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

Choosing a Neighborhood When You Have Kids

Choosing a Neighborhood When You Have Kids

A year ago I was just settling into my current home in Stafford, Virginia. I was in love with the look of our place (everything was brand new and very modern) and excited to be closer to my family- about 30 minutes from my Mom, Stepdad and little sister, and 2.5 hours away from my extended family. We had chosen to move out to Stafford so that I could get more help with my kids from my mom and sister (Mason was 10 months old and I was newly pregnant with Myles) and so that the cost of childcare would be cheaper because daycares in Alexandria were so expensive- most of the centers were $400-$500 per week per child, and they were almost half that price in Stafford. My husband and I both knew we would be taking on extra long work commutes of up to an hour and a half, but we still felt like the positives outweighed the negatives.

Our optimism didn’t last long. We soon realized that in our eagerness to move we had chosen our new area very poorly, without accounting for all of our new needs as parents. Stafford carried a lower cost of living, but it was far more socially isolating than where we had lived previously because most of our friends are closer to DC. And the long commutes can really make going to work a drag. I’m lucky to no longer have to make the commute now that I’m a stay at home Mom, but I know that it’s draining for my husband and some days he’s home late when I need help with the kids in the evening because of traffic alone. And our neighborhood is beautiful but not very kid friendly, we have to drive out to parks and activities for their age group.

Because of all of these negatives we decided to move again this year. I knew that I wanted to live in a master planned community this time- these are large residential neighborhoods with amenities like parks, playgrounds, pools, athletic spaces, and sometimes even town centers with retail. They typically provide a lot of events and amenities that are geared towards children. A few examples of master planned communities in the DMV area include Embrey Mill in Stafford, Potomac Shores in Woodbridge, and Westphalia Town Center in PG County. We ended up choosing Brambleton Town Center to be close to my husband’s job.  

I’m looking forward to taking the boys to the parks and events. If you’re thinking about relocating with children now or in the future, consider the types of activities your children will be interested in and how accessible those things will be in your new area. Also consider whether or not you’ll mind driving to most things or if being in a walkable area is important to you. It was very important to me, because I’m not a master at loading my two littles into the car and taking them out on excursions by myself without coming back stressed yet. I’ve also always loved walkable areas because I’m a city girl at heart.

And of course do your research on your childcare options in the area well in advance if that’s something you’re going to need.

What are your tips for choosing a new neighborhood? And if you have any advice for minimizing stress during a move let me know.

 

Wishing you self-care,

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

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married


I wanted to a take a break from talking about life as a mom to tackle another subject- marriage (Side note- My husband promised me a guest post, hopefully we’ll see that soon :). Just to provide a little background for anyone who doesn’t know us- my husband and I met during our last year of college and started dating the second semester. We both graduated and started a super angsty long-distance relationship where we skyped all the time and traveled back and forth between Virginia Beach and New York to see each other for about a year. We both moved to the DC area to resume an in-person relationship in 2012. We got married in 2016. Looking back I can’t believe that I’ve been with my husband since I was 22 and he was just 21! We were babies! And since we’re reflecting on the past, here are 3 things I wish I had known before I got married:

You don’t have to have a big wedding– I had 2 wedding ceremonies- a traditional Nigerian wedding and a regular wedding in Virginia Beach. We invited a lot of people and the whole thing was very expensive. We did get some help from our parents (and were gifted a very generous and amazing honeymoon by family) but we took on the majority of the wedding bill ourselves. While I can always cherish the memories I had with family and friends, I also look back with a bit of regret at the amount of time, stress, and money spent. If big weddings are your thing by all means go for it! But you don’t have to give in to the pressure to have a large event if that’s not what you really want. Small weddings can be very chic. And a lot of couples are choosing to forgo weddings altogether. If you’re footing most (or all) of the bill, there’s nothing wrong with putting that money towards your first house, an investment, a business, etc. instead. Just be true to yourselves as a couple and do what’s truly going to make you happy.

 If you’re already living together, things may not change much after you get married– Sometimes people have an idyllic view of marriage (or on the flip side a very negative perception) and think that everything changes once you get hitched. If you’re living together for the first time when you get married then there will be some big adjustments. But if you’re already living together like I did with my husband, you may find that not much changes, except maybe other people’s perceptions of your relationship. I think there are some advantages and disadvantages to cohabitation. But we experienced a bigger life shift when we had children than when we tied the knot due to our circumstances.

 You may need to adjust your attitudes about money– My husband is very frugal when it comes to most things, and I enjoy shopping and splurging way more often than he does. So naturally finances have been a big topic of conversation in our household. We’re still trying to find a happy medium, but being open and collaborative about your saving and spending habits is vital. I was raised by a strong single mother (who’s now happily married) so the whole concept of discussing my finances with a “partner” was an adjustment for me. It’s more important than ever now that I’m a stay at home mom but I’m sure its all been an adjustment for my husband too. It’s great if both people in a marriage have similar views and spending habits, but if not it probably benefits both people to strengthen communication and planning in this area as early as possible.

 Those are three things I wish I had known before marriage. If you’re married, what do you wish you had known beforehand and what tips do you have for others?

Wishing you lots of self-care,

Courtney

Style Inspiration: Meghan Markle

Style Inspiration: Meghan Markle

Now that fall is just around the corner, I’m thinking a lot about my fall wardrobe, which needs an update (I was pregnant during the last two fall seasons). I’ve been searching the internet for inspiration to plan a cool capsule wardrobe that’s mom friendly. (If you’re unfamiliar with capsule wardrobes or how to plan one from scratch, check out The Real Chic Life’s post).  I got a lot of inspiration from Meghan Markle, She’s pretty much everyone’s muse right now, and I’ve written about her style before on my old blog Law Books and Lipstick when her outfits on Suits had everyone envious of her business casual style. Meghan’s wardrobe is obviously very polished and ladylike right now, but her pre-royal wardrobe was a master class in casual, effortless chic. Here are a few outfits that I think are Mom friendly and easy to adapt:

A relaxed button down shirt looks polished and timeless in the fall, and distressed jeans make the shirt look more casual, especially when paired with flats. This classic combo is perfect for a playdate, running errands, etc. Oversized sunglasses also are classic and stylish. I purchased the magazine tote version of Meghan’s bag from Everlane. Both options are perfect for tossing everything you need in on the go.

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Another alternative to a classic button down is a chambray button down. When paired with a statement coat or trench this comfortable all denim look is very chic with minimal effort.

My leather jacket is probably my favorite item in my fall wardrobe. This edgy item pairs well with almost everything. You can throw on a very casual outfit for running around with your kids like Meghan’s jeans and tee on the left, and the look is instantly elevated with a leather jacket. Leather jackets also add a cool factor to dresses when you’re going out for date nights or events.

A simple workout outfit becomes more stylish on the street when paired with a structured light jacket and accessories like scarves and sunglasses.

That’s it for now, I’ll add more celeb style inspiration in future posts. Who’s your favorite celeb for style inspiration? And what are your go to pieces for fall?

Wishing you self-care,

Courtney