Introducing Abram

Dec 7, 2014

What a month it's been, friends. We welcomed our baby boy on November 6th in the comfort of our home. Like his big brother, he made his mama wait a week past his due date to finally make an appearance. He came in the late evening in a short labor, just like I had prayed for. Perfect, beautiful, and healthy. 8 pounds, 13 ounces and tad bit over 21 inches long. 
Introducing Abram Reese...

We are so in love with our sweet boy and it has melted our hearts to watch Noah fill his big brother shoes so well. We've felt so much love from not only our family but local friends, too, and are so thankful for all the people God has put into our lives. 

I'm looking forward to writing Abe's full birth story as well as sharing some beautiful photos of our home birth. I'm also hoping to find some time (maybe on the rare occasion that both boys are napping!) to talk about our new normal, show some of our holiday decorations, talk brothers and boy mama stuff, and share some of my resolutions for the new year!
// photo credits: my good friend, Sarah

home | touches of autumn

Oct 24, 2014

I'm sure I've mentioned before that we moved into a house built in the late 80's with hardly any updating done since then. It was our plan all along to put up with the brown walls (in every room!), the blue original-to-the-house carpet upstairs, and the foggy windows until we slowly remodeled each room. One and a half down, and 1800 square feet to go! It's not easy as a woman who loves home decor to live in a space where it doesn't feel comfortable or quite like home yet, but I decided a couple of months ago that instead of leaving every space blank until we got to it, I'd try to decorate on a budget. I couldn't stand staring at empty walls and spaces any longer.

When I saw the first pumpkins for sale in town and felt the first crisp morning of the season, I got so excited. Not only do I love the beautiful weather fall brings, but the decor, if you do it right, can be simple enough to last until Christmas decor comes out! I grabbed a few mini pumpkins, a few bigger ones, made a fun "Trick or Treat" sign at a craft night I went to recently with friends, and used items we already had in the house.

I love having a mantle to decorate. Eventually we're going to paint the stone white and change out the original mantle for something more rustic, but for now I love having a central place in the room to display our things. I gathered some twigs from the yard and used the wine corks from our wedding decorations to fill in the space a little. I also bought a bag of candy corn to add a fun Halloween theme, and I promise I had the best of intentions to not eat them. You can see how that worked out for me!

I enjoyed putting some fun touches in the otherwise boring spaces of our home. I'm already inspired with some fun Christmas decorations and can't wait to go all out with those this year. 

What do you put up for fall decor? Do you focus on fun Halloween items or try to keep it more season-themed?


Oct 23, 2014

Risky Business, take two, anyone?  He looks like such a big boy in his little jeans and shirts and coordinated outfits, but when I strip him down to his diaper so he can get messy I see glimpses of my baby boy still in there somewhere. It's a bittersweet thing watching your boy grow, but mostly I'm so see him try and succeed, to see him struggle and work through it, to see him learn every day and know that all of this sowing will reap rewards by the grace of God one day. So while he grows and I cheer him on, I'll still take the opportunity to relish in these moments of that last bit of leg chub, the diaper stage, and his love for diving in, getting messy, and exploring.


Oct 18, 2014

feeling | super pregnant and more than ready to go into labor. I'm 38 weeks and 3 days and am so excited to meet our boy. It's a funny thing, just shows up everyday even when you just got done with it. Staying on top of it enough to feel comfortable going into labor and not having a trashed house is getting harder to do!

smelling | cinnamon sticks, orange peel, and apples simmering on the stove top. All I have to do is add water every day and it's amazing how far the wonderful scent will travel- even to our second floor. When the windows are open in the morning the whole house feels and smells like autumn. 

reading | Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall. Every Friday I get together with other mamas and talk about how God has used the week's chapters in our lives. The book is giving me a new perspective on Grace and motherhood and I'm thankful. 

listening |  to my favorites from Kari Jobe this week. Noah, on the other hand, keeps requesting "Let It Go" from frozen. We'll be driving and he says, "Mama, wone, let doh, let doh, hmmmhmmmm moh" (Mama, phone, let it go, let it go, *mumble* anymore). He gets so excited when I put it on and usually hums or sings to the chorus. When it goes off he always says "Meh" (more).

cooking | lots of soups and chili! I've been waiting for these easy dinners and love how hearty and filling they are. So far we've done chili, homemade chicken noodle, and spicy Italian sausage and lentil soup (Carrabba style!). They're easy to freeze, too, so I've got about 5-6 full meals in the freezer ready for the next month. 

planning | on using and being in front of the camera more often. I want to be able to have pictures of me with my children instead of just them, or just them with M. I need to be more comfortable with handing someone else the camera and not feeling bad asking them to take a few candid shots. I'm starting out right with baby boy as we've hired a birth photographer. I'm so excited to get to have such special documentation of his birth and our first moments together.

deciding | between blog designs (in case you haven't noticed the random changes!). I don't know why, but I'm so wishy-washy when it comes to Hey Kelsea Rae. I paid for a wonderful blog redesign last year and it was amazing, but not quite me after awhile. I'll be honest, I've been feeling a bit uninspired. I'm a little hit or miss with writing, I can't decide on the overall design or look I'm going for, and because of that, I've not been successful at "branding", staying consistent, or becoming passionate about it. And the thing is, I want to be. I want to figure it all out because this blog has been a wonderful outlet for me in the last few years and I love being creative. I think I like too many design styles that vary quite a bit and don't know which of those mesh and which don't. 

thankful for | a patient husband who lets me sleep in and knows how to do pretty much anything around here, the sweetest boy ever who rarely holds back his kisses and hugs, new friends who have made the last few months bearable and wonderful, and weekends with my guys at home. 

