned up in five minutes or less.
Anything that is broken or damaged gets fixed or removed. I also remove things that don’t get played with. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes it’s a toy that you spent a decent amount of money on or it’s something that you think is adorable and wish your child wanted to play with or it’s a gift someone else gave. Ultimately though, if your child never plays with it, it’s just taking up space and there is likely another child out there who would love to actually play with it. If it’s been several months since it’s been chosen to play with, it’s time to find a new home. I just collect and donate these items to a local charity. I do keep a small amount of baby toys, but I really try not to keep too much because honestly, babies typically prefer to play with the toddler stuff anyways.
When I see something that fits in one of the above categories, I usually take it out then and there. But sometimes, I need to sit down and spend time just going through what we have and taking out things we don’t use. By doing this regularly, it keeps things super manageable and keeps it from getting too overwhelming.
Lately I had been feeling like our playroom was a little too much to handle. It was starting to take longer to clean up, and even when it was all cleaned up it still felt cluttered. So I spent about 15 minutes going through the room – we returned the toys we had borrowed from friends, I took down the pack n play from one corner (I used to corral Vi in there), and I took out the toys that the kids don’t play with. I also took out this plant because seriously…what was I thinking? Oy vey.
Our playroom now feels fresh and spacious again and we still have plenty of toys to play with. In this case, less really does feel like more! More space, more time not spent cleaning, more time spent playing because we’re not overwhelmed with too many choices. ❤
What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your playroom manageable?
At the beginning of the year I shared my “20 for 2020” goals and since we’re already over halfway (what!?) through 2020 it felt like a good time to check in with how the list is going. I do these lists every year in lieu of resolutions and it makes for a fun way to set some goals and see progress happen over the year.
When I first wrote this list I obviously did not know that we were headed for a global pandemic with months of social distancing – I probably would have chosen to put a few more house projects and a few less “let’s hang out with people” goals ha! Even though some goals aren’t possible to do right now, it is still fun to look at all I have been able to do this year, and it gives me some other things to continue to look forward to someday!
20 for 2020 Goals
1 – Plan a dreamy office/reading room. I’ve made definite progress on this goal! We have a room in our house that is currently a hot mess of random storage but I dream of it being a gem. I’ve started mapping out the plan for the room and working on a projected budget and timeline and it’s making me really excited for this project! I had so much fun participating in the One Room Challenge with my basement kitchen renovation that I’m thinking about doing this room during the ORC’s fall challenge in October. Stay tuned!
2- Select pictures for family photo albums. I was really hoping to have at least started in on this, but alas, I have not.
3 – Create family photo albums Since the photos aren’t selected, I have obviously not created the albums.
4 – Update the Simplify the Chaos website Done! I updated all the homepage’s menu tabs and I feel like it a much better navigational resource now. Now I just need to keep them updated as I add more and more content to the blog…
5 – Replace basement carpet. We made some strides towards this – we looked at carpet samples and had someone out here to measure the basement and give us a quote. However, COVID-19 hit and it just wasn’t the right time to have people over to our house to get work done. Then our A/C system died in June and we ended up having to replace the entire furnace. Pandemic + huge house expense + no one is hanging out in our basement anyways right now = this project is officially relegated to the back burner for the foreseeable future.
That being said I do have BIG NEWS on the basement front! You might remember that one of my “19 for 2019” goals was to get rid of the big ugly brown recliner from Justin’s college days and it didn’t happen last year. I’m happy to report that Justin finally gave me the green light to sell it and it went to its new home last week! Whoo hoo!
6 – Update book recommendations list. Done! You can check out the updated post of my top book recommendations here.
7 – Get a dip manicure. Haven’t done this yet, and I’m honestly not sure when I’ll feel comfortable enough to go to the nail salon. My birthday is in September, so depending on what COVID-19 is doing at that point, that might be a good time to check this one off the list!
8 – Invest in footwear with a purpose. I haven’t updated any part of my wardrobe this year because I’m not going anywhere ha! This goal is still really important to me and I’m on the hunt for a great pair of ethical shoes.
