Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dear 2016 {Year in Review}

Dear 2016,
I know many people can't wait to see you go, but you really were good to us. We learned so much about the strength of our family unit, which is a beautiful thing. It was a year of team work as Drew was in classes and also working full time and I was doing the job of two people after my boss was let go. It was chaotic and at times very stressful as we still wanted to create fun family memories and also be productive, but we learned more about balance and about sacrificing for one another.

Despite the crazy, we managed to squeeze in a few family vacations and learned to support one another in the midst of chaos. In the last month, Drew has finished school and I went part time at work so things are finally settling down just in time to gear up again in January as we become a family of 4! That has to be my favorite post of 2016...announcing our growing family!

We watched Aiden go from baby to toddler and hit more and more milestones. It's crazy that this very time last year, Aiden took his first steps and now the kid doesn't stop. This year we said goodbye to Wubbanubs and multiple naps in a day. We said goodbye to one word phrases and babble and hello to a tiny man who is now talking up a storm and who always has a plan! I was able to blog a few "day in the life" posts here and here and I blogged about a few of my favorite things about Aiden at age 2 in this post. We have loved seeing his personality grow and evolve.

I did not blog many new recipes or manage to post about any of the DIY projects that I did, but I did manage to read almost 30 books, take Aiden on lots of adventures and host a few fun parties that I am proud of.

Here is a look back at a few of my favorite posts, events, recipes and discoveries of 2016...
It's no surprise that all of my favorite posts this past year have to do with motherhood. 2016 taught me a lot about balancing work, my marriage and my role as Aiden's mom. I know 2017 will only have more lessons to teach me as I become a Mom of two little ones! My biggest take aways as a Mom from this past year...just embrace the mess and soak up every single snuggle.

We got to take several family trips this year. We went to South Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana and had lots of fun adventures exploring around our hometown. We also celebrated Aiden turning 2 and finding out the gender of baby 2!

This year I focused my energy on trying to make Aiden healthy food that he would actually eat. I mostly failed, but found a few things he liked most days. This is something I am still working on for 2017...operation don't be a Sous chef and get Aiden to eat what we eat! Here are a few recipes he liked for at least a day. Haha. Oh toddler life...

This year I was more active in a Mom's playgroup and discovered all kinds of toddler friendly places to take Aiden. (My favorite local Fall festivities for kids are below). One of Aiden's favorite things to do this summer was go to the splash pad so my husband created his own version of a splash pad for our backyard. It was a hit! I also discovered a few new companies and continued to shop small for all my Mom gear.

Thank you 2016 for all the adventures and the many unexpected gifts. I can't wait to meet the newest addition to our family in 2017 (Alder Jacob) and watch Aiden as a Big Brother. We are already expecting big things from 2017.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our Christmas in Numbers

15- Christmases celebrated together as a couple. This year marked Drew and I's 15th Christmas together! This one was definitely one of my favorites. Aiden fully understood the concept of opening gifts and loved being with family to celebrate. He made the lights on the tree more magical, the giving of gifts sweeter and the joy so much greater.

14- New vehicles unwrapped. Aiden asked Santa for cars this year and Santa delivered. We now have more cars, trucks and trains than we could ever possible account for and this kid was excited about each one. After he opened a vehicle he immediately found the nearest chair to test out his vehicle on. So funny.

13-Handprints represented on his Grandma's Christmas gifts. It was so fun to surprise Grandparents with homemade gifts that Aiden helped with this year. We spent quite a bit of time making items to give and it was so sweet seeing Aiden give his gifts that he we worked so hard on.

12- Eggs in our favorite Christmas breakfast. Every year since we have been married, Drew and I have made Blueberry Maple French Toast. It's so good and is something we tend to only make Christmas morning. It is also tradition to eat it while still in our pjs and while watching Mickey's Christmas Carol.

11- Pez in Aiden's new Christmas Pez dispenser from Papa Bear.  Those lasted a whole 5 minutes. He definitely has a sweet tooth.

10- Whole minutes to myself. I think I maybe had 10 minutes to myself on Christmas and that was in the shower, but how can I complain about being surrounded by so many people that love us?! It may take my 35 week pregnant self a week to recover, but it is a wonderful feeling to be needed and wanted.

9- Sugar cookies consumed by Aiden and I. The number of homemade sugar cookies I consumed was a little excessive, but oh so worth it. I hadn't made my Mom's recipe since I have been married and I have missed them. I had some making up to do...

8- Sets of matching Christmas jammies. Every Christmas Eve we get to open a present at my Mother in law's house. It's always Christmas jammies and that always calls for a group picture!

