I have always been a morning person. I love a good morning routine and I love getting a jump on the day. That being said, with three kids aged five and under, you can imagine that our mornings can get a bit chaotic around here. I don’t know about you, but when my morning is rushed, stressful, and chaotic, it can easily mess up my whole day. A couple months ago, I set out to start making some changes to our morning routine to try to make things simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable. I wanted slower, more peaceful mornings that would set us up for great days! And guess what? It worked!
Today I wanted to share the five things I’ve implemented that have been the game-changers of our mornings. Some were super easy changes to make, others took a bit of time, effort, and trial and error. I know everyone’s mornings look different due to school/work schedules and sleep preferences, but this is what has been working well for our family!
One caveat before I share: Ollie has been sleeping through the night for a few months now. I would not have been able to start making a lot of these changes back in the throes of newborn sleep deprivation – at that stage, we were just in survival mode! These were changes I made once we were all getting good, full nights of sleep.
An Early Wake-Up Time for Me
This is probably obvious, but the biggest positive change to my mornings happened once I could start waking up before my kids to get things going. Usually I shoot for anywhere from 5:45-6:15 am as a wake up time; I had to adjust to a goal bedtime of 9:30-10 pm to still get enough sleep but it was worth it! Sometimes, I try to workout but often I’m down in my office getting a jump on some work tasks (I have a part time work from home job with flexible hours so this is a great time to catch up on things). It’s so nice to be able to just hunker down and focus without the distraction and needs of kids.
That being said, there were many many days where LJ would get up, see my light downstairs, and come down. Sometimes he was downstairs before it was even 6 am! Which brings me to my next change . . .
A Digital Alarm Clockin the Kids’ Room
We have a Hatch sound machine in LJ and Vi’s room that changes colors based on the time. They were supposed to wait until the light turned green to come out of their rooms, but this just never really worked well for my early riser LJ. He would wake up and have no idea how much time was left before the light turned green – is it 5 more minutes? Is it an hour? He would get restless feeling like he had been waiting “a long time” and come out of his room before the green light. It was very frustrating for me because I often lost that important solo time early in the mornings and things generally didn’t go as smoothly when that happened.
A few weeks ago, we moved my digital alarm clock to their room and gave a very basic explanation of how to read the numbers. He is 5 and still can’t tell time BUT he is fully capable of understanding “do not come out of your room until the first number is a 7.” He understands number order so if it’s anything but a 6 or 7 first, he knows there is a lot of time left so he should try to sleep again. Even though he doesn’t fully understand time, this has at least given him a little more understanding of it and since moving the alarm clock, he has stayed in his room every day until 7 am!
LJ is out of his room at 7 am sharp and while Vi sometimes sleeps a bit longer, she is usually up by 7:15. I stop my work, we have a few minutes of morning cuddles, and then we get our morning going. I used to turn on all the main overhead lights in the kitchen at this point but now, I am very selective. I turn on the little lamp on my kitchen counter. I turn on the overhead island pendant – it’s on a dimmer and I only turn it about halfway up. I turn on the microwave light above the stove, and sometimes I turn on the light above the sink. Choosing a few smaller lights creates a warm, cozy ambiance and feels like the perfect transition between night and day. It’s like dawn in the kitchen and I love how it allows us to keep a slow feel to our morning.
Protein-Packed, Filling Breakfasts
We used to be an exclusively cereal-eating family, but last year I started making some changes. My kids would eat a bowl of cereal at 7 am and be hungry for a snack by 9 am – to combat this, I started trying to incorporate more filling breakfasts. The kids will still do a bowl of cereal maybe 3x a week, usually with a side of fruit, but other days we’re doing things like protein-packed waffles, sausage, oatmeal, eggs and toast, etc. The snack requests have gone WAY down and as a bonus, we linger a bit more over breakfast and can chat together.
For me personally, I have completely stopped eating cereal for breakfast. Once the kids have their breakfast made, I will make mine. My new go-to is two over-easy eggs topped with salt, cracked pepper, and nutritional yeast, homemade hash browns (Justin makes a huge batch at once and it will last us for days), and half of an avocado. Sometimes I’ll add in a couple pieces of air-fryed bacon or chicken sausage for extra protein. It is delicious and keeps me full until lunchtime. It’s so nice to fuel myself with a solid breakfast and it feels like a treat – usually the kids are done and out of the kitchen by the time I’m sitting down to eat so I have 10 minutes of peace to savor every bite. It feels so good to prioritize myself in this way.
No Screens Until XYZ
I am now very firm with my boundary of no screens until 8 am. The kids both have Amazon Fire Tablets programmed in a way that they can’t even access anything until 8 am (highly recommend!) and the TV is an absolute no. Don’t get me wrong, they bickered, they whined, and they protested, but I have held this boundary and they adjusted. They had gotten used to the anything-goes newborn haze so it took some time to form new habits, but they now know 8 means 8 and rarely even mention screens before that. Sometimes they get so busy playing that it’s well after 8 am before they even realize it!
This boundary gives us from 7 am – 8 am to get ready. The kids eat breakfast and play in the playroom/draw/entertain themselves while I eat mine. They may have screen time starting at 8 am, but they also MUST first be fully dressed, including glasses, all clothing, and socks and shoes. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. It must be both 8 am AND they must be fully ready to walk out the door. This has made a huge difference; we are no longer scrambling to find glasses or get shoes on as we run out the door! The kids can enjoy screen time until it’s time to leave, which allows me to have 30-45 minutes (we leave between 8:30-8:45) to get myself changed, get Ollie up, changed, and fed, and get their preschool bags ready. Then when it’s time to head out the door, everyone has everything they need and we can calmly just get in the van.
Of course, there are days where we get out of whack and are still scrambling to get out the door on time, but those are honestly few and far between (and usually, the culprit is that I didn’t do one of these listed things!) Implementing these changes has gone so far in making our mornings feel peaceful and enjoyable and I truly savor this time. Not matter how crazy and hectic the day ends up being, at least our mornings started out right.
On January 15, one very significant era of my life ended: Ollie was given his last bottle of breastmilk.
I breastfed LJ for 13 months and Vi for 22 months. Neither one of them ever needed formula and they rarely had bottles since I didn’t really pump unless I was away from them. I talked about this previously, but Ollie’s needs ended up being much different. I won’t go into all the specifics, but as a newborn, he wasn’t transferring breastmilk directly very well, and after working with a lactation consultant for several weeks, I made the call to move to formula + pumped milk. Ollie was 10 weeks old. My supply has been decreasing ever since and I made peace with that, but it finally dwindled down to nothing this week. I’ve spent 40 months (over three years!!) of my life providing breastmilk for my children and now, that chapter is over.
Almost exactly four years ago, I was writing about my breastfeeding journey with LJ coming to an end. Ollie will be my last baby, and this is the definitive end of my breastfeeding era, so it only felt right to similarly process the end of this journey. Today, I’m sharing my experience with Ollie – from breastfeeding, to combination feeding, to moving to all formula. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone else is interested in reading about this, but for me it was therapeutic to process the end of this era in writing (and I know I’ll appreciate being able to look back on this in years to come) so here we go!
