Happy Holidays From Our Family to Yours

Saturday, December 21, 2019

As the countdown to Christmas becomes less than a hand, I want to wish each of you the warmest, happiest, and most magical holiday season, whatever and however you celebrate. 

I will be taking some time away (as if I haven't been away from this space enough already these past few months!) to spend this special time with my little family. My girls are still so small and the magic is still so real; I don't want to miss one ordinary moment. There will be some cookie making (pre-packaged, but we'll throw on our own icing and sprinkles), holiday card delivering (nothing like last minute!), train riding, and gift wrapping. 

Even in the midst of what can feel like total madness, may I never forget the reflection of the tree lights in their big eyes and the unconfined excitement in their small bodies. 

May I soak up the last firsts -- this last first Christmas we'll ever have. Sweet Isabelle won't remember it, but I won't forget the warm, soft weight of her littleness that I can still so easily hold (and dress). She's tiny, but she watches us all with wide eyes (I don't blame her, this family can be pretty amusing!).

This year, the last piece of my biggest and most precious dream fell into perfect place and I will never stop being grateful for this group of people I get to walk through life with. 

I am holding in my heart those who are hurting this holiday season, who are grieving and missing loved ones. My family has had difficult, heavy holidays in years past and it can be so painful when the world around you is moving on, "merry and bright" while you are hurting so much. I hope those who are going through hard times know that they aren't forgotten in the hustle and bustle, and that they are wished peace.

Happy holidays, sweet friends!

Friday Favorites: Holiday Moments

Friday, December 13, 2019

Happy Friday, all! Where the heck is this month going? Things have been quiet on the blog but anything but quiet in real life. I'm sure it's the same in your world. December is such a busy time, especially with kids!

I hope you've been truly enjoying your season, though, in between the big stuff on the calendar. The singalongs, brunches, spirit days, parties, cookie exchanges, work events and more are all fun, but I've always found my absolute favorite memories are made during the "in between" -- impromptu dance parties to Jingle Bell Rock, sharing chocolates from my $1 advent calendar (the chocolate tastes like plastic but I will never not have my cheap advent calendar!), pointing out all of the twinkling lights on the drive home from the store.

Do you find that, too?

Anyway, I wanted to just stop in and do a simple catch up on all of the holiday-related life things. Here's a little of what we've been up to!

Decking the Halls

We've added our sparkly touches to the outside and inside of the house (with help from a particularly cute, old Golden girl, as evidenced by the photo above). The "yay, you made it!" door mat is my favorite decor purchase of the season by far. Still available here for just $12.74 today! Just love the welcoming, casual vibe.

The girls each decorated their little trees for their rooms this year. The trees are older Target purchases and the ornaments are a mix between a few new ones they've collected over the past few years and some from when I was a kid. Kind of fun to pass them along to my own kids!

School Activities

Along with elementary school comes a whole new event/spirit day calendar. This year I've had the chance to volunteer at C's school shop (so fun), watch her sing her heart out in a holiday singalong, and get her ready in her most festive pajamas for pajama/gingerbread house day at school. Hadley has her school singalong next week, and I can't wait! 

Matching Christmas Pajamas

Speaking of pajamas, you know I had to do full-on matching jammies for my three little girls this year. It's Isabelle's first Christmas, after all, so there was no way anyone was getting out of full coordination (though I skip the whole family-matching thing as I think Steve might leave me - haha!). The big girls' nightgowns came with miniature nightgowns for their dolls.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I met one of my best girlfriends (hi Sarah!) in a nearby town last weekend for crepes, coffee, and window browsing. I love exploring local downtowns this time of year -- they're always so festive and fun. 

Our Advent Calendar

The first thing the girls do when they go downstairs in the morning is check their advent calendar. I got this one on clearance after Christmas last year (check the stores after the holidays this year!), and I put a little slip of paper with an activity, idea, or event in each day's pocket. Here's a full list of our advent calendar activities. They're mostly very simple, which is perfect for us, especially in this season of life. One day was "Santa Pancakes for Breakfast," for instance.  But, shhh, tomorrow's is a big one: "Ride a Christmas train!" We're so excited to surprise them.

