Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nicolas Tries Food (Baby-Led Weaning)

It doesn't matter what number baby you are--new milestones are a big deal. Probably an even bigger deal when you have older siblings to squeal excitedly over every little new thing you accomplish. Since Nicolas is 6 months old, I decided to start giving him some solids this week and it was so much fun. I'm giving baby-led weaning a go, and was amazed at how well he chewed and swallowed without choking! Babies at this age still get 100% of their nutrition from milk, so at this point it's just exploring and learning the hand and eye coordination to feed themselves. He puts everything in his mouth at this point, so that was a good indication that he was ready to start.

The older kids were super excited to help with this exciting event!

Their faces when trying something new are always priceless! And yes, he was chewing chunks this big, even though a lot of it came out of his mouth. Their chewing/swallowing is completely developed at this age--apparently, they learn it from sucking. Amazing! He loved to play with it and look at it, which "they" say is their way of learning and exploring new foods. 
The banana pieces were too slippery, so this was his preferred method of choice ;). I've since learned that you can give it to them right in the peel with some of it cut off. That worked much better because he had something big to grip and hold.
This is his, "OK Mom, shows over. Can I go to bed now?" face
Based on just a few days of experience (ha), I highly recommend this method of feeding! Of course, do your own research, and the book (which I borrowed from a friend-thanks, Amy!) was very helpful as well! Nicolas doesn't have any teeth yet, so I feel comfortable with only giving him soft foods for now, and I'm excited about the fact that I don't have to sit and feed him. He will participate right in our family meals all on his own!
 I won't bore you by making you listen to me lament about the fact that he is so old, (6 months is such a milestone!) so I'll end there.
 Have a great rest of your week, friends!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Modest Mondays: Knit Blazer

Is its just me, or are knit Blazers pretty much the best invention ever? Looking classy while feeling like you just threw on your comfiest sweatshirt? Win-win in my book! They are perfect for the dressy/casual outfit. Think a nice night out to eat, a bridal shower, Wednesday night church, girls night; pretty much anytime you want to look a little nicer but feel comfortable at the same time.

 I loved this outfit because it converted easily for me from day to night. Thin, long sleeved shirts are a must in the warmer climate I live for when it does get cooler (high of 35 today!), and I easily turned it into a nice outfit for church by adding the blazer and a chunky statement necklace. 
 Of course, I live in maxi skirts and I love how comfortable they are too. I won't even tell you how many I have in my closet.... Ha. But it's a lot. Target just came out with some new ones and I've already been eyeing them!

The kelly green top is from ThredUp and it's pretty much the best site ever. It's used clothes in excellent condition, like a giant thrift store that you can shop from the comfort of your own home! If you click from my links, you'll get $10 off your first order and I'll get credit too! I've purchased from there 2 times already and gotten several things that I've been very pleased with! It can be a little overwhelming because there are thousands of items, but I find that narrowing it down to size, style, price and color helps immensely in being able to scroll through quickly. They have kids clothes as well!  Go check it out!

Outfit Details:
Blazer: Thrift Store (Merona brand from Target)
Green Top: ThredUp
Skirt: Gift (Cato)
Shoes: Gift (Target)
Necklace and Earrings: Gift

Friday, February 20, 2015

Give Yourself Grace

This week has been so good. I'm still processing all that we learned at our couples retreat this past weekend, looking over my notes and thinking it over. 
 We had such a wonderful time, and in contrast to other years I came home with new goals that didn't really have anything to do with marriage; the goals had everything to do with marriage. We were given little golden nuggets of truth: loving God's Word, making prayer a priority, dying to self, walking in the spirit and doing it all with humility. Getting these down is pretty much the formula to the perfect marriage, right?! Of course, the last point I took away from it was "growing in grace" and allowing yourself leeway when you mess up. Which I inevitably will numerous times a day, because I'm human. So, while there are no expectations or plans to be a perfect wife/mom/woman, I'm aiming for higher ground--which is what we should always be doing anyway, right? 
 We as woman are so hard on ourselves. While being tender and gracious to others, we scrutinize everything about our own selves: weight, looks, hair and the inward "man of the heart" doesn't get a break either. We yell at the kids and we beat ourselves up for it. We get guilty because we didn't spend much time with the kids that day, or because we were sarcastic with our husband.
 Listen, dear Mommy. You are doing the best you can. Allow yourself to grow in grace! God allows you too, so try treating yourself how Jesus treats you as his beautiful bride. You are the perfect mommy for your children, and they are the best little forgivers (just made that word up) ever. Give yourself some leeway while doing the best that you can. It is enough!

Favorite photos from this week:

If he were a girl, he wouldn't need mascara, that's for sure!

Love seeing him learn and explore more and more each day. This is his current favorite toy that lights up and sings. He loves pushing the buttons over and over :)


She loves that she can change him, dress him, carry him around and hold him all the time. She's a little mommy and such a big helper!

Is this not the picture of total chaos?! I love it!

