2.26.2016

friday favorites

Happy Friday! We are looking forward to warmer temps & a lot of sunshine this weekend alongside minimal plans, just the way we like it around here. This past week was super low-key, most days were spent at home lounging with the girls. Olivia and I ate a lot of french toast {her favorite breakfast to share...not that I'm complaining}, the girls took lots of bubble baths and we all read lots of new books. 

This week I also let Olivia get into Poppy's crib a few times and you would have thought I had given her the moon. Each week as Penelope gets a little older and more of her sweet personality comes out, the bond these girls share and the fun they have gets better & better. That arm hook just melts me.


I've rounded up a few Friday Favorites below to kick off your weekend!

1 // Olivia absolutely loves wearing jewelry, especially bracelets (can you tell?) so I've been on the hunt for some durable ones that she can wear all day, no matter what she's doing. These wood + silicone ones are my absolute favorites & they come in both toddler + adult sizes. I have a stack of four I wear and I just love them! They're perfect for me to wear both around the house as well as out & about and I love that they're safe for Poppy to pull and chew on. Olivia has had other bracelets in the past that have easily broken or snapped with her putting them on and taking them off and these stand up to all the wear and tear of toddlerhood. They would make a perfect Easter Basket addition! 

2 // Penelope has a handful of crib sheets from a variety of handmade shops but my favorite one for everyday photos with the girls is this polka dot one. It's neutral and pairs with everything, I just love how simple and classic it is. Plus it's on sale right now!

3 // Since Penelope will be teething in the coming months, I've kept my eyes open for safe, high quality teethers for her. I love the wooden ones here from The Bird + Elephant; the fabric tie on is backed with cotton terry cloth which Poppy really likes chewing on because of the texture and thickness. I love that it can easily be removed from the maple ring to throw in the wash. This moon teether is another favorite.


4 // It seems Spring has sprung just about everywhere as we inch a little closer to March and Easter and our home is feeling it too, with flower garlands hanging and tulips blooming. I recently spotted this honeybee butter dish and I love the colors for Springtime entertaining and the darling bees on it. Makes me want to throw an Easter brunch tomorrow!

5 // Last but not least, I want to try a new recipe or two before the month is over featuring chicken. We eat a lot of it and I'm always looking for a new way to switch our meals up. This 5-ingredient white chicken chili is at the top of my list and this Italian chicken, mushroom & zucchini skillet looks right up our alley for a cozy night inside when the snow flies again next week!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!! XO

2.23.2016

best of the nest | the cradle coach {sleep training, tips, crib transition & more}

Penelope is just over 5 months and in the past two weeks I've done a lot of reworking & tweaking of her sleep schedule so I wanted to share an update with what naps & bedtime look like in our house and offer some tips from our friends over at The Cradle Coach, as well as a giveaway for a personalized sleep plan!


From birth, Penelope slept in her bassinet. We have this one and absolutely love it; we were given it when I was pregnant with Olivia & of course saved it for our future babies. At first she slept in it in our bedroom (until about 2 months) and then in her own room. I shared an in-depth post here about how we successfully sleep trained both of our girls and a look at the methods we used to get them sleeping through the night by 8 weeks. Penelope hit the same sleep milestone as Olivia did at her age and was sleeping roughly 9pm-9am from two to four months consistently. Occasionally she would be up for a middle of the night (or very early morning) feeding but it was pretty darn predictable.

Then, as you can imagine, four months hit & although we didn't experience the classic sleep regression for Olivia at 4 months, Poppy was a bit of a different story. She was still going to bed around the same time each night (between 9 and 9:30pm) but was waking a few nights each week around 2/3am for a feeding and then again up between 5:30 and 6:30am (aka too early). Her naps were all over the place and I never knew when I would get her down for them, how long she would sleep, or if I could double nap the girls to catch a break. I am definitely not my best self in the morning (or in the middle-of-the-night for that matter) and after 5 weeks of feeling completely exhausted (and a bit frustrated that it felt we were taking steps backwards), I was starting to wonder when and if Penelope would ever revert back to her old (and wonderful) sleeping habits. I got to talking with my dear friend Melissa of The Cradle Coach and sought out some advice on how to drop Poppy's middle of the night feeding, how to get her sleeping in a bit more in the mornings and how to tweak her nap schedule to be a bit better for all of us.


I crossed paths with Melissa shortly after Olivia was born when I was asked to be a guest blogger on The Cradle Coach blog. Being a Mom of 3 and having had over 15 years of training and experience, Melissa founded The Cradle Coach and through it offers personalized professional one-on-one coaching (in person, by email, phone & more) to help babies and parents get the sleep they need. 

I often feel like sleep training is a term constantly thrown around and used in every which way but for a new parent (or even a seasoned one), I feel like it's often vague and something that few people actually understand. 

