Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ideas for A Toddler 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
Make a Snowman
Christmas Craft
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 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turkey Day Snapshots

This year was a different kind of Thanksgiving for us. We stayed in Ohio. Most years we travel over the river and through the woods...to my family in Kentucky, but this year we stayed put. While I missed seeing my extended family, it was nice to stay in our pjs and relax Thanksgiving morning. It was a sweet day.

Our Thanksgiving day was full of...
 Food prep, which in our house always includes a recipe from Pioneer Woman
Macy's Day Parade Watching
 Chocolate Cream Pie Making and taste testing
An adorable tablescape and amazing food
Family bonding time
and football.

What was your Thanksgiving day full of?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Time to whip out the trusty breast pump? {An Honest Feeding Story}

Being that I'm less than 3 months away from having a newborn again, I've been thinking a lot about my expectations as I enter a new season of being a Mom to TWO! The thing I think about the most (besides how I'm going to divide my time and love between two kiddos) is my expectations for feeding a newborn again. It's time to start cleaning bottles, replacing pump parts and gearing up for breastfeeding again. Dun dun duh.

With Aiden, my plan was always to breastfeed. I read books and articles, attended the class and never swayed from my plan. Aiden arrived and after an initial hospital consult with the lactation consultant, we were a go. He latched on well and I never looked back. I honestly loved almost everything about breastfeeding. Don't be mad Mamas out there, but I never had mastitis, never a blocked milk duct, never intense pain from being too full...if breastfeeding can ever be easy, I'd say I had it easy.

But that's not to say I didn't face any challenges. I went back to work after 3 and a half weeks because I had recently started a new job and I decided to continue breastfeeding. Aiden got pumped breastmilk while I was at work and then I fed him whenever I was home. Thankfully my work schedule and hours were flexible, but pumping is never fun or easy and as a Type A gal prone to worrying, I constantly worried about my milk supply. I tried the cookies and the teas, but I always felt like I was making just enough to get by. It became an all encompassing thought...Do I go out with my friends? If I do, Aiden will have to get a bottle, leaving only enough milk for two feedings instead of three the next day. Should we go on a date and leave after I feed him or before? Do I try pumping more at work? Do I wake up in the middle of the night to pump? These thoughts began taking over and that was hard, but I chose to continue breastfeeding and give myself grace. I came to terms with the possibility of having to give Aiden formula if need be. When Aiden was 10 months old, I researched and bought formula, which before coming a Mom, was not part of my plan.

16 months of breastfeeding later and that formula still sat in my cabinet unopened. While I never ended up having to use it, it made me more compassionate and less judgmental about how women choose to care for their newborns. Having that container of formula in my cabinet was a relief, not a thing causing me guilt. We always want the best for our kids, but our plans do not always remain in our control.

Of course with my second baby, my plan is the same, to breastfeed. While I would love to give him only breast milk and that is my goal, I'm also going to remember that it is OKAY if he needs formula or if breastfeeding doesn't go as planned this time. I'm bracing myself and telling myself that things this time around WILL be different. He will be a different baby than my first. He might not sleep through the night as quickly as Aiden did. He might have reflux or problems latching. I might be too stressed to pump with a toddler running around screaming for my attention. So here's what I do know...I will give my second child all the love I can and will do what I know is best for him and for our family. I know it will not look the same this time around and I'm choosing to be okay with that.

So Mamas of two or more...did your feeding story change when you went from one baby to two?

Helpful Resources/Links About Feeding a Newborn:
Honest Company Feeding Page
Kelly Mom
The Nursing Mother's Companion
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
Lactation Cookies to Boost Supply
When You Struggle to Breastfeed (Some encouragement)

*Read other Honest Feeding Stories Here

Monday, November 14, 2016

A is for...{Baby Boy Has A Name}

When choosing a name for our second kiddo, my husband let me know right away that he thought their name should start with an "A" like all of ours do or they would feel "left out." I couldn't argue with that so we quickly started scanning lists of "A" names. Shortly after we chose a girl name and I started pinning girl nursery ideas to my Pinterest Board.

For some reason we could not come up with a boy name that we loved both the sound of and the meaning behind. Honestly I think one reason it was so hard was because we whole heartedly believed we were having a girl. The day of my 20 week ultrasound rolled around and we were almost positive we'd be using our girl name. Well, we were way wrong.  But as soon as the doctor told us we were having a boy and I saw the ultrasound image with his little face, this name jumped out at me.

