Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Favorites: Heart Edition

I decided to jump on the Friday Favorites bandwagon today with mixed emotions.  Several of my favorite bloggers do this and while I do enjoy reading them, I always have a few questions.  Do they really buy all of these things?!  Are they being paid to tell me about these coffee cups?  Or these jeans?  Not that I have a problem with that, it just makes me curious.  I almost always like all of the things that they recommend, but then there is a bit of a wave of disappointment when my practical side tells me, "No, you should not buy that baby hat with the snowflake on it.  Audrey already has a hat."  And yet, here I am.  I can assure you that I have not and will not be buying all of these things.  And I am most definitely not getting paid to tell you about them.  But, it's fun and they are cute and Fridays are supposed to be more lighthearted anyway :).

Now on to the fun stuff, if I haven't lost you yet!  Today is all about hearts.  Not only is February in a few short days, but I have a special connection to this symbol.  I am drawn to snowflakes because it was a big part of our wedding decor and I am drawn to hearts given my experience with having to take care of mine.  I hope you enjoy!

These pajama pants and this coffee mug.  I love Old Navy pj pants because they come in tall!  And this mug from the Target dollar section (it was actually $3) makes me smile at 5:15am... that's hard to do!  I like this one even more.  

Due to that lovely "b" word (budget), I have tried to cut back on buying decorations for our house.  But last year, I couldn't resist this garland from Target.  I also like these.  Her banners are great quality and I love following her on Instagram (@Alpineridgeandco). 

I had to buy this shirt for Aiden.  He's had it each year, so we can now call it tradition.  Here he is wearing it last year.  After my surgery, he was the cutest doctor, taking care of mommy.  This was his "I prefer one arm out of my shirt at all times" phase.  

Hannah Andersson pajamas are the BEST out there.  But they are pricey, which is why I probably won't take the plunge with these.  The ones I have bought (on major sale) have held up so well and really are worth the money. 

I've been slowly replacing my wardrobe, as things begin to literally fall off of me (woohoo!).  I recently purchased this workout shirt with a gift card.  I love that it supports Go Red for Women.

The second Audrey's hair was longer than peach fuzz, I ordered these sparkle bows.  I am now eyeing several other things from this shop, including the heart clip.  Sophia and Co. is a great small business run by a couple who live in Columbus!  If you're a Buckeye fan, they always have cute accessories :).

Sweaty Bands are a workout staple for me and I may have to get this one for the Heart Mini.

Audrey is outgrowing clothes faster than I can drink a pot of coffee (seems that way at least), so I bought her this outfit in the next size up (there's a pink sparkly heart on her shirt).  For under $10 for both pieces, I should've bought more.

Last but not least, these popcorn "recipes" always sound so good and white chocolate is my favorite.  I may have to actually make it this time, instead of just drooling over the pictures!

Have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brother and Sister

I spent most of my childhood as an only child.  Of course, the grass is always greener, so I always wanted a brother or sister to play with, complain to and of course torture.  This past desire is one of the reasons I was so thrilled when we knew Aiden would have a little sister.  Along with my excitement came an overwhelming worry that they wouldn't really like each other.  I'd seen so many pictures of kids with their baby brothers or sisters and how they were best friends and played so well together.  What if ours weren't like that?  Aiden is only 18 months older than Audrey, so I knew the transition would be tough on him.  I vowed from the beginning to be patient and let them learn to be siblings in their own time.

This has turned out to be a necessary approach.  Aiden has needed time to get used to his little sister.  He's had to learn to share his toys, and more challenging, Mommy and Daddy's attention.  We've done the best we can, but it's been difficult and there have been times that I thought they would never mesh.  Aiden can be physical with Audrey, pushing her and pulling on her.  He often tells me to put her down, so that I can hold him.  I know this is all very normal, but it's still not easy.

Recently, I've seen a shift, especially in Aiden.  I'm not sure if something happened, if he's growing up or if time has just started to do the trick but Aiden actually seems to want Audrey around.  He asks her to come play with him.  He brings her a blanket and covers her up.  He asks if she needs her diaper changed (now if he'd learn to change it!).  And one glorious day, when Audrey woke up from her nap and Andrew was working in the basement and I was sick and napping, Aiden went in and played with Audrey for 30 whole minutes!  He put toys in her crib and their chatter woke me up.  In fact, it was Aiden saying, "I love you Audrey," that made me open my eyes.  And then of course they shed a few tears.

I know they will fight and at times will hate each other.  I know we will be playing referee with them for many many years to come.  But they love each other, I can see that now.  And what more could a parent want?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Love the House You're In

I've lived in a lot of homes.  If you count college, I've lived in 14 different places in 34 years.  That's a lot of boxes.  But we've lived in our current house since October of 2007, which makes this my longest running continuous streak.  So naturally, I'm ready to move.  Well, sort of.  Let's say I like the idea of moving.  I know better than most people know their own Facebook page.  I know what houses are selling for and I know what we could get in different parts of the city.  It's become a hobby of mine to browse listings just to see what is out there.  