Melissa defines sleep training as "the time you as a parent take to focus on one consistent technique during a period of time to help give your child the ability to learn healthy sleep habits" -- she likes to use the term sleep process because it's gradual changes over time that eventually become habits. There are dozens of techniques but a few common ones and the books they're found in can be found here.

Here were a few things Melissa suggested for Penelope based on what I shared with her and what my goals were:

(1) Move her bedtime up to 7:30/8pm so she can get into a deeper sleep earlier in the night, which is better for her body & mind.

(2) Now that she is rolling over, transition her from her bassinet to her crib so she has the space she needs. She had been napping in her crib during the day but then still sleeping in her bassinet at night. 

If you haven't transitioned your little one from a bassinet or the place they originally slept as a newborn and feel its time to make the move (usually between 3 and 5 months), Melissa suggested doing it slowly over time. Start with naps for a week and then introduce it at bedtime a few times before fully moving them to 7 nights a week. Because she'd had so much time spent napping in her crib, I didn't really do it slowly, I just decided to nix the bassinet altogether but you can definitely do it over a period of a week or two if you feel your baby needs some time adjusting.

(3) Stick to a consistent schedule. 

Melissa and I chatted about our day to day and based on her suggestion, this is what ours now looks like:
Wake Penelope by 7 / 7:30am (yesterday she woke right at 7am...because of her first nap being around 9, I don't want her sleeping much past 7:30am so if she isn't up by then, I gently wake her)

Nap #1 around 9 / 9:30 to 10 / 10:30am (her first nap is typically shorter and lasts anywhere from 30-60 minutes on average...except yesterday she napped 9-11am because she was exhausted)

Nap #2 around 2-4pm (This allows me to put both girls down at the same time since 2pm is Olivia's nap time...yesterday she napped 2-4:30pm)

Bed by 8pm (Her last feeding is around 7:15 / 7:30pm and I prep her room to be low-lit, lavender diffusing, etc. during that time to create a cozy sleep environment)


(4) Get a sound machine. This was something I had read about but never did with Olivia because to be honest, I was a bit skeptical. I didn't want to introduce one more thing to Olivia that she needed to get to sleep; I wanted her to be adaptable and be able to sleep anywhere with any amount of noise or lack thereof. But after thinking more about it, I figured it was worth trying this time around. Melissa suggested this one on Thursday while we were chatting and good ol' Amazon prime had it on my doorstep on Saturday morning. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it. I like that it has an actual fan inside and the volume + tone can easily be adjusted, versus a repeating sound that has a pattern and isn't necessarily soothing. If you are interested in hearing what it sounds like, you can YouTube a video (which is what I did before ordering). The first time we used it, Penelope napped from 2-6pm and I was sold. (Side note: I was a bit concerned her long nap would throw off her bedtime but she was still ready for bed by 8pm, part of that was because her morning nap had been only half an hour and I also think she is in the middle of a huge growth spurt).

(5) For both naps and bedtime, darken the room as much as possible. This was something we were already doing for bedtime (we put room-darkening blinds in all our bedrooms when we moved in a few years ago) but sometimes it seemed silly to me to make the room super dark for naps since they were so short and during the day. After learning more about it, now I be sure to get her nursery as dark as possible whether its a 30 minute nap, two hour nap or full night of sleep. 

Here's why: the two main hormones that regulate sleep are cortisol and melatonin. During the day (with daylight), cortisol is naturally produced by your body. It is what keeps you feeling awake and alert. When the sun sets or you're no longer exposed to light (natural or artificial), your body begins producing melatonin. As melatonin levels rise, your body becomes less alert and sleep becomes more inviting and eventually, inevitable. If you're trying to get your child to sleep well (no matter the time of day), it helps if their bodies are producing melatonin. In a bright sunny room, their cortisol levels stay consistent and sleep is more challenging because of the lack of melatonin being produced.

(6) Use the technique of controlled crying to drop the middle of the night feeding. In my previous sleep training post, I shared that we do a modified cry it out using a 15/15/feed method, meaning I would let Penelope cry for 15 minutes, then check on her without picking her up (reassuring her I was there but still giving her the opportunity to settle herself), leave for another 15 minutes and if she was still crying after the second set of 15 minutes, I would feed her. I used that technique in my initial sleep training but wanted a way to drop the feeding altogether (now that she is at a weight where she doesn't need it), not just delay it. Because I had already been doing 15 minute increments, I decided to stick with that, but if you use the controlled crying method, you can use 5- or 10-minute increments instead of 15. 

This is how it works: When Poppy wakes up crying in the middle of the night, I watch her on the video monitor and set my phone timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, I go in to her nursery to calm her and reassure her without picking her up (same as before). You can offer your baby a pacifier (buuuuuut she has never taken one), put your hand on their stomach, reposition them, etc. The important thing is that they know you're there but you only want to stay in the room for less than 60 seconds. It should be very brief. Once you leave the room, reset the clock and start again. 

