.april favorites.

This post contains affiliate links that may earn our family a small commission.  It in no way makes your shopping price go up, but it does give us a small income!

 The end of the school year always just roars by.  I’m looking forward to my summer holiday, but I’m also trying to soak up the last few weeks with my class before it’s time to say goodbye!  Today I’m detailing our favorites in food, clothing, product, media, and Annabeth.

Food:

  • Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers ($5):  I love the way I feel when I avoid grains and sugar, but I miss crackers.  These have been such a perfect snack and they come in several different types of flavors.  I love them with chicken salad, pimento cheese spread, or spinach dip!
  • Collagen Peptides ($27):  I slip a scoop of collagen into my coffee each morning and anytime I cook soup or bake something, I also add collagen in for an added boost.  I’ve noticed such a difference in my hair, skin, and nails since starting this practice.  I really struggled with hair loss after Annabeth was born and then again when I weaned her last fall–this has helped tremendously and it’s also been really great for my gut health.
  • “>Hair, Skin, & Nails Vitamins ($7):  I take these religiously and I’ve noticed a huge boost in how quickly my hair grows and also in the quality of my nails.  Plus, they taste delicious!

Clothing:

  • Twill Shorts from Old Navy ($18-$22):  It’s almost time to breakout my Summer Mom uniform which includes a combination of these Old Navy shorts and a coordinating slub knit tee.  I have long legs and a super short torso, so the 3.5 inch inseam is just right.  I love that these shorts are so comfortable and come in so many colors!
  • PSP Hat ($18):  I love a good baseball cap and I especially love it when it matches my Old Navy mom shorts and my slub knit tees 🙂  I don’t wear hats as often as I should when I’m outdoors, but I’m trying to be more conscious of the skin on my face and guarding it from the sun’s harmful rays.

Product:

  • “>Strivectin Retinol ($115):  This stuff is the bomb.  It’s definitely an investment, but I’ve had the same tube since September and I still have plenty left.  This stuff is a powerhouse and I’ve seen a major reduction in the fine lines on my face and neck.  I usually apply this each evening after I’ve washed my face and used my glycolic acid toner and I concentrate heavily on my forehead and around my eyes.
  • Colour Riche Shine Lipstick in “Gentle Fawn” ($8):  This is such a great neutral lip.  I suffer from corpse lips, so if I don’t have a little color on, I look like I should be laid up in a casket!  This is a really moisturizing formula and it’s been the lipstick I’ve reached for over and over again this spring.

Media:

  • Avengers Endgame:  Still sobbing about it, honestly.  We’re both MCU junkies (believe it or not) and Coach managed to snag 6:30 p.m. premiere tickets so we could avoid the spoilers and finally know.
  • Poldark:  I love it.  Coach tolerates it.  The music is beautiful, the setting is a character itself, and the actors are pretty.  The story line is pretty compelling and I think there are books that go along with it that I’m going to check out this summer!

Annabeth:

  • Sugar Dumplin’ Clothing (varies):  This is a newer-to-me brand of classic children’s clothing and I’ve been so impressed by the quality, the customer service, and the price point.  It is a pre-sale style company but they always feature extras on their website.
  • Wet Brush ($8):  The time has finally come to retire Annabeth’s soft-bristled baby hairbrush in exchange for a big girl brush.  I use a Wet Brush religiously so it was a natural choice for my girl.

What have been your favorites for April?  Do you also feel like this month has just flown?

XOXO,

Court

.my new planner.

Each year, I look forward to buying myself a new planner.  It makes everything feel fresh, like a world of possibilities awaits me.  We’re religious users of our shared Google calendar, but I’m an old-fashioned gal who likes a paper//pencil planner that I can drop in my tote.

For years and years, I used a Lilly Pulitzer jumbo-sized academic planner.  It was fantastic in college and in the early years of my career, but it also felt like it didn’t leave enough margin.  Last year I swapped out my standard LP planner for an Emily Ley Simplified Planner and I fell in love.

I’ve been a long time lover of Emily Ley and her Simplified message.  I own and have read all of her books many times over and we both look forward to our bi-annual ruthless declutter challenge.  We’ve adopted her mantra of best, favorite, necessary and it has changed so much about our home and its functionality.  It felt natural to try out one of her Simplified Planners last year and I eagerly re-ordered a new Simplified Planner for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Simplified Planners come in several versions (weekly vs. daily and academic year vs. calendar year).  Last year I decided on the Academic Weekly planner and this year I made the upgrade to the Academic Daily planner.

Here’s a look at how I used my Weekly Planner:

Prior to a new month beginning, I’d check our family’s Google Calendar and import all of the information into the monthly spread in my planner.  Our Google Calendar houses our meal plans, our daily comings and goings, and (of course), the all-important football schedule.  We also keep track of our social obligations, civic obligations, and church events in our online calendar.

