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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Just stopping by to wish you a very Merry Christmas! I'll be spending some time away from the blog to celebrate Christmas and spend time with my family over the coming week.

And don't forget to enter the $25 Target gift card giveaway!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Last minute gift ideas

Giveaway now closed as of January 7, 2014

This post is sponsored by Target and all opinions are my own. Follow along with #MyKindofHoliday #MKOH

Last week, the mister and I went on a somewhat last minute shopping trip to buy gifts for our extended family (they had to be mailed since they live out of state so we were in fact getting down to the wire). Today is the eve of Christmas Eve (as my mom always called it), so we're really getting down to the wire with getting gifts, aren't we?!

One of my favorite places to shop is Target. They have a great variety of last minute gift ideas for everyone on your shopping list! I'm honestly still not done with all my Christmas shopping this year, so I'll likely be heading to Target myself.

While shopping, these nickel-free stud earrings caught my eye. They would make a perfect gift for a girlfriend or sister. I also saw them in gold in the store.
Round Textured Stud Earrings

These wool blend socks are perfect for my mother-in-law. They offer lots of warmth from the wool blend without being bulky in a boot and even come in a variety of patterns and colors.
Alaska Knit Crew Sock

The moccasin slipper would be perfect for my brother, with its simple silhouette and fuzzy lining.
Men's Carlo Moccasin Slipper

And who doesn't love a Target gift card as a present? I received one for my birthday a few months ago and it was perfect; I could pick out a few things I'd had my eye on in the store. Did you know Target gift cards are available to give via email or text message? I'm pretty sure that makes them the perfect last minute don't even have to go to the store to purchase them!

Share your favorite last minute gift idea in the comments section below and you'll be entered to win a $25 Target gift card (and leave your email address so I can contact you).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Traditions

As a parent, I have more of a desire to establish family traditions. I find myself wanting to be intentional about the ways we celebrate birthdays and holidays and Christmas is no exception. As our daughter grows up, I'm caught between wanting carry on some of the memorable traditions I grew up with and make our own family traditions.

Some of my favorite traditions from childhood Christmases:
  • my mom bought an ornament for each of us every year (and several of them hang on my tree today)
  • we listened to John Denver and Muppets when we decorated the tree
  • we ate shrimp for Christmas Eve dinner and went to church
  • reading from Luke as a family about Jesus' birth on Christmas Eve and then opening one gift
  • a new pair of pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve (when I was young, my mom used to hang them in my closet as a surprise)

We haven't done too much to create traditions with Maggie, but I hope to cultivate more as she grows up. This year we have a live tree decorated with white lights and a collection of ornaments. I wanted to get an ornament for Maggie that wasn't the usual "baby's first Christmas," so I made an cinnamon dough I found via Pinterest to make an ornament with an imprint of her foot on it (they smell amazing and dried in about 30 hours). 

I look forward to teaching our girl about the importance of giving in this season, whether it's buying gifts for others or volunteering our time and energy or baking/cooking to give the goodies away.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cling to Jesus

I usually try to keep this blog light and fun. And from time to time, I share the weightier matters of life. But lately I am not sure what to write. My heart is full and so is my brain. We've had our share of "curve balls" thrown at us lately. Life doesn't go "as planned" ...whatever that means. When I stop and think about those plans and what I was expecting, I realize most of them fall into the "first world problems" category.

No matter how disappointed I may feel about things not working out, I still have a healthy family, a warm home and a good job. And to top it off, I have so many things, from too many clothes (despite efforts to purge my closet numerous times over the past year) to a kitchen full of gadgets to a warm vehicle at the start of what seems to be a rough winter. Keeping that in mind, I cannot even begin to complain about the seemingly hard things.

Recently, a friend asked me how things are going and I told her it was a loaded question then proceeded to rattle off a series of apparent setbacks. She was so gracious to listen and gentle to respond, "sometimes you just need to cling to Jesus." Touché.

