Friday Features {5.14.21}

Good morning! It’s been a big week this week, so today I’m sharing some of the things that have been going on with our home and family.

Kitchen Island Light Fixure

Our kitchen refresh is officially finished! I shared the first part of the reveal a couple weeks ago but there was one thing left on my to-do list: replacing the fluorescent light over the island! I ordered a new light fixture over a month ago but the original estimated delivery date was between July 29-August 2. Well for once, I’m thrilled that a shipping date was off by a couple months because the fixture arrived earlier this week! Justin installed it and we are both thrilled with how it elevates the look of the kitchen.

$1000 Kitchen Refresh

Piggy-backing off that, I love looking at these before and after shots of the kitchen. Justin and I have always intended to do a gut renovation of this kitchen and change the layout, but that is several years down the road. This refresh was a way to make the kitchen feel like the rest of the house without a huge investment of money. Fresh paint on the cabinets, walls, and window trim + updated backsplash from repurposed beadboard + new LED can lights + updated light fixture and bar stools = a kitchen that feels brand new. And the best part of this transformation is that it was right around $1000. Totally worth it!

Last Day of Preschool

And speaking of before-and-afters, yesterday was LJ’s last day of preschool. I cannot believe how much this boy has changed this year! The days are long, but the years really are so short. I went back and forth so many times about whether or not to send him to preschool, but looking back I’m so glad I did. He had a great year!

Mother’s Day 2021

We had a sweet little day with our family on Sunday. LJ went with Justin to the store after their haircuts on Saturday and picked out the brightest flowers I’ve ever seen. Justin said when he saw the balloons he immediately asked if he could get one for mommy. Melt my heart! I will always take the handpicked or handmade gifts over anything fancy. I love his sweet little heart!

We stayed in comfy clothes all day and it was pretty much what you’d expect for Mother’s Day with toddlers. I love being their mama!

Although I have to also include this picture – the day after Mother’s Day, things went back to their normal chaotic selves around here. This is truly my life as a mama haha!

Happy Birthday Mom!

And speaking of moms, today is my mom’s birthday! She is one of the most important people in my life and I am grateful for her everyday. It’s been so fun to watch her thrive in her grandma role these last few years – she is one-of-a-kind and we love her so much!

Have a great weekend!

Friday Features {4.23.21}

A couple weeks ago I put together a “Friday Features” post with a bunch of little things that made me happy or happened in our life lately. It was a fun way of documenting a few small moments of our life, so I’m going to make that a semi-regular feature on the blog. These posts are far from perfect – phone pics snapped in quick moment and random things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other – but they make me so happy to look back on. Perfection is overrated anyways, right?

Here’s what has happened around here lately!

Visit with Justin’s Parents

We hadn’t seen Justin’s parents since November, so we were all excited for their recent week-long visit to stay with us. The kids absolutely loved having so much quality time with their grandparents and a lot of really sweet memories were made.

Day Date with Justin

When his parents were in town, they watched the kids for us on Saturday so we could have a date day. We enjoyed having a bit of a staycation and spent the day exploring local shops and restaurants together.

Small Business Finds

It’s really important to me to support small businesses whenever I can, so it was fun to do a little shopping at several of them on our day date! I found a locally-made maple cutting board, some cute cloth napkins, two summer outfits, some bar soaps (I love using these in the shower and at my bathroom vanity as opposed to liquid in a plastic bottle), and a few new children’s books.

“New” Furniture

I shared before that I added a gallery wall to disguise our thermostat on the wall in between our living room and kitchen and as of yesterday, the wall has another addition. This antique commode was refinished by my maternal great-grandmother and has been in my parents’ home for years. They were willing to pass it down to me and I’m so excited to have this special heirloom in my home. I can’t wait to style the top!

Recent Thrift Store Finds

I love thrifting for home decor because it allows me to find some unique items that don’t just look like what everyone else has and it’s super sustainable! I recently popped in to my local store and scored this little dish that is the perfect size for storing sponges and soap in the kitchen . . .

. . . and I also found this cute little metal bowl that I just know is going to be a very versatile decor piece in my house! Both items together were less than $6 so this felt like a big win.

Second Pfizer Shot

On Wednesday, I received the second dose of my Pfizer vaccination. I did experience soreness at the injection shot, along with some fatigue and minor muscle aches and chills in the day following my shot. Thankfully, I’m now about 39 hours post-shot and I’m back to feeling great. I’m so thankful to have both shots done and am feeling hopeful for the future!

Have a great weekend!

