Browsing Tag

mommy blogger

How To, Inspiration

My 2017 Vision Board + How to Make Your Own

2017 felt like the birth of many big dreams for me.  And not just dreams that I wanted to start chasing, but dreams that I wanted to start living.  I actually wrote about all that, here-my dream to really commit to growing this blog.  I also set goals for myself in areas like motherhood and family life.  In the midst of realizing my dreams and goals, and determining that I was going to start living them out now, I began making a plan of how to keep myself inspired.  I don’t know about you, but I am a very visual, have-to-see-things-on-paper type person.  I am the type of a person that if I don’t write out a to-do list, nothing will get done!  (bad bad, I know!)  So I knew that my plan to start living my dreams would not become much of a reality if I didn’t create a “roadmap,” of sorts, of how that was going to look.  A vision board seemed to be the perfect tool!

I love creating “mood boards” in my house!  I have so many bulletin board collages of pictures that just inspire me, scattered throughout my house.  But for this, I wanted to create a vision board for 2017.  I wanted to fill it with words that inspired me and pictures that motivated me.  This vision board is to encourage me every time I sit down to write on my blog, to remind myself of why I am doing it and what I want to accomplish.  It is to help me take a breath when motherhood is overwhelming me and remind myself that I am enough.  This board is to reassure me that it is okay to simplify my life, to do less with more focus, and to say NO sometimes.  And more than anything, I want this board to remind me that God is making a way in my life, that He has plans for me, that I only have to have faith and take the risk!

On my vision board, I included pictures of my little family (because they are my biggest motivators), images of coffee and flowers (because I feel energized and focused by both), quotes about taking risks and going after things (because the fear of stepping out can psych me out), and pictures of cameras (because I want to become better at photography and I want to finally start a YouTube channel).  I could probably fill up 10 vision boards full of inspirational things, but this was a good start!

If you want to make a vision board to get inspired to start living your dreams, here is a list of what you will need:

  • Framed cork board or other board of your choice
  • Fabric to cover board
  • Staple gun
  • Ribbon
  • Push pins or spray adhesive to attach your pictures
  • Pictures, images and quotes that inspire you!

I recommend that you take some time, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea-planner, journal, inspirational books in hand-and write down your goals for 2017.  Just take some time and envision your life.  Think about where you are right now and where you want to be.  Once you have determined this, you can fill in all the in between steps.  Don’t create goals that are unattainable within a certain time frame.  Create small, achievable goals you can meet along your journey.  Remember, life is not just about an end destination-this one place or thing that will finally make you happy.  It is about the journey-what you learn along the way through trials, missteps, triumphs and success.  I firmly believe that when we envision the life God has for us and truly believe that He wants great things for us, we will succeed and flourish and live a fulfilling life!  Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: . . .”

Friends, I believe that God wants us to dream and dream big.  He wants us to have a vision for our life.  There is nothing wrong with making plans for your life when you are following God’s prompting.  If He has given you a talent, a calling, a prodding or a dream, go for it!  Follow after it!  Live it!  Live your life with intention.  Live it to the fullest.  Don’t believe the lies of the devil or the discouragement of others when they say you can’t do something; because, you can do anything you put your mind to.

So fill your vision board with words and images that will draw you closer to your goals and that life you envision for yourself.  Every time you look at it, be inspired that you are capable to achieve and live out your dreams.  This first month of 2017 was great, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for my family and yours.

If you create your own vision board, I’d love to see it and be encouraged in watching you live out your dreams!  So tag me @thegrowingnest or use the hashtag #growingthenestvisionboard on Instagram so I can see your creation!  Remember, we rise by lifting others; let’s lift each other up and cheer each other on as we live our dreams in 2017.

 

Motherhood, Parenthood, Pregnancy

What I’ve Learned from my First Year of Motherhood

I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it was because my mom was a mother of 4 (and she was pretty awesome at it!) or maybe it was just something built into my DNA.  If there was a baby doll, I was taking care of it; if there was a doll house, I was playing “house.”  When I was a teenager, I would daydream about my life one day: living in a cute, little house with Matthew-loud, full of love, and full of babies.

After Matthew and I had been married for about a year and a half, I started getting baby fever.  I began asking him month after month, Hey babe, do you want a baby?  Hey, don’t you think a baby would be soooo cute?!  ha!  It was pretty funny the stuff I came up with to try to convince him to want a baby.  But I patiently (okay, maybe impatiently) waited until he was ready.  And one day, he just decided he was ready, and we weren’t together at the time because he was working, and he told me in a text.  I actually love that he did because now I have this memory to keep forever.

I remember the feeling of elation and pure excitement I felt in this moment knowing we were going to grow our nest.  And 2 months later, we got those 2 pink lines!

 

When Avary came into this world, life changed in an instant.  I cried the moment they laid her on my chest.  This baby, this little person-designed by God-was nurtured by my body and came from me and my husband.  I love that Avary is a tangible representation of the love Matthew and I share.  How incredible!  She is our love wrapped up in her sweet little self.

I think motherhood has taught me more about myself than any other experience I’ve had in life.  It has shown me that I am way stronger than I ever thought I was.  Going through the tiring work of growing a human being, to the exhausting work of labor and delivery, to the long and sleepless nights with a newborn, motherhood has shown me that I have strength and endurance!

Motherhood has taught me about sacrifice.  Giving up my body again after pregnancy to commit to breastfeeding was a true sacrifice.  Becoming a stay-at-home mom, many times I have to sacrifice the things I want for the things we need.  Motherhood has transformed my way of thinking.  Instead of a self-centered way of thinking, being a mom has shown me that I can make someone else #1 and that it is okay.