7- The Shoe size of my new Hunter boots from my parents! Other favorite gifts: My Mom Life sweatpants from Ezra + Eli, Naptime is my Happy Hour shirt from Declan + Crew and money to buy a chair for Alder's nursery.

6- Consecutive times listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD. I think we just might have to listen to this cd year round. Aiden loves it that much.

5- Of the 6 of us in our sibling gift exchange were vying to take home the Squatty Potty. Haha.

4- Christmases in one day. Our Christmas day is always very full. We start out with our own little family Christmas, then we head to my parents house, then my Aunt and Uncle's and then we end with Christmas dinner with Drew's family. It's always a whirlwind of packing up and unpacking. Presents, hugs and lots of food, but we wouldn't have it any other way. It is a blessing to have so many of our family members so close to us!

3- Gifts remain wrapped under our Christmas tree. Our Christmas morning at home went by quickly and we didn't want to rush Aiden so we let him open and enjoy each of his gifts before opening the next one. That means he still has gifts under the tree to open!

2- Copies of Fantastic Beasts. Somehow almost every year, Drew and I buy each other at least one of the same gift. Usually it's a movie, but this year it was JK Rowling's book Fantastic Beasts.

1-  Last Christmas just the 3 of us. I can't believe this time next year we will have an almost one year old as part of our family. This Christmas was a sweet one, but I know there are many more fun Christmases ahead of us as a family of four!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Unexpected Gifts

This has been a season full of unexpected gifts for our little family. God loves to lavish His love on us, but this month in particular, I have felt His love surround me and overflow over us! I feel like often times when something good happens I tend to think, "Oh, it's my lucky day!" But I have been trying to shift my thinking to begin thanking God more frequently for all the gifts that cross my path each day. I like the wording the Message uses in James 1:17 "Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light." I love that imagery of gifts being poured down on us like rivers of light. It just makes me smile.

I mentioned briefly in a previous post that I recently transitioned to part time at work. Financially, this is a hit for us, but it is one my husband and I both think is worth the sacrifice so I can be home more with my babies (so crazy to make that word plural!) Going part time right before the holidays and right when we needed to buy a few big nursery items could have been stressful. But I wasn't worried. I knew the decision was right for our family and that with careful planning and God's provision, we would be just fine. But the selfish part of me was a little sad that I couldn't splurge on some items I've been wanting to "buy myself" for Christmas. #truth

Well, I've been completely blown away by some very unexpected gifts this last month and I just have to document them here because God is so faithful. In a season where I was expecting less, He is pouring out more and I want to be able to look back on this season and remember that.

Here are a few unexpected gifts that we have received lately...

+I got an unexpected bonus at work for some extra work I had taken on over the last six months. I was not expecting this at all and was simply doing what I believe God called me to do. We used that money to buy almost all the furniture we needed for Alder's nursery.

+Christmas bonus. I went out and bought paint and paint supplies for the nursery. 

+I won a brand new Chicco bassinet and FawnDesign backpack (that I've been drooling over) in an Instagram Giveaway. This Mama's heart went pitter patter and I'm totally putting them under our Christmas tree for me to "open" Christmas morning. 

+I won another Instagram giveaway (2 within two weeks, whattttt?!) A $50.00 gift card to another shop I have admired, Gathre.

+It started getting ridiculous when I won another Instagram giveaway to WildBird. Allowing me to add another ring sling to my collection that was on my Christmas list.

+Our crib was purchased for us and delivered to our house.

+My husband got offered extra money for a very easy and simple job that he can do at school that won't keep him there any later than normal. This money will come in next month, just in time to help with some diapers and wipes when Alder gets here.

+My boss emailed me and the staff wants to throw me a baby shower at work in a few weeks.

Then there's the unexpected gift of Jesus to the world that has been consuming my thoughts especially these last few weeks leading up to Christmas. I love this quote from the She Reads Truth Advent devotional, "God loves to birth hope from the impossible. This is the Truth that lies in a manger." Even if life is not merry and bright for you right now, I pray that you would seek Him, trust Him and watch for the gifts that He is already pouring out on you.

Do you ever just stop and think about all the good gifts that God has given you in just one day, one week, one month? I know that if we choose to be thankful that we will be more joyful people and will start looking for the gifts in each day instead of the trials.

What unexpected gift have you received lately?


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Buddy the Elf in Toddler Form

Aiden is at the perfect age this year to soak up the magic of Christmas. He is so full of Christmas cheer and it is the most adorable thing ever. I want to freeze these moments and bottle them up, but since I can't do that, I wanted to capture a few of my favorite things he is doing this holiday season here on the blog so I can look back on them someday and smile...

