4.26.2017

chores for kids

Olivia will be turning 4 next month and she has always been a wonderful helper but I have really watched her shine over the past few months since Adaline has been born and am continually amazed at how much she does for me, for her sisters and around the house, often times without even being asked. 

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the chores she has right now and a neat chore graphic I found that may be helpful if you are looking to start incorporating chores into your child's routine. 

These chores obviously don't include picking up after herself, putting away toys/books/etc., these are in addition. As soon as the girls started walking and talking, they were responsible for putting away everything they take out and so far, they are both great at following through. I think starting this habit at a young age has been a big key in them continuing to do it without much prompting or reminding, especially because Poppy sees Olivia doing it and then naturally follows suit.


Below are the chores we began introducing around age 3:
+ Taking clothes out of the dryer and putting them into a hamper (to be folded)

+ Folding simple laundry -- such as washcloths, blankets, pants, underwear and matching up socks

+ Clearing 3 things off the dinner table each night (one for each year)

+ Getting water bottles out of the fridge for her and Penelope before meals

+ Putting a new bag in the trash after I've taken out the garbage

 + Picking up pinecones from the backyard (we have a huge pine tree) and putting them in a bag; this helps when mowing/raking/etc that they aren't all over the yard and she thinks its so fun, we call it a pinecone treasure hunt and she counts them as she goes, which is also a great way to work on higher number counting

Below are the chores we began introducing around 3.5:
+ Emptying the dishwasher -- As soon as the dishwasher is done running, I open it to let everything air dry and remove all the knives (I usually do this before bed), then in the morning before breakfast she empties it by taking everything out and stacking the plates on the counter in front of the cabinets they belong in, putting silverware in the drawer and bowls on the counter (This is one she actually wasn't taught and just randomly started doing when she saw an open dishwasher...I figured it was a great job for her age and she actually loves doing it)

+ Unpack groceries and put away what she can and then set the rest on the counter

+ Making her bed

+ Setting her backpack out for school and packing what she needs in it

+ Helping me clean the toilet and bathroom

Below are the chores we are introducing as she reaches 4:
+ Transfer laundry from washer to dryer (she will need a step stool to do this so I got one to keep handy in the laundry room)

+ Helping me water our herb garden and plants both inside and out

+ Dusting and wiping down the table after meals

+ Swiffering and sweeping the floor 

I loved this chore chart that I randomly came across last week on Pinterest. It gave me some great ideas for new chores to add. Olivia is a girl after my own heart, she loves to clean and help in any way she can, so for us this has just been a really fun way to create new routines and a bonus that it keeps our home extra clean and tidy.

What chores are your little ones doing at their age? Hope you're having a great week!!

4.24.2017

5 ways we pursue a natural lifestyle

I've shared a handful of times that living a natural lifestyle focused on achieving optimal health & wellness for ourselves and our 3 daughters is incredibly important to us, and after hearing from so many of you, I decided it was time to put together a post about it! 


Below I've listed the Top 5 ways that we maintain a natural lifestyle as a family. When I say "natural" this is what I mean...focusing on using + consuming plants, foods, supplements and products that are found in nature and/or as close to nature as possible, meaning the least altered/processed things available. 

Ultimately, we believe these lifestyle choices work because we have witnessed their positive effects in our own lives and with our own children. Our girls are rarely sick, have never had ear infections, have never been on antibiotics, etc. It seems like I look around and left & right kids are sick with colds, flus, etc. and we are so grateful that ours rarely are. There is the occasional runny nose from teething or a mild cold in the dead of winter, but otherwise that's about it.

Each one of these keys is meant to be a starting point. My biggest goal is just to inform you and share the knowledge I've gained personally through my education and the education of others who are close to me (Registered Dietitians, Chiropractors, Naturopaths, etc.). Know that I too am still learning. Every day I learn more and I absolutely love it. I hope to instill the love of life-long learning in my girls, the way my parents and grandparents instilled it in me.

A little background: I went to a private 4-year university and earned by Bachelors in the Science of Nursing. I have clinical background experience specifically in mother/baby care, cardiac care and public health. I graduated in May 2012, went on to take my NCLEX in July, passed (hallelujah!) and then became a Registered Nurse. Wow that feels like a lifetime ago! I have so much passion when it comes to pursuing a natural lifestyle, especially as a Mom of young children and am incredibly grateful to have close friends and family with similar desires and backgrounds who serve as resources for our family in addition to my own pursuit of knowledge on these topics.

Top 5 Ways Our Family Pursues a Natural Lifestyle

1. DIET

A key component in staying healthy & free from sickness is our diet. This is an obvious one but remains one of the most important decisions we have made in our family -- to nourish our bodies with the highest quality food available. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). What we put in, we cannot take out. If it is going into our body (or into our children's bodies), we want to be sure it is high quality, beneficial and safe.

This includes buying meat that is organic, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free and eating fish that is wild caught (never farmed), buying cage-free pasture-raised organic eggs, purchasing organic produce whenever possible, and steering as clear as we can from heavily processed foods. Other choices we have made related to diet include:

+ Not giving cow's milk to our children (at any age); our bodies just weren't made to digest it and we have seen how much healthier our daughters (especially Olivia, our first born) became once we removed it from their diet. If you are going to drink cow's milk, whole is the best kind to drink, and raw if possible. Whole is a thousand times better for you than skim, despite the higher fat content.

