The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

The Routines That Keep My Household Afloat

Now that I’ve been a Mom of two for over a year (and am getting closer and closer to being a Mom of three!) I’ve realized the key to success in my household is creating routines and sticking to them, and how routines might help others even if you’re a parent (or future parent) of one. My household does the best when we stick to established routines, and when we stray from them for too long chaos usually ensues! Below I’ve listed some of the routines that I use to keep my sanity on weekdays, including the kids’ daily routines, my weekday mealtime routine, and most importantly our bedtime routine (is there anything parents want more than more sleep?) 

The Kids’ Daytime Schedule

We typically follow the same schedule Monday through Friday. When the kids wake up I let them play for about half an hour, make breakfast, then let them watch cartoons while I do some laundry or cleaning (yes, I am pro screen time when I need a distraction).

After that we do an at home preschool program by Susie of the Busy Toddler. It’s meant for kids ages 2.5 and up, but my youngest Myles still participates sometimes. The lessons typically involve a song or two, a book, and 2-3 hands on activities. I get most of the suggested books from the library, and the rest of the books and supplies on Amazon.

After “preschool” and more play time I make lunch and put the boys down for a nap. It took a little while to get both of them on the same nap schedule. This involved doing my best to keep Myles awake until after lunch, until he got used to it. Getting them down for a nap at the same time is so worth it, because it guarantees me an hour or two of free time where I can get some things done or take a nap myself (which has been helpful this pregnancy). If you have two children close in age I recommend getting them on the same nap schedule as early as possible. 

After nap time I take them out in the stroller for a walk or some time at the park or library. Then I just let them play until my husband comes home and he takes over while I make dinner. The rest of the evening typically revolves around whatever my husband and I are doing.

Mealtimes

I love to eat but I am not the type of person who loves to cook. I’ve developed a few hacks to make things easier for myself. The first thing I do to make things easier is never taking my kids grocery shopping. I rarely go to the grocery store at all these days, unless I’m running in for a quick item or two. The rest of the time I order groceries through Amazon Prime Now. They are conveniently delivered to my door and as long as you buy at least $35 worth of groceries the delivery fee is free (although you can add on an optional tip for the driver). This means no more struggling with a crying toddler or two while I schlep down aisle after aisle, and grocery shopping no longer raises my blood pressure like it has in the past. 

For breakfast I usually alternate between whole wheat pancakes, Abe’s amazing vegan muffins (I cannot stress enough how amazing they are), cinnamon raisin toast, or scrambled eggs with fresh fruit for my kids. In the future I’d love to expand to some more healthy recipes but for now these options are quick and always work.

Lunch is usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Dr. Praegar’s spinach, broccoli, sweet potato or kale littles with veggies or fruit. I don’t experiment much with lunch foods because my oldest Mason is so picky.

Dinner is when I do the most experimenting. I recently restarted my Hello Fresh subscription so that I can learn more vegetarian meals, and we go meat free 3 times a week with their veggie plan. I won’t keep the subscription going forever, but for now it’s a great way to learn new recipes and cooking skills, and having a subscription has definitely increased my interest in cooking. The rest of the week I cook with meat from a farm CSA (community supported agriculture) share. This allows us to purchase 15 lbs of pasture raised, hormone-free meat each month. I purchase my share through Liberty Delight Farms. And once a week we order takeout for dinner (my favorite night of the week).

Bedtime

Thankfully both of my children sleep through the night at this stage (I’m getting ready to start over with baby #3 so wish me luck!) but we got there by moving the kids out of our bedroom, establishing a bedtime routine, and using the cry it out method (aka sleep training) for a little while. Moving the kids out of my bedroom was vital for me. I always start off with co-sleeping before moving my kids to a bassinet or pack n play in my room. But there’s something about having me nearby that just causes my kids to wake up looking for my attention (or milk) more often. I was amazed at how much longer they started sleeping when they left my room. This is only recommended when your kids are about 6 months +.

Crying it out is a controversial method, I know some parents can’t stand to hear their little ones’ cries go unanswered and I felt the same way at first. We tried it with my son Mason when he was about 5 months old because I was still getting up multiple times a night and feeling like a zombie at work. The first night of crying it out my husband had to stop me from going to him and I felt so sad. But then when he finally fell asleep, he slept for the rest of the night! On the second night he cried for a much shorter interval before falling asleep. After a few days he barely cried at all. The time it takes to get this method to work can vary but trust me it does work. And both of my kids survived the experience and are happy and very attached to me. 