Things I wasn’t expecting
Not to state the obvious, but I wasn’t expecting this to be our journey at all. I had no major issues breastfeeding my first two babies and expected this time to be no different. My milk came in in full force while I was still in the hospital. I used my Haaka in the beginning and quickly amassed extra milk (I’ve always had a great supply). I thought it was going to be smooth sailing again. Then his two-week appointment came and I learned that he was still six ounces under birth weight. I was blindsided. We started doing weighted feeds and I started pumping, only to be shocked again to realize my initally-amazing supply had already adjusted to his lowered demands. That was honestly the most discouraging part for me: had I just known to pump from the beginning, my supply would have stayed up. Instead, I had to work on boosting my supply and building it back up while still breastfeeding AND pumping AND supplementing with formula. It was pretty stressful and I couldn’t keep it up very long, but I do wonder about how things would’ve been different had my supply stayed high from the start.
This experience kind of popped my newborn bubble a little sooner than I wanted. I absolutely LOVED the first two weeks of his life – snuggling just the two of us in the recliner in my bedroom, sun streaming gently through the windows, skin to skin contact, just soaking up the sweetness of his newborn-ness. It was an amazing experience and I will cherish it. After learning about his transfer issues, some of the joy got sucked out of my experience – I felt sad and guilty for not realizing he wasn’t gaining weight, and I was anxious about how to correct our course. I will say, I could feel that the joy was getting sucked out and did NOT want that to be what I remembered, so I worked hard to keep noticing and appreciating the sweet newborn moments too. I’m so glad I didn’t spiral and allow stress and anxiety to make me miss out on everything, but it still put a damper on things.
Things I’m SO glad I did
I’m so glad I worked with a lactation consultant. She was wonderful and supportive and encouraging and empowering. Working with her and doing regular weighted feeds gave me actual data on how he was doing, which in turn helped me make rational decisions about what to do. Thanks to her help, I feel like I did everything in my power to make breastfeeding work, which made it easier for me to let go of when it didn’t. I did what I could, it wasn’t what was working for him, and I feel no shame or lingering guilt over that. [Side note: I felt nothing but complete support from my entire circle. My pediatrician, my husband, my family, my friends – everyone was so supportive and I never felt one single ounce of judgement or shame from anyone about my decision. While I felt confident enough in what I was choosing, it certainly helped that I didn’t have people casting doubts or judgement over my choices and I appreciate that so much.]
I’m so glad I reflected on my experience with LJ and Vi. I think being a third-time mama made me a little calmer about the whole thing – once I got over the initial shock/disappointment/guilt, I could see that I wasn’t doing anything differently this time around. I wasn’t doing anything wrong or failing him or anything like that, he just had different needs than my first two kids, and it really helped to keep that perspective.
I’m so glad I knew my limits. I technically could have done more to try to make breastfeeding work, but it would’ve come at a cost. I have two other children, two dogs, a house to take care of, a husband to be in relationship with, and life I want to enjoy. I wasn’t going to be able to pump around the clock or power pump or completely change my diet or do more than I was already doing without it affecting other areas of my life. I was at the limit for what I could handle with all the things on my plate, and I’m glad I could recognize that and prioritize my own mental health and family life too.
I’m so glad I invested in a new pump. I’ll be honest – I’ve always thought pumping was a drag. But exclusively pumping? I had no idea how much of a drag it could actually be. While I loved my Spectra pump for the occasional pump here or there or when traveling, for day-to-day use, it was cumbersome and inconvenient. We invested in the Elvie pump and it made my life so much easier. I just tucked it in my bra (no need to change to a pumping bra like with the Spectra) and went about my day. Even though I ultimately only used it for about 3.5 months, I’m glad I got it. I’m absolutely positive I wouldn’t have lasted this long with the Spectra, so I’m glad I got to extend the time I provided breastmilk.
Things that were challenging
Did I mention pumping is a drag? Ha! While I’m still so thankful I used the Elvie, I never truly enjoyed pumping.
All. The. Dishes. Between pump parts and bottles, pumping creates a lot of extra work and it often felt like I was living in a groundhog day of constant dishes. I’m so glad someone gave me the advice to keep pump parts in the fridge in between pumps to at least eliminate some dishes during the day, but it still is a lot of work.
Using formula requires a lot more mental energy than breastfeeding did. Before leaving the house, we have to make sure we have filtered water, a container of formula, a clean bottle, etc. It’s not always easy to measure out formula and make bottles depending on where we are. It’s just – again – more work than whipping out a nursing cover and feeding him whenever and wherever he needs with no other supplies.
I never fully appreciated how breastmilk is free (I mean, there is an unpaid labor + mental load cost, but you know what I mean) until I had to start buying formula. To say I had sticker shock is an understatement, especially as time went on and I provided less and less breastmilk and we went through formula quicker.
Things I’ve enjoyed
With LJ and Vi, I was basically the sole provider of food. With the exception of a few bottles here and there, I was involved in every. single. feed. Now, Justin and I share the load equally. We can each give bottles, we can each prepare the diaper bag, we can each wash the dishes. It’s the most involved he’s been with feeding at this stage, which has been really sweet to see, and it’s nice that I can have some breaks. The kids even occasionally help give a bottle – melt my heart! It’s also been easier for grandparents to be involved and babysit.
With breastfeeding, I often had to leave to find comfortable surroundings, especially if we were away from home. This often meant leaving the table, leaving the group, leaving the conversations, and missing out on whatever was going on in order to comfortably breastfeed somewhere else. There were times it felt isolating. With bottles, I can feed wherever and don’t have to miss out on anything, which has been really great.
I’ve still enjoyed feeding and snuggles. I still get to bond with this baby. Formula and bottles hasn’t changed that.
I’m proud of the fact that I did what I could for Ollie for five months, and I’m proud of myself for recognizing that it’s time to close this door and move to exclusive formula. I’ve been breastfeeding or pregnant for the better part of SIX YEARS now and it will never cease to amaze me what bodies can do. Leaving this chapter behind is bittersweet, but I think it was always going to be that way. I leave it behind with tears in my eyes, but they aren’t tears of guilt or sorrow. They are tears of gratitude – it’s been a joyful, challenging, sweet, empowering, exhausting, and ultimately beautiful journey and I’m so extremely grateful for it. They all took different approaches to feeding, but I have three happy, healthy, thriving children and that is all that truly matters to me.
Our living room sconces are installed and I’m in love!
For the first 3.5 years of living in this house, we had no permanent light source in the living room. The ceiling fixture was simply a fan and the only other source of light was lamps. The previous owners had wired all outlets to be “half hot” and connected to a light switch so that the switch could turn lamps on and off, but we basically never used that feature and would turn lamps on and off individually.
Even with multiple lamps in use, Justin and I never felt like the living room was well lit enough so I’ve been excited to add better lighting basically since day one of moving in. First up was removing the old ceiling fan and replacing with a six-globe chandelier when we painted the ceiling back in November. This made a huge difference in making our ceiling a dramatic statement and bringing lots of light to the room!
Notice the mismatched lamps – functionally, we needed them, but aesthetically, they weren’t the greatest. We actually used to just have a small table lamp on the door side until it fell and broke one day and I had to get a replacement floor lamp. I didn’t want to spend money on a matching set since I eventually wanted sconces, so we just lived with the mismatched look. The lamps always felt in the way – one made it difficult to open and close that side door and the other made it both physically congested in a corner with lots of wires (we use that outlet for charging computers and tablets) and visually congested with the side table and window.