Motherhood has shown me that life is messy ( ^) and imperfect and doesn’t always go they way we think it should.  That in the midst of endless days and sleepless nights, poopy diapers, constant spit-up, colic, reflux, nose-sucking, sleep training, babywearing, breastfeeding, nap-skipping, tantrum-throwing days, we can rest in the fact that our job-as “Mom”-has meaning and value beyond the ‘every day.’  We are not just “babysitting” tiny humans; we are raising world-changers!  The love, time, and attention we pour into our little ones all day long is shaping their minds.  The values we instill are shaping their hearts.  The struggle of motherhood-trying to find a spare moment to go to the bathroom alone, microwaving your coffee 3 times because it went cold before you could drink it, going Hulk-crazy on the dog for barking during naptime-that’s life.  I’ve learned that I can let the upsets confuse me, frustrate me, and derail my whole day or I can just go with the flow, laugh at the madness, and embrace the crazy mess.

I recognized the truth in the statement ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ because friends, IT DOES!  Motherhood was not meant to go at alone.  You need support.  I learned that when I tried to do everything on my own and hold myself to an unrealistic, Tumblr-type standard of perfection, I failed miserably.  And, I made myself miserable in the process.  Reach out and reach up!  Until I started reaching out to my husband, my mom, my sisters, my friends, other moms, the online community and looking to God for help and guidance, I was drowning in my role as a mother.  I’ve since learned to surround myself with a #tribe and not do this motherhood thing alone.

What I learned from my first year of motherhood is that love at first sight does exist. . .  The love that I have for my little girl is beyond anything I expected.  The moment I laid eyes on her, I felt like I knew her all my life and I loved her instantly.  She holds my heart in her hands.  I am so thankful that God entrusted her to me, that she made me a mama, and that I get to experience life with her.  She is forever my heart-changer, my mini-me, and my baby. . .

I love you, Avary Layne.

 

Baby, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Choose the Best Carseat

This post contains affiliate links.  If you choose to use these links, I may receive a small commission for connecting you to the source.  You can read my full disclosure, here.

Parenting is full of really confusing choices!  One of those choices is choosing the best car seat for your growing baby.  It pretty much ranks up there as just as confusing as creating a baby registry (wayyyy too many choices!).  Before Avary was born, we chose to buy a travel system that included an infant car seat carrier that would attach to the stroller.  I do not regret that decision at all because we got so much use out of it!  However, as Avary has been creeping up on turning one, I began to realize that she was getting much too big for her infant seat and it was time to move up.  I had no idea where to start in looking for a convertible carseat!  So I did a bit of research, talked to other moms, and began formulating a list of potential seats.

The most important thing to remember when shopping around for car seats is that each car seat on the market has gone through the same rigorous crash testing and has met the federal safety standards.  While some seats may perform better in tests, the difference in price comes into play for reasons like, comfort, convenience, ease-of-use, style, quality, and brand/name.  Because of this, you will find that there are recommended car seats ranging in price from $39 up to $500!

What I recommend in helping you make a decision is to write out a list of your needs and must-haves for a seat.  Include things like:

  • Rear-facing and forward-facing: Do you want to do extended rear-facing?  How long will your little one fit?  What is the weight and height limit for forward-facing?  Will you have to buy another convertible seat when they meet the limits?
  • Size, dimensions & compatibility with your vehicle:  Get the measurements of the car seat and the vehicle you will be placing it in.  Will it fit comfortably?  Does your vehicle have LATCH anchors or will you be using a seat belt?  Will you have more than one car seat side by side and will they fit?
  • Ease of use:  Is the car seat easy for you to use?  If you will be transferring it between vehicles, is it light enough for you to carry on your own?  Do you prefer a “rapid-release” style?  Is it easy to anchor?  Are the straps easy to tighten and loosen?
  • Durability and washable:  Do you want a seat cover that can easily be taken off and thrown in the washer?  Is the fabric durable if you can only spot-clean?
  • Comfort for baby:  Is the seat comfortable for your little one?  Is there enough head support?  How much padding do you want?  What material is the padding made of (too hot, too thin, etc.)?  Does the seat have different modes for recline?  Will baby be able to sleep comfortably in it?
  • Safety and construction of the seat:  Is there adequate side-impact protection?  What materials is the seat made of?  How did it rank in crash tests?
  • Cost:  How much are you willing to spend?  Is the seat within your price range?  Will the seat last through toddlerhood or will you have to upgrade again?

Once you go through that list, you can better determine which seat is right for your little one and your family.  I strongly encourage you to research on sites like Car Seats for the Littles (list of recommended seats, car seat safety laws, recalls, and resources), Consumer Reports (ratings, recommendations, crash test results and comparisons) and The Car Seat Blog (reviews, ratings, comparisons and information).  You will be able to find all the information you could ever need!

 

After going through all the research and information, we decided to purchase the Graco MySize 65.  It met all the criteria we were looking for, we found it on sale on Amazon, and we got Amazon Prime free shipping-so we paid just under $150!  We are very happy with our choice, and I think Avary is too! 🙂

 

Here are a few popular, top-rated car seats:
*affiliate links*

Chicco Nextfit

Britax Marathon

Graco Extend2Fit

Graco Contender 65

Britax ClickTight Advocate

Graco 4Ever All-in-One

 

Happy car seat shopping, friends!!  And remember, do what’s best for your family!