Noah | a graduation speech of sorts

Oct 16, 2014

I can't believe my sweet boy has gotten to be this big. So big, in fact, that in a matter of a couple of weeks he'll officially earn the title 'big brother'. Where has the time gone? It felt like just last week I was holding my newborn, nursing him, and staring into his sweet eyes. Last night I cried thinking about how much will change when baby comes. (What haven't I cried at lately?!) I know the change will be wonderful and beautiful, but before it comes I want to document some fun things about this age and time in our lives. 

Noah is a month and a half shy of two years old. He loves all things trains, tractors, and Daniel Tiger. His favorite treats at the moment are Apple Pie Larabars, or "App-le Bah". He also loves just about any fruit and can chow down on some meat. Some of his favorite snacks are bananas, cheese, yogurt, raisins, grapes, cashews, and Kettle chips.

He loves reading books and calls them "boots". His favorite book is a John Deere alphabet book that my mom got him awhile ago. He also loves an animal picture book and loves pointing out the "pideh" (spider), "sark" (shark), "whool in da wawa" (whale in the water), and the snake. His favorite night-time book is Goodnight Moon and he can say the words along with me to every other page.

He still loves signing and his sign vocabulary is growing every day.  He gets plenty of practice day-to-day at home with us and when we Facetime his Papa. We always try to get a good recording of him when they're having a detailed conversation, but he always notices the camera and wants to see what's on the other side!

His vocabulary grows daily. He can repeat words after us now and is now putting words together to form short sentences. His first one was "Abbey Nana Papa house", meaning Abbey (the dog) is at Nana and Papa's house. He likes to say "Dada grass tractor mow". He doesn't always put words together in the right order but I love seeing and hearing his brain work in this way. It's also much easier now that he can communicate what he needs or wants in away that we understand. He's a talker for sure and I'm looking forward to many fun conversations as he gets older.

As far as routine, we've gotten a bit more consistent lately with out it feeling rigid. We've met some great friends and have found some fun groups, play dates, and events going on. It's nice to keep busy during the day and I like when we have things to do outside of the house. Our plans vary from day to day but lately it looks something like this: Wake up, have some breakfast, I'll do a few chores while he plays for awhile, then we usually try to leave the house. Some days we just run errands but many days we have something scheduled- open gym twice a week at the local gymnastics, a book study with other moms (just started and enjoying it!), MOPS program every other week, and the occasional play date with another mom and her kiddos. Whatever we do, we're usually back home right around Noah's nap time. I feel pretty lucky because if he falls asleep in the car he'll stay asleep when I carry him inside and to bed. He usually sleeps two hours or less and by that time Michael is on his way home and I'm getting dinner ready and finishing up household stuff.

Noah loves when Michael gets home and I can usually get him distracted for about twenty minutes by having him "watch for da-da!" out the windows. If he's in a certain mood he doesn't do well playing by himself while I'm making dinner and will hang all over my legs and gets kind of whiny. Those are the moments where I'm desperate and try to get him involved in something fun long enough to get things done. Sometimes this involves the iPad or a show, I'll admit. Other times I dump his markers out on the kitchen floor, roll out a long piece of paper, and let him draw.

We're still working on being gentle with others, but I think he's starting to understand more. Usually if he pushes, we ask him to be "gentle and easy" and then ask him to redo it in that way. Usually that just involves him going to the other person and petting their arm or back, but if it's Michael or me he will give us a hug and say "aw! mama!". It's the cutest. We're also working on being patient while waiting his turn for something instead of grabbing it out of their hands. Some days he gets it, waits, and watches. Other days he grabs and cries. It's all a part of learning and I try not to get discouraged on days when he struggles, because I struggle, too.

Noah goes to the nursery at church most Sundays we're there and seems to be getting used to it. The first few times I took him it took awhile to help him work through staying. I found that talking to him about it beforehand and even singing the Daniel Tiger jingle "grownups come back!" helps him understand what's going to happen. He now will usually walk right into his classroom on Sundays and for MOPS (same place!) and the ladies there say he does really well. Music to this mama's ears!

Overall, Noah truly does have the sweetest little spirit. He's adventurous, observant, and can be so funny and silly. I have loved getting to see his personality grow and develop along the way. I feel so thankful that God has provided a way for me to stay home with Noah and I truly love it, even though some days are harder than others.