Once all of those things are recorded in my monthly spread, I take each Sunday evening to transpose everything into the upcoming week’s spread.  Coach and I usually do this together with our calendars so we’re on the same page, especially if one of us is working late or Annabeth has a playdate that interferes with football practice.

Having this little meeting on Sunday evenings seems funny, but it’s something we got into the habit of quite some time ago.  We love Sally & Clay Clarkson and in The Life-Giving Parent, they talk about the Biblical importance of numbering our days by taking advantage of having a regular planning date with our spouse (and even our children).  We feel grounded and ready to tackle the week after we’ve had our Sunday meeting.

My new daily academic edition doesn’t actually begin until August, but I foresee myself filling in each “week” from my monthly spread each Sunday evening because it refreshes all the things I have to do in my brain.

I don’t ever want to wish away my life, but I am looking forward to August when my new planner begins.  In the meantime, I’ll stick like glue to my current planner!

Do you still use a paper calendar?

XOXO,

Court

PS:  Emily Ley has tons of free printables!

 

.disney rules for toddlers.

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We love traveling.  When we found out we were pregnant, we read On Becoming Babywise and Bringing Up Bebe and both stressed the importance of making sure your child fit into your lifestyle instead of tailor-fitting your lifestyle for your child.  Long story short, we’re the adults, we make the money, we make the rules, and we live our lives with Annabeth joining in for the ride.  It’s how my parents raised me and I’ve traveled all over kingdom come and have great memories.

We observed no less than 72 meltdowns while we were at Disney World.  Some were mild (cranky child throws a tantrum) and others were severe enough to make Coach wonder if he needed to intervene (drunk Dad tells off sober mom and makes children cry).

Having a baby is like anything in life–it is what you make it.  If you determine that you’re going to be miserable//sleepy//a slave to your child, guess what…you will be.  We determined from the get-go that we wanted to have fun and enjoy our little human’s company, so we approach parenthood with the idea that it will be what we make it.

Why not make it fun?

Here are our three rules for making Disney World with a toddler really fun:

1.  They’re going to like what they like.  When we were on our Babymoon, I dreamed of taking Annabeth to Enchanted Tales with Belle.  It’s this fun, interactive attraction that combines great storytelling with some pretty impressive animatronics.  I delighted in all the little girls magically traveling to Beast’s castle and seeing Belle in her pretty dress.  Fast forward two years to Annabeth’s first Disney trip and she absolutely hated it.  I gave myself twenty seconds to feel a little disappointed before I squared my shoulders and marched her back over to the carousel which she loved (and I honestly find to be a waste of time).  Kids are just tiny versions of adults and everyone has likes and dislikes.  Part of helping Annabeth become a fully self-actualized adult is to let her choose activities she enjoys and voice her opinions when she doesn’t like something.  When you’re at Disney World, it’s okay to let nostalgia guide you, but don’t get hung up if your kid doesn’t like what you want them to like.

2.  Have a plan.  Time is money at Disney World and if you go in without a plan, you’re most likely going to walk away dissatisfied.  Coach himself will tell you he wasn’t a Disney fan before he met me because his single experience prior wasn’t planned out very well.  When you have a game plan in place, you know you can maximize your time (and money) and see the things you want to see.  If you’re unsure how to begin planning a trip, just DM me and I’ll be happy to help!  I love talking Disney trips!  If you want to take a step further than that, there are tons of travel agencies who will plan your trip for you without a fee!  Having a plan makes everyone more relaxed and if you’re relaxed, your toddler probably is, too.

3.  Be flexible.  I know it seems like this conflicts with having a plan, but having a toddler means you need a degree in the art of flexibility.  If they don’t like something, switch it up.  If they get super cranky, take them back to the resort for a nap.  If you’re all hot and tired, splurge on some ice cream.  If you’re flexible, your kid will be, too.  Allowing yourself to be flexible within the framework of your plan makes the whole trip flow smoothly.

Bonus:  don’t yell.  Unless she’s about to cause bodily harm to herself or others, we don’t really raise our voices at Annabeth.  We both feel like there are far more effective means of communication.  Do we want to yell?  Um, duh.  But we’re adults and we restrain ourselves.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a toddler or adolescent who is acting out because they’re cranky//hot//tired//over it and the parent makes it worse by yelling.  Toddlers are going to act like toddlers, but you can choose to act like an adult and redirect.

Do you have an awesome meltdown story?  I’ve got several I’m hanging onto until it’s time to publish a senior ad in Annabeth’s yearbook and then I am going to let loose.

XOXO,

Court

.disney trip recap, part two.

