How to Manifest Your Goals During the Autumn Equinox

How to Manifest Your Goals During the Autumn Equinox

Happy first official day of fall! I wanted to continue with the spiritual wellness series I started a while back (you can read my blog post on crystals for stress relief here) by talking about a simple manifestation ritual for the autumn equinox. If you’re new to manifestation the idea is that you guide positive thoughts and energy into producing a certain outcome that you want in your life. We tend to already do this in lots of ways- think about journaling, vision boards, prayer, even something as simple as making a wish and blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. There are lots of ways to practice the art of manifestation but most involve some form of positive visualization. 

The most important tool that you’ll need to manifest anything is a grateful mind. Feeling abundance in your life always attracts more abundance. The autumn equinox is the perfect time to do a manifestation ritual because fall represents a time of harvesting everything we worked for throughout the year and celebrating whatever abundance has come into our lives. The equinox is also a time of equal light and darkness (and we won’t experience that again until the spring) before the winter and we tend to naturally become more introspective around this time. 

One simple way to carry out the ritual involves a piece of paper, something to write with, and a candle. I like to use tea lights or birthday candles because they don’t take too long to burn out. First light your candle. Then get your mind focused on all of the abundance in your life by writing down at least three things that happened that you’re grateful for this year. Then write down at least one personal or family goal that you would like to manifest. It’s helpful to think of your goal in terms of how you would like to feel if it happens, instead of focusing on the specific outcome. Fold your paper when you’re done. 

Take a minute to stare into your candle flame and visualize what things would look and feel like if you achieved your goal. Imagine it as vividly as possible. I once heard a great tip for ending the ritual during a manifestation workshop- in your mind (or out loud) ask God or the universe or whoever you turn to for spiritual guidance to deliver that outcome or something better for the greatest good of all involved. If you want you can then burn your paper, but make sure to do it safely! I like burning the paper because I feel like the energy of the flame transforms my intentions and carries them off. It’s a great metaphor for how we have to trust that we’ll receive the things we need and let them go instead of dwelling on them constantly. Dwelling on what you don’t have reduces your mindset of abundance. If you can, let your candle burn until it goes out on its own (that’s why small candles like birthday candles are great for this). That’s it, I hope you manifest everything you need for your greatest good!

If you have another manifestation ritual please share in the comments. Or just let me know how you plan to celebrate fall now that it’s arrived. I’m hoping to get some apple cider and take my boys pumpkin picking before the new baby arrives.

Xo,

Courtney

What I Learned About Motherhood from my Own Mom

What I Learned About Motherhood from my Own Mom

This past weekend I enjoyed a visit from my mom and sister. I love spending time with those two, they’re a big part of my life even when we’re physically separated (they live in Hampton Roads) and I turn to them for laughs and advice daily. Spending time with them as my household continues to prep for baby #3 led me to reflect on my own childhood. My mom had me when she was just a teenager, and went on to accomplish so much. I’m even more impressed by her sacrifices now that I’m a mother myself. One of the biggest lessons that I learned from my mom was that we as women are always capable of more than we think.

I know that things weren’t easy for my mom. Her version of parenthood included being a teenage mother and a single mother while working to support me and my sister, eventually earning a Bachelors and a Masters degree, and building a career. Once during grad school she became so stressed by everything she was juggling that she started experiencing physical symptoms that had to be treated with medication. But no matter what she always pushed on and made things look more effortless than they were. She didn’t let anything stop her from accomplishing her dreams AND being a good parent. Her level of achievement despite the previous obstacles in her life makes me feel like anything I want is achievable with time and persistence.

Her positive attitude about life is a big part of why I usually try to be positive (online and in real life) about motherhood. Of course I have days where I’m feeling exhausted or stressed out and overwhelmed. Parenting will do that to anyone, especially when you have small children back to back. Just adulting in general can be overwhelming some days. And being real about that can be cathartic. BUT I’ve learned from my mom that you choose how you react to your stress. Wallowing in negativity doesn’t change anything. You still have to put on your big girl pants and get things done regardless. As women we do this every day in one way or another. We always keep pushing even when things are hard.
Coming from a place of positivity instead usually involves feeling or expressing gratitude, which makes any situation better. So on the days when I’m exhausted and everyone in my household is driving me crazy, I try to remember to be grateful for them and that I wouldn’t change a single thing about my family. I keep pushing on when things are tough because I know that I’m capable of getting things done.
Another thing that I learned from my mom is that you can make positive memories for your children that will outlast many of the harder memories, and that you don’t need a big budget to do so. Things like going to the beach, getting ice cream in the summer, and carving pumpkins still stand out in my memory. Those memories make me want to treat my boys to positive experiences, so I try to schedule fun things on the weekends like play space time, farm trips, days at some of our favorite DMV locations like Old Town Alexandria or National Harbor etc. And I’m always looking for more fun things to do if you have any suggestions.

My mom also encouraged me to pursue different hobbies and interests like sports (although that didn’t last long for me) and playing the violin (which did last from elementary through most of high school). I can’t wait until my boys are old enough to join teams or develop their own hobbies. I could go on and on about what I’ve learned about parenting from my mom, but I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the biggest lessons your parents taught you?
Xo,
Courtney

How Marriage Changes After Children

How Marriage Changes After Children

Although this post is titled “How Marriage Changes After Children” it should really be called “How My Marriage Has Changed After Children” because I completely acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different. But I want to share my experience (and have touched on it a little in the past) because I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about marriage after childen or conversely conversations that seem to be filtered through rose colored glasses, and I believe for many of us the reality lies somewhere in between. Here are some of the most significant ways that my relationship with my partner has changed since the birth of our sons: 

Positive Communication and Affection Become More Important Than Ever-

After the birth of my oldest son Mason, I found myself in a hormonal, sleep-deprived haze for months. This meant that anything my husband did that would normally drive me a little crazy, really drove me crazy. Its easy to take things out on your partner when you’re going through extreme physical and emotional changes as well as adjusting to a complete overhaul of your normal schedule. Of course there were lots of sweet “look at our son” moments too, but it took a while for me to feel 100% like my old self in our relationship (basically once I started getting a full night’s sleep again). It required a lot of positive communication and coordinating a new routine that worked for us so that I didn’t feel resentment to get through it. 