Friday Features

Happy Friday!

Today, I felt inspired to write up a different kind of blog post than my usual. I typically share a lot of our day-to-day moments on Instagram and save the bigger things for the blog (like finished home projects, family milestones, etc). I’ve talked about this before, but as much as the blog is a fun way for me to share things with others, it’s also a great way for me to document parts of our life for us to look back on in later years. There are a lot of little things that, while they aren’t worth dedicating an entire blog post to, I’m feeling inspired to create a little space for on the blog. Friday seems like the perfect time to round-up a random hodgepodge of things from the past week or two and I love that it just gives a little glimpse into our life right now. I do plan to write little Friday posts like this more often, although I’m not sure how often they’ll pop up. We’ll see! For now, here’s what’s been on my mind lately:

Summer Weather

This week we had several days in the 70s which is just fine with us! We broke out the water table and other summer toys and cannot wait for fun in the sun.

Plant Refresh

I had several plants that were getting too big for their planters so the start of spring felt like the perfect time to do some transplanting. I bought a few new pots and just switching out a few plants and planters has everything feeling so fresh around here!

LJ and Vi Comparison

Earlier this week we went to a park we haven’t been to in a long time. Vi has recently started doing slides 100% independently and she is so proud of herself! I snapped this picture of her and it immediately gave me a flashback to LJ using that exact same slide when he was about her same age. I had to dig through my archives and I found a video of LJ that I screenshot so I could do a little comparison of my babies!

Spring Cleaning Closets

This past week, I went through LJ and Vi’s dressers and removed anything that they’ve outgrown or is not the right season (LJ is still in 3T, but doesn’t need sweaters for the spring/summer months). I also checked for anything that was stained or had holes or other major signs of wear – anything that fit this category went straight into a bag that I’ll drop off at a local company that accepts fabrics in any condition for textile recycling.

I keep large clear tubs in each of their closets to store clothes they’ve outgrown. I keep the bin organization simple – I keep sizes separate by using a piece of cardboard as a divider and slipping a piece of paper with the size marked in the bin so it’s clearly visible. It’s nothing fancy but this system works!

Consignment Closet Refresh

The vast majority of my children’s clothing is either hand-me-down from friends or was bought secondhand at a consignment store. I don’t like spending lots of money on their clothing. They outgrow sizes so fast that it doesn’t seem worth it to spend $20 on a shirt they’ll only wear for a couple months. Plus. let’s be honest. Kids are messy! I’m constantly removing stains from food, dirt, markers, etc. I prefer to spend $3 or less on a shirt – if it is still in good condition after it’s outgrown and can be passed down to another child, great! If it has holes or stains and needs to be recycled instead, it doesn’t feel too wasteful because it’s already been worn a lot. Secondhand clothing is cost-effective for me and sustainable for the planet – a win win!

We’ve already received a lot of hand-me-downs that will fit my kids this summer, so after going through their closets and getting the next sizes ready, I made a list of things they still needed. We took a trip to the consignment store yesterday to fill in their wardrobe gaps – LJ especially had fun getting to pick out some shirts for himself! We got all these items (plus one shirt he already wanted to wear) for $40.

Herself Podcast

I’ve talked before about the HERself podcast but I listened to episode 69 while painting the kitchen cabinets that really resonated with me. Their guest, Elicia, is a stay-at-home mom and talked about the balance of staying at home but also wanting to have something for herself outside of motherhood. She personally had a passion for her kids AND also had a passion with connecting with other women so she’s joining the podcast as an employee while staying home with her kids. They talked a bit about finding little opportunities to fulfill a passion or have a role outside of the role of mom. This spoke to me so much! I am so thankful that I am able to stay home with my children (though I’ve been honest that it isn’t always easy) and love being able to fill this role for my children and our family, but I’m also a wife and a woman who has passions and interests beyond motherhood. Reading is a way for me to rest and recharge, and I also find a lot of joy in using this blog as a creative outlet. Over the past two years, I’ve also really leaned into updating our house and sharing all our projects, big and small, and it’s become a huge passion of mine. I’m learning the value of the word and. I love my kids AND I enjoy some alone time. I like completing home projects AND reading bedtime stories. I love to nurture AND create. My kids are a priority AND so am I.

Aldi Juice Find

Does anyone else love Aldi? It’s my favorite place to stock up on all our basic grocery needs! I love that it’s inexpensive and you don’t get decision fatigue because there aren’t like, 82935792348 brands of ketchup to choose from. They also have lots of great organic options at a fraction of the cost of other grocery stores. I saw these juice pouches in the Aldi Finds section and decided to try them out – they have been a HUGE hit with my kids! They don’t drink juice very often but these pouches make for a nice little treat with less sugar than other brands of juice.

