Monday, May 22, 2017

4 Steps for a Healthier Kid Friendly Home

This post is brought to you by Riley Heating and Air Conditioning. All opinions are my own.

Ever since we brought home baby Eli, I've thought a lot differently about the safety of our home and its not-so-kid-friendly elements. Even though he isn't crawling or walking yet, I know that the days are quickly approaching when our little man will be on the move. Like any parent, I do hope to make our home a safe place for Eli and his parents. That's why I'm taking a few minutes to share four steps for a healthier, kid friendly home.

First of all,  if you haven't already, you can make some easy swaps to keep dangerous BPA out of your house. Be sure to check canned goods, plastic containers, and even teething rings. Once you've done that, take a look at your cleaning products, as well as how securely you store them. They can contain lots of toxic, harmful chemicals. Consider making your own cleaning products instead, and save some money while you're at it! 

Next, be sure to check the quality of your air. Schedule annual HVAC maintenance, change your filter every one to three months, and be careful when choosing air fresheners. Lastly, consider swapping out your soaps for something fragrance-free and allergy-friendly. Try to avoid anti-bacterials, which can actually do more harm than good. I'll be sure to make these changes in my home this summer, and you should too. 

Check out the infographic below for an easy, pinnable reminder to keep your home kid-friendly! Our kiddos are so worth it.


Monday, May 15, 2017

5 Things Your Mechanic Won't Tell You

If you're anything like me, every time you visit a mechanic you feel totally confused and taken advantage of. I spent time rehearsing the line "I'll have my dad take a look; I don't want anything extra right now." over and over as I would pull into the shop. And yet, I still walked away feeling pressured, uncomfortable, and clueless, especially as a woman. Now that I'm married to the best guy in the world, I don't have to worry about this. He not only takes care of the cars, he works on them on the side as a certified mechanic. He's shared his insight with me for this post, and is helping me shed the light on five things your mechanic won't tell you.

5 Things Your Mechanic Won't Tell You

1. How Much the Part Actually Cost Them 

It's plain and simple: you will always pay more for the part than what the shop bought it for. The percentage can range anywhere from a 20% mark up to a 70% mark up. This is the main reason why most shops won’t let you bring your own parts. And if they do, they will often charge you a higher labor rate. It is roughly 35% of earnings for the shop as a whole. That’s a lot. 

2. How Long It Actually Took to Fix the Problem

When a job is quoted, the quote is for a fixed rate of time that has been predetermined by labor guides. If the labor guide says it should take two hours to change the alternator on your vehicle then you will be charged for two hours of labor, whether it took them one hour or three. Some mechanics work a forty hour work week but get paid for 100 hours of labor. Some mechanics work forty hours and only get paid for twenty hours of labor. The system is there to protect you from mechanics charging you whatever they want. It also rewards good mechanics who can work faster than the average mechanic.

3. How Simple the Job Really Is

There are jobs mechanics don’t want you to know that you can do yourself. These kind of jobs might include changing out air filters, light bulbs, batteries, some belts, and brakes. While this isn’t true in all cases, you might be surprised what you can walk through on your own with a simple tool set and the internet. You might pay the shop $100 in labor for something that takes them 20 minutes to do, or it might take you an hour to do yourself if you just take the time to search and learn. Aaron will never understand paying $20 to install a lightbulb that takes less than three minutes to install. Do your research, people!

5 Things Your Mechanic Won't Tell You

4. The Fine Print

When you drop off your car in most shops, they have you sign a document. Do you ever read what you are signing? You might not let your car stay if you actually read the fine print. Aaron has seen these documents cover wide ranges of things. A few years ago, he read the small print in a shop that isn’t in business anymore. He came across one line that read, “We are not responsible for any damages that occur to your vehicle while on our premises.” Yikes! Understand what you are signing, and ask if you have questions.

5. The Warranty Your Part Actually Has

Quite a few parts that are purchased include a lifetime warranty. However, the mechanic doesn’t want you to know this because they make money on parts. For instance, you can go buy the same exact alternator the mechanic will install in your car and it comes with a lifetime warranty. But the shop will give you a three month warranty in hopes that if it breaks in five years you will simply buy the part again. Aaron has changed the alternator on his father’s F150 about three times, after only paying for the alternator once. It also has about 400 thousand miles on it. You should know that most sets of brake pads have lifetime warranties as well.

There you have it folks, five things your mechanic won’t tell you that you should probably know. You can really save yourself some money and some headaches if you're aware of these things. Have any more mechanic questions? Let me know and I'll pass them on to Aaron and get them answered! (And if you're in the KC area, he can even work on your car!) We don't have to be taken advantage of, y'all, so let's stop.


Monday, May 8, 2017

The Secret to Thrifty Travel

If you are anything like Aaron and me, you may love to travel but may not be willing to spend a ton of money to do it. Everyone loves to go on adventures around the world, but we often question if they're worth the drop in savings. This can be especially worrisome if you're going on a longer trip to a destination where you need affordable travel protection options, like those from Medjet Horizon. Fortunately, there are ways to travel, even if you don’t have much in the bank account. Check out our secrets to thrifty travel.

