11.13.2014

Updates on pregnancy, life, and brownies.

Hi friends,

Pregnancy. It has been a little while, eh? That is what pregnancy does to a blog (at least this time around). This pregnancy has been royally kicking my butt some days but luckily, there are just about an equal amount of great days, too. The tough days have me holed up on the couch with cramps, (note to everyone: magnesium + calcium will be your savior...like take you from not wanting to move to walking around again), reading a million books to my toddler while I desperately wish I could be rolling around on the floor with him. There are also the few days of the week where my pregnancy insomnia literally keeps me up all night. Insomnia isn't something that is new to me, but it has also never been this extreme...kind of a lethal combination.

The great days find me catching up on everything else, cleaning, organizing, and getting in all of the fun time that I slack on during the tough days. We get out of the house, we got to the library to play, or the children's museum, and try to live that day to the fullest. It isn't perfect. It isn't super easy but we are making it work.

I think the biggest thing about this whole experience is how surprised I am at the tough days. I feel like I shouldn't have them anymore. There should be no throwing up after the first trimester, right? This should be my honeymoon trimester! But then our little inside guy (it is a boy by the way!) gives me lots of kicks and hiccups and I remember that I just don't care about being sick. I would go through hell for him. Those moments remind me that this little man waiting to come out and cuddle is worth all of the heartburn and aches. The little outside guy, Asa, also helps a lot because he is seriously so patient. He is content getting cozy with me and reading for hours (not joking). So, we're going to be alright. All of us.

Life. One positive (?) of insomnia is that it gives you a lot of time and time to think. I have been trying to use it wisely. Recently, I stumbled across a few bloggers who write about minimalist living and simplifying life. I realized that I did not have a lot of knowledge about living this way and was immediately sucked in. While I know we will never be an extreme example of this (probably no tiny house or rooms with no furniture), it has challenged me to evaluate our life in relation to belongings, money, and desires. It has challenged me to decide what is really worth keeping, what adds real value, and what is beautiful to us vs. just something that is taking up space. The startling result is that a lot of things don't fall into the earlier categories.

Honestly, making the choice to go down to one income has kind of forced us to minimize certain areas of our life. We downsized from an 1800 sqft home to one with 1300 sqft. We have always had only one car. We got rid of a bunch of furniture that just didn't fit into the new home. Things like spending money, money for entertainment, and general extras has decreased to virtually nothing. Don't get me wrong. We have money to pay for the essentials and important things in life. We also have chosen to live without accumulating debt beyond our mortgage and the pesky remaining student loans (this means no financing or credit cards). However, even though all of these things were already in place, I was astounded by the amount of excess I discovered in our life.

Over the last few weeks (on my great days), I have been combing through the house, room by room, and sorting things into four piles: keep, sell, donate, and trash. It has been so life-giving. We have taken so many trips to the donation center with a van full of useful things that were just no longer useful for us. We've been able to directly give items to friends who would actually put them to use and we have finally pitched items that were of no use to anyone. In fact, we have even been able to get rid of multiple areas of storage completely after getting rid of the excess. The rooms that have already been tackled feel like they have new room to breathe, extra space just because space can be beautiful (who knew), and that the items left over are ones that really mean something to us.

I am sure I will talk about this at more length at some point, but if you are interested in reading more about this type of living, here are a few resources below. It has already been changing our family for the better.
And brownies. We made a batch of brownies two nights ago and I just wanted to add as a closing that brownies really make everything better. They make a hard day feel brighter and a great day feel complete. With that in mind, regardless of the day you are having, try adding a brownie on top. It has helped me and it just might help you.

'Til next time,
Sarah

10.23.2014

Peez and Gank Goo... Why I actually love this age of being two.

As a mama, it has always been one of my goals to try and focus on the present as much as I can. I'm doing this with the hope that I will be able to remember the little things, the funny moments, and not feel like time passed by without my participation. I've got to say that this approach has been a full on blessing for me because every time I think about how much I am enjoying Asa's current phase, I am surprised at how much I love and welcome the new things he throws into the mix.

Over the last year and mostly the last six months, Asa has really had a language explosion. We started with a few single words and a few signs, then went onto two word combos, and have now branched into the world of full sentences. Don't get me wrong, the sentences are not always elaborate but this gift of language has been a gift to me in getting to know this vivacious child. He tells me all about what he loves (Choo choos, baseball, football, golf, soup, his outside bike, Clifford, soccer kicks), what he's afraid of, and what he needs. Sometimes I am surprised at how much he can communicate with his little toddler vocabulary.

