.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!

.2018 recap.

. j a n u a r y.

January of 2018 was fairly uneventful.  We went with my parents to see The Lion King at the Fox Theater early in the month and it was great!  We also celebrated UGA’s miraculous victory at the Rose Bowl and then the heartbreak of losing the National Championship to Alabama.  Annabeth turned eleven months old and wasn’t particularly interested in walking, but she loved to “spider” crawl. We also picked up on our commitment level to running in January despite the cold weather.  Coach began experimenting with keto and found that he really liked how he felt and looked.

The Fox for The Lion King!

.f e b r u a r y.

February of 2018 was super, super exciting!  Annabeth turned one and we celebrated with a small Kate Spade themed dinner party.  We’re Dave Ramsey people and Coach loves to give me challenges–his birthday challenge was to plan a birthday party for $200 or less.  I took him up on that challenge and succeeded! I’m always shocked at what friends spend on birthday parties for children, so I am always looking at ways to host elegant affairs that focus on celebrating our girl with simplicity.  At the party, we asked guests not to bring gifts–we focus on quality over quantity concerning toys for Annabeth. As a result, she doesn’t have many (and that’s okay with us). In lieu of gifts, we asked guests to consider bringing a new or well-loved book to donate to a local charity.  I was so proud to donate a big box of books in honor of our girl!

We also traveled to New York City to celebrate our girl and spent a week exploring all that the city had to offer.  Annabeth enjoyed touring One World Trade, 30 Rock, the Museum of Natural History (her favorite!), Tiffany’s, Central Park, the American Girl Store (to pick out her first Bitty Baby), a great dinner at Carmine’s, and The Met.  She took her first little baby steps in the basement of The Met and also got to see her first real snow.

February was also a challenging month as our church decided to corporately fast for 21 days.  Josh was already doing the keto diet and I was still very successfully nursing Annabeth, so we fasted all social media outlets for 21 days.  It was really refreshing and caused us to reflect inwardly while also focusing more on the people in front of us versus the screens in our hands.

Annabeth’s “Cake” Spade

.m a r c h.

March of 2018 was another quiet month.  At this point in the year, I had already begun exploring career opportunities away from the school where I’d taught for eight years.  I loved my team and my students, but I was feeling unfulfilled in many areas. I created a profile with a neighboring system on the off-chance that I might find a fit there (it was especially attractive because Josh was teaching and coaching in that particular system).  I made it through another year of cheerleading tryouts and realized it was another area of my life that had once been so satisfying and now felt unfulfilling and stagnant. In a way, I’d come to resent coaching despite the exhilaration I felt on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.  I think the draw of “simply” being a wife and mother was really hitting home–I felt like I missed out on so much with Annabeth and with Coach. We were just coming off of our fast at church and I felt like maybe the Lord was nudging me in a different direction. It was frightening–my school system had literally been home to me since I was in the first grade.  It was comfortable. I had friends there. But something in my spirit was pushing me to a place of uncomfortable discontent. It was at this point in the year where my drive to work was filled with tears because I just didn’t want to be there. It was so hard because I couldn’t pinpoint why! I had friends, a great job, an easy commute, and amazing students. Sunday nights were awful each week because I was so unhappy.  Again–it was a fabulous place to work, but the Lord seemed to be preparing my heart for something different by refining me in a way that hurt.

Meeting the Easter Bunny did NOT go well!

.a p r i l.

April of 2018 was a triumphant one.  We spent a week exploring Charleston with my parents and I finished my first ever race–The Cooper River Bridge Run.  If you’ve never run a race before, this was an easy, fun, fast-paced race that literally flew by. I finished in an hour and felt SO proud of myself!  I worked hard to lose the baby weight after Annabeth was born, but I felt like I needed to prove to myself and others that I could do something difficult with my body.  I trained hard for this race and PRd–the high at the finish line was amazing (and the carb-laden breakfast afterward was great). Some highlights from Charleston included visiting the historic district, eating tons of yummy seafood, and introducing Annabeth to my great-aunt who lives in Mt. Pleasant.