Christmas is one week away. Where is my heart? What am I spending my energy on? I want to be clinging to Jesus. To come and worship the newborn King. To be in wonder of how God sent his only Son to earth in the form of a newborn. A newborn is something I have a new view of this Christmas, having had my first in July.

I am in awe. I've been entrusted with a new life. It is the biggest responsibility I've ever had. I may not be making the time to blog as regularly as I once was, but I am soaking up each and every moment, every squeal, every diaper blowout and even the sleepless hours. And all the while, I want to be clinging to Jesus, depending on His strength when I go to work after a night of three hour's sleep.

A thoughtful friend gave me a set of three onesies with a verse on each. I love her wisdom. It's a reminder that even the "small things" matter (Zechariah 4:10); even changing diapers should be a reason to rejoice.

What are you clinging to when things don't go as planned?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Maggie: 5 months

Hanging out with Maggie is only getting more fun! She's growing and learning new things all the time. The past month was full of challenges, as we struggled through sleep regression, cutting her first two teeth and a growth spurt.

There were days I went to work more sleep deprived than ever. More than once a coworker commented on how tired I looked. Thanks. Let this be my PSA for the week: do not comment on a new parent's appearance. No matter how well-intentioned it may be, hearing that you look as terrible as you feel is just not what you want to hear.

Despite feeling overly tired, we took plenty of joy in Maggie's development and growth throughout the month. She loves to squeal, especially in the middle of the night when she'd get awake. Her smile and genuinely happy state made it near impossible to be annoyed when woken by such happy squeals at 2 or 3am. Maggie also spent plenty of time laughing this month.

She also really seemed to notice and watch our dog, Milton, this past month (notice he's in the background of the above photo).

A few things you may not be able to tell from the photos: Maggie started kicking off her socks. She does not like wearing shoes and has kicked off her boots almost anytime they're on. I've learned to tuck her pants into her socks to keep them on her feet longer. And thought it was a miracle the boots stayed on when we took her outside to get a few photos after her first snowfall.

Maggie's likes:
  • cooing
  • squealing
  • sucking both thumbs equally
  • watching us eat

Maggie's dislikes:
  • wearing socks and shoes
  • infant Tylenol (or grape flavor)

One thing I want to remember about the last month, is the first time she seemed to want just me. I came home from work one day and greeted her as usual, but when I left her for a few minutes to go the bathroom, she whimpered, making it clear I should hurry back. Her dad tried to console her, but she made it clear she wanted some time with me. My heart melted!

She's such a sweet girl and it such a blessing to watch her grow. I have so much to look forward to in the month ahead, with lots more firsts!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

O Tannenbaum

Last weekend, we picked out our Christmas tree. The annual outing is one of my favorite days of the year. This year, it was fun to take Maggie on her first Christmas outing, listening to Christmas music as we drove. 

We've gone to various places to get the tree depending on time and budget for the year. This year we went back to a local Christmas tree farm where we bought our first tree as a married couple. They have hot cocoa and mini cider donuts-- yum!

Maggie's hat was made by Christa who has a beautiful handmade shop, Ora Dale.

Friday, December 6, 2013

December: The List

A few highlights from November:
  • Maggie met her cousins for the first time
  • A good friend and colleague and I dressed alike! We had different accessories on, but took them off for the photo below (chambray, dark pants and taupe booties).
  • Our first Thanksgiving as a family of three.
  • Maggie's first overnight trip.
  • Maggie's nursery is finally finished (this has been a goals for the past few months).

My personal goals for December:
  • Take time to read each Advent scripture as a family. 
  • Read. I've started a few books recently and I'd really like to finish  them (I'm thinking it may have to wait until later in the month, but I do have some time off after Christmas).
  • Make at least three Christmas gifts.
  • Introduce Maggie to snow (weather dependent, but I hope it happens this month).

A few blog posts + pins I've loved lately:

It's your turn to share your list! On the first Friday of the month Erika and I share our favorite things from the past month and what we're looking forward to in the new month. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be long, it can just be what the link-up is: a list.