9 – Try at least 5 brand new (to me) foods. I was hoping to try a bunch of new foods on our trip to New Orleans, but that got cancelled due to coronavirus. We haven’t really been branching out with food since we’re just staying at home but I did try some of my dad’s homemade spicy Thai noodles for the first time and they were delicious!
10 – Set up a 529 for Vi. Done!
11 – Read 60 books. I have 37 books read so far this year and I definitely think I’ll meet this goal!
12 – Take a continuing education class. Not done, but I’ve started this process. I have looked into a few different options, and I’m working on narrowing down and choosing a class. One silver lining of the pandemic is there are a LOT of online options being offered right now which is just what I need. I hope to take a class during the fall semester.
13 – Host a big summer party. Well if ever there was a goal that didn’t anticipate a global pandemic, it’s this one. While we won’t get the big summer bash we hoped for, we have started to host small outdoor gatherings with a few friends. We stay outside and use the patio and pond – I’m very thankful that we’re able to have little get-togethers while keeping safe practices in place. This weekend my family is coming out to our house for a day of grilling, swimming, yard games, etc. and I’m really looking forward to that so it will count as our “big” summer party this year 😉
14 – Update Vi’s room. Done! I did a very simple scalloped accent wall and added a little gallery wall of artwork and now it feels fresh and fun and just right for our baby girl.
15 – Plan a family staycation. Ugh. This very week is the week that Justin took time off work (months ago) so that we could have a little summer staycation . . . but, pandemic. We are still going to enjoy lots of family time outdoors and we’re going to try to find at least one new-to-us park or nature walk in the area for our little family to explore outside. We will make the most of it!
16 – Take LJ to swimming lessons. I was planning to sign him up in the spring, but once again, COVID-19 had other plans. LJ has really taken to using his life jacket vest (similar to this one) and does a great job with it; however, I still want to enroll him in swimming lessons as soon as it feels safe to do.
17 – Create something. This was a really vague goal of mine at the beginning of the year, but I do feel like I have been able to stretch some creative muscles, particularly with home projects. Things like our using date night to build DIY shelves, making over an old dresser, tricking out the Secret Nook, and renovating the basement kitchen (especially painting the tile floors and counter top!) have been a fun way for me to channel creativity while staying home. And I’m definitely not done creating!
18 – Have professional family photos taken. We had a professional photographer scheduled to come out to our house in April…you see where this is going. #pandemic
19 – Actually use my InstantPot. I still haven’t touched this thing. I’m not sure what that says about how successful this goal will be – if I don’t use it in the middle of a pandemic where all of our meals are at home, will I ever use it? Time will tell. (If you have any great Instant Pot recipes, please send them my way!)
20 – Host at least 4 game nights. We did have one game night with my parents when they came to stay overnight with us. That isn’t exactly the type of game night I was envisioning but since this year is so crazy I will count it!
It feels insufficient to describe 2020 as a roller coaster – this year has truly been unlike any other year I have ever experienced. It is definitely not one I will ever forget, and it will be interesting to see what the second half of the year brings.
Justin’s parents rent a beach house in the Virginia Beach area every other year, and this year we were scheduled to go. They had booked the house back in 2019 . . . and then, the pandemic hit. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go but after closely monitoring the situation and discussing the options with our family (Justin’s parents and siblings), we all agreed to keep the vacation. I know everyone is in a different situation right now at I want to be sensitive to that – so much depends on the area you’re in (the infection rate, the current recommendations and regulations), the health needs of your family, the precautions you can still put in place, etc. We’re all just doing the best we can with the information we have. We were very familiar with the area we were traveling to and felt confident we could keep things socially distanced from those outside the family. We stayed well over six feet away from others on the beach and didn’t leave our house other than to walk across the street to the beach or go for bike rides. We either made all our meals at home or got carryout. It was definitely a little different from “normal” years, but we still had a great time and I’m very thankful we were able to go!
I really wanted to unplug a bit and focus on family time, so I didn’t have my phone on me very often. It was absolutely wonderful to just be present in a moment instead of try to document every single one. Because of this, I have a ton of memories, but not a ton of photos. Today I just wanted to share a few snippets of moments that were captured throughout the week. As you can see, it was full of lots of family time and outdoor adventures!