Family, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Afford Being a SAHM + FREE Budget Printable

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about the family we would grow one day.  When we talked about kids, I always knew I wanted to stay at home with them.  At the time, I didn’t know the logistics of how we would make that possible, but I knew it was a priority.  My own mom was a stay-at-home mom throughout much of my 3 older brothers’ lives, as well as mine, until she began a teaching career when I started school.  So all my childhood memories, I remember my mom always being there with us.  That is the kind of childhood I wanted to give my kids.

Matthew joined the military straight out of high school, we got married at 20, and I attribute the fact that I can stay at home all to the security of his job and the amazing health insurance we receive.  However, I have heard so many women talk about how they wish they could stay home with their little ones, but they feel like it is impossible.  So I wanted to give you all some practical tips on how we have afforded living on one income so that you can examine your own living situation, if staying at home with your kids is what you really long to do!

1.  Plan, plan, plan AHEAD

Like I mentioned above, Matthew and I discussed what we wanted our life to be like when we had kids, so we planned accordingly.  When Matthew joined the military, we spent 2 years dating long-distance.  While he was living 1,000+ miles away from me and deploying regularly, and I was home going to college, we SAVED.  Matthew opened a 401K and started saving for retirement, as well as saving a large portion of his income in a savings account he didn’t touch.  I saved for our wedding and he saved for our future.  One of the best things you can do if you want to become a SAHM is to plan ahead-before having children-what you want your life to look like and saving for that.  If you already have kids, that’s fine!  My best advice is to try to build up your savings account as much as you can.  Also, work as much as you can before and during pregnancy.  I know this is not possible for all women, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, it is great to try to make as much money as you can before the baby comes and you stop working.

2.  Begin living on one income well before the baby comes

This helped us tremendously on the shock and adjustment that going from a two to a one income household brings!  While I was pregnant and still working, we began transitioning all of our bills to come out of my husband’s paycheck.  Even though we still had the “cushion” of my income, we did not use it to pay bills.  Instead, we used my income strictly for baby purchases we needed or savings.  This method really helped us reevaluate our income, what we were spending money on, what our necessities were, and that being a SAHM was going to be possible!

3.  Make a budget!

This probably should have been tip #1, but guys, make make a budget!  You have to do it!  When we were both working and we were newly married, we spent money on whatever we wanted and we didn’t keep a checkbook (do those even still exist?!) or really keep an eye on our money.  But when we wanted to make this transition, it was important that we sat down and wrote out our budget for us to see.  We took our bank statements and looked at what are monthly income was, the bills we had, the areas we were needlessly spending money, the areas we could cut down on expenses, and how much we felt we needed to save and invest.  And who says budgeting can’t be fun?!  Get creative with it!  I know that I am most productive and willing to stick with something if I can write it out and it looks cute and pretty.  So that’s why I made this FREE Monthly Budget Printable for you guys!  Hopefully this will help you get organized and stay motivated to stick with your budget.

4.  Plan large purchases ahead of time

One thing that my husband and I have really been trying to get better about is planning out our large purchases ahead of time and saving for them!  We do not like the idea of going into debt for something we need, so we try to save for it and pay in cash.  These could be purchases like furniture, a car, a laptop, a camera, a new mattress, etc.  Obviously most of us can’t pay in cash for something like a house, so you still want to save as much as you can and make sure it is a home below or at what you can truly afford.

5.  Minimize your monthly expenses

When you write out your budget, you will be able to clearly see where your money is going every month.  One of the biggest areas that sucks away your income is those recurring, monthly expenses.  While some of these are necessary, paying them down or eliminating them will free up so much extra cash!  For example, we have two car payments each month.  Even though we bought used vehicles, we have these two recurring payments that suck almost a quarter of our monthly income!  We have recently been following Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to aggressively start paying of this debt.  Minimizing your monthly expenses can also mean cutting those subscription services you use like, Amazon Prime, Hello Fresh, Fab Fit Fun, whatever.  While they might seem like a good deal by themselves, they truly add up!  Also, cut your cable!  I am a firm believer that cable is the most overrated, unnecessary monthly expense that most of us have in our homes.  Cable is sooo expensive and a lot of us rarely watch enough live TV for it to be worth it.  With all the free shows on the internet the day after or Netflix, Hulu, etc., cable proves pretty unnecessary.  Unfortunately for us, the only internet provider in our area is Comcast, and for us to have internet, the cheapest way is to bundle it with their basic cable package.  It is frustrating because I know so many people who pay much less than us but with Comcast as the only internet option, our hands are tied.  But, we got our bill as low as possible!

6.  Look for sales, use coupons and thrift

I will admit, I am not a couponer!  One of the main reasons I don’t use traditional coupons very much is because we generally try to buy whole foods-fresh produce-and we shop at stores that don’t accept most coupons you see from manufacturers.  We live in an area where the cost of living is rather high compared to many other places, so we do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe’s.  We have found that we can get the most from our money here and it allows us to get more fresh and organic foods at a price we can afford.  But, for household items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, diapers, baby wipes, etc., I absolutely look for coupons!  You can always find deals on items like this usually in the P & G section of your Sunday newspaper and stores regularly run sales on them, as well.

