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

7 Brands That Actually Make Cute Clothing for Girls AND Boys

7 Brands That Actually Make Cute Clothing for Girls AND Boys

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

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

Zara-


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

Gap Kids


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

Janie and Jack


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

Hugo Loves Tiki


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

Jamie Kay-


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

Ralph Lauren


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

Carters-


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

 

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

 

Xo,

Courtney

 

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

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had Kids

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had Kids

Recently I wrote a post about 3 things I wish I had known before I got married. I wanted to follow that with a post about 3 things I wish I had known before I became a parent, because motherhood is definitely one of those things where expectations sometimes don’t match reality.  Hopefully this helps some new or future moms out there. And I would love to hear from experienced moms who have advice to give.

Don’t worry too much about labor– Before I gave birth for the first time I obsessed over what labor would be like and how I could prepare myself. I read every book, article, and forum I could find. But the reality is, if you’re having a hospital birth with an epidural, most of that is unnecessary. The whole process is painful and tiring but relatively simple, and doctors and nurses who help with labor every day are there to assist. You’ll have way more work to do when you actually go home with your baby.

But, it doesn’t hurt to do some research. You should educate yourself about your options in case there are complications. And if you’re planning on a natural birth without an epidural then you should prepare yourself as much as possible beforehand for the physical and mental task you’ll be undertaking.

Breastfeeding can be really hard- When I was pregnant with my oldest son Mason, I didn’t think too much about breastfeeding. I knew that I wanted to do it, but I imagined it wasn’t any harder than just putting my baby to my breast. But when he was born and started breastfeeding the whole experience was incredibly painful for me. And my milk didn’t let down as much as it should have as a result.

It turns out the pain was due to an improper latch that took me a long time to correct, even with help (some people also think breastfeeding with boys can be a little tougher for sensitive moms). I kept going and breastfed for 9 months, and it eventually got much easier, but I regret not preparing more beforehand. Some women don’t have any trouble with breastfeeding. My own mother breastfed my little sister for 2 years with no problems. But for others, it can be a struggle. You should study up on latches and positions before your baby comes. Also many hospitals will send a lactation consultant to see you automatically, but if they don’t, then ask for one. Even if you think things are going well right out of the gate, it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

You don’t need much stuff- I have a ton of baby gadgets for my sons. Some things are amazing, but sadly many things I’ve purchased have gone unused because they weren’t interested. Every baby is different, and you never know if something will work for your child even if it worked for a family member, friend etc. For example, Mason loved his swing but hated his Jumparoo and never used it. Myles isn’t a big fan of the swing. So don’t feel like you have to spend a ton on baby gadgets. Even the things that work only last a short period of time before your baby outgrows them. Babies really only need the basics (and your love and attention) to thrive. Anything else is extra.

Those are three things I wish I had known before I had kids. What are some things you wish you had known? Or if you haven’t had kids yet but want them, then what are you looking forward to or worried about?

 

Wishing you self- care,

Courtney

Stay at Home Mom Life: An Update

Stay at Home Mom Life: An Update

I’ve been home with my boys full-time for about 2.5 months now. The #1 question people have been asking me lately is how that’s going, so I decided to give everyone an update on what it’s been like so far. Overall I’d say I’m pretty happy as a stay at home mom. I love that I get to wake up with my boys every day and plan their schedule and activities, and know that they’re safe with me. But there are some challenges I’ve had to overcome (and some that I’m still working on). Here’s an overview of the good and the bad:

The Good– Even though I’ve taken on more work in terms of childcare and household duties, it’s nice to feel like I actually have less on my plate because I’m not responsible for projects and deadlines in addition to the duties involved with two children under two years old. My kids are of course pretty demanding, but I get to decide how crazy I want my day to be. If I have a sleepless night (which doesn’t happen too often thanks to the boys’ schedules) I can get some fresh air and nap when the boys are napping. Physically I was worn out the first time around before my oldest son started sleeping through the night, and back then being so exhausted and going in to the office was really hard. I got through it of course, but it’s nice to be able to do things differently this time around.

This time also goes by way too fast. I feel like being home allows me slow down time a little bit and cherish these fleeting moments. When my oldest son Mason crawled for the first time our nanny captured the moment on video for us. This time around I hope to see all the milestone moments in person.