Justin and I celebrated our anniversary (seven years!) on the 22nd with a kid-free date night: a bike ride to get some carry-out ice cream! SO thankful I get to do life with this man.
The kids got really into digging in the sand and one day they dug a faux “pool” with help from Justin and his brother. LJ and his cousin, who is only four months younger, loved playing in their mini ocean after it filled up with water from the tide.
LJ got really into finding shells on the beach and designated mommy as his treasure-holder. There is something so sweet about being a boy mama ❤
I am a minimalist, “let’s-take-as-little-as-possible-out-to-the-beach” kind of person, but a collapsible beach tent is absolutely worth it as something to take. It folds up small, is lightweight, and provides a shaded, sand-free area when kids need to take a break (or babies need to nap)! I got this one at Aldi two years ago and it came in so handy throughout the week both on the beach and at the pool.
Vi got her ten month photos taken on the beach. She was such a trooper all week and loved getting to experience the sand and ocean for the first time!
The best part of the whole week was watching my kids with their grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins. Justin’s parents and siblings all live within five minutes of one another, and it’s hard for us to be the family that lives far away, which makes trips like these even more important to us. It is so wonderful getting to see our kids develop relationships with everyone and this week of concentrated family time definitely helped them strengthen their bonds. This was the first in-person visit where LJ could say everyone’s name and associate names with faces and it was just the sweetest thing to see him make those connections. And all the cousins playing together all week was just so sweet!
I already can’t wait until the next time we can be together!
I’ve been participating in Erika and Shay‘s monthly “Let’s Look” posts and this month’s topic was sharing how we can make sure we’re encouraging racial equality at home. I’m excited that they chose to adjust the prompt based on current events, and use this as a chance to share some of the things on my heart.
Last week started a long journey of really taking the time to listen to the voices of others, reflect on my own implicit biases, privileges, and underlying racism, and apply what I’ve learned in my own life and beyond. I realized that it is not enough to be “not racist,” but I need to actively work to be anti-racist. And I am ashamed to say that I was not previously doing this well. This past week was a much needed wake-up call and I can honestly say that it was transformative for me. I know I’m not going to do this perfectly, and I’m probably going to say or do the wrong thing some times, but I am committed to working through the discomfort because this is too important.
Fix It: Starting with Myself
I have been sharing a lot of posts and videos that I have found to be valuable, eye-opening, and challenging on my Instagram stories. I created a highlight bubble titled “BLM” (let’s be clear: that stands for Black Lives Matter, because they absolutely DO matter) that you can click on and see everything I shared there, but if you’re not on Instagram, here are a few videos in particular that made a huge impact on me over the past week:
I believe it is extremely important to specifically seek out and listen to Black voices right now, but this video was powerful too and really made me hold up a mirror to myself.
It can be overwhelming and difficult to know what to do and where to start with all the information out there right now. This article, 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, gives a lot of great suggestions and is a helpful place to begin. Following accounts like @theconsciouskid (parenting and education through a critical race lens) and racial justice educators like @austinchanning and @rachel.cargle has provided me with a lot of insight, perspective, and additional resources and I am learning so much.
And speaking of social media, I realized in looking at my feed that the VAST majority of content creators I followed were white. I saw someone someone say something like “when you are the one constantly elevated, you have no idea what the view from the other side looks like” – I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even really notice the lack of representation in what I consumed and that in itself is very telling of my privilege. I didn’t want to follow a ton of random people just for the sake of a diverse feed (plus it doesn’t help accounts to have followers who don’t interact with them), but I intentionally sought out accounts that I enjoy and want to see content from. I love following home design accounts and have started following people like @prettyrealblog, @carmeon.hamilton, @joystreetdesign, @sgardnerstyle, @grillodesigns, @homemadebycarmona, and @dwellbycheryl – not just because they are Black but because I love their style! I also appreciate the financial wisdom I’ve gained from @thebudgetnista, the encouragement given by @seekwisdompcw, the beautiful and inspirational graphics produced by @ohhappydani, and the powerful videos created by @themanacho. Diversifying my feed has been such a simple, yet powerful change to make and I’m never going back.