I was still facing significant discontent at work.  I developed some pretty intense anxiety despite the fact that I was running all the time and working out like a fiend (this usually keeps me pretty peppy).  I wanted so desperately to be happy but I felt so lost. Again, this was the Lord stripping down my interior to get me ready for something new. It. Was. Painful.  I loved my students, adored my parapro, and got to work with one of my very best friends every single day. I knew I wanted to continue working in Special Education (that has always been a very clear direction in my life), but the stagnance of my existence just hurt.  Coach was the ultimate support during this time–he prayed with me, prayed for me, helped me sort out my feelings (which is super hard for me), held me when I cried, and tried to make everyday a treat when we got home from work. I can never thank him enough for the work he put in to keep our home and family running during this time.  Little did I know that things were about to change in a major way…

Coach & Annabeth with our flowers for the cross at church on Easter Sunday.

Charleston, SC

 

.m a y.

May of 2018 was exciting because I turned 30 and I celebrated my second Mother’s Day.  The past few years were hard on Mother’s Day because I wanted to be a mom and we just weren’t there yet.  It felt like everyone I knew had a baby (or two or three) and we were just left behind.  On Mother’s Day of 2018, I spent some time reflecting on how wonderful God’s plan for our family truly was–we love our darling girl and if we’d jumped on not heeding what the Lord had planned for our lives, we might have missed out on her.  Coach and Annabeth surprised me with my favorite gift (lots of Lilly!) and made me a nice breakfast.

Right after my birthday, I decided to join Coach on his keto journey.  The first week or so was tough, but I pretty much haven’t looked back since then.  I had to put in some work to get my macros right since I lost a bit too much weight on the front end, but fueling my body with good foods and avoiding grains and sugar definitely brought a bounce back to my step.  At this point I finally packed up my Medela pump for good (all the praise hands), but continued to nurse Annabeth in the mornings and at night. I loved nursing for the connection we had–it was our special time together.  Josh was the ultimate cheerleader for pumping and nursing and I was so thankful that we had a freezer full of milk and that I was able to nurse her.

May of 2018 also changed my life completely because I interviewed for a job at Madison County High School.  I’d applied on a whim (and maybe a whisper from the Lord that this was it) and interviewed on my 30th birthday.  Two days later the principal called to offer me the job and I immediately accepted and felt such a peace in my spirit.  Then I cried and cried at the thought of leaving my kids, my parapro, and my BFF–I binged an entire season of Golden Girls and then called her to tell her that I’d been offered a job and accepted it.  She was incredibly supportive. We did everything together (literally everything), so this change in jobs didn’t just impact me, but her as well.  A true friend is happy for you regardless and she was my biggest cheerleader when I made the decision to become a Red Raider.

Speaking of becoming a Red Raider, we faced another HUGE, life-changing moment when Coach was approached about leaving his beloved middle school football program to become a varsity-level coach at MCHS.  This was a decision that made us sick to our stomachs because it could have such a major impact on everything. We both prayed more than we’d ever prayed about anything and finally came to the conclusion that we were prepared to become a high school coaching family.  We knew it would be a major ministry point in our life and in our marriage, so we decided to embrace it full force.

Mother’s Day, 2018

My last day as Coach Callicutt.  Now I’m just Mrs. Coach Callicutt!

.j u n e.

June of 2018 was a lot of fun because I was out for summer vacation, I got to be home with Annabeth everyday, we saw Hamilton to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary (!), and we did some traveling.  Josh immediately dove into varsity coaching with workouts and usually left the house around 7:00 a.m. each morning and got back in the early afternoons. I really relished my time with my girl and quickly worked out a simplified schedule that maximized being outside and limited screen time.  I was pretty proud that most days we didn’t turn on the television!

I began another graduate school journey at this time and started working on my Ed. S.  My Master’s degree from Georgia Southern is in Special Education, Adapted Curriculum. This new degree (which I will complete in December of 2019!) will be in Special Education, General Curriculum.  It was definitely a challenge to have a toddler and be in graduate school at the same time, but Coach did a great job in making sure I had plenty of time to complete my assignments.

