Monday, July 31, 2017

July Recap

For as long as I've known, I've dreaded July 31st. Why? Because it signified the start of August and what it brought along with it: the end of summer and the start of school. Summer has always been my absolute favorite: pool days, sunshine, travel, and time off from work- what's not to like? It has been extra sweet this year with our little man in tow. I'm sad to see July come to a close, especially because it's been such a fun month of adventures. Here's what we've been up to!

Seattle Vacation

We kicked off July with a visit to Seattle. We'd never been to the Pacific Northwest, and I was really excited about seeing it for the first time. Eli did great on the almost four hour flight, and we took the LINK light rail directly into downtown. This trip we only checked one bag for all three of us, and then had a diaper bag, backpack, and umbrella stroller. (No car seat, because no car rides!) We also stayed at one hotel, the Grand Hyatt, all three nights so we didn't have to check in and out of hotels, and Eli slept in a hotel crib so we didn't bring our pack and play. It was a lot easier and a lot less stuff than all we had when we went to the Keys.

We had to do touristy things like visit the famous Pike Place Market and the gum wall. We didn't plan our trip around this, but the Royals were actually playing in Seattle when we were there so we went to the game. Being on Western time meant that Eli was up wayyyy past his bedtime and he wasn't too happy about it when we were leaving after the Royals won in extra innings, but it was still so great. We were able to get seats right by the visitor dugout for very little money, and we actually ended up meeting both Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain and getting their autographs! Eli won't remember, but he'll have a great story some day!

The next day we slept in a bit and then took the ferry across to Bainbridge Island. It was a really pretty ride over, and we enjoyed some restaurants and wine tasting. Eli loved his first ferry ride! He's such a great traveler. 

On our last day, we went to the Space Needle. It was great, but you had to park your stroller before getting in line, so we had to switch off holding a sleeping Eli. Totally would've brought my carrier if I'd known! We also visited the University of Washington Campus and went into the Fremont area where we enjoyed my favorite restaurant of the entire trip, the Stoneway Cafe. Of course we had to take a picture with the troll, and we also grabbed some yummy chocolate at the Theo Factory. We'll definitely come back again, but we had a perfect amount of time to see all the main touristy sights while enjoying the beautiful weather! It was the perfect last summer trip for me and Eli.

Ten Days without Daddy

You'll notice I said for me and Eli, because Aaron still had another big trip left for the summer: an EF Tour with middle school students to Italy. This trip was "sold" almost two years ago, and I was originally going to go as a chaperone as well. But when we decided to try to start our family, we knew that there was a possibility I wouldn't be going to Italy. And then I got pregnant the first month.

All that to say, I stayed home with Baby E while Daddy was away in Italy for ten days. It was hard. Aaron and I have been apart before, but only for five days and he was just a few hours away and in the States. The seven hour time difference meant that we usually Facetimed around 3 pm Central time. It was so fun watching Eli see and hear Aaron on the phone, and it was a time I was very thankful for technology.

We spent lots of time hanging out with my friends (including another Royals game) and enjoying time with family to help the time pass by, but I was definitely very grateful for Aaron to be back home! 

Eli's Five Month Update

This month Eli is weighing in right around 15 pounds. He sleeps in his sleepsack every night, and does a great job sleeping in his crib, pack and play, on the swing, in the car, or pretty much anywhere. Sometimes he even plays so hard on his activity mat that he falls asleep. He slept through fireworks on his first 4th of July, started taking hour long+ naps, and learned how to cradle Mama's face in his hands. He went to his first three Royals games, kept Mommy company while Daddy was gone, and started growing out of his 3 month outfits. 

Eli loves fake standing, dancing to "Wobble", laughing at Bandit, and shaking his head from side to side. He self-plays like a champ, and is filling out his size two diapers a little better. He's so snuggly and cuddly, especially when he's tired and after he eats. He is also babbling like crazy, and sits fairly well with assistance. Eli just keeps getting better and better, and each month is my new favorite. 