So, what about you? What have you been up to? Do you go all out for the holidays or try to keep it low-key? 

Gift Guide | For the Homebody + Make Money By Shopping

Monday, December 2, 2019

Hi friends! How are you doing on your holiday shopping -- all shopped out? Did you shop Black Friday & Cyber Monday sales? I see so many fun gift guides out there and thought I'd put together a few of my own. I get overwhelmed when there are too many things on them, so I figured I'd narrow each guide down to just a handful of favorites. I'll be sharing just a handful of them for those of you who might be last-minute shoppers!

Cozy Slippers | You can never go wrong with slippers as a gift in my opinion. I love that these have a bit of sparkle and won't break the bank!

Pretty Mug | If I had more room in my cabinets, I'm pretty sure I could become a mug hoarder. Love this Rifle Paper Co. one -- the colors are so gorgeous. Runner up is this one from Target.

Fun T-Shirt | When I saw this shirt, it was love at first sight. How many of us have wished we were curled up at home with a book in hand when we're somewhere else?

Coffee Table Book | This checks off two important things for the homebody: reading + decor. Check and check! The cover of this coffee table book is pretty enough to leave on display 24/7.

Comfiest Sweatshirt | This is my favorite thing in my closet right now, and I'm not even a little ashamed to admit it. So soft, so comfortable, and so many colors to choose from. 

Chenille Cable Knit Blanket | Sign me up for every single blanket. I love blankets, and how soft does this one look? The perfect gift.

Speaking of shopping, have you heard of Rakuten? Formerly EBates, it's a website where you sign up (completely free), can check out what sales are going on at almost every store you can think of, and shop through the website to literally make money back on every purchase. The percentage back you earn depends on the store, but it's usually anywhere from 1% - 15%, and you can choose how you want to receive your money. Why not get paid to do the shopping you're going to be doing anyway? 

This is not sponsored or anything like that, but if you shop through my link you can earn $10 back on your purchase of $25+. Amazing! Let me know what you find. ;)

Monday Coffee Talk | Rainbow Art Birthday Party

Monday, November 25, 2019

Over the weekend we celebrated our almost six-year-old with a rainbows & art birthday party with a few of her closest little girlfriends!

Carrington loves all things rainbow right now. Every day she draws at least 10 different rainbows, and I feel like it just captures this age perfectly: full of color, wonder, and fun. She also draws, paints, or crafts any chance she gets, so I figured -- what would be better than combining her two loves to celebrate who she is right at this moment? 

Sequin skirt from H&M | Hadley's dress from Target

Hanging rainbow decor & smocks from Oriental Trading | Paint sample centerpieces free from Home Depot ;) 

Rainbow balloon from Target | Goodie bags (stuffed with necklaces, party blowers, skittles and multi-colored crayons) from Oriental Trading

Used some of C's own art to decorate (this is maybe one day's worth of rainbow drawings!)

Cookie cake is so underrated. This was $15 and completely polished off within a half hour!

This was one of the easiest parties we've ever thrown for the kids, and yet Steve and I both agreed it was probably our favorite. We knew we wanted something sort of low-key since we have a newborn, so we had an art instructor come to the house and guide the girls through painting their very own canvas. Carrington chose ice cream cones to paint and all of the kids' masterpieces came out so cute! The instructor set up, entertained, and cleaned up and then we just had pizza and cookie cake afterward. We had a few rainbow tablecloths and decorations and I hung C's own art up with multi-colored clothes pins. So. Easy.

Here's to savoring the last few days of our five year old. Six just seems so big!

December Countdown Activities for the Whole Family

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

With December right around the corner, I've started thinking about fun ways to celebrate this magical time of the year with my family. The holiday season can be hurried and stressful, but it can also be so special -- especially with kids. This year I'd like to slow down, look around, and enjoy all things cozy and festive with the people I love most. 