Within this blossoming language adventure, his manners are an area that have really begun to melt my mama heart. We have always tried to teach about please and thank you, but it hasn't been until the last few months where those have really started to sink in. Mostly simple lessons like "more" needs to be "more please", and that it is always important to say thank you when someone helps you out are coming to fruition. 

A great story relating to this-  I was sitting on the couch (around 6:15 AM) still in complete zombie mode and quietly overhearing a conversation between Josh and Asa. To be honest, I'm not even sure exactly what they were talking about or doing but Josh was handing Asa something and then he turned to Josh with a big, toothy grin and said, "Gank goo, Da!" He then proceeded to tell him 'gank goo'- his version of thank you- about ten more times for various things. I couldn't help but chuckle and I knew that Josh was grinning in there, too. Hearts melted.

Those moments are not even about the accomplishment of teaching your child the right things to say but more about seeing the beginning of generosity and giving. It is more about the look in their eyes as you see the understanding that they are thankful that you filled up their tea or peeled their banana and they know how to express it! Once again, heart melted.

I will be the first to say that we are just in the beginning of our two year old phase but so far this gift of language has made the parenting experience come alive in ways that it wasn't before and I am loving it. Every sticky, messy, smudge-y, squirmy inch of it. Each new word, sentence, and expression are a joy to hear and I find myself looking forward to what he will learn to say next. Who knew that this would be such a joyful part of mothering?

10.20.2014

The Obligatory (And Very Fun) Orchard Visit

We finally accomplished a trip to a local orchard this fall! I was getting worried as the weekends kept slipping by and the fact that it just hadn't happened yet. What is fall without the obligatory (but also fun) trip to an orchard?

On Sunday, after naps, lunch, and playing, we decided to make an impromptu trip. Asa really wanted to ride his bike on the front sidewalk but once we mentioned donuts, he was itching to get in the car. Luckily, the orchard was only a ten minute drive from our home, so the wait wasn't too much for the little guy.
After parking, Asa immediately wanted to check out the animals. He especially loved the goats, even though one of the big billy goats scared him a little. It is so much fun to have the opportunity to introduce him to the real-life version of an animal rather than the ones he reads about! Josh and I both laughed out loud when he saw the chickens, because he started yelling "Bawk! Bawk!" immediately upon seeing them. This kid knows his sounds, ha!
We picked up a gallon of cider, a half dozen donuts, and also a cute little pumpkin cup filled with cider. I kept thinking that these people brought their A-game with those pumpkin cups- kid-friendly, cute, and practical. We ate a few donuts between us and tried our best to take at least a few home. A lovely older lady invited us to sit with her. We really enjoyed talking to her and sharing Asa with her. Her excitement for little kids was so endearing and encouraging for this tired, pregnant parent. 
One of the best parts about visiting a place like this is that even the simplest things can bring utter joy to little ones. They had a huge hay stack available for kids to climb on and Asa seriously thought that was the bees-knees. He couldn't play for too long on it because he's such a little thing and was quickly getting mowed over by the bigger kids but even his short time was thoroughly enjoyed. We also found a 'biiiiigggg' stick that quickly became a baseball bat. It definitely took a little bit of persuading to move on from it to the pumpkin patch.
The pumpkin patch was very an adventure to explore, especially because pumpkins come in so many shapes and colors. We came across a few that were past their prime and it was so sweet hearing Asa exclaim "Uh oh! Ow, ow pumpkin!" We have a very compassionate pumpkin lover over here :). Finally, the boys landed on one medium sized pumpkin and one small pumpkin to bring home with us. I foresee some pumpkin painting or carving in the near future for us.

Between the pumpkins, cider, donuts, and animals, heading out to an orchard ended up being well worth the effort. A fun fall afternoon to remember :). 

What's on your family's fall activity to-do list?

P.S. In case you are local to the Grand Rapids area, we visited Schwallier's Country Basket and highly recommend it! There were lots of activities beyond what we did (because they were a bit better for older kids)- corn maze, cow train, hay rides, and a fun slide, too.