The spring after we moved in.  After we redid the landscaping, but before we replaced the roof...ourselves :).
This restless feeling, I know, comes from my history of moving and change and also from my bad habit of jumping into things, sometimes too quickly.  We were very lucky when we purchased our current home.  We knew nothing about the area and trusted our realtor that we were making a good decision.  Turns out we did and we made a great investment.  But that doesn't mean that this is our "forever home," if that is even really a thing.  SO many of my close friends have moved over the past few years and I think that fuels the fire too.  But I think I've finally come to the realization that I need to stop, slow down and learn to love this house, because it's pretty great.

Move in day
There are three major concerns I have with our current home.  We don't have the ever so HGTV popular "open floor plan."  It's not completely closed off, but being in the kitchen is tricky with the little ones.  We are also on a somewhat busy street, which makes me nervous as we walk to our car.  And while we have amazing neighbors, there are no little kids around for ours to play with.  These are not complete deal breakers, but if I'm being picky, there ya go.  As I pondered these concerns the other night, I realized that there are WAY more pros about our house than cons.  And to help convince myself that we are A-okay here for awhile....I've come up with a list.

1. This place has our hearts.  We got engaged in the living room.  We brought our babies home here.  We now have 8 plus years of memories within these walls, which is a pretty special thing.

2. It's not too big, AKA unmanageable.  We struggle to keep this house clean and organized, so why would a bigger one be any easier?  More places to hoard stuff is what I'm telling myself.  

3. We have a great setup in our back yard.  Our covered patio will be hard to replace (within budget) and the fenced in yard is great for Ollie and the kids.

4. We've spent the past two years finishing our basement and it's finally, almost, pretty much done.  Did I mention finally?  It's a great space and helps out with not having the upstairs open.

5. I love our kids' bedrooms.  I know we could paint walls and decorate the same way in a new house, but their rooms are my favorite in the house and I'm not ready to let go of them yet.

6. I love our location 75% of the time.  We are close to everything....except our family and most friends.  But they are mostly within 30 minutes, which is very doable (unless it's a Friday afternoon). We are completely undecided on where we would want to live next and it's partly because we really do love this area.  I'm finally feeling more connected through the gym and Aiden's school and that will only improve.  So we'll see if we decide to stay in the bluegrass for good.

Everyone seems to want bigger and better.  I wouldn't mind a little bigger, but I am going to commit  to spending these upcoming months just feeling settled.  One of my favorite blogs is House Tweaking.  Their family has a great story about downsizing and she really makes me think about what is best for our family.  I have a list of small projects I'd like to do around here to freshen things up, and I'm hoping that will cure my restlessness.  The truth is, Aiden won't start Kindergarten for two and a half more years, so we have time.  And we have more than we need and more than I ever thought I would have.  Quality over quantity is such a true statement.  And the quality we have in this home is about as good as it gets. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Focusing on Health with Ava Anderson

I've mentioned that in the new year, one of my goals is to improve our overall health as a family, and take it beyond balanced eating and exercise.  About a year ago I started buying "natural" cleaning products because I figured it wasn't a huge increase in cost and it would only be a positive change for our home.  They worked well and I didn't give the rest much thought.  Over the past year, I've read more and more about the harmful toxins that are in the everyday products we use.  I know we can't believe everything we read or hear, but the research is pretty powerful.  I gave up diet coke a few years ago, mainly because of the aspartame.  It is a known cause of cancer, so how can it still be in our drinks?  Good question.  And it makes it believable that our everyday cleaning, household and many other products can have these toxins in them as well.

I decided to start with these!
I first heard of Ava Anderson a few months ago through Facebook and my friend from college, Whitney.  If you've read my stance on direct sales (here), you know I love to support my friends and their small business ventures, especially if the products are useful and good for my family.  I was immediately impressed with the quality and safety of the products, and the results I've seen from using them.  Cleaning is not only my least favorite activity, it has become low on the totem pole of my priorities.  But I always get to a point where I feel like we are living in filth (it's not that bad, but seems like it!), so I'm trying to better stay on top of it.  I'm not lying when I say that when I got my two different types of Ava Anderson surface cleaners, I looked forward to cleaning with them.  And the novelty hasn't worn off yet.

My little helper. And no worry about the fumes!
I had a lightbulb moment earlier this month as I wiped off our dining room table with a Clorox wipe.  A few hours later, I watched Audrey smear yogurt on that table and then into her mouth.  Did she just ingest Clorox?!  I'm not an expert, but that I know that is not good.  And I could just use water to wipe it off, but we all know it doesn't feel as clean.  Because it isn't.  It was a good feeling to know that cleaning my table with Ava Anderson's All Purpose Cleaner was as safe as wiping it down with water.  And it worked just as well, if not better!

My tub, before and after.  I told you our house got gross.
The amount of products available through this company are numerous.  I was a little overwhelmed when I started browsing, but Whitney pointed me in the cleaner direction as a good place to start.  I don't plan on switching everything over at one time, but I definitely look forward to trying out more products.  