+ Not giving yogurt to our children; many people view it as a "health food" but most yogurts (even the fancy organic kinds) are purely a skim-milk base with added sugar. People are often concerned that their children are not getting enough calcium if they eliminate milk and yogurt, but calcium is actually found in many dark leafy greens, which we incorporate into their diet through smoothies, our go-to lentil recipe here, etc.

+ Limiting sugar. Have you heard that sugar has the same affect on the brain as cocaine? It is that addictive. We try to limit sugar as much as possible in our children and ourselves because of the inflammatory effects it has, which contribute to more frequent sickness, pain and an overall yucky feeling. Obviously, there are exceptions, but when we do give them something with sugar, we make sure it is a special treat in moderation. As you probably know, sugar is hidden in everything...bread, crackers, ketchup, etc. Even in baby food pouches that are solely made up of fruits and vegetables, some pouches have as many as 15 grams of sugar. Be sure to check labels before giving your child something. Even natural sugars (such as those found in fruits) need to be given in moderation, because the body doesn't process natural sugar any different than artificial or added sugar. Sugar is Sugar.

+ Drinking a lot of water. Water is basically the only thing we drink, with the exception of fresh squeezed (unpasteurized) orange juice as a treat (Dustin and I only, not our girls). We are not soda or coffee drinkers at all, except on rare occasion. We sometimes enjoy peppermint or green tea, but really the majority of the liquid we consume is alkaline water (our favorite kind here). We avoid all tap water and instead use filtered water for steaming and cooking and then directly consume alkaline bottled water. Alkaline water is said to balance the pH in your body, since it neutralizes much of the acid consumed in a person's diet. If you are interested in learning more about alkaline water, I can work on a separate post related to that. 

2. SUPPLEMENTS + PROBIOTICS

We invest in high quality supplements that are taken by us and our children in combination with a healthy diet. We don't depend solely on the supplements to meet our needs for nutrients but rather in conjunction with the nutrients we consume through our food. Below is a basic list of the supplements we take, what they are for and where you can get them.

Dustin and I both take a multivitamin made by one of my favorite brands, Garden of Life.  Remember when I said it's important to do your research? Even the brands of supplements you are consuming (or giving your children) should be brands you trust. My best friend originally recommended this brand to me during my second pregnancy after she switched to it from a different brand of prenatal vitamins (which happened to be the same kind I was originally taking). After switching myself, I found I just really loved the brand and their products and we've stuck with them since. You can read more about Garden of Life here.

Year round (whether I am pregnant, nursing, trying to conceive or not) I take the Garden of Life Organic Prenatal Whole Food Multivitamin. It is vegan, gluten free, non-GMO verified and contains an incredible amount of nutrients taken from whole foods. Dustin takes the Garden of Life Whole Food Multivitamin Supplement for Men. And I haven't taken it personally (because I just always take the prenatal version), but here is the Garden of Life Whole Food Multivitamin for Women. I also take Nordic Naturals DHA. During pregnancy I like this prenatal DHA and I just recently switched over to this postnatal Omega-3. Finally, I take an additional 1000 IUs of Vitamin D3 and also like the Nordic Naturals brand; I take this one here. My multivitamin has 1000 IUs and then take an additional 1000 per my midwife's recommendation.

Dustin and I also take a daily broad spectrum probiotic that can be mixed in water, juice, smoothies etc. Ours is made by Metagenics and can be found here. I also use this specific probiotic powder when I make skin salves for rashes, scrapes, etc. for the girls. All you need for that is: 1/4 tsp probiotic powder mixed with 2 TBSP coconut oil and 10 drops lavender oil, apply 2x daily or as needed.

Last but not least, we drink Dynamic Fruits & Greens, which is a nutrient-rich, superfood formula with whole food concentrates. I have shared this in my fridge and pantry tours a few times on my instastories.

It comes in an easy-to-mix powder form that you simply mix with water. It is available in a handful of flavors; a few of our favorites are Strawberry Kiwi and Pink Lemonade; they also make a chocolate and mint flavor, which we use to make "healthy hot cocoa" for the girls in the Winter, and it provides a blend of 100% natural fruit and vegetable extracts, vitamins, enzymes and symbiotic intestinal floral -- high in antioxidants, lignans and phytonutrients. It has powerful antioxidant benefits, supports immune system function, contains enzymes, probiotics and fiber for digestion, supports detox of body systems, is a natural body alkalizer, and is free of gluten, preservatives, MSG, stimulants, caffeine and added sugar. It's also Non-GMO. We purchase it from Nutri-Dyn. One canister has approximately 30 servings, so it varies on how long it lasts us because all 4 of us are drinking it a few times a week. If you were just to order one canister for yourself or your child, the idea is that it would last about 1 month if you gave it to them every day, but we use it about 3-4 times a week for our girls and ourselves.

SUPPLEMENTS FOR CHILDREN
Olivia (4) and Penelope (20 months) take the following supplements:

Fun Play Multivitamin (Kidz Play Line by Systemic Formulas) -- This is a liquid multivitamin made for children ages 2-4 and contains the classic line up of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and botanicals to support everyday health and wellness.

Brainy Play Essential Omega Fatty Acids (Kidz Play Line by Systemic Formulas) -- This also comes in liquid form, is made for children ages 2-4 and contains ultra pure, essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, and 9) from fish oil as well as botanical oils (such as coconut oil). Omega Fatty Acids are for support of healthy heart, brain and nervous system development in children.