ASMR Home Video

I’ve been watching this video on repeat – it’s so satisfying to hear all these little sounds of home!

First Covid Shot!

Indiana opened up eligibility for those 30+ last week and I jumped at the chance to schedule an appointment. I got my first dose of Pfizer last Wednesday and was SO excited! My only side effects were a sore arm and some fatigue around the 24-hour mark (but after a nap, I felt great!) I’m so thankful for the efforts of scientists to make this happen so quickly. I’m feeling hopeful for the future and “normal” activities resuming soon!

Note: I’m not interested in debating vaccines on the internet. There are lots of great resources out there to help make your own decision – I personally found @kinggutterbaby and @jessicamalatyrivera to be great sources of information for me.

Have a great weekend!

One Year in a Pandemic: A Photo Journal

We’ve officially been in a pandemic for over a year. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. On the other hand, it’s become so ingrained that it feels like it’s been a lot longer since life was “normal” (does anyone else watch TV made before March 2020 and think things like “OMG they just hugged!” or “Wow there are so many people there! And they’re so close together!”)

I originally intended to write a journal entry type blog post looking back over the past year, but I found myself procrastinating over and over. I think that I’ve been in a mode of just getting through this thing one day at a time for so long, and while I do sometimes stop to process what is going on, it’s such a huge thing that it’s hard for me to mentally wrap my mind around (and honestly feels triggering and defeating right now). I definitely have pandemic fatigue like so many others. We’re all ready for this to be done, but none of us actually know when it will be over. Summer 2021 is looking hopeful, and maybe at that time I’ll feel ready to do a look back over this time in a pandemic with two small children. Right now, I don’t feel ready to mentally take on that blog post.

Instead, I thought I would do a little visual look back over the year. This post is a beast with TONS of pictures. Quite honestly, I created this primarily to have a collection of some of our pandemic life all in one spot. It’s a little look into what the year looked like – what we did, what we wore (spoiler alert: 98% pajamas), what life was like. I fully understand that I might be the only one this invested in remembering what a year in our family life looked like, so feel free to skip this post if 83713491834 pictures isn’t your thing. πŸ˜‰

March 2020

Vi was dedicated at church on March 15, the weekend everything started shutting down. Little did we know that would be the last Sunday we’d step foot inside our church for over a year (we’ve been watching virtually ever since!) Justin and I were supposed to go to New Orleans the next week but that got cancelled so instead his vacation time was spent at home as a family. At that time it felt cozy and special to have quality time together and no other obligations. We had our first DIY Date Night and had no idea that a lot more DIY projects were in store for the following year.

April 2020

I did not leave my house this entire month except to go to the grocery store. Our Easter celebration was held over Zoom and we did a few small activities with LJ at home to celebrate. It was around this time that we realized that this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon.

May 2020

We entertained ourselves by painting toenails, lots and lots of playtime indoors, watching our farmer neighbors, and enjoying outdoor weather whenever we could. I enjoyed a sweet and simple Mother’s Day at home in our pajamas and got to meet my new niece towards the end of the month. πŸ™‚

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June 2020

Even though it wasn’t a typically looking vacation, we were so thankful for Beach Week 2020 with family. At home, things stayed eventful with our AC system dying in the hottest week and LJ deciding to wash his hair in candle wax.

July 2020

We took advantage of our pond often and got to have my family over for an outdoor party which made this month almost feel normal.

August 2020

Justin’s parents were able to visit us for the first time since March and we celebrated Vi’s first birthday! We also got to go the zoo as a family and it was so nice to have a more ‘normal’ activity to do together!

September 2020

A milestone month for us – LJ started preschool! I was so thankful for in-person preschool and for a school that took tons of safety precautions. We also got to celebrate my birthday with four friends at an outdoor restaurant and my parents watched the kids for a day so Justin and I could have a mini getaway exploring Indianapolis outdoors. My middle sister and I also pulled off a big surprise by driving out to Virginia to celebrate our youngest sister’s birthday!

October 2020

Early voting, Halloween, and lots and lots of work on our home office!

November 2020

Back indoors for lots of playtime and we celebrated my tractor-loving boy’s third birthday! He also got a new bed and was preeeeetty excited about it. πŸ™‚ I had to include a picture of our kids eating apples too – they became obsessed with apples this year and would sometimes eat 2-3 a day.