It’s no secret around here that I love to read, so books are another place I am focusing my energy. Back in February, I read I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness and it was just announced as the next pick for Reese’s Book Club! If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly highly recommend it. It was such a powerful, challenging memoir. I have maxed out my holds on the library wait list with titles that include White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Stamped from the Beginning, and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. I have joined a book club group for How to Be An Anti-Racist and I’m excited for the challenge and learning that I’m sure will come from those discussions. In addition, I’m making a conscious effort to also seek out Black authors when I read fiction.
Address It: Teaching my Kids
Justin and I have had several conversations over the past week about racism, our biases and privileges, and how we can work to be better as anti-racist individuals and as parents. We want our kids to empathize with and stand up for others. We want them to work for equality and call out injustice. We want to raise our kids to appreciate diversity, to listen to the perspectives of others, and to work towards making this world a better, more equal place for everyone. And that all starts in our home.
I did an inventory of LJ’s library and found that while we do have several books that include children from multiple races and ethnicities, we only have one book that has a non-white protagonist (The Snowy Day). This definitely needs to change. I’m in the process of choosing and ordering books with BIPOC protagonists and BIPOC authors to diversify his library (and I’m trying to buy them from BIPOC-owned bookstores). Same with the toys they play with – while we don’t have very many, I realized that of all the dolls or “people” toys we do have, they are almost exclusively white. We have only one black person that came in a set for LJ’s train table. I realized I have never been intentional about only getting “people” toys that look like my kids, but I also haven’t been intentional about seeking people toys that do not look like my kids. I’m going to be very intentional about diversifying their toys going forward. Same goes with our TV shows and movies – representation matters!
We live near a fairly diverse mid-sized city, but our actual home is in the surrounding country and the area is predominately white. Regardless, I am committed to making sure my children see and appreciate diversity around them. This means attending downtown events and activities where there will be many BIPOC people present, it means choosing parks and playgrounds in diverse areas, it means grocery shopping and going to library story time where I know there will be people who don’t look like us. It takes a little more effort, but it is absolutely worth it.
I read the following analogy this week and it really stuck with me. I unfortunately can’t find where I discovered it, but it was something along the lines of: When we teach kids how to cross the street, we don’t just say “Be Safe!” and hope they know what to do. We specifically tell them exactly what they need to do: stop on the sidewalk, look both ways, hold an adult’s hand, wait for the signal, stay in the crosswalk, etc. We are repetitive and specific. The same needs to go with teaching anti-racism. We can’t just say “Be Nice!” and expect that to be enough for our kids to be anti-racist. We need to be specific and help teach our kids the types of racist behavior they may witness in the world that are not okay and that they should not condone or repeat. We need to be specific about ways for them to be an anti-racist ally and stand up for others, and those conversations can start now. Again, @theconsciouskid has been a great resource for me in this area.
My next steps look beyond our home. I cannot do everything, but I can do some things and I want to do them well. Voting. Supporting black-owned businesses. Donating to causes that align with my values and seek to make positive change in this world. Volunteering my time and resources. Continuing to have the tough conversations with my family and friends. Speaking out when I see injustice or racism.
I know there are so so many more things I can do, but I also know this journey to be anti-racist is a marathon, not a sprint. These are areas where I’m starting, not finishing.
If you have additional resources that you have found helpful, I would love to hear about them!
Long before I was a human mama, I was a dog mama. And today, the girl who made me a dog mama turns seven.
I can’t even believe it. To celebrate, today’s post is all about my Mace Face. Macie Girl. Macie Bug. My sweet Macie!
Before we got married, Justin and I knew we wanted a dog. When two of Justin’s good friends bred their labs and offered a puppy to us as a wedding gift (they knew we wanted a dog), we said YES. So Macie came into our lives exactly one month into our marriage and has been with us ever since.
Macie has always been full of energy. The “puppy” phase with her lasted about 2.5 years – she was just go go go from the very start. She loves tug of war, fetch, and going for any type of run/walk/hike/outdoor adventure.