He is so excited to meet his baby brother and I can't wait to see them both together- our boys. Noah now will come kiss my belly, say "baby" in a high-pitched voice, and has recently started saying "baby out" after I explained that baby brother will come out to see him soon. I'm 38 weeks today and our time as family of three is coming to a close. I'm so excited for Noah to have a brother and can't wait to see him learn to love his brother and gain a new best friend.

It's a Date | Pinterest Progress!

Oct 12, 2014

You know those hundreds of ideas and projects I've had nicely organized and pinned to my Pinterest boards? You know, the ones that I've never made time for? You know, the ones that make me feel guilty for having not completed them and can usually make me avoid Pinterest so I'm not disappointed? 

You should see me! I'm actually doing them! I've completed 4-5 projects right from my Pinterest boards in the last two months. I call that progress. It's fun to see how being intentional with my me time has actually allowed me to get some of those fun DIYs done without feeling guilty for not doing something else "more productive".

The past few weeks, while my It's a Date posts have been hit or miss, my me time hasn't been. They've consisted of propping my feet to read during nap time, participating in a craft night with some new, local friends, and spending time putting up some fun fall decorations around our otherwise aesthetically un-pleasing home. 

M and I enjoyed our getaway alone to Atlanta (thanks, Grandpa & Grandma!). After my emotions settled down from missing my baby and feeling so off for the first little while, we really enjoyed each other and our time there. Part of our plan while there was to visit  Ikea and get a few things for Noah and his almost-completed room. One of those items was a stool so he can have better access to the sink and counters and gain some independence with things like putting his dishes up and brushing his teeth. 

I decided to get the stool in natural wood so I could be more flexible with paint and colors. I finally settled on this design. It's nothing fancy or bright, but just the right amount of clean lines and detail. Last week, M had to be out of town for work and Noah and I spent a night alone at home before heading to Virginia for the rest of the week. I put Noah to bed, got my tape, paint, and brush, turned on The Voice, and enjoyed painting. 

 I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out and Noah really loves being able to see what's going on when I'm in the kitchen. It was one of the easiest projects I've done so far. I'm not sure what craftiness I'll attempt next. I have a few things in mind. I'm trying to choose things that can be done in a relatively short amount of time since, you know, I'm about to have a baby!

Tune in this week for some new posts- a possible last pregnancy update, some adorable pictures of Noah and what we've been up to lately, and maybe a new fall recipe!

Mamas Tell All | Choosing the Size of Our Family

Oct 1, 2014

When you're pregnant you get asked all kinds of questions. I don't mind. People are curious and questions make for easy small talk. One of those questions usually goes something like this, "Do you think you'll have more after this?".

I usually answer with, "I'd like to have four children, but we'll have to see how it goes!". M and I are high school sweethearts who dated for 6 years before we married, so conversations about family and the future happened pretty early and pretty often. I've always wanted a big family. M was never sold on the idea, but wasn't totally against it either. So when I answer "four" when asked how many we'd like to have, I suppose if I were to be a little more clear, I'd have to say that M and I aren't fully on the same page.

We both view children as an amazing blessing. M tends to think about the logical facts of having a family and I tend to think about it from a spiritual/emotional point of view. He tends to think about having enough money for college. He doesn't want to have such a big family that we never have money to experience things like travel as a family or to provide enough for each child's needs. He thinks we should wait to have more children after this one because he'd like to have time to enjoy the boys and have some adventures with them before another newborn comes along. He worries that if we have "too many" that we won't be able to meet their emotional needs or spend quality time with each one.

Me, on the other hand? I tend not to worry about college because I know that we're making smart decisions now to be prepared for that time in our kids' lives. I agree that I'd like to us to experience things as a family and travel, but think that it has a lot to do with financial priorities and planning. Part of me wants to wait awhile between #2 and #3 for the same reasons he does, and also to give my body a chance to get back to normal and a bit more fit and healthy. The other part of me wants to have our children close together so we aren't "newborn newbies" every few years. I want a big family to enjoy through each stage and love the thought of tons of children and spouses and grand kids running around. I feel that there will always be love to go around, even with a big family, and that intentionality is key in connecting with your children, no matter how many.

I think at the end of the day, several things could happen. We could plan (we use natural family planning) and space out according to how we feel as we progress in parenthood. Or we could plan all we want to and God choose to bless us with new life outside of our particular plans, and for that we would be happy.

I always feel a little off when I give the specific answer of "four" because I truly don't know for sure and it feels more like I'm answering "How many pets do you want?" than answering about the amazing privilege of parenthood. I think because M and I have some different feelings on the matter, we'll have to wait and see what we're both feeling when the time comes, and I'm okay with that. I also think that ultimately God has planned a specific family for everyone. He knows best and I want to be in tune with His heart along the journey, even when it comes to family size. 

What about you? Kids or no kids, have you thought about family size? 
What are some things you've considered when thinking about it?

I'm linking up again today with the Mamas Tell All  link-up party going on over at Everyday Thoughts. The hosts, Brittany from Everday Thoughts, Christine from The So-Called Homemaker, and Ashley at That Southern Mama  came up with a great lists of topics that have to do with the crazy job of being a mama! They're sharing their methods and inviting other mamas to do the same! Head on over there and check out how other people feel about family size! 

