Anticipation

Honestly, my capacity to write a blog post is pretty low right now.

Despite my best efforts to keep the holidays simple, I find that the week before Christmas still has some chaos. Last minute presents. Finishing Christmas cards. Preparing for travels.

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Amidst all that, we have normal life with a toddler and baby, and we’re trying to finish the last of our guest suite renovation. We had hoped to be finished with this renovation by now, but there were some things that happened along the way that have caused some delays. We now hope to have the bulk of renovation finished on Friday, although it will be at least another month before it’s completely done (we are waiting on a custom vanity top and need new boards for the top of the half walls).

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Even though things feel a bit unsettled and crazy right now, I find myself full of anticipation.

Anticipation for the renovation to be done – we’re so close and I’m ready to move furniture back in and decorate!

Anticipation for the look on LJ’s face when he opens his presents.

Anticipation for snuggling under a blanket on my parents’ couch, surrounded by my siblings, watching Christmas movies.

Anticipation for gathering with family around a delicious meal.

Anticipation for singing my favorite Christmas hymns in church (the Christmas service singing is always so amazing!)

Anticipation for celebration.

And it reminds me of all the anticipation that was felt all those years ago, as a young virgin prepared to give birth to a baby who was to be the Savior of the world. May we never forget the reason for this season. ❤

I hope you can find some joy in the anticipation this week!

LJ and the Paci: A Love Story

Well, it’s been over two weeks now, so I feel safe in saying this: LJ is done with a pacifier.

FINALLY.

I feel like it’d be hard to emphasize how much of a big deal this is without a lot of exclamations points and capital letters, so I’ll try not to make this post look like an excited middle school girl wrote it, but just know in my head, I’m shouting for joy from the rooftops!

LJ’s love for the pacifier started on day 3 of life when he was admitted to the NICU and the nurses there gave him one. I wasn’t anti-pacifier by any means, but I also wasn’t planning on introducing it that quickly so I had mixed feelings when I walked into the room and saw he had one. If I’m being honest, I was very emotional and overwhelmed at the time – my 25 hour delivery ended in a c-section, my son had to go to the NICU for antibiotics for 7 days (my placenta got an infection because my water had been broken for over 24 hours), nothing was as I expected it to be. I was so hormonal and honestly felt very guilty that I wasn’t with LJ 24/7 and hated that he cried so I was okay with him having this small measure of comfort.

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He honestly loved the pacifier from the beginning. He has always taken it super well and it has always been a huge source of soothing comfort to him, so we just let it happen. It was so helpful in getting him to sleep, staying content during long car rides, etc. and we loved it just as much as he did. It never interfered with my ability to breastfeed and he still was able to take a bottle when needed as well.

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When he turned one, our pediatrician gently suggested we consider thinking about when we’d like to get rid of the pacifier. Justin and I thought we would address it “soon,” but it was still such a huge help on car trips and at night time that we didn’t make it a huge priority.

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Then LJ turned 18 months, and it felt like the right time to wean him. We started slowly reducing its use and eventually he was down to just using his wubbanub affectionately named Edgar (we’ve been through “Gigi” the giraffe and “Patrick” the puppy as well – for us they last about 6 months and then break off because they’re used so much!) at naps and bedtime. LJ was leaving him in the crib and saying goodbye to him when he woke up and we thought “great, we’re almost there!”

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Then, his little sister was born.

20190828_094413Oh my, did we see a BIG regression here. First of all, Vi had her own little wubbanub now (a hedgehog we so creatively named…Hedgie) and LJ was all sorts of curious/jealous of that. He loves to steal Hedgie and put it in his own mouth. He’d see hers and it would remind him of his, so he’d run up to his room and grab Edgar. He went from only needing Edgar at nights, to wanting a pacifier almost full-time again and all the other pacifiers came back out. It was really discouraging for us!

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We knew that he was dealing with a lot of changes when we brought the new baby home, so we accepted the regression and decided to try again in a few months. I really wanted to make it a goal to be done by his second birthday.

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I had a hollow pumpkin (this cookie jar is similar) placed on our kitchen island for fall decor, and throughout October and November I started using it as a pacifier stash. Whenever he would get distracted and leave one of the regular pacifiers (we had these and these) somewhere, I discreetly picked it up and snuck it into the jar (I took a video of it and grabbed some screenshots so you could see). Eventually, I had collected all the pacifiers and he was down to just using Edgar again.

