How I Stay Zen: A Conversation on Crystals

How I Stay Zen: A Conversation on Crystals

Recently a sweet friend of our family remarked that I make motherhood look effortless. I took that as the ultimate compliment, but trust me there is a lot of effort going on here. There are great days with my boys, and days where I’m counting down the minutes until their bedtime. Just last week I went out to lunch with my family and spent most of the meal trying to prevent my two year old from climbing over the table. He ended the meal by throwing up on my husband. And now I get to add pregnancy hormones to all of that.

One of the ways that I try to stay zen in the midst of the chaos is by letting go of some of the small things. I’ve learned to worry about what I think is truly important, and simply start letting some things slide. The result is that I’m actually just a pretty laid back parent. It’s not for everyone, I have a lot of respect for tiger moms and helicopter moms, but it works for me and my boys are happy and healthy.

Another way that I try to be zen is by embracing a more holistic lifestyle. One little known fact about me is that I’ve always been a bit of a hippy, but over the past couple of years I’ve really been getting into holistic healing as a hobby. Since it’s important to me, I’d like to highlight that more here on the blog. I believe that the mind and body are very closely connected. One of my favorite simple ways to “heal” myself and feel zen is by using crystals. Crystals are definitely having a moment right now- they’re popular with celebrities and social media wellness gurus. But I think they actually live up to the hype and I love meditating with them. Here’s a short intro to crystals for those of you that are unfamiliar:

Background on crystals
Crystals are minerals, rocks, and gemstones with energetic properties. Every object in the universe is made up of energy that vibrates. Crystals are said to vibrate at relatively high levels because of their crystalline structure. Some crystals like quartz can even produce electricity when placed under mechanical stress. Quartz vibrates at such a precise frequency that it is often used in watches. Some people believe that when you come into contact with crystals, you tune your own vibrations and energy to a higher level. They have been used for spiritual, physical and emotional healing for thousands of years.

Even if you don’t believe in the magical properties of crystals, they are beautiful to look at and an easy tool to help you stay focused during meditation (more on that later).

You can find crystals at holistic stores or shops that specialize in crystals in most cities. Shopping local is the best, but I also get a lot of mine from Amazon. If you’re looking for more information on crystal healing, Crystals for Healing by Karen Frazier is a great resource.

My favorite crystals to feel zen

The following crystals are some of my favorites for feeling calm, focused, and peaceful. They are said to relieve stress and promote feelings of groundedness.

Blue Agate
Amazonite
Amber
Amethyst
Aventurine
Blue Calcite
Celestite
Desert Rose
Blue Flourite
Hematitie
Lepidolite
Malachite
Obsidian
Smokey quartz
Sapphire
Sunstone
Tiger’s Eye
Black tourmaline

How to use crystals

Most sources recommend that you cleanse your crystals before using them to clear any past negative energy. Here’s a guide to cleansing.

I love meditating with mine, and the process is very simple. Sit in a quiet place and focus on your crystal while holding it in your hand. Imagine yourself being enveloped in its warm light. You can repeat mantras to yourself, visualize yourself achieving a goal, or simply let your mind wander and practice pulling your thoughts back to the crystal in your hand.

You can also sleep with crystals under your pillow to clear yourself of negative energy while you sleep, and promote positive dreams and manifestations. Or you can simply display them around your home to project positive energy and protect your space.

I’ll be sharing some more of my favorite holistic tools later. If you have experience with meditation, crystals, or anything that helps you feel calm please share in the comments.

Xo,
Courtney

Our New Arrival + How to Get Professional Photography for Less

Our New Arrival + How to Get Professional Photography for Less


We took the above photo during the Cherry Blossom festival in DC. I love this photo despite my windswept hair. This was a very special shoot for our family because it’s the first time I’ve taken a family photo with both of my sons while pregnant. Yes, we’re expecting baby #3 (already!)

This pregnancy came as a bit of a shock to both me and my husband. We were planning to try for another baby next year to (probably) finish off our family. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Once the initial shock wore off we were both filled with a sense of calm. We’ve experienced the joy of adding a new family member twice now, and all of the love that the experience brings along with all of the work. Plus there’s not much to do now except prepare ourselves. We both want at least three children and we’re grateful for our family size. So we quickly got accustomed to the idea of another arrival happening earlier than planned.