10.16.2014

9 Creative Solutions For Displaying Kid's Artwork

I have been having a dilemma in our home for a while. How in the world do I store and display all of Asa's artwork? Do I keep it all? Do I throw it away (gasp...tear)? You can only paint so many pictures and color so many masterpieces before they start to add up very quickly! I can't help but think that he just turned two and that if this is already becoming an issue then I am in big trouble. I can also hear my mom chuckling as she reads this because I used to make fun of her for keeping all of my creations...okay, Mom, I get it now :). Anyways, this post is somewhat of a brainstorm/round-up of ideas that might become concrete solutions for us in our household. The ultimate hope is that I will put one of these into practice in the near future and also be able to share it with you. Here's hoping, huh?

The internets have told me that these are all good ideas (pssh...make sure to check out the sources, too- usually they are coming from other blogs or sites that are chock-full of inspiration!):

1) The $2 Gallery Wall
This solution was created by Stephanie over at Imagine Our Life, and you can see all of the juicy pictures here. I like this solution because of the price, but also because it is fun and lively- just like the art that is being showcased. I think this would work great in a kid's bedroom or playroom, too.

2. Art Via Hangers!
This lovely idea is one of my favorites. It came from good ol' Apartment Therapy and you can find more details here. This display seems a bit more aesthetically pleasing when used in one of the common areas of the house where as some of the other ideas out there are a bit more juvenile. It would also take about two seconds to change up the featured art- another major plus!

3. Crib Spring Turned Art Display
A crib spring turned art display? Probably one of the most original ideas that I have seen out there. This idea comes from Linda at Craftaholics Anonymous and make sure to see the rest of her fabulous craft room here (I am serious when I say it is fabulous, too).

4. Framed Fridge Art
How fun is this idea? Framed art on the fridge has brought a whole new level of class to the kitchen! This idea comes from Positively Splendid and you can find the full tutorial here. I think this idea would definitely make my fridge look a lot nicer, but wouldn't totally solve the problem because I would like to display larger quantities..so maybe this idea in combination with others?

5. Bulletin Board Frame Gallery Wall
I love this idea so much! It combines the clean look of frames with the aspect of ease when it comes to changing up what is featured. This idea comes from Shannon Makes Stuff and you can read all about how she made it happen here.

6. The Trusted IKEA Wire Art Display
This not-so-original idea comes from our house! It is currently hanging up in Asa's room and actually works great. I bought this IKEA curtain wire and simply hung up his artwork with a few mini-clothespins. While I think this works great for this space in his room, I would probably like to try something different if I am going to figure out a way to display the artwork somewhere on the first floor. 

7. Frames + Hooks Artwork Display
Want to know why I love this idea so much? It doesn't scream kid's artwork even though it is exactly that! While I love showing off Asa's stuff, there comes a point where you just do not need every inch of your home to scream that a child lives there. This idea pulls that off. It is low-key, chic, and clever. This idea comes from Lolly Jane and you should totally check out how she did it and more picture here.

8. The Traditional Bulletin Board
This idea comes from the late Young House Love (sobs) and you can see the rest of the info about this idea here. They simply made a huge bulletin board over top their daughter's desk and voila! Major space to display her work! I like the simplicity of this idea and the easy change-ability. The only issue for me is that we do not have a designated playroom, so it would have to go into the basement? Hmm....

9. A Whole Pinterest Board Full of Ideas!
It would be pretty exhausting for you and me if I kept listing every possible idea, so I figured that I would just link over to the board that I try and keep a lot of my "little one" ideas on. Feel free to peruse! Of course, it might be a good idea to set a timer because if you are anything like me, Pinterest can easily take up way more time than intended.

And there you have it! How do you manage this at your house? Any brilliant ideas to add to the mix?

10.15.2014

Enjoying each day together.

My little bug hiding...don't worry, I found him!
We have had a lot on our plate lately. I won't go into too much detail about the specifics but the general gist is crazy work schedules for my husband, two year old molar pains (why did no one warn me about this?!), and lots of rain. It has been a week (or a few of them) that has felt like we just can't catch our breath. I find myself in these times running short on a lot of essential things that I need each day: sleep, patience, motivation. I remember even staring in the mirror yesterday and thinking, "okay...you have to do today...so let's try and at least do it well."

In the midst of all the daily life struggles, the thought that my days as a mama of one are quickly passing has really taken hold. I think that this was difficult to remember during the 'trying to get pregnant' days. Not in any way meaning that I forgot about Asa (how could that ever happen?!) but more that the focus was on adding a child rather than losing the single child status. I was initially very frustrated with how long it took us this time around but as the days go by I am slowly seeing the beauty that the waiting provided for us.

