Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in review

Here's a little recap of the big things that happened for us each month of 2016:
my 'most liked' Instagram photos of 2016

January: I struggled with the feelings of guilt and all the milestones I miss by being a working mom.

February: I shared the Valentine's Day/dating anniversary gift I made for Jon. The side panels had our vows from our wedding written on them. Instructions here.

March: We made an Easter announcement about our family's expansion. (look how little the kids were!)

April: Had Etta's first ultrasound.

May: I shared some ways we save money since we are a single income household.

June: Talked about our first big family vacation to Bethany Beach, Delaware! One of my favorite memories of 2016.

July: Worked on Edith's big girl room since the baby would be moving into the nursery.

August: Elden turned four and started preschool.

September: I shared the finished photos of the baby's nursery and Edith's big girl room.

October: Edith turned two!

November: We met Etta.

December: We celebrated our first Christmas as a family of 5.

Monday, December 26, 2016

christmas 2016

We had a wonderful Christmas with our family of 5! Here are my favorite pictures from Christmas morning:

The kids LOVE their bounce house and are downstairs as we speak. We are celebrating with my family today and then we are officially on R&R. Oh, and I already ruined the turkey I was making for it so I had our local ~fancy~ grocery store save the day and ordered a catered turkey breast. Praise the good Lord for folks who are better in the kitchen than me! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with loved ones!

Friday, December 23, 2016

five on friday

{1} Back to business. We all survived (some fared better than others) my first official day of work after maternity leave. The good news is I'm now off through the first of the year since my company shuts down for the holidays. The big kids were easily the most devastated by my return to work. I cried half the drive. But to be honest, the calm and quiet of work was a welcome experience.

Christmas Eve 2015. I can't get over how much they've grown!
{2} Christmas. We have a busy 3 days planned. Every year on Christmas Eve we celebrate with Jon's dad's side of the family. Christmas morning is reserved for us as a family unit but then we are going to drive a few hours to visit with Jon's mom's side in the afternoon. The day after Christmas we are celebrating with my family at our house. I am cooking a turkey--something I have never done. There is about a 30% chance we will end up needing to order pizzas. If you have turkey tips - please share. I may attempt to brine it using this recipe.

{3} A break. Today is a good day. My mom and dad are taking the big kids to decorate cookies and see a light display this evening. We were also able to find a dear, amazingly sweet and kind friend to take Etta out of the house for a few hours to give us a break to wrap presents and just spend some quality time together. I plan on putting Love Actually on while wrapping because Jon has never seen it.

{4} Christmas books. A month or so ago I ordered this and this Llama, Llama book for our little enthusiasts. They both love them! We have read them several times since I pulled them out this month.

{5} Purging. Perhaps it's the fact that we have been cooped up for a month and a half. Perhaps it's the knowledge that we are about to bring a bunch of new items into the house. No matter the reason, Jon and I have been actively going through our closet and dresser and purging items like crazy. We have a strong desire to declutter our lives and live more intentionally and we are on a roll. Our closet has become a huge focus because it was filled to the brim with miscellaneous items, especially all of our linens, and is really impractical in its current state. We hope to add a linen closet in the spot next to the kids' bathroom where the cat food is shown above sometime in 2017 to bring some order to our lives and force us to really slim down our accumulation of towels, sheets, etc.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

to my last baby on my last day of maternity leave

Dear Etta,

Tomorrow I go back to work for the first time since you were born. I am much more nervous about it than I was with your brother and sister and I'm not exactly sure why. We have been so spoiled being able to spend this time as a family - a time when magic is in the air and everyone is feeling festive and full of love. Your brother and sister adore you and I have loved every second of being able to watch them interact with you.

I would be doing us a disservice if I said the past five and a half weeks have been nothing but pure newborn-loving bliss. We have struggled immensely. You do not sleep. You always want to be held. I am trying my hardest to meet your demands, but unfortunately your siblings need these tired arms, too. However, I know that when I look back on this time I will regret not cuddling you more and not being more patient when you were up half the night. You are my baby and you needed me and I wasn't always the best at being a good mom to you. I'm so sorry.