That being said I’m still nervous. What kind of personality will this new baby have? Myles is probably the easiest baby in the world, but my oldest Mason is *ahem* a bit more challenging. How will I juggle three? Will I ever sleep again? There are a million questions running through my mind. But there’s also a feeling of happiness because my family is growing again. We can’t wait to find out if we’re finally having a girl (fingers crossed) or another little boy (and I can’t complain if its the latter, my boys are the sweetest). Most importantly I’m hoping for a happy, healthy baby. Now that I’m in my second trimester and sharing this news publicly, I’m sure I’ll be chronicling my pregnancy and my experience with three under three on the blog.

Shifting gears back to my cherry blossom photoshoot, I’ve had a few people ask me details about my family photos (we’ve taken Christmas and fall photos in the past). So I thought this might be a good time to discuss how I save on professional photography. When I first started looking into newborn and family photographers in the DMV area I was astounded by the prices. For many professionals, the cost of a session and prints can easily add up to over a thousand dollars, and sometimes as much as two or three thousand. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but that was way more than I wanted to spend. I learned to get around this by taking advantage of mini sessions.

Some photographers offer mini sessions at peak times during the year (usually once a season plus Christmas time). The photographer books multiple clients back to back at one location. These mini sessions are usually 20-30 minutes long, taken at a fantastic location, and only a fraction of the price. I usually pay $150-$200. This gets us an album of 7-12 professionally retouched images that I can download and print myself through CVS or whatever inexpensive photo printing service I want. Because I usually only need a few good images for framing, holiday cards and social media, mini sessions are perfect.

Our photographer for this shoot and our fall family photo shoot was Danielle Hunter. She shares upcoming mini sessions on her facebook page. If you want to find photographers that offer mini sessions in your area, google is your best friend. Try searching by season or holiday, like “spring mini sessions” in your area. You can also search hashtags on Instagram based on your location (#dcminisessions etc). Make sure you vet the photographer’s website or social media pages to make sure their work is in line with what you want.

And there are other ways to save. If you have a friend or acquaintance that practices photography, try talking to them about a rate for a short session. You can also take your own photos that look professional with the right camera and staging. Here are some tips for taking newborn photos at home.

If you have any other tips for saving on photography or or going the DIY route let me know in the comments.

Xo,
Courtney

Two Under Two: An Update

Two Under Two: An Update

I’ve been talking a lot about my family dynamic with friends and family lately. Although I don’t technically have two under two now, I do have two boys who are very close in age (15 months apart) and my youngest is approaching his first birthday. All of this inspired me to write an update to my original Two Under Two blog post. Now that I’ve gotten to a point where I have a very comfortable daily routine with my boys, I can reflect more on the pros and cons of having two children close in age, and why I personally love it. Hopefully this will provide some insights to anyone expecting a second child close in age or thinking about having children close in age in the future.

Pro- Once your youngest passes the newborn stage, both children do pretty similar activities. 

Of course my boys aren’t in the exact same developmental stage, but their stages are similar enough that they like many of the same toys, shows, etc. This means I’m not dividing up my time as much as I would between two children who are in very different stages, and I can often put together one activity for both of them.

Con- Having two under two can be physically demanding.
In addition to the demands of back to back pregnancies, it can be draining to go through the sleepless nights and sleep regressions back to back. Getting your kids on the same schedule as early as you can makes things much easier. And its important to remember that these stages are temporary. I moved my oldest out of my bedroom at 6 months, and my youngest at 9 months (although in retrospect I wish we had done it a little earlier) and both times the change helped us get to a more normal routine.

Pro- You become very efficient. 

Those first kid vs second kid commercials are very true. There are a lot of things we tend to do as first time parents that you just won’t have time for anymore when you add a second child, especially one close in age. But some of the things that get cut can make your household more efficient. I’ve also become more efficient at changing diapers, making bottles, and general baby care. My husband and I also share more responsibilities now, and that makes some activities like bath time more fun.

