Friday Favorites

Friday, January 31, 2020

Y'all. I mean... guys. Let's all agree on one thing: JANUARY WAS THE LONGEST MONTH OF ALL TIME. Ooooh man, it sure felt like it was never going to end, but we made it! ;)

What are your weekend plans? Ours are mostly low-key. Carrington has a birthday party for a friend on Saturday and we're hoping to see my brother for a belated birthday celebration. On Sunday our friends might come for a visit. We don't have ties to either team playing in the Super Bowl so maybe we'll have the game on in the background but we'll see! Super Bowl is usually just an excuse to eat appetizers for dinner over here, haha.

Today I wanted to share a random assortment of recent favorites/finds with you for Friday Favorites. What have you been loving lately? 

PS: I have drafts of a few different posts ready to go for the next couple of weeks exploring the extraordinary ordinariness of parenthood, reviewing what we've watched on Netflix lately, sharing our favorite baby must-haves this time around, and talking about how to really give yourself the best chance of achieving those resolutions you set a month ago. Stay tuned!

Friday Favorites

-Stick on nails are BACK! Am I the last one to this 1990-themed party? I picked up a pack of Impress Gel Stick On Nails from Target on a whim the other day and tried them out this week. They look awesome! I didn't feel the glue stayed on as long as I would have liked but then again I'm washing my hands constantly, scrubbing children, and using my nails to open stubborn yogurt containers like four times a day so this isn't too surprising. For $5.99 for a box of 30 nails, they are SO worth a try! Especially perfect for a special event. I posted about them on my IG Stories and a bunch of people said they use them too! Who knew?

-I never cook fish. Like, never. But in an effort to try some new healthy meals I ordered salmon fillets in my grocery order this week and cooked up some Lemon Garlic Butter Salmon & Asparagus and it was delicious and so much easier than I thought it would be! If you're looking for a tasty and nutritious dinner option, give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

-Do you all follow Morgan Harper Nichols on IG? You've definitely seen her quotes and beautiful artwork floating around. Just an FYI that she often posts free wallpapers to her IG Stories that you can simply screenshot.

-Free shipping alert! One of my favorite places to shop, H&M, is offering free shipping through TOMORROW! Their kids clothes are the best.

-I finally took the Enneagram test recently and I'm a 2. Who are my fellow 2s?! I've found all of the descriptions to be so spot on so I'd love to hear if you've taken the test and what your result was!

That's all for now, friends. Have a great weekend!

Monday Coffee Talk | Catching Up

Monday, January 27, 2020

Morning and happy Monday, my friends! Did you all have a fun weekend? Ours was pretty good. We went to a birthday party for one of Hadley's little preschool classmates on Saturday and then made pizza for dinner. On Sunday morning we picked up groceries (our menu for this week is below!) and then I met one of my longtime friends (hi Daniela!) for lunch. I took Isabelle along since Daniela hadn't met her yet -- we live about 1.5 hours away from each other -- and she was the perfect little lunch date. It was so nice to linger over lunch and catch up! Of course, we didn't take a picture, but it did in fact happen.

Sister snuggles

Saturday marked the Lunar (Chinese) New Year, and as far as I'm concerned it re-started 2020 over here. As you all know by now, we had a rough start to the year and, quite honestly, I've been in a funk because of it all. And that's ok. I hate feeling sad and unlike my usual self, but at the same time I think it's important to allow ourselves to feel the emotions that come along with the hard stuff in life; to be "in your feelings" as the kids would say (Ha! I am officially old!). I also think it's healthy for my kids to see and experience a grieving process so although I try to hold it together for the most part for them, they have definitely seen some tears and I've decided that I'm ok with that.

Speaking of, after my search for age-appropriate books about the death of a pet fell flat, my mom found two great ones that I'd like to recommend in case you find yourself in the same situation with young kids: Saying Goodbye to Lulu (my favorite) and When A Pet Dies (by everyone's favorite Mr. Rogers). Saying Goodbye to Lulu is written so beautifully and yet honestly, and perfectly describes all of the feelings children (and adults) might go through at the end of a pet's life and after the pet passes away. I thought it was an extremely comforting and tasteful book. When a Pet Dies is a great, very straight-forward book that will help with some of the tough questions that kids might have about death (like permanency). 