Annabeth and I traveled with my parents to HHI for a week in June.  Coach was able to join us for a long weekend away from football. The highlight of our trip was definitely the food because keto + seafood is my jam.  I think I may have eaten ten pounds of shrimp cocktail that week! Annabeth’s first two experiences with the beach (SSI and IOP) had been…unsuccessful.  This trip was great because she finally decided to be the mermaid I knew she could be. She loved it all–the ocean, the waves, the sand, and all the snacks my mom packed for the beach each day.  My adventurous girl also didn’t turn her nose up at any of the fresh seafood we enjoyed! We did a little research and discovered that Disney has a resort on HHI and cheated by enjoying Dole Whip (our favorite WDW treat).  It was Annabeth’s first taste of Disney World and it made me so ready for our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World!

Stay-at-Home Mom vibes all summer long!

HHI with AB

.j u l y.

July of 2018 was another busy month of travel for our family.  We began our month at FCA Family Camp on SSI. We joined hundreds of other coaching families from around the United States for a time of rest and rejuvenation to get us ready for the upcoming chaos of football season.  This was our second year attending FCA Camp at Epworth by the Sea and it was Annabeth’s first time participating in Kid’s Camp. She had a blast! We managed to stay mostly keto throughout the week and really enjoyed focusing on turning football into our family’s ministry.  We connected with coaching families we’d met the previous year and enjoyed more delicious seafood.

Our Broad River District FCA does a fabulous job of fundraising so that coaching families are able to attend camp at little to no cost.  Without the scholarships they make possible, I know many families would forgo this experience because it’s pretty expensive. If you’re reading this and local, click here to learn more about how to fund the Broad River District and send coaches who directly impact your kids to camp!

The very second we got back from SSI, we did a lot of laundry and then packed up to return to a family favorite:  Lake Burton. We’ve spent several summer weeks on Lake Burton every year since I was born. It’s a respite from the hot Georgia sun and a time for extended family to be together (seriously…aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins…if you’re related to us, you’re probably there).  We spent our time reading, hiking, exploring the lake, and playing Spades. We also took the opportunity to have some professional family photos taken and they bring me such joy when I look at them!

The month ended with the reality of heading back to work–new school, new job, new team.  I completed new teacher orientation, got my classroom setup, met my new coworkers, and instantly felt like I was home.  All of the stress, anxiety, and angst I’d experienced at the beginning of the year gave birth to a peace in my spirit when I walked through the doors of my new classroom.  I felt renewed and like I finally had a purpose again. It was hard to very suddenly feel out of place in my old home, but there was a purpose behind that pain (including the pain of leaving what felt comfortable).  God orchestrated everything so perfectly by guiding me to the place where my husband would be taking on a varsity coaching role. I never sought out to be a coach’s wife or a coaching family, but it fits.

Coach, Mrs. Coach, and Baby Coach were ready for camp!

The babies and daddies on the boat!

.a u g u s t.

We celebrated many firsts in August of 2018:  first day of school together (we both wore Red Raider Red!), Annabeth’s first day with both of my parents (my Mama retired in May), and first varsity football game.  We also began the ministry portion of being a coaching family by opening up our home to our offensive lineman.  It’s a little scary to agree to cook for so many big boys (seriously, I almost considered a GoFundMe for my grocery bill), but it actually turned out to be a great time.  The big boys played in the yard, ate pretty much everything in my house, left the toilet seats up, and tracked in mud, but Annabeth loved all the attention.  Surprisingly, none of the boys were afraid of her.  I also started the tradition of having treats in my classroom on game days and my students enjoy seeing the football players pop in on Fridays.

First day of school in Red Raider Red!

.s e p t e m b e r.

In September of 2018, we got in our football season//school year groove.  Mid-month, I finally weaned Annabeth. It was hard for both of us, but it was time.  Part of me still wishes that I’d continued until she decided to be finished, but we made it almost twenty months.  I’m a huge advocate of nursing if it works out for you–the benefits for us both were great. I still have a very small freezer stash to use in case she’s ever under the weather, but throughout my nursing journey I was also able feed five other babies in various parts of the United States through milk donations.  It’s amazing what a female body can do!

We spent Labor Day weekend at Lake Hartwell and officially broke in my Mama & Daddy’s new RV!  Annabeth love, love, loves the camper and she especially loved being out on the boat. I took the opportunity to soak up the last bit of the summer’s rays.