Picking up where we left off, we rope dropped EPCOT on the Tuesday of our Walt Disney World vacation and spent the entire day enjoying rides and, most importantly, all the food stalls at the Flower & Garden Festival!

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After over-indulging at the food stalls, we rode the Monorail over to The Polynesian so my Mama could do some shopping for the Easter Bunny.  We had dinner at The Garden Grill at EPCOT and we were all less than impressed.  The character interactions were just so-so and the food was just awful.  I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

Mama and Daddy took Annabeth back to the resort and Coach and I spent the evening puttering around the World Showcase.  It was really nice.

On Wednesday, we spent another day at the Magic Kingdom.  We hit all of our favorite things and Annabeth was able to meet some of her favorite characters.  We enjoyed lunch at Cosmic Ray’s, caught the Festival of Fantasy parade, and had fun on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.

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Meeting one of Annabeth’s favorites–Merida!

For dinner, we pretended to be Lady & the Tramp and enjoyed fresh pasta at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.  The food there is just okay–we like it mostly for the nostalgia.  Lady & the Tramp is one of my favorite Disney movies and when we ate there on our babymoon, we knew we wanted to bring Annabeth back.

Mama and Daddy took Annabeth back to the resort and Coach and I met up with our friends Chuck and Braden for some Extra Magic Hours fun.  We enjoyed shorter wait times during the fireworks and then Josh shocked me by electing to do a special PhotoPass opportunity that I’ve always wanted to try.

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Tangled is one of our most favorite movies of all time and Rapunzel is one of Annabeth’s favorite princesses.  I hated she wasn’t with us for this priceless shot, but it made me so happy.

We got back to the resort around midnight (eek!) and woke up the next day ready for a morning at DHS and an afternoon//evening at EPCOT.

We met some of Annabeth’s favorite Toy Story characters and enjoyed dropping in at the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  Then we were picked up in the backstage area to make our Open House appointment with The Disney Vacation Club.  It’s not something we’re going to pull the trigger on right away, but Coach is very interested in the possibility of becoming DVC members in the future!

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The PhotoPass Photographer was kind enough to lend Annabeth her shades so we could snap a pic with her personal hero.

We went to Disney Springs for a while and then headed back to DHS where we caught the boat to EPCOT.  We had an appointment with Annabeth’s favorite professional wrecking ball and she was so excited to meet him!

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We ended our evening at EPCOT with a wonderful meal at Via Napoli.  We used to love Tutto Italia until Via Napoli opened up.  The pizza is out of this world and the pasta is top-notch, too.  My favorite part of any meal at Via Napoli has to be the zeppole (fried riccota cheese balls served with dark chocolate dipping sauce–yum!).  Annabeth (who will not eat a PBJ or macaroni and cheese) enjoyed the clams, mussels, and squid in my pasta dish.

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We took one last whirl on Soarin’, Test Track, and (our family favorite) Spaceship Earth before heading back to the resort.  Annabeth kept waving to Spaceship Earth and saying, “Bye, my Disney World!  See ya!”

The next morning we woke up, packed up, ate some breakfast, and then headed back towards the land of cotton.  Traveling to Disney World by car takes seven hours going and 17 hours coming, so we were so glad when we finally got home to Atlas and the kitties.

The trip laundry is done, the car has been washed and waxed, and the Birkenstock tan lines on my feet have finally started to blend into the rest of my skin, but I’m still holding onto the precious, precious memories from this trip.  Being able to have four generations of family together was so special and definitely something I’ll never forget.

Did you have a calm or wild Spring Break?  I think next year we’ll just visit Charleston and run the Cooper River Bridge Race again for a slower change of pace 🙂

XOXO,

Court

.disney trip recap, part one.

Over Spring Break, we traveled back to Walt Disney World for another vacation to the happiest place on Earth!  We had a blast and Annabeth has asked everyday since we arrived back home, “Where’s my Disney World, Mommy?”

Annabeth, my parents, grandparents, brother, and sister-in-law traveled to Orlando the Tuesday before we were on holiday from work.  While they had fun at Disney World, we worked, missed Annabeth, and enjoyed a little bit of toddler-free existence (aka, we ate dinner on the couch every night).  We were blown away when less than a week before the trip, my grandparents said they’d like to go.  We’ve tried for years to get them to go with us, so Mama booked their tickets right away.  My parents rented a condo that fit the whole family in Kissimmee and they had a blast exploring Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney Hollywood Studios.  Annabeth adores her great-grandparents and my brother and sister-in-law, so she was in heaven.

On Friday, we left work straightaway, grabbed some Starbucks, and headed towards Orlando.  We always stop at the Chick-fil-A in Cordele, Georgia, so we grabbed our nuggets to go and made pretty decent time.  We checked-in around 11:30 at the condo and promptly went to sleep.  We were tired, excited, and ready to see Annabeth after almost a week away from her!