So, I've created a little list of ideas for doing just that. Last year after Christmas I bought an advent calendar with a little pocket for each day and I plan to fold up a slip of paper with one activity on it for the kids to open each morning. This isn't meant to be stressful, but purely for enjoyment, so if we have to skip a day here or there or something spontaneous comes up -- bring it on! These are simple pleasures, and many are completely free.

December Countdown Activities

-Make festive pancakes for breakfast (whipped cream Santa beards, anyone?)

-Get dressed up and visit Santa

-Drive around looking at lights & drinking hot cocoa

-Go to a holiday concert (the kids' singalong counts!)

-Watch favorite Christmas movies (ours are Elf, The Grinch, Home Alones, The Santa Claus, and Jingle All the Way)

-Enjoy the holiday sights in the city

-Wrap gifts while listening to Christmas music

-Volunteer with the kids

-Decorate gingerbread houses

-Bake cookies and deliver to the neighbors

-Mail holiday cards to friends & family

-Do a random act of kindness (treat someone to their Peppermint Mocha in the Starbucks line?)

-Read favorite holiday books (we love The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express)

-Bring treats to the fire station and police station to thank them for their service (we did this last year and both were so pleasantly surprised -- plus the kids got to talk to the firemen and a wonderful police woman!)

-Decorate the inside and outside of the house as a family

-Cut out paper snowflakes and hang up (perfect play room decor!)

-Go to see a tree lighting (or just a big, lit up tree somewhere!)

-Explore a town nearby and enjoy the decorations and storefronts

-Make homemade cards and deliver them to a nearby nursing home/hospital

-Wear new holiday pajamas

-Gather blankets and towels and deliver to an animal shelter

-Smile and wish a happy holiday to retail workers

-Have a living room dance party to fun holiday music (Allllll I Want for Christmas is Youuuuuu... sing it with me!)

I hope this list gave you some fun, festive, and affordable ideas for enjoying this season! Is there anything you'd add? 

My Holiday Wish List

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hey, all! Are you getting in the holiday spirit? We sure are! I'm counting down the days 'til we decorate the house (t-minus 5!), putting together our advent activities, and wrapping up my shopping (bless

Speaking of shopping, I love perusing gift guides this time of year; there are usually some great ideas that I can "borrow" ;) for the people on my list. I also love checking out personal wish lists, so I thought I'd kick off my series of holiday gift guides by sharing what would be on my own dream wish list this year. 

Shark Stick Vacuum | Our vacuum is a Shark and is 10 years old -- it's slowly falling apart (literally, lol) but it's still kicking and that's not bad for a decade of vacuuming up tons of carpet and Golden Retriever hair! I'd love a lightweight stick vacuum to do our whole house with (the hard wood shows EVERY hair). Right now I use my trusty dust buster and it's killing my back!

Maya Brenner Initials | I already have this necklace in rose gold -- Steve gave it to me the Christmas after Carrington was born with a letter "C" and I adore it. I haven't worn it much, though, because I need to add my other two children to it, so this year I'm wishing for an "H" and an "I" so I have my every day necklace back. :) The company makes it easy to add initials to your existing necklace -- you just order the extra letters and mail your necklace to them. This makes such a special gift!

Patagonia Jacket | I could use a replacement for my old, worn North Face jacket -- something that is perfect for throwing on for doing everyday things in the wintertime. I have heard great things about this jacket and love this pretty green color!

Smallwoods Gift Card | Have you heard of Smallwoods Home? I've loved their products for a while now but was waiting until we had updated family pictures with our newest member to order something. I would love to customize a few photo signs for our stairway wall. This shop offers e-gift cards so the gift recipient can customize their very own sign! Such a cool idea. 

