Our Finished Dining Room

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I can with 100% certainty say that our dining room is FINISHED! Ah… it feels so good to say. It feels even better to know there is an entire room in our new house that is completely styled to our satisfaction. I liked the warmth of the farmhouse, but also wanted to incorporate the cool industrial look into our space since we live in the Steel Valley! In fact, our town is quite the juxtaposition being equal distance from cozy, family farms and steel mills. Speaking of contrast, I just can’t get over the before & after pictures of this space:

I like the actual place I’m living in to contain elements from what the area is notorious for. In San Diego it was pretty obvious: beach. My room had walls coated in a sand-like texture with the smallest flecks of gold, and I usually kept seashells on my dresser. This is starkly different from my usual beachy vibes, but this style feels earned. I really had to embrace not just Ohio, but this particular valley, and now I display it like a badge of honor in my home.

 

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The chairs are definitely what tied this whole room together for me. Despite them being a cold metal, which is some thing J was concerned about, they are actually quite comfortable and easy to clean. Even my curvy self sits comfortably in these chairs!

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These awesome chairs can be found here and are fairly affordable. The nice people at Anji Modern Furniture offered me a discount for reviewing these beauties on Amazon for them, as well as offering a little shoutout here, up on my blog. The truth is though, that I had already made up my mind that these were the chairs for us before we officially purchased them.

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Last week was a blur of trying to get caught up with housework. We all have weeks like that. The one good thing was that I was able to get together with some local moms, and have them over in our new house for some coffee and donuts.
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I had been having a tough week with Cora, the house was a wreck, and I had a friend hurt my feelings. I was a hormonal, emotional wreck. The local community of moms had no idea how I was feeling and yet just their presence, lighthearted conversation and fellowship completely cheered me up. As much as I struggle living outside of the Golden State, those are the moments that remind me why I decided to settle here in the first place.

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In other news, Cora is basically crawling. She can army crawl like a banshee, and can crawl short distances on her knees. Physically, she is so far ahead of where Sophie was at this age. She impresses us every day! Who knows what God has in store for a girl with her determination…

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One of the cons of such determination is that it makes her a fighter against every thing. We have had to resort to “crying it out” with her at nap and bed time. Sophie was easily soothed by my voice or my touch; Cora screams whether she is being held or left in a crib. Crying it out allows her to work through her tantrum and gives me the permission to separate myself from her fits. It helps me to calm down and not take her screaming rage personally. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the CIO method has made me more patient and loving toward her. We let her cry in 10 minute increments before going in to pat her on the back for a few minutes.  We repeat the cycle until she falls asleep. The longest she has cried is 50 minutes, but it has gotten to be less and less time the more we have practiced letting her cry it out.
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When she is awake she is such a happy, charismatic kid! There are many families in our little community who have kids around her and Sophie’s age, so I can’t wait to strengthen some of my own relationships with other moms, which will hopefully lead to solid friendships for my kids.

How do you expand your network of local parents?

Unconditional Love

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When you think of toddlers and babies, your first thought is probably not “unconditional love.” I mean, they tantrum when you won’t run on the TV, cry when you walk in the room, and even say “No like you, mama.” The unconditional love I’m talking about is one that doesn’t see my weight, skin color, or life accomplishments. My kids don’t care that I never went for my masters degree, they don’t care that I’m a solid 40 lbs overweight, and they don’t care that I’ve been swearing under my breath since 6 am.

All they see when they look at me, is the mama who has nurtured them from birth, snuggles with them on the couch, and plays with them during the day. Even on my worst days as a human being, Sophie still wants to give me a good night kiss. Her love sees beyond my failures as a mother. When I am at my limit, and exasperated because Cora won’t sleep, she gives me the biggest grin as I attempt to swaddle her again for the 1,000,000th time. At this stage in life, my babies don’t hold grudges (even if I WON’T turn the TV on). There is a bliss to their innocence and ability to be easily distracted. A simplicity and forgiving spirit that I wish I had, but one that I am thankful to be the recipient of.

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Our Favorite Books

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Right now we have a few, solid, favorite books that we enjoy rotating through every day. Now that we’ve transitioned Sophie into her big girl bed [don’t be impressed, it is still a nightly battle…] she asks for a whole  stack of books to be read to her every night. The English Major inside me is excited, the exhausted mama in me is usually annoyed, either way: reading books is good for children.