Once they begin pausing between cries, or their crying slows down for a few minutes at a time, stop going in. In theory, at that point they are close to falling back asleep. Melissa suggested continuing this up to 1.5 hours max, so I would go in a total of 6 times (90 minutes divided by every 15) before feeding her if she hadn't settled on her own. This gives babies adequate opportunity to settle and soothe themselves, getting themselves back to sleep without your assistance or any sleep aids (nursing, rocking, etc).

You can utilize the same technique at bedtime in getting them down to sleep. We put Penelope down around 8pm, and let her cry it out, checking on her every 15 minutes. Sometimes she goes right to sleep without a peep. Sometimes she doesn't. Her very first night in her crib was the hardest, and I had to go the whole 90 minutes of listening to her cry/scream before I ended up feeding her. As their Mama, it is so hard to let them cry it out, but I wanted to stick it out because I knew in the long run I want her to be able to self-soothe. It was actually a really good thing looking back, since now I know that if she is truly hungry (I didn't think she was cause I had fed her around 7:30pm right before putting her down) she will not stop crying until she is fed. After feeding her, I put her back down (at this point it had been about two hours since she was initially put to bed so it was close to 10pm) and she fell asleep immediately. That night she woke at 3:45am and was back asleep within 15 minutes by herself, so I didn't even go in once.

It's really a trial and error technique, as most things are with babies. If you're practicing controlled crying, you can modify it based on your babies needs, schedule, etc. The most important part is that you give them an opportunity to cry and the chance to settle themselves, but also remember that you're their Mama and its OK (and a good thing!) to follow your gut. If you think they're truly hungry, feed them. If you think they need a little extra cuddling, give it to them. They're only this little once, and as wonderful as sleep training is, I think a Mama knows her baby best and should react based on that, not just always on a set of rules or schedules.


(7)  Last but not least, I did a bunch more reading + research and really began to understand how babies sleep patterns' work, why most babies regress around 4 months (sometimes it is as early as 3 and sometimes as late as 5) and what causes the night-time waking. For me, not only as a Mom but also as an RN, I like understanding the why of a baby's behavior as it helps me better know the how -- how I can help them and how I can implement techniques that benefit them. A cause and effect sort of perspective. 

Have you ever noticed that a newborn can sleep anywhere, anytime, with any amount of noise or distractions in the background? Newborns often sleep all day long, only waking for short periods of time to eat. Once they hit 3-5 months, their sleep patterns shift from that of a baby to be more like an adult: it takes them longer to get fully asleep and they cycle between light and deep sleep through the night. 

This is an excerpt from The Cradle Coach blog that I absolutely loved that totally opened my eyes to why night waking happens:

"It’s at this point that sleep crutches – such as using a pacifier or being rocked or fed to sleep – might become a problem; what babies need to help them fall asleep at the beginning of the night they will often insist on getting every time they cycle out of a deep sleep – thus the night wakings. Think of it this way – how would you feel if you fell asleep in your cozy bed only to find yourself awake on the kitchen floor? Not fun! Sleep crutches have this “kitchen floor effect” on babies."

Because of that, Melissa suggests sleep training to help them fall asleep on their own without their sleep crutches: place them in their crib for bed drowsy but awake, so they learn to fall asleep without your help. She also suggests not introducing new sleep crutches...since Poppy hasn't ever taken a pacifier, I wouldn't try giving her one now to get her to sleep because then I'm just creating one more habit to break later. Make sense?

Remember that babies will go through various growth spurts & developmental leaps, and this will more than likely throw everything off. Right now Penelope seems to be very tired most of the day, ready for bed by 7pm even if she just napped from 2-4:30pm, probably because she's experiencing a huge leap. Keeping a baby up too late (say even until 8/8:30pm when they're ready for bed by 7/7:30pm) will actually cause more frequent night waking and cause them to wake in the morning early.

I've always wanted my girls to sleep in so logically I would think to keep them up a bit later, right? Melissa explained that the opposite is actually true and this goes back to the melatonin + cortisol regulation. If your baby is waking frequently in the night or super early in the morning, it may actually be because they're overtired, not because they're fully rested and ready to wake. By following their cues on when they're ready for bed (see overtired article below), you are able to put them down when their bodies need to rest even if it seems they just woke up. And when you experience a growth spurt, understand your schedule and sleep training plan will shift and thats OK. It's a learning process and can be frustrating but try to hang in there! You're not ever alone in it, even if it feels that way in the moment. There are Mamas everywhere going through the same things with their babies at the exact same moment! 