Garden of Life Raw Organic Probiotic Supplement for Kids -- Probiotics are constantly being talked about and are incredibly beneficial in a diet and through supplementation. Probiotics are live bacteria (microorganisms) that are beneficial for your body, especially your digestive system. Think of your gut (when it is healthy) as a flourishing rainforest -- it is full of lush, good bacteria that is incredibly helpful in keeping your body healthy. At times, there is also bad bacteria in your guy (and in your body in general), such as when you are sick. Continued probiotic supplementation ensures your body has a healthy amount of good bacteria to keep you feeling your best. 

Nature's Way Immunables Kids Immunity Packets -- These are powder form and come in vanilla-flavored single-serve packets and contain immunobiotics, which is just a specific type of probiotic for immune health.

Nordic Naturals Children's DHA -- This is a liquid form of DHA that can be given directly or mixed into water; we always just give it directly to our girls instead of mixing it, usually in the morning.

They also get the Dynamic Fruits & Greens drink 3-4 times a week. We mix it in water and give it to them in their reusable water bottles, sometimes adding additional probiotic or immunobiotics into it and sometimes not.

**A key component of supplements, especially in children, is that they get a variety of them. So we don't give the girls the same supplements every day, but rather switch between a handful so their bodies get a variety and the most benefit.**

So in our house, for example, it may look like this:

Sunday: Dynamic Fruits & Greens Drink with 1/4 teaspoon of probiotic powder added (either the Metagenics one we take, it's safe for kids too or the MyKind Organics RAW one)

Monday: Immunable (probiotic) packet mixed in water; dose of Fun Play multivitamin; dose of Brainy play omega fatty acids

Tuesday: Dynamic Fruits & Greens Drink with 1/4 teaspoon of probiotic powder added

Wednesday: RAW Probiotic mixed in water or smoothie; dose of Fun Play multivitamin; dose of Brainy play omega fatty acids

Thursday: Dynamic Fruits & Greens Drink with 1/4 teaspoon of probiotic powder added (either the Metagenics one we take, it's safe for kids too or the MyKind Organics RAW one)

You get the idea ;) The most important thing is variety. And making sure that the supplements your kids are taking are in addition to eating healthy food. Supplements cannot be a replacement for nutrients found in food -- our girls still eat lots of veggies, fruit in moderation (usually berries which are higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar than fruit such as bananas or apples), and food with healthy fats (such as avocado, salmon, coconut oil, almonds, walnuts, etc.). I try to add healthy fat into their diet in small ways every day -- cooking scrambled eggs in avocado oil, giving them a half avocado to share at lunchtime, mixing coconut oil into their mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash with dinner, etc. 

Moving on to the littlest in our family -- Adaline gets the majority of her nutrients through my breastmilk, which means it is very important that the supplements I am taking are high quality and that I take them every day because they are being passed to her when I nurse. Some moms also add digestive enzymes into their diet to help their babies digest breast milk if in the past they have had digestion issues or tummy troubles. Adaline hasn't ever had issues so I don't personally take digestive enzymes but have heard of others having success with them.

So in addition to the prenatal multivitamins, postnatal DHA and additional 1000 IUs of Vitamin D3 that I take and transfer to her through my milk, I give her Nordic Naturals Baby's DHA by mouth with a dropper once a day. The dosage is based on weight, so for a baby 0-10 lbs, they recommend 1 ml, for a baby 11-20 lbs, 2 mls, etc.

Keep in mind there are lots of ways you can supplement, and it doesn't have to be the exact same brands or products we take. The most important thing is that you are looking for high quality, pure products, and whole food based products or raw products are much better than something that has been processed with a lot of other additives, such as kids gummy multivitamins. Something like that certainly wouldn't hurt, but if you are going to spend the money on supplements, investing in the best ones will be your best bet for benefits!

3. AVOIDING ANTIBIOTICS WHENEVER POSSIBLE

This goes hand in hand with what I mentioned above -- seeking natural treatments (such as chiropractic adjustments) and using diet + supplementation to stay healthy -- instead of using prescription medicine, most specifically antibiotics.

When you take an antibiotic, it knocks out the bad bacteria in your body, but also takes all the good bacteria out with it. This leaves you (or your child) more susceptible to recurring sickness. Good bacteria (probiotics) benefits your body by keeping your gut healthy, your immune system strong and helping your body systems function as they were designed to. 

You often hear about children that are sick over & over who just can't seem to get healthy...the cause of this is almost always because a child was on broad spectrum antibiotics, often round after round, each one stronger than the previous because they keep getting sicker and sicker (this also leads to antibiotic resistance...which is a whole separate discussion!). 

Dustin and I recently watched a documentary on the topic of antibiotics and learned that a single course of an antibiotic (say, 7-10 days most commonly) knocks out the good bacteria for a full year. Without any supplementation, it takes a minimum one full year for the gut to rebuild the rainforest of healthy flora after just a single course of ABX. Think of kids (and adults) who have been on one after another and how long it could take to rebuild that good gut health. This is why probiotics are so imperative for children, and why in our family, we avoid antibiotics as much as possible. This includes both prescription antibiotics and avoiding eating any meat that has been treated with antibiotics (80% of all antibiotics sold in the US each year are for use in food animals). 

Below are a few articles related to the topic of ABX:
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly -- Antibiotics
(This article contains an easy to follow graphic that I found to be incredibly informative)

Overuse of Antibiotics May Cause Long-Term Harm (ABC News)
The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse (KidsHealth)

4. REGULAR CHIROPRACTIC CARE

The third way we pursue a natural lifestyle -- and one of the reasons I believe our kids stay so healthy year round, sleep great and are generally in very good moods -- is receiving regular chiropractic care. I mentioned earlier that we go to an incredible Christ-centered clinic nearby, which specializes in chiropractic care for both adults and children/babies. Each of our girls has been receiving adjustments since birth, even just days old. I think a lot of people are scared of chiropractors (whether they just haven't found a good one or they have had a negative experience in the past) or picture someone adjusting a tiny baby's neck with a big crack. Thankfully, it's not that way at all.