We traveled to Stone Mountain and celebrated Homecoming at MCHS at the end of the month.  We especially loved this trip because the entire Cuz Club got to be together. Since the formation of the Cuz Club, we’ve added six spouses and five babies!  I’m looking forward to seeing how the Cuz Club grows and expands over the next decade.

Annabeth with her adoring Uncle Grayson

The *whole* Cuz Club

.o c t o b e r.

The beginning of October started off with a BANG as we celebrated Josh’s 31st birthday.  I surprised him by having our very dear friends Darren & Cara down to visit–he walked in from his football game to us hanging out in our living room.  He was so excited and surprised! We love when Darren and Cara visit because they love Annabeth so much and they love our little town. Cara once said it’s like visiting an alternate universe.  They always love to visit The Roystonian for Saturday morning breakfast and on Saturday evening we met part of the Cuz Club along with Josh’s brother Mike and his wife Lanie for a wild Greek feast in Atlanta.  If you ever have the opportunity to eat at Taverna Plaka, do it!

We traveled with my parents and grandparents over our Fall Break and spent an extended weekend in Dillard, Georgia.  We camped, shopped, ate too many boiled peanuts, watched UGA lose to LSU, and enjoyed Mile-High Chocolate Pie in Franklin, NC.  This little mini vacation was a great respite from the grind of football season and I was so grateful that our bye week matched up with the break so Josh could join us.

For Halloween, Annabeth dressed up as Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl from Toy Story.  Annabeth is absolutely nuts about Toy Story, so we knew this costume would be a hit.  Growing up, my mother always diligently made us beautiful costumes–she spent hours sewing, hemming, hot gluing, and bedazzling (it was the early 90s).  We continued the tradition by having Mama make Annabeth’s costume and it was so cute!

The best part about this night was the flaming cheese

Woody & Jessie!

.n o v e m b e r.

November was a month we had been looking forward to for over a year.  In July of 2017, our family began planning Annabeth and Asher’s first trip to Walt Disney World.  If you know us at all, you know we are fanatical about Disney World. Asher wasn’t even born when we booked our trip!  I’ll talk more about Disney World in a minute, but I wanted to touch a bit on the end of football season first.

Football season, by its very nature, is hard.  Josh is away from home from April until at least the first weekend of November with the possibility of the season stretching all the way into December.  It’s late nights, early mornings, very little sleep, and an intense amount of stress. Josh worked at least 14-16 hours a day for six days each week. We learned so much about how to function as a football family during this first season of varsity ball.  We succeeded in having the offensive lineman over once a month for a meal and fellowship and while that was tough on me, it was rewarding.  So many of our boys come from great homes, but in some cases, the simple meal of pancakes and sausage patties at our dining room table might be the only home cooked meal that a player experienced all month long.  Additionally, it was important to both of us to emphasize what a healthy, stable, loving family dynamic looks like. We are not perfect, not even close.  We just want to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the boys for as long as we have their attention.  This meant opening up our home, opening up our table, opening up our pantry, and opening up our hearts.  Any ministry is hard, but it’s worth fighting for.

We celebrated the end of football season by decorating for Christmas.  We’ve always liked to decorate early and it felt fitting to spend a concentrated amount of time together trimming the tree and watching Christmas movies.  Annabeth loves Christmas decor and she went nuts over the lights and all the pretty colors. Surprisingly, she did a pretty good job of leaving the decorations alone.

We traveled with Mama, Daddy, Aunt Daphne, Uncle Stanley, Lauren, Brad, Asher, Chase, Elisabeth, Chase’s parents (Mr. Steve and Mrs. Debbie) and Brad’s parents (Papa J and Mimi) a few days before Thanksgiving to Disney World!  When we checked in, Mama, Daddy, Josh, and I took a big step and upgraded our tickets to Annual Passes. Mama and I have always dreamed of being Annual Passholders and it made sense for us to pull the trigger at this time. We stayed at the All-Star Sports resort in the football building (ha!) along with the rest of our extensive party.