---

Finally, in addition to offering personalized professional sleep training, The Cradle Coach has an incredible blog full of helpful articles on every topic you can think of related to baby + infant sleep. 

Below are a few that I found helpful as we made this transition and some I bookmarked for the future:


If you made it through that entire post, kudos to you! I didn't intend to write such a novel but a lot of these points were ones I wish someone had told me when I was a new Mom with my first. There are so many great books and websites out there but I feel like all I really wanted to read about when I was in the trenches of sleep struggles with Olivia was another Mom's real life experience, someone I could easily understand and relate to. I hope in some small way this post helps you or encourages you.

Want to win your own personalized sleep plan from The Cradle Coach {$75 value}? Head over to my instagram @blessednestblog to enter. Giveaway will run today through Monday February 29 and the winner will be announced on the original instagram post within 48 hours of the giveaway ending. Hope you're having a wonderful week!! XO

2.22.2016

best of the nest | wildwood knits

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. We had a fun family wedding on Friday afternoon followed by one of the best meals of my entire life (seriously, oh my goodness) and such a wonderful time spent with loved ones. Saturday was low-key, we slept in a bit, ran a few errands and then Dustin surprised me with a date night. We were home by 7:30pm and I'm pretty sure in bed by 10. Exciting lives we lead over here.

On Sunday we got a few things done around the house and then had a family dinner with my parents and stayed up way too late playing games after the girls had gone to bed. The end of the weekend is always bittersweet but I'm looking forward to what should be a good week ahead with warmer temps and some much needed sunshine!


Today I'm so excited to be sharing one of my favorite handmade shops in my Best of the Nest series, Wildwood Knits. Owned by beautiful Mama Camile, Wildwood Knits sells heirloom baby blankets hand-crocheted in the Great Smoky Mountains. Her iconic heart blanket can be found in lovely homes + nurseries all around the country & is truly one of the most special pieces in Poppy's room.


There is something so special about a baby blanket that was made by hand with so much love, care, time and attention to detail. Camile offers a wide variety of color options as well as custom orders. When Penelope was first born, we loved using our mini heart blanket because it was the perfect size to pack in the carseat, my diaper bag and her stroller bassinet. Her crib blankets are so cozy and classic, a timeless piece that will blend seamlessly into any decor. I love that they can be customized, passed down from one babe to the next, are gender neutral, and make cherished gifts for new Mamas and their little ones.


Because we love Wildwood Knits and Camile's blankets so much, I've teamed up with her to give one away to one of you! Simply head to my instagram @blessednestblog to enter. Giveaway runs today through Sunday, February 28. The winner will be announced on the instagram post within 48 hours of the giveaway ending. 

And be sure to stay tuned tomorrow for a detailed look into Penelope's current sleep routine, where I'll be sharing more about her recent transition to her crib, her daily nap schedule, what nights look like for us & more. Plus because us Mamas all could use a little extra sleep, there will be a giveaway where you could win your own customized sleep training plan from our friends over at The Cradle Coach. More tomorrow on the blog! Have a great day!! XO

2.19.2016

tiny dancer favorites

Olivia insists on wearing tutus seven days a week and loves when Poppy matches her. Tutus make every day a little more fun and there are so many darling (and inexpensive!) ones available right now as we round the corner to Spring, so I've rounded up my favorite picks for your tiny dancers below!
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12

I thought it would be fun to create a "dress up box" for Olivia since she's at an age where she loves putting on clothes and picking out her outfits. One of our favorite items to fill it with is tutus because she can wear them with anything, they're easy to take on and off {hello: potty training} and they're lightweight and comfortable. We will be starting her in dance in the Fall and I can't wait to see her reaction when we give her dance classes for her 3rd birthday! 

For Poppy I picked up #2, which comes in two color ways and I couldn't help but get her both while they were on sale. They will be perfect for the warmer Spring and Summer temperatures and match all of Olivia's outfits. As soon as I saw them, I fell in love with the tank dresses {7} and got them in all three colors for Olivia for Summer. I told her a few new tutus are coming in the mail and everyday she checks the front steps to see if they've arrived.

I also love having long sleeve options for winter and cooler nights in the summer and love the striped dress {4} that's on sale + an additional 30% off right now! This sweatshirt dress is also a fun and cozy one and comes in three colors plus is on sale!

Last but not least, there are lots of cute ballet shoe options for babies and toddlers {6, 9, 10}, many of which are on sale and clearanced! I picked up the black criss cross ones {5} for Olivia since I have an identical pair so we can match. In addition to the ones pictured, I love these & these. And how sweet is the little tutu swimsuit {3}?! I might have to put Poppy in that this summer! 