December 2020

A magical month full of Christmas activities! The kids are at such a FUN stage right now and it really made the holidays that much more special. We didn’t travel to Virginia in December and our extended family gathering on my side didn’t happen like usual, but we had at-home date nights, Christmas jammies, gingerbread houses, and lots of special fun.

January 2021

Usually January feels about 78 days long, but strangely enough this year it didn’t! Maybe it’s because by this time, we were very used to just hanging out at home so it didn’t feel out of the ordinary.

February 2021

We got a ton of snow this month and had lots of fun playing in it. On days when it was too cold, we tried to get creative with new activities indoors – busy toddler tasks, baking Valentines cookies, and the big news: getting a bounce house to burn off our energy!

March 2021

Here we are. One year later. In the last year there have been days I’ve cried, days I’ve felt so overwhelmed, days I’ve yelled, and days I’ve really really struggled. Being the primary caregiver for two small children without regular help or the ability to go to places like the library, playdates, museums, etc has been so incredibly challenging. I don’t want to sugarcoat it – it’s been a tough year. But there have also been so many great memories of our time together at home. So many snuggles, forts, puzzles, laughs, getting creative with finding things to do (and TV shows, let’s be honest here). Time together like we’ve never had before and will likely never have again.

I’m feeling hopeful for the future. My grandparents and parents are now vaccinated (and so is our babysitter – hallelujah for a little more help around here!) The weather is warming up and we’re able to spend lots more time outside. We’re tentatively making travel plans for the summer and feeling optimistic about being able to do more things in a ‘normal’ way. I know we’re not there yet, but it feels closer and closer each day. One thing is for sure, this past year is one I will never forget.

18 Months with Vi

I can’t believe I’m typing these words, but my baby girl is officially 18 months old!

A full year and a half with Vi in our lives and I honestly can’t imagine our family without her. In honor of this milestone, I wanted to write up a little post all about her and this stage of her life.

In many ways, she is very much like her brother was at this age but one huge difference jumps out right away: she is CHATTY! When LJ was 18 months old, he actually started speech therapy because he was only saying β€œmama,” and even that word was pretty inconsistent. Vi on the other hand, has too many words to count. Mama, daddy, no, cereal, yes, this, do that, Macie, ears, nose, hat, eyes, applesauce, bounce house, pickles, moon, bible, milk, play doh, socks, shoes, boob (lol), sleep, bye bye . . . the list goes on! She is really good about communicating her wants and needs and it’s very rare that we don’t understand what she wants.

She wants to do everything LJ does. She wants to play with the toys he plays with, she wants to do the activities he’s doing, she wants to eat the same snack he picks. If she sees him to something, you can bet that she is going to want to do it too! They are usually very sweet (I love when they want to watch TV and “nuggle,” as Vi says, under a blanket!) and generally play together well.

Vi is still breastfeeding before naps and bedtime and shows no signs of wanting to quit. I figured we would be done around the same time I quit with LJ (he was 13 months and uninterested in continuing) but she has been very insistent with continuing despite my dwindling supply. At this point, I’m 100% ready to quit whenever she is.

One reason I’m surprised she still wants to breastfeed so often is that she LOVEs food. It seems like she’s constantly eating or asking for a snack. She will eat anything that is put in front of her and definitely out-eats her picky older brother (he prefers to graze). Vi can handle an adult-size portion and generally cleans her plate regardless of what we had for dinner. Right now she particularly loves applesauce, broccoli, sausage, cottage cheese, and pickles. She’s always a complete mess by the end of a meal but she’s always a happy camper with a full belly!

She loves to read books! She will sit on my lap and flip through pages on her own, which makes my little book-loving heart so happy! She also likes to sit by herself, either on her glider or the floor, and flip through pages.

She especially loves a book my sister and brother-in-law gifted her for Christmas. It’s one of those books that is personalized and has her name throughout – I think she really loves hearing her name! She requests it almost every time before nap and bedtime and often insists on holding it while breastfeeding and then taking it into the crib with her to sleep. (The picture below is an accurate representation of any given day – she loves taking a ton of things with her into her crib!)

I think we’re finally starting to get our of her I-only-want-mama stage, which has been sweet but also exhausting for me. She LOVES her daddy and lights up with pure glee when he comes home. She has just started to give hugs with a little squeeze and it is the cutest thing. Last night he put her to bed with zero fuss from her and it was such a nice break for me! I’m hoping she allows him to do it more often.