Some people are amazed at how easily they usually fall asleep at home but it’s because we’ve been doing the same bedtime routine for so long that they’re very used to what comes next. I use Honest Calming Lavender Bubble Bath to help the boys get in a sleepy mood. After bath time I read 1-2 board books that are appropriate for Myles, then take him to his bed and turn on 15 minutes of bedtime music on his Scout dog (I’ve also used a noise machine and night light in the past- the Hatch Baby Rest is amazing, but found that they do fine without it now). I rock him in my arms for 2-3 minutes then lay him down and leave. He’s usually asleep within 10 minutes without any fuss. Then I read 1-2 more advanced books for Mason and repeat the same music/rocking routine with his Scout dog. Sometimes he takes longer to fall asleep but he lays in his crib without crying until he does. Then I give myself a mental pat on the back and relax for about 30 mins before joining my husband for a Netflix show. 

I know a lot of people who co-sleep end up doing so long-term, but once my babies reached the 6 month mark having designated kid-free time every night and sleeping in my bed without them has been so beneficial to my mental health and my marriage.

Those are the most important aspects of my daily routine. I would love to hear your thoughts/tips for establishing a routine in the comments. 

 

Xo,

Courtney

My All-Time Favorite Clothing/Accessories for Pregnancy and Beyond

My All-Time Favorite Clothing/Accessories for Pregnancy and Beyond

I’m currently at the 20 week mark of my pregnancy. That means we’re officially halfway to our new adventure. Actually I’m probably a little more than halfway- my babies have a tendency to come a bit early. Mason made his debut at 38 weeks and Myles made his at 36 weeks. I’m praying I make it to 37 weeks just to be safe and also taking progesterone to help my chances. With my first pregnancy I didn’t really start showing (in an obvious way) until almost third trimester. With my second and third pregnancies my baby bump made a much earlier appearance. That means I’m already reaching for some of my favorite pregnancy items.

Below I’ve listed some of my absolute favorite accessories (and a couple of must-have clothing items) for pregnancy and beyond.

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Everlane Tank Bra

During my first pregnancy all of the hormonal changes left me feeling like I had barbed wire strapped to my chest when I wore bras. I tried switching to wireless bras and nursing bras from maternity stores but I never found anything that was truly comfortable, especially when I had a dramatic increase in cup size (c cup pre-pregnancy to DDD during breastfeeding).

I had pretty much given up on ever feeling comfortable in a bra again until I tried Everlane’s tank bra. It’s so soft and lightweight I barely feel like I’m wearing anything, even with pesky pregnancy hormones. It’s shaped like a sports bra, but has the effortlessness of a bralette, and the low cut is very flattering. Unfortunately, this may not be a great bra for work (there is no padding whatsoever) but it’s perfect for lounge, sleep, and weekend wear. I’ll definitely be wearing these bras well past my pregnancy.

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Ingrid & Isabel Bellaband

I honestly loathe buying maternity jeans and pants. They’re very comfortable, but they can often be a bit of an investment considering the short amount of time you’ll be wearing them, and it’s not always easy to find styles that are as flattering as your pre-pregnancy jeans. A bellaband makes life easier by allowing you to wear your pre-pregnancy jeans much longer. Just keep your jeans unbuttoned and put the bellaband over your waistband. It looks like you’re simply wearing a tank layered under your shirt. You can find the original here and a less expensive version at Target.

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Dwell and Slumber Caftan

Dwell and Slumber has a cult following for a reason. Their caftans make the perfect hospital gown. I changed into mine right after my delivery with Myles and got so many compliments during my hospital stay.  They’re incredibly comfortable and easy to wear without the structure and fussiness of a traditional dress, and they’re more stylish than the standard issue hospital gown. They accommodate a baby bump or postpartum belly perfectly, and the bust unsnaps for easy breastfeeding. During those late nights that turn into early mornings with a new baby, I was so grateful to have these caftans to throw on. You can also belt them and throw on some cute accessories for a casual daytime boho look.