My Golden Birthday

Just a few days ago I also celebrated my golden birthday: 28 on the 28th! I enjoyed a wonderful day full of thoughtful cards and gifts, pool time, Starbucks, and a delicious dinner at Lidia's with my hubby. The next night, the celebration continued with a Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse Dinner with these lovely ladies and my boys, followed by hanging out at our home where others joined us before enjoyed a little dancing out with the girls!

I wrote a little birthday reflection about this year and my thoughts on aging, and you can read it here.

In Case You Missed Them: 

Our Summer Family Photos
Taking Care of Mama: The Oxygen Mask Mentality
The Best of Brooklyn
Goodbye 27: A Birthday Reflection

July was the best month. I'd do it all over again if I could. But instead, I'm going back to work. Sad day. Please be praying for me in this new chapter as a working mom! Any tips are welcome. August, here we go.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Goodbye 27: A Birthday Reflection

Oh 27, you'll always go down as one for the books. It's only been a year, but it almost feels like a lifetime ago that I was riding the streetcar to dinner, hiding the secret of a tiny baby growing deep within me. Back when I got ready to go out without having to pack a bottle and diapers or worry about childcare. Last year on this day,  I was a little scared and unsure about being a mom, but beyond elated and excited for all that was to come. And while this year has had its challenges and lessons, it's truly been the sweetest yet. 

This year I've learned just how selfish I was before having a baby, and what it means to love someone before you've even met them. I've learned the importance of "mama breaks", freezer meals, and iced coffee. I've grown to appreciate the joys of eating dinner with both hands, sleeping past 6 AM, and feeling a little piece of your heart walk around outside of you. I've learned to see the world anew as I witness it through the eyes of my precious son. I have survived pregnancy, childbirth, sleepless nights, and another year of teaching. 

I'll never forget the feeling of meeting our son for the first time and feeling his warmth on my chest as we locked eyes, or the feeling of those first little kicks deep inside me. I'll never forget the memories of our baby moons: of getting snowed in an extra day in Chicago, watching the Bears game in the snow in a trash bag, and of catching a free country concert on the streets of Nashville. I'll remember coaching softball while pregnant and counting down every day until March 5. I'll never forget the weekly bump pictures in my striped maxi dress, the excitement of showers, or the anticipation of meeting our little one and finding out whether Baby K was a boy or a girl. I will never forget watching my husband love our son and feeling as though my heart could burst. 

27, you taught me what it means to rely on other people, to be honest and vulnerable with them in a way that truly shows just how much they matter and how much I need them. You taught me what it's like to give up my own freedom, yet never regret it because watching our son grow and change is so worth it. You reminded me again and again what a blessing family and friends can be. This year has grown me and stretched me and led me to emotions I never knew I could have. I have cried more tears and worried more worries and ultimately been drawn back to the Lord in ways that I never have before. And in the end, I've come out stronger and wiser and feeling more blessed than ever.

So goodbye to you, 27. I'd like to thank you for the wonderful memories. Becoming a mom, welcoming our son into this world, celebrating our fourth year of marriage, finding my first gray hair: those will be hard moments to top. And as I march closer and closer to 30, I remember what a privilege it is to age, one that some people never get to experience. I am so blessed. Bring it on, 28. You've got big shoes to fill.

In celebration of CWS' Blogiversary, I've teamed up with some great bloggers to bring to you a giveaway for a $200 Target Gift Card!

To enter, complete as many tasks as you can in the Rafflecopter form. Enter fairly. All entries will be verified before a winner is chosen. US only. No giveaway accounts allowed - they're automatically disqualified. Again, enter honestly and have FUN! 

This giveaway is not sponsored by Target and it runs from 7/27 - 8/3. The winner will be chosen and contacted by 8/4. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Best of Brooklyn

If you're planning to visit New York City, one area you've got to take the time to visit is Brooklyn. This is the most populous borough out of the five that compose NYC, and it offers a variety of neighborhoods and experiences that are sure to delight visitors of all kinds. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or even just some solo exploring, check out this guide for ideas on what to see, where to eat, and where to stay! 