Mamas Tell All | How To Get Around a Picky Eater

Sep 24, 2014

Today I'm linking up with the Mamas Tell All party going on over at Everyday Thoughts. The hosts, Brittany from Everday Thoughts, Christine from The So-Called Homemaker, and Ashley at That Southern Mama  came up with a great lists of topics that have to do with the crazy job of being a mama! They're sharing their methods and inviting other mamas to do the same! Today's topic is "How to Get Around a Picky Eater".

Michael and I started learning more about what healthy eating really means shortly before we were married. It was something we were passionate about together and it was nice to have someone to walk beside as we made those big changes to our lifestyle. One of the main things we agreed on was that we wanted these good habits to continue when we had kids. Another thing we agreed on is that mainstream medicine and nutrition isn't always correct.

When we found out we were pregnant with Noah I was 100% positive that I wanted to breastfeed, but didn't know much about when to start foods and what to start with! I did a lot of research in the evenings (as I was trying to stave off first trimester nausea after work), learned a lot of different perspectives on kids and food, and kind of solidified a "food philosophy". This includes:

1. Food is nourishment, not a reward system.
We vowed not to use food as reward/punishment. A healthy view of food is that it is to help our bodies grow and thrive. We don't want to withhold food for negative behavior nor will we offer food as a reward for positive behavior. This hopefully will help avoid emotional, whether good or bad, connection to food and help them view it as "is this good for me?" rather than "do I deserve this?". Sometimes emotions are tied to food and that's not always bad- a memory of your favorite recipe and the person who fixed it, or maybe a delicious dessert that makes your mouth water just thinking about it! But the goal is to savor the memories and the food, but not let those emotions control you (that's a hard one for me!). 

2. Snacks are great as long as they're healthy!
We don't have a limit to how often Noah can snack unless he wants something to eat right before I put a meal on the table. Snacks aren't bad. It's normal to get hungry between meals. Our only rule: the snack has to be healthy - nuts, fruit, veggies, or cheese is Noah's go-to. If the snack is good for you, then it is allowed. We hope this will help our kids learn to rely on their hunger and make healthy decisions. 

3. Start small and stop when you're full.
We won't force our kids to finish their plate (or guilt them with stories of starving children, although we will talk to them about the starving children in different contexts!). We'll give reasonable portions and if they're hungry they can certainly have more. If they get full first and there is still food on their plate, it's alright. The most important thing is that they're not being forced to overeat.

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The amazing thing about breast milk is that it can sustain life and provide key nutrients for up to a year or more. I learned a lot about the guts of babies, what they can/can't handle, and that led us to delay any food until Noah was 6 months. There is a lot of research that shows links between a person's lifelong appetite and what they were fed in their first year. We wanted his first foods to be nutritious, organic, and whole. We knew that even if he followed a tiny bit in his mama's picky footsteps, that he would still have been exposed to all sorts of foods and hopefully we would have created in him an appetite for healthy.
L// Noah's first try of sweet potato at 6 months!                                            R//Noah ate whatever we ate when we went out to eat!
We skipped baby foods, purposely didn't give cereals, and went straight to solids. His first food was a banana which we gave him whole and let him learn how to gnaw and eventually bite off pieces. He loved it. We then slowly began to give him avocado chunks, some meat strips, and other "superfood" vegetables, all the while making sure that he had no adverse reactions and was digesting them well. We avoided all grains and wheat until after his first birthday, did not give him sugar or juices, and only gave water when he needed it. Before and in between meals, he nursed. 
L// Noah's first taste of raw milk                                         R//Noah enjoying his favorite Apple Pie Larabar

Sure enough, as he started to get older and his taste buds developed further, Noah began to give us faces of disgust at some foods we offered (he totally gets that from me. I didn't try brussel sprouts or asparagus until college!). He sometimes would even shudder at the taste of some foods. Of course it's completely normal to not enjoy some foods the same way others do.

When we got to this point, we decided on a few things that I think might help navigate around these developing and changing taste buds of his.

1. Try it
Around here, we don't fix special meals. Noah eats what we eat, has since he started food, and we encourage him to at least try something new if it is fixed. We won't go as far as forcing it into his mouth, but we do try to find creative ways to get him to open up and give it a shot. How will he know he doesn't like it if he doesn't try it? Pretty simple.

2. No Forcing
While we do encourage him to at least try it, he doesn't have to keep eating it if he doesn't like it. Would we want someone to do that to us?! We feel like forcing food sets a child up for further bad experiences with appetite. 

3. Don't Stop Offering
Just because he didn't like broccoli when he was 6 or 12 months old doesn't mean he won't enjoy it now that he's a growing toddler. By submitting to defeat after only one try, you aren't giving your little one chances to adjust to their changing taste buds or try the food prepared in a new way they may enjoy better. If I'm fixing something that I know Noah has not liked in the past, I still put it on his plate. This way, he is seeing that his plate looks the same as everyone else and the foods are still being put on his radar. Even if he doesn't gobble it up, exposure to what healthy looks like is always a great thing!