Sophie’s 2 favorites right now include the beloved Daniel Tiger, and an Eric Carl classic, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”

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I like the Daniel Tiger book as well, because this one is based on one of my favorite Daniel Tiger songs: “I like you just the way you are.” Sophie and I sing this to each other often. While it is a good, body positive song, the story that goes with it is cute too. Plus, Sophie is really into O the owl, who is a main character. Perhaps it has to do with his love of books? Also, most children enjoy the caterpillar book. It is silly, and they recognize many of their own favorite foods throughout the story. I like it because it is not a particularly long book. DSC_4023

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This author wasn’t familiar to me when I first had Sophie, but I received many of her books as shower gifts. The writing is quirky, calming, and creative. The sleep book is particularly relaxing to read, so I usually save it for last if we are reading bed time stories.

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This potty training books is extremely popular right now! It is short, simple, and educational. Sophie identified with it pretty well, then she pretty much memorized it, which was adorable because she often recites it while sitting on the potty. I’d highly recommend it for anyone trying to potty train.

Those are our favorite book choices as of right now. In a few months that will probably change as Sophie’s tastes usually evolve with her developmental stages. Hopefully they will be books Cora will come to love too.

 

Recovery

We had a busy weekend and J and I are still recovering. Summer is always a busy time in our little town, because the university puts on retreats for high school youth to rekindle their interest in the church. Honestly, those conferences are how I ended up in the Buckeye State to begin with. Anyway, J has weird work hours as the retreats take place over the weekends. Between that, the wonderful wedding we attended and Cora’s unpredictable sleep schedule, we are simply exhausted.

I stopped nursing Cora last week, and like many moms know, that decision came with a ton of different emotions. I went out and bought myself a few new clothes to help with the transition. No, I didn’t go to Macy’s or anything like that, just picked up a few things from Walmart to get me through summer, since the majority of my clothes are currently nursing tops and nursing bras with various clasps and openings that make it convenient to nurse, but aren’t overall that comfortable to wear.

The one thing keeping me smiling is Sophie’s amazing attitude. She is definitely bordering on the “terrible two” stage, but even with that being said, she is a total sweetheart 99% of the time. She is starting to interact with Cora more, becoming more responsible with the little chores and tasks we give her, and more affectionate (my personal favorite).

We have a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to find respite by watering the garden with Sophie, cuddling with Cora, and going to the weekly moms group I recently discovered.

Surviving the Last Weeks of Pregnancy

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Here I am, typing this and sitting pretty at 34 weeks. Apparently my baby is as big as a butternut squash and I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve done this before, how come I don’t remember it being so hard?” Ok, so I didn’t totally forget how hard the 3rd trimester is because I’ve secretly been dreading it ever since day 1 …but there is a particular intensity about reliving some thing you were so happy to be done with the first time.

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So since I’m not a ‘we have 2 kids and now we’re done’ kind of person, how do I handle the 3rd trimester and make it bearable? As a first-time-mom, I was able to lie on the couch as often as I wanted, nest or not nest to my heart’s content, and eat whatever I want. Now That I’m on #2 I have a shadow that follows me everywhere, insisting I share all of my food, leaving a path of destruction everywhere we go, and definitely does not let me lie on the couch all day. So here is what I do to make things a little easier on myself during these last several weeks

  1. Nap time – Nap time is time to treat yourself to anything you can’t do while the little ones are awake. If you prioritize eating a chocolate bar over doing a load of newborn laundry, I won’t judge. It’s all about survival.
  2. Spouses – When you got pregnant, *you* as an individual didn’t just sign on to be a parent, you spouse consented to parenthood to. That doesn’t start when the baby is born, that starts the second you start barfing in your 1st trimester. If you need help getting some thing done, or just need an hour to yourself to rest, TELL YOUR SPOUSE. I don’t care if he has a 12 hour work day, because you have a never-ending work day that involves a human person occupying your body, and you need the help. Contrary to popular belief, this is some thing you do together, and asking for help is one of the ways your spouse participates in the pregnancy: by making it more bearable for you.
  3. Indulge. I’m not just talking about the chocolate bar… if your back is killing you, go get a massage. If you want pink or blue toes for when your girl or boy comes, go get a pedicure. The 3rd trimester is a time to start getting excited for baby instead of just “being done with being pregnant.” Ask your spouse for help or hire a sitter if you have other kiddos. Whatever the case may be, do some thing nice for yourself that’s kind of a splurge. You’re almost there!
  4. Rubs. foot rubs, back rubs, leg rubs, anywhere you want rubbed, solicit your spouse or kids to rub for you. Maybe this sounds dumb, but one of the more vivid memories I have about the days leading up to Soph being born, include either J or my mom rubbing my legs and feet. I was just so exhausted but this helped to ease some of my discomfort. Get a nice lotion for this ritual.
  5. Tums and lots of pillows. Ok, so not every woman gets crazy acid reflux int heir 3rd trimester, but if you do, stash tums everywhere. Also, get a ton of pillows, grab some from the guest room if you have to. Even when I’m lying on the couch, I still like to have a pillow between my knees nowadays. Our bed is full of pillows too… really, any thing that will make you more physically comfortable, make sure you have those items in every room.