We spent the entire week of Thanksgiving galavanting all over (Magic) Kingdom come.  Annabeth was immediately hooked. On our Babymoon to Disney World, Josh and I spent nearly our entire vacation dreaming of what it would be like to introduce Annabeth to the place we loved so much.  What if she hated it? What if Mickey made her cry? I’m so thankful that she took to Disney like a duck takes to water. She loved it all–from the early morning bus rides to the Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches my Mama would sneak her every afternoon.

My favorite memory was her face the first time she met Mickey and Minnie.  I couldn’t help but cry because it was such a pure, sweet moment.

Best.  Week.  Ever.

.d e c e m b e r.

The decorations were already up and I’d finished our Christmas shopping on November 2, so December was a very relaxing month for us.  We attended a few Christmas parties and Mama and I sang in the Christmas cantata at church. We experienced the tiniest bit of winter weather (just some slushy mess) and also planned a very quick trip to Disney World to meet Grayson and Victoria.

This second trip to Disney was a blast–we felt so relaxed and at ease.  We enjoyed dining at the Rose & Crown Pub at EPCOT one evening and at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios the next.  Annabeth was still nuts about being at Disney World and the place was practically empty so we were able to do a lot despite the fact that we were technically only in the parks for 2.5 days.

The rest of the month was spent with lots of Christmas gatherings with family.  We were both so thankful that we didn’t have to travel this year. Before Annabeth was born, Josh and I would typically do three states in two days.  You read that right: three states in two days.  It was absolutely exhausting, but a lot of fun.  We’re just not up for it with an active toddler, so it made our Christmas vacation feel like an actual vacation when we were able to relax at home.

My favorite Christmas memory this year was hosting family for a dinner party on Christmas Eve.  I pulled out all the stops with my beloved Christmas Spode, bœuf à la Bourguignonne, and all sorts of other tasty treats.  I’ve dreamed of being grown enough to host a family event for ages and it was wonderful to finally do so.  After Annabeth went to sleep (right on time, I might add!), Santa Claus got to work with a retro kitchen that she lost her marbles over.  Family members coordinated by gifting different Melissa & Doug food items. My Grandma and Pop bought her a Little People Camper that quickly became her very favorite toy.

. 2018.

It was a year of tremendous growth in all areas of my life:  spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. God allowed me to become discontent so I could move along to experience all that He had in store for me.  It was a huge leap of faith and far outside of my comfort zone for me to branch out. It took some major guts for me to say no in areas of my life that really didn’t matter the most.  This meant saying goodbye to some pretty great people and awesome experiences and it was hard–so hard.

In the process of letting go of so much, I gained something incredible:  I got my sense of self back. I regained a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt in quite a while.  Because I let go of so much, Josh was able to accept a varsity coaching position which has opened up a whole new world of ministry opportunities for our family.  I’ve been able to really focus on being a wife and being a mother–such a treat! I’ve found a renewed joy in teaching and discovered what a great joy homemaking can be.

 

Saying no to other things meant saying yes to her.

2018–difficult, but worth it.

XOXO,

Court

 

.what I love: September 2018.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I literally had to request a new password login for WordPress.  It’s a little depressing because writing is so life-giving and I genuinely enjoy planning content and writing, but graduate school is a demanding mistress.  One day when I’m totally finished, I hope to blog at least once or twice a week–we’ve even thrown around the idea of starting our own YouTube channel just for the heck of it, but until I’m done with research, data, research, data, APA, and more data, I’ll have to settle for little pockets of time when my coursework is turned in, my husband is busy, and my toddler is sleeping.

Here are my favorites from September (PS, can y’all believe it’s October already?  And that it’s still 95 degrees everyday?):

Food:

  • Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips.  These are perfect when I throw them into grain-free pancake mix.  Josh and I are both dark chocolate lovers, but the milk chocolate chips are great, too.  I like that these don’t have that sugar alcohol aftertaste that you run into so often with sugar-free products.  And seriously, nothing is cuter than Annabeth Shealy when her face is covered in butter, melted dark chocolate, and bits of pancake.
  • Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers.  I’ll be honest, I miss the convenience of grains.  My favorite lunch is a tapas-style snack plate (cheese, a little fruit, some olives, cured meats, and some crispy, delicious crackers).  Sometimes you just need some crunch that doesn’t come from a pork rind!  These crackers are SO good–we love all the flavors.  I usually pack a handful of these to have with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge.