Moving on to some happier life highlights, because time continues to move forward at light speed!

January and February are filled with birthdays for us. My brother, my mom, Steve, some of my closest friends, cousins, friend's kids. Sickness and weather have derailed some of our celebrations so I'm hoping to slowly catch up with everyone who had/is having a birthday and enjoy some fun and cake. ;) Do you have a lot of winter birthdays in your family too?

The kids have been busy with school -- Carrington is "star of the week" this week and so, so excited! -- and play dates/activities. We did take a break from our busy activity schedule around the time school started/Isabelle was born so after soccer ended for Hadley, all we have on the agenda for extra-curriculars right now is Girl Scouts for Carrie. So far she's really enjoying being a Daisy and has been doing great with the start of cookie season. People take these cookies very seriously -- I had no idea, haha!

We're also starting to look ahead (with much excitement) to spring and summer. Does anyone else find that it's so helpful to begin planning for the warmer months in the dead of winter? I don't know about you, but I need things to look forward to when it gets dark at 5 PM and the temperature is less than my age. We are about to book our beach house for our annual weeklong Avalon/Stone Harbor trip so we're excited about that. We're also scheming a weekend trip to DC to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom and take the kids to the Air & Space Museum and some other favorite spots around the city. Our options for vacations are somewhat limited with an infant, but that's ok -- we plan to make the most of what we can do! We're so lucky to live close to so much: the shore and major cities. In the meantime, it's fun to dream about some of the farther away places we'd love to take the kids in years to come. I really feel like we're starting a whole new chapter now that our family is complete. Life with three daughters is going to be a wonderful adventure (it already is)!

What's on your menu for the week? Here's what we have planned for dinners:

Tuesday - Pasta with ricotta pesto (jarred) & peas

Wednesday - Chicken nuggets, tater tots & broccoli

Thursday - Zuppa Toscana soup & salad

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Delivery pizza with friends

Sunday - Out

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead! Happy New Year! ;)

Saying Goodbye to Our Layla

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I wish I were here with some happier news, but as many of you know, we had to do something excruciatingly difficult last weekend: we had to say goodbye to our Layla girl. And before I "move on" to other topics here on the blog, I need to write about her because she has been the only thing on my mind and on my heart. The day after she passed away, I let the words pour out of my heart on Instagram (please request to follow as I keep my page private since I share so much about my kiddos), but with a week apart from her under my belt, I felt like I needed to expand on that eulogy-type post in this space, too. 

Some of you might remember that back in the early Spring, Layla (then 13) suffered what we thought was a seizure. In the couple of days after it, she would barely eat and could hardly walk and, honestly, I thought it was the end. I was beside myself thinking that something could take her so quickly and unexpectedly from us, and my heart was just completely unprepared. But things started to look up after a few days and she slowly improved. Layla was mostly back to her normal, old pup self throughout the summer months. Looking back on that time, it feels like a true gift. She got (and we got) to enjoy the warm, sunny days together -- she was able to romp and play in her yard, go for walks, come to the beach with us. And because of the scary seizure event, I felt like I appreciated my time with her even more... I didn't take one second for granted.

Fast forward to three weeks ago. 

It was Sunday morning and suddenly Layla had what we thought was another seizure, only this time it seemed much worse. It was terrifying because the girls were right there so we needed to balance our care and concern for Layla and still protect the little eyes that were looking on. You could tell that after that event she just wasn't herself. For the next two weeks she barely ate, had extreme difficulty getting up and walking, and staggered when she did walk. She laid around looking very tired and her breathing became labored. By last Saturday, it was clear that things were not going in the right direction and we needed to make an appointment at the vet to see what was happening with our girl.

What we learned that morning through an x-ray and ultrasound was that Layla had advanced Hemangiosarcoma, which is a malignant cancer that erodes the blood vessels. There was a large amount of blood surrounding Layla's heart and spleen. The vet essentially said that she was surprised that she had made it as long as she had considering how much blood there was. Layla's heart was enlarged to the point that it was dominating her chest cavity. Layla with "too big of a heart" ...imagine that. All of this explained the symptoms Layla seemed to be experiencing and why they were rapidly getting worse instead of better. She probably had days to live.