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Bably Baby Diaper Backpack

When I was in college, I spent one summer babysitting a two-year old boy. His mom had a gorgeous floral Vera Bradley diaper bag that really stuck with me. When I became a mother I celebrated this transition with my own Vera Bradley diaper bag, but it didn’t work out for me. While some people may love it I found it a bit too heavy and cumbersome to work as a shoulder bag. And then when my second son arrived I quickly ran out of room in that bag and other traditional diaper bags that I tried. I transitioned to a diaper backpack, and liked being hands free much better, but I ran out of room in that as well ( clearly I need a lot of stuff for two boys who are 18 months apart).

Not long after I found out about my third pregnancy I went into panic mode thinking about how I would tote around all of the things two toddlers and a baby would need. I started researching as many bags and backpacks as possible, trying to find one that would be large enough and organized enough to accomodate my growing family. I found the answer to my prayers in the Bably Baby Diaper Backpack. Not only is it large, but it’s also extremely organized and has a lot of cool features for a very reasonable price. I love it so much I recently featured it in my Instagram stories. Some of the highlights include 4 insulated drink holders, a wipe dispenser, a tablet slot, packing cubes, a changing pad, a wet bag, and built in stroller clips. You can find this backpack on the Bably Baby website and on Amazon.

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ToteSavvy

If a diaper bag or backpack isn’t your thing, you can stick with a regular tote bag and turn it into a diaper bag with a totesavvy insert. There are different sizes, and the inserts feature a variety of pockets and a changing pad. I know these are a popular addition to luxe totes like the LV Neverfull, but they can work with almost any tote bag. I personally love Everlane’s tote bags. They’re made from buttery leather and are chic and minimal.

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Adidas Casual Sneakers

A chic casual sneaker is a must when you’re going to be pushing a stroller around or running after small children. I love Adidas because they’re comfortable, perfect for running errands or taking my kids out, and stylish. Two of my favorites are the Gazelles and Pharrel Williams’ Tennis Hus.

 

Those are some of my favorite items for pregnancy, postpartum, and life in general. What are your must-haves or gifts that you know another Mom really appreciated?

 

Xo,

Courtney

The Best Indoor Playspaces in the DMV

The Best Indoor Playspaces in the DMV

I hope you all are enjoying the warm weather. I love this time of year and really appreciate being able to take my kids outdoors. There are still times when we need a good indoor location though, like when it’s 90+ degrees outside or when its raining, and I’m a huge fan of indoor play spaces. I’ve tried several in the DMV area and have a few favorites that I’ve listed below. One caveat is that I haven’t tried any in DC. I live outside of DC and as many of you know, driving and parking (or taking the metro) in DC can be a hassle at times, especially with kids, so we typically reserve that for bigger occasions like taking them to the National Mall and museums. If you know of any good indoor play spaces in DC please let me know in the comments. We also travel to Richmond, Hampton Roads, and New York fairly often so I’d love to hear about fun things to do with kids in other cities.
The Best Playspace for Babies- Nook (Arlington, Fairfax)


Nook features soothing neutral colors that won’t overstimulate a baby and age appropriate activities for those who aren’t walking or crawling yet. Each station is equipped with fun but educational toys and there’s also a small ball pit (with white balls, also low stimulation) and places to curl up and read to your baby. Nook is also a popular spot to host instagram worthy birthday parties.

The Best Playspace for Toddlers and Older Children- Scramble (Alexandria)

Scramble has the best toddler section of all the indoor play spaces we’ve tried and is my favorite overall. The toddler section is large and runs along one side of the facility, and there are cute stations like a mock starbucks and a racing pit. The other side of the facility has plenty for older kids to do including climbing equipment and ball courts. You can easily play with your children but it’s designed to allow kids to play independently and features a cafe and generous seating area for adults. Everything is bright, clean, and well maintained.

The Best Playspace for the Adults- Badlands (North Bethesda)

Badlands is another good choice for older children. Instead of the typical toys and climbing structures that play spaces usually have, it truly brings the outdoors indoors with faux rocks and tunnels, hills, grass, and trees. Kids can have a great time running and climbing and everything is supervised well by the attendants. It’s my favorite choice for the adults though because it features an actual bar. Yes, you can schedule a playdate with a friend and indulge in wine and other drinks at Badlands. That feature alone is pretty amazing but it also won’t overstimulate you with bright colors since everything is so natural. They host parties in event pavilions that look like chic cabins so they’re another great spot for instagram worthy moments.

Those are my top three recommendations for playspaces in the DMV area. What are some of your favorite places to take kids for a fun outing?

Xo,

Courtney

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