Clothing:

  • THML Tops.  I’m a boutique kind of gal.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll totally shop at J. Crew and Old Navy and Belk, but I love finding unique pieces at boutiques.  My recent favorite transitional pieces (because it’s still miserably hot here in Georgia) include lots of THML tops paired with white jeans and boots.  I love the intricate embroidery, rich colors, and the fact that most of them don’t require any ironing.  They also look great paired with a cardigan or green army jacket.
  • Tieks.  It’s usually around this time a year that I start wearing my Tieks on a daily basis.  In February we spent a week in New York City and I wore my Tieks nearly everyday and felt totally comfortable (walking 25,000 plus steps a day while pushing a stroller).  I sized up when I bought mine and have been super pleased with them.  They’re pricey–like, made my stomach hurt when I clicked “Purchase” pricey, but I have literally lived in them.  When you try to run a Google search for negative Tieks reviews, you won’t find many.  They’re a high quality product and the company has great customer service.

Product:

  • Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation.  Seriously the best foundation I’ve ever used.  It’s definitely a heavier foundation…if you’re looking for something lighter, the Water Fresh Double Wear is great, too.  I’ve been using Double Wear since May and I don’t foresee myself swapping out for anything else.  Bonus:  Estee Lauder counters will color match you and whip up a 10-day sample to try for free!
  • Clinique Moister Surge Intense Moisturizer.  My friend Cassie brought me a jar of this moisturizer when I was hospital after delivering Annabeth.  I hadn’t used Clinique in years, but this stuff is the best.  It’s so moisturizing that it makes my skin feel full, but it isn’t greasy.  I have super dry skin so I like the “intense” version of this moisturizer.  I also love that a little bit goes a long way–last year I only went through three jars.

Media:

  • Jack Ryan.  We’re huge fans of The Office and this show (featuring Jim Halpert 2.0) was fantastic.  Josh has started reading the Jack Ryan/Tom Clancy novels in order because this show was so intense and amazing.  It felt like they literally ripped the plot from the headlines.  Bonus:  it’s only eight episodes, so you can totally binge it in one weekend.
  • Audible.  Audible is an audiobook subscription available through Amazon.  For $15 a month, you get one credit to use towards any audiobook in the Audible library (there are thousands). We’ve actually had it a long time and forgot about it, so we had a ton of credits built up that we’ve been putting to good use!  We each have about a 20 minute commute, so we listen as we drive and we also listen while we run.  Sometimes I listen to whatever I’m “reading” while I get ready in the morning or while I’m cooking dinner.  So far I’ve “read” The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (FIVE STARS), The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (FOUR STARS), America’s First Daughter (FOUR STARS), and I’m currently listening to Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.  Josh has been listening to Patriot Games and I noticed just yesterday that he’s already downloaded the next Tom Clancy book in the lineup.
  • The Greatest Showman Soundtrack.  Amazing.  I literally cry every time This is Me comes on.  We haven’t even finished the movie yet (I KNOW), but we listen to the soundtrack almost every day.  We especially love listening and dancing around before bathtime and Annabeth’s bedtime routine.

Annabeth:

  • Squeaker Shoes.  They’re super obnoxious, but they make Annabeth so happy (and it’s easy to keep up with her in a crowd).  I tend to stick to the classics when it comes to dressing Annabeth, so we’re not really into Converse or super trendy items.  These little Mary Jane shoes are cute and she loves wearing them.  When Josh took them off of her last night, she cried and demanded, “Shoes ON, Daddy!”
  • Dohm White Noise Machine.  Annabeth is a fantastic sleeper, but she’s pretty particular about her sleeping arrangements.  She’s a creature of consistency so she likes her blackout curtains, her Owlet (she can now request it by name), her Halo Sleep Sack, and most importantly, her Dohm.  I’m not quite sure how it works, but it sounds like a really loud fan, but it doesn’t blow any air out of it.  I actually don’t mind when we stay in a hotel room with her because I like sleeping with it, too.  It’s adjustable and has an on/off switch (most white noise machines that have timed options only run for ten hours and she sleeps for twelve hours each night).