On Saturday morning, we couldn’t stand it and woke Annabeth up around 6:45.  When I unzipped her SnoozeShade, she said, “What are you doing here, Mommy?”  Just adorable.  We packed up and headed to our resort and from there, headed to the Magic Kingdom.  It was Pop’s first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle and we took plenty of pictures to commemorate the occasion (Grandma previously went to the Magic Kingdom in 1973!).

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Funny story:  Coach missed the picture because we managed to leave the BOB at the resort and he caught an Uber back to go grab it.

We enjoyed Fantastyland, ate lunch at Columbia Harbour House, and Grandma got to ride it’s a small world (her favorite!).  For dinner, all of the girls headed over to The Grand Floridian for dinner at 1900 Park Faire with Cinderella.  We had a ball and Annabeth put on quite the show for the PhotoPass photographer.

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After dinner, Grandma, Pop, Mama, and Daddy headed to the condo to get everything settled for the evening and the younger crowd rode a few more rides.  We turned in fairly early so we could get ready for another day of fun.

On Sunday morning, Grandma, Pop, Grayson, and Victoria traveled home.  We woke up at our resort and got ready for a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We spent our morning riding some of our favorite attractions and meeting some familiar faces.

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Daddy has narcolepsy on thrill rides

We ate lunch at Backlot Express and enjoyed some ice cream.  We caught a couple of shows and then headed to our dining reservation at Hollywood & Vine.  Out of all of the character meals we did throughout the week, I think this was our favorite.  The character interactions were sweet and the food was pretty much the best you’ll find at a buffet (buffet food, even at Disney World, isn’t great).  We turned in pretty early once again because we had early Extra Magic Hours the next day at Animal Kingdom.

The going attraction at Animal Kingdom is Flight of Passage in Pandora…one day the wait for that ride was legitimately FOUR hours long.  Thankfully, I’d scored FastPasses for that ride, so we rope-dropped the safari and got some really great pictures of the animals since they are most active in the morning.  Unfortunately, Coach volunteered me to participate in the Harambe Drum Circle and now the Internet has plenty of videos of me learning to dance :/

We spent the entire day riding great attractions and enjoying the top-notch shows (The Festival of the Lion King is our favorite!).  We had lunch at Pizzafari and enjoyed a really fun character meal at Tusker House.  If you’re not fond of African-style foods (curries, “exotic” meats, etc.), Tusker House might be a total bust for you, but it was right up our alley.

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We turned in pretty early once again since we still had three more jam-packed days in the parks before returning home.

Part Two will drop on Friday, so keep a lookout!  Last night (4/9/19) a Disney giveaway is going live on my Instagram page, so be sure and check that out!

XOXO,

Court

.favorite toddler toys.

If you’re a longtime reader, you know that we value quality over quantity.  We’d rather have a few really nice things versus lots and lots of cheaper items.  We hope Annabeth will feel the same way one day and we’re trying to instill this value in her by supplying her with only a few toys of nice quality instead of lots of cheap toys.

Too many choices are overwhelming for adults, so I imagine that it can be even more overwhelming for kids (and especially toddlers).  We have Annabeth’s toys on a rotation:  every week or so we swap out the box of toys for a new one.  It keeps things fresh and makes old toys feel new again.  It also keeps her from being overwhelmed.  We do our best to choose toys that foster imaginative play because that skill seems to be so lacking in so many children these days.

With all of that being said, here are our five favorite toys that Annabeth seems to reach for time and time again:

  1.  Melissa & Doug Fold-and-Go Wooden Dollhouse ($30):  My mom is the queen of gift-giving and she knew that Annabeth would be obsessed with this little dollhouse.  Annabeth loves all of the little furniture and being able to carry it around.  We love that it keeps a low-profile and is easily stored away in a basket when it’s not in use.
  2. Melissa & Doug Examine-and-Treat Pet Vet Play Set ($27):  Annabeth received this from her friend Sahana for her birthday and she LOVES it.  She adores Atlas and our cats, so she has fun pretending to care for the kitty and puppy that come with the set.  She also loves all of the lotion/potion and ointment bottles that she can open and close to her heart’s content.  On the website, Melissa and Doug talk about the importance of building empathy in our children and this play set is designed to do just that.
  3. Disney Figure Play Sets ($12-$30):  Annabeth is a tiny little thing.  At two years old, she clocks in at 21.4 pounds.  She has the sweetest, most petite little hands and gets frustrated when toys are too big or bulky for her to grasp.  We discovered these little sets at Disney World and they have tons of options.  Annabeth calls them her “buddies” and she just loves them to death.  I think it’s because they fit in her little hands so nicely.  We like that they can easily be thrown into our diaper bag or Josh’s pockets and I think they’ll be super convenient when football seasons rolls back around.
  4. Bitty Baby ($60):  I realize it’s a little extreme that our two-year old has an American Girl doll, however, we are talking quality over quantity here!  She has a less expensive baby doll that goes in the camper, but Bitty Baby (named Josie) is our main gal.  We picked her up in Manhattan at the American Girl flagship store, but there’s really nothing better than getting an AG catalog in the mail and ordering something fun.  We like Bitty Baby because she makes gift-giving easy for family members–just order an outfit or accessory and you’re good to go!  Annabeth loves Baby Josie and it is the sweetest to watch her play mommy.
  5. Books, Books, Books (varies):  We began reading to Annabeth before she was bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.  In fact, we bought her first books at Barnes & Noble as a pick-me-up after taking a third very disappointing pregnancy test that told us not yet.  On maternity leave, I read Little Women and A Little Princess aloud to her and during her first summer, Josh read Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone to her cover to cover.  She LOVES books and will happily read and be read to over any other activity or toy out there.  Screen time scares us both, so we gladly buy our girl as many books as we can cram into our cozy home and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

Do you have any toddler toy favorites?  I didn’t put this on the list, but sidewalk chalk is actually her ultimate favorite toy because our girl loves being outside in the sunshine.

XOXO,

Court

PS:  We’re thinking about a toddle bike for Christmas–shoot me an email or DM if you have a good suggestion!

PSS:  We really liked Color Wonder products until Annabeth left some artwork on our dining room wall–I thought they were supposed to be invisible?!?

.smockin’ hot mama.

By local standards, we were later-in-life first time parents.  I turned 29 shortly after Annabeth was born and Josh turned 30 during her first fall.  We were relatively young when we got married and spent the first eight years of our marriage happily enjoying life with just the two of us.  When we did finally make the leap into parenthood, we’d had plenty of time to make very assured decisions about how we wanted to parent*. We’re very much those later-in-life Babywise parents and we’re pretty strict on the Big S Three:  sleep (we all need it, thank you very much), sugar (limited at best), and screen time (that’s a big no for us, dog).  A fourth S that I’d always had my heart set on was something that totally overwhelmed Josh from the onset, but he’s come to accept it.  That S (sometimes the most important S!) is smocked clothing.

If you’re not from the South, smocked clothing might be foreign to you, and in all honesty, it’s almost faded from popularity for many Southerners.  I’ve been teased for dressing Annabeth like a “pioneer” or like “Laura Ingalls Wilder” and once someone even said she looked like a “Pilgrim” baby, but she’s only going to be little once and there is nothing sweeter than a baby who is lovingly and traditionally dressed in heirloom-style clothing.  Children will be adults one day who can dress themselves, but I fully believe in letting them be little and nothing makes my eyeballs cross more than a baby or toddler or adolescent who is dressed like a teenager.

I mean, really.

Annabeth’s first Sunday at LFBC!

Look how sweet!

At this point in our day, we’d lost the hairbow and our knee socks were rumpled, but she was still rocking it!

This is actually vintage–I wore this Feltman Brothers style and was so proud to pass it along to Annabeth.

Six-Month Portraits (copyright Mercer Harris Photography)

Don’t get me wrong–we sport our fair share of Old Navy, Carter’s, and Cat & Jack play clothes.  Babies are messy and toddlers even more so, but for special occasions, who can resist all that sweet, smocked goodness?

If you’re in the market, some of our favorite brands are The Bailey Boys, TBBC, Smock Monkey, Southern Smocked Company, Sugar Dumplin’, and Cecil & Lou.  Gifting a sweet smocked outfit to a Mama-to-be is so special as it’s something that can be passed on from one generation to the next.

How do you dress your baby?  Do you think smocked stuff is out-of-touch or do you love the more traditional, Southern styles?

XOXO,

Court

PS:  The Bailey Boys has a warehouse on SSI that is amazing!  When we head down to football camp each summer, this is one of my must-see attractions (ha)!

PSS:  Don’t ever forget the power of a B-S-T board on Facebook–I’ve found tons of great bargains on gently-used smocked items!

*We had exactly 974 people tell us not to make any decisions about parenthood because it totally wrecks you and you’ll eat your words.  In my experience, parents love to scare parents-to-be or prospective parents and that’s 100% unfair. We have a begin as you mean to continue mindset about life:  our expectation of Annabeth is that she fits into our lifestyle instead of rearranging our lifestyle for her.  We have the expectation of sleeping like a normal person, so we trained her from an early age to do the same. We have the expectation that she make wise decisions concerning her personal health and wellness, so sugar is an occasional treat.  We have the expectation that she be a lifelong reader and lover of imaginative play, so no screen time. If you are a parent-to-be, please don’t let people scare you out of all the joys that parenthood will bring you. Thank you, next.

