Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Year in Review

2017 has been a defining year for us: the year that we became parents. It's almost like all of the time before Eli was a whole different life. Pre-kiddo life was sweet, but life is even sweeter now.  Being a mama is the best thing ever. As I reflect on the year, I love looking back at the 17 Things I Was Excited for in 2017, and seeing how we've accomplished all I hoped to. Some of you may stop by this corner of the web more often than others, so whether you're new here or read regularly, here's a recap of our year: complete with highlights, posts, and fun photos. Cheers to you, 2017- you were the best year yet!


In January, this blog marked its second birthday! I celebrated by sharing my Two Year Blogging Anniversary post. I wrote my last letter to our unborn baby, and shared my 32 week bump date. We also took our maternity photos on a 70 degree January day! They made me feel beautiful, even though I was pretty big at that point.


February was all about finishing up the nursery and getting it ready for our sweet Baby K! I shared my final bump date at 36 weeks, wrote and shared my Christian Labor Playlist, and literally shared our Gender Neutral Nursery Reveal the DAY BEFORE Eli decided to join the world on February 23rd :) Crazy! I'm still in love with our finished product, and the best part is the sweet little boy who calls it his room.


Our Baby K was always supposed to be a March baby (due March 5th), but he came ten days early! In March, I wrote and shared his birth story! Eli attended his first parade on St. Patrick's Day. We also took his newborn photos, and adjusted to being brand new parents to our sweet baby boy.


April brought a fun trip to the zoo and Eli's first Easter. I starting working out again and training for my first half marathon. I also wrote and shared my 10 Tips for Surviving the First 6 Weeks with a Baby, and Eli started sleeping through the night! Woo!


May brought the end of my maternity leave, but then I was able to go right into the summer time before having to go to work! I wrote Shower Gifts New Moms Really Want (and Need), and shared our Secrets to Thrifty Travel.  I enjoyed my first Mother's Day with my sweet boy, and planned our summer trips! 


In June, we took our little man on his first vacations, plane ride, and road trip! He visited the ocean and was basically a champ on all of our adventures! I wrote a First: A Letter to Eli, shared some DIY Newborn Photo Shoot Tips, and had a blast in Florida and Colorado. We loved the Florida Keys and Everglades, and it was fun celebrating Aaron's first Father's Day while in the mountains! 


In July, we celebrated Eli's first Fourth of July! We also squeezed in another family trip- this time to gorgeous Seattle! A highlight was meeting Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain at the Royals game while on our trip. They even signed Eli's onesie and my jersey! I wrote about my Oxygen Mask Mentality, and said Goodbye to My 27th Year. Eli and I also made it through ten days alone while Aaron was in Italy, and we took our first round of family photos. It was a busy month!


In August, my six-month maternity leave ended as I returned back to school. Guys, it was hard. But after a while, I fell into a good routine (more on that in October).  Between working and being a mama, I didn't find a lot of time to blog, but I did share my Travel Bucket List and a sweet piece to Eli called "I Carried You". 


In September, I picked up my training for the Kansas City Half Marathon, enjoyed sweet time with church friends, and made it out to Starlight for a little girls night fun! Again, the blog didn't get much love, but I did share a Fourth House-iversary post. I can't believe we've already been in our home for four plus years! Time flies! 


October was a big month for us! We had parent teacher conferences, two weddings (one out of town with Aaron being a groomsmen), Eli's Baptism, Fall Fest, a Half Marathon, and Eli's first Halloween! Phew. I wrote about How to Survive and Thrive as a Working Mom, and followed up on my initial 9 Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby post with What Being a Mom is Really Like.  I'm already signed up for my next half! 


In November, we celebrated Aaron's birthday while leading music for a weekend trip at Clearwater Cove YoungLife Camp. We had a great first Thanksgiving with little man, and I didn't blog at all because we had so much going on. Just after Thanksgiving, we took our next round of family photos. I love them!


And here it is the last day of December- I can hardly believe it! I shared Our Winter Family Photos and a 2017 Holiday Home Tour. We enjoyed some fun Christmas parties with friends, and Aaron was a groomsmen in a wedding of two of our sweet friends. Aaron and I also had a little parents-only getaway to the Napa Valley area. Eli's first Christmas was AMAZING! He was so funny, cute, and excited, and it truly brought new life to things I've done for years and years. Being off for 12 days with him and Aaron has been incredible, and it's going to be hard to go back.

