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

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

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

Two Under Two

Two Under Two

I can’t believe my oldest son Mason will be two in just a couple of weeks! My days of having two under two are coming to an end, soon it will be two under three which sounds somewhat less daunting. Mason’s approaching birthday inspired me to write a post reflecting on what life with two littles so close in age has been like. As I mentioned before, when I was pregnant with my younger son Myles, I got a lot of negative comments about how hard life was going to become with such a close age gap. Everyone from nurses to well meaning coworkers had strong opinions about it. Now that I’ve actually experienced it for several months, here’s what I have to say about life with two under two. If you’re thinking about having children close in age one day or already expecting a close younger sibling hopefully this helps.
Things are difficult, but doable– For me, the hardest part of caring for essentially two babies is feeling tired all the time. But that’s one of the hardest parts of being a new Mom even if you have one child. Things were fairly easy for me in the beginning. As a newborn Myles slept all the time, so I felt more refreshed than I expected to, and I still had some alone time with my older child. Things got harder when Myles started waking up more often because I was so drained. It’s difficult to meet everyone’s needs when you have little energy and both children are on different schedules. I’ve had plenty of moments where I felt overwhelmed, but some strong coffee and leaning on my husband more or another family member helped me get through those tough moments. And sometimes I just have to take a break (more on that later).
Thankfully things have started to get easier again now that their schedules are syncing up and Myles is starting to sleep through the night. Getting everyone on the same schedule or close to being on the same schedule is essential for thriving with two under two! I like to change diapers back to back, bathe them at the same time, and put them to bed at the same time. Then my hubby and I can enjoy some netflix and wine or I can read a book (or let’s be honest browse social media) at the end of the day to decompress.
The older child may need some time to get used to the baby– Mason had a bit of a learning curve when it came to interacting with his younger brother. Not only was he not used to sharing me, but he also didn’t know how to gently handle someone so small and fragile and I had to watch him like a hawk around the baby. It took about three months for him to get used to Myles, and Myles is still growing on him. Now they’re even starting to play together. Myles is completely enamored with his big brother and it’s beautiful to see a budding relationship that is separate from my own relationship with them.
Self-care becomes more important than ever– When I was pregnant with Myles I once had a friend remark that I would be walking around with mismatched clothes and makeup smeared on my face after the baby because two under two would turn me into a zombie. Thankfully that’s not true. I don’t really get dressed up while I’m sitting at home with the boys, and sometimes things do get a little messy, but in general I love getting dressed in real clothes, getting my hair done, and putting makeup on. Those things actually mean more to me now with two under two, because it helps me maintain my sense of self. It’s important to prioritize yourself physically and emotionally so that you’re not pouring from an empty cup.
If I’m feeling really overwhelmed, sometimes I just hand both kids over to my hubby and go spend some time by myself. I usually come back feeling much more recharged and capable, so I don’t feel guilty about doing that. Self-care is essential for a happy household. It’s also important to make time for activities that have nothing to do with the kids. I recently started a meditation program. And my resolution for 2019 is to schedule more dates with my friends and to start doing yoga again.
That’s my take on two under two. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve experienced life with two kids close in age, please feel free to share your perspective.
Xo,
Courtney

The Biggest Lessons of My 20s

The Biggest Lessons of My 20s

My 20s are coming to an end in a week. The past decade has given me some of my toughest moments and greatest triumphs. I wanted to recount some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 20s. What were some of the biggest lessons of your 20s?

Success is Not Always Automatic- I went to college at UVA and did well as an English major. I enjoyed my time there, made some friends, and even met the boyfriend who would eventually become my husband. I imagined that when I graduated I wouldn’t have any trouble starting a successful career. But that didn’t turn out to be my reality. And like many people around the country who graduated with liberal arts degrees around that time, I struggled to find a “good” job right after college, and it left me feeling very despondent. It took a long time before I finally ended up on the right career trek in communications. After a few jobs that were either unfulfilling or not the right fit for me, I applied for a position as an editor and finally got to put my English degree to use in an environment that I loved. Sometimes we just have to be patient when things aren’t going our way because a breakthrough may be just around the corner!

And Sometimes You Have to Have the Courage to Walk Away From Things That Aren’t Right For You- I spent a year at home post-college. Feeling eager for a change, I applied to both grad school and law school during that time! I decided to go with law school because it sounded prestigious and like a natural extension of my English degree. I ended up attending Howard law school in DC. But going to law school just made me more despondent because it’s the kind of thing you really have to be committed to and I realized that I really didn’t want to be a lawyer. I decided to leave, and it was one of the toughest decisions I ever made! I don’t have any regrets about dropping out, because I think I know myself very well. There are a lot of amazing lawyers out there, but I’m proud of myself for taking action when I knew it wasn’t right for me, instead of continuing on a safe path. The upside to attending law school was that I ended up moving in with my then boyfriend, getting my first apartment, and having a lot of great experiences in and around DC. And knowing what wasn’t right for me helped propel me into making some of my dreams a reality, including starting a fashion business.

Love (and Grief, which is an extension of Love) Will Shape Who You Are- 2017 was the hardest year of my life so far. My grandfather died after battling pancreatic cancer, and we were very close. They say grief comes in waves, and it’s very true. But my grief made me a more spiritual person, and more eager to try to help others. 2017 was also the year that I became a mother. Nothing anyone says can truly prepare you for how hard motherhood is (the anxiety, the sleepless nights, etc etc) but no one can prepare you for how strong the parent-child bond can be either and it’s amazing to feel so much love for someone.

And because I met my husband at somewhat of a young age, we’ve had the interesting experience of growing up together during our 20s. Our relationship has definitely taught me some things that I appreciate about myself and some things that I’ve had to work on. Love finds us all at different times in our lives, but when it does it helps us to grow as individuals.

Those are a few of the biggest lessons I learned in my 20s. But I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store. There are a lot of question marks in my future. I plan on focusing on Mom life for a while (and *fingers crossed* having one more baby) and starting a women’s group based on my own spiritual practices, but eventually I do want to resume my career or take on something else entrepreneurial.

Again I’d love to hear some of the biggest lessons you learned in your 20s (or that you’ve learned so far). Let me know in the comments!

XO and Self-Care,

Courtney