4. Get Creative
I really enjoy brussel sprouts roasted with garlic, but don't think I could stomach them boiled. I love fried okra (okay, battered and fried is up for debate in the healthy category, bad example!) but I think they're slimy when just cut up and sauteed. Kids are the same way! Change up your spices, roast something instead of boiling or steaming it, mix it with something else, find a fun recipe! I've also seen other moms make mealtimes into art! Who can resist edible palm trees?!

5. Get Them Involved
Allow your kids to be involved in the dinner-making process (when time and your own patience allows, of course!). Let them see and feel the vegetables and other items being prepared. Show them how they are cooked, allow them to chop (age-appropriately), place in the pan, add spices, stir, etc. Not only will they learn valuable skills but their pride in helping prepare might motivate them to want to try it again! This is one I plan on implementing more and more as Noah gets older (and after I get and paint a cool step-stool from Ikea!).

6. Last Resort, Get Sneaky!
I won't lie to my kids, but I'll also put the spinach and FCLO that they can't get down into disguise with a healthy, delicious smoothie and not feel guilty! 

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Overall, our goal when it comes to food is to provide a healthy environment for our family, and that includes overcoming challenges like picky eaters in creative ways! Keep in mind, we're right in the middle of all of this. I'm speaking some from experience and some from research and thought. I'm right there with you mamas! That's what I love about link-ups like this- mamas from all different perspectives sharing what works for them.

Interested in seeing how other mamas deal with picky eaters? Head on over to the link-up and check out some other tips and tricks!

It's a Date | Noah's Pallet Art Completed!

Sep 19, 2014

This week my goal was to finally finish Noah's pallet piece for his new room! M helped me gather the pallet from his parents' stash, my dad helped me disassemble the pallet and put it together, and I brought it home a few weeks ago where it sat until earlier this week! 

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous the past few days and has drawn me outside more than normal. I first washed the wood and set it out in the breeze to dry. Once M got home from work, the three of us went outside to enjoy the weather and I got to work painting the pallet. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to do it and thankfully M suggested grey for the mountains. I used a cheap brush from Walmart and found a stroke pattern that allowed the grain color to seep through. This helped the mountains look more realistic with some dimension. 
This wasn't exactly alone time, but it is something I've been wanting to do and I enjoyed seeing it come together and feeling productive. Noah's room is close to being completed and I can't wait to display it on his wall and put together the final reveal post!

In case you've missed the blog in the last few weeks and want some fun weekend reading material....

...I wrote about several things we're looking forward to (including our Babymoon next weekend!)

...I talked about some personal challenges in motherhood.

...I painted bowls and made a fun chalkboard tray for my other "It's a Date" posts!

...I reviewed Younique's 3D Fiber Lashes!

Have a great weekend!

being mama

Sep 17, 2014

You guys.

Sometimes being a mom is hard

If you had asked me how motherhood was going a year ago when Noah was not even a year old, I'd probably have said, "I got this. I know what I'm doing".

Fast forward a year later to when that sweet little immobile baby is now a fully mobile toddler with his own personality and independence and a lot of days I'd look you in the eye, maybe with a tear in mine, and say honestly, "This is harder than I thought". 

First let me say- motherhood is a joy. I wake up every day excited that I get to be Noah's mama, and mama to our soon-to-be-born baby boy. My heart swells until I think it will burst when I look at Noah and remember all over again that he is my son and that I get to take part in shaping who he is and who he becomes. All those big joys and fun times and precious moments make up a huge part of being his mom.
I've wanted to be a mom for a long time, so parenting methods have been on my mind for awhile. I've researched and read so many different perspectives on the subject and feel like I'm pretty sure of the kind of parent I want to be and the kind of things that are important to me in raising children. 

I feel that children are a blessing. I feel that children aren't objects we own to control, but fellow human beings to be lovingly guided into adulthood. I feel that children shouldn't be hit. I feel that children's emotions and thoughts and experiences matter just as much as ours do and should be treated with the same weight. I feel that children should be treated with the same respect we would give anyone else, no matter how old or young.

Of course all of those things are going to play a part in how I handle big and small situations, from the way I talk to my children to the methods we use to teach and guide them. But what I've been slowly realizing is that there's not a perfect formula for being a mom (imagine that!). Sure, I can have an overall idea of how I'd like to address certain issues or principles I want to teach, but there are also really challenging times when I have no idea what to do and not enough time to figure it out in the heat of the moment.

The hard part about times like those is that life in that moment can't be put into pause mode. There's no app on my phone that I can open that will make my child stop in his tracks while I figure out exactly what to do. Most of the time life with a toddler is constant movement, excitement, exploration- wonderful things! But when you're a first-time mom to a toddler, it's challenging trying to feed that desire for knowledge while setting limits for safety.