I regret that I have to leave you, especially so soon, but at the same time - I need to. Not just from a financial perspective but for myself. I really enjoy my career. I enjoy contributing to the workforce. Being away truly makes me a better mom to you and your siblings because I cherish our time together that much more. The 'break' from being a mom helps me to be a better one when I am here. Writing that out feels brutal. The guilt is so strong. But I want to be an example, especially to you and Edith. I want you to know that you are a capable and strong woman. You can be a trailblazer and an earth mover and there is no shame in that. You can choose to have kids or you can choose not to. You can choose to have kids and a career, or you can choose not to. What works best for one person isn't necessarily what will work best for you. But the path you choose is yours and yours alone to dictate. If you want to be a career woman that is wonderful. If you want to stay home to raise kids that is wonderful, too. But the fact is this: you are strong, intelligent, and capable. Don't let the world tell you otherwise.

I love you. I love you so much more than I could ever explain.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

etta (5 weeks old)

Etta is 5 weeks old and officially working on smiling! I'm not going to lie, it is a much needed development in our exhausted little world. Etta has had a few better nights - 2 to 2.5 hour stretches - but we'd obviously always welcome longer stretches. Etta responds to our voices now and actively looks for us when we are talking. She is still pretty uncomfortable a lot of the time so we are trying to determine whether that is due to reflux, gas, etc. Etta likes to be bounced and is swaddled for naps and bedtime. She is so sweet and the kids are still obsessed with her.

Monday, December 19, 2016

an open letter to our (borrowed) rock 'n play

Dear RnP,

You are the greatest (material) thing to happen to us in 2016, and quite possibly our lives. That's not just because our family collectively grimaced when we discovered who our next president was going to be which really put a damper on the year as a whole, but because you are a gift from God Himself (and also from our precious friend, Amber, who is letting us borrow hers). You see, the past five weeks have not been kind to us in the sleep department. Our littlest family member has taken after her father and protests all things sleep ("if I didn't have to sleep to survive, I would never do it." - my husband, whom I do not understand at all on this aspect of life) and we have been lucky to get a one-hour stretch at a time at night. LUCKY. What has happened to us?

{source} she's smiling and dewy because her child just slept more than he has in his young life.

But then you came into our lives, Rock 'n Play, like a majestic stallion bearing a multitude of canteens in the desert. My symbolism game is weak as I am sleep deprived. But not as much today! Because last night you gave us an average of two to two and a half stretches of sleep and I'm not exactly sure when that became something to be celebrated BUT IT IS. So today, we celebrate you, Rock 'n Play. We celebrate you for your magical sleepy dust and for helping us to reclaim the night and I hope you do not disappoint us and make this proclamation short-lived because we will not survive.

We love you, always and forever. Don't let us down.
Danielle and Jon

etta (4 weeks old)

At 4 weeks old, Etta essentially decided she was not having anything to do with sleep. The only sleep she would have would be in your arms with you perpetually in motion (and even that was often futile). She has grown to love her baths and can spend a solid 15-20 minutes in the tub now. Etta is still working on holding her head up and is starting to flash a very brief smile at times. She was 22.5" long and 10 pounds 8 ounces at her last well visit. We also discovered she has clogged tear ducts and that's why her eyes are perpetually goobery. She is slowly starting to discover she can make noises and will occasionally babble a few sounds. We are hoping Etta starts sleeping again soon and welcome all the suggestions you may offer us.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


// I'm a horrible blogger. In my defense, life hasn't been particularly easy lately. Etta does not sleep. As in, doesn't nap - doesn't sleep at night - etc. We are EXHAUSTED. My priorities when not holding (bouncing) a crying baby are as follows: nap, try not to neglect my marriage or older children, nap.
after a particularly tumultuous night. they look better than we did that's for sure.