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!! XO

2.17.2016

lit list | spring babyLit + a giveaway

I've expressed our love of babyLit books before in my Lit List series and I'm so excited to be sharing their newest Spring collection today (and giving a few away!). Olivia and I haven't stopped reading them since they arrived and I couldn't wait to get them up on her bookshelves, they are so much fun and have quickly become new favorites in the girls' library.


This March babyLit is releasing 8 new titles, 2 of which are their classic lit books, 3 of which are their All Aboard! books and 3 are from their newest alphabet series, with which we are obsessed!
All the links for quick purchasing are below.


Classic Lit

This series is all about taking classic literature such as The Secret Garden, Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote and more. Using these works as a foundation, babyLit transforms them into easy-to-read board primers for babies and children, based on concepts such as colors, numbers, languages & more.

All Aboard! Series

Written & illustrated by husband and wife team Kevin and Haily Meyers of Lucy Darling Shop, the All Aboard! series takes young readers on a journey traveling around the world by train while teaching basic concepts, such as geography, animals, monuments & more while pairing their stories with illustrations that are eye-catching and colorful.

Alphabet Series

Last but not least, the new alphabet series from babyLit focuses on opening a window into a period of time in history while teaching toddlers their ABCs. The illustrations by Greg Paprocki are one of a kind and being that Olivia loves saying her letters and spelling words out loud, these books are such a hit in our home. I think we read M is for Monocle about 10 times to Poppy the other day!


We absolutely love Gibbs Smith Publishers and their babyLit series. One after another, we fall in love with the stories, the illustrations and the concepts Olivia is learning through them. They are perfect for little hands since they're all board books and it would be nearly impossible to choose a favorite. We own the entire collection and love them all! 

Because of that, I've teamed up with babyLit to GIVE AWAY their TWO NEWEST CLASSIC LIT BOOKS, A Midsummer Night's Dream & Les Miserables. Head over to my instagram @blessednestblog for details on how to enter. And be sure to follow along under my #BlessedNestLitList series there, where I'm sharing my 100 favorite children's books throughout 2016. Giveaway runs Wednesday, February 17 through Tuesday, February 23 and the winner will be announced directly on my original IG post. Happy Wednesday! 

2.16.2016

to my sweet babies

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest post for the Owlet blog and am so excited to finally share it. Their February theme of course was love so I wrote a love letters to our babies.

You can find the original post here.


To my sweet babies,

Before I met you, my life belonged to me. It was very much a good life, but all along I waited and wondered when my dream, hope and prayer of being a Mama, of being your Mama, would come true. 

I wondered when my life would no longer be mine, but when I would make the choice to give it over to you. When the privilege of putting someone else’s needs above my own would come upon me and when I would be given the daily opportunity to choose love, patience, grace and joy over every other thought and feeling I would face in my journey of motherhood. I wondered when my strongest desire would be just to be present with you, focused on your every feature, sound and movement, hanging on to your every word, savoring every second and cherishing each precious moment we had together from the very start.


I wondered when my heartbeat would be the sound you first heard and soon would grow familiar with, when my body would be the one holding yours, so small and new, nestled in the crook of my arm or laying warm against my chest. Every perfect ounce of you still and safe and finally here; the weight of my dream against me. The most perfect gift, finding a home in me…in my arms, in my heart. And even though I could never ever deserve you, you were given to me. From that moment, what I was most certain of is that I would love you until the end of time.

I wondered when I would be the one you wanted with you always, the one you most depended on, the one you cried out for in the middle of the night and the one you knew would always come running. I wondered if I was good enough to be the one you never grew tired of being with; the face you saw and immediately knew, as if you had always known me and I had always known you. 

I wondered when I would kiss your fluffy cheeks and make you giggle and watch as you crawled, walked and one day ran and what it would feel like as I stood back and cheered you on, beaming with unending love. As you discovered the world around you, as you learned and explored, all I would be able to forever see is that you were my everything wrapped up in a tiny body, full of vibrant life. I wondered when I would first hear your gentle voice say “Mama” as if I was the only one you would ever need, and when my heart would be so filled with joy it would completely burst.


From the very first moment we would meet you on this side of heaven, I knew I would feel a weight and a love I had never known before…In the stillness of our first moments together, my entire life would shift and it was no longer mine but yours. You were ours and I was yours. All of me, completely and forever yours. My baby. You always had been and always would be. I wondered just what that would feel like.

I wondered how you would grow, who you would become, and what gifts you were given by the One who made you. I wondered if you knew how much I loved you. How much I would always love you. I couldn’t help but wonder how I, of all the people in the whole wide world, was given the gift of being your Mama. The best gift and equally the hardest task, but all the while having the undeniable certainty that I was meant for you and you were meant for me. 