For a few weeks, he carried Edgar around everywhere. We tried to encourage Edgar to stay in the crib (with mediocre success). His second birthday came and I formulated a plan. We were going to go cold turkey. Edgar is technically Edgar #2 (he bit through the first Edgar about 8 months ago and we weren’t quite ready to fully wean the paci at that time so he got another one) but we still had the first Edgar. My plan was to switch the two back so he had the ‘broken’ Edgar that didn’t have anything to suck.

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The week after his birthday, we planned to go to Ohio for Thanksgiving and return Saturday night. I figured LJ would fall asleep on the car ride home and we could transfer him to the crib without a pacifier and he’d still sleep. Then when he woke up, there’d be no paci. Simple, right? Well, of course he didn’t sleep in the car and he was very awake and aware when we got home. We had placed Edgar #1 (the “broken” Edgar with no paficier tip anymore) in the crib and he was SO sad. He cried and cried. We alternated letting him cry a little, then going in to soothe and comfort. It was rough and it took FOUR. HOURS. before he finally fell asleep.

We agreed it was super hard to stay strong, but I convinced Justin to try this for three days. If LJ was still this upset after three days, then we’d assume he wasn’t quite ready and try again at another time. We also took away Hedgie (honestly, Vi isn’t a big pacifier fan and never took to it well like LJ did) for that time so there were no pacis to be found anywhere in the house.

The second night and third nights each got better and better though and we knew it was the right time. Honestly, by night 3 it seemed like he accepted that Edgar was “broken” – we talked to him about how he could still have Edgar and snuggle him even without the pacifier and he does. He still likes to go to bed with Edgar and he’ll  carry him around the house and hold him and play with him, but it’s more of a comfort stuffed animal now. We brought Hedgie back out this week and LJ knows it’s Vi’s and not his and he hasn’t regressed to wanting his.

20191212_085945It was a LONG journey with a difficult ending, but I’m so thankful we’re at this point. I’m so proud of LJ for “graduating” this step. And bonus: now that he doesn’t have something else in his mouth all day, his language is rapidly improving (we had hoped that would happen!)

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Can you spot Edgar? 😉

Farewell Gigi, Patrick, Edgar, and all you other pacis. You’ve been good to us, but I’m glad to see you go.

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Let’s Look: Wrapping Station

Today is the final “Let’s Look” for 2019 and once again I’m linking up with Erika and Shay. This month’s topic is all about our gift wrapping station. Kind of like the pantry post, this is something I never thought I’d blog about, but it actually was kind of fun to plan this post!

I keep all my wrapping supplies in one corner of a closet. It’s certainly nothing fancy, but it is very helpful to have everything corralled together.

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On the floor, you’ll see I keep all my wrapping paper in a storage bin that I bought a few years ago from Target. The handle makes it super easy to bring my paper out wherever I’m wrapping. I keep a variety of boxes in all different sizes from various purchases/packages so I have something to put gifts into.

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On the shelf, my old pink shower caddy from my college days gained new life as storage for all my little bits and bobs for wrapping – ribbons, washi tape, twine, tags, etc.

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I also keep a sturdy gift bag full of various colors of tissue paper. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever purchased tissue paper – this is all just paper I’ve received from my own gifts in the past! When I get a gift with tissue paper in it, I smooth it out, fold it up, and store it in a rough rainbow order. It makes it super easy to find the color I want and I feel good knowing the paper is getting reused instead of just tossed.

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I also have a TON of gift bags. Again, I don’t buy any gift bags. These are all bags I’ve received over the years that I’ve kept to use for gifts to others (as you can imagine, I have a lot of bags for weddings and baby showers!) I keep them stored roughly by size – larger bags get stored in one bag, smaller bags in another. I also keep my smallest gift boxes here, mostly because they fit perfectly in my storage box.

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I also keep extra shopping bags tucked on the side of the shelf – these are nice to have on hand to transport gifts to an event.

Whenever it’s time to wrap a gift, I just get out whatever supplies I need and bring it to my kitchen table. I do love using gift bags for easy gift-giving throughout the year, but there is something about Christmas that makes me want to wrap every gift. Yesterday I started wrapping some Christmas gifts and snapped a few quick pictures of what my work space looked like.