.two.

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Our girl turned two yesterday.  She is so many things to so many people.  To my parents, she’s the light of their world, a daily revelation that they get to enjoy and nurture in their golden years of retirement.  To my grandparents, she’s rediscovering all the joys of toddlerhood well after their own grandchildren have grown.  To Josh, she’s an utter delight and he loves her so fiercely.  To me?  I could write dozens of pages of what she means to me, but I’ll keep it simple:  she’s my best girl.

Annabeth Shealy, you light up the room when you enter it.  You make the world a better place.  You are stubborn and brave and girly and twirly and altogether a treasure. We love watching the world through your eyes.  Thanks for being ours.

XOXO,

Mommy

PS:  My parents got Annabeth this little wooden dollhouse for her birthday and she loves it.

PSS:  Our birthday tradition is a birthday doll (remember those??) and a new pearl for her Add-a-Pearl necklace.

.january favorites.

Now that January’s 850 days are finally over (why is January so long?), I thought I’d review my favorites for the month.  As always, the categories include food, clothing, product, media, and Annabeth.

Food:

  • Breakfast Bowls.  This is our super simple go-to meal on busy weeknights and it’s a crowd pleaser.  We scramble up eggs, fry some thick-cut bacon, and build a mountain with the breakfast goodies + avocado, cheese, sour cream, and fresh salsa.  Annabeth goes nuts for breakfast bowls and we’ve added this into our weekly rotation (usually on Tuesday nights since those are especially busy).
  • Siete Grain-Free Chips.  We’re about 98% grain-free in our household.  I say 98% because the occasional cheat happens (yesterday we had Bojangles biscuits for breakfast and it was glorious).  This means no chips and salsa which is just kind of sad.  These grain-free chips are so good.  I sneak them in my bag when we go out for Mexican food and we eat them as a guilt-free snack with Daddy’s homemade salsa in the afternoons.  Grain-free life is not easy…in fact, it can be downright inconvenient.  Regardless, I feel and look my best when I don’t have grains in my system (and the patches of eczema that have cropped up thanks to yesterday’s cheat are proof that cheats need to be few and far between!).  These chips are great and make life easier.

Clothing:

  • UA Recovery Gear.  Just before Christmas, Josh did a leg workout that was so above and beyond what he normally does that he was complaining about it for days.  I love him, but the man can stub his toe and be incapacitated for a week.  I was annoyed at him hobbling around our home for days on end because of a choice he made, so in a majorly passive aggressive move, I researched recovery sleepwear to put in his stocking.  It’s pricey, but I found some on Amazon on a Deal of the Day and you can also find it at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s pretty readily.  My passive aggressiveness paid off because those doggone things actually work.  I don’t understand the science behind it, but if it keeps man flu symptoms from entering my home, I’ll pay any price.
  • Nalgene Bottles.  Not really clothing, but I always have a Nalgene in my hand, so I’d consider it an accessory.  I try to drink at least two Nalgene bottles of water during my work day and one in the afternoon/evening.  We both have Nalgene bottles that we picked up at our favorite store in the mountains, but you can find them pretty much anywhere.  They have a lifetime warranty–last summer my brother’s lid shattered and Nalgene immediately replaced it (the bottle was at least five or six years old).

Product:

  • Kristin Ess for Target.  The woman behind Lauren Conrad’s amazing hair has a whole line of haircare products at Target and they smell divine.  I’ve been using her purple shampoo for about a month now and I’m truly obsessed with it–I only wash my hair once a week so I need whatever product I use to be with me for the long haul and it does the trick.  I’m hoping to pick up some more of her stuff to try especially since Josh is so in love with the scent.
  • Jade Roller.  I turned thirty last year and have since become a slave to my skin.  I’m all for aging gracefully, but the Lord invented products to make that a little easier.  I drink tons of water, avoid sugar and grains, and use a quality line of skincare products, but this jade roller is so great for working my lotions, potions, and serums into my skin and it feels so good.  I keep mine in the freezer and roll it up my neck towards my hairline and it instantly takes care of any puffiness.  I feel like it would also be great to use for headaches.

Media:

  • Mary Poppins Returns.  I loved it so much I saw it twice in theaters.  I love Emily Blunt and I feel like she did the role justice.  It was super touching and the music was fantastic.
  • Make Something Good Today.  This book was so good.  I cried and laughed and read parts aloud to Josh and then cried some more.  I love watching Hometown because Erin and Ben Napier seem so genuine and this book only solidified that.  If you live in a small town (like me) and want your little corner of the world to be a better place, definitely pick this up.