Another super easy, amazing way to save on the items you have to buy is through rebate apps!  Rebate apps will give you cash back or rewards towards gifts cards, etc. on the purchases you make.  My very favorite rebate app to use is Ibotta!  To use Ibotta, you just:

  • Unlock cash back rebates (by watching a short video or answering a simple question)
  • Go shopping, buy products you love & keep your receipt
  • Verify your purchases by scanning the products you bought and taking a photo of your receipt

The best thing about Ibotta, compared to most rebate apps, is they offer rebates on a general item like: bread, milk, eggs, bananas, etc. instead of it having to be a specific brand name.  This is huge because sometimes you might not be buying the brand that the rebate offers.  I also love that you can get rebates for fresh fruits and veggies!  Also, Ibotta is not just for groceries, but for online shopping (Ebay, Groupon), pharmacy items, clothing, and even restaurants.  If you don’t have it, try it out because it is amazing!  If you want to sign up and use my referral code gjneyap, you can get a free $10 credit when you redeem your first rebate!

Another rebate app I love is Shopkick.  It is super easy to use and when you shop, it rewards you with “kicks” just for walking in the door of your favorite stores.  You also can get kicks for simply scanning certain items in the store, as well as purchasing certain items.  These kicks can then be redeemed for gift cards!

If you are an avid online shopper like most of us moms are, you need to be using the rebate site Shop at Home!  All you do is visit their site when you are ready to do some online shopping and pick your store out of the thousands they have on there, you purchase the item through their website, and you then get a percentage of cash back straight to your account.  You literally are getting rewarded for online shopping! (My hubby won’t get upset about that!)  Shop at Home will also show you the great deals all your stores having going on so you won’t miss a thing.

Another way to save big when you are living on one income is to look out for sales for kid’s clothes.  We all know how quickly are little ones grow and that means we are always buying clothes!  When I know I need to get Avary new clothes, I wait for when stores are giving away cash back like, Old Navy super cash, Children’s Place cash, Carters rewards.  Most stores now give cash back for you to spend when meet a minimum threshold.  I shop to get the cash back when the store is running a good percentage off discount or I have a coupon code.  Always sign up for the rewards program at the stores you frequent because it just means more coupons and sales in your pocket!

Also, thrifting or buying second-hand clothes is a great way to score gently used children’s clothes at unbeatable prices.  Consignment shops are popping up every where, and depending on the area you find them in, you can find some name-brand, quality pieces!  You can also consider joining a Facebook buy/sell/trade page in your area to find even more steals.  A lot of times these items are priced even lower than a consignment shop because you are buying directly from the owner.  Shop smart!

7.  Choose free or cheap entertainment

When you are wanting to become a SAHM, you have to evaluate what areas you can cut to save money.  Entertainment is definitely one of those areas.  Going out to the movies, going out to eat, going to amusement parks, or planning costly vacations can take up quite a bit of money.  Instead, try to create free or cheap entertainment for your family!  This could mean family pizza night at home with a $5 family pizza from Aldi and a Netflix movie or a coffee date night for you and your husband at home instead of at a coffee shop.  You can still have fun without spending so much!

Also, look up free activities in your area for kiddos!  You can find library storytimes, playgroups, and parks that are all free of charge.  And, you can always call up a friend for a play date, take a walk in the stroller, play in the backyard, or go window shopping to entertain your little one.  Use your imagination!  There are lots of ways to create free fun at home with children, and I find so many ideas on Pinterest!

8.  Meal planning + cooking at home

I know we all lead busy lives, especially us moms!  But let me tell you, you will save so much money if you begin meal planning for your family and cooking at home.  Just within the last couple of months, I have really gotten into the habit of planning out our meals before going grocery shopping, and wow-what a difference it makes!  Not only does it cut down on our grocery bill, but it cuts down on food waste.  So before going shopping, I’ve been sitting down with a free meal planning printable from Christene at Keys to Inspiration to plan out my meals for each week and jot down the ingredients I need to make it.  If you sign up for her email list, you get access to all her free printables, check it out!  Meal planning will help you stick to a specific menu and encourage you to cook at home.  When you have a plan, you can always prep something ahead of time to save on time for a busy day.

So those are my 8 tips on how to afford to be a stay-at-home mom!  I’m not going to lie, going from two incomes to one was a big adjustment-a lifestyle change, really.  But I never once have regretted my decision to make the sacrifice.  If you have a strong desire to stay home and care for your little ones, but you don’t think it is possible, I challenge you to take a step back and reevaluate.  Look at your budget, try living out these steps and see if they make a difference in freeing up some money, and determine what you feel are essentials and non-essentials for your family.  No matter what-SAHM, working mom, or WAHM-you are amazing and what you do for your family is priceless.

Let me know in the comments, how did you decide to be a SAHM?  Was the transition hard for you?  Let me know any tips you have on how you afford to live on one income!

 

Encouragement, Monthly Goals

November Goals

Ahhhh, November is here, friends!!  There is just something so special about starting a new month, don’t you think?  It is like a fresh start, a do-over, a new beginning, a clean slate.  Whether you need to say goodbye to the troubles of October and leave them in the past or October was so wonderful that you feel November can’t possibly top it, I want to assure you that God made us for seasons.  I am so thankful for the start of a new month to remind me of God’s sovereignty and understanding of what I need.

For me, the start of November was much needed.  October was full of so much good, but also full of many hard days.  It was full of #momfail moments, too much anxiety, stress, and worry, and not enough time spent purposefully pursuing peace.