Con- Your oldest may feel frustrated during the transition.
I mentioned this in my original blog post, but some toddlers need time to adjust to having a new baby in the house. This was hard for me. It’s a big change for any kid, but it can be especially difficult for some toddlers since they can’t even express their emotions well yet. The toughest part of the transitional period lasted about three months for me. But one of the pros to having two kids close in age is it doesn’t take long for your oldest to forget there was even a time before they were a big brother or sister.

Pro- Having children close in age can make planning for a large family easier.

I don’t believe there is any perfect family size. There are some couples who are happy without children, some who love having one child to devote attention to, some who love having two, and some who want to have as many children as they can handle. If you know that you want to have a big family of three or more children, having children close in age may make things logistically more practical. For example, close planning can put less stress on your biological clock. And some women including myself prefer to get it done in one big swoop so they can focus on the infancy/early childhood stage and then move on to the next stage. This is especially true for me because I’m currently a stay at home Mom but I do plan to return to the workforce eventually.

Those are some of my thoughts on having two children close in age.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on spacing in your family. What worked for you or what would you like to do in the future?
Xo,
Courtney

My Holy Grail Beauty Essentials

My Holy Grail Beauty Essentials

I’ve found that as I get older I’m actually getting more into beauty products- upgrading my skincare routine as well as perfecting my day and night makeup looks. I see it as an important form of self-care now that I’m in my 30s. And as a busy Mom of two I need self-care. Below I’ve listed my absolute favorite skincare and makeup products. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments.

Rodan + Fields Radiant Defense Perfecting Liquid– If you use foundation I’m sure you’ve dealt with the pain of finding the perfect formula. There are so many brands out there and quality varies widely. I’ve tried many brands over the years and struggled to find one that provided just the right amount of coverage, offered the perfect color match, lasted a long time, and didn’t transfer color. Rodan and Fields had the best foundation I’ve tried yet. The formula is so lightweight it feels like a tinted moisturizer, but it really lasts and the color blends perfectly. My skin always looks dewy and illuminated when I put it on.


Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo– I’ve always had sparse brows and I’ve been filling them in pretty religiously for the past 6 or 7 years (I cringe at some of my old photos before I started filling them in). I finally made the leap and scheduled an appointment with one of the top microblading artists in the DMV area at the end of the April (she’s booked months out and I couldn’t be more excited about this upcoming appointment). But up until now Anastasia Beverly Hills’ brow powder has been a lifesaver. It’s easy to use with an angled brush, the pigment looks very natural and blends easily, and one pot of this magic formula lasts a long time.

Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara– Like the search for the perfect foundation, my search for the perfect mascara went on for some time. Too Faced’s Better than Sex mascara offers the most dramatic length of any mascara brand I’ve tried. I love the wand itself and their tips for getting the most length.


Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio– I’ve always been intimidated by contouring, but the Fenty Beauty Match stix make contouring and highlighting so easy. You can choose the perfect shade of concealer, the perfect contour color, and a pretty highlighter shade by matching it to your Fenty foundation shade. Being able to do a simple contour has really upgraded my night out makeup looks.


Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick-I love matte liquid lipstick because it makes my lips look fuller. My husband has even accused me of altering my lips in photos when I’m wearing it. Anastasia Beverly Hills offers gorgeous colors in a formula with staying power. I’ve really been getting in to red lipstick lately and I love the shade “Seraphine” for the perfect ruby red, and mixing “Heathers” and “Tulip” for a vampy shade of red.

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment– I love all Sunday Riley products but the Lactic Acid Treatment is perfect for exfoliating your skin. My skin always looks more even and my pores look smaller after using it.
What are your favorite makeup and skincare products?
Xo,
Courtney

7 Brands That Actually Make Cute Clothing for Girls AND Boys

7 Brands That Actually Make Cute Clothing for Girls AND Boys

I’ve always loved fashion so I look forward to trying to put together cute outfits for my boys. As other boy moms can probably tell you, it’s a challenge to find cute and trendy items for boys. We typically get the short end of the stick- scrolling past delicate dresses and coordinating headbands on instagram, walking past aisle after aisle of colorful leggings and t-shirts with darling details, only to head to our much smaller section of dinosaur and truck prints in the same shades of blue, brown, and green.