The Secret to Thrifty Travel

Hotel Points

If you’re in a good place with your credit, travel credit card bonuses offer an excellent way to travel cheaply. When you sign up for most of these credit cards, you’ll receive points that you can redeem for free nights. Sometimes you’ll earn free nights just by getting the card and spending any amount of money on it, including buying a pack of gum. In some cases, you'll receive more free nights as a cardholder anniversary gift. For more on staying in hotels for free on points, check out these posts.

Best Rate Guarantees

If you’re not looking to open a credit card, you still have other good options to help you travel for free or nearly free. Best Rate Guarantees are some of our other favorite ways to save on hotel stays. They work by rewarding you when you find hotels at a cheaper rate on one website over another. You report this lower rate to the original booking company, which matches the cheaper rate and gives you money towards paying that rate. We used this a lot in Europe and ended up staying in some pretty decent hotels for $50 or less!

Other Hotel Secrets

Secret hotel rates are also a good option for those who may be willing to take a bit of a risk. They show you an area of a city where the hotel is located, but you can't see the exact hotel where you would be staying. If you’re willing to take the gamble, you can get a heavily discounted rate.

One of my other new favorites for cheap travel is Roomer. This website lets people list the hotel rooms that they had once reserved but no longer need. You can book your hotel through this site, just like you would using any other website. We used this when we stayed in Orlando and it made our stay SO reasonable.

Flight Points

With hotels covered, you’ll also want to consider how to get where you're going. We love flying, especially with our Southwest Companion Pass. If you plan to fly, there are other travel cards that operate much the same as the hotel cards. You earn points by opening and spending, and then you redeem the points for travel. All of the major airlines have rewards program options like this. We also earn anniversary points on our travel cards, and we earn all of our points simply by paying our bills! For more on how to fly free, check out this post.

Other Flight Secrets 

If you don't have points for your flights, there are other ways to save money. Consider traveling during the off-season for your destination. This can save you a considerable amount of money, especially if you are planning to travel overseas. If you have a flexible travel schedule, you can also search for the cheapest days of the month to fly from place to place, and then you can book the cheapest flight options they offer.

All in all, travel doesn't have to be expensive. Using these tips, we have gone to dozens of places and saved thousands of dollars on amazing trips around the world. I truly believe that travel is one of the best investments we can make, and I treasure the memories that we have made on all of our adventures. I hope they are helpful for you, too!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Shower Gifts New Moms Really Want (and Need)

Now that I've been a mama for a little over two months, I have definitely developed a routine. It's been interesting to see what items from my baby showers are being used on a daily basis, and what items I really wish I'd gone without. I know that as a baby shower attendee BEFORE having my own little one, I didn't really know what to get for my friends. But now that I'm a mom, I can speak to things that us new moms really want and need. Whether you aren't sure what new products are on the market today, you've never been a mom and are clueless when it comes to shower gifts, or you're a new mom looking for the best items to register for, this post is for you!

Shower Gifts New Moms Really Want and Need

Swaddles and Sleep Items

From the first night you bring a newborn home, getting them to sleep at night is one of your biggest priorities. New moms will need a good supply of swaddle items to help their little one sleep without waking up in the middle of the night. I'm a huge fan of Halo Sleepsack Swaddles, and we also have some Sleepsacks for when our little man starts rolling over and doesn't need to be swaddled anymore. The Swaddle Me velcro wraps from Target are great too, and you can never have too many when baby spits up or has a blow out in the middle of the night! Other great sleep items to purchase are sound machines, footy pajamas with an inverted zipper (great for midnight diaper changes), and a night light or lamp.

Diapers and Wipes

I know it sounds super lame, but us moms go through SO many diapers and wipes over the course of a baby's life. Having a stash built up before the baby is born is so nice and even helps to avoid stress for a new mom. We put a ton of them on our registry and I'm grateful that we really haven't had to buy anything other than a few newborn diapers (because our baby Eli was smaller at birth than many babies are). Buy diapers in a variety of sizes- not just size one - so that your new mom friend has a stash for a long time. Also, most places with registries will let people return gifts for up to a year, so if the baby moves out of one size of diapers, the parents can exchange or return and get another size with no trouble! Other great related purchases would be a changing pad and some changing pad liners that can easily be washed and switched out.

Burp Cloths and Bibs

Even though babies are small, they generate a heck of a lot of laundry! We've found that you can never have too many burp cloths, as you'll want some to cover places where the baby is laying, some to burp them with, some to cover them (if they're a boy) during diaper changes, and some to use while breast or bottle feeding. Just think of how many burp cloths new moms will go through in a day, especially if their baby is a spitter or has reflux! Bibs are also a great purchase. Even though the baby won't eat solid foods for a while, bibs are a great way to avoid getting spit up and drool all over cute outfits and car seat straps. I especially love bandana bibs!