Happy Friday! Give yourself some extra grace today. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Top 10 Baby Product Picks (4 Kids Later)

8 and a half years ago, Nate and I were excitedly registering for our first baby. Scanning all of the cute items was super fun and we picturing our brand new baby using them was even more exciting. After 4 kids, I've learned what I love, completely simplified and thought I would share some of my favorite baby products with you all! I've never been one for baby accessories taking over the house, so most of what I use is a smaller version. Again, anything that simplifies clutter is right up my alley! I've included links to all products, so while they may not be exactly what I use they will be something similar.

1) My Solly Baby wrap
 Nate bought me this for Christmas this year and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Can't talk enough about it. I mostly used a piece of jersey knit material for the other boys, and this is just so much better. Pricey, yes, but worth it to me. It's super soft and stretchy yet strong. Plus I love all the of the color options! (He got a 20% off coupon on black Friday--just a tip!)

2) Snap and Go Stroller
 I don't actually own one, but have borrowed from other people and it's compact and light. This is perfect for popping the infant carseat in and going, rather than using a bulkier travel system. I mostly wear my infants now when we're out and about, but for the times you want them in the carseat, this is perfect!

3) The Bumbo Seat
 To be honest, I'm not totally sold on this yet, because at 6 months he totally dives out of it. However I'm sure if I purchase the tray (I got the seat at a thrift store) I will be sold, because it will keep him confined and allow him to sit and watch everyone.

4) Covered Goods Nursing Cover
 For years, nursing in public has always been a bit tricky. If there is a breeze, up flies the cover. If using a blanket, baby could just pull it off at anytime. No fun! I fell in love with this cover the first time I used it. Full coverage, thin, stretchy and super cute prints that blend right in with your clothes! Again, a little pricey, but if you're on the go like me a lot, worth it!

5) Chicco Umbrella Stroller
 I said goodbye to the travel system by baby 3. For me, it was just too bulky and too much to tote around and I don't plan on using the stroller/carseat combo ever again. I purchased this chicco stroller off craigslist and have used it since he was a few weeks old. I put a head support (from the carseat) in and reclined it and it made it soooo much easier to maneuver around shopping centers, and everywhere really, with 3 other kids in tow
 (I also LOVE my double jogger and would recommend to anyone with more than 1 kid. Even if you don't jog, anytime we go on walks we use it and it's almost effortless to push 2 kids around, and we've often stuck a third in there with no problems)

6) Portable Baby Swing
 I've never actually owned a full size swing, but in my opinion this works just as great as a big one except better because you can move it around. I can't tell you how many times I carried the swing into separate rooms around the house so I could get things done while baby played contentedly!

7) Homemade Pacifier Clips (he's wearing one above)
 A friend purchased some for me from the linked shop, and I LOVE them! We keep track of paci's so much better now. Not sure why I never used them before. Plus the prints are super cute!

8) Swaddling Blankets and here
 Total lifesaver! Nicolas was born in the dead of summer so it was hot. Light and airy swaddlers allowed him to be snuggled up tight without over heating. I purchased these at a thrift store as well, so keep your eye out! The second link are the velcro swaddlers which I love for when they are teeny tiny. After that, baby starts to break free. ;)

9) Mini Pac and Play
 My babies can easily sleep in a mini pac and play until they are 2 years old. So many times I've been so happy to have a mini one when we've stayed at people's homes or in a hotel, because they can usually fit in the closet, giving them the quietness they need to stay asleep. I love that it has the bassinet feature, so you can use it from the time they are born.

10) Portable Highchair
 Again--simplifying and less clutter! I had a normal sized high chair for Brooke and it always annoyed me because it was in the way. A mini one that sat on the chair at the table just worked so much better for us! I sold our other one before we moved so I'm planning on buying a new one soon because I think baby is ready for food. ;)

What are some of your favorite baby products?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

10 years of Valentines Days: Then and Now

Headed to our annual couple's retreat this weekend

Nate and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together 10 years ago. I remember it like yesterday though. We were in a long-distance relationship and he had sent me a box of presents. We video chatted so we could open our presents in front of each other. The main thing he had gotten me was an adorable little bear from build-a-bear that he had made himself, and put a recording of his voice in it so I could hear him anytime I wanted. It was so romantic and thoughtful and I was over the moon for him. That is exactly what our love looked like back then. It was thoughtful and sweet and romantic, full of hours of words spoken on the phone every day about how we felt about each other. We talked about the future, and we couldn't wait to get married and spend the rest of our lives together.

 I knew he was going to be a great husband. I also was pretty positive that he was going to be an amazing dad. One thing, however, that I didn't really expect was the great team would we would become over the years. A few weeks ago before we left for vacation, we were working together side-by-side without many words being spoken between us. I was lining things up to go out the door, preparing snacks and dinner for when we were in the car, and he was loading everything up. The occasional,  "did you pack this charger? Can you throw this in the blue bag?" was said, but other than that we were all business as we tried to get out the door. The kids and dog were underfoot and the baby was starting to get fussy because he was hungry. 
 To view it  from the outside couldn't have looked any further from romance, but in our hearts we could hear the unspoken words: I love you. You are my best friend and even though we can't say it right now, there is no one I would rather do life with than you. 
 That's what our love looks like now. Yes, we have plenty of romantic moments, but just Less Build-a-bear and more Building-our-marriage on the strongest foundation of all: Jesus Christ. 
 Parenting is no joke. It's completely exhausting and overwhelming a lot of the time. When I'm nursing the baby and he's corralling the other 3, and then without exchanging a word, I hand him the baby and pick up where he's left off with the older kids, I'm so thankful to be doing life as a team with my best friend.

Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Great Family Vacation of 2015

  You can't choose the family that you're born into or raised in and you don't really think about it growing up. At least I didn't. As the oldest of 9, I got a new baby doll to play with every few years (AKA a new sibling) and we all played together every day, we schooled together, fought, ate together, talked and made memories. Of course, at the time, it was just life and we had no idea the great memories we were making.

 At 18 I got together with my first and only boyfriend and after a little while it became clear that we couldn't live without each other and would get married, which meant I would move far away to Texas. Suddenly, the family that I spent every day with and didn't think much about (although we were close and loved each other fiercely) became treasured jewels. Every day spent with them was a day closer to the long awaited wedding day, but one less day to live under the same roof and I tried to value it the best I could while being madly in love with my man.
 Fast forward to marriage. Less than 2 months into it my sister visited, and the visits haven't stopped. Thousands of dollars spent over the past 8 1/2 years on traveling to see each other. People marvel that we see each other "so often" as they say, but really, a few weeks here and there throughout the year with the family you spent every day of your life with is nothing. I don't take a minute of it for granted and love our concentrated time together. 
 A year ago my dad emailed us while still on their vacation. "We rented again for next year. We'll be here if you guys want to come". My grandparents winter in a gorgeous, quiet trailer park (for ages 55+) that we vacationed in growing up. My parents try to go once a year and rent their own trailer. Within a few days of the email, I called them and I'm sure they could hear me beaming. "We rented number 409," I said. It was still a whole year away and seemed like forever to wait, but perfect time for us to save and plan for a 2 week vacation spent with my heart and soul: family. 

 This post is picture heavy, so be prepared...

 The best thing about where we stay is the huge pool that is hardly occupied, or if it is, it's a few older people who have all grown to love our family from my dad's preaching and our singing over the years. It's a free way to keep the kids occupied all day long, and we all get to sit in the sun and chat--one of our favorite things to do as a family!

My Grandma turned the big 8-0 while we were there, (I know, she doesn't look or act it!) so we all got to celebrate together one night. We loved getting to spend time with them and for our kids to get to know them better!

And speaking of my grandparents, my Grandma works at Disney World and was able to get us all free tickets. I'm not gonna lie--I love me some Mickey and Minnie and princesses. We all do, actually. Going there 2 separate days was so fun and special, and of course the kids loved every second of it! The first day we went with Greg and Claire so that all the kids could be together and it was such a blast. My Mom and Grandparents also got to spend the day with us, just to see the kids reactions to everything. ;)

 Here Nathan was quite offended that we were getting a picture instead of getting on the ride. Ha! This picture was just too classic not to share.
The lighting wasn't the greatest, but a picture in front of Cinderella's castle is a must!
His first visit!

Cousin love waiting for the parade...

The second time we went, it was just us and we spent our day at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. It was really special to spend a day with just us and I think Nate and I locked eyes 100 times throughout the day, saying without words, "we are so blessed. How are these beautiful children ours?!"

The safari at Animal Kingdom is so incredible and we saw several different species up close and personal. We could have reached out and touched the zebras!
Nicolas was unimpressed 

Most of our time was spent either at the pool, eating ice cream at the best soft serve place ever, or shopping. The entire time was completely relaxing with a perfect amount of fun mixed in.

One night we drove toa quaint little town called Celebration, sipping coffees and chatting while we walked around. Perfect evening!

This picture... Joel's missing shoe (that was never found), Joe wearing one of his Aunt's sweaters, Michael and Nathan's faces... BOYS! All I wanted was a cute picture of them in front of the fountain, and this is what I got, which was better than a boring old pose anyway and deserves to be framed. ;)
Love these girls...and just missing Julia :(

OK. So it's no secret that our family loves food probably more than 99% of the families in the world. Soft serve ice cream is no exception and when it's ridiculously cheap and a 1 minute drive from where you are becomes an almost nightly event!

We headed to Downtown Disney one night where the kids (and me ;) got to spend part of the Christmas money they had saved.

Aunt Nicolea with the love of her life

On our last night, we took one more walk to take in the beauty one last time. Growing up I loved this place, and I will always love it. Now my husband and kids love it too and it will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

We arrived home exactly the way you are supposed to from a vacation: completely refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. Which was good, because 8AM the next morning had me calling the Dr. to schedule a visit for a very sick little baby. Right now we're knee deep in hand sanitizer, fevers, runny noses, coughs and cuddles galore, feeling very thankful we're home to deal with it!