Grab a button + link up your post below and be sure to check out others' lists!
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The sweetest valley (part 2)

Life has been moving along faster than I can keep up most days and I haven't taken the time to pause and reflect on this new world of motherhood much. In some ways, I think that makes life easier; the just keep going mentality certainly works in a lot of situations for me, so why should motherhood be different? However, I also want to stop and smell the roses (so to speak) because life moves fast and there are some many things I don't want to forget about this season.

When Maggie was just a few weeks old, I reflected on this new season, calling it the sweetest valley. As much of a "good baby" (doesn't fuss a lot, is easy to calm down) as she often is, we've also had our share of tough moments. These moments make me feel I'm still in the valley; the terrain feels rocky and I can't see far ahead. I have to remind myself the valley is where life is lived.

Even though Pinterest tempts me to think life is about mountain top moments with beautiful views and an immaculate home (note the pile of clean diaper inserts just having out on the floor behind my girl), I know life is more about digging in and embracing each moment be it ordinary or even seemingly insignificant.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

While I was talking...

I've been meaning to get some outfit photos for a while. I'm no fashion blogger, but I've been thinking a lot about my closet and the clothes I wear over the past few months. Becoming a mom, has forced me to look at the clothes I wear a bit differently. I'm always considering how my clothes will feel against my baby's skin, how easy/challenging they will be to nurse in and if they will distract a bit from my sleep deprived face (more on that later).

This past weekend there was a rare moment: the babe was sleeping, my husband was home and I was dressed in clothes I'd actually want to be photographed in (rather than sweats), so I grabbed the camera and asked my man to snap some photos.

When I stepped outside, our neighbor was on his back porch and was quick to ask about the little one. Unknown to me, the mister went to work taking some pics.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Maggie's first Thanksgiving

I will always remember our first holiday as a family of three with fondness. It was the first time we gathered around the Thanksgiving table as parents. A year ago, we were trying to keep Maggie's (growing) presence a secret...something we laughed about with friends this year. We were blessed to share this special holiday with them again!

We celebrated with an evening turkey dinner since Brandon had to work. Maggie and I got up early and drove him downtown. It's always so eerie to me to be on the roads on a holiday. I half expected a tumbleweed to roll through while waiting for a traffic light at Downtown Crossing.

I spent the better part of the day cooking for our meal. Thankfully, I had cooked several turkeys in my lifetime, so I wasn't too freaked out by having an infant and Thanksgiving dinner to prepare. I put the green bean casserole together and made a pumpkin pie the night before. I used my crock pot to make the stuffing for the first time using this recipe. So, all I really had to do was make the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy (plus cook the green bean casserole) that day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

giving thanks

On Sunday we attended the Boston Rescue Mission Day of Thanks. Maggie had the perfect hat for the occasion: a turkey beanie!

She loves looking out the window during car rides (don't worry, the cell phone isn't real).

Monday, November 18, 2013

a peek into the nursery

Maggie's room has become my favorite place in our home. It's warm and inviting and more finished than any other space.

When we bought the house, the room was painted green and yellow with a Winnie the Pooh boarder. The room needed a fresh coat of paint so it could be made over. About a year before Maggie was born, we painted the room a rich chocolate brown my husband spotted in the oops paint section at Home Depot (read more about our paint buying secret). I still love how the walls create such an inviting and warm space.

I chose a gender neutral crib bedding with multi-colored dots while I was pregnant, with the idea that I would either add girly or more boyish touches once the baby arrived (and we knew it was a he or she). Less than a week after Maggie was born, we took a trip to IKEA to find some feminine accents for the room, including a picture frame. 

I had also collected a number of decor ideas via Pinterest on a secret board. One such find was a side table made from a tree stump. I loved the earthy feel a stump would bring to the room and I also loved the idea of making it  a bit of an unexpected piece for a baby's room. 