Justin swapped out the old ceiling fan for the chandelier but when it came to hardwiring sconces, we knew we needed a professional. I chose these sconces from Rejuvenation during a recent sale and we hired an electrician to come and hardwire them behind the couch. I knew I would love having sconces, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d love having them. They allow us to free up floor space and remove the visual clutter the lamps caused, they operate via light switch (the same light switch that previously operated lamps but we never used), they give the massive wall some much-needed interest, and of course, they bring so much great light to the living room!
I used 3000K, 500 lumen candelabra lightbulbs and they give the perfect amount of warmth in the mornings and evenings.
Now that the sconces are in, it’s time to decide what I want to put on the wall in between them. I’ve always pictured one massive piece of artwork instead of a gallery wall but wanted to wait until the sconces were actually installed before making any final decisions. The wall is so massive that I feel it really needs a statement piece to ground it a bit. Right now this print is a top contender but I’m still playing around with ideas.
The living room continues to be a string of slow and steady design decisions and while there are still several things to address, I’m super happy with how it’s coming together.
I’ve done several “day in the life” posts in the past that have covered an ordinary day in our house, but today’s post is a look at a completely different area of my life. I enjoy decorating our house (probably pretty obvious by now, ha!) and one of my favorite places to look for things is a thrift store.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of things in my home from places like Target too, but there is something I just love about hunting through a thrift store. You have to sometimes sort through a lot of stuff to find a gem, but I have found some seriously awesome, unique, good quality items when thrifting. It’s also a sustainable and relatively inexpensive way to shop – better for the planet and your wallet! I’ve come to have my favorite thrift stores where I often find good scores and those are now the ones I stop in most frequently. I particularly like the one in my parents’ hometown, so when I was visiting last week I stopped in to browse around. I thought it would be fun to take you along with me to see the types of things I considered, including what I passed on and what I ultimately bought. So today we have – a day in the life of Sarah at a thrift store! 😊
I’m always on the hunt for containers to hold my growing plant collection, but I’m pretty particular with what I pick up these days. It has to be a definite YES, not just a “yeah okay, this will work” – this planter was cute, but not quite a strong enough yes for me, so I passed it up.
I really enjoyed wrapping Christmas presents in fabric this year and want to continue doing that in the future. I was able to save many of the fabric scraps I used but my niece also kept several pieces to use in her sewing lessons (I love that!) I found a plaid print that would be perfect for Christmas presents!
I also snagged this sweet floral print for $1 – it would be a fun option for wrapping gifts but I’m also thinking it would make for a cute throw pillow cover.
Fabric Ribbon: Bought
I also snagged a couple rolls of fabric that had been made into ribbon. Such an easy way to elevate a gift and I love that it gives new life to fabric scraps!
Wrapping Paper: Bought
While wrapping in fabric is cute and sustainable, there are still situations where I know I’ll want traditional paper. I dug through the gift wrap section and snagged two new rolls for $1 each – one fun sprinkle print and one plain brown paper. I like that these are both gender-neutral and can be used for a variety of events!
Books: Some Passed, Some Bought
It can take a lot of time to sort through books, but when I take the time to do it, I usually find at least one book to take home! On this trip I found three I’ve been wanting to read: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth, Someone We Know by Shari Lapena, and The Bodyguard by Katherine Center. Sometimes I’ll also choose books that I’ve never heard of but seem intriguing and occasionally I’ll find a book I’ve already read and loved and buy to add to my collection.
On this day, the only book I found that I’ve read before was The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle and since that isn’t a huge favorite of mine, I decided to pass.
Baskets are another category I always check out – I love using them for functional decor! There were many baskets available, and one I considered, but ultimately none that I needed or had an immediate place for.
Copper Mug: Passed
This little mug was so cute, but I don’t think I’d use it much and since it’s not part of a set, it would likely just sit on my shelf.
Green Vintage Glass Bowl: Passed
I’m becoming pretty particular with tchotchkes because I don’t want a bunch of clutter, but I’m always looking through the decor sections for fun and unique pieces. While I loved the look of this green glass bowl, I couldn’t really think of a place to put it or a use for it so I decided to just appreciate it for a few moments and then move on.
Pink Vintage Glass Stemmed Dish: Bought
My heart stopped when I spotted this piece. It’s so pretty and unique! It’s the most expensive thing I bought on this trip ($8) but felt 100% worth it. I love the vintage glass charm mixed with the sweet pink color and will enjoy pulling this out to elevate a table spread for holidays, evenings with friends, or anytime I just want a little something extra. I also love the idea of having a some sort of “fancy” party with Vi and her friends in the future – maybe a little tea party or princess luncheon or something like that! I picture 6 or 7 year old girls in dress up dresses having cute little snacks on sweet little china pieces and just feeling fancy and fun. This would be the perfect type of thing to have set out on the table holding pretzels or candy or another fun treat!
Vintage China: Passed
In this hypothetical future party for Vi, these type of china dishes are exactly what I picture using – I don’t need a whole set, just a few plates to make it feel special. I was very tempted by this set of 5 plate for $3, but ultimately passed because a) Vi may not actually be interested in having this kind of party in a few years, b) it’s a long time to store plates that may or may not get used, and c) there are ALWAYS vintage china pieces for sale in thrift stores. If this party happens someday, we’ll be able to find something similar (wheras I will likely not be able to find something similar to the pink glass container!)
Similarly to baskets and planters, I’m always on the hunt for frames! I choose based on size and style but don’t worry about color since I often spray paint them. On this particular trip I snagged a small 5×7 frame for 50 cents that I plan to spray paint and use to expand a gallery wall.
I really loved these rugs made from fabric scraps! A group of volunteers makes these for the thrift store using scraps from donations they receive and I think it’s such a brilliant, sustainable way to give new life to old demin and other fabric. I was tempted by the yellow and white striped one, but don’t have a place for it right now. In the future, if I need a rug for a doormat, I’ll look here first.
I don’t have a need for any furniture right now, but I was surprisingly tempted by these two pieces. I’m actually super into the colors used and the floral pattern. They’re not a set but the individual pieces work so well together and I found myself wishing I had a spot for them. It was fun to be inspired!
Washable Paint: Bought
My kids do not need any more toys, but I saw this box of (new!) washable paint in the kids’ section and couldn’t pass it up. My kids love using these paints for art projects so I was thrilled to get another box for when our current supply runs out.
And that was my trip! I spent a total of $28.42 which felt like a pretty good deal to me. Hopefully this inspired you to give secondhand shopping a try – you might just be surprised by what you can find!
The first project of 2023 is complete! When my parents asked to take the big two kids for the weekend, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to tackle a lingering project in their bedroom: the blank wall behind their dresser. I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons working on a mountain mural and love how it turned out!
The other three walls in the room have a 2/3 colorblocked look and I’ve been wanting to make the wall behind the dresser an accent wall. I tried wallpaper but ran into some issues and lost motivation for a while. I got the idea to do a mountain mural and after seeing a few other pictures online, my inspiration was renewed! Mountains are important to both Justin and me. He grew up in a beautiful valley in Virginia surrounded by mountains, and I went to college there and fell in love with the views. I also did a study abroad in India and spent some time in the foothills of the Himalayas – it was an awe-inspiring experience I’ll never forget. Additionally, we lived in West Virginia for the first three years of our marriage and loved spending our free time hiking and exploring. Mountains signify both home and adventure to us and I want our kids to feel the same way, so it felt like the perfect choice for their bedroom.