Quay Sunglasses | My current pair of sunglasses is Quay and they're great quality for the price. I've eyed up this pair in "Black Smoke" for a while now. Great reviews, too!

Sperry Winter Boot | My Uggs get so much wear during the winter (long live Uggs), but they're not really meant for the wet weather. I haven't had a true snow boot in a long time and would love these to wear in the rain and snow. The pink sole makes them extra fun!

A massage, though not pictured, would also be welcomed. I'll even take a back scratch from one of the kids at this point! ;) What's on your personal wish list?

Sweet & Soft Baby Girl's Nursery

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Happy Thursday! My kids have off school today and tomorrow because of teacher conferences, and we have our family photoshoot later today; always an adventure! ;) What does the end of your week have in store? 

I'm so excited to share some photos from Isabelle's nursery with you today. I wish they were taken on a better camera, but alas, iPhone snaps will have to do. I had so much fun putting her room together. I knew I wanted something cheerful yet soothing, bright yet simple. We chose a soft white wall with pops of color in bedding and decor... mostly yellow and blush. Bunnies have sort of been Isabelle's thing since we found out she was a girl -- I'm not sure why, but the sweetness just seemed to fit -- so there are some bunnies throughout her room too. 

My favorite thing, though, is the flower mobile/chandelier above her crib. I knew I wanted some type of accent on the wall behind her crib, but I couldn't find something I loved. One day the girls and I were browsing aimlessly in Michaels and I spotted the two-tier chandelier on 70% clearance. It was love at first sight!

I've listed sources for everything (and added links when available) at the bottom, if you're curious. :) Enjoy!

Paint color: Behr Falling Snow

Chair: old (from when Carrington was born)

Throw pillow: Hearth & Hand

Crib: Pottery Barn (the BEST, most quality crib!)

Bunny and "I" prints: Etsy

Valance: Target (no longer available, identical here)

Gold Curtain Rod: Target

Bunny play mat: TJ Maxx ($10!)

Mirror: Target

Crib skirt: Old (from Hadley's nursery)

Floating shelves: Target

Dresser: Little Seeds (via Target) -- love the look, but don't recommend!

Wicker basket: Target (no longer available but love this too)

Flower chandelier: Michaels (no longer available)

Changing pad cover: Carousel Designs

Blush lamp: Target

Blush diaper caddy: Target

Newborn gown: Nordstrom Baby (similar here)

Flower hook: Target (no longer available, but love this)

Gold "I" initial: Michaels (no longer available)

Felt flower garland: Etsy

Thanks for taking a peek! 

Monday Coffee Talk | Hello November

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Hello, November!

I love this month and I don't think it gets the credit it deserves. It's all of the anticipation of the holidays without the last-minute stress. It's the last of the colorful leaves clinging to the trees. It's crisp, chilly air without being freezing. It's that golden late fall sunlight, especially in the afternoons. It's a month dedicated to focusing on all we have to be grateful for. It's also the month I got engaged, the month my first baby was born, and the month that my favorite holiday is in! 

What about you? Do you like November or are you anxious to skip straight to next month?

I'm excited to begin this week (a day late because #life) with another Monday Tuesday Coffee Talk. Grab a cup of something delicious and let me know how your weekend was. :)

Let me start with a quick Halloween recap. We thought for sure trick-or-treat would be cancelled (can you imagine? Would have been so sad for the kids!) due to stormy weather but the day took a turn and it turned out to just be warm, windy, and wet for trick-or-treating in the evening. The girls were so excited to dress up in their princess dresses and go door-to-door with neighbors. Once they were satisfied with their haul, they came back to the house to hand out some candy. Isabelle enjoyed her very first holiday from inside the Baby Bjorn, but don't worry... she did have a cute outfit! Haha.