Vi loves to be outside and doesn’t seem to care that it’s currently freezing outside. She constantly requests to go outside and if she sees someone put a coat on, she’s immediately requesting her own coat/hat/shoes to go with them. On days we actually go outside, she loves to swing or drag around a snow shovel.

Right now her most-requested indoor activities are bath time, play doh, bounce house, and getting out games from the cabinet. She loves to help feed the dogs and can now push her helper tower around the kitchen to get her own snack (she loves to eat apples out of our fruit bowl). She is a busy bee and keeps me on my toes as she gets into everything in our house!

Vi can be stubborn and definitely lets us know when she is unhappy she’s not getting what she wants, but she’s also sweet and spunky. We love her so much and are so excited to continue to watch her grow!

I love you, my sweet V!

A Weekend Day in the Life {2.13.21}

I’ve done several “Day in the Life” posts in the past and even though they are always really long posts full of mostly blurry pictures, they are my absolute favorite ones to look back on. Each one feels like a tiny time capsule and serves as a reminder of what a regular day looked like in a particular stage of our life. I haven’t done one since last March so it was definitely time for another!

A couple notes about this day. In the past I’ve always documented a weekday, so this time I decided to document a weekend day and chose a random Saturday. This Saturday felt particularly relaxing because I was able to go grocery shopping on Wednesday this week and I just finished up the dining room renovation so I’m currently not working on a home project. I also included a few bonus pictures of our Sunday at the end of this post because Sunday was Valentine’s Day and I wanted to include a few shots of our special holiday festivities. (Edit: I got a great reader suggestion to include my kids’ ages for these posts – LJ is 3 years 2 months, Vi is 17 months).

Saturday, February 13 2021
For the past several months, Justin and I have taken turns with who gets up with the kids on weekend days so the other person can sleep a bit longer. I offered to get up with them on Saturday, and Vi woke up around 6:50 am with LJ following shortly after.

I had made some hardboiled eggs earlier in the week, so LJ helped me crack and peel them for breakfast. He loves to do things independently so I try to step back and let him do things his own way, even if it’s messy.

While they ate breakfast, I started a load of laundry. At this point in our lives, I’m probably averaging 2 loads of laundry each week which isn’t bad. One benefit of all the time spent at home is there aren’t a lot of outfit changes. Plus LJ is in a stage of never wanting to change his clothes so unless we’re going somewhere or his clothes are actually dirty, we let that argument go. At least it means less laundry!

I snuck upstairs to let the dogs out of our bedroom to go outside and Vi helped me feed them – she loves helping with this daily chore.

After breakfast, I took the kids downstairs to play in the basement. A few weeks ago we purchased a bounce house for them and it has been a HUGE hit.

I really wanted to come up with something for the kids to do that would help them get some energy out and have fun without leaving the house (on top of the pandemic, there’s currently several inches of snow on the ground outside and the “high” temps are in the teens!) and this purchase has absolutely been 100% worth the investment.

Justin joined us around 8 am – he enjoyed waking up at his own pace, getting to eat breakfast without anyone stealing his food, and reading his devotions in peace. He took over with the kids in the basement so I could go upstairs and have a little time to myself. The kids love special time with daddy!

First things first, I went upstairs and got ready. Even when I’m not going anywhere, I like to at least put on a touch of makeup to make myself feel put together for the day.

I’m part of a bible study reading Genesis this year, so I read the day’s passage and answered our study questions.

Then I treated myself to a little reading time with a cozy blanket and candle burning. I’ve been so busy with home projects lately that it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat and enjoyed a book in the morning so this truly felt like a luxury!

I did a few quick updates on my Instagram stories and then Justin and the kids came upstairs and I headed downstairs for a workout. I did a 30 minute ride with Cody – he just has the best music to ride to and this one was a fun pop playlist.

I came upstairs to move the laundry over to the dryer and get lunch ready and came upon the sweetest little scene of Justin reading a book with the kids.

Justin was on call for his job this weekend and had to head in to work for about an hour so I took over and got lunch around for the kids. This is a typical scene for us at lunch – half the breakfast dishes are still out, there’s food everywhere, and it’s all a bit of a mess. Someday we’ll have things a little more organized but for now, this is our life.

After lunch, I let the kids watch a show (right now LJ is very into the movie Wall-E, or as he calls it “the robot with the trash”) while I cleaned up the kitchen and washed dishes. During this time I also sent video messages back and forth to one of my friends discussing all our thoughts on the book Majesty (love you Denay!) Marco Polo has been such a blessing for keeping in touch with friends near and far.

