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Ainsley’s “Blue” Themed Second Birthday

February 28, 2017

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Ainsley turned two last Saturday and we had a little birthday party to celebrate! While I didn’t want to go “all out” for a second birthday celebration, I couldn’t resist throwing a party to celebrate our favorite toddler. The party was mostly family, with a few friends as well, and we kept the plan simple: Cake, letting the kids run wild around the house, fun time for the adults to chat and that’s it! Joe and I both have fall birthdays, so I’ll admit that this whole winter birthday thing has thrown me for a loop. My memory of birthday parties revolved around pumpkin patches and time outdoors in the crisp fall weather. Winter birthdays in the midwest? Well, I have a feeling we will have to put our creativity hats on as Ainsley gets older.

The theme for her party was “blue” which I realize isn’t really a theme at all, but what Ainsley wants, Ainsley gets. I had a few people ask if it was “Frozen” themed, and while we love Frozen at our house these days, that wasn’t really my intent with all the blue. Ainsley has been talking specifically about having a blue cake for her birthday for the last two months, so that was where the theme idea came from and the rest of the party sort of evolved from that.

It was an open-house style party from 3:30 to 5 on a Saturday afternoon, with cake and singing around 4 being the only really structured part of the afternoon. The food was equally simple, since we were celebrating in the afternoon. I stuck to serving cake, yogurt cups with fruit and crushed graham cracker topping and snack cups with Goldfish crackers and Teddy Grahams because they are Ainsley’s favorite. We also had little goodie bags as friends left that contained a blue and white striped lollipop but I forgot to hand out half of them!

I’ve done a little sourcing guide below for all the products and goods used for her party, but I have to do a little shout-out to Heartfelt Blooms for their amazing work on Ainsley’s flower crown. I mean, could it be any more precious? Last year I purchased a crown for Ainsley’s first birthday from an Etsy shop and was so in love with it that I knew I needed something for Ainsley’s head this year, too. When Misty reached out to me about collaborating on a crown for Ainsley’s second birthday, I jumped at the chance. Ainsley loves wearing it and I could tell that it made her feel like a little princess. Mission accomplished!

RESOURCE GUIDE
Felt Flower Crown // Heartfelt Blooms
Paper Snack Cups // Paper Eskimo
Blue Lollipops // Fun Express
Ainsley’s Dress – Embroidered Yoke Swing Dress // Old Navy

Family

To my momma friends, on the hard days.

February 17, 2017

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Well friends, it’s safe to say that it’s been a week around these parts. I don’t share that to seek sympathy or encouragement, but something tells me that perhaps some of you other moms have had one of those weeks, too?

This week what I thought was a nasty cold or strange sickness for Ainsley turned out to be two year old molars coming in, which should also be known as the worst teething we’ve ever experienced. I’m not sure “teething” really captures the pain, discomfort and volatility that we’ve experienced over the past week. There’s been very little sleep, and the sleep we did get was fragmented and restless. Days have been long, the crying and screaming spells have been loud and as timing would have it, we’ve had something every evening this week.

By the time last night rolled around, I was reeling. Exhausted and more than anything, emotionally drained from trying to muster up every last ounce of patience and energy I had to offer Ainsley. And then, 10 minutes before our baby shower guests walked in the door, Ainsley choked on all her drool and puked up her bedtime milk all over the kitchen floor. The good news is that at that point it had been such a week that I couldn’t help but just sort of shrug, clean it up and move forward rather than get frustrated or cry. #brightside

I would be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that the week took it’s toll on my mental game. Maybe the more accurate way to put that is the week took a toll on my spiritual game. By the time yesterday rolled around I was believing all the lies that so quickly creep in.

Me? Fit for motherhood? Hardly! 
If I am having such a hard time handling one child, how in the word am I worthy to have two? 
Joe has so much more patience for Ainsley than I do. I’m such an inferior parent. 

The lies, friends, were washing over me quicker than I could ward them off. It’s times like these that I’m thankful for a few things.

First, for a much needed distraction. That my husband could cuddle, rock and put Ainsley to bed while I got away from mothering to host a baby shower for a friend who is expecting twins. Do you ever find you just need to “reset” your thinking by getting out of your own head for an hour or two? Sometimes when I’m deep in it, I need a little re-set time before I can even process truth and differentiate the truth from the lies and guilt.

Second, for a serious helping of truth and a reminder of God’s grace to all of us, tired and weary moms included. That although I’m woefully inadequate to be a perfect parent, or even a good one sometimes, my weakness serves to point to God’s power and strength within me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

If you’re in the same boat with me, feeling weary and a little beat down from the week, I would highly recommend some of the resources that I’ve shared below for a hefty serving of truth going into the weekend!

A Prayer for the Mom Who is Worn // The Gospel Coalition
Joy in Motherhood // Risen Motherhood Podcast
10 Deeply Honest and Encouraging Posts for Weary Moms // Devotional Family

Love and joy to you, my mom friends! Praying that your spirit will be renewed as you go into the weekend.

Madison

Family, Food & Recipes

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites

February 8, 2017

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We are currently working on a home renovation in our basement! Last year we targeted the upstairs and this winter I set my sights on our basement, which needed a LOT of work, I tell ya! By the way, I know that a house tour is long overdue. It’s been a work in progress in terms of design, which is why I’ve held off on sharing anything besides an occasional Instagram photo, but I promise I’m going to get my act together and share soon.

Anyway, the basement. So our contractor is one of our favorite people. He’s so nice to have around, very good at what he does and Ainsley loves him. Joel is her buddy and she honestly looks forward to seeing him every day. We were downstairs a few weeks ago working one night and Ainsley ate one of his chewy granola bars that he eats while he’s on the job. You know, the Sunbelt Bakery kind? Well, she became obsessed on the spot and has been asking for “Joel’s bars” every time we go to the store.