Above the changing table, I wanted to make a collage dedicated to Maggie's birthday. I put together my first ever embroidery hoops as part of the collage. The floral patterns are from old button-front shirts I no longer wore and the fabric in the hoop with Maggie's name on it also started out as a shirt I wore. The multi-colored frame was from my Baby Shower Fiesta and I was excited to put our first family photo in it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

weekend links

Happy Friday! I'm headed to a conference for work this weekend. I am looking forward to catching up with colleagues and making new connections.

Next week, I'll finally be sharing photos from the nursery. Until then, here's a sneak peek of my favorite corner.

Ever since I saw this book, I can't stop thinking about reading it to Maggie when she's older.

I've mentioned before ankle boots (AKA booties) are finally growing on me and I've drawn inspiration from this post and this one too.

I haven't been cooking much lately, but this homemade pumpkin gnocchi is on my to try list.

Although we're only four months into this parenting gig, I agreed with a lot of the 10 true things about the first year of parenthood.

As a fellow new mom, I'm loving this series. I couldn't agree more; your style changes as a new mama.

I've never been one to spend much time on my hair, so Brooke's post resonated with me.

What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Maggie: 4 months

Maggie continues to grow and change with each day. Sometimes when I look back on photos from when she was born, I wonder how it can be the same baby. Her little face has changed so much in the past four months.

Lately, she seems to smile a bit less and study a bit more. She loves to look out the window she's in the car. She knows our voices and quickly looks around when she hears either mommy or daddy speak.

Maggie still seems to be trying to figure out our dog, Milton. She watches him and lets him sniff her, but she doesn't like being woken up by his barking (and I can't blame her).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

back to work + making it work

It's been more than three weeks since I returned to work. I certainly don't have things figured out and I am going with "one day at a time" mantra, but I'd say it's going fairly well. I am so thankful for Maggie's good nature.

I wanted to share three things that seem to have helped the transition of my being gone for 9 hours a day four days per week. I am so grateful and realize these options may not be available to a lot of working moms, but I believe they have only helped Maggie's time away from me.

For the my first two months back at work, I am working four day work weeks. I read about this suggestion in a breastfeeding book that claimed taking Wednesdays off could not only boost your milk supply but lessen the baby's anxiety about being away from you. I approached my boss about the possibility, focusing on wanting to ease into being away from Maggie (rather than talking about my milk supply...that would be awkward!). He was very supportive and allowed me to take vacation time, rather than working longer days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

We are also grateful to have not only an in-home caretaker, but a family member watching Maggie. This isn't something I was certain would work out and it's only for a few months, but I am so thankful to have my mother-in-law watching my girl while I am at work, especially since we live several states away from our families. Having Maggie in her own home is also aiding the transition and keeping her cortisol levels low, which can be important to an infant. This is not a long-term solution, but I am excited she'll be at least six months old before she enters a more conventional daycare situation.

It's also very important to me that Maggie continue to be breastfed. It has not been easy (I need to write a whole other post about our breastfeeding journey), but I am committed to making bottle feeding work while I am away from her. This has been the biggest challenge of being away from Maggie. Pumping at work is a drag, but necessary. Maggie never struggled to take the bottle and sometimes seems to prefer it. We had to find a way to feed her more slowly so that she would not reject breastfeeding when I'm with her.

As I said before, I am aware our situation is unique and would not have believed it would work out this way a year ago when I learned I was pregnant. I am so grateful for my job and have built a meaningful career I am not ready to part from. I will continue to take it one day at a time, considering what will work for me and Maggie in each season of life.

Do you have any tips for a working mama?

((affiliate links used))

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

looking forward to...

...wearing fleece lined leggings all. the. time. I discovered Marshall's carries Anne Klein for $6.

...receiving packages from my online post-birthday "shopping spree" (I use the term shopping spree loosely, as I used gift certificates and some birthday money for my purchases). It felt like quite the splurge to buy myself several items; it's been months since I shopped for myself.