Cheers to 2018 and all that it will bring! I pray that it finds you healthy, happy, and oh so loved. Thanks for sticking around this year and loving on us in this new season. We hope you'll join us next year for all of our new adventures! 


Friday, December 22, 2017

6 Things to Avoid on a Couple's Trip

This post has been compensated by Sandals. I only share brands that I think you'll love! 

Aaron and I have been on plenty of vacations together, just the two of us, and they're a blast. In fact, we just got done planning our 5th wedding anniversary getaway (how did that happen?)! But let's be real, there are elements of travel that can make things stressful, and lead to some arguments along the way. Here are six things to avoid on your next couple's trip, so that you can focus on relaxing and having a great time together!

Whether it’s your tenth vacation as a couple or your first, there are certain travel mistakes you will make unintentionally. To avoid making such mistakes, you need to be aware of the possible missteps you can make in the first place.

Because of pride, we all fancy ourselves as master planners. With travel, nothing can be further from the truth. There are so many aspects of travel that are not fixed in stone that even the best travel planner will get some things wrong if they don’t allow enough wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances.

If you are traveling as a couple, you want to account for both of your needs and the fact that your feelings about the itinerary may change during the course of the vacation. Put trust in your partner and work as a team and enjoy your vacation. To get there, here are some of the common travel mistakes couples make that you should avoid.

Having a Tight Itinerary

Inexperienced travelers always make the mistake of assuming that seeing as many attractions as they can in a given destination amounts to a successful trip. This is not true as experiences such as travel are better consumed in terms of quality and not in terms of quantity.

Since you are traveling as a couple, you will be slower than the typical solo traveler. To fully enjoy the attractions you visit and not rush through the experience, allow yourself some wiggle room in your itinerary. You shouldn’t book your experiences within minutes of each other. If the rules allow it, you can buy tickets to the attractions you want to visit at the gate instead of buying them in advance so you don’t have to commit to a specific entry time.

Operating From Two Different Budgets

Money is a critical factor of any travel experience. Also, money is one of the greatest sources of arguments for people in relationships. To insure your trip from money arguments, draw a budget for the two of you. This sets the expectations for how much money the two of you will spend and so serves to curtail conflicts during the trip.

You don’t have to follow the budget strictly. The budget should only serve as a general guideline on what expenses are reasonable or acceptable.

Not Taking Enough Photos as a Couple

The easiest thing to do when you are vacationing with your partner is to take turns taking pictures of each other at the attractions you will be visiting. It comes naturally and seems like the most convenient path towards taking cool pictures. 

If you follow this path, you will end up with a collection of travel photos that look like the two of you took two separate vacations to the same spots. To avoid this, banish your shyness and ask other tourists totake photos of you next to your partner. No one will mind. I have never met a traveler who refused a polite request to take pictures of other travelers. If there aren’t any other travelers around, a selfie will suffice.

Following a Solo Traveler’s Guide to Travel

Traveling solo and traveling as a couple are two totally different experiences. There are several nuances to solo travel that will not sit well with a couple. Solo travelers have greater flexibility on accommodation and itinerary planning than couples. They can also change things at a moment’s notice without worrying about what another person thinks or feels.

As a couple, you also get to enjoy certain advantages that solo travelers can’t enjoy. Most travel resorts are built with couples in mind so you will have a greater selection of luxury resorts to choose from—just make sure you pick an adults-only resort, not an all-inclusive for families. If you are unsure the kind of itinerary that would suit your situation, just call a tour operator and ask for guidance.

Not Giving Each Other Some Space

Vacationing with your significant other means that you are putting yourself in a situation where you will be spending hours and hours together. This can be tiring. Everyone needs some time alone.

If you communicate openly and honestly, your partner won’t have any trouble allowing you a few hours to do whatever you want by yourself.

Not Bringing Accessories for Both of You

While there are some things you can share, if there are accessories that the two of you may need to use at the same time, do bring two. You should always carry two e-readers if the two of you are heavy readers, two phone chargers, two earphones or headphones, and two binoculars if you are going animal or bird watching.

Which of these have been the biggest struggle for you on previous vacations? I've definitely learned a few of them along the way! Happy traveling! 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Our 2017 Holiday Home Tour

And then, just like that, there was one week left until Christmas! I love this time of the year: the lights, the laughter, the love- just everything. I also love decorating our home for the holiday season. It brings me so much joy. I started earlier than ever this year, which helped because I wasn't stressed and I got to do it in bits and pieces. Here's a little peek into our home for this year!