He loves snow and ice. Cold temperatures will NOT stop him from asking to go outside.

He requests Hot chocolate with marshmallows every single day and often requests to listen to the Polar Express "Hot Chocolate" song while we drink. I just ordered these children's mugs from World Market and I'm so excited to get them and use them all winter! (On sale now!)
He loves when we have a fire in the fireplace.

Knows the characters of the Christmas story and can name them all (Mary, Joseph, The Wise Men, Shepherds, Angel, Baby Jesus, etc.) He is convinced Baby Jesus is sleeping on grass and not hay and sometimes he gets Baby Alder and Baby Jesus confused since those are the two babies we always talk about. Haha.

Favorite phrases: "Santa's coming." "Christmas time is here." "More marshmallows, peaase."
Requests we watch Elf aka "the elf buddy," Frozen, Polar Express and Charlie Brown Christmas all the time.

Every movie and song we listen to or watch MUST be Christmas related. He is OBSESSED with The Polar Express Soundtrack and knows a lot of the words to the songs. He also loves the Charlie Brown Soundtrack and dances around like the Peanuts characters in our kitchen.

He could sit and watch our electric train go around the Christmas tree for hours.
Loves reading Christmas books (Favorites: Fa La La, Christmas in the Manger, Little Blue Truck's Christmas, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas and Merry Christmas, Daniel Tiger.

Sweets and Treats 24/7...Gingerbread house making = candy face stuffing.

Loves ornaments and looking at lights.
Requests "Mama, sing Jesus" every night before I put him in his bed. (Jesus Loves Me)

When we talk about going to a Christmas party, he asks if there will be lights and jingle bells there.

He sat through a two hour church production of the Christmas story in complete awe and amazement.

When I put him in his bed at night and say "I love you" he responds (completely unprompted) with Merry Christmas!!!

I love this season so much already, but with a little one around, it is even more magical and sweet.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Card Photo Shoot {Big Tree Plantation}

It's Christmas week!!!! Can you believe it? I'm excited to get in a few more holiday activities this week just the three of us and then simply soak in the joy of the season.

Today I'm sharing pictures from our latest family photo shoot. I love any excuse to get family pictures taken. This photo session served several was a combination of maternity, Aiden's two year photos and an attempt to get a picture that was worthy of our 2016 Christmas card. I think our photographer managed to capture all of those things! I love how these pictures turned out and this location is special to me because growing up we would get our christmas tree from this very spot!
Any guesses on which picture made the front of our Christmas card?

Monday, December 12, 2016

5 Things Making My Heart Full in a Busy Season

I love this time of year. The decor, the food, the feelings that come along with it, the people I get to see and the joy they bring out...but honestly, the last few months have also been a complete whirlwind for us. On top of the holiday hustle and bustle, my job has been crazy and I'm transitioning into a new role, my husband has been both in school and working, my 2 year old and his needs are ever-changing plus I'm almost 33 weeks pregnant. But in the craziness of it all, I find it best to choose to always be thankful. So here are 5 things making my heart extremely full in this busy season...
1.) MOTHERHOOD: The infant/toddler years are tough, can I get an Amen? But they are also incredible. I love my days at home with Aiden. When he wraps his little arms around my neck and gives me a kiss or when he looks up at me and says "Mama, hold you" with his arms outstretched to me..these are the moments I live for. I have never felt so full of love and purpose in my life. On top of that, feeling the kicks from my growing baby boy inside me and knowing that I will get to hold him and kiss him soon is such an amazing feeling. Motherhood is a joy and a privilege and I never want to take it for granted.
2.) MY HUSBAND: Confession...I know I haven't been the best wife lately. My husband has been extremely busy and working constantly lately, which has been tough. Then he comes home to me and my "demands." I have a list of things to do before Alder arrives and many nights I haven't been the supportive wife that I know I should be. But he still loves me and still manages to cross things off of my list and his. I am so very thankful for his work ethic, but also for his dedication and loyalty to our family. 
3.) COMMUNITY: After becoming a Mom, community has sky rocketed on my list of priorities. I don't go out all the time so when I do, I have to make it count and I want it to be purposeful. I'm thankful for the old friendships that have remained strong since I've become a Mom. I'm also thankful for the new friendships becoming a mom has brought me. I've joined a Mom's play group, which has brought sanity to my week days. I also joined a Mom's book club, which has been so encouraging. We read faith based books all with the purpose of making us better wives, friends and mothers. I absolutely love it and always feel good after spending time with these women. I'm so thankful for the community of Moms I have found as well as the friends who have remained loyal and true even when I can't always be the friend I'd like to be. I am also extremely thankful for the community I've found in this space. Supportive and inspiriting women who I've found to be beautiful inside and out. So thank you for supporting me in this space. I'm so very thankful.
4.) A CHANGE IN JOB STATUS: If you are guessing that I'm quitting my job to be a full time SAHM, you are wrong. But I have transitioned to a new role that allows me to work only part time. I am extremely excited about this change. I always thought I would be a SAHM like my mom was for me, but I have found so much joy in my job that I have prayerfully decided to continue working. Our budget is also going to be much better off with me staying in the work force so there's that. But this new role will be perfect for our family's needs right now especially as I adjust to being a Mom of TWO. 
5.) NETFLIX + NAPTIME: While I have been a sucker lately and allowed Aiden to sleep in my arms more frequently than normal, I'm oh so thankful for nap times. And since I only have 7 weeks to go before another infant graces our household, I have been deciding to put my feet up and watch Netflix during many of Aiden's naps. I know my times of doing this are limited so I'm taking full advantage.
I know the holidays can be stressful, but I pray that this holiday season is a peaceful and joyful one for you. If it's not, ask yourself why. What is it that is making things stressful? Make time to smile and celebrate the season with your family. And know that you can always find peace and joy when you make time to rest in the One who created you, who knows you intimately and who came in to this dark world to be a light and to rescue you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ideas for A Kid Friendly Advent Calendar