By the time the weekend rolled around, the weather was gorgeous. Saturday our good friends came to visit and meet the baby, so we ordered pizza and the kids ran around playing. On Sunday I ran a few errands and we relaxed, played, and Steve worked on building our early Christmas gift to the kids -- their first swing set! They are SO excited to get out and play on it, and luckily the week ahead looks sunny so I'm sure that's where they'll spend most of their time when they're not at school. Childhood at its finest. :)

Steve and I also binged a new series on Netflix -- Unbelievable. Have you seen it? REALLY good! Highly recommend giving it a watch if you need something new.

Hope your week (and month!) is off to a wonderful start, friends. 

Isabelle's Birth Story

Friday, November 1, 2019

I can't believe it has been six weeks since Isabelle was born. I feel like we were heading to the hospital at 5am yesterday, as though we were just meeting her and spending those few days in hazy recovery. Sometimes I feel like the first month of newbornhood drags (just being honest!), but this time it has absolutely flown. Isabelle Joy lives up to her name: an absolute joy. She has been calm, sweet, and oh-so-snuggly from the very beginning. 

I wanted to share Isabelle's birth story while it's still so fresh in my mind. If you're not into that type of thing, I won't be offended if you come back next week for something non-baby-related. It's so hard not to overshare all things baby in these early weeks. :) Stay with me, friends!

Isabelle Joy: A Birth Story

Isabelle was a scheduled c-section. My other two girls were also c-sections (you can read about those here), and due to a large uterine window they found when they delivered Hadley three years ago, I was told another repeat c-section would definitely be the safest way to go if we chose to have more kids. My doctors agreed that sometime during the 38th week would be ideal, and we ended up choosing the last day of the week because the doctor who delivered both Carrington and Hadley (and who we really love and trust) was working that day -- it seems so funny to actually pick your child's birthday, doesn't it? It's all I know!

That morning, a Friday, Steve and I set our alarms for 4:30am in order to leave the house by 5:15 and get to the hospital by 5:30, a full two hours before the c-section was scheduled. We had packed our bags late the night before (master procrastinators!), so we basically threw on some comfortable clothes and headed into the pitch-black, chilly morning full of excitement and a touch of nerves. We swung through the Dunkin Donuts drive through so Steve could grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee on the way (wife of the year here, since I was already fasting!) -- it was sure to be a busy day ahead!

When we arrived at the hospital, we went straight to check-in and were quickly led back to pre-op. By now, we're pretty used to the whole routine. Get undressed, put on some monitors, answer a bunch of questions, get an IV. Our nurse was in and out, and eventually we met with the anesthesiologist and a couple of other people who would be joining us in the delivery room: residents, a nursing student, and finally... our doctor! Everyone was so friendly, warm, and conversational. Steve and I were joking around and the atmosphere was calm, while being full of anticipation, if that makes sense. Steve changed into his scrubs and we awaited go time.

The moment they walk you back and have you kiss your spouse before going into the operating room by yourself is always the hardest for me; it's when I always tear up. Something about being separated from the person who loves you most and is there to comfort you is unnerving. Once in the chilly operating room, they gave me the spinal (which felt like it took forever this time around!) and helped me lay down on the table. They put up the curtain and started prepping everything and began the touch tests to make sure I was numb. One cool difference from my other kids' births was they were playing music this time around -- lots of Maroon 5 and Isabelle was born to a Coldplay song. :) Talk about a legit birthday party!

Once Steve came in, things got moving pretty quickly. The surgery itself went smoothly and before we knew it, we heard my doctor say "there's another big window" -- which filled me with relief that the timing had worked out and we were both safe. Then he said "Hi baby! Look at that hair! She's beautiful!" and shortly after, at 8:01 a.m., Isabelle Joy was lifted up into the world. We heard her sweet cries and they immediately turned the curtain in front of me clear so I could see her. I couldn't believe I was meeting my third daughter. So surreal!

They whisked her over to get cleaned up and weighed, and Steve went over to be with her. Not too long after, she was brought over and laid on my chest for about 15 minutes. How incredible to have that time with her right away. With Carrington and Hadley, Steve was sent to post-op right away with them while I was stitched up. I was so glad I got to bond and cuddle right after sweet Isabelle was born. She calmed on my chest and Steve and I just stared at her little features while they worked on me.