Is it still super hot where you live, or do you actually get to enjoy some autumn weather this time of year?  We’re heading to the mountains next week and it’s supposed to be much cooler–I can’t wait!

XOXO,

Court

PS-Football season has been both wonderful and exhausting.  I’m dreading the end of it, but I’m also really looking forward to it.

 

.postpartum weight loss.

*Obvious Disclaimer:  I’m not a doctor.  You’re probably not either.  Before beginning any type of workout program or making dietary changes, talk with your primary care physician.*

I’ve debated on whether or not to even post anything about this online.  Having a baby is tough on the body and one of the many reasons why we waited so long to start a family was because I was terrified of the weight gain.  I like being trim, wearing bikinis, and feeling comfortable in my own skin, so the idea of packing on 25 pounds voluntarily was kind of a mind warp for me.  I entered pregnancy with the end in mine and that end included confidently strutting my stuff at the beach with a baby in my arms, so I had a plan in place before I even packed my hospital bag.  If that sounds vain, it’s probably because it is, but at the end of the day I want to feel healthy and be a good example for my daughter.  If that offends you, don’t read it.  Here’s what worked for me:

0-6 Weeks Postpartum:

  1.  Wear a binder like it’s part of your religion.  I used a Belly Bandit and loved the results.  My mom helped me put it on about two or three hours after Annabeth was delivered and I continued wearing it 24 hours a day (minus showering) for four weeks.  I started with a size small and graduated to an extra small about a week in.  A binder provides a significant amount of support and helps the uterus shrink quickly.  I feel like this made a huge difference in my weight loss, especially when I was able to wear my regular jeans about two weeks after Annabeth was born.  Find my Belly Bandit here.
  2. Drink 100 ounces of water each day.  Even though I’m almost a year postpartum, I still make this a daily goal.  You lose so much fluid after having a baby (why didn’t anyone warn me about the night sweats, ugh?!?) and it’s important to make sure you’re not dehydrated.  This is my favorite water bottle.
  3. Nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse.  If you’re able, nursing/pumping is a game changer.  I was super shocked and thankful to discover that I could feed a third world nation with my milk supply.  One year later it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.  There are tons of research articles about breastfeeding and the benefits for mommy and baby, so I encourage you to read up.  If nursing isn’t for you or doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up about it.  At the end of the day, fed is fed (and fed is best) and there are lots of great formula options out there.  This is the pump I still use everyday.
  4. Move when possible.  Obviously this is not the time to run a marathon or even a mile.  Instead, just focus on moving when you feel up to it.  Go for a walk with your hubby or if the weather is nice, break out your fancy new stroller and get a nice dose of Vitamin D with your sweet baby.  Don’t worry about setting a specific pace or your step count.  Breath in some fresh air and play some fun tunes.  We have this stroller and LOVE it.
  5. Be smart with what you eat.  During this time, I did my best to eat cleanly and focus on smart carbs.  A normal day would look like steel cut oats with blueberries for breakfast, a Larabar or raw almonds as a snack, sprouted bread with lean deli meat and cheese for lunch, full fat Greek yogurt and some honey for a snack, and lean protein with some type of green veggie and quinoa for dinner.  I tried to avoid sugars, processed foods, and anything white (bread, potatoes, pasta, etc.).  We had so many sweet people send food and I totally ate what was offered, but when left to my own devices, I tried to make good choices.

6-12 Weeks Postpartum:

  1.  Light cardio.  My doctor cleared me for running at the six-week mark with the warning to start slowly.  He also asked me to wait until the twelve-week mark before pushing the jogging stroller.  I used Couch to 5k to train in intervals.  My mile time was embarrassing and it’s still not where it used to be, but I’m up to three miles no problem in about 32 minutes.  Make sure you listen to your body and slow down when necessary.  Find Couch to 5k in the App Store here.
  2. Ballet Beautiful.  I loved Ballet Beautiful while I was on maternity leave.  Once Annabeth went down for a nap, I’d break out my yoga mat and choose three of the six workouts to do each day.  I’m not into weightlifting and this particular type of workout promotes long, lean muscles.  I feel like it definitely helped my core and it didn’t take a huge chunk out of my day.  Ballet Beautiful has lots of options here.
  3. Continue making smart choices with food.  On maternity leave, I mainly stuck with the same thing from day to day.  I used lots of recipes from SkinnyTaste or Trim Healthy Mama (a form of carb cycling) and just made sure to avoid white stuff (again with the breads, pasta, and potatoes) and sugar.