What to See

Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg 

Smorgasburg is a culinary experience with 100+ vendors. This is actually the nation's largest open-air market, and it's open every weekend. It takes place on the Williamsburg waterfront on Saturdays and in Prospect Park on Sundays. For more information, check out the Smorgasburg website!  

East River Ferry 

For $5.50, you can ride along the Brooklyn waterfront and see the neighborhood, no matter the weather. For the map of the ferry route that includes all NYC ferries, click here

Coney Island and Boardwalk

Source: Unsplash
The beach and boardwalk of this popular area are open year round, but the rides are open Easter weekend through Labor Day. This is a great place to enjoy a NYC hot dog or even catch a Coney Island Cyclones Minor League Baseball game. Be sure to ride the historic wooden coaster, the Cyclone.  

The Nighthawk Cinema

This fun cinema shows 1980s movies, has cheap tickets, and also offers dinner and cocktail options. It's another local favorite in Williamsburg! 

Brooklyn Bridge

Source: Unsplash
The Brooklyn Bridge is the gateway from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, and it's one of the most iconic landmarks in all of New York City. You can walk, bike, or drive over the bridge for free. It does get pretty crowded, so go either early in the morning or late at night. 

Where to Eat 

Brooklyn is known to have some of the very best pizza in New York City. Some local favorites include Juliana's, Pauli Gee's, Lucali, and Di Far. A restaurant literally named Diner is also another fun and different option for a meal. If you're looking for brunch, visit Buttermilk Channel, and try Sweetwater Grill for an awesome burger. Save room for dessert at either Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain or Ample Hills Creamery. Check out this guide to Brooklyn neighborhoods for more ideas. 

Where to Stay 

There are a variety of fabulous Brooklyn neighborhoods with wonderful hotels for you to enjoy during your stay. Williamsburg is one of the most popular neighborhoods within Brooklyn, and it's known as the area's hipster hub. Bay Ridge is located on the south side of Brooklyn, and offers great shopping and biking. Coney Island is a must visit for families, and Bushwick is quickly growing in popularity as an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood and destination. 

No matter where you decide to stay, Brooklyn offers you many choices for fabulous meals, fun memories, and unique experiences that you can't find elsewhere. Have an amazing time! 


Monday, July 17, 2017

Taking Care of Mama: The Oxygen Mask Mentality

Although I am by no means an expert at this whole mom gig, within the last five months I've started to find the beginnings of my mama groove. I'm realizing how I want to approach the transition from my pre-kiddo life into this more full, less selfish phase. Obviously I've got a LONG ways to go when it comes to parenting and handling numerous situations that will one day come up with our child, and I don't claim to have all of the answers. But it's been fun to talk to women in their pre-kids stage about the things I've realized so far, including the need for what I like to call "the oxygen mask mentality".
If you're a frequent flyer, you remember the little safety speech they give at the beginning of each flight: you know, the one you don't pay much attention to. During this speech, they always talk about how the oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling if the cabin loses air pressure. And if you watch closely after that, what do they do next? Walk to each parent and tell them to be sure to put on their own mask before they start securing one on their child's face. The point behind this is simple: if you can't breathe, you're going to pass out before you can help your child. If you don't take a second to save yourself, then you won't be able to save your kids. And I would argue that this same mentality can be very important when it comes to parenting.

I'm not saying to constantly put yourself first as a parent. Of course not. But I am saying that I have to adopt this mentality every now and then to ensure that I can be the best mom I can to our son. That if I don't take some time for myself every now and then, to stop and figuratively put my oxygen mask on, then I'm not going to be able to be the happy, fun-loving, engaged mama that I want to be.

So what does this look like? Well for me, it looks like taking time nearly every day to go work out. Sure, it takes a lot more effort to find this time than it used to, and someone has to watch Eli while I do it, but it's worth it to me. This mama gets to de-stress, unwind, and get the blood flowing a little bit. And I'm not willing to give that up because it's important to me, good for me, and good for my parenting. Because it gives me a little break and leaves me refreshed and ready to come back to my baby and love the heck out of him.