She is also a huge lover of water. If there is a body of water around, she will happily jump right in and swim to her heart’s content. Sometimes we have to make her come out of the water and rest for a bit because I get nervous that she’ll wear herself out without realizing it – she swims so much.
Macie definitely follows typical birth order personality types 😉 She is incredibly obedient and smart. She is a huge people-pleaser and has always worked to get approval. She is the dog we can have off leash or without the electric fence collar without worry because she will listen to us and stay where we tell her to stay. As a puppy, she crate trained like a dream and has had the run of the house since she was like 8 months old. Justin has taught her several tricks over the years and she’s done super well with them. She’s one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever met and I don’t think that’s just my parent pride speaking (although I guess it could be haha).
You know in The Little Mermaid when Ariel sings “I want to be where the people are”? If Macie had a life mantra, that would be it. She loves people and wants to be right in the middle of the action. Wherever we are, she is there too.
She is on the smaller side for a lab and thinks she’s a lap dog ha!
She wants to be the first one greeting a guest at our house, she wants to sit right next to me on the couch, she wants to follow us around the house no matter if we’re going inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs – she is up for anywhere as long as there are people. If I happen to go outside without her, she protests loudly. She just wants to be around us. I was super thankful for this when Justin had to work night shifts and I was home alone. Macie would snuggle next to me on the couch and curl up next to me in bed so I didn’t feel like I was alone. And when I say snuggle, with Macie, you either get an adorable little curl up…
…or her classic flop. It cracks me up every time!
Macie has transitioned to her big sister roles so well.
First, when we brought Scout home, she did a great job of adjusting to another dog being around. Macie is definitely alpha and Scout is beta and they get along so well. When we got pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure how Macie would react to a new little human around but she adjusted like a dream. I have never once worried about her around my babies.
She will snuggle next to them, let them crawl all over her, humor LJ as he attempts to play fetch with her – she is just a dream big sister.
She takes everything that LJ does in stride and just let’s him love on her and it is the sweetest relationship. They love each other!
We absolutely adore Macie and can’t imagine life without her. Happy seventh birthday to our sweet and spunky girl!
Today is Justin’s 32nd birthday, so today’s post is all about celebrating him (with a few throwback pictures sprinkled in!)
I first met Justin when he was 22 years old. We were friends for a long time before we started dating, but even so it’s crazy to think I’ve known him for nearly a full decade!
I had planned to surprise him with a weekend away with some of our good friends for his birthday, but that unfortunately we had to cancel our plans when this pandemic hit. I’m so bummed that we aren’t able to have the adventurous weekend I envisioned, but we were still able to enjoy some small celebrations at home.
I got some of his favorite sweet treats (root beer floats, Krispy Kreme donuts, and mint chocolate chip ice cream) to indulge in throughout the weekend, he choose our dinner menus (Saturday night pizza and Sunday ribs) and we gave him a gift we knew he would love: 5 free hours on Sunday afternoon to use however he wanted! He chose to spend time walking in the woods and then in his woodworking shop – some of his favorite hobbies. When he gets home from work today, the kids and I will have a few other small surprises for him to celebrate with dinner and family time.
Truthfully, he has never been someone who likes to celebrate his birthday (a concept that I, as a huge birthday lover, just cannot understand) so I know he appreciated just a low key weekend with a few special treats and lots of time to relax.
Justin is full of energy. He is the kind of person that makes others feel comfortable right away. He can find a way to relate to everyone he meets, and he is just such a genuinely FUN person to be around that people always gravitate to him. Everyone just enjoys being around him!
He is also one of the hardest workers I know. He is competitive and athletic and spent years of his life honing his skills in various sports, then he chose a career in healthcare and worked his tail off to do his absolute best through years of studying and training. He’s one of those people who just seems to be good at everything he tries (which is annoying when I just want to beat him at something one. time. haha). A lot of it is natural talent, but a big portion of his successes come from the fact that he just keeps working and trying to improve in whatever he does, from his job, to the way he takes care of our family, right down to hobbies like golf or woodworking or how he plays a board game.