The most important thing, again, when seeking out a chiropractor is finding one you LOVE. Not just like, but LOVE. You are trusting them with your precious babies and children, and you want to be sure your values on health & wellness as well as your beliefs align with theirs. We love taking the girls for regular adjustments to keep their spine aligned and every other part of their body functioning at its highest potential. Every single organ in the body is innervated and those nerves/the nervous system is housed within the spine; if any area of the spine is out of place, it causes nerve interference and subsequently issues with the corresponding organs. Chiropractic is based on the belief that the relationship between the body's structure (primarily that of the spine) and its function (as coordinated by the nervous system) affects the overall health of the body. 

I also want to mention (in relation to the next point) that so many problems babies and children face can be solved naturally with chiropractic care -- such as acid reflux, gas & tummy troubles, colic, ear infections, even regular colds and the flu. If you take your child to a traditional MD for any of the above, they are going to prescribe medicine -- an antibiotic, a steroid, etc. So many medications do more harm than good, especially in a baby's tiny body. Many parents (including us) have success taking their babies and children to see a chiropractor; when they commit to receiving regular adjustments, those problems almost always would improve or disappear completely.

Regular neck adjustments facilitate drainage to prevent ear infections. Regular low back adjustments help with digestion, constipation, acid reflux, etc. because all those nerves housed in the lower part of the spine innervate the digestive organs. Babies who are just incredibly fussy all the time, won't sleep or have colic -- any time I hear about that, I tell moms to bring them to the chiropractor. The science is so simple and it's been proven time and time again that by taking care of the spine, the whole body responds positively. If you think of the trauma of birth ALONE -- even a completely natural, unmedicated birth like I had with Penelope and Adaline (I received an epidural with Olivia), can trigger so many issues for a baby in their head, neck and spine.

We have found personally that our girls are so healthy and feel their best when they are receiving regular adjustments. They have always been incredible sleepers from a very early age and we have never dealt with any colic or even much fussiness in any of them. 95% of newborns have misalignments or cervical strain (neck tightness or pain) after birth...that alone, left untreated, would contribute to colic and sleeplessness. Think of how miserable you feel when your neck is sore or you have a pinched nerve. Additionally, chiropractic care has been shown to be 90% effective at treating infantile colic; I personally have never had a baby with colic but from what I've heard, it is so stressful and challenging, I would think at that point you would try anything to get some relief and given how successful it has proven to be, I always recommend to my friends to start with a chiropractic visit.

Additionally, when our girls seem to have a cold or any type of sickness coming on (or if something is going around at school/church/etc), or when they are teething (obviously Olivia isn't any more, but Poppy still is), we bring them in for extra adjustments because they jumpstart the immune system to fight back whatever they're dealing with. The nervous system controls the immune system and therefore, when the spine is misaligned it causes nerve interference by placing pressure on nerves, which in turn negatively affects the immune system and inhibits it from doing it's job.

If you are really interested in learning more about this and how we've personally seen various things change in our own family through it, I can do a full separate post on it. All this to say, I swear by it and cannot recommend it enough.

Below are a few articles provided to me by our chiropractic clinic that may be helpful in learning more if you are interested or have specific questions:

FAQs about Children & Chiropractic Care
Why Newborns Should See A Chiropractor
What Happens to Kids When They Don't Get Adjusted

Another great resources is this eGuidebook for Healthy Kids, which addresses many common problems + sicknesses that a child deals with and how they can be treated naturally. That can be accessed here. There is also a one minute video about why children should be adjusted that can be viewed here.

5. ESSENTIAL OILS

Last but not least, we use essential oils on a daily basis. I'm an independent wellness advocate for doTERRA and since we started using essential oils about two years ago, I have fallen more and more in love with them, their potential and all the ways they have benefitted our family and helped us pursue a natural lifestyle. We diffuse them, apply them topically, take some of them orally, use them in our cooking, cleaning, drying clothes, etc. A few of our favorites are wild orange, lavender, cedar wood, lemon, OnGuard and breathe.

I'm happy to share a separate blog post on our favorite doTERRA oils and how we use them in our home and family if you guys are interested. If you haven't yet tried essential oils and are interested in learning more or getting started, send me an email or Direct Message on instagram @blessednestblog and I can help you out with that too!

WOW, that was a lot of information! I hope that was helpful for you guys! I also set up a "natural lifestyle" page you can check out for additional links. My hope is that page will be filled with resources, articles and links to products we buy; as I post more on these topics, I'll add the post links there as well. What do you think? How do you pursue a natural lifestyle with your family?
Happy Monday!! XO

4.23.2017

lovely lentils

If you haven't cooked with lentils before, they are so easy to make and can be adapted to fit into almost any recipe. We have been making what I call "Lovely Lentils" since Olivia was 6 months old when we first introduced solid foods. After sharing an instastory about them this weekend, I had lots of you asking for the recipe so I wanted to share it here. The best part is that it's so simple! I usually make a large batch (75-100 oz at once), freeze them in our favorite 1 oz ice cube trays and then am set for about a month and can just take them out and heat them anytime.