The timing of our second pregnancy has gifted me with over two years of being a mama to my little boy. While I didn't expect it to happen that way (and really there is no right or wrong way for it to happen), I have to say that I am so thankful now. These years have taught me how to be a mama and have allowed me to give Asa my undivided attention. 

This child that I spend my days with is full of so much life. He is teaching me new ways to look at things. He is showing me that even the rain can be mesmerizing. He shows me pure joy when he jumps on the bed, or takes a big gulp of his "hot tea." The moments when he grabs my hand for no reason at all can still stop my heart and fill it with so much gut-bursting emotion. I am slowing learning him. I am learning his fears, his interests, his likes, his dislikes, the things that make him squeal, and the things that make him very, very mad. This raw world of emotion, action, and exploration has and is making me into a better person. While each day is not easy, there is still so much to enjoy within even the toughest of them.

So I've made a decision. It is my goal to find joy and laughter in each day we have left together as a family of three. To find the little moments that are wins and let those become our big moments. To build ten choo-choo towns before noon and get our tomato soup everywhere. To paint Josh one hundred pictures to take to work and read all of our Christmas storybooks even though its October. We have a lot to be thankful for and I don't want to miss out on any of it while in this waiting period for our new arrival.

The nicest part of this whole deal is that while we are enjoying our dwindling days as a family of three, the end result of this stage will also be something to enjoy and be thankful for. As a future family of four, I might not know what it will look like exactly, but I do think these joy-seeking habits we are holding onto right now will still come in handy. And while I can't wait to be a mama of two, I am going to wholeheartedly enjoy being a mama to one right now.

10.02.2014

Fiercely loving the unborn.

My current "baby" taking a nap on his Mama after a long
day at the lake.
I really wanted to write a post that was a bit more upbeat than my last one- especially to share that while this pregnancy has been difficult on us so far- that does not mean that there isn't huge excitement and anticipation going on over here.

Something that has recently taken me off guard is the amount of love you can have for a child who has yet to be born. I honestly think this could be said for many situations- whether you are trying for a baby, just dreaming of future possibilities, have lost a baby, or are currently pregnant. These babies are loved so early on that it can even be a bit startling when you realize how intense your passion is for them. Have you ever experienced this?

With this being my second pregnancy, I have to say that I do feel a different connection with this new baby than I did last time. Different because I have seen a baby grow inside me, seen that little blob on an ultrasound grow into a breathing, crying, nursing, and delicious-smelling human. For some reason, that makes this time around feel all the more real for me. I remember seeing Asa's cute, upturned nose on an ultrasound and then seeing it in real life, and it all made sense. So this time around I feel like those things are clicking earlier. This baby that is growing, all nestled inside my belly is already part of the family.

I think I fully began to realize my attachment to this baby the other night after I woke up from a very crazy  scary pregnancy dream. In the dream I was driving home in a blue sports car and it was snowing outside. I was driving around 70 mph, which I do remember was the speed limit...but maybe not so safe for the road conditions (this is funny in itself because anyone who has driven with me will attest to my grandma-like driving habits). In the dream, I came upon a sharp curve in the road and felt my car lose control. I was thrown from the car but totally conscious the whole time...which of course was terrifying. I remember hitting the pavement and looking up, scared with the realization that the car was going to land right on me. Rather than screaming, my dream-self threw up my arms and legs in order to brace the car and keep it from hitting my baby belly. Luckily, since this was a dream, I was able to throw the car off of me and protect the baby. Talk about a mama bear moment! I'm so glad it was a dream (or nightmare).

The next thing that I remember was waking up and realizing that everything was okay. That I was cuddled up in our big comforter and that my husband, Josh, was snoring lightly beside me. The baby was okay. There was no car, no accident, and no snow. While my nerves were still shaking, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with this fierce sense of protection and love for this new life. It was the moment where I realized that I would protect this child at all costs. This is a life that has been trusted to me, and I will do the best that I can to ensure his/her safety and well-being. 

As a Mama, I think I probably already felt this way about the baby without realizing it but this dream brought it to a head. An emotional experience that I will not easily forget. I know it might be silly to say that a dream has brought this all on, but sometimes it is things like this that really leave an impact.

While looking back, I guess this isn't a traditionally "upbeat" post BUT my main point is that these unborn lives matter. They are loved. They can hold our hearts, fears, and dreams. Who knew someone so small could make you feel so much?

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