Now I watch you as you dance, as you smile and laugh, and I don’t have to wonder, now I know. I watch as you splash in your bath, curls covered in bubbles, and I watch as you drift off to sleep, so peacefully. I watch as you reach for me and I know the whole of what it feels like to be wanted, to be loved, to be needed by you. I know what my dream coming to life looks like, how it feels deep down in my heart of hearts. I watch as each day comes and goes, you greet me each morning just a little bit older and I now know the ache of time passing and the subtle heartbreak of days going by as you grow. Each day, I notice that I get a little of my own life back, as your need for me is just a little bit less than it was yesterday.

Now I know what it feels like as I tuck you in each night and kiss you over and over and over, as if enough kisses could stop time from turning. I whisper that you will always be my baby. I ask you if you know that. And I vow to remind you each and every day. Even though each of you may need me less someday than you do now, you will always be my babies. And because you are here, because you are mine, I don’t have to wonder. I now know. For I have never been more sure of this: I know I will love you forever.



2.15.2016

our favorite bathtime essentials

Bathtime is hands down the favorite part of the girls' day and most mornings they're in the tub playing together for well over an hour. It's usually the first thing we do when we wake up ... I take a quick shower and as soon as I'm out, I fill the tub up and Olivia adds the bubbles and then all her toys. We have a bucket full of all types of bath toys and I usually put music on or make a smoothie for V to enjoy in the tub. 

Today I've rounded up our favorite bath time essentials incase you have little ones that love the tub as much as our girls do. I love bath toys that are modern, high quality & made to last. Many of these are toys we've had since Olivia was a baby and they still look brand new. Take a peek at our favorites below.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13

When it comes to drying off after bath time, we love hooded towels {1}. Olivia has a pink unicorn towel from PBK that I got on clearance a few years ago and is still in great shape and I love this sleepy kitty one of the same brand. I just recently got this one for Poppy. PBK currently has their Friends & Family sale going on so you can save 20% off your total purchase and get free shipping by using the code FRIENDS at checkout. 

I love using bubble bath, body wash, shampoo & conditioners that are not only yummy smelling but safe and natural for the girls. A few of our favorite brands are Wash with Water {2} & Honest Co. {3}. Sweet Pea & Me is our absolute favorite scent from Wash with Water and they just recently released kissable skin lotion in that scent, so we love to put that on the girls after bath time. Our other favorite lotion for after baths can be found here

Our go-to brand for bath toys is Boon. They are so much fun and come in bright eye-catching colors. Olivia's current favorites are the creatures, pipes {7} & stacking boatsHer Easter basket this year will have a few of their new toys, including the cogs {5} & jelly fish {6}. A few other fun toys we enjoy are the origami boats {9}, raincloud {12} and stacking ducks {13}.

Finally, items we use every single day include the angel care bath support for Poppy {10}, muslin washcloths for both girls {11} & the whale bath kneeler for me {8}, which I didn't think I would need but after nearly 3 years of giving baths am so glad I've had. 

Have a favorite bath time product? I'd love to hear the essentials you are loving right now! 

Hope your week is off to a wonderful start! XO

2.12.2016

Friday Favorites

The sun is shining, both girls went down at the exact same time for naps today {after Olivia procrastinated nap with about 10 different books} & Dustin and I have a fun little date planned tonight out for our favorite Chinese food, strawberry cheesecake to-go for a yummy dessert & a movie on the couch after the little ladies are in bed. This morning I had my monthly moms group and the theme was "spa day" so we got to make homemade sugar scrubs, get massages, have our nails done & there was even a table exclusively with chocolate + desserts to make your own chocolate box to bring home. Olivia had a blast in her classroom celebrating Valentine's and Poppy hung out with me and all the other Mamas enjoying some pampering! 


Valentine's weekend is always a special one because we have so many memories. We were married in 2012 so Valentine's 2013 was our first together as husband & wife. We were also 5 months pregnant with Olivia at the time and on Valentine's morning, I felt her kick for the very first time. Last year on Valentine's I was 2 months pregnant with Poppy and this year we are celebrating as a little family of 4. 

Since Dustin and I are going out tonight, we thought it would be fun to stay in tomorrow night and grill one of our favorite meals -- filet, alongside mashed potatoes, cheddar biscuits & lots of mushrooms + onions. Then my request was icecream for dessert (seriously, cheesecake + icecream in the same weekend?!...I don't know if we'll ever beat that). On Sunday we plan to pick up our favorite donuts and celebrate with the girls at home, have a big breakfast, give the girls a few simple gifts & then get a heart shaped pepperoni pizza for dinner. We're basically just kids around here.

To kick off your weekend, here are a few Friday favorites:

1 // Olivia loves little animals and playing pretend, and this tooth fairy mouse is even more darling in person. I initially got it for her to have when she loses her first teeth in a few years, but she somehow discovered it and hasn't stopped playing with it since. She loves to tell me that the mouse is "mapping" when its time for her to nap (part of me hopes she always calls them maps instead of naps), and she gives it kisses before tucking it in.