The recipe incorporates tons of vegetables and is so hearty and delicious for babies, children and adults. My 31 year old husband even loves them! It is a great way to encourage your child to eat more vegetables and the split red lentils provide protein and tons of fiber. It's a great make-ahead dish that I make sure to always have on hand for easy dinner sides, a snack, etc.




LOVELY LENTILS

what you'll need:
+ base vegetables: onion, carrots & celery with leafy tops, all finely diced (I usually do 1-2 large yellow onions, about 1 cup of chopped carrots and about 1 cup of chopped celery, but it doesn't need to be measured at all)

+ assorted vegetables: rainbow carrots, root vegetables (like parsnips, beets, turnips), bell peppers, butternut squash, kale, swiss chard, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, peas, etc. 

We also throw in cubes of tri-colored sweet potatoes and/or regular sweet potatoes. Basically any veggies you have on hand can be used in this recipe. I buy most of ours frozen from Whole Foods and then keep a bunch in our freezer so I can make this anytime. Our favorite brand of frozen veggies is Stahlbush Island Farms. The point is really just to add in tons of nutrients through high quality vegetables, including ones your children may not normally eat.

+ 1-2 cups Red split lentils (I just eyeball it, literally I just cover the veggies in them and call it good)
+ 1 quart of low sodium organic chicken stock (You could also do vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian)
+ Coconut oil (make sure it is virgin/unrefined)
+ Large food processor / trays to freeze if desired (our favorite here

what you'll do:
+ In a large dutch oven or pan, heat coconut oil over medium heat and all diced onion, celery and carrots; cook through and season with salt + pepper

+ Add in assorted vegetables and sauté 5-7 minutes until tender

+ Add in split red lentils

+ Add chicken stock

+ Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer; cover and let cook for approximately 15 minutes or until lentils have softened and most of the liquid has been absorbed

While still warm, using a large food processor, blend lentils until smooth. For an older child, you can leave them with some texture if you want, but I find its better if they are smooth if you plan to freeze them

+ Serve warm or freeze in cubes / Store up to 3 months in labeled freezer bags

Our girls usually eat 3-4 oz of lentils every night with dinner, so in the morning I will take the cubes from the freezer and put them in two ramekins to soften in the fridge all day. Then I warm them in the oven or on the stove, adding a little more coconut oil (a great source of healthy fats). I serve them warm and they absolutely love it! Hope this helps!! Happy Sunday!

4.20.2017

best of the nest | tuft & needle

We recently started rearranging the girls' bedrooms so that Olivia & Penelope could share a room and Adaline would soon have her own, now that she is nearly 3 months old and won't be sleeping in her bassinet in our bedroom much longer. Cue all the tears. 
Olivia has been in a twin bed since she was about 25 months, when we transitioned her out of her crib before Penelope was born. I absolutely loved going straight from a crib to a twin bed and skipping the toddler bed altogether, mainly because a toddler bed is outgrown so quickly and a twin is spacious enough where I can snuggle and lay with her every night after we read books. Plus the one we chose has an 18-year quality guarantee and is so darling (find it here). We will definitely be getting the same one for Penelope in the Fall once she turns 2. 


We recently got a Tuft & Needle mattress for Olivia's twin bed and have been loving it. Although, I think the girls are having more fun playing with the box than the mattress itself; I'm not sure we've ever had a box that size in our home except when we bought our refrigerator a few years ago, before Penelope was born. 


Olivia is an incredibly sound sleeper (which comes in really handy when you have both a toddler and baby in the house) and she turns 4 next month, so I've been sneaking in her room at night after she has fallen asleep just to lay with her and pretend she's a tiny little baby again. I'm still in denial that she is almost 4.

A few of the things we've been loving about her new mattress are...

+ All T&N mattresses are designed and crafted in the US; it is so important to us to shop as locally as possible and to know where the products our children are using are coming from

+ Free shipping on all mattresses, no matter the size (T&N mattresses are available in sizes Twin up to Cal King)

+ The mattress foam is created specifically to keep you cool during sleep by drawing heat out of your body and dispersing it out of the mattress; Olivia loves having a really cozy comforter on her bed at night no matter the temp in our house and I love that I don't have to worry about her overheating 

+ Tuft & Needle offers a 100-night trial, to make sure you absolutely love the mattress you are sleeping on. If you don't love it you can send it back for a free no-hassle return. I think the best part of this policy is that the returned mattresses are then donated to local charities and non-profits across the country

+ All T&N mattresses have a 10-year warranty on them, which means Olivia will be 13 when her mattress warranty is up. What did I say earlier...cue all the tears?!

+ Last but not least, and most importantly, it's incredibly comfortable. Olivia seems to be getting great sleep on it and whenever Dustin or I are laying on it with her, we feel the same way. It has just the right amount of support without being too firm, which I really like because I want the feeling of being cozy and not like I am sleeping on a rock! ;)


If you're in the market for a new mattress, T&N has got you covered. Not only do their mattresses arrive at your doorstep within 2-5 business days of ordering, but unboxing it and watching it expand is entertainment for yourself and your little ones. If you have any questions about our T&N mattress, I'd love to answer them. Comment below, send me an email or a direct message on instagram @blessednestblog and we can chat! Have a wonderful rest of your week!

I received a T&N mattress in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

4.19.2017

best of the nest | lorena canals

We are finishing up the design of Adaline's nursery and one of the pieces I knew I wanted to incorporate was a Lorena Canals rug. We have a gray one in Penelope's room and we all love it --it's cozy and soft, matches everything so well and is also machine washable, one of the features Lorena Canals Rugs is most well known for. Lorena Canals, designer & founder and mother of 2, has spent 25 years creating products for children's rooms and 12 years ago decided to venture into offering children's rugs that bring warmth and function to spaces while also being exactly what every Mom needs -- a rug that can be cleaned at home, unlike any of rugs out there on the market.