I have loved watching Justin grow into his role as a father. He is truly a partner and our marriage and parenting feel like teamwork. LJ and Vi both light up when he comes home from work, and I’m constantly amazed by his ability to leave work at work and jump right into dad mode when he walks through the door. The picture above is such a great example of the type of guy he is – professional job, but he wears fun socks to show his personality. He gets home and the first thing he does is pick up one or both kids, and a dog is usually not far behind. We all love when he comes home. 🙂
He also is really thriving in his role as toddler dad with teaching LJ things like how to kick a soccer ball or reel in a fishing line and my heart gets all melty watching them together.
He is supportive of my dreams and his constant affirmation and support has helped given me confidence in many areas of my life. He always finds a way to make me laugh and I have just as much fun traveling the globe with him as I do hanging out at home.
I could go on and on, but I know this post is probably already way overboard in his mind so I’ll just end with this: Justin is simply my favorite person to be around and there is no one else I’d rather be quarantined with.
Happy birthday to our favorite guy – we’re so glad to celebrate another year of your life!
April is C-Section Awareness month, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mine, particularly my first c-section with LJ. I never really wrote about that experience before but today it is really on my heart to share it. I discovered after mine that c-sections aren’t really widely discussed like other births are and if I can be a small part of making this a larger conversation and help even one woman with my story, I am honored to do that.
When I was pregnant with LJ, I knew one thing: I wanted Justin to be the one to catch the baby. Because of his medical experience, our doctor was 100% comfortable with this and I was so excited for Justin to be the first one to welcome our son or daughter into the world. I wanted his arms to be the first ones our baby felt. I was so excited for him to be the one to look up at me and tell me whether we had a boy or a girl. I could see that moment so clearly and I wanted it so badly. I didn’t care if my birth was medicated or not, I cared about that moment. But I didn’t get it.
My water broke around 10 pm on a Monday. We headed into the hospital and I labored all night and all the next day. By 11:00 pm Tuesday, I had been stuck at 9 cm dilated for 5 hours and wasn’t progressing anymore. When the doctor came in to talk to us around 11:30 pm, we knew what she was going to say and my heart broke. I had prepared my heart for a lot of different birth scenarios, but I was not prepared for a c-section. It sounds silly, because of course I knew that a c-section was a possibility, but I did not prepare my heart and mind to actually have one. It just didn’t seem like it would happen to me! We knew baby was head down, there weren’t any known complications, and I assumed I would be able to deliver my baby vaginally.
The doctor did not say I outright had to have a c-section, but she did say that that was the direction things were headed if there were no changes soon, as they were concerned with how long my water had been broken (after 24 hours, the risk of infection greatly increases). I asked for everyone to leave the room for a minute so Justin and I could talk. We held hands and just cried – this was not the scenario we hoped for and we were both so discouraged and disappointed. I remember saying “this is just the first of many tough decisions we are going to have to make as parents in this baby’s life” and we decided to make the decision to go ahead with the surgery. We felt like it was the best choice for the health of our baby. I’m thankful that it felt like a choice – like I did have a tiny bit of power over the decision to move forward and wasn’t forced into it. And within 45 minutes, LJ was born. The doctor held him up, and Justin got to announce “it’s a boy!” We discovered the cord had been wrapped around his neck, and I was immediately extra thankful that he was alive and healthy.
I had a son, and I was of course thrilled about that, but laying on the operating table, I still felt robbed of the birth experience. I felt like I had failed. I felt like my body had once again let me down (the first time being our experience with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy). It was a bittersweet mix of happiness, disappointment, confusion, and just complete and utter exhaustion.
I was grieving but I didn’t really let myself accept and feel grief. People kept finding the silver lining for me: both me and the baby were okay. LJ was here safely. We were lucky. We were blessed. And I felt like I should just be happy and thankful and grateful. What kind of mother grieves when she has a healthy baby to love on? I kept reminding myself over and over again that it didn’t really matter how he got here as long as he got here. And truthfully, I was also just so so so tired from losing 2 full nights of sleep through this whole experience (LJ was born at 12:16 am Wednesday) that I didn’t really have the mental capacity to process my feelings in the moment. And then, we got the news of corioamnionitis – essentially, my placenta did get infected during labor and LJ would need to go to the NICU for 7 days for antibiotics. That experience is a post for another day but it was absolutely gut-wrenching to have to hand my baby over to the NICU nurses and leave the hospital without him. My postpartum hormones were an absolute mess, I was crying all the time, and I didn’t really allow myself to process my c-section because I was in full-on mama bear mode visiting my son as often as I possibly could.