Since the Christmas season goes by so quickly (how is it December 6th already?!) I wanted to make the most of it this year with my two year old, but in a no pressure, relaxed way. Enter the Toddler Friendly Advent Calendar.

The point of doing this is to come up with simple, fun and stress free activities to bring out the holiday cheer in your family. I also wanted to promote kindness, love and generosity to my Toddler. This is NOT meant to be overwhelming or stressful. If I don't do an activity, I'm not going to get upset or feel like a failure. If I do an activity on a different day, it's no big deal. If I want to do an activity twice because Aiden enjoyed it so much, than that is what I'll do.

There is no wrong way to do this. My friend Katie made her own tin number set and hung them up on her refrigerator. I liked the idea of the tins because my toddler can play with them, so I bought my set on clearance at Starbucks last year in the hopes of actually doing it this year. I have also seen people do their own calendars by simply hanging twine on the wall and clipping numbered note cards to it. I pinned a few helpful ideas on my Pinterest board here if you want to see other people's creative ideas or ways they displayed their calendars.
In my opinion, the days leading up to Christmas should be more filled with fun, generosity and joy. Too many people are stressed around the holidays and this is not meant to be something that causes a parent stress. With that in mind, these are the activities I came up with for my toddler based on what I felt he would enjoy. (Example: Giving the garbage man a treat...Aiden loves watching our garbage being collected so I knew this would be something he would like to do. Meet and give the garbage man something! I can't wait to do this one!)

So here are the activities I chose for our Advent Calendar...
Set up Nativity (read story)
Make Homemade Snow
Decorate the Christmas Tree
Get new Christmas PJs and dance around in them to Christmas music
Visit a toy store and test out toys
Read a new to you Christmas book
Make Christmas cards
Build a Snowman (if there isn't snow, build a snowman out of homemade play dough!)
Christmas Craft (Stamping with Marshmallows was a big hit!)
Build a Gingerbread house
Horse drawn carriage ride (if not applicable...go on a winter walk!)
Take coffee to a friend
Polar Express + Hot Chocolate
Make and eat Snowman pancakes for dinner
Make a gift to give someone
Go on a drive to look at Christmas lights
Make donuts (or fudge!)
Take a picture with Santa
Give the Garbage Man a treat
Bake and decorate sugar cookies
Share cookies with our neighbors
Go Sledding
Have a pizza picnic by the Christmas tree
Attend a Christmas Eve service at church
Read the Christmas story in bed as a family

If you want to see these activities in action, I made a hashtag just for fun... #aidensadvent

Have you done this before? What other ideas would be fun to add some holiday cheer to your family this year?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pregnancy Files 2 {The Bump Week 30}

Thankful Mama Shirt from Ezra and Eli
Well week 30 has come and gone, but I am bound and determined to finish a bump post (1 of 3 I've actually managed to finish writing this pregnancy, oops.)