...getting back into a blogging routine. October was rough, but I am slowly finding my way and balancing my "free time" a bit better.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

return to our engagement spot

Over the weekend, we returned to the spot where Brandon and I got engaged four years ago. It was so special to take some family photos with Maggie in this special place. The weather was just gorgeous and even though we weren't dressed for photos, we had a great time reminiscing and making new memories there.

For details on our engagement you can read about our love story in a previous post.

Friday, November 1, 2013

November: The List

A few highlights from October:
  • Finishing my first 10k in two years 
  • Spending time outside (walking the dog, jogging or just enjoying the beautiful changing leaves)
  • Putting Maggie in a pumpkin
  • Putting some finishing touches on the nursery 
  • Attending game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park
  • Maggie's baptism

My personal goals for November:
  • Plan meals for the week ahead (since returning to work, I have really been slacking on this)
  • Finish a few projects I've started for Maggie
  • Be more organized around the house. I have made some strides to purge things from my closet and I'd really like to maintain order better.
  • Start crocheting again.

A few blog posts + pins I've loved lately:

P.S. Don't miss your chance to win a Target $25 gift card!

It's your turn to share your list! On the first Friday of the month Erika and I share our favorite things from the past month and what we're looking forward to in the new month. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be long, it can just be what the link-up is: a list.

So grab a button + link up your post below and be sure to check out others' lists!
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

One day... (take 2)

One day I will not obsess need to know where Maggie's paci is at all times. I could buy a few more, but really how many of those things do we need? I keep telling myself it's just a season.

One day I won't long for a drive through Starbucks nearby (or constantly think of drive through options I wish I had).

One day I will eat my meals sitting down and all in one sitting.

One day I will watch live television. Even during the World Series, I end up pausing it and avoiding Twitter and Facebook to get through the games (I am writing this post as I'm about two innings behind).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

a favorite wedding tradition (+ a giveaway)

update: comments are now closed

Over the weekend, my husband and I were talking about how we were overdue to watch one of our favorite movies, Father of the Bride. Now that we have a daughter, I'm sure it will take on a new meaning.

I love the many parts of a wedding celebration from the bridal shower to the rehearsal to the ceremony to the reception. My favorite one is the rehearsal dinner. I have such fond memories of our rehearsal dinner, as we were surrounded by family and close friends.

For dinner, we had a make your own burrito bar, complete with fixings from our favorite taqueria. It would have been fun to have a make your own soda using a SodaStream (but I don't think those were on the market back then). After we ate, we took some time to thank our parents and the bridal party. One of our favorite gifts was the coffee press we gave the groomsmen. My brother still uses his over three years later!

Target has been kind enough to offer a $25 GiftCard to one lucky blog reader! In order to enter for your chance to win this great gift, visit the Target Wedding Catalog and leave a comment with which product you would use or gift at a rehearsal dinner in the blog comments section below (and your email address so I can contact the winner).

Visit and sign up for the Target Wedding Registry if you’re planning a wedding in the near future!

Follow along with the wedding fun by searching #TargetWedding on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target.

Monday, October 28, 2013

updating my wardrobe post baby

I was going to write about the transition back to work, but there isn't really much to say. I went back to work and Maggie seems to be doing well. We've done a few things to ease the transition a bit. I'm taking time off on Wednesdays because it's mid-week, to be home with her. We are also blessed to have a family member watching her in our home, so her routine and environment haven't changed.

I've learned a nursing mother's wardrobe can be somewhat limited and in preparation for returning to work, I purged several items from my closet. Over a year ago I shared my love for The No Brainer Wardrobe and thanks to Hayley's recent post, I felt inspired to truly purge. Several tops just didn't fit right or hadn't been worn. Most of my dresses will just have to wait until I'm not breastfeeding anymore. I took my time and purged over a few weeks. I've really whittled down what's hanging in my closet to items I will actually wear.