Postpartum Care Items

While they may not be much fun to purchase, new moms will be oh so grateful for any postpartum items that you buy them. Although they'll get a few leftovers from their hospital stay, gifting items like Always pads with wings, nursing pads, lanolin cream, Dermoplast, witch hazel "Tucks" pads, and Colace will have new moms thanking you in the first few weeks after birth! If moms are planning to nurse and or pump, they will also appreciate cute nursing friendly tops or dresses and milk storage bags. If you're uncomfortable with these types of purchases, see my next suggestion!

Gift Cards

Again, I know this sounds lame, but having gift cards is every new mom's dream! Gift cards are perfect for those Target runs when moms realize what they actually need but don't want to have to spend money on with all of the hospital bills coming. We keep ours in a Ziploc bag, and pulling them out to take along on a shopping trip has me thanking those gift givers all over again, months and months later!

Group Gifted "Bigger" Items

If you're able to go in on a bigger gift with friends or family members, your new mom friend will be oh so grateful to you! Some of the last things to be purchased on our registry were the bigger ticket items like our Tula carrier, travel system, high chair, and convertible car seat for later on. Having friends and family go in on purchasing these items really saved us from spending a lot before the baby was born, and we also got some items for when he is a little older. Also, we totally love and recommend our travel system (which is a Graco FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect). Having the car seat, stroller, and base that all come together and click together is amazing, and helps with transferring our little man without waking him. New parents MUST have a car seat and base before they can leave the hospital with their new little love, so this gift will be used right away.

Shower Gifts New Moms Really Want and Need

While I could go on and on about other specific items that we've loved like our Boppy Newborn Lounger and our Motorola video monitor, every new mom's preferences are different. Definitely purchase items off of the registry if you can, as it makes it easier for the new mom to make returns or exchanges as needed. Plus they likely registered for what they really want. That being said, these gift ideas listed above are sure to be put to good use by any new mom, no matter their style! What shower gifts were your favorites and most-used, mamas?


Click here if you'd like to read other Motherhood Posts like 10 Tips for Surviving the First 6 Weeks with a Baby! Be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram for other posts! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

April Recap

Just like every month seems to be doing these days, April has flown by! I've enjoyed another fabulous month of maternity leave, we've had new fun with our little man, and we've started some exciting new projects for the summer. I haven't been able to write as much because I've been too busy loving and snuggling Eli, but I was did manage to get a few posts out this month. Here's what we've been up to in April, and what we're looking forward to, complete with lots of cute baby pics!

Eli's Two Month Update

Eli turned two months old on April 23rd! This month was SO much fun, as our little guy's personality seems to be developing more and more each day. He loves to coo and smile, and even seems to "sing" with me, and I'm excited to see if he recognizes my voice when I lead worship this Sunday! Eli loves reading his black and white bug book, as well as his light up pop up book that tells the story of Easter (gotta start them young!). He's a champ at tummy time, and has excellent neck control. His hair is coming back in, and he loves bath time. And oh man, when he smiles my heart just melts!

Numbers wise, Eli is weighing in at 11 pounds and 3 ounces, and he is 22 and 3/4 inches long. This puts him in the 20th and 30th percentile respectively, but as long as he's on the growth curve we're happy and he's healthy! He's just starting to rock his 0-3 clothes and size 1 diapers. Most people think he's still so tiny, but he looks so big to me compared to when he was born! He is so alert these days, and is sleeping through the night, which is amazing for mom and dad. He started that at around six weeks and we are definitely grateful for it!

First Fever

One of the not so fun parts about turning two months old is having to get shots. Eli was a champ when they were actually giving him the shots, and he didn't really cry much. But after we got home and he woke up from a nap, it was pretty clear that he wasn't feeling well. Our normally easy-going baby was pretty fussy all day and night, and ran a slight fever. Thankfully he's feeling much better now, because this mama's heart could hardly stand seeing our little guy suffer.

Easter and Spring Fun

This Easter was extra special with baby Eli around. It was so fun to dress him up in his little bow tie and suspenders and celebrate the resurrection with our family and friends. We are blessed to have family so close, so everyone got to enjoy the day with little Eli. Crazy to think that he'll be walking around next Easter! We also visited the Zoo this month, and our little monkey had a great time! One of Aaron's many hidden talents is gardening, and he's getting serious about it this year. We've already got strawberries coming in, and he's also planted peppers, onions, carrots, corn, beans, radishes, and more! I'm excited to have fresh produce growing in our backyard, and am so thankful that Aaron's taking this on.