I wanted this to be a quick, $0 project so I went through my entire stash of paint and collected colors that felt like they would go together and work with the other colors in the room. I had a general idea of what I wanted the mural to look like, but I didn’t trace or map out anything and instead decided to just freehand and see what happened.
The beauty of a no-plan plan is that mountain ridges are jagged and unique, so really anything goes. Even if I made a “mistake” it ended up looking intentional and worked! As I went I would add and take away based on what was looking right to me; in some cases, I ended up painting over part of a mountain or changing a ridgeline by cutting in other paint. I even ended up altering the top gray ridge by painting back over some of it with the white wall color.
I expected to do two coats of all the paint, but I ended up liking the swirly, more abstract look of one coat of paint on some of the ridges, so I left those alone after one coat.
I painted the light switch and outlet cover the same color as the mountain ridge behind each one. The picture below also shows the one thing I did plan out – I kept the line from the connecting walls as a start for that same blue color. It lines up on both sides as a kind of continuation of the straight line into the mountain ridge. I also used that color as the bottom paint color along the baseboard so it matched the baseboards.
This was a pretty quick, easy, and inexpensive project and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s not perfect, but then again, neither are real-life mountains. 😉 My kids love it!
I thought this wall would be the last project of the room but…now that I see things in place, there’s a lot of blue happening. There’s also a lot of painted surfaces, so I want to see if I can strip the paint off the dresser (a Marketplace find from 7 years ago) to see about staining it a dark wood color. Just like the mural itself – we’ll just see what happens!
For anyone wondering, here are the paint colors I used:
All my Christmas decorations are down and my house feels ready for a fresh start – all I want to do is clean, purge, organize, and just freshen things up around here! What I do not want to do is spend a lot of money.
The Christmas season is so fun, but it can get expensive. Gifts, food, travel, experiences, holiday cards . . . it all adds up and January feels like a time I not only want to reset my home, but reset my budget. I’ve been thinking about ways to give my house a little refresh without spending money (or at least spending very little) and I came up with ten things to do. These things are either free or low-cost and I thought I’d share them today in case you’re also looking for easy, inexpensive ways to give your home a little refresh.
These ten things are what I’m doing now to refresh my home for the new year, but they can all be done at any time throughout the year!
Add in Seasonal Greenery
Faux seasonal greenery can be purchased from a variety of stores and there are items out there for lots of different budgets, but the most budget-friendly option is: head outside! This is obviously a bit easier in the summer, when there are abundant types of tree, bush, or flowering plants to collect from, but it’s still possible in the fall and winter. For example, you can snip a few branches from an evergreen tree or winter berry tree or collect pinecones to display in a bowl. If you plan ahead a bit, you can dry some flowers or leaves to use too. I dried hydrangeas from our yard last year and they looked great all winter long! I’m currently loving the look of dried fern stems in our bedroom and also kept an unlit, potted evergreen tree on display instead of packing it up with the rest of my holiday decor (when you subtract lights and ornaments, it feels wintery instead of Christmas-y!)
Clean Out Your Fridge
Since we were going to Virginia for a week over Christmas, I purposely tried to get our fridge stash super low so food wouldn’t just spoil when we were gone (although it wasn’t as empty as that first picture – I had already started taking things out to wipe down!) This ended up being a great time to just clear out all the remaining items and give every shelf and drawer a good wipe down. Pull everything out of your fridge, wipe down all shelves, drawers and items (whyyyyy does my ketchup bottle always get so sticky and gross?) and check dates before you put things back in. It’s so satisfying to open my fridge now and know it’s clean and nothing is expired. Also, I know I’m not the only one who gets on a health kick for the new year . . . here’s hoping my fridge still contains this many vegetables in August, ha!
Change Up Your Textiles
Swapping out bedding is such an easy way to freshen up the whole feel of your room. I love cotton and linen in the spring and summer, but once temperatures drop, I’m a flannel girl. I usually choose simple, graphic patterns so they’re easy to mix and match in different seasons and spaces. Adding wool or knit blankets to beds or couches in the winter feels so cozy too – I expect to use this vintage pink-and-cream checked wool blanket all over my house this winter! If you don’t have extra sheets on hand to swap out and don’t want to buy a whole new set, you can separately purchase pillowcases that coordinate with your existing bedding for a fresh, mix-and-match feel.
And speaking of textiles . . .
Launder Infrequent Items
You likely wash your sheets regularly, but what about your duvet cover, quilt, or comforter? What about throw pillow covers or the blanket that hangs out on the couch? Maybe it’s just me, but I recently realized there are a lot of textiles in my home that rarely get cleaned! The last time I did laundry, I was pulling things out of my hamper, which has a cloth liner. I noticed that the bottom of the liner was looking super dingy and realized I hadn’t washed it in . . . ever? I tossed it in with the load of laundry and it looks so fresh and clean now! It’s a little thing that makes a big difference. My goal this week is to go through our house and wash all the textiles I can find – all bedding, removable throw pillow covers, blankets, hot pads, oven mitts, small accent rugs, etc. – to give everything a fresh start.
Clean Out a Drawer or Cabinet
It can feel daunting to declutter, so keep it small and manageable and start with just one drawer or cabinet. Take everything out, wipe it down, and only put back in what you need (bonus points if you can add some method of organization to keep it this way and even more bonus points if you can donate any item still in good condition so someone else can use it!) It’s amazing to me how empowering it can feel to get a small space in order – it will make your house feel more streamlined, functional, and fresh! It also just might motivate you to tackle another drawer, cabinet, closet, or room. 🙂
Test all your Writing Utensils
How frustrating is it to be searching for a writing utensil to jot something down quickly, only to find a broken pencil tip or pen with dried out ink? This is a great time to go through your house with a little notepad and sharpener and test every writing utensil. Sharpen dulled pencils and toss pens that don’t work anymore. It’s an easy task that will eliminate the inconvenience of reaching for something that doesn’t work, and it can also help you corral pens and pencils that have made their way to random spots around your house, making it feel so fresh and organized.
When your eyes are used to seeing the same thing in the same spot everyday, it’s easy to not even really notice it anymore. You know when you take the same drive every day and then one day you suddenly realize “whoa, I’ve never noticed that house/barn/unusual thing before!” It’s been there, but you’ve just driven by the same thing day after day and haven’t really registered it. The same is true in your house. We get used to a certain arrangement and we stop really even noticing what we have. One of my favorite free ways to freshen up my home is to shop my own stuff and rearrange – it creates a fresh feel but also a renewed appreciation for what I already had! This can be as big as rearranging furniture, either within the room or moving something to a different room, or as small as just moving a piece of artwork or a plant from one spot to another. Try not to get stuck on things “but this is the blanket I’ve always kept on this chair in my living room” – it might look fantastic on your bed too! Trust me, even if you’ve had the artwork/decor/piece of furniture for years, it can feel fresh and new just by moving to a new location in your home.
I love original art and will always encourage supporting and purchasing from artists if and when you can, but it’s also nice to find inexpensive ways to add quality art to your home. I’ve recently been introduced to an extremely cost-effective way to add some art to your home: the public domain!