After purging, I looked for the holes in my wardrobe and made a list.It looked something like this:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Over the weekend, I tried to do a little shopping. Even without the baby in tow, I was unable to find the items I had on my list. I literally came home with a pair of fleece lined leggings and gloves (which wasn't on my list). So, I did what any pressed for time American mom would do; I turned to the world of online shopping! I even found some online coupons and free shipping. Now, I just have to cross my fingers everything fits and the colors are what I think they'll be. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

date night at the World Series

Last week, I got the surprise of my life. Thursday was my birthday and Game 2 of the World Series was scheduled in Boston. My mother-in-law surprised us with tickets to the game for the mister and me!

Of course, it was sad to be away from Maggie for the evening, but we made sure to get a family photo with her in her Red Sox onesie before we left. Even though she goes to bed at 7 o'clock, I dislike not being home. Hopefully, she'll forgive me in years to come.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

our pumpkin baby

Since I went back to work last week, it was extra special to spend time with Maggie over the weekend, enjoying snuggles and even a few naps holding her. It was a picture perfect autumn weekend in New England.

About a week ago, I got the idea to hollow out a pumpkin and put Maggie in it thanks to Katie. I'm not usually one to pumpkin carve, but the idea of getting our baby girl into a pumpkin was too good to pass up, what a great photo op! Thankfully, my husband was game and made this little dream come true.

This past weekend, we bought a pumpkin large enough to hold little Maggie.

Our dog, Milton, was pretty excited about the baby in a pumpkin idea too! And I'm just thrilled I finally had a chance to put together my first GIF.

Monday, October 14, 2013

pushing on

Last month, I signed up for a road race. I hadn't participated in one since 2010. Heck, I hadn't really been running regularly since 2008. But after Maggie was born, I had the urge to get back in the habit of working out and I remembered how being registered for a road race motivated me like nothing else. I felt a sense of obligation to follow through and meet the goal of completing the race.

Today was race day. I left my house in plenty of time to get parked and pick up my race number and shirt. Since it was a holiday, Boston's parking rules weren't the usual and I didn't take the time to look them up before I headed downtown. Long story short, I parked in two different neighborhoods and rode the T into Boston twice before getting to the start line.

As I was driving around, looking for parking and getting discouraged I couldn't find a metered spot, I doubted if I should even do the 10K. Once I was downtown and had my race number, I looked up the parking rules using my phone and realized I needed to move my car to avoid a potential ticket.

Having my race shirt (aren't the race shirts half the reason to participate?) in hand and being back in the car on the search for a parking spot again, I was so close to just driving home. Even though I knew of a few people running, I had neglected to make plans to meet anyone. With 37,000 women registered I was doubtful I'd come across anyone I knew.

Despite the doubts creeping in, something pushed me on. Maybe it was that goal of training for a road race I'd set at the beginning of September or the $42 registration fee that made me find a second parking place and get back on the T to make my way to the start line.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

life lately

I've been enjoying my last days of maternity leave and capturing every day moments, like tummy time. I'm pretty certain baby jeggings are way cuter than another other jegging!

I've also gotten to spend some quality time with girlfriends. Maggie and I met one of my high school friends at our favorite bagel shop. The owner remembered me, saying I was there every day when I was in high school (ha)! We both had our babies in tow, making it even more special.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Maggie: 3 months

Our little girl is already one quarter of a year old! I can hardly believe how quickly she's growing and changing. Maggie gets more animated and talkative with each day. We love to watch her discover new things, whether it's a noise she makes or someone she can watch.

A few things you may not be able to tell from photos: She is so easy going. I am often amazed how adaptable she can be. Maggie is also a pretty content baby. When she is upset, it's almost always because she's either hungry or tired. More recently, she has been making some deep grunting-type sounds when she wants something.

This past month we hit our stride with getting out the door. We enjoyed going more places and taking a few day trips about an hour away. As long as there is food, she is happy. She doesn't always sleep in the car, but loves looking at her feet when she's in her carseat.