Fitness Goals 

Now that I've officially been cleared, I'm excited to get back to work on my fitness goals. I've been walking a bunch, so I'm already at my pre-pregnancy weight, but it seems to arranged itself in different ways on my body ha. It was nice to jump back into 9Round this week, and I feel like I'm building back some muscles that haven't been used in so long. It's been a LONG time since I've legitimately been able to do abs and push-ups without modifications, so my body is sore, but it feels great! I'm also going to run my first half marathon at the end of September- something that has always been on my bucket list. I ran my first 3.1 miles since Eli last week, and it was challenging but it felt good. No better time than now to get this post-baby body in shape, especially with a Florida trip  (and wearing a swimsuit) coming up in a little over a month!

We're excited about all that May will bring: to have Daddy home for the summer and to gear up for trips including Eli's first flight and first trip to the beach! I hope you've had a wonderful April as well.

In Case You Missed Them:


Monday, April 10, 2017

Six Reasons You Should Visit Charlotte

As someone who loves to travel and plan trips, I'm always on the look out for new destinations to check out across the country. Even with Eli, we've got a few trips planned already this summer. One place that has me surprisingly interested is Charlotte, North Carolina. The city is actually the third-fastest growing city in America, and it has a lot more to offer than people may think. From racing headquarters to family fun and more, the largest city in North Carolina won't disappoint. Here are six must-visit attractions in Charlotte.

Six Reasons You Should Visit Charlotte, North Carolina

NASCAR Hall of Fame

From simulators to a surround sound theater experience, the NASCAR Hall of Fame truly has something to offer for everyone. The Hall of Fame gives a nod to race car legends and the art of racing while also providing state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and educational experiences for kids. Admission is $20 for adults, with lower rates available for students, military members, and children.


Trips just aren't complete without a little theme park stop, and Carowinds is the perfect one to visit. Consisting of both family and thrill rides, admission to the park also includes a visit to the Boomerang Bay Water Park. Located just south of Charlotte, the park is open April through October. Tickets start at $44.

Six Reasons You Should Visit Charlotte North Carolina
Image Source: Pixabay

US National Whitewater Center

If you're seeking a different type of thrill, you can check out the US National Whitewater Center. Consisting of 24 different land and water activities including kayaking, paddleboarding, rock climbing and more, there is truly something for everyone on the 1,300 acres that form the center. If you'd rather relax, check out the River Jam Concert Series, held here during the summer months.

Discovery Place Science

If you've got kids in tow, Discovery Place Science is a must-see attraction. The museum offers all sorts of fun and educational exhibits, shows, and events at a reasonable price. Be sure to check out the Aquarium Guided Tour and the hands-on biodiversity lab. Many of the best hotel options in the city are located within walking distance of this incredible museum.

Six Reasons You Should Visit Charlotte North Carolina
Image Source: Pixabay

Mint Museum Uptown

Located near both the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Bank of America Stadium, the Mint Museum houses a massive craft and design collection, along with an impressive art collection. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for seniors and students. Exhibits are always changing, so this is always the perfect cultural stop to add to your Charlotte itinerary.

7th Street Public Market

This indoor market is the perfect place to find homegrown produce, delicious local pizza from Pure Pizza, and all types of flowers, wine, and other treats. Special Events include wine flights, wine and cheese nights, and chocolate and cheese pairings. Open daily, this market is a can't miss stop on your Charlotte vacation.

Overall, Charlotte is a great destination for any traveler. From family-friendly fun to adventures and thrills, this city truly has it all. I'm already looking forward to taking Eli there to explore someday! Happy travels.


Friday, April 7, 2017

March Recap

Because a certain little someone decided to join the world at the end of February, I didn't end up doing a February recap. And here I am with a six week old (what?!), finally getting around to our March recap. Better late than never, right? March was an amazing month full of tons of new for us around here: me staying home, having a child, and all things that come along with the other two. Eli took up the majority of the month, but it was fun getting to experience lots of firsts with him. Here is a recap of our March, complete with lots of baby pics!

Being a Mama

 Even though Eli ended up being a February baby instead of a March baby like we expected, I would still consider March to be the first month I really felt like a mom. The first weeks truly were a blur of a newborn fog, and looking back they were pretty challenging and exhausting. (In case you missed it, check out my 10 Tips for Surviving the First 6 Weeks with a Baby to read more about our first few weeks). I'm truly in awe of what my body is capable of: from growing Eli for nine months, then birthing him, and now feeding him. God is amazing and the intricacy of his creation is so incredible, especially in babies. Being a mom is already the best, hardest thing I've ever done, and it is such a privilege. We feel so blessed with our sweet Eli, and I'll definitely be sharing a lot of my heart and what I've learned about being a mom in future blog posts.

Staying Home

I've officially been a stay at home mom of sorts for the last six weeks. Even though I'll be going back to the world of teaching in August, our timing with Eli worked out pretty well and I'll get to be home with our little guy for five months. I'm so grateful to have this time watching him grow and change, but it also presents its own challenges. For an extrovert like me, I have to find time to get out of the house every day, and often find myself scheduling hang out time with other friends and moms. I can definitely see the need for stay at home moms to get a little adult interaction, and it's weird for me to have so much downtime after coming off of the world of teaching, coaching, leading YoungLife, and more. I feel like I went from one hundred to zero in the matter of a day, and it has been a huge blessing to have time to just focus on our sweet little boy. That will always be my most important job, but I think that I'll appreciate being at school a little more when August rolls around.