At 1:00 I headed upstairs to put Vi down for a nap. Vi has just recently become interested in having us read books to her before naps and she always wants to read this personalized book my sister bought her for Christmas.

She still wants to breastfeed before sleeping and always insists on holding her books (she calls them ‘bibles’) and all her dolls. It’s quite the crowd!

She also wants to take everything into the crib. Today she also insisted on taking three of LJ’s little farm animals with her. Bless her sweet little heart.

After Vi is down, it’s LJ’s turn. He sometimes naps, sometimes doesn’t, so last week I started a “quiet time box” with a few small trinkets that he can play with quietly in his room if he doesn’t want to sleep. His routine is read two books (often choosing the picture searches in his Highlights magazine), sing two songs, and then snuggle with his four puppies and Edgar the elephant. He’s my routine lover!

He also has spent the last several months sleeping on the floor, entirely by choice. We’ve tried everything we can think of to get him to sleep on his bed, but he insists on the floor. He won’t even let us put blankets down first and wants to sleep on the carpet! At this point, we just let him have the independence to decide and let it go.

Once I finished his routine and left his room, I headed into our bedroom to fold the laundry and put everything except the kids’ things away.

Normally, nap times are when I try to get all the things done. But I had already finished laundry and dishes, and I’m currently in between home projects, so today was a real treat where I got to snuggle up on the couch with Macie and read some MORE! What a day!

Justin came home during the kids’ naps and headed out to his woodshop. Woodworking is one of his hobbies and he’s been wanting to make a little stand for the dog bowls and has been working on that in his free time lately.

Vi was the first one up after taking a nice long nap.

Justin came inside around the time Vi woke up and LJ woke up (he actually napped!) shortly after. Justin and LJ hung out downstairs while Vi and I hung out in her room. She wanted to sit and read her books – a girl after my own heart!

It lasted until LJ came to join us and then things got a *bit* rowdier.

During this pandemic we’ve been trying to order out from local restaurants at least 2-3 times a month, so tonight we ordered from one of our favorite places. Justin and LJ had a special adventure to go get the food – LJ was SO excited for a trip with daddy!

Vi was very upset about being left behind and kept wanting to put her hat and socks on to go too. The only way I could distract her was with the thing she loves almost as much as going outside – bath time!

The boys returned with food – burgers for mommy and daddy and chicken nuggets and fries for the kids. Levi was very proud that he got to use his “big muscles” to help daddy carry the bag of food.

After dinner we four played in the playroom together until our food had digested a bit and then . . .

. . . we finished the day with a special treat of ice cream.

My dad was babysitting for my niece this weekend while my mom was out of town visiting my sister, so we video chatted with dad while eating ice cream.

Vi didn’t want to get back in her clothes after her bath and we were cracking up over the fact that she was just sitting there in a diaper and backwards hat.

Then after she ate it all and there was just a little melted ice cream left in the bowl, she lifted it up to drink every last drop! Like I said before, girl after my own heart haha.

After ice cream we got in our jammies and watched a little more Wall-E, then put the kids down around 8:00 pm.

Justin and I talked about playing a game after the kids went down, but we ended up just lounging on the couch talking about lots of different things and looking through old videos of when our kids were younger. It was a nice low key evening hanging out together – I’m forever grateful for this Valentine of mine.

Bonus – Valentines’ Day Activities

The next day was Valentines’ Day and it was my turn to sleep in. I went downstairs around 8:30 and Justin had to head into work for a couple hours. The kids and I spent the morning doing a few little Valentines’ activities!

First up, we used a large piece of packaging paper that came in a recent delivery to create a Valentine message for Justin. I had the kids lay down with their arms spread out in a big hug and traced their outlines. I wrote “We love you this much!” and they had fun coloring the paper.

LJ then helped me tape it to the wall in our dining room. It may not be a glamorous Valentine but this was a labor of love and the kids were really proud and excited for daddy to come home and see it!

Next up, Valentines cookies! I just got a simple little kit of pre-cut cookies from the store for the kids to make. Vi is upset because she kept trying to eat the dough and wouldn’t follow what we were doing with pressing them on the cookie sheet so she wasn’t allowed to keep helping with that step. I thought about leaving off this picture, but you know what, this is just what life looks like sometimes.

While the cookies baked, we made frosting! I always try to let the kids help as much as they are able and they both enjoyed this part.

We played for a bit until the cookies were cool enough to decorate. There was a lot of sampling going on haha but eventually we got the cookies frosted. LJ enjoyed choosing sprinkles for each cookie.