I've found myself flustered many times while needing to deal with something Noah's doing, especially when I'm met with opposition. There is so much that goes in my head in those few seconds (that feel like an eternity at times) of instruction. I involuntarily recall every piece of research and opinion that I've ever read. I recall how I've seen similar situations handled in the past by family or friends. I'm sorting through those-assessing which ones match up to my values, which ones I've been told will mess my kids up for life and to never ever do...ever. All the while asking the questions- How am I going to enforce limits while still respecting how he's feeling? How will I remain calm in this moment, even when my emotions are slowly trying to get the best of me? How can I say what I need to say in a way that he will understand? How can I remain consistent while leaving room for grace? From the outside it probably looks like nothing, but sometimes, by the time it's over, I'm wound up, doubting myself as a mother, wondering if I handled it effectively, and trying to work through my own emotions that were brought up in that moment.

I know those are probably signs of a rookie mom who isn't quite sure of herself, and I'll go ahead and raise my hand and accept that label. I may not have admitted that a year ago, but I've been so humbled recently- by situations I've found myself in when I had no choice but to pray, by conviction, and by encouragement from veteran mamas. 

I have a friend who told me awhile ago that she had stopped reading parenting articles. I always thought it was a little extreme- after all, there is some good that can come. You might find ways that work for your child or perspectives that make you view things a bit differently. And those articles and books and research are what originally opened my eyes to how I want to parent and how I view children.  But now, as I'm really getting into the stage of actually needing to parent, I see some value in her decision. She didn't stop there, but told me that instead, her plan was to love her children with everything in her and surrender her parenting to God. And by the end of one of my last rough days with Noah, surrender was exactly what I had resolved to do.

I'm tired of the has-to-be-perfect me holding the real me, who makes mistakes and needs daily grace, to a ridiculous standard. I'm going to mess up. I'm going to feel completely lost when I encounter new challenges with Noah. Sometimes, I'm going to curl up in bed at the end of the day and feel like I did every single thing wrong.

My mom told me something this week that she used to tell us when we were younger and we would be on the other side of a difficult mother-daughter situation- "this is my first time". When I was five, it was her first time as the mom to a five year old. When I was thirteen, it was her first time as the mom to a teenager. She had to remind herself of that, and I have a feeling that I will be reminding myself of the same thing many times. This, life right now, is the first time I've ever been a mom to a 22 month old. I'm not going to be perfect. I'm not going to get it right every time. I'm not going to know how to handle every new situation.

There are days that will be even harder, and those are the days that I have an opportunity to get on my knees at the feet of my Savior, ask Him for grace and wisdom and perspective, and choose to believe that He is faithful and will give it. Those are days that I can accept grace and determine to move on and do better. Those are the days that I'm given an opportunity to be humble before my children, to let them know that mommy isn't perfect either, and that I need just as much grace as anyone else.

looking ahead

Sep 12, 2014

Well, if you were expecting my It's A Date results, you'll have to wait until next week. I'm sad to say that this week didn't quite go as planned. In fact, it was pretty rough. I'm trying to move on and realize that some weeks are better than others. Some days I'll feel like I've got this mom thing down and other days I'll feel like I'm failing all around. I'm working on giving myself grace. 

Sometimes when I'm having an off week, I try to focus on fun things we've got coming up. Here's what I'm looking forward to over the next few months!
While I was pregnant with Noah we were working hard on paying off our student loans. My entire income and any extra money we had went to grand old Sallie Mae. Taking a weekend away wasn't a top priority. Fast forward two years later and a lot has changed. We're debt free except our house, we spent a lot of time in limbo with our moving situation, and we have yet to have time away and alone as a couple. I breastfed for the first 18 months of Noah's life and it wasn't until a couple of weekends ago that we spent our first night apart (and he was with M!). I will most likely breastfeed our second boy for just as long, if not longer, so if we don't get in a weekend alone before I deliver, we might not get one for awhile! Basically, it's time. It may have been time awhile ago! Because we're in Chattanooga, and because M's parents are coming here to keep Noah for the weekend, we're going to Atlanta. It's less than two hours away but a great destination with plenty of fun things to do. Who am I kidding- Ikea is there!  I'm a little nervous since this will be the first time Noah will be away from both of us at night, but we fully trust M's parents and know that Noah will be just fine.
March 2014

A Weekend with Friends
Our friends Liz and Kyle and their little cutie Reid are coming to visit next weekend! We haven't seen them since we moved to Chattanooga in May and we've missed them! Reid and Noah have so much fun together. We can't wait to see them, show them around Chattanooga, and have some fun!
A Finished Hallway
This remodel is taking a bit longer than I'd like. It's frustrating that I can't be of more help in speeding things along. Most things are pretty heavy, a lot of it has to be left up to Michael because his engineering mind can handle all the calculations, and painting isn't an option for this pregnant mama. I've been handling things like making lists, staying organized, and keeping up with our budget (aka reminding M that we don't really need that one tool and that we're nearing our remodel budget for the week!). We're a pretty good team, but it would still be nice if we had tons of extra hands around to do some labor! Noah's room is finished (just finishing up some decor items!) and we're now in the hallway phase. We've been walking on subfloor for over a month and I'm over it and the mess. Our doors are without trim and walls without baseboards. We finally talked yesterday and made a little progression plan to keep ourselves on track. Hopefully by the time baby comes we will have the top stair landing completed, woods floors down, craftsman trim around every door, and all the trim and baseboards painted white. Even if it takes awhile to get to the other bedrooms, I think having the hallway done will make our upstairs feel more complete.
Anyone else still mourning Matthew?
Fall TV
This is kind of a pathetic thing to look forward to, but I just can't help it! There are so many good shows I enjoy and their season premiers are coming up soon! In order - Chicago Fire, Parenthood, The Walking Dead, and Hart of Dixie. I'm looking forward to January even more when I can watch my absolute favorites- Downtown Abbey and Call the Midwife.