How do you survive the final trimester?

My Initial Approach to Parenting

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I’ve said time and time again how anxiety ridden I am on a daily basis. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that during my first pregnancy I didn’t mind being 5 days past my due date because I had no idea what I was going to do with myself when the baby actually came.

There is so much pressure on moms today and with so many split opinions on important decisions you have to make for your child, you can easily be consumed by the stress. To breastfeed or formula feed? To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Organic food? Co-sleeping? Rear facing car seats? It’s enough to make a mama scream. After the first 48 hours of being a nervous wreck, I decided to stop caring — about what other people think, that is. I know it’s hard to do, because if you choose formula over breastmilk, people will tell you how your child will be dumb, fat, and sick for the rest of their lives. If you choose to co-sleep, people will tell you you’re coddling your baby. The risks of each choice are exaggerated in such a way that a mother feels like she’s always making the wrong choice, therefore I decided to stop caring.

Though this blog was never intended to be a faith-focused blog, I have to say that my place of acceptance a mere 48 hours after Soph was born was due to my faith in God. I believe he knows how many hair are on her head as well as how many days she has to live. Regardless of what I do as a mother, he will call her home when he calls her home. Now, there is still a seriousness in my vocation as a mother in that, God entrusted me with these tiny souls to do my very best to keep them safe and healthy; but short of my very best, he is ultimately in control. So approach #1 was….

Don’t stress about the options. Do your research, try a couple different things, and find what works for you and for baby. I put emphasis on “you” because although your babe may like sleeping by your bedside in his rock’n’play, it may drive you into a crazed, sleep-deprived state. Sophie probably would have loved to sleep in our room with us, but that wasn’t what was best for both her AND I. SUre, I heard many a mother tell me about how I would have bonded with Sophie better had I kept her close by all night, but we squeezed in plenty of bonding time during those late night feedings, and it was such a relief to be able to go back to my own bed while leaving her in her crib.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist. I really wanted to be one of those moms who had a predictable schedule, the perfect stockpile of breastmilk in the freezer, all organic cotton clothes for her baby, etc… Baby’s are surprisingly simple. All they need is food, shelter, and you. They don’t need their own stylish room, they don’t need lots of toys, they don’t even need top of the line food [yes, the organic mama within me is cringing, but it’s true] They just need 100% of pure you.

Assume that you know nothing. This was the easiest part for me because I knew nothing. Despite all the books I read, blogs I scoured, and people I talked to, I knew knowing about my baby when she came, and I had enough humility to just accept that. Sure, I can’t lie, I stressed about it some times Why won’t she stop crying? Why won’t she sleep? Shloud I feed her? Let her cry it out? These are all normal, mommy worries. At some point though, you have to just accept that you don’t know. In fact, it would irk me when we would get together with family, Sophie would start crying and a relative would hand her back to me saying “Mommy knows why you’re crying… Mommy knows what you need.” Actually, no. No I don’t. Some times you’re just clueless. As long as you’re giving it your best, comforting and loving you baby, that’s all you should be expected to do. So don’t beat yourself up for not being the all-knowing being you thought you’d become when this tiny human entered the world.

Time to yourself is essential. At least, I knew it would be for me. When I give myself to another human, I give 100% When that happens, I need time to recharge so I can be able to give again when the time comes. I learned this about myself early on in my marriage and I knew it would be even more true when I became a mother. It was hard to leave my spanking new baby with a babysitter, but I needed an hour to go to the grocery store and the chiropractor with nothing but my own thoughts. I feel that this approach to parenting helped strengthen my relationship with my in-laws, as I entrusted the care of my baby many times with them. I feel that opportunities to watch their granddaughter affirmed them and was a more concrete illustration of my faith in them as loving, trustworthy people.