Thankfully I’ve learned where to shop to pick up items for my boys that are actually fashionable. Right now I’m in spring shopping mode so I wanted to take some time to share my favorite brands that I feel really make an effort to give Moms of boys and girls equally cute options.

Zara-


Zara carries trendy pieces, classics with a fun twist, and minimal/natural styles. If you’re a bit of a hipster it’s easy to find styles you’ll love at Zara. They also have really sweet messages on some of their tees and sweatshirts.

Gap Kids


The Gap is my go to for denim, outerwear and accessories. They have a ton of cute options for boys, and their pieces are great quality and on-trend. One of my favorite Gap items is a denim jacket, they always offer a classic version but they also put an adorable spin on their denim jacket pretty much every season.

Janie and Jack


If you love to dress your children in classic styles, Janie and Jack carries adorable high-end pieces that are the perfect blend of classic and preppy. I love this brand for special occasion pieces.

Hugo Loves Tiki


If your style is modern and fun, Hugo Loves Tiki offers playtime friendly styles in really bright allover prints. You can also shop their end of season sales for amazing discounts.

Jamie Kay-


If you prefer neutral and natural styles, Jamie Kay has perfected the minimal look in their online shop. A lot of pieces are gender neutral and they’re made of soft, high-quality fabrics.

Ralph Lauren


I love Ralph Lauren tees and shirts, the polo brand is so All-American and iconic. I find great deals by shopping Ralph Lauren’s end of season sales online.

Carters-


Carters is my go to for onesies, casual t-shirts and pajamas. They typically offer email discounts daily.

 

Those are my top brands that don’t make me feel like I’m sacrificing style when I shop for my boys. I love brands that focus on producing cute clothing for everyone. What are your favorites when shopping for your little ones or buying gifts for others? Let me know in the comments.

 

Xo,

Courtney

 

Relationship Goals

Relationship Goals

One of my goals for 2019 is to actively prioritize my marriage and be more thoughtful about it. I started dating my husband 8 years ago and we’ve been living together since 2012. Every now and then I think it’s important to refocus and recalibrate, especially when life gets hectic (for example when you start having children). I recently read an article written by a married man with teenage children that really stuck with me. He described how his kids are sent upstairs every night at 9pm so that he and his wife can have alone time. They don’t have to go to bed, but they can’t come downstairs unless it’s an emergency. His reasoning was that his relationship with his wife is the most important relationship in the house. If that crumbles everyone else is affected. And even though his rules sounded a little extreme to me, he went on to talk about how it used to be common for parents to prioritize themselves in that way, but a shift happened where people now tend to be more focused on their children’s happiness than their own.

Thinking of my marriage as the foundation of my family isn’t a radical concept, but the extent to which I can and should prioritize it is something that I’ve been exploring lately. Thankfully I can’t say I’m lacking in alone time with my husband. Both of my sons are on a bedtime schedule and they are both in bed by 9pm every night. Most nights we spend time together talking and watching netflix before bed. And we’re starting a more frequent date night schedule. But the fatigue and occasional stress that comes along with having a baby and a toddler means that our frustration can sometimes come out in how we talk to each other.

One of the ways that we’re working on maintaining a happy marriage this year is embracing constant open communication. This means opening up about how we feel or what we need from each other at any time. This also means we have to actively listen to each other at those times.

Another thing that I want to do is embrace each other’s love languages. If you haven’t heard of love languages the idea is that people express love and want to receive love in different ways that generally fall into 5 categories: quality time, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, and verbal affirmations. The importance of each of these categories varies from person to person. You can take a quiz here to find out which love languages are most important to you.

Last night my husband and I both took the quiz. I was surprised to find that our results were VERY similar and that quality time was the most important love language for both of us. Acts of service were also very important to both of us so I know that we have to continue to find ways to help each other out. And I was surprised to see that gifts ranked a little higher on his list than I expected. Now I need to come up with ways to give small meaningful gifts in between holidays and celebrations.

So those are the main things I’m doing to meet my relationship goals this year. What do you like to do (or have done in the past) to maintain a happy marriage or relationship? Let me know in the comments.