Steve and I took Layla home on Saturday and had to discuss something nobody who loves a dog deeply ever wants to discuss: when we should say goodbye. That night Layla seemed so unlike herself that I prayed she would make it through the night. We made the impossible decision the next morning that, if she had just days left, we did not want her to pass away alone one day when we were out dropping the kids off at school or running an errand. I wanted her to be surrounded by love and to know that I was by her side until the very end, just as she was always by mine.

We had to say goodbye to our girl last Sunday, January 12th. It was one of the hardest days of my life. Layla was my first baby and also my very best friend. There was a bond between us that I can't explain, except to say how very lucky I was to have had her beside me for almost 13 years. 

It's only been a little over a week so it still feels like it's not real. I still feel like she'll come home and I'll see her again. Her dishes are still in their spot and I instinctively reach to fill up her water bowl every time I pass them. Her toys are piled neatly in the basket with her name on it that she's had for a decade, including the new ones she just got for Christmas that she barely got to play with or cuddle. Despite reluctantly vacuuming multiple times, her hair is still everywhere (and I don't want it to go away). Her tennis balls are still in the back yard where she last left them. Her collar and her leash are still in the front basket by the door, ready for the walk we won't take. I've discovered how much food we drop on the ground in her absence... every crumb a reminder that she's not here. Coming home to an empty-feeling house is painful. And the silence. Layla wasn't a loud dog at all -- she'd rarely bark. But the house is deafeningly quiet without her. Her sweet presence filled it up with love, life, and excitement. Another living being to consider, to feed, to let out and to walk, to make appointments for, to buy food and toys for, to snuggle with and talk to... another member of our family who is no longer here.

I thought I saw her the other day. Just a quick glimpse of her golden little face laying, as she should be, in our family room in the midday sun. When I looked back, she was gone. Despite the emptiness I feel without her, I am trying to imagine that maybe -- just maybe -- all of those moments I think I see her or imagine what she'd be doing are ways of her telling me she's still with me. Those we love are only truly gone if we stop remembering them, right? In that case, my Layla will always, always be with me.

January Goals

Monday, January 6, 2020

Hey hey! It's our old friend, Monday. This Monday feels extra Monday-ish because it's everyone's first real day back in the game following winter break. The girls headed back to school and Steve headed back to work for only two days at the end of last week, so we didn't really get back into our routine... and here we are now. 

Let's talk resolutions. Everyone's doing it, right? It is the New Year, after all, and what better (and more cliche, but who cares) time to set some new goals. There are twelve blank pages of the 2020 calendar just waiting to be filled with whatever we want to put there. So let's start with January!

This year, I'm thinking of my goals in terms of one-month timeframes, instead of goals for the year. It's easier for me, personally, to do this resolution thing bite-sized instead of trying to eat the whole pie at once. That made no sense, but you get what I mean. And now I want pie. Anyway! I'm sharing my goals for the month below -- won't you share yours, too?

January Goals | Health

-Get moving! Exercise when and how I'm able to. No crazy pressure or weight-loss goals as I begin working out again post-baby. Honestly, I am positive I get enough exercise chasing my kids around and doing 392 squats daily, with a baby in my arms, to count as a workout, but it still feels good to intentionally devote even a 20-minute chunk of time to moving my body and clearing my mind. So far, I've been hopping on the treadmill when I'm able to. 

-Find healthy lunches to eat. Lunch is my toughest meal. I usually snack on a string cheese, some walnuts, some veggie sticks -- you get the idea. Not the worst stuff for you, but I think having a healthy, more filling lunch to look forward to might help cut down on other mindless snacking. Otherwise, food wise, I'm all about trying to enjoy things in moderation, listening to my body as best as I can, and not depriving myself. Life is too short.

January Goals | Financial

-Start back at work. This is the big one! I'm starting back at work after three months of maternity leave, so it'll feel good to earn a paycheck again. 