Best Moment this Month: Sharing baby's name with the world and hearing Aiden say "baby Alder." I love how he says it. It just melts my Mama heart. I also 100% enjoyed "eating for two" this Thanksgiving. I know pregnancy hormones are crazy, but I was/am just feeling so incredibly thankful for all I've been given.

Food cravings: No real food cravings or aversions this pregnancy. I can always eat Chipotle, but that's not something new for me. ;)

Movement: So much movement! Alder is much more mobile than Aiden was. Aiden was all cozied up in one spot. He didn't move around nearly this much at this stage, but Alder is a different story. I'm constantly getting elbowed in the gut by this kid. Haha. I honestly do love being able to feel him move and attempt to guess what I feel jabbing out at me...his arm, leg, elbow, tiny booty? I love it.

Symptoms: Back pain and random leg cramps in the middle of the night. I still feel incredibly good for being in my 3rd trimester, I feel almost too good and am constantly doing more than I "should be," causing me to be exhausted by the end of each day. If you can complain about feeling good, I guess that's my only complaint.

Nursery: I told myself I'd never be "that Mom" who waited until her 3rd trimester to get the nursery together. I always just thought even with my second child that I'd have the nursery done quickly and just be able to relax and enjoy the 3rd trimester. Well I was wayyyyy wrong. Alder's nursery is starting to come together, but is not anywhere close to ready. We did buy a rug, dresser, crib and changing pad and we have paint colors picked out, but that's about it. We have a lot to do and I want it done by Christmas. Time to make a list of "honey-do's" for my husband...dun dun dun.

Letter for Baby:
Dear Alder,
I can't believe you have been growing inside me for 30 plus weeks now. Even though life is busy and crazy right now with me chasing around your big brother and your Daddy working and in grad school, I still think about you all the time. You are a miracle and you bring me so much joy already. I love feeling you move around and picturing what you will look like. I love the hope and anticipation that comes with meeting you in just two months. You are already very loved little boy.

Your Mama

Week 16 Bumpdate
                Week 22 Bumpdate

See my 30 week post with Aiden here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LuLaRoe Guide for the Pregnant Mama {+ random thoughts on getting dressed in the 3rd trimester}

If you can believe it, before last week, I had never put on any LuLaRoe clothing. And yes that includes their leggings. I had heard rave reviews, but since I am currently pregnant, I wondered how the sizing and fit would work for me. Thankfully, my friend Courtney is a LuLaRoe Stylist and she sent me a few items to try. Check out her LuLaRoe Facebook Shopping page here. She has great inventory and shows you how to put together LuLaRoe pieces in the most adorable and creative ways!

Now I have to pause for a second and talk about how hard it is to get yourself dressed when you are in your 3rd Trimester. I'm currently training my toddler to help me take my socks and shoes on and off. Mom of the year, right? But really, it just gets harder and harder to get dressed. So when I manage to get out of my PJ's, it better be into clothes that are equally comfortable. That is why LuLaRoe is a pregnant Mama's friend. Easy to wear and oh so comfortable. Trust the 30 week pregnant girl.

Here are a few pieces I highly recommend for anyone (even if you aren't pregnant). These pieces can be worn before, DURING and after pregnancy. WIN!

CARLY {DRESS}: If you are new to LuLaRoe, the Carly is a short sleeve swing dress. It is longer in the back and has a cute pocket detail on the front. It is light and easy to wear. It is also perfect for layering especially when you live in Ohio and you don't have a coat that zips over your belly. I am wearing a size XXS.

IRMA {SHIRT}: The Irma is a "high-low" tunic, making it perfect to wear with leggings because the back covers your booty. The sleeves are fitted and are mid-length. Let me also say that anytime a pregnant gal can fit into a shirt labeled XXS, it's a win.
LEGGINGS: I am accustomed to wearing maternity leggings 24/7 lately so I was really thinking that I'd be disappointed when I tried these LuLaRoe leggings on, but I wasn't. They are as soft as everyone claims and they aren't tight around the waist, which would be a huge problem for me right now. These are comparable to the comfort of maternity leggings, and if you've ever worn those you know that is a big deal. I love the color of these and the thickness. These might be a pair of leggings that my cats can't actually poke a hole through...we shall see.
So there you have it. Three LuLaRoe items that could benefit you during your pregnancy.

And for all of the nursing Mama's out there, I saw this trick that I really want to try. Take the Amelia dress and wear it backwards so that the zipper is now in the front. I saw Brooke White do it on her Insta story (@realbrookewhite) the other day so that means it's legit, right? I might have to find out for myself!

For inventory and styling tips, check out LuLaRoe Stylist Courtney's