 

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This month is going to be so full.  This month we get to travel home to see our family whom we only see once or twice a year.  My husband hasn’t been home in over a year and I haven’t been home since Avary was 8 weeks old.  I’m so excited to share our baby girl with the family and let them see how much she’s grown.  I am so grateful that we get to spend the Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by family and friends.  We haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in 3 years!  So, November not only promises a trip home and Thanksgiving festivities, but Matthew’s birthday is also this month!  This will be the 8th birthday we have celebrated together.  Wow, time flies.  Also, November marks Growing the Nest’s 6 month anniversary!  I started my little blog 6 months ago, and I am so thankful to have made it to this point.  I love this space of the internet I have here, the outlet my blog is for myself, and the people I have met along the way.  So November, I have high hopes for you!

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In all seriousness, though, I think one of the keys to living a peaceful life is taking time for reflection and planning/living life with purpose.  I love how writing in this blog is making me more intentional with my thoughts; because, I have honestly never written down a list of goals for a month.  But in the midst of trying to organize my life and live with intention, I decided to write out my goals for the month of November.  I was inspired by a fellow blogger, Rachel over at This Beautiful Season-where she encourages women to savor each season of life they find themselves in.  She has written posts about her vision and goals for each month, and how she will achieve them.  I love reading her thoughts, as they are so encouraging.  Definitely go check her out!  I think writing out my goals for the month will help me be more intentional in meeting them.

November Goals:

  • Make my quiet time with God a priority.  Spend more time reading and studying the Word, and praying with purpose.
  • Give my anxiety, stress, and worry up to God!  Whenever I feel myself becoming anxious or having stressful thoughts, I want to quote Bible verses that assure me of God’s peace, my victory over fear, and His protection and care for me.
  • Instead of turning the TV on when I have a spare moment, I want to open up a book and get inspired!  Finish the 3 books on my November reading list!
  • To look at those around me through God’s eyes.  To bless someone around me just because I can.  To reach out to someone so they know I care.  To be the hands and feet of Jesus, showing love and compassion.
  • To find creative ways and little moments to show Matthew how much I love him.
  • To soak up every moment with our family when we are home with them. <3
  • Stay consistent with my exercising!
  • To produce great content for my blog, especially coming into this holiday season.
  • Drink a #saltedcarmelmocha from Starbucks with my mama! (Man, I miss her!)
  • Learn how to coupon so I can save my family some money.
  • Be the very best mama to Avary that I can be by being present and in the moment.

Those are my goals for this month of November.  I am sure I could have thought of one hundred more, but you know!  My thought for this month is: PURPOSELY PURSUING PEACE.  I am praying over this month and asking God to show me how I can achieve these goals.  I am asking him to help me relinquish “my control” and live this month purposefully.  Pursuing peace.  Seeking grace.  Letting go of anxiety.  Living free and full.

I would love to know what your goals are for this month!  Let us know in the comments section!  Also, can I help you in any way?  If there is anything you’d like me to pray about or you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to hit that Contact button at the top of my blog or message me on Instagram or Facebook.  Let’s build each other up and support one another this month!

sean (1)

Family

Seasons of Change

You know what I realized lately?  I have never written a blog post where I am just talking to you guys!  I have never written a post where I just rambled on letting you know what is going on in my life.  I’m not sure why I haven’t.  Maybe I thought no one would be interested in hearing any of that, and if that’s the case, that is totally okay!  But, I feel like if I want you all to get to know me as a person, just talking is one of the best ways. Anyways. . .

I have found myself in this season lately. . . a season of change.  You know that place in your life where you have come to a crossroads and you are about to head down a brand new path.  That place of exhilaration, yet complete panic.  Excitement, yet hesitation.  Happiness, but the bittersweet kind.  That kind of change.  The change that upsets your “normal” and refocuses your whole life.  Change that turns your routine, schedule, plans and comfort zone-upside down.

In the last couple of weeks, Matthew and I have had to start discussing moving.  As some of you might know, Matt is in the Coast Guard and 2017 is our year to PCS (permanent change of station).  Honestly, not long after we moved here, I began saying “I can’t wait to move!”  I struggled with all the change at first.  Matt and I were newlyweds, I had never lived away from home (and then I moved 1,000 miles from home), I had never been away from my family, I left friends, I left college, I left everything about my “old life” behind and started a new one with Matt and the military.  It was strange and new and I thought I didn’t like it.  I eventually got used to life, and moving taught me so much about myself, and it grew Matt and I as a couple.  I wouldn’t change anything about moving here and the life we have.  And it feels like I have just recently gotten comfortable.  Like I just came to terms with the fact that this is my home, and I love it; and now we are coming up on our next move. . .

 

Doesn’t it seem like just when you get comfortable, when you find your “normal,” when you accept that ‘this is where you’re at,’ things change?  Instead of feeling like I can’t wait to move, I have realized that I’m going to miss it here.  I’m going to miss this life we built.  I’m going to miss this house that was the first place we lived as a married couple.  I’m going to miss this place where I brought our baby girl into the world.  I’m going to miss these memories we have made.  And as I sit here and type (while crying like a baby), I wish I would have held onto more moments.  I wish I would have lived more, and loved more.  I wish I would have lived in the now and not worried about the future so much.

Change has a way of making you recognize everything you would have done differently.  I could look back and wish and wish and wish, but that serves no purpose.  Instead, I have found myself stepping out. . .  I’m trying to do things I have never done before.  I’m trying to soak in every trip to the beach.  Every sunrise.  Every drive.  All the ordinary things, too.  Because I know I’m going to miss it.  And even though when I think about moving I feel scared and unsure and sometimes terrified, I’m also so excited!  It is so cool that we get a fresh start!  A do-over.  A new beginning.  A new path.  A new life.  We get to write a brand new story!