I've sort of adopted the "less is more" mentality when it comes to decorating. I still love having a little bit of Christmas cheer in every room, but I've found that doesn't have to mean filling every nook and cranny. I pick my favorite accents (pinecones, red berries, and buffalo check accents), and then I use them throughout. I also love decorating on a budget, so I made my own little dollar store ornament garland. 

 I love the coziness of our basement, especially this time of year. And we had to add another little stocking this year for our little man. I just used one we had around the house for now, and then I'll buy him one on clearance after Christmas (because that's how I roll).

There's nothing like our front room with the soft glow of the Christmas tree in the evening. I love adding subtle farmhouse Christmas decor to this room. I've also found that I love hanging a pretty wreath on the inside of the door. Then I don't have to worry about the weather messing it up, and I get to see it every time I walk down the stairs! Eli can't quite reach the ornaments to pull them off of the tree this year, so I'm basking in the joy of one final year with ornaments near the bottom ha!

Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends! May this season be one of warmth, love, and joy.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our Winter Family Photos

I've always been a big fan of certain things about winter: the snow days, the warm cuddly clothes, and of course everything about Christmas. I love the lights, the music, gifts, songs, movies, and most importantly, the special time with family celebrating the birth of Jesus. I'm also a really big fan of Christmas cards, as my nostalgic English teacher self loves words, connecting with folks, and the yearly Christmas card photos! And you know what? This time of year is even sweeter with a baby! I didn't know it was possible to love this season even more, but I truly do this time around. And it's mainly because of sweet moments with my two sweet guys.

When checking off my own holiday to-do list this year, I realized that we hadn't taken family photos since our summer session with Sarah Longmore Photography. Let's just say that babies grow QUICK, y'all. I mean seriously, Eli looks so different than he did five months ago. I also wanted some photos to capture this age for Mr. E: an age full of curiosity, discovery, and lots of sweet smiles. We were so excited to work with Sarah again. She is so sweet and understanding when it comes to the craziest of planning and taking photos with a baby! 

We set out to take photos at Hodge Park in Liberty on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (and after the Chiefs game). I am so in love with our little family, and I love how Sarah captured these moments. Let's just say that choosing a Christmas card photo was way harder than I anticipated- too many great options. Since I don't have everyone's address and can't possibly afford to send everyone an actual card, consider this post a Christmas hello from our family to yours. And some of you should be receiving a card and photo in the mail soon! 

Like I share in my monthly recap blog posts (see November's here), there is a piece of me that is a little sad to see Eli growing so quickly, but the other side of me is truly loving each new month more and more. He is such a sweet, content baby, and he truly brings us so much joy in ways I never knew possible. And that little vest? He just kills me in it! Throw Daddy into the mix and my heart just melts. God is too good. 

 Our only wardrobe change involved losing the vest and swapping out the pants (which is super easy at this age, ha!). I also love that little man could sit up this photo session- that was a game changer! I'm not sure what I love more- his baby blues or his two little teeth. He's so content! Does this mean I'm in for a terror of a second child some day? Please say no.

I will truly cherish these photos forever. I mean, don't you just want to grab him and squeeze those sweet little cheeks? I know I'm biased, but I sure do think he's pretty adorable! 

 Eli is developing a little bit of separation anxiety when I leave the room these days. He's usually fine once he's distracted, but I will say that it feels kind of good that he misses me. Especially at the end of a long day, there's nothing quite like coming home to his sweet smile, arms waving in the arm, and happy sounds. I kinda hope he's a bit of a Mama's boy for life (but don't tell Daddy).

I always knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother, but it is truly more sweet than I could ever have imagined. At some point, we'd like another kiddo (or two, Lord willing), but for now we are perfectly content and blessed to be a family of three. We love our sweet boy more than words can say, and it is the biggest blessing to watch him grow and change. He's so stinkin fun (and just a touch ornery)!

If you're looking for some great family photos in the Kansas City area, be sure to check out Sarah Longmore Photography. You can also follow along with Sarah on Facebook or Instagram

I love these photos because they're not all so "Christmasy" that I can't enjoy frame them and enjoy them year round, but they do have a little holiday cheer. Merry Christmas to you all! May 2018 be the sweetest and most blessed year yet!


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