Having a Baby
This seems like an obvious one to include, but I really am so excited to give birth again. I'm so thankful that labor is not something I fear but am ready to embrace. These last few weeks have been rough with foot pain and uncomfortable sleep, so I think it may only get worse. I'm ready to meet this baby boy yesterday. My mindset has been different this pregnancy and I feel much more emotionally connected to the process. In the next few weeks I've got quite a few things to get and  this Type-A mama is looking forward to marking everything off my list!
With all of that coming up, I'm going to embrace this weekend, make it better than the week, and enjoy my family.
I want to get to know you a bit. What fun things do you have going on this month?

It's a Date! | DIY Chalkboard Tray

Sep 6, 2014

This week was jam-packed with a lot of fun, including a lovely visit from a good friend, and is ending with family time in Virginia and a small baby shower for me today thrown by my sweet mama and sister. I waited to do this week's project until I arrived at M's parents house because they have a plethora of old wood by their barn to choose from. I'll admit...I had some help with this project. M helped me dig the pallet out and pry the wood off and my dad helped me trim it down to the right length. I won't ever take for granted the handy men in my life! I suppose this week's "me time" was completed during time with our families, but I still really enjoyed doing this simple and fun DIY! 

Supplies Needed:
> Chalkboard Paint
> Paintbrush
> Painter's Tape
> Two drawer handles
> Optional: Sandpaper to smooth down edges and surface

Step One | Find and cut your wood! I was fortunate and able to raid my in-law's wood supply, but in case you don't know anyone with twenty pallets laying around I'd suggest either checking Craigslist or calling your local grocery store. Often times people will list their pallets for free on Craigslist as long as you'll go pick them up and your local grocery store might appreciate one less pallet they have to get rid of. I wanted a whole piece of wood for my tray as opposed to attaching a few smaller ones together. I didn't want the writing to have to span seams, so I chose a skinnier board and gave it a little length. 

Step Two | Tape! I wanted a wider writing space, so I decided to extend the painter's tape to the edges of the wood. Because the grain of the wood is a little raised, I made sure I really pressed the tape down so the paint didn't leak through and the edges would be clean.

 Step Three | Paint! Once your tape is secure and you're sure of the size of your chalkboard area, brush the chalkboard paint on in thick, long strokes. I made sure to coat it pretty thickly because the wood  I chose is porous and I knew it would soak down easily. Once the paint is dry, slowly peel the tape off.

Step Four | Add Handles! Start by deciding where you want your handles and marking the screw holes with a pencil. Find a drill bit just a bit smaller than the screws that came with your handles and drill completely through the wood where your holes are marked. Then, screw the screws through the holes and attach them to the handles.
Step Five | Draw & Enjoy! I'm seeing all kinds of fun uses for a tray like this! It'd be fun to label snacks for a dinner party in fun chalkboard fonts, use as a centerpiece on the kitchen table with some flowers and scripture, or use as a learning tool with Noah for labeling, counting, or spelling.

This was a pretty easy project and I really love how it turned out. It's amazing how being intentional about making time for these projects actually helps me get them done! I'm finding that it wasn't time that I was lacking, but, in part, giving myself permission to make the time.

I haven't chosen my "me time" for this next week, but I may take a break from the crafty projects and lean more towards an event. Check back next Friday to find out! Also, check out last week's fun DIY painted bowl project!

Have a wonderful weekend! 

It's A Date | DIY Painted Bowls

Aug 29, 2014

Last Friday I talked about how I've done a bad job at making time for myself since becoming a mom and how important it is to make time to have your cup refilled. Then I challenged myself to make a date with myself each week to do something creative or enjoyable. This could be a Pinterest project I've had pinned for months, an event I've been wanting to attend, or even a book I've been wanting to read.

Last week I came across these fun DIY Painted Bowls from Design Mom on and knew I'd have fun with making my own! Because I already have nice bowls, I decided to decorate some small ceramic bowls for Noah's snacks. You're probably thinking, "You give your kid his snack in ceramic bowls?". First, we try to avoid plastic, but secondly, we've been doing this for awhile and it works for us. Noah knows which little bowls are his, asks for a snack and brings us his bowl to be filled. Once he's got his snack he takes it to his play table where he munches and plays off and on.

First things first...nap time.
How can he be comfortable?!