January Goals | Home

-Organize the basement. My big goal this month is to clean up and organize all of the toys in the basement, as well as organize all of the clothes the girls have outgrown into their storage bins (I tackled the huge project of creating bins for each size of clothing before the baby came -- it's a game changer and makes it so easy to search for clothes in the correct size and to actually use all of the great hand-me-downs we have!).

-Finish the playroom. We currently use our front room/"formal living room" as a playroom and I'd like to add curtains, create a little art center, and hang a couple of things on the walls to make the room feel a little more finished.

January Goals | Creative

-I'm starting small by vowing to jot down an idea for a piece or a blog post when it comes to me, no matter when or where that is. So often I'll think of something and by the time I get to my computer, the idea is gone. Not this year!

-Work on writing one piece to submit to an outlet that might be a good fit for it.

What are you hoping to accomplish as we start off the new year?

Welcome 2020! A Look Back on the Past Decade

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Good morning, friends, from a brand new year...and decade! 

How did 2019 treat you? 

I know and have seen from others' posts that 2019 was a tough year for many. I personally know a few people who endured the loss of very close family members last year, and I know from experience that those losses will forever color the memory of 2019 when they look back. For anyone who was beat up a little (or a lot) last year, I hope turning this page to a new year -- a new decade, even -- provides some sense of newness and hope. It's interesting that, since all we have to truly live in is the present moment, hope is such a crucial aspect of life. We must have it in order to step forward into each and every new day, new challenge. Hope and gratitude make all the difference.

Speaking of gratitude, I have so much of it for the past year. There were many firsts for us in 2019, including big family changes like the start of full day kindergarten and three half days of preschool for my two oldest girls. In the midst of all of that, we welcomed our greatest gift of the year: sweet Isabelle Joy. Anticipating her arrival all year long and then finally meeting her in September was, without a doubt, our family's highlight. We had some challenges in the early part of the year with what seemed like non-stop sickness and, hardest of all, a decline in health for our beloved pup Layla. Truth be told, she hasn't been doing so well again lately and it's hard. But all in all, 2019 will go down in the books as a very happy and memorable year for us.

As far as the past decade goes, it has really shaped my life and who I am today. I went from 22-32, which is really just a whole lot of growing up. Steve and I got married in 2010 (yep, 10 years this May!) and moved to New Jersey at the same time. In 2011 we settled into newlywed life in our little one-bedroom apartment and I commuted hours to my first real full-time, grown up job which taught me a lot about what I do and don't want for my career. It gave me so much perspective as I accepted a new job in 2012, the job I still have today, believe it or not! Steve also graduated from law school in 2012 and began his career. During these years we also took advantage of the fact that we didn't have kids yet and traveled to Mexico, Bermuda, and Jamaica. Those years were (mostly) carefree, but we knew we wanted more.

In 2013 we welcomed our first baby girl, our Carrington, and life changed forever in every way. My grandma also passed away at this time. It's funny how life often hands you something really hard, and something really beautiful at the same time. 2014 was all about navigating new motherhood, and I also really built a community around myself in my newish state during this year. 2015 was hard. We lost my uncle and my grandma's longtime companion, who was like a grandfather to us. We experienced a miscarriage. It was a difficult year.

We got our rainbow after the storm in 2016 when our bundle of love and energy, Hadley, arrived in July just three days before my birthday. We experienced more loss on New Year's Eve 2016 when my aunt passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

In 2017 I turned 30, and between 2017 and 2018 we spent plenty of time making memories as a family of four. Beach trips, amusement parks, new experiences with two kids. It's all honestly a blur, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Which brings us to last year, the year we completed our tiny girl gang, and to this year: who knows what it will hold?

The unknown can be a little scary, but with a heart full of gratitude for what is and a pocketful of hope for what will be, it looks more like an adventure. My wish for you, and for us, is that we experience lots of soul-stretching growth, side-splitting laughter, and wide-eyed wonder in the next decade. In fact, if I were to choose a word I hope to define 2020 (I know choosing a word of the year is a thing!), it would be wonder, which is defined as:

A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. 

Let's rise to meet the unexpected, unfamiliar, and inexplicable with wonder and admiration this year, no matter how big or small it may be. Here we go, friends!

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