#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

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Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!

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Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Newborn}

When my son was a few weeks old, I realized that while I loved being a stay-at-home mom, our days got pretty monotonous and long if I took my job title too literally and spent all of our time at home. I soon got stir crazy and longed for a little change of scenery once in a while so I started to look for small outings that he and I could make out into the world to feel like part of civilization again. In order for these little trips to be successful and (relatively) stress-free, a well-packed diaper bag was crucial.

But oh, how the diaper bag could quickly become a chaotic mess.

Seriously, I *knew* babies need a lot of stuff but I didn’t really KNOW how. much. stuff. that could end up being.  I wanted to hit the delicate balance between having whatever my 7 pound baby might actually need without throwing my back out lugging around 70 pounds of his stuff (which only felt like a slight exaggeration at the time). 

After a little trial and error, I struck that balance and it made leaving the house so much easier. Today I wanted to break down what my newborn diaper bag contained in case there is another mama out there trying to figure out how to leave the house without taking half of it with her. I know that each baby is different and each baby/mama is going to need some different items. This might not be the perfect diaper bag for anyone else, but it’s what worked for us!

Tips for Simplifying a newborn's Diaper Bag

First things first, I use this diaper bag. I wanted a backpack style bag so that my hands could be free and I chose this neutral shade so it would go with anything I wore. I love the simple, clean look – I get tons of compliments on the style and people are often shocked it is a diaper bag! I have seen many reviews saying it is too big and “boxy” for small frames. I am 5’2” and it is a little boxy but I adjust the arm straps as tight as they go and it works well for me. My 6’0” husband prefers a slouchy backpack and so he doesn’t love the fit as much through the arms even when he loosens the straps all the way; however, he carries it less often than me so this hasn’t been a big deal.

Magnolia

I also chose this backpack is because it didn’t have 587 pockets. I know some people want a lot of pockets to store things in a diaper bag. For me,  if I see a pocket, I’m going to want to fill it and as a minimal-ish mama, I didn’t want to be carrying around more than I needed just because I had pockets to do so. So I liked that this one had just a few pockets that I could make good use of. This diaper bag has three major compartments and I’m going to go through what I carried in each one.

Newborn diaper bag essentials (and a few extras)

The front compartment is “mine” and stores everything I need to carry around for myself.

Mama Pocket Items

This pocket contains: my wallet, checkbook, 1-2 pens, headphones, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a snack, and gum. There is also a small pocket in this compartment where I slipped two disposable nursing pads (leaks happen!) and a packet of Motrin. That’s it! It is actually a little shocking to me that this is now all I carry around because my pre-kid purse had m-u-c-h more than this in it, but I have come to find that this is really all I actually need! 

Mama Pocket

The back pocket is for diapering and diapering only.

Diaper Pocket Items

I keep it simple so all I need to do is unzip and peek in to make sure I have what I need before leaving the house. It also ensures that when the inevitable diaper emergency happens, I can quickly access what I need without wasting precious seconds desperately rummaging around. The bag came with a very handy machine washable changing pad that I keep back there. This pocket also contains: diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream,  and this diaper bag dispenser (handy when there is an extra stinky diaper).

Diaper Pocket

The middle/main pocket is where I keep everything else.

Main Pocket Items

This main pocket contains: a muslin blanket, a flannel blanket, three burp cloths, a bib scarf, my nursing cover, 2-3 outfit changes, and 1-2 baby toys.  In the newborn stage, I did not waste precious space on lots of toys. My baby was usually asleep when we were out and about but if he was awake, he was largely entertained by just looking around at people. I stored everything by rolling the items and placing them in vertically so I could see everything in one glance. This compartment also has two small pockets in the back where I stored socks and a hat (due to having a winter baby), a pacifier with clip, 2 gallon ziploc bags (to seal up a messy outfit – blowouts will happen!) and animal links.

Main Pocket.jpg

Notice how when everything is stored like this, there is still so much room on top! This is so handy if I’m out and about and there’s something I need to stuff in there quickly (such as LJ’s coat or a purchase from a store).

This diaper bag also comes with an insulated side pocket which we used occasionally when we needed to take along a bottle with pumped milk. The other side has a pocket the perfect size for me to take along my Swell water bottle to stay hydrated.

Side Pocket

That’s it! My minimal-ish diaper bag. I cannot think of a time where I was ever out and about and realized I was suddenly desperate for something other than what I’ve listed. Simplifying my diaper bag allowed me to leave the house with confidence and have minimal stress and wasted time rummaging around looking for things when I’m out and about. Win-win!

A few tips for simplifying the chaos of a diaper bag:

  • Have 4-5 diapers packed each time you leave the house.
  • Use a refillable wipes clutch so you always have plenty of wipes with you
  • Get in the habit of quickly checking the diapers/wipes before leaving the house
  • Take distinctive burp cloths. Someone gifted me three Gerber cloth diapers/burp cloths with colorful ribbons sewn on. These are the ones I take out and about since they are unique and therefore harder to lose at childcare/playdates/etc.
  • Take multi-functional items. My nursing cover doubles as a car seat cover which was a wonderful asset during the winter and allowed me to get two major uses out of one item.

What is one must-have in your newborn diaper bag?

Four Years in Five Paragraphs

In my last post, I explained some of the reasons I left blogging four years ago and why I came back. I’m excited to jump into my new vision for this blog, but before I do that, I wanted to “catch up” on what has happened since my last post.

In 2014, we were living in West Virginia while my husband, Justin, finished school. In 2016, he graduated and we packed up our home (and our sweet dogs) and moved to Northern Indiana where Justin and I had both found jobs. We were so sad to leave our friends in WV but we have enjoyed building a new community here in the Midwest. And our dogs were thrilled that we moved to a home with a fenced in backyard!

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Celebrating the end of Justin’s schooling with a trip to Italy in June 2016.

In the early fall of 2016, we decided we were ready to start our family. I got pregnant and we were over the moon! Unfortunately, that pregnancy was ectopic (not inside my uterus) and ended after eight weeks. I will share more about that experience at a later date, but suffice to say it was devastating, traumatic, and a very dark time for us.

2017 was a big year for our family. We learned that we were once again expecting a baby and after a lot of prayer and weighing our options, Justin and I made the decision that I would leave teaching to become a stay at home mom. After 6 years of teaching special education, it was bittersweet to walk away from the classroom but I was very excited to be able to spend more time with our little one. Then in November 2017, our little LJ was born. He has been the sweetest gift! I have been staying home ever since and spend his nap times doing some part-time administrative work for a nutrition counseling company. It’s a good balance for me and I’m very happy with this set-up right now!

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The sweetest little blessing arrived just in time for Christmas 2017.
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Our little family enjoying a day at the zoo in August 2018.

So in the span of four years, I went from a special education teacher in West Virginia to a stay at home mom in Indiana. While my life looks very different now, the mantra of “simplify the chaos” still resonates so strongly with me. I believe that we can so easily overstuff, overcomplicate, and overcommit our lives which leads to busyness, stress, and exhaustion. Where is the joy in that? I consider myself to be a minimal-ish mama and that has shaped so much of my family’s lifestyle and the way we strive for balance. My hope for this blog is that it becomes a place where I share bits of our life and ways that we maximize joy by simplifying the chaos that can easily crowd our days. I hope you will be able to find something here that resonates with you and helps you simplify your own chaos so you can truly enjoy whatever season of life you are in.