The Bad Challenges– Everyone knows that being a stay at home mom can be socially isolating, and I was prepared for that. But it’s also pretty isolating for my sons, especially since my youngest isn’t old enough to play with his big brother yet.This should get better with time, but I’ve had to make an effort to meet other stay at home moms in my area and to take my boys out to social activities (and it can be exhausting taking two babies out on my own, I’ll admit I’m not very good at this yet). So far I’ve used facebook groups and an app called Peanut to meet a few local moms. It also doesn’t help that our current neighborhood isn’t the most kid friendly, but we plan on moving to an area with more amenities for children next year, and will hopefully meet more parents naturally that way.

The other challenge is learning to take more time for myself. Watching my children 24/7 can be tiring and a little monotonous if I don’t make an effort to shake things up with our schedule and to take breaks from mom life. I fall victim to mom superhero complex sometimes, where I refuse to take off my cape and hand over more responsibilities so that I can focus on myself. I know that’s a quick and easy way to get to the point where I feel burned out though. I’m slowly  starting to make more plans away from my children again, and letting my husband take on more responsibilities when he’s available.

So those are the highlights of my life as a stay at home mom so far. I guess we can summarize that by saying stay at home mom life can be amazing, but there can also be challenges to overcome. I still feel like both staying at home and working have unique advantages, so either way it’s important to appreciate all of the positives that you have access to.

If you’re planning on staying home in the future, what are you looking forward to or dreading? And for the experienced parents (both working and stay at home) what tips do you have?

 

Wishing you lots of self-care,

Courtney

Welcome to the M Life!

Welcome to the M Life!

Hello lovely readers,

I wanted to start off with a little bit about myself before we get to the good stuff. My name is Courtney. I’m a 29 year old woman living in Northern Virginia (The DMV area). I have a 17 month old toddler named Mason, and a 3 week old baby boy named Myles (and before you ask, no we didn’t plan it this way, but I think there are some positives about a close age gap and we can get more into that later). I’ve been married for 2 years, although my husband and I have been together since our senior year of college at UVa back in 2011. I was an English major in college and I’m a writer/editor in government communications by day (but please excuse any grammar mishaps and typos here, I want to write more freely), and sell 90s vintage and vintage-inspired clothes with my hubby by night- check out our etsy page here. I’m starting this blog as a way to address a lot of issues surrounding motherhood that are important to me.

The first is that millennial motherhood comes with its challenges. We live in an age where women are told to delay motherhood in favor of their careers and instagram worthy vacations (and there is nothing wrong with that) but as someone who’s slowly building a career and still wants the instagram worthy vacations, I’m juggling how to have it all without going off the deep end, and want to share stories, tips, and resources (and get all of those things from you guys as well!). When I announced my first pregnancy shortly after my wedding, a lot of people told me I was joining the motherhood club too early, that my husband and I would be missing out on valuable time as just the two of us. But I think we both can say that our lives have felt fuller since Mason, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person as a result of having to care about someone more than myself.

I got similar negative reactions when I announced my second pregnancy. So many people, even strangers, said two under two would drive me and my husband crazy. But we’re all surviving so far. And while the newborn stage (and all of the hormone changes and sleep deprivation that come along with it) made me feel isolated the first time, I actually feel more connected to my husband after having Myles. The point is motherhood doesn’t have to have a bad rep as a millennial. It’s hard work but it’s seriously amazing! The second is that because motherhood in general is such hard work (some days it takes all of you and then some) connecting with and supporting other mothers is key to our survival. So is self-care, so I’ll be talking about that a lot.

I also just want to share some tips and products that I think are helpful as I discover them. There will be a lot of content for moms in general, but some just for moms of boys (because I think we get the short end of the stick when it comes to some of the fun stuff like baby clothes). This isn’t my first attempt at blogging- as some of you may know I had a very brief stint in law school, which led to my earlier blog Law Books and Lipstick (and a lot of student loans). I’ve also been a contributing blogger on The Real Chic Life (run by my Mom, who also has an amazing instagram). I’ll repost this in my about me section. I’d love your comments, questions, and suggestions. 

Wishing you lots of coffee and self-care,

Courtney