Once this was accomplished, I knew I had about two hours to myself. I grabbed my supplies: two small square bowls and my porcelain/glass paint pens (Hobby Lobby for $3.99 each with a 40% off coupon!). I propped my feet up on the couch, put on some music, and held the bowl steady on my lap over a towel while I drew. I'm no artist and I'll admit I had to look up some sea creatures on Pinterest for ideas. You can see I really went all out with my whales here. ;)

After I let them dry for the recommended 8 hours, I baked them in the oven at 375 for 40 minutes to cure them. This makes them dishwasher-safe - a huge plus around here. Although this wasn't complicated at all and took me about thirty minutes, it still is probably the first creative thing I've done in a very long time. I spent the rest of nap time eating lunch without someone trying to crawl into my lap and then managed to doze off for about ten minutes before I head "mama" from upstairs. I'd say overall, it was nice couple hours.

The bowls seemed to be a hit with Noah, but I have a feeling it was what was inside that was most important. He's a snack-lover for sure!

I thought quite a bit about what I wanted to do this week. We've got a busy week coming up, but I think times like these are when I need to take "me time" the most- to recharge before, during, and after the going and coming and going again. I decided on similar to these awesome chalkboard trays!

We have quite a bit of scrap wood leftover from our remodeling and I'm excited to sort through it and come up with something good! Check back next week for my results! 

Also on the blog this past week..

> A fun review of Younique's 3D Fiber Lashes! 

> I showed Noah's finished room (empty) and shared a Mountain mood board I made as inspiration for decorating.

> I shared a few things I'm grateful for out of my ordinary day. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Natural Living | Younique 3D Fiber Lashes Review

Aug 27, 2014

Part of living a natural lifestyle has involved ridding our home of as many harmful and toxic chemicals as we can. So many of the chemicals that have been approved for everyday use in our country actually contain cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting properties. This has been a work in progress for us, but I'd say we're closer now than we ever have been to having an all-natural home. This means things like dye and scent-free laundry detergent, a mix of water, vinegar, and essential oils for an all-purpose cleaner, and warming essential oils or chemical-free waxes instead of candles to keep our house smelling good.

Our toxic body products were some of the first to go. We replaced our deodorant with an all-natural brand (and are working on making our own!), replaced our body washes with Castile soap, replaced our lotions with healthy oils, and quit using standard facial cleaners. Changing your lifestyle can be hard, takes time, and the vast amount of chemicals you uncover in things around your house can leave you feeling defeated. I like to keep an 80/20 rule- if 80% of your products are natural, you're doing a great job! 

One of the hardest areas for me to find all natural products that actually work well? Makeup. I don't wear makeup everyday, but when I do I like to know that what is on my face for hours is as least toxic as possible. Because of this, I was so excited when my friend Kristin introduced me to Younique. All of their products are organic and paraben, fragrance, dye, gluten, and preservative free. On top of that, I love that they are so transparent with their ingredients. Any product you view on their site not only includes a full ingredients list, but Younique takes it one step further and explains the purpose for each and every ingredient, leaving you with the ability to make an informed decision about what goes onto your skin. 

Kristin then introduced me to Younique's 3D Fiber Lashes. I've always had thin, short lashes so when I saw everyone else's 3D Fiber Lashes before and after pictures, I was even more excited to try it for myself. The mascara comes in a really cute black case and includes two wands- one is transplanting gel and the other is black fibers (I've read that most other fiber lashes are white, which means you have to make sure they are fully covered or they will be obvious. Younique's fibers are black, meaning they blend in better with your eyelashes and aren't obvious if they don't all get covered).

The instructions are super easy: start with any mascara, apply it, and let it dry fully. Once they're dry, apply a coat of transplanting gel, immediately followed by a coat of the fibers, and finish with a final coat of transplanting gel. (I found this tutorial really helpful!) With each coat you'll notice your lashes getting longer and thicker. Before taking these pictures, I always thought that my regular black mascara did a pretty good job of accentuating my eyelashes. After comparing my own before and afters, I noticed they weren't nearly as pronounced as I thought, especially when I had eyeliner on. The 3D Fiber Lashes made it look like I actually had mascara on and my lashes were longer and able to be seen above the already dark eyeliner I had on. I should note I tried to put this on the way I would any makeup day, so I didn't apply the 3D fibers to my bottom lashes in the after pictures for a more causal look. 
I also tried Younique's eye pigment in Curious and love it! I'm wearing it in the pictures above and love the neutral shimmer. I've also noticed that it lasts all day where other eye shadows I have usually wear off after a few hours. So far I have been really impressed with the things I've tried. Next on my list to try? Some different pigment colors and Lucrative Lip Gloss!

Wanting to switch to more natural beauty products? Interested in trying something out for yourself? Visit Kristin's website to check out the many different products they have to offer. You can also 'like' her Facebook page to see some more amazing befores and afters of the 3D  fiber lashes, be updated on giveaways, ask questions about products, and place an order.

Have you heard of Younique? Have you ever tried Fiber lashes before?