// I go back to work in 4 days (Thursday). For anyone keeping track, Etta will not quite be 6 weeks old but it has to do with a company shutdown and getting 100% pay rather than 50% FMLA pay. We are hoping to survive a single day. Then I will be off again until January. We gave Etta her first bottle this weekend and luckily she took it. We also want to try this type (Elden and Edith's bottle of choice) to see if she does better with it. I can also report that I really like my new breast pump - it blows the Medela out of the water!

// Remember when I talked about all the super fun crafts I envisioned doing during my maternity leave? Approximately 0 actually happened. There's always next year!
I did manage to get some baking in, though!

// This maternity leave has been... eventful. First, it was the need for repeated jaundice checks and wondering whether Etta would need to be readmitted for additional bili lights. Then my purse was stolen out of our van in the driveway and I had to go through the process of canceling my credit cards/checks and getting my driver's license replaced. A few days later Jon had Elden at the pediatrician for what turned out to be a sinus infection when Edith hurt her leg. I didn't see it happen (was nursing Etta in the other room) but she refused to walk on it and screamed bloody murder when she tried. I was still in PJs so I scrambled to get the three of us ready for an urgent care trip only to discover (after I had us all in our winter coats and boots, naturally) that Jon had our only set of van keys with him 40 minutes away at the pediatrician. My mom talked me off the ledge and after some ibuprofen, a warm bath, poorly timed text messages from my boss in which he sent me a photo of a stack of folders on my desk (alluding to waiting projects) and a verbal vomit of the current sitch at casa de flip in which he responded "well now I just feel horrible," and Jon's return we discovered that Edith could indeed walk and was playing me like a fiddle. We decided to round things out with the loss of my glasses (WHERE COULD THEY BE!?), me being sick for all but I think 1 week of my leave thus far, and Edith accidentally getting locked solo in Elden's bedroom which nearly resulted in a visit from the friendly fire department. Luckily, Jon is cool as a cucumber, removed some molding on the door frame and was able to break the lock with a screwdriver. Edith promptly received a lesson in unlocking doors and I lost no less than 1 year off my life.

// Elden joined us at dance class this week. Related: Elden wants to start dance class (again). I'm not sure whether I ever blogged about it, but the TLDR; of it is that Elden wanted to take ballet like Caterina Ballerina on Daniel Tiger back when he was about 2. I took him to two or three classes in which he did not participate but insisted on staying just to watch. Things seem different this go-around though because he danced more than Edith did that day. Also related: Edith did not appreciate Elden infringing on her precious mommy time.

// I do not recommend not reading the multitude of blogs you regularly follow for over a week. You will return to your blog feed utterly overwhelmed.

// I hope to catch up on the weekly posts about Etta I am already behind on. Get it together, Danielle!

// We got a new garage door and motor! Ours were original to our house (1980) and in dire need of replacement. We finally had enough in our savings account that we felt comfortable pulling the trigger so they were installed on Friday! Love them already.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

christmas card 2016

This year I agonized over the Christmas card since Shutterfly was just too expensive. I really wanted to do a combo Christmas/birth announcement card and our other go-to (Walgreens) didn't have a front/back option.

Jon suggested Costco and I briefly looked at the options initially but didn't see any front/back options there. However, when faced with the expense of Shutterfly again, I considered printing out both Christmas and birth announcement cards separately from Costco (can't beat $35 for 50 cards) and luckily stumbled upon a few front/back choices. So for the low price of $35, this is what we went with (minus the text boxes - I can't find just a preview option without them):



The best part about these? I was able to have our return address printed on the envelopes.. fo' free!! You don't even know how excited that made me. I will definitely try to use Costco in the future!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

etta (3 weeks old)

At 3 weeks old, Etta has gotten somewhat better at sleeping at night--we get the occasional 4 or 5 hour stretch. That being said, she seems to be going through her first major growth spurt and was up to nurse about every 2.5 hours last night. Naps are pretty awful--Etta will be asleep in our arms but once we lay her down in her crib she either wakes up within 5 minutes up to an hour. We are pretty sure she has some reflux issues so we will be mentioning that at her next well visit. Etta is really starting to love her baths and tummy time. She also actively looks for Elden and Edith when they are in the room and she can hear them. Etta nurses every 3 hours during the day for about 7-10 minutes at a time. She is starting to grab onto things when they are placed in or near her hands. I think smiles might be in our not so distant future and I can't wait for that and belly laughs!