Did you know there are millions of pieces of artwork in the public domain? Generally speaking, art becomes public domain 70 years after the death of the artist; what this means is the artwork becomes free of copyright restrictions. Museums like the Met and Smithsonian release it into the public domain and it’s free for you to use and reproduce without permission (I would include the caveat that it’s still important to credit the original artist every time!) The plus side of using public domain artwork over a digital download from a print shop is that it is completely free to download the image, but in exchange, you are giving up the curation that print shops provide. It’s daunting to sift through millions of images! I was thrilled to discover that A Home is Announced has a free curated public domain shop – she has taken the time to curate some beautiful public domain work that you can sift through and download what you like. It’s a great place to start when first exploring public domain art!
I searched through her shop and found five different pieces of artwork that felt like “winter” to me. I downloaded them (for free!) and had them printed at my local FedEx print shop on a matte cardstock for less than $2.50 per print. I put them in various frames I’ve thrifted over the years (anywhere from $1-$3 typically) and voila! Beautiful seasonal artwork for about $5 a piece, and it will be easy to swap out a different print in the frame if I want a change in another season.
Wipe down switch plates, door handles, and wall scuffs
Okay this isn’t an exciting one, but it can make a big difference! These high-contact surfaces get dingy over time and it often happens so gradually that we don’t notice it. Walk around with a multipurpose cleaner and cloth for the knobs and switches and a Magic Eraser for the wall scuffs and see what a big difference it can make!
Swap out scents
This one might be obvious, but changing up the scents in your home is a simple way to make your home feel fresh. Whether you use a candle or diffuser – scent is powerful and can make a big difference!
It might seem like these are all little things that won’t make much difference, but I’m a firm believer that refreshing the way your home feels can affect the way you and your family feel, and that is no small thing! I’ve already done a few things on this list over the past few days, and I will be checking off the remining items in the coming week or so. My home already feels so much better for me and my family, and I hope these ideas do the same for you and yours.
I love the new year – fresh starts and goal-setting are so inspiring to me. It’s the perfect time to set some intentions for what I want to accomplish in both my personal life and in our home. I’ve typically shared all my goals on the blog each year but this year I’m sticking to just the goals I have for our home – looking at the list, there is definitely a recurring theme of storage! It might not be the flashiest or most exciting thing to add, but I am a big believer that if you can edit your things to only what you need in your home AND store them in a way that works for your family, your home will run so much more smoothly. Now that we’ve lived in this home nearly four years, I have a clear idea of how we actually use the space and what solutions we need to put in place to make it more streamlined.
Here’s a look at the things I’m hoping to accomplish in 2023 – whether they’re storage-related or not, I’m very excited for all these upcoming projects!
Finish the Accent Wall in the Kids’ Shared Bedroom
Last year, we moved LJ and Vi into a shared room and it is sooooo close to being finished. I originally planned a wallpaper accent wall that didn’t pan out and I was stuck in an uninspired rut for a long time afterward. I have renewed energy to paint a fun mural instead, so this wall is first up on my list of projects to accomplish this year. (Step One: Take down all the Christmas decor!)
Get the Foyer Painted
This is a carryover from last year’s project list. I painted the bottom level of the foyer back in March 2021 but due to the height of the walls and configuration of the stairs, I can’t handle painting the rest myself. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve lived with a half-painted foyer for this long but it’s reached the point where I’m so used to it that it doesn’t even register in my brain anymore. It’s WAY PAST time to wrap up this project and I’m really hoping to hire it out and have it painted by March.
Finish Up the Living Room
I started working on a Phase One upgrade of the living room in the fall but there are some lingering projects to work on. I need to paint the windows and replace the window trim, as well as figure out a new buffet/TV stand situation. We also have some sconces to install and I hope to get on our electrician’s schedule soon to get them hardwired. Progress will likely continue to be slow and steady over the first part of the year as this phase takes shape.
Replace the Basement Carpet
The majority of our basement is carpeted, and that carpet is past its prime. It’s a high-pile shag, which is hard to keep clean when dirt and sand gets tracked in from outside. It has multiple stains throughout the rooms and is pulling up in random places, creating the look of ripples. I’ve wanted to replace it pretty much since Day One of moving in and this is the year we are budgeting to finally do it! Our deadline is May, because we will need to move all the Legos and tiny toys out of the playroom and down to the basement as Ollie gets to the crawling (and putting things in his mouth!) stage. I’m very much looking forward to checking this off the list!
Finish the Guest Room Stencil
Another carryover from last year’s list, I’m determined to finally wrap up this project! Summer tends to be when we have the most guests come to stay with us so I’m making it a goal to finish by Memorial Day.
Create a Workout Room
Our basement has always been (and will always be!) multipurpose. It’s a space for our overnight guests, it’s a space for entertaining, it’s a space to hang out. We moved here in 2019, so due to the pandemic we really haven’t hosted as much as we expected to, but we’re getting to the point now where we’re entertaining more and more down here. Add in the fact that we’re moving more of the kids small toys (Legos, marbles, etc) down there and the uses of the space are shifting once again. For the past two years Justin and I have worked out in the large main space, but it’s time to move our stationary bike, mats, and free weights to their own dedicated space. We don’t have an obvious room for a home gym, but after living here for a few years and thinking through options, I’m ready to transform our basement storage room to meet this need. This storage room has been a hot haphazard mess since the day we’ve moved in – it’s like our Room of Requirement + Monica’s closet (if you know, you know!) and I cringe every time I walk in. It’s going to involve a lot of organizing and re-structuring our storage solutions, which brings me to . . .
Clean Out + Update Storage in Our Garage
Our garage is huge but doesn’t really have any great storage solutions. We’ve been working with what we’ve had for the past few years but it’s time to make it functional for how we actually use it, not how the previous owners did. We’re going to clean it out and add some DIY shelving so we can make this a really functional space for storing all the things! I never would have thought I’d be so excited to renovate a garage but here we are. 🙂
Update the Patio
We have big dreams for our outdoor space. It’s our #1 hangout in the summer and whether we’re hosting someone or just hanging out there as a family, we use it every nice day in the summer. We eventually want to expand the patio area, add a mini outdoor kitchen, and expand the deck area down by the pond. While this likely isn’t going to be the year to actually do all that, we’re going to start getting some quotes to at least start planning it out. This year I want to start with a few smaller changes to the patio by adding string lights and planter boxes to define the space and make it feel nice and cozy. We also need some (yep, here it is again!) storage solutions out there for all our grilling tools, fishing equipment, swimming floats, and sand toys.
There are still nine days left in 2022, but I’m taking next week totally off from the blog to just enjoy time with family so my book review post is coming early this month. Today I’m sharing both my December reads and my TOP TEN books of the year (spoiler alert: one of my December reads made that list too!) I had a lot going on this year so I only read 37 books, but enjoyed so many of them that it was still hard to narrow down a top ten. Let’s dive in!
Eight years ago, Marin’s heart was broken right before Christmas and she hasn’t been home for the holiday since. When a “Christmas traditions”-style segment has the potential to launch her from field reporter to her very own show, she travels back home to surprise (and film) her parents and their holiday traditions. Turns out, the surprise is on her because it’s not her mom answering the door – on live stream! – but her ex-boyfriend Max. He’s staying with her parents for Christmas and the viewers instantly love him, forcing Marin to include him in more and more segments. They start fake-flirting to the camera, but pretty soon it becomes all too real.