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I like making each gift a little bit special with tags, ribbons, or washi tape so I keep the caddy right next to me so I can grab whatever I need easily.20191210_142808.jpg20191210_14330620191210_144249

My little niece is super girly so so simple glittery washi tape is perfect for her. 😉

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When I’m done, it’s easy to just tuck my supplies back in the closet until next time!

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Now I just need to figure out where to store these wrapped gifts until Christmas! Usually I keep them under the tree, but since I have a very curious toddler who would tear open these gifts in 4.5 seconds, I need to find another place! 😉

Simplified Holiday Decorating

This year, I am really trying to keep the holidays simple. And one of the biggest ways I’m doing this is by simplifying my holiday decorating.

I’ve accumulated many decorations over the years, and I usually have something Christmas-y on every surface. This year, I scaled way back for a couple reasons. We just moved into our new house in May, and we are slowly slowly making it our own. This means we don’t have a ton of furniture and I don’t have many shelves or surfaces to decorate, particularly that are out of my toddler’s reach (he can pull candle lights off the windowsills and end tables are definitely out!) Plus, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas feels really short this year and we have our hands full with a toddler and newborn so we wanted to just spend a few hours decorating and then call it good.

I didn’t want to clutter up the space I do have, so instead of getting everything out, I chose a few of my favorite decorations to use and kept the rest in storage. I actually love that now there are just a few areas where Christmas decor is concentrated throughout the main areas! Today I thought I’d just give you a little peek into our home.

This kitchen counter feels so festive and makes me happy every time I walk by!

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I love seeing this sweet little nativity scene in the playroom and LJ loves to play with it. It’s a great way to start introducing him to the story of Jesus’ birth.

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We don’t have a fireplace, but our staircase is a focal point in our entry and living room, so this doubled as a place to hang garland AND all our stockings. Even Scout and Macie get one. 🙂

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I wasn’t sure how it was going to go to put up a Christmas tree with LJ, but honestly, after the first day, he’s mostly left it alone. He likes to look at the ornaments but he’s only pulled one off the tree. I have shatterproof ornaments I got several years ago at Target (mine aren’t sold anymore but these are somewhat similar and I actually like their look even better!) for the low branches and we also put the sturdiest ornaments at the bottom. So far, it’s worked well and we’ve had no broken ones!

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Outside, Justin hung one row of icicle lights on our porch, I hung a wreath and set up two little trees (my one Black Friday splurge!) on either side of the door. We also have smaller touches throughout the first floor like a festive runner on our table, a few festive pillows on the couch, some holiday towels in the kitchen and half bath, as well as a few candles. We didn’t put any decorations in the basement or any of the upstairs rooms. It’s not much (or at least, not nearly as much as it usually is), but it feels like the perfect amount this year!

My favorite part of Christmas decorations? The way it makes our house feel SO cozy at night.

Did you go all out for decorating or scale back this year?

Low Power Mode

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve mentioned before my great love for the “Happier” podcast, and one of the tips they once gave as a way to live a happier and healthier life was to try going into “low power mode” for a period of time. With a smartphone, “low power mode” means that your phone is still on but conserving battery life, resulting in only the basic functions being used.

I love the parallel that this can have to life. For me, low power mode doesn’t mean I need to totally unplug and go off the grid, but it does mean a reduced connectivity and a focused intent on being present with those I’m with.

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My life these days: a whole lot of cuteness, a little bit hot mess haha!

The holiday season is the perfect time to consider going into low power mode. It is so easy to fill up this season with a ton of commitments and busyness, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you’re intentional with your time and actually let yourself enjoy the season!

I’m not going to lie, I have been feeling pretty overwhelmed by the mental workload I’ve got lately. We are in our fifth week of the basement renovation and I’ve had to make a lot of decisions, both big and small, with this project (how does anyone build a house from scratch?! So many decisions!!) Over the past few weeks I’ve also had to keep up with pediatrician appointments, LJ’s birthday party, holiday commitments, etc. and all the regular things that keep our life running smoothly like grocery shopping, laundry, and feeding all our dogs and humans. It can take a toll! So I’ve decided to use the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to simplify things and enter “low power mode.”

A few ways I’m going into low power mode this holiday season:

I signed off Facebook. I’ve come to realize that while I do enjoy Instagram and draw both inspiration and encouragement from it, Facebook is not something I enjoy anymore. It’s become kind of a time waster and never leaves me feeling filled up after mindlessly scrolling. In an effort to be more intentional with my time this holiday season, I’m taking a step back from Facebook and will be signed off for the rest of 2019 (and maybe beyond . . . we’ll see). Honestly, I have no desire to totally go off the grid and eliminate all forms of social media, but I am feeling the need to reduce its overall presence in my life right now and this already feels like a great step in that direction!