I know that my number one priority was a healthy baby, but it did not happen how I wanted. It did not go the way I dreamed. And even now, 2.5 years later, I have tears running down my face as I write this because I am still grieving this experience.
I think it’s hard for mothers to outwardly grieve or process their feelings on their birth experiences for fear of responses like “at least you . . .”, “be thankful you . . .”, “you should be grateful that . . .” And I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for other mothers when I say: WE KNOW. We understand that there are worse scenarios out there. We know that we may be lucky compared to others. We are grateful for the blessings we have and for the things that did go right. Of course we are so dang happy that our baby has arrived! But telling someone they shouldn’t be sad because they could have it worse is like telling someone else not to be happy because they could have it better. You are allowed to be thankful for your baby and still feel sad about your birth experience.
Let me say it again: you are allowed to feel sad about your birth experience. Even if it still resulted in a healthy baby. There are all sorts of birth scenarios out there, and it’s okay if you’re sad the experience didn’t go how you wanted.
Looking back now, 2.5 years after my first c-section, even though I grieve the experience I didn’t have, I know that we made the right decision. I am not ashamed of my c-section. And when I got pregnant again, I felt much more empowered and prepared to schedule a c-section for Vi’s birth, and her birth experience was completely different (read more about that here). I know I’m not alone, and I know I’m not a failure. I am proud of the bravery it took for me to undergo a surgery to bring my babies safely into the world. I’m thankful for all the resources that helped my recovery experience actually be very positive, and I’m proud of how uplifting and encouraging the c-section community has been for me.
Am I still bummed that I didn’t get the experience I wanted? Yes. I cried writing this post, and then I cried again re-reading it! I will probably always have bittersweet feelings about the experience. But more and more, I am becoming comfortable with the paradox of my feelings. I am both overwhelmingly thankful for my son’s life and health, and incredibly bummed that his daddy couldn’t be the one to catch him when he was born. I am disappointed, but I am grateful. I have accepted it, but still grieve it sometimes. I feel both sadness and happiness when I think back to November 22, 2017, and I am okay with that. It doesn’t mean I love my son any less. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mother. It just means that birth is a complicated experience with lasting effects no matter how it happens, and it’s ok to talk about.
If you’re processing a c-section (whether past or future), know that you are not alone, and it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling. ❤
Five weeks ago, we were supposed to be leaving for a trip to New Orleans. Justin had a conference and we were going to turn it into a little work + vacation getaway. I had been looking forward to it for months. But in the week before, things started to rapidly change. Talk of the coronavirus became more and more prevalent – it seemed like the only thing the news was covering. There was so much uncertainty, so much confusion about what this all would mean. I certainly didn’t know what to think about everything, but I could feel a rising sense of anxiety. It seemed like the entire country was collectively watching and holding our breaths, waiting to see what happened. Then over the course of a few days, everything started to stop. Events got cancelled, destinations closed down. Tom Hanks had a confirmed case. March Madness was moved to a fan-free event, then cancelled altogether. I’ll never forget watching ESPN when they ran the headline “The Day the Sports World Stopped.” It was just so surreal. Needless to say, Justin’s conference got moved to virtual presentations, out trip got cancelled, and life changed dramatically. Not only did we not go on vacation, but the era of social distancing began and I’ve barely left my house since.
It’s been 35 days since we’ve had anyone else inside our house. 35 days without our usual routine. No library. No weekly cycling class. No church services, no play dates, no date nights, no babysitters, no events, no get-togethers with friends, no family gatherings. The past 35 days have felt a little like a bizarre alternate universe. Like it can’t really be happening, and yet, it is.