Last year I read A Cross-Country Christmas from this author and loved it so I was quick to put this on my Christmas reading list. Courtney Walsh does clean, sweet, Hallmark-y books well and this was no exception. It’s a bit cheesy and predictable but not too eye-rolling – just what I was in the mood for! I liked the characters individually and got invested in their dynamic and fake-flirting relationship. The small-town-at-Christmastime setting is festive and charming. You know when you’re in the mood for just a feel-good holiday movie? This feels like that. I recommend if you’re wanting something easy and festive for the holiday!
After a devastating incident, Sewanee Chester abandoned her dreams of being an actress and is now an audiobook narrator reading everything except romance, which she has long since given up on. That all changes with a late author’s last request and a lucrative offer – now Sewanee finds herself reading a romance novel alongside the hottest audiobook author of the moment, Brock McNight. Though they’re both using pseudonyms, she and Brock form a connection over emails and texts that builds up to one moment: when they have to reveal their true selves to one another.
This was such a unique, fun read! I adored the characters and their dynamic and I found Sewanee to be such a refreshing main character. Her feelings and struggles and triumphs are so realistic and relatable; the author doesn’t try to overly-simplify complex issues. I got very invested in this storyline and loved watching Sewanee and Brock’s relationship unfold. I will say, it is a romance book about audiobook readers reading a romance . . . so it is heavy on steam at times. To be completely honest, I thought the actual audiobook text they were reading was pretty cringe-worthy but I think that was maybe the point? It’s not a central part of the plot and can be skimmed over just fine and the rest of the plot makes up for it!
I liked this book so much that it is actually one of my top ten books of the year! As for the other nine? Let’s recap them:
HANDS DOWN my favorite book from this year. Incredibly thought-provoking with a unique plot and interesting parallels to draw in our current society. This is perfect for a book club discussion! See my full review here.
This book inspired me to work to create a simpler, more restful life for our family to enjoy and savor. I know it will have far-reaching impact in my family’s life and I’ll be referring to it for a long, long time. Full review here.
We only have two more weeks in 2022 (!!) and next week I’ll be taking a break from the blog as I soak up lots of family time so today felt like a great time to check in on the goals I set at the beginning of 2022. I started the year with several house projects on my to-do list, as well as a few personal and family goals. Overall, I’m counting this year as a big success!
Goals for Our Home
While this year didn’t have any major renovations like previous years, I did make quite a bit of progress in some rooms in our house.
Update the Flooring
I’m giving myself partial credit for this goal. Justin and I decided to prioritize some different financial goals this year, which put the major flooring plans on hold for now. We have hopes to update the basement carpet in 2023 and address the entire main floor level in 2024, but we did proceed with updating the carpet in the nursery and LJ & Vi’s shared bedroom. It made a huge difference in both spaces! I’m excited to continue to update flooring throughout our house over the next few years.
Main Floor Powder Room
This project just never felt like a priority for me, and I don’t have specific inspiration for the room yet, so it got bumped from my 2022 to-do list. Maybe I’ll get inspired to tackle it in 2023? It also might just be on hold until the main floor level gets updated flooring – we’ll see!
Finish the Guest Room Stencil
I made some progress on this goal this year, but did not complete it. Part of the reason I stopped is because I’m still not sure if I want to continue the stencil all the way around the room or stay with just the two walls shown. Either way, I need to just commit some time to finishing up in 2023. We did upgrade the bed + mattress from a full to a queen with all new bedding and every guest who has stayed with us since has commented on how cozy and comfortable it is is so I’m counting that as a big win.
Update the Kids’ Bedrooms
This goal is approximately 95% complete! LJ and Vi moved into a shared bedroom this year and it got quite the glow up: matching twin beds, curtains, sconces, carpet, and updated storage, bedding, and artwork. The only thing left on my list to address is the wall behind the dresser – it was originally going to be wallpapered, but that project lost steam after a mishap with the order. I have a new idea for this wall now and I’m feeling very inspired so look for that to be one of the first things I tackle in 2023!
I made zero progress on this goal, but rest assured it is a top priority for 2023! Our foyer has been halfway painted since March 2021 and I’m determined to get it finished before the two year mark.
Update the Living Room
It’s slow, but progress is happening in this room! I have painted the walls and ceiling and we installed a new chandelier. We’ve also spoken to an electrician about hardwiring some sconces above the couch and in the new year I’ll be painting the windows and replacing trim. I haven’t felt a strong sense of urgency to finish since we currently have our Christmas tree set up in here, but once that’s down in the new year I know I’ll be itching to finish up this room.
We did not end up making any changes to our main patio this year but we did DIY an umbrella stand with storage for the little deck down by the pond and we have used that SO much! It’s so nice to have some shade since we spend hours out there each day in the summer; I’m definitely still giving myself partial credit for this goal.
Bonus Projects I didn’t Plan On
There were a few things I accomplished this year that I didn’t have on my original list, but are still worth celebrating. First up, I helped my sister with several projects in her home this year:
We laid down peel & stick tile in her kitchen and it pulled the changes we made last year (painting the cabinets and walls, removing some top cabinetry and installing open shelving, painting the backsplash) together to make the space feel fresh.
In April I thrifted a $20 dresser and upgraded it for her nursery. Justin and I also DIYed a frame for a frameless mirror to complement it. Now that my sweet nephew is here, this gets a ton of use!
Most recently I helped her with transforming her guest bathroom in a single weekend. Using mostly paint and a few simple DIYs, we made this room feel like a completely new space that reflects her personality so well.
I completed a few small projects throughout the year too but my favorite one is the dollhouse I bought and re-vamped for my kids’ Christmas present. I cannot wait to give it to them this weekend!
Exercise at least 3x per week
Unfortunately, in my very full life right now, exercise is something that can too easily get pushed to the back burner. I am feeling really good after my third c-section and want to get back into regular exercise asap!
Buy thoughtfully and intentionally
I can honestly say that this goal has now become an ingrained part of my lifestyle. Whenever I need something, whether it be a gift, an item for my home, clothing for myself or my kids, or any other product, I first think: is there a sustainable or fair trade option? Can I buy it from a local business? Can I buy it secondhand and give new life to something? A few examples of things I’ve done this year are: switching to reusable fabric cotton rounds instead single-use ones, wrapping my presents in fabric, thrifting or renting nearly all my children’s clothing, shopping small, local businesses for gifts, and finding a gorgeous, fair-trade woven laundry basket and some vintage pieces for the nursery. Sometimes I can’t find something and I don’t drive myself crazy trying to be perfect. I have my fair share of big-box-store-bought items for sure, but it truly feels great anytime I can be a little more thoughtful with a purchase.
I’m not sure what I was thinking including this as a goal in the same year I have a newborn, ha! Ollie surprised us though and it our best sleeper by far so my sleep tank isn’t as depleted as I expected. I don’t always go to bed as early as I hope, but it has helped tremendously to be conscious of timing falling asleep with my REM cycle so I don’t wake up super groggy. I’ve also started using an actual alarm clock instead of my phone to check the time if I wake up in the middle of the night so that helps to not stimulate my brain and disrupt sleep too much. These little habits have definitely helped me sleep better!