So proud of his hard work!

The kids were so excited to show Justin all their surprises when he got home and we enjoyed eating cookies before watching our online church service.

The rest of the day was pretty low key but it was fun to have those few little activities to make the holiday feel special!

I think I’m going to try doing these posts a little more frequently in the future. The kids just grow and change so much these days! To read previous Day in the Life posts, you can find them all here:

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

20 for 2020 + 21 for 2021

Today is the final day of 2020. I think I speak for all of us when I say WHAT. A. YEAR. Looking back on my goals for 2020, it’s almost comical to see how I had absolutely NO idea what was in store for us. Obviously, many of my goals had to be adjusted or removed altogether, but it’s also nice to look back and see what all we did get done. We made it through a year unlike any other and while it was full of many many challenges, it was also full of joy. We still experienced fun, laughter, love, and accomplishment even in the midst of lots of difficulties and unknowns. It’s definitely a year I will never forget!

You can read my initial post about my plans for this year here. Let’s dive in and see how reality matched up with my goals for this year!

1 – Plan a dreamy office/reading room. DONE! And I could not love it more. You can check out the reveal post here

2- Select pictures for family photo albums. Ugh. This one and the next one were repeats from my list from 2019 and once again they did not get completed. Honestly, it’s intimidating to tackle such a large project and I need a big amount of time to complete it, so maybe for 2021 I need to break it down into even smaller, more manageable chunks.

3  – Create family photo albums Nope 😦

4 – Update the Simplify the Chaos website Done! All the homepage’s menu tabs have been updated and I’ve been able to keep up with updating them as I add posts and projects. I feel like this makes the navigation on my blog much smoother and I’m happy with accomplishing this one.

5 – Replace basement carpet. We looked at samples, got a quote for new carpet, and were discussing a plan to save up for it, but then the pandemic hit. With no one coming over to our house and other, more pressing home projects popping up (like our A/C system dying in June), this item got intentionally removed from the list. We’ll address it someday, but it’s not a priority right now.

One thing we DID do in the basement was sell Justin’s recliner from college. That was on my 2019 list and it sure felt good to finally cross it off! πŸ˜‰

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One last rock for old times sake πŸ˜‰

6 – Update book recommendations list. Done! You can check out the updated post of my top book recommendations here.

7 – Get a dip manicure. Done! I had a girls night out with a few friends and one of our stops was the nail salon. This manicure was unlike any I’ve ever had before – I loved the feel of the powder! It was like sinking into the softest sand.

It did almost have a fake quality to it – there was so much on my nails that it looked like a bubble sitting on top (as if I had a fake nail pressed on). I’m not sure if I loved that look? I think part of the reason was because my nails weren’t very long, so I’d be interested to try it again with longer nails.  It was also a little weird to type on my computer because my nails were so much thicker than normal! It lasted for weeks, which I loved, but I did not like that I had to go back into the salon to have it removed – it made the manicure feel both low and high maintenance at the same time.

8 – Invest in footwear with a purpose. This didn’t happen this year, mostly because I was leaving my house so rarely that new shoes didn’t really make sense. I’m including this on my list for next year though!

9 – Try at least 5 brand new (to me) foods. Done! I tried a new Mexican street food dish at a local food truck, the special sauce burger as recommended at a local restaurant (normally I go boring and don’t get new sauces), and my friend Amber made us a dinner from a Jerusalem cookbook where I tried three new dishes, all of which were delicious!

10 – Set up a 529 for Vi. Done!

11 – Read 60 books. Done! I was able to read 64 books this year and you can access all the reviews for each book on my ‘Bookworm‘ tab.

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12 – Take a continuing education class. This one got eliminated from my list after I discovered that in Indiana, there is no penalty for letting your teaching license expire. Should I decide to go back to teaching in five years, I’ll simply need to meet the same requirements that I would’ve had to meet to keep my license current.  I may as well wait until I know that I want to go back to teaching before investing the time and money in keeping my teaching license current. So this was one I was happy to just remove from my to-do list for now.

13 – Host a big summer party. The pandemic prevented us from the big summer bash we hoped for, but we were still able to have a smaller scale outdoor gathering. My immediate family tries to get together every summer on a Saturday. It’s an all-day event we’ve started calling the Washerdrum (because the first year, my brother-in-law discovered an actual washing machine drum in a remote corner of the pond!) While it was just my parents, my two sisters, and one brother-in-law this time, we enjoyed a gorgeous day outside grilling and swimming and that felt like a huge win for 2020!

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.