Since I am a stay-at-home mom, it might seem like my life wouldn’t be that different these days, but it still is. Before the virus, we would typically leave the house at least once a day. It was rare to have a day fully at home and rarer still to have two in a row. It has been a huge adjustment to lose all our activities and have to entertain ourselves at home every day. Same toys, same house, same people – monotonous and relentless. And now I am “on” 24/7. LJ is 2.5 years old and Vi is 8 months. They are both in pretty needy stages of life and demand a lot of my attention. I miss the mental breaks I had while driving in the car or going to story time where activities to entertain my kid were already planned and we just needed to show up. I miss the gatherings for play dates and small groups where I could gain fulfillment in talking with other adults and LJ had socialization with other kids instead of relying on me for all his interactions. Justin works in healthcare and has actually picked up some shifts where they are short staffed, so this means less help for me at home. No babysitters, no grandparents, and less time with my husband home. I have felt exhausted. Overwhelmed. Discouraged. Isolated.
I’ve read many articles and listened to a few podcasts and one thing keeps coming up: the feeling that you’re feeling is grief. This deeply resonated with me. I feel like we are all grieving something right now. Big or small, everyone has lost something. People are grieving the loss of jobs. The loss of vacations. Athletes are grieving the loss of the seasons and tournaments they have worked so hard for. Seniors are grieving the loss of proms, graduations, and the time of their lives that is supposed to be a hopeful celebration. Couples are grieving weddings and honeymoons. Pregnant women are grieving the experiences they hoped they’d have: partners at the appointments, baby showers, gender reveals, family at the hospital, visits after the birth. Families are grieving the lost get together for Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. People are grieving things that they have planned for and dreamed about for years. We are all hurting. We are all grieving the life we thought we would be living these past 35 days.
I know there is much to be grateful about. I do not take for granted the fact that my family has remained healthy so far. I am incredibly thankful for a safe place to stay at home, for the resources we have (reliable internet and utilities, enough food and supplies, etc) and for continued income from Justin’s job. My heart goes out to all who are hurting, whether from a loss of a loved one to the virus, loss of a job, or loss of stability in another way.
Another resounding message I’ve seen is this: you are allowed to be sad. While my losses may seem small in comparison to others, they were still loss. I think it’s possible, even necessary, to recognize the ways in which you are lucky while simultaneously acknowledging the ways in which you’re hurting. It’s okay to be disappointed. You can grieve and be grateful at the same time. It’s okay to just feel your feelings. It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s also okay to try to find the silver linings. I’ve seen an image re-posted many times that says “Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days you know there are better ones coming.” And there have been positives to this time at home. I have loved seeing all the stories shared on social media of drive by birthday parades and people clapping for essential workers. We get to see kindness spreading in the form of donations, handmade signs, homemade masks, and hundreds of other ways, both big and small. There is a global sense of “we’re in this together” that I’ve never seen before and it’s amazing and so encouraging.
There are also positives in my own life. I have had some really special moments at home with the kids that we might not have had if we were filling our days with activities. Vi is sleeping better than ever because our daytime schedule is so consistent. We’ve had the opportunity to slow down and focus on simple family time. Without other plans, Justin and LJ spend hours outside on the weekends and it’s been so awesome to see their bond deepen. Spending a peaceful evening watching them fish together while Vi and I rock on the porch swing will remain one of my fondest memories of this time at home. Vi started crawling and Justin and I were both home to get to witness it the first time. We’ve been able to use technology to stay connected to friends and family, and I would even say it’s brought us closer in some relationships because there is so much more intentional conversation.
When I thought about what I wanted to write today, I decided I just wanted to get my thoughts and feelings out there. I felt like it was important to document this time in history and I consider this post to be like a diary entry – a snapshot into how I’m feeling right now and a look at what this time has been like. The past 35 days have been surreal to say the least. I’m trying to stay positive, but allowing myself to feel sad when I need to. Some days feel almost normal. Some days feel hopeless and I want to cry. Our state’s stay-at-home order was supposed to end today but has been extended until May 1. We’re not sure when things will return to normal (or whatever our new normal will be).
I’m not sure what the next 35 days will hold, but I’m just trying to take things one day at a time. ❤