Thankfully I had an easier time after the birth of my second son Myles. Taking care of a newborn was still tough, but I knew what to expect and got more sleep the second time around. I felt like we were even more united and things flowed more smoothly in the postpartum period. I realized I needed to prioritize “acting like a couple” to feel like a strong couple- being affectionate, speaking kindly to one another, and continuing to date each other. Which brings me to my second point-

Time Spent Together Without Children Becomes Vital Too- 

My hubby and I are both homebodies most of the time, and with me being a stay at home mom its easy to let our kids take over our entire schedule. But having time alone together is important for a healthy relationship. And quality time is an important love language for both of us. Almost every night after our kids go to sleep we spend time watching tv (or occasionally reading) together. I look foward to that time to decompress from my day, and we bond during that time. But since we don’t have much family around currently, we also use a sitter from care.com to go out on dates sometimes, and my goal is to increase our number of date nights after I get through my next postpartum period. Time alone together does a lot for making me feel like myself outside of my role as a mom.  

Time By Yourself Requires Extra Coordination- 

Before having kids, we slept in most weekends, and then if we wanted to do a separate activity we could just let each other know and go about our day. Now most days our kids are up by 7:30 (even on the weekends, and we actually have it pretty good, I’ve heard others complain of consistent 5 or 6am wakeup times). If one of us wants to do an activity without the other that means the other person is the default babysitter. That requires careful coordination for fairness in our marriage. We started alternating “sleep in” days on the weekends so that we could both enjoy a morning in bed without the kids, and alternating time away in the afternoons. That gives me an opportunity for some self-care or a movie even if I don’t have plans with friends. And even though it requires extra coordination now, being off on my own helps me miss my household and has a positive effect on my mood. 

Those are some of the ways that my marriage changed after children, and how we’ve responded to get positive results. What are your thoughts on how children affect a relationship? What changes have you made to promote a healthy relationship? Let me know in the comments.

Xo,

Courtney

Body Positivity After Pregnancy

Body Positivity After Pregnancy

I recently thought about the fact that I have been pregnant every year since 2016 in the process of having three kids. This has not been easy on my body. Pregnancy has its beautiful, magical moments, but my body has also cycled through hormonal changes, weight gain and loss, and breastfeeding for the past four years. That much constant change can take a mental toll, and I do have some days when I’m not feeling my most confident, days when I look back at pre-pregnancy pictures a bit wistfully despite the fact that I have always had a short, curvy figure. But for the most part I have always been ok with giving myself time and have never felt the pressure to “bounce back” right away.
This hasn’t been an easy attitude to maintain, because we live in a society that is image obsessed, and for many people being thin is the most important marker of good physical and mental health. There have been countless times that well-meaning friends or family have casually referenced me “getting my body back” after the babies in conversation, and I know other women who have recently had children who feel pretty down about their bodies. I really believe this is an attitude we need to challenge.
People are starting to talk more openly about the immense mental and emotional challenges motherhood can bring, and the isolation many women feel, thanks in part to social media and a recent push for better maternal health care. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of this subject. My own experience was that the transition to motherhood for the first time was tough. Hormones, surviving on very little sleep, and learning to cope with being responsible for another human’s well-being 24/7 really put me through the ringer. Thankfully I had an easier time when I transitioned to being a mom of two, but every pregnancy and every baby is different. For me, focusing on being in a good place mentally has always been vastly more important than bouncing back physically. I know that I can’t be the kind of mother I’d like to be if I’m not in a great mental or emotional state, and there’s time for everything else to happen later.
But I also know that prioritizing your mental health looks different for everyone. And for some people their mental and physical progress are linked. I would challenge women to think about what they really need postpartum, not what they feel pressured to want. If being in a certain clothing size will really make you feel happier and more confident, then by all means prioritize it (safely) postpartum. If being physically fit gives you the endorphins that make it easier to thrive in this experience, then work out as much as you can! But if trying to fit others’ expectations of what your body should look like, or trying to adhere to someone else’s timeline for when a woman should “bounce back” only adds to your stress, then let go of that and focus on what you really need. Don’t let anyone define your postpartum experience for you.
The time it takes to lose weight can also vary from person to person, and there are many factors that go into it. Some women shed weight naturally while breastfeeding. I am not one of those lucky women, I actually think its a bit harder for me to lose weight while breastfeeding. My personal goals after having my baby include prioritizing healthy eating, drinking lots of water, and working out when I can until I gradually increase my workouts over time. My goals don’t include focusing on any specific numbers, whether they’re on a scale or a clothes tag. That’s what I need to support myself in the best way possible. After having a baby you should be focused on the amazing things that your body accomplished and continues to accomplish. Women are really incredibly powerful.
What are your tips for dealing with body image issues? And if you’re a Mom, how did you feel about your body during or after pregnancy? Are you pro dieting postpartum? Let me know in the comments.

Xo,

Courtney

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

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