Xo,

Courtney

My Top 5 Subscriptions

My Top 5 Subscriptions

As a millennial and as a mother I love a good subscription box. There’s something exciting about getting a package of goodies in the mail every month, especially when the contents are varied. I’ve tried a lot of subscription boxes carrying everything from food to makeup and skincare to baby items. Some boxes were amazing and others either weren’t customized enough to suit my needs (pretty much every beauty box) or were just generally a waste of money. Read on for 5 boxes that I think are actually worth a subscription. If you’ve tried any of the following boxes or if there are others that you love, please let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

Winc– If you love wine, this subscription box is perfect for you. They send a box of wine bottles customized to fit your flavor preference profile. You can choose four white, four red, or a mix. And your feedback after each box helps determine what they send you next. This is a subscription that I tried out pre-babies, but as a Mom of two a box of wine delivered to my doorstep sounds amazing right now. If you don’t know much about wine all of the choices out there can be pretty daunting. This makes it easier to sample different kinds of wine and learn what you like and don’t like. Wine tasting at a Vineyard is a nice experience to learn more about wine too, but this subscription is fun and convenient. 

Hello Fresh-This is one that pretty much everyone has heard of even if you haven’t tried it. Its one of the most popular dinner subscription boxes for a reason. Hello Fresh sends you recipes and ingredients to make 3 meals a week. The recipes are generally delicious and take 1 person about 30 minutes to make. I also tried this subscription out before I had kids. My husband and I did the vegetarian plan and I loved learning new vegetarian recipes (I’m not a vegetarian btw, but I try to go meatless as often as possible). And I loved that I didn’t have to go hunting for exotic ingredients in the grocery store. When our family expanded we stopped this subscription, but I honestly learned so many cooking tips from the recipe cards that the length of time that I did have it was invaluable. It’s also nice that you can keep the recipe cards and recreate the meals anytime. I loved Hello Fresh so much that I’m considering signing up again. 

Bluum– I was gifted a subscription to Bluum when I was pregnant with my oldest son Mason. They send a box of pregnancy or baby related items depending on how far along you are or how old your baby is. When I was pregnant I received things like belly cream, affirmation cards for delivery day, and ointment to help with breastfeeding. After the baby came I started getting things like toys, bottles, skincare products for babies etc. One of my favorite boxes included a pack of cleaning tablets and wipes for cleaning bottles on the go. This came in handy so many times when bottles fell on the ground while we were out and about, and once when we stayed overnight in a hotel room and I forgot to pack my bottle brush and soap. I love that things I never would have thought of on my own like that were included in the boxes. 

Little Spoon– Some of you may have seen the beginning of my journey with homemade baby food on my instagram stories. With my oldest Mason I bought all of his baby food but stuck with organic brands. This time around with Myles I was determined to make all of my own baby food since I’m currently a stay at home Mom. But the reality of having a baby and a toddler means there’s less time for chopping, peeling, and steaming than I had hoped and I needed a backup plan. Little Spoon delivers organic fresh meals (using HPP) that are tailored to your baby’s developmental stage and preferences. I love that they use over 80 ingredients. Some of the similar cold-pressed brands available online have a limited number of ingredients so there’s less variety than what Little Spoon offers. I also appreciate that Little Spoon uses a lot of vegetables. I think some brands rely too heavily on sweet fruit. Little Spoon comes in convenient packages that include a tiny spoon (sn: I’m also guilty of relying too much on pouches in the past, which can promote lazy eating habits). And Myles loves it so far. 

Yumble– Once Mason moved past the baby food stage I struggled with coming up with a variety of lunches for him that were nutritious while I was working. Yumble was almost a lifesaver. They deliver organic toddler meals that are balanced, easy to reheat and so tasty I often found myself eating them. It didn’t work out because I had such a picky eater on my hands that most of the meals went to waste. But if your toddler isn’t as picky, or if you have a slightly older child this might work really well for your family especially if you’re a working parent. 

Those are my top 5 subscriptions. What are your favorites? Anything you’re thinking about trying? If it might make my life a little easier let me know! 

Xo,

Courtney