2 // Little Unicorn is one of my absolute favorite brands for baby basics & I recently ordered some of these bandana bibs for Poppy for when she starts teething. I also couldn't resist getting this crib sheet and a few fun swaddles. There is no such thing as too many swaddle blankets. Olivia has a handful from when she was a baby and still uses them everyday.

3 // We try to use natural products whenever possible and that's been one big reason I've loved getting into essential oils. Since I started a few months ago, I am continually amazed at how many uses I've come across for them {P.S. How darling are these handmade EO cases?}. Along the lines of our favorite family-friendly natural products are our absolute favorite organic bar soaps. I place orders every 2-3 months to stock up and all four of us use them daily. Lavender Oatmeal is my #1 {out of stock now but restocking soon} and Dustin's favorites are Rosemary Mint and Litsea & Avocado. Wild Orange is also amazing as is Toasted Almond. Oh my goodness.

4 // Olivia is so into tutus right now so I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive ones that she can wear no matter what she's doing. Aka that she can get paint on before nap time and smoosh avocado into during lunch. I saw this pink one at Target this week on sale and got it for her as an early Valentine's gift. It looks like it comes in a whole range of colors so I might pick up a few more for Spring since they're an extra 25% off this weekend and you can ship them to your local store for free. We try to keep the girls wardrobe pretty simple but in this case more tutus = less laundry for me, since she wears them 7 days a week!

5 // Last but not least, we've been having lots of dance parties with the girls at night while we're getting ready for bed. It's always more fun to brush teeth and get jammies on with some tunes and here are a few songs we've been loving lately:

+  Snapback by Old Dominion
+ Night's On Fire by David Nail
+ Sorry by Justin Bieber (I didn't want to like this song but I just can't help but love it)
+ I Love This Life by Locash
+ Break Up in a Small Town by Sam Hunt

Happy Valentine's weekend to you & yours!! XO

2.11.2016

4 habits that make long days a little easier

The quote that says "The days are long but the years are short" couldn't feel more true right now. Olivia is only a few months shy of turning 3 and Penelope is already 5 months. And as much as we want to savor every second as Moms and try to continually cultivate a grateful heart as we raise our babies, we aren't immune to exhaustion or feeling like some days are the longest ever. And that's okay. Some days I get in to bed wondering how I even made it through such a long and tiring day. But lately I've been focusing on how I can make small & simple changes on a daily basis that make my long days a little easier. And because as Mamas during Love Month, we so often focus on everyone around us {except ourselves}, I'm challenging each of you to focus just a little bit more on loving yourself, and putting into practice some self-care steps that make you feel good, refreshed, relaxed & ready for each and every day ahead.


Below are 4 things I've started doing that have really helped my days feel a little less long:

1 // I get up before the girls. Now, this sounds like the opposite way to make your day feel shorter, but in reality, when I'm up before them I'm able to start the day MY way. I am not rushed to give them baths or make breakfast, my shower isn't cut short and I don't have to eat my breakfast cold. Even though it's tempting to hide under the covers just 5 more minutes, especially if I was up in the night with Penelope, I am so much happier when I get up before them. 


Even if it's only a half hour before they're awake, it gives me time to take a long, hot shower without a toddler pulling the curtain open as soon as the water stops and dumping her bath toys at my feet. I am able to eat breakfast without Daniel Tiger on in the background and don't have little hands trying to sneak eggs off my plate. I am able to get dressed and put together so I feel clean and refreshed by the time they are awake. Some mornings I even have a few minutes to read a few pages in a book or flip through a favorite magazine. I am more calm, less rushed and overall start my day in a better mood. Sleeping in that extra 20 minutes can be tempting, but I usually find both girls wake at the exact same time {seriously, how do they do that??} and then I'm trying to meet both of their {very different} needs while simultaneously knowing mine {a shower, breakfast, a few moments of quiet} aren't going to be met for at least another hour.


2 // I focus on making a breakfast each morning that is really enjoyable to me. This goes in line with #1 and is possible when I get up before they do. Sure, the effort is minimal to pour a bowl of cheerios and eat it while hovering over the tub to wash your toddler's hair and changing your baby's diaper with the other hand, but really? I'm hungry an hour later and feel like I didn't nourish my body at all. Now, don't get me wrong, we love cold cereal around here, but when I take the extra few minutes to make a breakfast that satisfies me and energizes me for the day ahead, I feel so much better. 