Or other times, maybe it means reaching out to a loving husband, a supportive family, or fabulous friends, and just being real about needing a little break. Even if it's grabbing coffee and reading a book for 30 minutes, getting your nails done, or taking a longer day away to run errands or clean, taking a break from our babies doesn't make us bad parents. It makes us better. It helps us remember ourselves, our hobbies, our talents, our marriages, and our ability to have adult interaction.

The oxygen mask mentality expands beyond just purposeful "me time" to also include intentional date time. I truly believe that our children benefit the most when their parents are committed to keeping their marriage healthy and happy. This requires intentional effort to spend time together one on one and to remember where this all started: with the two of us. (Check out Why I'm Still Dating My Husband for more ideas on how you can date your spouse). Devoting time to our spouses doesn't make us bad parents: again, it makes us better.

Having a baby doesn't mean that you have to lose yourself completely. In fact, I would argue that you will lose yourself if you forget to make yourself a priority every now and then. Take a break. Work out. Pamper Mama a bit. Take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Date your spouse. Be okay with letting someone watch your baby for a while, and then come back to them and be the best mom that you can. I know it can be hard, and can take some planning and extra effort, but trust me: you're worth it. Your babies are worth it. That "oxygen" leaves you refreshed and ready to pour into your sweet family with a fresh outlook, more patience, and a whole lot of love. So put your mask on first, Mama. And then go love those kiddos. You'll be glad you did, and so will they.


Check out other posts about Motherhood here, or follow along on Instagram or Facebook

Monday, July 10, 2017

Our Summer Family Photos

Summer has always been my absolute favorite time of the year. Between sunshine, traveling, and time off as a teacher, what's not to like? This summer has not disappointed. Even as a family of three, we've still gone on adventures, visited the pool, and made lots of lasting memories. I'd say this first summer as a mama has been sweeter than ever, and watching Eli grow and change and explore the world with us has been a true joy.

Summer Family Photos

It's amazing how quickly Eli has changed since his newborn photos! You may follow along with his monthly updates in my recap posts, but in case you don't he is already four and a half months old and is growing like a weed. I was SO excited to capture this age with some new family photos, and jumped at the chance to work with my amazing friend Sarah of Sarah Longmore Photography. I met Sarah through a mutual friend a few years ago, and had the honor of leading YoungLife with her. I can truly say that she is such a sweet person and friend and I am so in love with these photos that capture cute and silly moments with our little man.

Summer Family Photos

We set out to take some photos at the park near our home. Of course, it was June in Kansas City, so it was pushing ninety and the bugs were out. We weren't sure how Eli would do, but we knew we had about an hour to work with! He was true to baby form, with photos that capture his drool, his smile, and his natural curiosity.

 I'm wondering if our little blue-eyed boy will stay blue-eyed. Sometimes when his pupils are less dilated, I see a little circle of brownish-green in the middle. My eyes are hazel and have the same circle, so I'm curious to see if he will stay blue-eyed with the colored ring in the middle, or if his eyes will change. Any guesses?

 Towards the end of the shoot, Eli was starting to get a little restless, and started staring up at distractions around us. His newfound love for sucking on his hand meant that Mommy and Daddy were having to pull it away from his mouth. And so we ended up with a few photos like this.

 I love these photos because they capture a real glimpse of parenting and being a young family. To me that "real" is messy and beautiful and oh so fun. There are times when Eli cries or makes life more challenging, but overall this season is silly and fun and I love navigating through it with my amazing husband. I love my boys.

If you're in the Kansas City area and are looking for some great photos, be sure to check out Sarah Longmore Photography! Sarah is fabulous to work with. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram

If you'd like to check out more of my posts on Motherhood, including the popular post Nine Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby, click here. You can also follow along with me on Instagram. Thanks for stopping by!