So our little boy's name is...

Alder Jacob.

Why Alder?

We just love the way it sounds. To us, it sounds strong and we love how it sounds paired with Aiden.
Alder and Aiden. Aiden and Alder. 

We love the meaning and symbolism of the name. Alder is a kind of tree. When I think of a tree, I think strong and deeply rooted. I picture a tiny seed growing into something strong and mighty. Drew and I also love the outdoors, it's where we bond as a family and is where we feel God's presence the most, so it just fits for us.

Alder is derived from a Dutch surname (Aldert) meaning "noble" and "strong." I'm already praying that our Alder has both of these qualities.

Jacob is a family name that we both love as well. So his initials will be AJR, just like his Daddy.

We can't wait to meet Alder in 3 short months and get to know his little personality.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Things I Love About You at Age 2

My sweet boy is TWO. How is that even possible?! The last two years have been hands down the best years of my life. I can't imagine how different my life would be if Aiden hadn't come along. All I know is that my life is so much sweeter with him as a part of it.

There are so many things I love about this boy, but today, I'm simply sharing 10 things that I love about him at this age...

1. His laugh. He is always looking for a way to make other people smile. When he laughs, everyone laughs with him. His joy is contagious. It is a laugh that fills a room and comes straight from his gut. His whole little body radiates joy when he laughs.

2. He is the happiest when we are all together as a family. I can already see that his love language is Quality Time because he always wants everyone to be together and included. After he plays cars with Daddy, he grabs my hand and says "Mommy do it" and I get to join in on the fun too. Knowing his family members names is one of the first things he grasped when he could talk. He is intuitive about people's feelings and likes to make people feel special. Knowing their names definitely does that!
3. The way he looks at me. Oh it melts me. His little smirk when we read certain pages in a book that he knows we both think are funny. He makes me feel like the only person in the room when he looks at me. He makes me feel like the most blessed Mama in the world.

4. He is passionate about what he loves. Right now one of his passions is vehicles. At all times he must have two vehicles with him, one in each hand. He hears every truck that starts up in our neighborhood, can pick out a train whistle way off in the distance and knows the names of all the Cars and Thomas characters. He has a special chair that we call the "Vrooming chair" and he uses it to test out all his new cars on. One of my favorite things he does right now at bedtime is goes to his room and picks out two cars that he wants to take to bed with him.

5. His sweet voice. I'm going to miss his baby talk and baby voice. I will also miss all the words and phrases he is saying at this age. According to the doctors he is off the charts when it comes to vocabulary and I love being able to communicate with him. His favorite word is still "Mama", which of course I just love, but "Drew-Dada" and "Big Truck" are a very close second. His favorite phrases are currently: "Choo, choo coming," "Read it again," "No way!" and "What are you talking about?!" Ha.

6. He knows what he wants and always has a plan. He will grab people's hands and tell them to "go this way," or "go hide." He knows which cars he wants to take with him places, which path he wants to take on our walks, which Thomas movie he wants on, which books he wants to read, etc. He doesn't mess around!

7. He is incredibly observant! He observes and notices everything! Every time he gets a new toy, he has to turn the box over and look at the back before he asks for us to open it. When we read books, he notices the tiniest details and remembers them. He also knows all our family members cars and knows who goes with who (Papa and Yaya, Aunt Carly and Uncle Josh, etc.)
8. He loves to learn! One of his favorite things to do is have us read to him. I don't think a day has gone by this past year where he hasn't requested a book to be read to him. I love how he just plops down in my lap like it's his favorite place to be. Current favorite books: Boo!, On The Go, Little Blue Truck, Trains,  Owl's Forest Numbers, and Panda Bear, Panda Bear (or any rendition of Eric Carle's Brown Bear)

9. He is sensitive and thoughtful. He will almost always give kisses upon request and is saying thank you when people give him things now. He is very sweet about his toy fox, Mr. Fox and takes him everywhere. He is sensitive towards people and animals who are hurting. When he hears someone crying or one of our cats in distress, he says, "Oh no!"

10. He listens and truly wants to be helpful. When he sees Drew sweeping up crumbs on the floor, he goes to get his little broom and "helps." When we vacuum, he gets out his lawn mower and "vacuums" too. He currently likes helping throw things in the garbage, "fold" laundry and help me put my shoes and socks on.
I could go on and on, but these are my favorite things about Aiden right now. I love him to pieces and am so excited to watch him grow this year...just not too fast.