Most mornings I make eggs and peanut butter toast, with either sausage or bacon. Our favorite sausage and bacon comes frozen but pre-cooked, so it only takes a few minutes to warm through on the stove. Scrambled eggs are a great protein and toast with peanut butter or jam is always a simple side. Sometimes it's making a yogurt parfait, french toast or an egg mcmuffin (english muffin + fried egg + cheddar cheese + sausage patty). Other mornings its a super simple omelette with some veggies and cheese. I try to have yummy muffins on hand {blueberry lemon greek yogurt muffin recipe here} or in the freezer and fresh orange juice when possible. Making a yummy breakfast for myself, sitting at the table and eating it slowly sets me off on the right foot each day. 

3 // I get out of the house at least one day a week to run errands alone. I'm grateful to have my parents nearby and to have Dustin home early in the afternoon from work most days, both of which allow me to get out and get a few things done without the girls in tow a few times each week. I love going places with them but I think it's imperative that us Moms get that alone time, and that it is spent outside of the house. As a Stay at Home Mom, the lines between work + pleasure get blurred so often. I feel like I am always on the job, since I don't wake up in the mornings and leave the house to get to work. Sometimes I don't feel like I can fully relax if I'm at home because I am constantly seeing things I could be doing and know at any moment nap time could end. Getting out of the house alone helps me to focus on me. Not on our home, the girls, my husband, making dinner, cleaning, folding laundry. I do all those things and love it, but when I am able to remove the distractions of our home, even if only for a half hour, it resets me and refreshes me. And then I get home from errands with a renewed mind, ready to give the girls and Dustin my best care and focused attention. 

4 // Last but not least {and this one is the hardest for me}, I try to go to bed shortly after the girls do. Yikes! Did I actually admit that?! I used to be such a night owl and have always felt like I do my best thinking, writing and relaxing at night. If I spend all day with the girls and get them both in bed by 8 or 8:30pm, my first instinct is to do something enjoyable for myself since it's my first real opportunity all day to relax. Sometimes that's watching a favorite show or a movie, some times it's spending time with Dustin before he goes to bed, other nights its taking a long bath. But then time quickly gets away from me and before I know it, it's nearly midnight by the time I'm actually getting into bed and falling asleep. Add in a baby with a growth spurt waking at the pleasant hour of 5:30am and I am not the happiest camper.

Going to bed early isn't at all easy, but I know I definitely don't like waking up irritable because I'm so tired from staying up late. I have had many mornings where I regretted not going to bed earlier, even if what I did the night before was fun. Even though it's so hard to discipline myself to get to bed by 9 or 9:30pm, I feel a million times better the next day. I know I am more patient,  Dustin has this theory that our bodies are meant to begin shutting down when the sun sets and to start up when the sun rises. Early to bed, early to rise, type of thing. I'm not a morning person at all so this is definitely an area I am challenged in, but I can look back on the past several days and weeks and know that the nights I went to bed shortly after the girls did, my days were way, way better.


Hope you all are having a wonderful week!! XO

2.07.2016

valentine's day gift guide 2016

With only one week until Valentine's Day, I wanted to share my top picks for modern and unique gifts for your babies & little ones. Penelope is 5 months so I picked up a few cute rattles and sensory toys for her; she has two crinkly books that were Olivia's as a baby and she loves them, so I thought it would be fun to get her a few toys of her own for Valentine's Day. For Olivia, we got this adorable sandwich set for her play kitchen {7} and some puzzles, which are always one of her favorite activities along with a few bath toys. I also love this floral boppy cover {3} for Penelope, since one of her favorite spots to sit is resting in it and you can't ever go wrong with anything floral.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13

I absolutely love wooden toys, they are always classy and timeless and something I don't mind having sit out in my living room, so the fun rattles and teethers {1, 2, 4} were at the top of my list this year for Poppy alongside the puzzles {8, 10}. I loved the modern look of them and their neutral colors.

Bath toys are always a perfect gift since the girls take long baths every morning, especially in the winter when we don't have anywhere to go and it's too cold to be outside. Olivia has this origami boat {6} and loves it.

Last but not least, anything cozy and soft for a baby or toddler to hug and love makes a great gift, especially for Valentine's. The girls have a few knit BlaBla dolls and adore them; I love Apple and her little heart leggings {9} ... You can save 15% off your entire purchase at Blabla Kids using the code 15FORYOU at checkout {valid 2/5 through 2/8}  And one of my favorite brands lately has been Moulin Roty; I love their fun colors, darling characters and overall charm. They offer a wide variety of baby and toddler toys, and I love this sensory ring {11}, lovey {12} and stacking hen toy {13}.

Do you give your little ones anything for Valentine's Day? Books of course are always a great option too and this one was the new one we picked up this year for the girls, it is just so sweet! I'll be sharing my top 150 favorite children's books throughout the year on instagram @blessednestblog under the #BlessedNestLitList so be sure to follow along there! And stay tuned for some fun giveaways featuring a lot of the shops included here coming soon! XO

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