Update the Blog Menu
This goal is finished! I updated the entire blog menu earlier in the year AND I’m giving myself an extra gold star because I’ve actually been able to maintain it and keep things updated as new posts get added. It’s now more organized and streamlined and (hopefully) easier for readers to navigate.
Take our first family vacation!
I’m giving us extra stars for this because we did a few trips this year! We went on our first family-of-four vacation to Disney World in February and had an incredible time.
In June, we went to the beach with Justin’s family AND took a trip with one of Justin’s high school buddies and his family to Maryland. We swam in the ocean played in the sand and went for hikes and took boat rides and just enjoyed adventuring as a family – it can be exhausting to travel with kids but it is also so much fun and I’m looking forward to more of it in our future!
Dates with Our Kids
Justin and I are really good about this . . . kind of. Ha! It has kind of naturally fallen into him doing lots of dates with LJ and me doing lots with Vi, which is great! But I also want us to switch and me take LJ and he take Vi for more one-on-one time in those combinations.
Now that we have Ollie I’m also very proud of my “me + 3” dates where I take all three kids to do something. Our favorite place to go is the zoo but we also hit up lots of playgrounds and parks for picnics and little adventures. So fun!
Be Intentional with Making Life Feel Special
I’m a work in progress here, but it has been really fun to try to incorporate fun little things into our life this year. Holidays are so magical for our kids in this stage of life and I’ve enjoyed adding everything from simple Lucky Charms cereal at St Patrick’s Day to an incredibly fun and memorable advent activity calendar this month. It’s also been fun to try to add some special things into everyday life – I’ll take a blanket and picnic supplies to our playground trips and we started a family campfire tradition every week this fall. It’s been a really special year!
I’m ending this year on a grateful note – 2022 is the year we did many things, but the best thing that happened was welcoming Ollie into our family. It was a wonderful year and I’m looking forward to all that 2023 will bring!
We’ve been a family of five for four months now and it’s hard to even remember back to life before Ollie. Our life, house, and hearts are fuller and happier than ever! As we’re now out of the newborn haze and settling into more of a routine, I thought it’d be a good time to check in and talk about our transition from two to three children. Today I’m sharing an honest look at how things have been going, and I included some questions I was asked on Instagram last week when I brought up this transition. Full disclosure, it’s a LONG post – maybe the longest I’ve ever had? – so grab a warm drink and a cozy blanket and settle on in. 🙂
How have the big kids adjusted to having another baby in the house?
They have both been beyond-my-wildest-dreams wonderful with a baby! I was bracing myself for jealously, tantrums, and regressions, particularly with Vi. She has always been my shadow and a big mama’s girl and I worried that a baby taking my attention would cause her to revert back to more babyish behavior, but thankfully that never happened. For both big kids, meeting their baby brother was literally love at first sight.
They were both smitten with their little brother and wanted to hold him all the time at first. We had to constantly remind them not to get in his face, only kiss his hands or his feet, give him some space – they were just smothering him with their love! It was very sweet to see how purely they bonded from the start.
I kind of expected the novelty to wear off and apathy (or a delayed jealousy) to set in eventually, but it hasn’t happened yet. They are patient and understanding when I need to be focusing my attention on him. They’re not as obsessed with holding him these days, but they still greet him every morning, kiss him good night, want to see him, be near him, watch him, and sing to him (melt. my. heart!)
Now that he’s more interactive, they like giving him baby toys to see if he’ll grasp them and they love trying to make him smile and laugh by doing silly things in front of him. I’m incredibly grateful that this part of the transition has been smooth sailing.
What has been harder than expected? What has been easier?
Justin and I obviously anticipated being outnumbered, but we didn’t really think about how being outnumbered translates to very little downtime. Previously, we were pros at the divide-and-conquer method: we’d each take a child and address their needs or just spend time with them one-on-one. We could also give each other breaks since one of us could take both kids to do something and the other would have time to themselves. Nowadays, the divide and conquer still happens but there’s not usually an “off” parent. A big example of this is bedtime; we previously took turns doing bedtime. Since LJ and Vi share a room, only one of us was needed for brushing teeth, reading books, and tucking in, so the other would get the night off. Now, we’re both doing bedtime every night – one of us has Ollie and the other has the big two.
When we do get “off” time to ourselves, we can feel kind of guilty or have a hard time truly enjoying the time because we know the other one has all three at once. Justin went hunting for a few days this fall; it’s a passion of his that I wanted him to enjoy AND it was really hard for me to be the “on” parent to three kids for all those extra hours. Justin gives me time to myself to read a book or go get a pedicure with a friend; he knows I need the mental break and is happy to give it to me AND it’s hard for him to take on all three after a long, exhausting day at work. We both truly want to give the other one the space and time we each need to recharge AND it’s just hard to take on extra hours with three kids. I will say, it’s getting a little easier with time so hopefully this is an area that keeps improving for us!
As for easier than expected, it’s been surprising to me to see how much I enjoy what I now call “me+three” outings. Starting when Ollie was five weeks old, I often take all three kids somewhere on Fridays – a playground or the zoo for example – and we have a little adventure. Somehow, these excursions have been way easier than I expected, and I think it’s for two reasons. One, I PREPARE. I take lots of snacks, full water bottles, and choose family-friendly locations where my kids can run and jump and get energy out (the grocery store is still decidedly NOT a fun place to take all three kids by myself). I choose times of day when we’re not yet tired and cranky and I go without a time limit – if we stay 30 minutes, it’s a win. If we stay 3 hours, it’s a win. It other words, it’s high-prep, but low pressure.
The second reason it’s easier than expected is because honestly, I have grown a lot as a mom over the past five years. I’m more confident and calm in most situations and am willing and able to just roll with most things these days. I also feel like I set myself up to say YES in these excursions and actually enjoy taking along a little picnic or staying at the stingray exhibit for 20 minutes. I’m proud of the growth I’ve seen in myself as a mom!
How is everyone’s sleep going?
It’s always a little hard to say this when you know other people are having rough times with sleep, but Ollie has been my absolute best sleeper. He was sleeping long stretches of 3-4 hours at just a week old and was fairly consistently sleeping through the night before he turned a month old. I did nothing significantly different with him, it’s just how he’s been. I realize we’re incredibly lucky and as I remember the first weeks with baby Vi cluster feeding round the clock every 60-90 minutes, I do not take that for granted.
Knowing he’s my last baby, I kept him in the bassinet in our room a little longer than I did with the other two, but at 10 weeks we moved him over to the crib in his nursery and the transition was smooth. If he does wake up, it’s usually just because he wants his pacifier popped back in although we do occasionally have to get up and feed him sometime between 3-5 am. For the most part, he sleeps from about 7 pm – 8 am. Hallelujah.
Now naps are a different story. With my first two kids, I could count on 3 regular naps that lasted over an hour each but Ollie mostly just cat naps. Fifteen minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes a randomly long hour nap, but nothing is regular. Part of that is we’re on the move a lot more and not home to put him down consistently so I think he’s never really had the chance to settle into a daytime sleep schedule. Luckily, he’s very adaptable and will take good naps in the car seat as we drive around or when pushed in the stroller so I count that as a win.