Every mama is different, and perhaps some of my approaches here made you cringe. That’s ok! We all require different things from life and have various ways of acquiring them. SO let’s stop the mom shaming, and embrace our different approaches. Motherhood can be such a helpful and collaborative effort among women if they feel free to share what has worked for them, but the collaboration can only thrive if we all feel safe to share our experiences without harsh judgement. 😀

Peace Valley Apple Orchard

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Some of you may have seen our adorable family photos from the apple orchard up on facebook, but I saved some of them specifically for this blog post. That’s right, EXCLUSIVE adorable photos, right here. Now, up until last year, I had only really dabbled in photography and blogging. It wasn’t until our last trip to the apple orchard that I decided I had enough skill, time, and dedication to commit to this as a hobby, Our latest trip out to Peace Valley only reaffirmed that I love food, photography, and my babies, and have an indefinite amount to say about all three.

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The weather in Ohio is actually pretty nice this time of year. We occasionally get some rain and blustery days, but for the most part the sun is out and its warm without being humid [a huge relief for people in this area]. It was supposed to be cloudy yesterday and a bit “chilly” but it turned out to be sunny for most of the afternoon and warm, with just the faintest breeze.

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These orchard are a good 45 minute drive away from us. I thought our little town was “rural” when I first arrived some 5 years ago, but was I so wrong. We have things like a kroger and Walmart! Out in the boonies, where the farms and orchards are, you’re lucky if they have a Dollar General and you can expect to see a decent amount of Amish.

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OK, by “decent amount” I really mean you might see a horse and buggy, but hey – I’m guessing that’s more than you’d typically see in your hometown. Rural though it is, the drive is actually quite nice. Twists and turns through the Ohio valley, with the leave just beginning to change, was the perfect way for us to kick off fall.

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Since the orchards are among farms, there is a cute country store on the property that sells seasonal produce as well as jams, salsas, and preserves made locally. We ended our little adventure with warm apple dumplings served a la mode. YUM. Even though it’s a bit of a drive “just for apples,” I still like that our trip to the orchards has become a little tradition.

Mommy Fashion

NURSING – So, it’s been awhile since I’ve added to this series and I wanted to take time to share my favorite, fashionable NURSING pieces with you! Not to brag but I have a very well-endowed figure. It sounds like it would be a good thing, but when we’re talking about exposing ourselves in public to feed the baby, it’s nice to have a discreet yet fashionable solution.

milk Nursingwear – I can not say enough good things about this line. I have 4 tops from them, all different styles and I love every single one. They are extremely discreet without being at all frumpy. In fact, I find many of their tops to be quite modern and fashionable, especially for young mothers. I think you’ll agree:

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figure8 maternity – Usually, I hate nursing clothes that double as maternity clothes. A very few percentage of women actually nurse another child while being pregnant, and if you’ve just given birth, you don’t want to wear clothes that make it look like you’re still pregnant! When it comes to dresses, figure8 knows what they’re doing. There is enough fabric to accommodate a bigger belly, but it falls gently flat over postpartum tummies, without giving you a pregnant look. I invested in a tank top style dress that I can wear in the summer as-is, or with a cardigan in the fall and early spring. I’m currently tempted to buy this short-sleeved style:

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Bravado Essentials Tank- I actually discovered this brand through the figure8 website, but you may have heard of mommy celebrities like Kristen Bell who love their products. I was skeptical because of the $50 price tag for just an essentials tank, but I PROMISE you, it’s worth the cost! I had been going through Target brand nursing tanks every month, which was costing me more than if I would have just invested in a quality tank. So, after countless recommendations from other busty friends of mine, I bought one. WOW, is all I can say! Not only does it offer impressive support, but it shapes your bust to have the look and feel of pre-pregnancy breasts. Now THAT is worth $50 and then some. And the other great thing about a nursing tank, is that you can wear almost any top over it. With the way it smoothes and shapes your figure, you’ll be back, looking great in all your pre-pregnancy tops in no time, while still being able to nurse baby! Just make sure if you’re ordering online, you get correct measurements according to their sizing chart. You can by a tape measure for $1 at any fabric store to take home measurements. This will save you a lot of disappointment and hassle.

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Hospital Essentials [and what you DON’T need to bring]

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As a first time mom, I was terrified to give birth. There are of course, medical procedures you worry about [episiotomy, c-section, epidural…] but that doesn’t mean you don’t worry about the simple stuff to! I scoured various blogs for what I should bring in my hospital bag and ended up way over packed for my 48 hour stay in the hospital. While there are a lot of good resources and opinions out there, I’m going to share what my personal necessities were, and will be for the next time!