Eli's One Month 

March 23rd marked one month for Eli! It was a big month full of lots of adventures to church, sporting events, and restaurants. He hit the 8 pound mark in March, and is already up to 9 pounds. His newborn onesies are getting tight, so we know the little guy is growing. He's already changed so much even since we took his Newborn Photos, and it's so fun to see his little personality emerging. He's a huge fan of his car seat, eating, and taking naps on his lounger. He is also blessed to have both sets of grandparents within 15 minutes of him, so he's had the best babysitters ever when Mommy and Daddy have gone out once a week. He takes a bottle like a champ which helps me feel a little more free, and he's been sleeping in his crib (which is in the room just across the hall) since the second night home. He usually gives us one 6 hour stretch at night, so I'm enjoying sleeping from 11 to around 5:30! We are excited to see all that his second month will bring.


 Amazing Support  

I can't say enough about the amazing help and support we had during the entire month of March. From meals to babysitting and more, our "village" has truly helped us more than we could have ever hoped. I've always known that our friends, family, and church family were really awesome, but I've been blown away by their generosity and thoughtfulness, especially in those first few weeks. There is something special about sharing Eli with them, and he is definitely blessed to be raised around such wonderful folks.


Trip Planning  

The last trip we went on before Eli was born was Nashville back at the end of December. E was only a few weeks old during our spring break this year, so we didn't travel at all for the first time in forever. Normally we are all about traveling over our teacher breaks, but I honestly didn't miss going somewhere as much as I thought I would- maybe because we weren't sleeping much. All that to say, I'm really looking forward to traveling some this summer. We've got trips to the Florida Keys and Seattle booked, and I'm excited to introduce our little guy to our love of travel and adventure.

March was a big, slower-paced month and time of transition for our family. I hope it was just as good for yours!


Monday, April 3, 2017

10 Tips for Surviving the First 6 Weeks with a Baby

Parenting is not easy, especially the first time around. From sleepless nights to endless diaper changes, there is so much to learn in the first few weeks of taking care of a newborn. This week marks six weeks for our sweet little Eli. (Read his birth story here.) It's hard to believe that we brought him home that long along and have successfully navigated the first month and a half. It's been a sweet time, but the newborn days definitely have their ups and downs. Here are ten tips for surviving, and even thriving during the first six weeks with a baby.

10 Tips for Surviving the First Six Weeks With a Baby

1. Give yourself grace.

One of the biggest keys to survival in the first six weeks is simply to recognize that you are learning, and to not be too hard on yourself (even if this isn't your first baby). This is a time where you'll be stretched beyond belief, not to mention hormonal, so it's totally okay and normal to cry and or feel overwhelmed. Even in the moments where you feel frustrated, don't let yourself believe that you are a failure. Don't get caught up in worrying about schedules or having the perfect baby. Recognize that you're an awesome mama who is totally rocking it, even when it doesn't always feel that way.

2. Give yourself a break.

 Taking care of a new baby can be daunting, and you can only listen to so much crying before you just need a break. Even if it's walking outside to grab the mail, take a few seconds to yourself to catch your breath. It won't hurt your baby to cry for a few minutes. If you've got someone else around to watch your little one, hop in the car and go grab some coffee or get your nails done. I did this when Eli was eight days old and it made me feel like a regular person, not just a spit-up covered mom. Taking a break keeps you from getting frustrated and exploding, and it also helps you feel refreshed and ready to love on your baby again.

3. Be honest. Don't worry about people-pleasing.

There will be so many visitors who will want to come and see your new little bundle, which is awesome. At the same time, you've got to be honest with them about the needs of you and your baby. If it's not a good time for visitors because you're in the middle of a feeding or you haven't slept at all, let them know. Find a time that works better and allow yourself to ask for flexibility. If you're feeling upset, overwhelmed, or just need a break, tell someone. Be real with your spouse, yourself, and your friends. Don't let yourself get caught up in making others happy, and protect your need to heal and navigate this new, difficult time with your baby. People will have lots of time to love on them when you're up to it. 

10 Tips for Surviving the First Six Weeks With a Baby

4.  Find your village and say yes to their help.

This is a time when you'll need your friends and family more than ever. When they offer to come sit with the baby so that you can nap or run errands, say yes. When they offer to cook a meal, say yes. When they offer to watch your little one so that you and Daddy can have a date night, say yes. Other moms have been there before and know what it's like.  Don't try to be supermom all on your own or feel bad about taking them up on their offer to help. You're not an inconvenience.