I wanted a neutral rug that would fit well in a nursery but also work in every other room in our home, should we want to switch things around. I chose this bereber beige one (1) and absolutely love it in the space -- it's the perfect finishing element to bring the whole room together and its large size is ideal for under her crib. 
onetwo | three | four | five | six

Lorena Canals offer a wide selection of neutral rugs but also so many fun, bright nursery rugs. Clearly the neutral ones are my favorite...probably because they go with everything and fit every home no matter the style. The very best part about Lorena Canals rugs is that they are machine washable. The girls can play on their rugs day after day and I can clean them easily in my own washing machine. It makes keeping the rug feeling fresh and clean extra easy, especially with 3 little girls in the house! If you're looking for a beautiful rug that fits into your home and lifestyle as a Mom, Lorena Canals is the perfect choice. I can't wait to share pictures of her nursery soon! Happy 

4.17.2017

april love list

One of my favorite posts each month on my blog are the Love List posts, where I am able to share all the items we are finding, using and loving in our home and family. For April I wanted to share a handful of my favorite items for Spring as well as a few things that have made life as a Mom of 3 much easier!


one | Ever since I can remember I dreamed of having a little girl to put a jean jacket on over a dress. Who knows where that came from, but there is just something so sweet about this combo and it has been Olivia's go-to outfit lately as we transition into Spring. We have this supersoft knit denim jacket and love pairing it with our favorite Alice & Ames dresses.

two | I recently discovered Happy Baby and am absolutely obsessed with their luxury linen baby carriers. They are so soft, incredibly easy to put on and take off and most importantly for me, so comfortable to wear. Their carriers are soft-structured, meaning they give you the support you need to carry your baby or child (which often lacks in wrap carriers) without the bulkiness of larger or hard-structured carriers. They are lightweight and breathable, which I love, making them comfortable to wear even during warmer weather and because they aren't bulky, they are perfect to throw in a diaper bag. I also love that they can be used for newborns up to children weighing 45 lbs, with no newborn insert needed. Since our Happy Baby Linen Carrier came in the mail a few weeks ago, I'm pretty sure I have used it every single day with Adaline. Happy Baby just released their gorgeous Spring line, of which my favorites are the Agave carrier and Pewter Dot. We have the Charcoal linen carrier, which I love because it's gender neutral and well, gray is my favorite color in everything! Enter BLESSEDNEST at checkout for 10% off your purchase from Happy Baby now through the end of April. This code can be applied to all carriers, including those on backorder which will be shipping in a few weeks!

three | If you saw my instastory last week, I did a book tour of all our children's books and also created a series here on the blog as well as on instagram called Lit List, where I share all my favorites. For an A-Z list of all the ones we love, check out this post. We recently took a trip to our local bookstore with the girls and picked up this book and this book and haven't stopped reading them to the girls since.

four | I have been on the hunt for high quality, modern water bottles for the girls that aren't covered top to bottom in Disney characters or puppies. I came across the Ello brand at Target a few weeks ago and got two for each of the girls, one each for their water and one each for their Dynamic Greens juice. I love the soft straw, easy to open lid (even for Penelope who is 19 months) and the fact that there is even a lid lock you can slide to prevent it from being opened -- perfect for when they are in my diaper bag or we are in the car. If you are ordering them online, be sure to get the ones with the triangle pattern (versus the square), because those are the ones with straws. The square pattern is more of an open spout (no straw), so for a toddler that wouldn't be as ideal but for an older child would be great.


five | Having three kids, I have tried just about every sleep sack and swaddle that exists on the market. I recently discovered Nested Bean and wanted to try theirs for Adaline. Nested Bean is most known for their Zen Swaddle, which is created with a lightly weighted pad (in the shape of a bean, hence the name) that sits on a baby's chest (as well as one on each side) to simulate the gentle pressure from a mother's touch. Each swaddle is created to last from birth to approximately 6 months, with their "2 sizes in 1 design" concept. What I love about this swaddle personally is that it can be used with a baby's arms in or out. From birth Adaline has always wanted her hands by her face so swaddling her body but leaving her arms out gives her the best rest. The Zen Swaddle is made of incredibly soft bamboo that is naturally thermal regulating and moisture wicking. So far she has loved hers and I was thrilled to discover a new product that kept her comfortable and feeling secure as she sleeps! Enter BLESSEDNEST15 at checkout for 15% off your total purchase from Nested Bean now through the end of April.

six | I recently picked up this floral sheet set on sale from Target and absolutely love it. I shared a closer look in my instastories, but it is the perfect color for our bedroom, totally neutral and floral. A win on all levels. It's called "khaki" and has a white floral pattern, but the background is more of a gray than a beige, which I was so happy about because our comforter (here) is gray. We've been using them for a few weeks and have been so happy, they are so soft to the touch and definitely have a "cool" feeling, which is always a bonus because seriously, my husband is a hotbox ;)

seven | Speaking of bedding, we are doing some rearranging of rooms this month as we prepare to move Adaline out of our bedroom and into her own room (which is Olivia's current room). Olivia will then be sharing a room with Poppy, which she is so excited about. I have been keeping my eyes open for fun, matching bedding for the girls once we move Poppy to her twin bed in the Fall and I love these polka dot quilts from The Land of Nod. We have this polka dot sheet set on Olivia's bed, which I love, so I definitely plan to order a set for Poppy's bed to match. I'm thinking Penelope's bed, sheets and quilt will be her main gift when she turns 2 in the Fall, as a way to give her something special but still keeping it practical. I fully intend to stay in complete denial that she will be 2 in a few months until that day is actually here.