Monday, December 5, 2016

christmas card pics 2016

Originally we planned on taking the kids to meet Santa and hopefully use that photo for our cards. However, once they were dressed up and so darn cute I decided to take a few photos myself before we left. Jon also figured at least one of our children would probably be afraid of Santa so a Plan B didn't sound terrible.

Spoiler alert: neither of our big kids would go near Santa. But the good news is I got these photos before we went to the mall:
Elden is wearing hand-me-downs from someone at church, Edith is wearing a frock from my childhood and Etta is wearing the same outfit Elden wore in his first Christmas card photo. I'm still trying to figure out where to get the card from because we want it to be front/back (and use the back as a birth announcement, similar to what we did with Edith) but the only places I've found where that's an option are pretty expensive. I hope to commit to a purchase within the next day or two and then I will share the final result.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

healthy baby home party

I was recently selected to host a Seventh Generation Healthy Baby Home Party to share samples and tips with my friends with a focus on creating a healthy home for any children that may be in the house. That being said, I decided to invite friends who didn't have kids as well because Seventh Generation offers a ton of products for the home that don't necessarily apply to childcare. The products I most regularly purchase are: dish soap, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, disinfecting spray and baby wipes. We also recently started using their baby shampoo and diaper cream for Etta and we really like them and will purchase again.

Since Etta was less than 3 weeks old when I held the party I totally went the easy route and purchased all snacks:
As part of their Come Clean campaign, we watched a video about the chemicals in our environment--especially those brought into the home via cleaning products. Afterwards, we played a game of Bingo that involved tips on creating a healthier home environment. The winners of Bingo were able to choose from the following prizes:
Attendees also left with coupons and samples of their baby wipes, laundry detergent and coconut lotion, as well as informational handouts.
When the educational part of the party was over we just spent time laughing and talking about our families, kids, etc. They got to meet Etta before we had to wrap up so I could nurse her and put her to bed for the night. I was so grateful both for the socialization as well as the ability to share about these products. I definitely wouldn't qualify myself as crunchy--we can't afford to eat organic, I am very much pro-vaccination, etc.--but there are a few things (namely the stuff we wear and eat off of every day) that I don't mess around with. As for the baby products, every time we'd try to switch wipes to whatever was on sale we'd be disappointed and would always end up back at Seventh Generation (we've learned our lesson now and only buy those). The new coconut line smells so dreamy and is super gentle on Etta's skin. I don't endorse anything if I don't believe in it and I can genuinely say I have always been happy with Seventh Generation. If we could afford to, we would absolutely always buy their diapers (we generally purchase Luvs or the Aldi brand because of cost savings) - when I received a sample in the mail I was seriously blown away by how soft it was - but unfortunately we just can't fit it in the budget. However, now that I know just how soft they are I will be diligent about looking for coupons and sales so we can try to at least occasionally buy them.

*As a host of this party I received free products to distribute to the attendees. I also won a month's supply of diapers during one of the host preparation chats. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

toys our kids actually play with (2 to 4 year old gift ideas)

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I'd like to think I'm pretty awesome at figuring out which gifts to get our kids that will get a lot of use. Granted, some of these we stumbled upon by happenstance--Jon's parents kept his old toys and many of Elden's favorites stem from this collection--but these have been consistent hits in our house nonetheless.

{1} Plastic animals: Safari Ltd. has a huge selection of realistic looking plastic animals ranging from pocket-sized to large. We got Elden this large hippo and this large cheetah for his birthday and he still regularly plays with them, along with some of the animals from Jon's childhood. These have been a hit for about a year now. Edith has also taken an interest in them.

{2} Wooden cutting food: We bought this when Elden was about 1.5 or 2 because the toddler room at our church had a cutting food set and he loved it. Edith is now the most obsessed with it but Elden also still gets use out it. There are also other cute versions of this set now - a wooden cookie slice set, fruit set, and pizza set, to name a few. Another big time favorite is these wooden eggs that can be cut.