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15 – Plan a family staycation. Done! We explored a new-to-us park and playground downtown and checked out a local food truck.

16 – Take LJ to swimming lessons. This one didn’t happen because again, pandemic, but I am making it a top priority for 2021!

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, renovating the basement kitchen (especially painting the tile floors and counter top!), and designing and building a play kitchen for our kids have been a fun way for me to channel creativity while staying home.

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18 – Have professional family photos taken. Done! We had a photographer come out to our house in August for Vi’s one-year-old photo shoot and we’re so thrilled to have a few wonderful family photos. LJ putting his arm around Vi was totally unprompted and the sweetest thing ever!

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Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Photography

19 – Actually use my InstantPot. You would think this would have been an easy thing to do with all this time at home, but apparently that is not the case haha. I still need to use this!

20 – Host at least 4 game nights. We have had immediate family (my parents once, my sisters together once, and my sister and brother-in-law once) come to our house and played games each time. It’s not really what I envisioned with this goal, but with 2020, we’ll take what we can get! I’m also very thankful for technology and our ability to play virtual games with our larger families and our small group while staying safer at home this year. I’m hopeful that by the end of 2021 we’ll be able to have more friends and family over for more game nights!

And now, let’s look ahead at my goals for 2021!

21 for 2021

1- Get involved with our church’s foster care ministry. Foster care is something that has been on my heart for years and I really want to get involved in a meaningful way with helping to support our church’s ministry and those who foster children.

2- Sort through 2013 pictures and create 2013 family album. I’m narrowing this goal down to just one year – the first year we were married. I think that’s manageable and hopefully I can get through this task finally!

3- Register for Be The Match registry. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time!

4- Take LJ to swimming lessons.

5- Invest in footwear with a purpose.

6- Continue to “level up” small areas of our house. There are many areas of our house that I’ve worked on already but I want to go back through and add a few new elements to (a lamp and ottoman to my reading corner in the office, a new light in the playroom, a different full length mirror in the guest room, etc).

7- Exercise at least 3 times a week. I used to be so consistent with exercise, but this past year has been tough and I haven’t prioritized movement and myself as much as I should. I’m committing to moving much more in 2021!

8- Give our bedroom some TLC. All we have done to our main bedroom since moving in is install a new ceiling fan and paint the walls white. It’s boring and uninspiring, plus it’s time upgrade some things like our mattress and linens. It probably won’t be a full blown renovation, but our room definitely needs some attention and I’m already deep in the planning stages!

9- Commit to less screen time. 2020 had lots of staying at home and scrolling, and I absolutely want to cut back on that and be more present with my family.

10- Learn how to use at least two new tools. I want to be a more active part of the building processes in our DIYs!

11- Paint the main floor of our house. It’s all brown and it’s time for a new look!

12-Invest in a good night cream and eye cream. I’ve slowly been upgrading skin care as I find products that I love. This year I want to focus on finding a good quality night cream and eye cream (so my skin can rejuvenate as I sleep on our new mattress haha!)

13- Explore three new-to-us places in our surrounding area. While I hope 2021 is better than 2020, I don’t anticipate big vacations quite yet. I still want to take some day trips to local parks, trails, and local (preferably outdoor) attractions and would love to find some new places!

14- Build planter boxes for our patio.

15- Create/enjoy a new family tradition. This year we poured some hot chocolate and drove around to look at lights – I can definitely see that becoming a yearly tradition! I’d love to keep finding small things that can become “our” family’s traditions.

16- Organize our utility room. The small room in between our garage and basement living area is in desperate need of organization!

17- Replace the boob lights in our house. If you know, you know.

18- Wake up before kids to have quiet time to start the day. I’m a morning person, and now that our kids are sleeping in a little more and I’m not up at 5 am to breastfeed, I want to wake up early to do my devotions, eat my breakfast, and start the day with a little quiet time. I think this will go a long way in making my days feel less chaotic.

19-Swap out our living room throw pillow cases. Our pillow cases are in rough shape and I want to actually take time this year to replace them.

20- Support small businesses as much as possible. Whenever purchases need to be made, I really want to try to support small businesses (bonus if they’re local) as much as I can.

21-Set aside one date night each week. Even if it’s just a basement couch date watching a movie, I want to carve out intentional time regularly to connect with Justin and not focus on kids/house/work/adulting.

Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday Ruthie!

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 πŸ˜‰

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. ❀

My 32nd Birthday Weekend

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. πŸ˜‰

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!

Keeping the Playroom Manageable

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).

LJ in playroom

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.

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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?