I also can’t talk about sleep without mentioning the older two and…woof. They’ve started having some nightmares and as the way lighter sleeper of the two of us, Justin is getting up with one or both of them nearly every night (and usually multiple times a night). I’m really hoping this improves soon!
Logistically, how do you travel? How is your vehicle arranged?
We have a van and we put the two big kids in the back seat and the infant car seat directly behind the driver. We collapsed the bucket seat on the passenger side down into the floor which is SO helpful for the kids getting in and out of the van and for me crawling in to help them get buckled. We actually have a road trip planned to Virginia in a couple weeks, which will be our first significant trip with all three so I’ll have to report back with how long travel goes!
Are you breastfeeding? How do you juggle the time commitment of feeding with the demands of other kids?
Our feeding journey has been a bit of a roller coaster actually. I breastfed my first two kids without issue (LJ for 13 months, Vi for 22 months) and expected to do the same this time. My milk came in right away and I had a great supply. I was confident and went along on my merry way.
I actually loved the first few weeks with a newborn at home. There was always another adult around so I would savor the time just him and me alone upstairs rocking and nursing and cuddling. Some of my sweetest memories!
At his two week check-up, we realized that something wasn’t right. He was still six ounces under birth weight. I was given the instructions to start pumping and supplementing with more milk to help him gain weight. I started working with a lactation consultant doing weighted feeds and we realized he was only transferring about an ounce total per feed AND my body had already adjusted to this lack of demand: my supply had gone way down. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was extremely frustrating to know that my supply had come in strong initially and had I just known to pump a bit from the beginning, I could’ve kept it up to where it needed to be. Instead, I was trying to breastfeed AND them pump AND work to try and build up my supply with extra hydration, lactation cookies, supplement drinks, etc.
I quickly went through the small stash of breastmilk I had accumulated as well as a stash a friend with an oversupply generously shared. I researched formulas and chose one to use in addition to breastmilk. At one point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, feeding him what I pumped, and giving formula to make up any deficit. It was exhausting and a little defeating because the truth is, Ollie just didn’t do well with breastfeeding. I worked with a lactation consultant for about eight weeks and gave it my best, but when things were only marginally improved (and the improvement had plateaued) by ten weeks, I made the decision to give up nursing. Everyone – my family, my lactation consultant, our pediatrician – was so supportive of this and I appreciate that not one person ever made me feel even slightly guilty about this. I was confident in my decision, but it did really help that there weren’t negative opinions being thrown at me.
Honestly, I thought this would be harder for me but I think because I had two good experiences breastfeeding my other babies, I know this isn’t something I did wrong. It’s just one of those things that didn’t work out for him and I was truly at peace giving it up at 10 weeks. I still continue to pump 2-3 times a day just to give him a bit of breastmilk but the majority of his nourishment now comes from formula.
As far as how I handle the time commitment of feeding with other kids around, it’s the same as it was when I was breastfeeding. They’re there! They like sitting right next to me as I feed him and now that there’s a bottle involved, they even sometimes want to help. I utilize screen time when necessary but they’ve pretty much adjusted to knowing when mommy is feeding they just need to wait. It is also really different having a 5 and 3 year old this time around – they can actually be (sort of) patient and wait if I’m feeding him. They can also bring me things I might need as I’m feeding him, like a burp cloth or diaper, or fulfill their own simple needs, like getting a glass of water or snack.
Having never really used bottles before, I had no idea what a time commitment it is to pump, wash pump parts, wash bottles, make sure you’re stocked on formula, make sure you have supplies for leaving the house . . . whew! It’s a whole different beast. When we moved to exclusive pumping + formula, I invested in the Elvie pump which is a game changer – it’s so SO nice for being able to pump and multitask with the other kids. I keep my pump parts in the fridge throughout the day so I don’t have to wash them each time and we have enough bottles to get us through at least half a day before needing to wash any. It makes a difference!
I’m not sure how long I’ll keep trying to pump or at what point I’ll move to 100% formula but for now I’m content with where we’ve landed.
Which was the most challenging transition: 0-to-1, 1-to-2, or 2-to-3?
Hands down, Justin and I agree that going from one child to two children was the most challenging transition for us. LJ and Vi are only 21 months apart and it sometimes felt like we had two babies – we had two in cribs, two in diapers, two non-verbal (LJ had some speech delays that started to resolve after he turned two). LJ had very few independent skills and still required close supervision in everything; the mental energy and physical demands of two-under-two felt like a lot, all the time. Needs were extra high and sleep was extra low. Obviously, any time you add another person to your family there are going to be unique challenges, but for us, that transition was the hardest.
How did you know you wanted to try for a third child?
I’m happy to share but I do want to first acknowledge: I know not everyone is able to time the gap between children or choose how many children they have. I have experienced pregnancy loss myself, and I always want to be sensitive to those who may be struggling with loss, infertility, or any other complicated factor in their parenthood journey. If you’re in a tough spot with this, I see you and am sending you a big virtual hug.
Justin and I always knew we wanted multiple kids, although when we got married he wanted three and I wanted four. After LJ, we were on the same page with wanting more and were ready at the same time – and along came Vi. At that point, our feelings for future children had shifted. As mentioned earlier, the transition from 1-2 children was SO incredibly tough on us. We originally thought we’d want all our kids close together in age but after Vi we knew we couldn’t do an < 2 year gap again. We tabled the discussion for more children until she turned one year old. At that point, Justin was really content with two and didn’t want to try for a third but I still really wanted to go for a third. We prayed, we talked, we went back and forth, back and forth, for another full year. We could each see the other’s point of view and understand the pros and cons each way, which actually made it more difficult I think. It was our ultimate analysis paralysis! In hindsight, I really wish we had seen a therapist – I think counseling would have absolutely helped us talk through our feelings/worries/hopes/dreams/etc and we would have saved ourselves a lot of cyclical discussions that went nowhere. Even though we didn’t do it, counseling is my #1 tip if you’re struggling to be on the same page with your partner on this.
We both agreed we did not want more than a 3 year gap between Vi and any younger sibling (nothing against bigger gaps, and I know it is amazing in some families – it’s just not what we wanted for ours for various reasons). As that date approached, we actually both came to the decision NOT to have a third. We were at peace with just two and decided not to try for more, final decision. A month or two went by and I just felt a nagging on my heart that would not quit. It’s like once I was truly telling myself we were done and it wasn’t going to happen, my heart kept nudging me to try. I went back to Justin and essentially say “hey, I know we agreed to be done but my heart just will not let this go and I really and truly feel like we need to at least try.” We talked, prayed again, and ultimately (finally!!) got on the same page.
We decided to try for a third, but only in a very specific, and pretty small, window. Essentially, we decided to try to the point where there would be a 3-year age gap and stop at that point. We both felt complete peace with this and truly believed that whatever happened was going to be the right decision for our family. We prayed quite a bit, and low and behold, we got pregnant. It was surprising to us that it actually happened but we both immediately felt like this baby was meant to be. After all that back and forth, in one moment it all just clicked into place.
We can both wholeheartedly say now that we cannot imagine our family without Ollie. This transition has had its ups and downs but we’re adjusting to life as a family of five and we wouldn’t have it ANY other way.
I am so so so so so incredibly and endlessly grateful for this family of mine.