When I was thinking about this, I thought about some verses that I loved in high school. . .

“This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies– they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand new.  It’s bursting out!  Don’t you see it? There it is!”  Isaiah 43:16-19

My goal is to live in the now, to be present.  Even though I am going to be stretched wayyy outside my comfort zone and everything about our future is unclear, I am going to embrace the brand new that God has up ahead for me and my little family.  In this season of change, I’m choosing to be content where I am at and where I am headed.

Change.  Is anything in your life changing?  If so, let me know.  I’d love to pray for you.  I think we all know how scary change can feel sometimes.  Also, is there anything that makes change easier for you to handle?  What do you do?

Thanks for listening, friends.  I hope you have a beautiful Friday and a wonderful weekend.

sean (1)

Baby, Fall

Fall 2016 Baby Capsule Wardrobe

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*Disclaimer:  This post is NOT sponsored, I just really love these clothes and companies!  If I ever do a sponsored post, I will disclose it at the beginning of the post.  I do not own the images of these products, they are property of the online retailers-which you can find at the below links.*

Capsule wardrobes seem to have become a “trend” lately-and rightfully so-because it is such a great idea!  When it comes to dressing my little girl, it is pretty much necessary for me to have pieces that will mix and match together, as well as core pieces that will build her wardrobe.  Also, I am always looking for a good sale!  That is why I do the majority of my shopping at Old Navy, Carters, or Target.  Most of these pieces are from Old Navy because their fall line for baby girls was on point!

I love shopping at Old Navy because they have adorable, on-trend fashion for my baby, they have affordable prices, and they are ALWAYS running great sales!  I feel that Avary always looks put together and trendy without breaking the bank.

As far as accessories go, like bibs, scarves, bows, and headwraps, I like to shop small!  I always find unique, cute pieces this way.  If I could afford to shop small for all of Avary’s clothes, I totally would-it’s just not in the budget right now.  So if you need a little inspiration on how to shop for your baby girl, shop the links included below!  All links follow the order of the pictures from left to right.

Also, for your reference.  Avary is 8.5 months old and wears a size 6-9 months or 6-12 months.  She is on the petite-side and has room to grow in these sizes, which will be great to transition some of these into wintertime, as well.

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Floral Swing Dress. | Gray Cardigan. | Cream Cardigan. | Striped Swing Dress.

These swing dresses are so cute and easy to build an outfit around!  You can pair them with flats at the beginning of fall when it is still warm, or pair them with tights and boots once it starts getting chilly.  And these cardigans, oh!!  I love them so much!  They are dainty and sweet and look great with jeans, leggings, or dresses.  They are knit, but surprisingly warm.  I wish they had them in my size!

Pink Ruffled Leggings. | Pom Pom Beanie. | Kishu Baby Bib. | Striped Ruffled Leggings.

Old Navy’s leggings for baby girls are ADORABLE because they have ruffles on the bum!  Who doesn’t love a ruffly baby bum?!  A beanie is essential for any fall wardrobe, as well and I love this one with pom poms.  Also, these bibs from Kishu baby are amazing!  I love them because they look more like fashionable baby scarves than bibs so they make a great accessory + drool-catcher for a teething babe.  They are made of cotton muslin so they are super soft and breathable.

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LOVE Bodysuit. | Fringe Booties. | 6 Pack Socks. | Gold Moccasins. | Pink Graphic Bodysuit

Bodysuits are just essential for my baby.  I like putting Avary in regular shirts, but they inevitably ride up and her belly and back are always hanging out.  When it is chilly outside, I just prefer having some cute, graphic bodysuits!  These ones are great and inexpensive.  Old Navy has the cutest baby shoes! (I am probably saying ‘cute’ and using exclamation points way too much, so I apologize-but I can’t help it).  I love these fringe booties for everything and their moccasins are great, as well.

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Strappy Black Ballet Flats. | Kishu Baby Bib. | WildSunshine Threads Headwrap.

More shoes and bibs. . . I just LOVE.  This headwrap from WildSunshine Threads is so classic.  If you love big bows, you will love this.  Go follow them on Instagram-you won’t be disapointed!

Roll-cuffed Jeggings. | Fox Knee-Highs. | Cable-Knit Tights. | AWESOME Graphic Tee.

When I say Avary lives in these jeggings, I am really not exaggerating.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they look great!  They have a great stretch-just like a legging, they are cuffed at the bottom which I like so they don’t drag on the ground, and they have the stitching of pockets and seams to make them look realistic.  Score!  Every little girl needs a pair of fox knee-highs.  Enough said. (HA)  The graphic tee that says Awesome is from Carters and it is a great basic and layering piece.

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BEAUTIFUL 2-piece Pajamas. | Utility Jacket. | Floral 2-piece Pajamas.

You are probably going to think I am ridiculous, but the first time I put Avary in 2 piece pajamas, I about cried!  I mean, zip up jammies mean your baby is little, right?!  At least, to me it does.  When I put her in 2 pieces, it meant she was a big girl!  I don’t know why, I am just weird (LOL).  I love these ones from Old Navy, though, because they are super soft and snug fitting.  I use them when I put her in a sleep sack for bedtime if it is chilly.  Last but not least, this army green utility jacket is everything!! It just screams fall and I love it.

Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite stores are to shop at for your baby!  Or do you have a small shop?  I’d love to check it out, so let me know!  Happy shopping, mamas!

sean (1)

 

 

Fall, Food

Trader Joe’s: Fall Favorites

Trader Joe’s is one of my absolute favorite grocery stores to shop at for my family.  I don’t know if it is just something about the “neighborhood-feel” of the store, since it is much smaller than the traditional grocery store, or the yummy specialty items they carry, or the fact that there prices are SO affordable-I just love everything about it!  Well, and Trader Joe’s + Fall = Awesomeness!

Let’s be honest, putting pumpkin in everything come fall time makes any product more marketable, am I right?  Just the other day, I saw a “fall harvest” spaghetti sauce. . .  Doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but it is on the shelf because someone is buying it! (Ha!)  Anyways, I love love many of Trader Joe’s special fall items so I thought I’d share with you 4 of my current faves.

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Spiced Cider.  If you find yourself unable to get to a local orchard, or you just don’t feel like spicing cider yourself, you need to try this cider!!  It is so yummy and basically tastes like fall in a cup.  It’s refreshing cold or delicious warmed up.

Pecan Pumpkin Oatmeal.  I am a big oatmeal fan.  Ever since breastfeeding, I eat it all the time.  I’m always looking for ways to spice my oatmeal up so I was excited to try this, and mmm it is tasty!  Add a few fresh pecans to the top, some dried cranberries, and chia seeds and you have a hearty, healthy, delicious breakfast!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread.  Guys, my food weakness is bread, bagels, croissants, baguettes, biscuits, rolls. . . basically anything that is a carb. . . (ha!) So when I saw this cream cheese, I knew I had to try it on a bagel or some cinnamon toast.  Oh my goodness, this stuff is delicious!  Definitely dangerous but so very worth it.

Pumpkin O’s.  If I eat cereal, I am a basic cereal person.  I think Cheerios are great even though they are super plain.  So why not add a little variety to your Cheerios?  These are fun and yummy for fall and great with some fresh fruit on top and Trader Joe’s vanilla almond milk!

So there you have it!  Some of my favorite fall finds at Trader Joe’s!  Do you shop at Trader Joe’s?  What’s your favorite fall specialty item they sell?  If you would like a part 2 of this, comment down below!

Happy Fall, friends!!

sean (1)

 

Motherhood

The Truth About Being a SAHM

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I want to preface this post by saying that this was very hard for me to write.  I feel so vulnerable sharing these thoughts with you all, but I felt compelled to share them; in hopes that one of you mamas realizes that you are not alone in your thinking, you are not a bad mom and that what you feel is normal.

While I was pregnant with our baby girl, Avary, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  I was working as a childcare provider at the time, and–while I loved my job–I didn’t want to care for someone else’s child while missing out on my own.  I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I could remember.  I fantasized about all the amazing things I would get to do as a stay-at-home mom–dress the baby in the most adorable clothes (that would somehow never get dirty), breastfeed the baby peacefully, clean the house, get a workout in with the baby, take the dog for a walk with the baby, do the laundry, go shopping with the baby; oh, and start all those cute DIY projects I pinned from Pinterest, bake delicious pies and cookies like the Pioneer Woman, and have a scrumptious dinner waiting for my husband when he got home every night.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I truly thought I would be able to accomplish all of these things as a stay-at-home mom because I thought I would have so much “extra time.” Well, and, all those mama Instagram feeds I stalked showed women with their perfectly dressed children playing or sleeping peacefully on their white furniture, while the mom-in full glam makeup and spit-up-less clothes-was knitting, or doing something so gloriously homemaker-ish.  Soon after being a SAHM, I realized that all these things were not a reality for me.  But what I am beginning to realize is that what I see on Instagram and on blogs is not the reality of someone’s 24/7 life, but just snippets–just a tiny glimpse of their everyday life.  Just like a new movie puts out previews–showing all the best scenes–you have to remember that social media is much the same.  It is so easy for us moms to get sucked into this vicious cycle of comparisons-whether it be to other SAHM’s, WAHM’s or working moms-vying for the title of whose job is “the hardest” or “the easiest.”  Instead of being united in motherhood, united in the understanding that being a mama is one of life’s hardest roles, we feel discontent because we want to be like ‘that mom.’  When the truth is, you are the very best mom your babies need.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done.  And it is a full-time job.  Except with this job, you don’t punch in or out, and you don’t get a lunch break.  This is a 24/7 job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby girl, but I have days where I get burnt out. . . Sometimes I get jealous of working moms who get to leave the house and actually have adult conversations/interactions during the day; because, what no one tells you about being a SAHM is how lonely it can be.  It can be so lonely and isolating.  Because of my husband’s job, I spend 48-72 hours alone with Avary.  On these days, I don’t get a break at all.  I feed her, change her, entertain her, play with her, love on her teach her, bathe her,  put her to bed.  I do it all, and it is exhausting some day.  I would feel such a huge sense of mommy-guilt on these days when I would find myself thinking, ‘I just want a break!  I just want 5 minutes to myself!’  But the truth is, we all feel that way sometimes!  We all need a break sometimes.  I never realized how big of an investment motherhood was going to be.  I say an investment; because, for (at least) 18 years of your child’s life, your job is to invest in them.  Our job, as mothers, is to pour everything ounce of ourselves into our children to nurture them, teach them, motivate them, and raise them to be independent, inspired seekers of truth and followers of God.  Wow, what a monumental task!  So, when put in perspective, it’s OK to get burnt out.  To be able to pour yourself into your children, you have to nurture yourself by filling up on God’s truths, by setting aside alone time, by getting out of the house with the girls so you can adult for a little bit!