5. When in doubt, ask other moms.

Support and advice from other moms is huge. Although your baby is unique and what works for others may not work for you, it doesn't hurt to seek out knowledge from other experienced mamas. I've already found myself talking to my own mom about everything from nightly sleeping to if certain things are "normal" for a little one. Another mom helped me realize the need to "tuck" my little guy in his diaper so that he peed down into it instead of through all of his outfits. If you're not sure about something, ask. There is no question too silly.

6. Be prepared for lots and lots of bodily fluids. 

My goodness, can these little ones ever generate a whole lot of laundry! Of course, you've got to worry about diapers and all that fills them (especially if you've got a little boy who may bless you with a little fountain during changes). But on top of that, newborns spit up a LOT. Those with reflex spit up even more. At first this really worried me, but it's super normal when babies are little. Have burp cloths and bibs handy all of the time, and I wouldn't wear something that you aren't comfortable getting spit up on. We put bibs on over outfits so that we aren't changing outfits as frequently, and they can be really handy for preventing messy car seats.

10 Tips for Surviving the First Six Weeks With a Baby
 Check out Eli's gender neutral nursery!

7. Sleep when you can.

I heard "sleep when the baby sleeps" again and again during pregnancy, and I can totally see why people say it. But for me, there were times when I wanted to throw in a load of laundry or walk on the treadmill or just feel human when the baby sleeps. So I'd slightly tweak the statement to "sleep when you can". Sometimes this will definitely mean sleeping while the baby is snoozing during the day. But other times, it may mean going to bed at 8:30 so that you can catch some sleep before the first nightly feeding. It may mean giving your hubby the baby for a while so that you can nap. Or it may mean "sleeping in" until 1 pm because your little one didn't go to sleep until 5 am. But definitely find time to catch some sleep every now and then, because you'll be getting much less sleep than you're used to. Hang in there!

8. Eliminate some things or let them wait until later.

Because so much of your time will be devoted to loving on your new little one, there will be certain things that will either need to be put on hold for a while or possibly eliminated. I love keeping a neat house with things in their place, but in the first few weeks I had to let dishes and laundry sit for longer than I was used to. Of course I'm off on maternity leave, so I'm not working right now, but I also had to take more of a break from blogging, leading worship, and going out later in the evening because of our new baby. This doesn't mean that these things will never happen again, but rather that they aren't as pivotal right now as taking care of our baby.

9. Get out of the house with your baby.

I know many people feel like they can't take their baby out in public for the first six weeks, but for me it has been incredibly invigorating. It doesn't have to be a big ordeal to a huge destination, but even something as simple as going to the grocery store, the coffee shop, or on a Target run can make both you and the baby feel a little more lively. I've always been hopeful that our baby would fit into some elements of our lifestyle, and so I try to bring Eli along with us to church, out to eat, and to see our families. We also like to go on walks together and we plan to travel with him in a couple of months! For an extrovert like me, being inside our house all day every day with a little human who can't communicate with me would drive me crazy. Try getting out, and you may be surprised how easy it is and much better you feel! (After all, they sleep more now than ever.)

10. Remember that this time is short, and cherish it.

I really wish someone would have told me that the first night home from the hospital is the hardest. We had been basking in the joy of Eli's birth (and shipping him off to the nursery at night), so when he didn't sleep at all until 5 am the first night we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. But it gets easier. Even at six weeks, we think we're all starting to figure each other out and get into more of a predictable routine. And it's going fast. So even when it's frustrating, or overwhelming, or seems like an endless cycle of feeding, crying, and diaper changes, hang in there. Stop to marvel at your baby's smell, how peaceful they are when they (finally) sleep, and how little they are. Because someday soon they won't want to be held or snuggled or read to. Hang in there. Parenting is the best, hardest job ever, but it's totally worth it. You got this!


What helped you survive the first six weeks with your baby? Comment below or on the Facebook page. Be sure to follow along on Instagram if you aren't yet! 

10 Tips for Surviving the First Six Weeks With a Baby

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fun & Economical Travel Tips for Families

Being able to travel with family and to do so in fun, exciting and economical ways is something that is not always easy to do.  You probably love to get out on adventures as much as the next family does or plan a day trip on the weekends. A quick weekend excursion somewhere relatively close by is a great way to get in some extra rest and family bonding time.

When it comes to planning how you can get to your destination and how you can be as eco-conscious and economical on the way can be quite tricky, especially when traveling with little ones.

To that point, Rideshareapps, is a great way to introduce yourself to the benefits and advantages of sharing rides for travel. This is something to consider the next time you want to plan a quick weekend getaway with the family.

Regardless of how you get to where you are going, here are some eco-friendly travel tips that you can plan on for your next travel adventure with your family.

Travel Tips for Families
Bring stainless steel water bottles along for the ride. They are always a better idea than plastic water bottles, healthier, and of course better for the environment as you won’t be throwing them away and creating unnecessary waste.

Travel Light: Pack only as much as you really need. Pack clothing that can do double duty and that can easily transition from daywear to a night out for dinner at your destination. Often, many people tend to overpack for weekend getaways and trips because there is a concern that there won’t be enough clean clothes to go around, or perhaps weather could affect the way you pack.