eight | Dustin and I host a lot of parties, get togethers, a married couples small group, etc. in our home and always seem to be entertaining in some form or another. I love finding inexpensive pieces that make hosting a breeze. This glass drink dispenser is one we've had for years and love it so much, I recently bought a second one so we are able to serve both fruit infused ice water (I almost always just do lemons but sometimes lemon + limes, mint, or orange slices) and then homemade punch or lemonade alongside it.



nine | Now that the weather is warming up and we are getting outside more, our favorite thing to bring along on our adventures is our gathre mat. If you haven't heard of them, they are beautiful bonded leather playmats that are perfect for the park, beach, picnics, indoor arts and crafts, and more. We have a maxi circle one (pictured above in a photo from July 2016) that we LOVE and recently added a medium-sized mat to our collection in their new Rylee + Cru Floral pattern. Gathre mats come in 4 different sizes, make great gifts for new parents and have so many uses. Plus the soft leather makes something simple like a picnic in the park seem extra special.

ten | Last but not least, an up and coming new brand, Clementine Kids, is releasing their Spring line this Thursday April 20 and you guys, it is so good. Haley was so sweet to offer to send the girls a few of our favorite quilts. We love them all, but especially the Clementine quilt and the Huckleberry quilt, which has the most darling navy plaid pattern on the back -- perfect for summer picnics. I just recently discovered Clementine Kids and fell in love immediately -- the quilts are so cozy and the patterns couldn't be more perfect. I know you all will love them as much as we do!

I hope your April has been wonderful so far! I have a fun girls night out coming up next week and we are in full party-planning mode over here for Olivia's 4th birthday party in May, I can't wait to share the theme soon! It seems like May is one of our busiest -- and best -- months of the year, with Spring photos, Mother's Day, Adaline's dedication, Olivia's birthday, Memorial Day and more. It's when the weather really starts warming, flowers start blooming and we spend more time outside than in with our 3 little girls. Happy Monday!

4.12.2017

living more minimally

I have shared in the past about how Dustin and I are continually moving ourselves and our family toward a more minimal lifestyle as we grow together and raise our 3 little girls. 

Over the last few years (really since Olivia was born in 2013), we have had the desire to own less, buy less, spend less and to live more. To have more space in our home -- not taken up by things -- but instead a place to move, play, dance, and make memories with our sweet daughters. To bring less into our home (so there is less to clean, less to organize and less to eventually get rid of...) and to instead focus on being together as a family, giving our children experiences rather than things and to live with less stress and more time. I love sharing about all the fun things we are doing as a family, products I am using & loving, and my favorite brands for modern motherhood. But tonight as I was tucking my girls in to bed, it was really on my heart to share more about living minimally and how it has so profoundly affected our quality of life and changed the way we live and raise our children. 

Simplifying in every area of life is a goal we are always striving for -- simplifying what we own, what we buy, what we bring in to our home, what we say "yes" to and what we take on in general, so that we can focus on what really matters. We actually own less now than we ever have before (despite having 3 children), but what we do own is not only higher quality but much more treasured because there is less of it and it was brought into our home with incredible intention, thought + purpose. Not to mention the joy of living in a house I rarely have to clean or organize. I absolutely love the feeling of openness and the absence of clutter in our home. I can sit down at the end of the day (like I'm doing now as I type this) and look around and see wide open spaces in our home, with nothing left out and nothing to pick up.

I took that picture last week as Adaline had fallen asleep in my arms and we swayed in the breeze in our backyard hammock. It's hard to explain but the moment that photo captures was one of the most special moments of my entire life, and yet it was so incredibly simple. I will always hold the memory of that afternoon with my baby girl very close to my heart. It serves as a reminder that life isn't about what we own -- it's about who we are, who we have, how we love, and what we do with the time we are given.


For us, living more minimally means achieving the freedom to live with purpose, surrounded only by what is most meaningful to us, not being suffocated by stuff that doesn't matter or that distracts us from actually living. Imagine that. It gives me so much peace of mind knowing that everything we own is purposeful. If you came to our home you would find that many of our closets, cupboards, drawers and shelves are empty rather than piled high or crammed with stuff we don't need or use anyway. We have a media console in our basement with 7 large drawers and only 3 of them have anything in them...one holds our remotes, and two hold board and card games, and that's it. 4 are completely empty. It is that case in many areas of our home. Would you also believe me when I say I can fit the clothing that all three of our daughters own into a single 6-drawer dresser? No closets, no additional dressers or drawers, just a single 6-drawer dresser. For all 3 of them. That is what I am referring to when I say "minimal" -- an "absence of excess." And what I end up with is a wardrobe where every piece of clothing they have is incredibly special, cherished, passed down from sister to sister and holds rich memories. Doesn't that sound more appealing than clothing overflowing in every closet and drawer, 3/4 of which is never worn anyway?!

At the end of the day I am never left picking up toys because we have very few of them and the girls have learned to put everything away when they're done, an easier chore to teach when there is less stuff to put away. Plus their creativity and imaginations are continually thriving. Olivia always tells me she loves being "neat and tidy" and between her and Penelope, our house is almost always spotless.