I will do everything in my power to be around as long as I possibly can for my family and to keep them healthy.  I was shocked to read these statistics from Ava's website, "1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetime, 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys are identified with autism spectrum disorder in the US, and that Alzheimers is up 500% in the past 20 years."  Yes, a lot of factors play into this, but why not control the factors that are within our power?

When I compared ingredients to the other "natural" cleaners I have, there was quite a difference!
If you are interested in trying out Ava Anderson products, you can visit and use party ID 127843. It will be set up through the end of January!

Friday, January 8, 2016

To those Resolving to Lose Weight this Year...

A new year and everyone knows the #1 resolution is to lose weight.  I hope that those who have made this resolution really resolve to be healthy, not just lose the pounds.  I've taken that approach over the past year and while I do track the numbers and can't wait to see a certain number on the scale, my energy level and overall health are my number one priorities.  I know a lot of people make a New Year goal to lose weight and get healthy; I've been one of them for as long as I remember.  Last year with my surgery on January 12th, it was the perfect time to make some changes.  My lifestyle and goals do not have a time frame, as they are ever evolving, but I do think I've learned a lot over the past year and I'd love to share this "wisdom" with you.  I am FAR from an expert, but maybe you can get some inspiration from these thoughts of mine :).

1. Don't give up something entirely (except maybe pop/soda).  In my brain, if I give up something altogether, I only want it more.  My exception has been coke, because I know that if I don't give it up entirely, it will just sneak back in more than it needs to.  I haven't had one in over a year and I do not miss it one bit.  I have had french fries, cake, ice cream and other indulgences.... but they are intentional and infrequent... and in small portions.

2. Keep track of what you eat.  I used the MyFitnessPal App for several months, and am starting it up again.  It is SO helpful to see what is really going into your body.  And don't just pay attention to the calories.  I also keep a careful eye on sugar and fiber.

3. Take progress pictures.  You see yourself everyday and you won't notice a big difference until you look back at a picture of yourself and see how far you've really come.

4. Share your goals with others.  I know this isn't for everyone, but it has been a big part of my journey and it's been so helpful.  There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when trying to lead a healthier lifestyle and you never know who you'll inspire.

5. Find workouts that you enjoy.  I look forward to going to the gym, seriously, I do.  Right now I'm doing a combination of individual and group training, along with a dance class and running.  I used to just get on an elliptical for 30 minutes, mess around with the weight machines and call it a day.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I didn't like it.  And I didn't stick with it.  Try new things and always remember there are others there who are new too!

6. The best advice I can give... be realistic and remember this is a lifestyle adjustment, not a "diet" that you'll stop once you've dropped the weight.  Your life is not over because you are not eating as much fast food - in fact, you'll feel better soon enough.  While it's a big deal to make these changes and strive to meet health goals, I've also found if I treat it like a big "life-altering" event, it becomes just that.  A one time event.  And when it's over, what happens?  Find a balance that you can stick with.

If I can do it, you can do it.  I am still a work in progress, as we all are, but I can tell you I feel 2000 times better than I did a year ago.  It's so worth it, I promise.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year, New Promise

2016...If you know me well, you know my OCD tendencies love the fact that we are now in an even numbered year.  I've always been particular about numbers and for some reason beyond my understanding, I prefer the even ones.  So that means it's going to be a great year, right?! :)  I think so.  What I love about this year is that it is wide open.  There are no pending surgeries, decisions about work, immediate need to move or really any big life events, now that I think about it.  While that does sound a little dull and unsettling to me, I am going to embrace it.  But that doesn't mean I don't have goals for this year.  2015 was all about surviving.  Literally and figuratively.  2016 is the year to push and see where life can take us.

I have many goals floating around in my head, but there are a few that I really want to focus on.  I feel like 2015 set our family up for great things, we just have to have the courage and drive to take the next step.  My 2015 goals remain goals for this year, but I'm adding to it...

1. Focus on overall wellness, not just physical health.  I've been researching non-toxic products, ways to improve mental and emotional health and how best to simplify our lives.  These are all things I'd like to learn more about and implement in 2016.

2. Enjoy and embrace boredom.  I do WAY too much mindless scrolling and I want that time to be better used.  I'm not giving up social media, but I do want to be more intentional about it.

3. Spend more time in prayer.  I pray often and randomly, but it is usually short and not as meaningful as I would like.  There is a quote that I have always loved (even though it's from Dawson's Creek)... "I don't pray to change God, I pray to change me."  How true that is.

4. Make progress on my children's book.  Yep, I've written a book.  I've worked on it off and on for a couple of years and it is my dream to see it published.  We'll see if I can make that happen.

5. Last, but certainly not least... I want more one on one time with Andrew.  I'd like to spend more time talking (face to face), going on dates, traveling and simply having fun.

The promise of a new year is always exciting.  I wish for all of you that you find health and happiness these next twelve months.  And I look forward to sharing my journey along the way.