Annabeth:

  • Castles & Crowns.  If you have known me for more than five seconds, you know I’m 100% traditional and also 100% extra.  Shopping for smocked outfits for Annabeth is one of my favorite things to do.  I discovered Castles & Crowns late last year and I have been so happy with the quality and with the prices of their products.  Seriously, y’all, they have SUCH good sales!  Josh was pretty resistant to smocked clothing until he saw a toddler who was dressed like a teenager, so now he’s all on board.  If you’re in the market for something sweet, give this brand some love!
  • Buddies.  Shocker:  our kid is obsessed with Disney.  Most toddlers are, but Annabeth didn’t really stand a chance.  There will be no Dreamworks or other off brand stuff in our home–it’s Disney or bust.  My mom discovered these Disney play sets at Disney World last fall and they’ve become some of Annabeth’s favorite toys.  I think she likes them because they fit in her little hands and she can hide them all over the place.  She calls them her “buddies” and it’s super sweet.  We pick up a set each time we head down to Disney World, but you can also find them online.

What are your favorites this month?  Did you also feel like January was 1,000 days long?

XOXO,

Court

PS:  I’m still so happy with all of our Grove products.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to use this code for FIVE free products (including lots of Mrs. Meyer’s stuff)!

PSS:  Did you have pretty weather last week where you live?  It was amazing to have 80 degree weather in February!

.five secrets to my tidy home.

 

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I wasn’t always tidy.  For most of my life I was the opposite.  Even early on in our marriage, I still had trouble getting dirty clothes into the hamper and I wanted to die every time I had to wash dishes.  Our Tupperware cabinet used to make my head pound when I tried to find a lid to match a specific bowl and instead ended in an avalanche of plastic.  Laundry was overwhelming. I could never develop a consistent routine. I also lived in fear of guests just popping in because everything was in such a disarray.  If you’re reading this and you’re shocked that people would just pop over for a spell, you’re obviously not from the South!

When we moved out of the farmhouse and into our current home, I took it as an opportunity to force myself to be tidy and it actually stuck.  I learned to embrace that outer order brings inner calm. These are the five ways I “tricked” myself into tidiness and became far happier than I’d ever been before:

  1.  Let it go.  Often, it’s hard for us to find a tidy balance in life because we have too much stuff.  I’m far from a minimalist, but nobody needs to hang onto old college textbooks, grungy towels that you’ve been meaning to cut into dust rags, and clothing that no longer fits.  Each year during July and December, we go through our entire home (closets, drawers, cabinets, the garage, linen closets, bookshelves, and toy bins) and ask ourselves what is actually worth keeping.  We use Emily Ley’s mantra of best, favorite, necessary to aid us in making good choices.  When we get ready for a purge, we take it room by room and make it a goal to have one empty drawer, cabinet, or bin in each room.  By only keeping the things that are the most important, most functional, and most sentimental, we eliminate tons and tons of clutter and free up some space to breath.  It usually takes us four to five days to complete the big purge and then we donate everything to a local ministry in town. Now when I need a lid to a Tupperware container, I open the cabinet and find exactly what I need instead of fishing through things that may or may not have a mate.  If it isn’t the best, your absolutely favorite, or 100% necessary, toss it.
  2. Create a routine.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to thrive on routine.  Our current lifestyle of football, football, football means we can either sink with a lack routine or swim by embracing it.  We’re highly scheduled people because we have to be. Our time at home is extra precious because Josh is away so often, so we don’t do a whole lot of spur of the moment scheduling (my favorite excuse is, “I’m sorry.  We can’t. It’s football season.”). We have a morning and evening routine that we follow to simplify our home:
    • Evening:  after Annabeth has gone to sleep (usually around 7:30), we set a timer for 30 minutes and do a whole-house tidy up.  We load the dishwasher, wipe down counters, sweep, straighten couch cushions, put stuff back where it goes, setup the coffee, lay out clothes, pack our gym bags, put away our load of laundry, and handle any lunch needs.  When the timer goes off, we’re done. We light a candle, turn on Netflix, and get comfy. Right before we go to bed, we gather clothing and start a load of laundry.
    • Morning:  each morning before Annabeth wakes up, we do our best to empty the dishwasher, transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer, make our bed, and pack the car.

These routines are not fancy or complicated, but they make the mad rush of morning so much easier.  Taking the decision making out of the morning makes everyone in my household much happier–we’re ready to focus on the day at hand when the morning is smooth!