Eliminate these fears by thinking logically. If there is anything that you are missing by the time you arrive to your destination, you can just buy a very inexpensive version of whatever it is that you feel you forgot.

You will also save money by packing less as you won’t have to pay extra for additional luggage at the airport. on having to pay for extra heavy luggage at the airport.

  1. Pack cloth or disposable diapers if you will have access to laundry services wherever you are traveling to. This will cut down on waste and of course is much more environmentally safe than traditional store bought diapers. Not to mention better for baby.
  2. Stay at Green Hotels-you can search for hotels that are committed to going green and who are socially responsible that are available at your destination of choice.
  3. Pack snacks-you will want to bring along healthy snacks like fruit, veggies, granola bars, homemade baby food, and any other snacks that your family loves for your trip. Not only will you be eating as healthy as you possibly can on the go you will avoid spending unnecessary money on expensive food items at travel rest stops or airports.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Eli's Newborn Photos

I've only been a parent for a few weeks now, but I'm already realizing how precious these moments are with our little one. It's crazy to think that someday Eli won't let me snuggle and kiss him, so even when I'm tired or frustrated, I'm trying to take advantage of the sweet time I have with him right now. Babies grow in the blink of an eye, and I knew that I wanted to capture Eli in his early days so I could always look back and remember how small and sweet he was. (Read his birth story here if you haven't yet!) I know I'll always cherish these photos.

Newborn photos of our sweet little one.

When I was looking around for newborn photographers, I was so excited to find my friend Kelsey of Kelsey Alumbaugh Photography. Kelsey and I were sorority sisters back at Mizzou, and it was SO much fun having her come to our home to capture photos of Eli when he was only a couple of weeks old. Kelsey shared some of her favorite photos from the shoot on her blog, and I am so excited to share some of mine with you today. I am so happy with how they turned out, and think that they capture our little man's personality perfectly. 

Newborn photos of our sweet little one.  
 Newborn feet photo

Newborn photos of our sweet little one. In an attempt to capture Eli in some sleepy moments, I fed him right before Kelsey came. Of course, like all plans with babies, that backfired and Eli ended up more awake than ever. We did manage to get him to snooze for a few photos, but I actually love that these newborn shots capture his love for his hands, sticking his tongue out, and kicking his feet. He makes the silliest faces sometimes, and I couldn't love them (or him) more. 

Newborn photos of our sweet little one.

Newborn photos of our sweet little one.

Newborn photos of our sweet little one.
Newborn photos of our sweet little one.

After we got some newborn photos of baby E on his own, we headed up into his nursery for some lifestyle shots. (Check out Eli's Gender Neutral Nursery here!) I love how Kelsey captured our love for our sweet little boy, along with some candid moments of the three of us. Because what is parenthood without baby yawns, kisses, and some unexpected laughs?

Seeing Aaron be a daddy makes my heart melt. Eli doesn't even know how lucky he is to have him. One thing is for sure, I couldn't be more in love with my boys. I am enjoying every second, but also look forward to the days when Eli and Daddy do fun things together like Boy Scouts, working on cars, and of course getting into all sorts of fun trouble and teaming up against Mommy! Aren't they just the sweetest? Be still, my heart.


I'm so grateful that we will have these photos forever, to cherish and to look at and remember our little seven pound peanut and our time as a new family of three. I'm sure it will be fun to show them to him someday. You are prized and precious, sweet Eli. We love you so much, no matter what, and we always will. 

If you're looking for photos, be sure to check out Kelsey Alumbaugh Photography! She does an amazing job with babies, maternity, engagement, weddings, and more, and we are so happy with our shots of little Eli.
You can also follow along with her and her work on Facebook and Instagram! 


If you'd like to check other pregnancy and motherhood posts on the blog, click here

Monday, March 13, 2017

Things to Leave Out of Your Diaper Bag

 While I'm out on blogging maternity leave, today's post is by Sydney of She is sharing tips on a very fitting topic for me right now: diaper bag safety! 

Parents: We always want to do what’s best for our babies. After all, keeping these sweet bundles of joy safe, healthy, and happy is what we strive for as loving parents and caretakers. As a mom or dad, you’re probably aware of the grand selection of new products continuously claiming to be exactly what you need. In terms of safety, one would assume since an item was made for a delicate baby it must be harmless, right? Well, I hate to say it, but that’s far from the truth!