I choose our BEST yes. Lysa Terkhurst wrote a book called “The Best Yes” and it has shaped how I address all the potential commitments that come our way, especially during the holidays. Our little family thrives on routines right now. Both kids are sleeping through the night and I want to keep it that way! This means avoiding commitments that interfere with naptime or bedtime. In some ways, this simplifies things because it is an easy “no” if something is happening at say, noon, because LJ goes down for a nap around 12:30-1. If there is something we really want to do and it messes up our routine for one day, we can say yes! One day doesn’t mess us up, but many days will. Since we’re careful with what we say yes to, it doesn’t throw us off too much when we say yes to that one great thing.

I find ways to simplify my commitments. I’m a natural perfectionist, so letting go of the desire to do everything above and beyond is a hard thing to do but I’ve made great strides over the years! Now I think: how can I do this as simply as possible while still doing it well? Perfect example: a friend of mine recently had a medical procedure and our friend group organized a meal train for her family. I signed up for a meal last night. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, my house is in a weird explosion of unpacked-but-not-set-up Christmas decor, we need to pack for our travels this weekend, I’ve been running around picking out things that I needed to make a decision on this week for our renovation like paint and door handles. Rather than add the task of cooking a homemade meal, I relied on tried-and-true items I know are delicious from the grocery store. I put together pulled pork, slider rolls, pre-made potatoes, frozen veggies in a steamable bag, and store bought cookies. And my friend was thrilled! She had a yummy meal she didn’t have to cook or shop for and I was able to serve her in that way without adding a ton of undue stress on myself.

I hope you can find ways to enter low power mode this holiday season and enjoy this time of year. If you have any other ways to keep things running in low power mode, I’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

 

LJ’s Second Birthday

Well, it’s official: I have a two-year-old!

LJ’s actual birthday was Friday so we had a little mini celebration as a family. After Justin got off work, we went to Culver’s for a little family date. LJ received a few birthday cards in the mail from family so we let him open those one at a time throughout the dinner. (Sorry for the terrible photo quality! I was actually videoing him opening everything so these are just screen grabs from the videos).

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My grandparents always send some dimes for his piggy bank – so sweet!

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We also got a book for him so that he would have a little present to open during the birthday meal. He loves trains and lift-the-flap books so when I saw this during a friend’s recent book party, I knew it was the perfect choice.

After finishing our meals we each got an ice cream for dessert. LJ usually just shares his dessert with one of us so the fact that he got his own cup of ice cream with sprinkles was a big deal for him. He was so excited and definitely enjoyed it!

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Instead of a bunch of gifts, Justin and I decided to get one big gift that he would really love: a train table! We received a hand-me-down table from a friend and saved it until Saturday morning. Justin woke up early and got it all set up so it was ready to go when LJ woke up. He was SO excited to see it in his playroom and played with it all day!

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On Saturday after LJ’s nap, some of our family came over for his little party.  I stuck with the train theme and just grabbed a bunch of things around the house to decorate. I bought a “happy birthday” sign from the dollar spot at Target back when I was teaching and it gets brought out for every party. I re-used the train and conductor’s hat from LJ’s Halloween costume, grabbed some books and trains we already had, pulled out my white serving dishes and letterboard and voila!

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My friend Amber made some amazing train cookies and I bought a little 4 inch cake from a local grocery store to put candles in. We served super fancy cuisine – Papa John’s pizza, chips, and a veggie tray. LJ loved it! 🙂

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Now unfortunately, once the party actually started, I was so absorbed in it that I lost track of my phone and didn’t take pictures! Justin snapped a few, but overall, we were all just enjoying ourselves without phones.

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I did manage to get this one of my sister and Vi – how sweet!

Justin and I made the decision a few months ago to have a “no gifts” party for LJ. We did this last year and wanted to do it again this year. We agreed that not only is LJ still too little to really understand gifts are typically given on birthdays, but his birthday is super close to the holidays and he will be receiving a lot of things then. Also, we are minimal-ish people: we’re not trying to live with 5 things or be super controlling and never accept more items, but our home is a more pleasant place and our lives are more enjoyable when we’re not overrun with stuff so we’re intentional about what comes into our house.  Because we still wanted family to be involved and participate in his gift, I bought unpainted trains and asked our family members to decorate a car instead of giving a gift. Some did their own, some couples shared one. We painted trains during the party and those that couldn’t make the party had theirs made and sent to us ahead of time.

