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

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

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

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

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

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

Transitioning to Stay at Home Mom Life

Transitioning to Stay at Home Mom Life

As some of you may already know if you follow me on instagram, I recently decided to leave my job as a writer/editor and embrace full-time mom life for a while. I’m really happy about this step; this time goes by so ridiculously fast and I’m excited about being with my kids all the time while they’re so little, but I agonized over the decision. Ultimately I decided that it’s the best thing for my family right now, but if you’re on the fence (or think that might be something that you’re interested in doing in the future) here are a few things to consider:

Finances obviously have a huge impact on the decision to stay at home or not. Many women who can survive on their partner’s income still enjoy the financial freedom (and the long list of other intangible benefits) that come with working. But for some women (especially moms of two or more similar aged children) the costs of childcare can outweigh the benefits of working.

When I became pregnant with my oldest son Mason I was pretty astounded by the price of daycares in Northern VA. I ended up negotiating a reasonable rate with a part-time nanny (and splitting childcare duties with my husband on the two days we worked from home- not an easy task). But when I became pregnant with my second son Myles I knew that we would be putting a significant portion of our budget to childcare and that a daycare center for two babies would be incredibly expensive. We moved further out to a less expensive area and I planned to continue using a nanny, but when my plans fell through I had trouble finding a replacement or a daycare that fit our needs. Thankfully we are in a position right now where we can live on my husband’s income, so I felt like it was probably better to just leave work and take care of them myself instead of settling for childcare I wasn’t thrilled about and spending lots of money on it in the process.

If you’re in a position where you want or need to continue working, I recommend that you start looking for childcare as early as possible (seriously, like early in your pregnancy) to secure the best quality care in your budget. Seek out recommendations from family, friends, and co-workers. You may also want to consider flexible arrangements like nanny shares along with more traditional daycare centers and in-home daycares.

Another thing to consider is how much you love your job. If you truly love it or you’re on the track for a career that you’re excited about, you may not be happy staying home. I was happy with my job, but I was also comfortable walking away from it for a while. You may need to do some soul searching but just know that whatever you decide is ok.

In another post I’ll discuss some resources that have been helpful for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts-  how do you feel about stay-at-home mom life? If you’re currently (or were previously) a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, what helped me you make that decision? And do you have any tips for others?

Wishing you lots of self-care,

Courtney