After doing much research, it has been determined that some common baby care products contain nasty, dangerous chemicals. Yikes. Don’t worry though- below is a list of ingredients you can be sure to avoid:

Propylene Glycol (PEG and PPG): Baby wipes (also found in your windshield wiper fluid!)
Triclosan: pacifiers, anything “antibacterial”
Bisphenol-A (BPA): The liquid inside teething rings
Talc: Baby powder
Fragrance (generally made of coal and petroleum derived synthetic chemicals): Disposable diapers, baby powder, baby wash and shampoo, lotions
Formaldehyde: Baby shampoo

While some of these dangers may seem self-explanatory such as Propylene Glycol, or PEG and PPG (cleaning your baby's bum with the same thing you use for cleaning your car windshield!), others still seem innocent and even helpful. Like Triclosan. Before knowing what I know now, I would have naturally chosen an antibacterial product over a non-antibacterial product. The tricky thing about Triclosan is it’s a carcinogenic endocrine disruptor (that’s a mouthful) that also happens to be harmful to the environment. Long story short, let your baby’s system create natural resistance and immunity without the antibacterial products.

Another complex product: Talc. Yes, that’s what’s in fresh-scented baby powder that’s used to treat diaper rash. Unfortunately, studies have found talc to be associated with ovarian cancer and was contaminated with asbestos years ago. Although the asbestos is no longer present in the products sold today, even asbestos-free talc may not be completely safe. To avoid any risk, use talc-free products that contain arrowroot, earth clays, cornstarch, or rice powder, such as Baby Bee's Dusting Powder or Honest Organic Baby Powder.

Now for the formaldehyde. It’s a known human carcinogen- an agent directly involved in causing cancer. Interestingly enough, formaldehyde may not be listed as an ingredient in your baby’s shampoo. So you think: “great, don’t have to worry!”. Well, not quite. Formaldehyde is a sneaky chemical and some products may contain formaldehyde “releasers”. Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include: Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea. After some poking around, it looks like Dr. Bronner's Unscented Baby-Mild Pure Castile Soap is a solid choice. Grab it on your next Target run.

You can see that your baby is far better off with minimal intervention from several mainstream baby products. If you see one of these ingredients on your baby’s product, you can easily make a switch. Usually, you can find a decent variety at either your local health food store or just by searching Google. Don’t forget that not all products marked “natural” or “organic” are in fact wholly natural or organic. And when in doubt, double check with your pediatrician. In fact, they probably have some fantastic recommendations!

Sydney is passionate about keeping families safe. She researches and writes about important health topics for, where she focuses on women's and children's health, as well as food allergies.  I'm thankful for her tips and words today!


Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Perfectly Place Your Furniture in Small Spaces

 While I'm out on blogging "maternity leave", today's post is from Ash. He gives some great tips on how to make the most of your small spaces. Check it out!

Renting or buying a place may not be for everyone, and it is not always easy to get a place with a large space. The bigger the space, the more it will cost.

To maximize your modern prefab home, it will take a lot of thought and moving around furniture until you get your ideal look and homey feel. It can be hard to fit everything in small spaces, especially if there are a few of you occupying the area.

But with these tricks, you’ll be like a kid again who’s excited to finally have accomplished maximizing the little space you have. You may need to do some new furniture shopping or if you already have some, might still need some arrangements so that you can fit everything perfectly.

Brighten Your Home with a Mirror 

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You’ve probably heard of this one or have at least come across the idea, but having a mirror, usually in the center of your wall, helps widen and brighten your room and make others feel like you have a bigger room. As soon as people step foot in your home, they’ll be in a good mood as they are greeted by the lights reflected from the mirror.

Take Advantage of Elevated Beds 

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Although this is pretty popular in rooms for teens or kids, as well as in dorms, an elevated bed can definitely maximize your space, as you have more room for storage, wardrobe, sofa, table, or whatever you wish to put under the bed. This means that you can add more to your room or have more space in it to do whatever you want.

Use Bright Colored Furniture

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Instead of using dark colored furniture, use bright colored pieces to make your space seem bigger and brighten up one’s mood. In fact, there’s even a list of which colors you can use for each mood.

Diagonally Place Your Furniture 

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A great trick to making your room look larger and more appealing is by placing your furniture diagonally. Keep in mind, though, to not place furniture near the doors to avoid having a cramped room.

Take Advantage of Multipurpose Furniture 

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There are so many ways to use furniture pieces, so maximizing such is a must. For instance, a coffee table can be used for eating, working, and storage. Afterward, you can simply put it back to its original size and tuck it in the corner or beside your sofa.

Maximize Shelves 

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Next time you buy a shelf or if you know anyone who can build one, make sure that there are a lot of drawers and shelves inside so you can place more items. Don’t waste a single space and just squeeze everything inside. This way, anything can be easily tucked inside, and you can really make the most of the space you have.

Use Sofa Beds Instead of Normal Beds 

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Since some beds can be transitioned into a sofa, consider these over normal beds for your small space. This furniture would make you say goodbye to useless furniture and make space for other items.

These are just a few of the tips you can use in your own space. Do you have any other tips in mind? Share it with us!

Ash Genete is a consultant for Revolution Precrafted. Aside from real estate, architecture and interior design, his interests include media, marketing, and pop culture. He's a Pokemon fan. If he's not writing blog posts and doing academic research, he's probably at the beach or on a mountaintop.