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This idea worked SO well and it was so fun to see the creativity (check out my brother-in-law’s “hippopotamoose-caboose” ha)! They were all so unique and reflected everyone’s personality. LJ loves them and it’s sweet to see him play with all of them.

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Happy birthday, my sweet LJ! It was such a joy to celebrate your life (and bribe you with one more cookie before bedtime when I realized I hadn’t gotten a picture with you – haha!)

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Let’s Look: Entertaining Ideas

It’s that time of the month again where I link up with Shay and Erika for their monthly “Let’s Look” post and this month is all about entertaining ideas. Perfect timing as the holidays are fast approaching!

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Justin and I love to have people over to our house. We love to host themed parties, game nights, casual dinners, backyard BBQs . . . the list goes on! When we were looking at buying the home we now live in, one of the biggest selling points was how well the space and layout worked for having lots of people over. We love providing a space for people to gather and create memories together.

Hosting can so fun but also super stressful so I try to keep things as simplified as possible. I wanted to focus this post on just a few tips I have that keep my focus on having fun and making memories rather than stressing out over details.

Tip #1: Don’t wait for your house to look “perfect”

When we were first married, we lived in a rental house with a full-sized basement that was just one gigantic room. Some of the room was storage that we partitioned off by duct-taping curtains to a soffit hanging from the ceiling. Not one piece of furniture was new – some of the hand-me-downs had already been used by multiple people before they reached us. It was FAR from perfect, but we made some of the best memories there. We hosted groups of friends for bible studies, Halloween parties, baby showers, and we even managed to squeeze 16 people around a mash-up of tables for Friendsgiving one year. The table was so long we had to use multiple tablecloths and it still didn’t fully cover everything! It was far from a picture-perfect tablescape but it was one of the most joyful and fun dinners we’ve ever had.

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When we moved in May to what is (we hope!) our forever home, we knew we wanted it to be a space to gather friends and family together. We also knew that the house needed some TLC. Bathrooms needed updating, walls needed painting, landscape needed work.

We have a long list of things we want to do to this house to make it “ours” and put our own stamp on it. We don’t have enough furniture for all the rooms and what we do have doesn’t necessarily fit the room or match the existing wall color. It would be really tempting to wait until it was “ready” to have people over. But honestly, we could be waiting years until we have it like we want and we’re just not willing to wait that long to entertain. So we add discolored leaves to our decades-old hand me down table, bring out extra folding chairs, and have people over anyways!

The point is, don’t wait to host until your house looks perfect. Host with what you have.  If this means pulling out folding tables and camping chairs to have seating for everyone, so be it. Memories can be made over paper plates just as well as they can be made over fine china.

Tip #2: Don’t make everything

Whether it’s decorations (if needed) or food, I highly recommend outsourcing what you can. I used to try to make everything homemade but that inevitably led to stress and frustration. These days, I focus on making a few things myself and then buy the rest. Makes things SO much simpler and less stressful!

Potlucks are another way to go – provide a main dish and ask others to contribute a side or dessert. A delicious meal comes together and everyone is happy because they only had to do a small portion of the prep.

And as far as party decorations go, I used to almost exclusively make my own but these days, I save myself a lot of time and trouble by making just a few simple ones and then buying the rest. I also try to save what I can to be re-used for future parties so even less effort is required in the future. 🙂

Tip #3: Have “standard” food ideas

If we’re having a backyard party, we’re either having burgers and hotdogs with chips and potato salad or Justin is grilling chicken with his favorite marinade with grilled veggies and salad. If I’m hosting a girls night, I stick with desserts, appetizers, and drinks and ask everyone to bring something to contribute. For a game night, we’re ordering pizza.

In other words, I’m not trying to recreate the wheel with menus. We have our go-tos that are easy to make and appeal to a wide variety of people and we stick with those. It makes planning and preparation so much easier! I also have a few tiered servers (such as this or this) that help literally and physically elevate a food table. It looks a little fancy but goes with any theme, is super easy to put out, and is also a good option to save space if I don’t have a large table.

 

What are your best tips for entertaining?