I’ve obliged from time to time, but I would really rather make something at home. So I whipped up these easy little no-bake granola bar bites that are packed with real, whole foods and a little bit of sweet thanks to chocolate chips and a little honey and brown sugar. Health food? Not exactly, but it’s a healthier snack than some of the store bought alternatives, so I’ll call that a parenting win!

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bites
Serves: 16 bites
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, raisins and/or dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the oats, pecan halves, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Pulse 15 times with on-off turns to break up oats and other ingredients. Add the sesame seeds to the mixture and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, peanut butter, oil and salt. Stir until well combined. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are evenly combined.
  3. Scoop by heaping spoonful into 16 mini muffin cups, pressing down firmly with your fingers. Refrigerate 2 hours. Use a knife to gently remove bites from muffin tin cups. Store bites in a zip-top plastic bag or storage container with a lid.

 

Family

Toddler Sleep :: Solving Early Morning Waking

February 6, 2017

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If there is one thing our friends and family know about Ainsley’s sleep patterns, is’t that she is a morning person by nature. Like her parents, Ainsley is an early bird. Too early, if you ask me, but I can’t really blame her when Joe and I are both awake most weekdays by 5 or 5:30 and hardly ever sleep in past 6:30 even when we have the chance.

About two months ago I hit a point where the early morning wake times were becoming a real issue for our family. Ainsley was waking most mornings at 5 or 5:30, but instead of waking up happy she was waking up tired, grumpy and out of sorts. We tried all sorts of things – pushing her bed time back, moving it forward, changing nap times, etc. but nothing seemed to work. Although I like to wake up early, having a toddler that is up for the day at 5 am makes for some really long days.

A friend of mine who has three kids of her own said something to me that really resonated. She said that it was important for kids to understand how the house and family “ran” and your kids should, under most circumstances, be able to fall in line with that.

I realized that for months we had been held hostage by Ainsley’s early wakings. I usually get up bright and early to work a little bit before everyone wakes up. Joe gets up most mornings at 5:30 to workout, and I pack his lunches and get him sent off for the day, wrap up a bit more work, do a load or two of laundry and drink my cup of coffee in peace before the day really starts. But with Ainsley waking up so early it was throwing everything – including her own schedule – off.

So I went to Facebook to seek out advice from my fellow mom friends. A few people recommended trying the Ok to Wake Clock, which is a small little clock that you set your child’s “wake time” for the day and when it’s time to wake up the clock lights up green.

I wondered if at 22 months Ainsley was a little too young to understand the concept, but I decided to give it a go anyway. It turns out she took to the clock really well! It shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the fact that our child is a very logical and analytical thinker, but it surprised me none the less.

We set Ainsley’s wake time for 6:30. For the first couple mornings of using the clock she would still wake at 5 or 5:30. We let her fuss/play/cry in her bed until the light turned green. A couple times in the beginning I even went in and reminded her that she could get up when the light was green. It didn’t stop the fussing, but it did help give her context to when mommy or daddy was going to come get her for the day.

After about a week and a half it was if the clock had “re-set” her internal clock. Knowing that she wasn’t going to get up for the day until the light was green seemed to help her go back to sleep if she woke early, and now I’m finding more and more that she is waking close, or even after, 6:30. It’s been such a game changer for us in the sleep department!

So, if you are a mom who is struggling with early morning wakings like we were, I would highly recommend the OK to Wake Clock. It was a cheap but very worthwhile investment.

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

On Trusting My Body

February 1, 2017

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{Hatch Collection Bateau Top} // {GAP Demi Pannel Maternity Skinny Jeans}

Today I went to my doctor’s appointment. I’m 25 weeks pregnant, meaning I’ve got about 15 more weeks to go, and every time I have to step on the scale I cringe just a little bit. I would be lying if I said, given some of my past issues with body image, that it’s easy for me to see my body growing and changing rapidly. Actually, this time around might be playing more games with my mind than Ainsley’s pregnancy.

It’s a luxury, isn’t it? To be able to worry about things like gaining weight. During Ainsley’s pregnancy it was a luxury that I didn’t really afford myself because I was focused on other things, like whether or not my baby was healthy and growing appropriately. Like I said, a luxury to even think or worry about these things but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as we go further and further into this pregnancy.

While I was fretting about my pregnancy weight gain after my appointment today, something registered in my mind.

Trust your body. 

Anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss or infertility can attest to the fact that trusting your body doesn’t come easily. In the midst of my losses I didn’t feel I could trust my body at all. It had failed me in doing the thing I wanted so badly for it to do. But throughout Ainsley’s pregnancy, and baby girl #2’s pregnancy, I’ve felt a renewed sense of trust in what my body can do.

I’ve seen my body expand and grow, gaining 35 pounds, enduring 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing to give us our beautiful Ainsley. That same body lost those 35 pounds and then some. It’s pushed a stroller for miles and bounced a fussy newborn for hours in the middle of the night. It’s run races and endured countless workouts. When I’ve called on my body to be there for me it has been there and then some.

So today when I was tempted to worry about what my body was doing and how much weight I’ve gained, I made the decision to trust my body and believe it will do what’s needed to grow and carry this baby. And then when that baby is here, it will feed, cuddle, and nurture that baby, too.

So fellow pregnant mommas, join me in giving your body the grace and appreciation it deserves, even on the hard days. Because the hard days will come. We’re only human, right? But how we choose to respond to those hard days is what really matters.

Madison