Steve then went to post-op with her while they finished up on me, which always feels like forever. They chatted with me and checked on me frequently, though, and I felt well taken care of. Finally, I was lifted onto the rolling hospital bed, and wheeled into post-op to reunite with Steve and my new little girl. I held and nursed her right away (my plan was to bottle feed, but I have always latched my girls in post-op and breastfed that first day in the hospital -- to each their own!). We let our immediate family know that she had arrived and everyone was safe and healthy. There is no feeling like meeting your baby, and a close second is sharing the joyful news with the people you love most. The very best!

The moment we met our Isabelle will forever be in my mind and heart, and I'm so glad I have pictures and videos to remember it by, too. My most treasured dreams have come true, and I truly feel like the luckiest person in the entire world to have my family here, healthy, happy, and complete. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Forever, thank you.

Isabelle Joy
6 lbs. 13 oz. | 19.25 inches 

Monday Coffee Talk | Let's Catch Up

Monday, October 21, 2019

Happy Monday! Yes... I'm alive! 

You have no idea how many times I've started writing a post in the dark of night or when I've had a few minutes here or there to myself... and haven't finished it. I have so much to share with you, and as life normalizes a bit I hope to hit "publish" more. I can't wait to connect with you again.

I'd love to start a Monday Coffee Talk series. A few bloggers I enjoy following do something similar, and I love the casual, conversational tone of coffee talk posts. I think Monday is the perfect day for them because it's all about catching up about our weekends and life lately -- and I know we all need an extra cup of coffee or two on Monday. ;) So grab a mug (or a glass, if you're an iced gal like myself) and join me! 

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty good. I came down with a head cold a few days ago and have been sort of paranoid about passing it to the baby, but besides that it was a weekend well-spent. On Saturday morning Carrie had gymnastics. She started in the 6-8 year old class when she began Kindergarten since we could no longer make her old weekday afternoon class, and so far she's been doing really well in it. I'm proud of her because she's the youngest (she's still just five) and smallest in her class, but most weekends she still goes out there, tries her best, and rocks it. With that said, the Saturday morning time slot has been a little rough for us. We're finding that Carrie actually craves that time as downtime, play time, and time with her family after a long week of all-day school, so I think we may take a little break from gymnastics (our first break in 2.5 years!) for a while. Maybe we can figure out a different class or schedule that works for us, or maybe she'll try something else for a while. We're looking into Girl Scouts! Any former Girl Scouts here?! 

Saturday afternoon we headed back to our hometown for a little get together with my family. My great aunt is moving from California to Pennsylvania and was visiting in preparation for her move. It's been probably two decades since I've seen her, so it was really neat to all get together and catch up. It was our first longer road trip since the baby was born, but everyone did amazingly well. Big relief!

Sunday morning we were supposed to get together with friends of ours for an annual pumpkin picking date, but we were rained out. We ended up rescheduling for next weekend because I still feel a little under the weather. Hopefully next weekend everyone is well and we can either hit up the pumpkin patch or host some Halloween fun at our house! Oh, and Isabelle turned one month. :)

Today Carrie had her first field trip and Haddie had her first picture day! Big Monday over here!

I used to share our weekly menu more often here, so in case you're in need of some (super easy) dinner inspiration, here's what we're having for dinner this week:

Sunday - Tikka masala chicken with rice and broccoli

Monday - Cheese ravioli with pesto

Tuesday  - Crockpot chicken enchilada soup

Wednesday - Homemade pizza and caesar salad

Thursday - Rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted brussels

Friday - Sloppy Joes and fries 

Saturday - Out!

Tomorrow I'll be sharing Isabelle's birth story in honor of her turning 1 month this past weekend! So if you're into that sorta thing, come check back. Hope you have a great start to your week! Let's do this.

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