When you feel lonely and isolated and the only ‘person’ you have talked to all day is a 6 month old or a toddler, call a friend!  Talk on the phone, take a walk, go to the park and talk to another mommy, set up a mommy/baby playdate, go to storytelling at the library, Facetime your mama or your husband, read the Word. . .  I’ve found that I have to intentionally create moments that I am engaged with something or someone to combat the loneliness.

When you feel inadequate and “less-than,” when you’re covered in spit-up or your toddler’s lunch, when you still have on the yoga pants and sweatpants you wore to bed, when you’re having a “family potty party” because you have to go but the kids are always in tow, when you don’t think you can sing one more nursery rhyme or listen to “Let It Go” again, when you’re tired of nursing, feeding, changing, wiping, playing, entertaining, and-parenting. . . Remember that to those precious little faces, you are more than enough!  To them, you are superwoman!

We all have good days and bad days, that’s life.  But try to focus on the good ones.  Some days, I feel so tired of nursing and just want my boobs to myself!  But usually Avary will look up at me and smile a big grin with milk trickling down her mouth, and I feel so grateful that I even get to feed her!  Some days, I feel so discouraged that Avary won’t sleep, but then I feel so lucky that she still wants me to rock her to sleep.  Some days, I get jealous and discontent that my house is my “cubicle,” but then I remember the countless women who would give anything to be in my shoes, and I feel blessed.

Don’t let being a SAHM isolate you or depress you or minimize you or discourage you.  Your job and role as a mother will have a lasting impact, and it truly matters.  My desire is to embrace this season of motherhood to the fullest-with all its flaws and shortcomings; because, it’s just that-a season, that is so fleeting and will be gone before I know it.

No, being a stay-at-home is not at all what I thought it was going to be.  It’s long and taxing and tiring, emotionally-draining and physically-exhausting, but oh so very sweet.  The truth about being a stay-at-home mom is that you’ll love it, and you’ll hate it.  And you won’t want to change a single thing.

sean (1)

 

 

Favorites

3 Month Favorites for Baby

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*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.  Thanks for supporting my little growing nest.*

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It’s that time–another favorites post!  I have to admit, when Avary turned 3 months old, everything started changing!  Developmentally she was doing so much more, she was more awake and alert, and I think the biggest change was that she finally wanted to play!  My list of favorites this month features a lot of items for an active, playful baby.

Bumbo.  We started putting Avary in her Bumbo seat when she turned 3 months old.  She had great head and neck control and always wanted to be sitting up so she could see what was going on.  I put her in the Bumbo under her play gym so she could grab her toys, on the bathroom floor while I showered, while I cooked dinner, outside while we had a picnic. . . I love our Bumbo, and I’m sure I will keep using it for awhile longer!

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Infantino play gym.  I was so excited when I got to take out Avary’s Infantino play gym!  I couldn’t wait to watch her explore and enjoy her toys.  I loved this play mat because it was easy to set up, take down, and wash.  Also, I loved that it came in girly colors!  Avary would spend quite a bit of a time on this playmat batting at the toys.

Tula baby carrier.  I am a big advocate of babywearing, I just love it so much!  When Avary was a tiny newborn, I loved using my Moby wrap because she could be all snuggled up against me, and she loved falling asleep that way.  As she got to this age, she didn’t want to sleep anymore–she wanted to look around and see what was going on!  I borrowed a friend’s Tula (when I took a flight with Avary by myself) and fell in love!  So I purchased one of my own, and I couldn’t be happier!  I loved the support it provided, it never hurt my back, and Avary loved being able to see everything!  Not to mention, the come in the cutest prints!  I also purchased the newborn insert; because, without it, Avary sat too low in the carrier.  I don’t regret spending the extra money on the insert because even now at 5 months old, she is only around 14 pounds and it just provides her more support and lets her see better.

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O Ball.  At 3 months old, Avary was still working on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, of course.  She always wanted to try to grasp and hold onto her toys.  We got her an O ball and she absolutely loved it! (still does)  The openings make it so easy for little, learning hands, and I could tell she felt so accomplished when she grabbed hold of it and could swing it around.  I actually think this toy helped develop her coordination to move on to grasping other things successfully.  I definitely recommend trying an O ball out–such an inexpensive toy that baby will love!

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Bright Starts Lots of Links.  These were another one of Avary’s favorites.  We used these links all the time to entertain her.  We would strand several of them together and hang them from her carseat and it would entertain her the whole ride!  Most of the time she would fall asleep holding onto them (too cute!).  We also would use them to extend her toys hanging from her play gym to make them more in her grasp.  What else can I say?  They are cheap and loved!

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Infantino Topsy Turvy Soft Foam Puzzle Mat.  Because we have hardwood floors, I knew I needed some kind of foam floor mat to cushion the area I was letting baby play.  These Infantino foam squares work perfect!  Avary rolls back and forth and does tummy time on them every day.  I think she likes how colorful they are, as well.

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Lamaze Classic Discovery Book.  This crinkle book is seriously one of Avary’s must-haves!  It is a soft fabric book with crinkle pages, as well as a squeaky page and a rattle page.  It has lots of different fabrics and textures on it, and it is great for little, discovering hands!  I clip it on the carseat, take it in the diaper bag, put it on the bouncer–this little book really keeps Avary interested, engaged and happy!

These are the products that I loved during Avary’s third month of life.  What did you love, mommies??

sean (1)