{3} Play kitchen: What good is a bunch of kitchen food if there's no kitchen to cook it in? This was another toy we purchased pre-Edith that both kids still regularly play with. We opted for a higher quality wooden play kitchen over a cheaper plastic one with the hope of holding onto it for all our kids and maybe eventually grandkids. So far our Kidkraft kitchen has not disappointed. The kids play with this generally at least once per day and haven't seemed to grow tired of it.

{4} Grocery cart: Edith is super into baby dolls and all the accessories, and she often places her babies in a grocery cart I had purchased at a yard sale for $5 way back in the day. Elden has also been known to take this for a spin around the house and we have definitely gotten our $5 worth.

seriously though, edith is a junkie
{5} Baby dolls: This isn't a surprise for a totally doll-crazy girl, but essentially any and all babies (seriously, we have at least 7 and they all have different names - Baby Mommy, Baby Big Eyes, Squishy Baby, Jessica, Baby Boy, Other Baby, Baby Tattoo Butt...I am not exaggerating as these are truly the names they have somehow obtained and Edith knows each one by said name) are a win for her. Maybe don't waste your money on any extra baby clothes because if your 2-year-old is anything like ours, your babies will be naked and if you try to get them dressed she will not appreciate that. On second thought - unless you are the parent and know the current doll status in your house, maybe don't go this route lest your gift recipient be at baby doll capacity.

{6} Transformers: This is a fairly recent interest of Elden's, but boy has it captivated him. There are Transformers blind bags ranging all the way up to very large and complicated Transformers and he loves them all. At his age, though, I recommend the 1-step Transformers because they are far less frustrating for preschool aged kiddos to transform on their own.

So what are your go-to gifts for toddlers and preschoolers? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Monday, November 28, 2016

etta (2 weeks old)

Etta turned 2 weeks old on Saturday. We attempted to move her into her room that night and it just did not go well. She ultimately ended up in bed with us - something we rarely did we the other kids mostly because it just didn't work and they didn't sleep there, either - and she was surprisingly content. Etta has not been napping or sleeping well at night, but she also doesn't cry all day like Elden did so I hesitate to call it colic just yet. We have started trying to implement a bit of a schedule for her, a nod to our Moms on Call experience, to see if that makes a difference. We don't have any set times but basically we try to stick to a nurse for up to 30 minutes, stay awake / "play" for about 30 minutes, nap for 2 hours cycle. Then at night we do a short nap and bath before bedtime. So far today it has been okay but the naps are a battle. We have tried doing naps in her room to help her get used to the crib so we will see how tonight goes. Etta did ultimately spend all of last night in her room but was waking up every 2 or so hours to nurse and was generally fussy between, so it wasn't a fantastic night. We have also begun tummy time and she seems mostly indifferent to it but is already working on picking up her head and moving it side to side. Elden and Edith are still totally obsessed with her and are constantly asking to kiss her, what she's doing, etc. I'm so glad they love her so much and now all we have to do is keep their germs away from her...

Friday, November 25, 2016

five on friday

{1} Magical elixir. I've been hitting the k-cups from Trader Joe's pretty darn hard since Etta came home. The perfect combo includes sweet cream flavored creamer topped with peppermint flavored whipped cream courtesy of everyone's favorite bullseye.

{2} New traditions. We decided to implement a cinnamon roll Thanksgiving breakfast tradition this year. There were a grand total of 0 complaints from our resident food critics.

{3} A little something extra. As we finished our shopping for the week at Aldi I picked up a 6-pack of these bad boys for Thanksgiving. I nursed Etta and proceeded to drink it quickly so it would be at least two hours before I nursed her again. This was my first alcoholic beverage since February and boy did it hit the spot.

{4} Babywearing. Seriously though - this has been our saving grace the past three days.

{5} This vegetarian. For cutting my favorite type of meat and being my saving grace when I'm racked with hormones and feelings and anxiety.