  1.  Laundry everyday (yes, every single day).  We produce a significant amount of laundry, especially during football season.  For Josh, there’s a set of running clothes, a set of work clothes, a set of practice clothes, and his “relax” clothes (and y’all, that’s three pairs of underwear for him PER DAY).  I have my work clothes and gym clothes. Annabeth usually just has one outfit of play clothes unless we have something nicer to do. If I let all that laundry pile up throughout the week, it would be the size of Mt. Everest by Saturday.  Saturday is the only day Josh has off during the season, so spending the day washing clothes isn’t how I roll.  Each evening I collect everything we wore and throw it in the wash right before we go to bed.  It’s almost always enough for a full load. The next morning I throw it in the dryer when I wake up and then fold and put it away during our evening routine.  Is it fun? No. But it works. I’d much rather spend ten to fifteen minutes each day doing a load of laundry than hours on a Saturday or Sunday trying to play catch up.
  2.  Make your bed.  It takes us exactly 57 seconds to make our bed.  And yes, I actually timed it. Why do people often avoid doing such a small task each day?  We have made it a habit to make our bed each morning and I’ve actually come to love the 57 seconds it takes–we talk and work together and (most importantly), we know that no matter how awful a day gets or how tired we are once we get home, we get to crawl into a freshly made bed.  It makes our bedroom feel put together and if our bedroom feels tidy, we’re less likely to drop our clothes next to the hamper instead of in it. If I’m feeling fancy, I use some of our favorite linen spray on the sheets.
  3.  Friday reset.  Each Friday afternoon, I take 45 minutes to an hour for a Friday reset.  I sweep, wipe down surfaces, briefly scrub the bathrooms, throw out expired food in the fridge, plump up pillows and cushions, rotate Annabeth’s toy bins, and put away anything that needs to be tucked away.  I wash a load of towels, light some candles, and then take a deep breath and relax. We usually go out or order in on Friday evenings (and during football season Annabeth and I either eat with Mama and Daddy or she eats at team dinner with Coach and I grab a hotdog), so I don’t have to worry about making a mess in the kitchen cooking supper.  Taking this very short amount of time to tidy up means my weekend is free to enjoy with my family and even though I’m usually super burned out on Fridays, I embrace the knowledge that if there is outer order in my home, I will experience an inner calm in my heart.

*Bonus:  hire good help*  Full disclosure, we have a wonderful lady who helps us around the house every other Monday.  She’s our favorite person and if we could adopt her or convince her to move into our spare bedroom, we totally would.  She is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful ladies I’ve ever met and she does an excellent deep clean two to three times a month.  We’re not fancy people–just ordinary teachers–but we determined a long time ago that we’re okay with budgeting money for such a service each month, even if that means we have one less date each month in order to pay for it.  If you can find the room in your budget, definitely consider hiring someone to do the deep cleaning so you can enter maintenance mode during the in-between times.

*Additional bonus:  if your kids live there, they should clean up, too*  Annabeth doesn’t have many toys.  This is by design. We focus heavily on quality over quantity and as a result, she has a few things that are really nice that she really loves.  I could get on my soapbox about how too many choices is overwhelming, but we’ll save that for another day. We bought a chore chart for Annabeth and at 23 months old, she can clean up her toys, tidy her room, put away her books, and put her shoes in the appropriate basket.  No, we don’t beat her. No, we don’t coerce her with candy. She is just highly motivated by the chore chart and about how excited Mommy and Daddy get when she earns her stars. Even when we’re somewhere else like my parent’s house or church, we can mention her stars and she begins cleaning up.  Later, we’ll offer her a small allowance for handling her chores, but for now the stars are all she needs. If your kids live in your house, they have a share in keeping the space functional and neat.  Good habits take a lifetime to build, so it’s best to begin as you mean to continue!

So those are my secrets.  The core of a tidy home revolves around taking the guesswork out of day to day living–I know things will be neat because my routine causes them to be that way.  I’m sure that sounds incredibly boring, but our homes should be our oasis from the outside world and nobody’s idea of paradise includes mountains of laundry or lunch boxes that sat overnight in a hot car because you neglected to take care of them.  By investing a small amount of time each day into creating a tidy space, I reap major rewards by feeling at peace.

XOXO,

Court

PS–we have this little robot vacuum that we have scheduled to run each day about an hour before we get home.  It isn’t perfect, but it picks up pet hair, dirt, and debris pretty well. I clean the filter every other day and usually put a few drops of essential oil on the filter once a week.  Bonus: this thing is an Amazon Deal of the Day at least once every two months and you can find it as low as $132!

PSS–we use Grove Collaborative to order all of our favorite natural cleaners.  We love this counter spray, this dusting formula, and this is my favorite dish soap.  Cleaning up isn’t quite as much of a chore when you’re using things that make you happy. Use this link to get a free Mrs. Meyer’s gift set and caddy!