Every day I continue to find myself more and more fulfilled with my role as a Mom to the 3 little girls God has given us, and as a wife to my best friend and I am aware more now than ever that my fulfillment has nothing to do with our stuff. My longing for things and for a certain type of lifestyle has been completely stripped away over the past 5+ years as I have learned what truly matters (especially since becoming a Mom) and how this life is just a single breath in comparison to eternity. And how time is something that can't be purchased no matter who you are or how much money you have...and how much more time we are able to grab hold of and use when we remove the things from our life that aren't life-giving.

For us, it also means being selective with our time -- how we use it, especially with our daughters; it means really thinking through what we say yes to, the commitments and tasks we take on, and not getting wrapped up in a to-do list that is a mile long because we have overcommitted ourselves. It means living slower and more intentionally instead of constantly seeking busyness and never stopping to take a breath. I am able to spend more time each day with my daughters and with Dustin because I don't have a million things I need to clean up/care for/maintain in our home. Living more minimally has also allowed us to live debt free, because we are very very selective with how our money is spent. Another incredible bonus!

I also find how it is amazing what getting rid of stuff does for your mind. In every experience Dustin and I have had, less stuff = less stress. Did you know that studies show a direct link between the amount of physical possessions in a house and the stress level of the female homeowner? One study at UCLA found that the more stuff in a woman's house, the higher her level of stress hormones. The same study also found that women subconsciously relate how happy they are with their home life and family to how they feel about their homes. So the more clutter and chaos in the home, the less happy a woman is with her family and her life.

After all, the things we most look forward to have nothing to do with what we own, but rather who we're with and the memories we make together. We absolutely still love creating a beautiful home where our girls, friends & family always feel welcome and loved, but I know firsthand that atmosphere can be done with less possessions and more intention.

Below are a few articles I have come across over the past few years that really stuck with me and further confirmed our lifestyle shift toward living more simply. I hope they bring some inspiration if you are looking to do the same! I am always open to sharing more, so don't hesitate to reach out by email or DM on instagram @blessednestblog if you want to chat! 

on minimalism in general

4.11.2017

best of the nest | owlet smart sock 2

I'm so excited to share a product that we began using when Penelope was born in 2015 and have since loved using with Adaline -- our Owlet Smart Sock. For me, the Owlet is a must-have essential that I wish I'd had when I became a Mom in 2013 after Olivia was born. Let's be totally honest, I thought I knew what I was doing when I first became a Mom but now that I have three little girls 4 years later, it's amazing to me how much more I've learned about motherhood since then. In our family, Owlet has completely changed the way we sleep because of the peace of mind it offers. 


If you haven't yet heard of it, the Owlet Smart Sock is a device you put on your baby's foot just like you would a traditional sock; it comes in 3 sizes to grow with your baby and can be used from birth through 18 months. Using the clinically proven technology of Pulse Oximetry, it tracks a baby's heart rate and oxygen levels while they're sleeping and is designed to notify you if your baby's heart rate or oxygen levels fall outside the preset zones. 

The original Owlet was released in 2015 and because it was created by parents for parents, user experience and customer feedback is highly valued. The best just got better, now that Owlet has released a brand new sock, called the Smart Sock 2. Building on the award-winning design of the original Owlet, the Smart Sock 2 is the result of both parent feedback and Owlet's continued investment in product design. Owlet's vision has always been to transform infant health and safety for every baby and so far I am loving the improvements they've made from the original sock to the newest version. 


Here are a few of the new features in the Owlet Smart Sock 2:
+ Improved bluetooth range, up to a 12x increase (100 feet) between the Smart Sock and Base Station

+ Innovative new sock design to offer a more secure fit and easier sock placement, meaning fewer false notifications due to more accurate sensor placement

+ Enhanced smartphone app for improved user experience 

+ Advancements in firmware and hardware to reduce false notifications

+ Fabric sock can now be worn on both feet, allowing parents to alternate as needed as well as a design which allows for breathable toes through all sock sizes


Included in the box with the purchase of the brand new Owlet Smart Sock 2 are the following: 
+ Smart Sock Kit including three sock sizes (1 to 3)
+ Base station and corresponding cords (this is what sits on your nightstand and sends out an alert)
+ Sock electronics (for connecting your smart sock to the base station for charging when not in use)
+ Exclusive access to the Owlet app
+ Booklet with all the information you will need to start using your Owlet

The brand new Owlet Smart Sock 2 is $299.99 and can be purchased here. Owlet also offers free shipping and a 45 day satisfaction guarantee, giving parents an opportunity to try the sock out to see how well it fits into their lifestyle and if it gives them the peace of mind it is intended to. We have loved using our Owlet with both Penelope and Adaline and highly recommend them to everyone we know! If you have any specific questions, Owlet customer service is incredible with answering them by phone or email and if you want to hear more about our own experience, I'd be happy to chat more about it as well by email or Direct Message on instagram @blessednestblog.

4.06.2017

lit list | a-z favorite children's books

Happy Thursday! If you follow me on instagram @blessednestblog you will have seen my book tour instastory earlier this week and I got tons of messages asking for all the book titles in one spot for quick and easy shopping. I put them all below in alphabetical order and plan to share our absolute favorite Top 10 Children's Books soon too. The list below doesn't include many of our seasonal favorites or holiday books but you can find lots of those linked on my Lit List page, as well as others by category possibly not listed below.

A

B

C

D


F

G

H

I

J

L

M

N

O

P

R

S

T

W

U

Y

Have any favorites I missed? Share them below! Hope you're having a wonderful week!

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