Must have’s:

Nursing tank [and PJ pants] After giving birth, you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible. A good nursing tank [like this bravado one] should offer you some support without being uncomfortable and obviously allows for nursing access. PJ pants don’t really need explanation….

light weight robe If you have to go out to the ice machine, or just feel like taking a walk after being bed ridden, a light robe is nice to have since you most likely won’t be changing out of those PJ pants [or you may just forego the pants altogether]

comfy socks with grippers OR light slippers The last thing you need is to slip and fall after giving birth, or while holding your precious, new bundle. I preferred socks, because they kept my feet a bit warmer, but I also used my ballet-type slippers a good bit too.

luxe shower/bath products This one sounds indulgent, but after sweating and being miserable for 12 hours, I wanted to have the greatest shower of my life when labor was over and done with [and you deserve it!] I had this really luxurious, handmade bar of soap my mother got for me during a trip to wine country and I saved it especially for my post-labor shower. It was so nice! I can still vividly remember how relaxing that shower was, so pick out a really nice bath product you normally wouldn’t splurge on and save it for that shower!

tinted lip balm This might sound dumb, but tinted lip balm made me feel great when the visitors started rolling in. Even though I love my make up, I did not even want to put it on. You’re fading in and out of sleep those first few days, adjusting to new-parent life and ain’t nobody got time for that! Besides, I found the hospital to be a little dry, so I needed some chapstick anyway. Having a tinted balm helped me to feel a little more put together, while also solving my dry lip problem. Not to mention, I was more open to a few pictures, knowing that I felt more “put together” and those are pictures i treasure to this day!

your own pillow It sounds silly and unnecessary, but that is exactly why I am writing this post. Bring it. Hospital pillows are pancakes and they will only allot you so many pancakes. My nurses called me “pillow queen” and indeed I was, a very happy queen sitting on my throne of pillows. One pancake on my lower back, one pancake under my feet, and my special, memory foam pillow from home, underneath my head. Pure bliss. If for some reason you don’t use it, Hubs probably will, so just bring it!

phone charger Before I was in active labor, I was snapping hospital selfies and uploading them to instagram [#laborday!], playing games, scrolling through my newsfeed…. You do a lot of waiting around before baby really decides they’re coming [for real]. In addition, we use our phones for everything nowadays! You’ll be taking pictures with your phone, or if you’re me, calling your family in the morning to tell them active labor has officially begun! Whether it’s you or your significant other, make sure one of you has a phone and charger.

a comfy outfit for leaving the hospital Let me tell you a cold hard truth– no amount of preparation will allow you to walk out of that hospital looking like Kate Middleton. Don’t.even.try. And yes, you’re still going to look at least 4 months pregnant [or if you have my luck 8 months…] so don’t toss those yoga pants just yet, you’re going to need them for the ride home.

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What you DON’T need

camera Smartphones have amazing cameras these days, so just use it. If you want nicer pictures later, put a family member in charge of bringing a nicer camera, but you have other things to worry about.

make up I swear you won’t need it. Even if you want to wear it, you’ll be too exhausted to apply it. It simply takes up space. Go for the tinted lip balm instead.

a wardrobe for baby I brought every adorable outfit in the newborn size. Don’t. The pictures of your baby swaddled in that hospital blanket are cute enough without a coordinating outfit. If you feel like your baby needs a hate or socks, the hospital is usually able to provide those things too. Also, baby doesn’t care!

any other clothes for yourself besides the nursing tank and go-home clothes. I had all these sets of coordinating PJs and loungewear. Don’t bother. Bring your reliable, favorite jammies, and a comfy go-home outfit and leave it at that.

to worry about things for your husband I’ve been seeing so many posts lately about “don’t forget hubby!” and I’m here to tell you, forget about hubby. He’s a grown man, for God’s sake. Grown enough to impregnate you, anyway… I think he can handle grabbing an extra pair of boxers. If you have crazy nesting energy and feel the urge to pack a bag for him, go for it. But don’t stress about him having what he needs. Most women don’t pack their husbands a hospital bag, and whoever wrote a pin suggesting it should have to answer for this crime against pregnant, exhausted women.

a ton of snacks I don’t know where the misconception about hospitals starving new moms came from, but you absolutely do not need to worry about going hungry during your hospital stay. I brought a whole variety of lara bars that I thought I’d have to craftily consume behind the nurses backs. They offer you food before you’re in active labor, they offer you food after. When they tell you can’t eat, you won’t want to eat because you’ll just want to get that baby OUT. Also, if for some reason your hospital doesn’t cater to your inner foodie, I’m assuming you have friends and family [or god forbid you send the husband…] who will go and get you take-out from your favorite place. Seriously, don’t bother bringing snacks.

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What were items you couldn’t have survived without during your first hospital stay?