12+ Weeks Postpartum:

  1.  Sugar is the devil.  It’s a drug, period.  If it has more than 2 grams of sugar in it, I typically won’t eat it unless it’s a Larabar or RxBar.  Always read the label because it’s lurking everywhere.
  2. Daily workouts are non-negotiable.  This one is hard, because sometimes I just don’t feel like it.  Realistically, you can suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, so it’s better to just buckle down and do it.  Wishing for a great body won’t produce any results, but working for it will.  Being healthy means doing what needs to be done even when it doesn’t feel great.  Right now I’m saving for a Neverfull, so I pay myself a dollar everyday that I complete my workout (#willworkoutforlouisvuitton).
  3. Cardio, cardio, cardio.  We run at least three days a week and we add a half mile to our run each week.  We started hardcore running together after football season ended and life got less crazy.  We pack up Annabeth and Atlas and head for the park.  I like to use my FitBit app to keep track of my mileage and Josh prefers Map My Run.  We’re also signed up for our first tandem race this spring, so we’re shaving our mile times down as much as possible.
  4. Nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse.  Yes, I’m still nursing.  No, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  I always swore I’d be done when Annabeth hit the twelve-month mark, but she loves it and so do I, so we’re going to keep on trucking until we’re both ready to stop.  I’m not sure when that will be, but definitely before Kindergarten (ha!).
  5. No carbs after lunch.  Josh is almost completely carb free.  I still need carbs to make milk, so my diet is a little more forgiving than his.  On an average day, I eat steel cut oats with local honey and a cup of black coffee for breakfast, raw nuts or seeds like almonds or pumpkin seeds for a morning snack, a lean protein, green veggie, and complex carb (usually quinoa) for lunch, full fat cheese for an afternoon snack, and lean proteins with green veggies for dinner.  I also try to work in LaCroix as a treat and an afternoon cup of oolong tea.
  6. Intermittent fasting.  The kitchen closes at 7:00 p.m. at my house.  Once the counters have been wiped down and the candle has been lit, we don’t rummage through the fridge for a midnight snack.  Any eating we do has to be done between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Again, this is what worked for me, my family, and my body type.  At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you.  Start by making small changes (maybe swap out your sugary latte for plain coffee or choose an out-of-the-way parking spot at Target) and gradually allow those small changes to bring about bigger ones.  You’ve got this, Mama!

XOXO,

Court

PS:

If you’re not a new mom, don’t bring up postpartum weight loss with someone who just had a baby.  Just don’t.  Keep your comments to yourself because they can sting and bring about major heaviness.  Words can and do hurt and your off-the-cuff comment can send a new mom spiraling down a dangerous rabbit hole of self-loathing (or worse).  Basically, make like Three 6 Mafia and keep new moms names out ya mouth, if you catch my drift.

If you are a new mom and someone doesn’t heed my above advice, try to make sure you stay right with the Lord by not murdering them.  Prison isn’t worth it.  Really though, people can be jerks and having a new baby means everyone has an opinion that probably doesn’t match yours.  If someone says something about your weight, you can wallow in self-pity (I did), you can talk with someone you trust about how it makes you feel (I did), or you can prove them wrong by doing something about (I did and will continue to do so).

If all else fails, remember, exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people don’t murder people.

legally blonde GIF

 

.christmas eve date night.

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It’s our first year acting as Santa’s liaison, so we’re trying to establish some new traditions.  This will be the first time in thirty years that I won’t sleep over at my Mother and Daddy’s house on Christmas Eve.  It’s a little jarring, but we wanted Annabeth to be able to open her presents at home before we join in with the rest of the family.  This year we’re doing a bit of a hybrid by spending Christmas Eve with my parents until close to bedtime and then heading back over there after Santa has officially been enjoyed.

One way we thought we’d make Christmas Eve special is to turn acting as Santa’s helpers into a bit of an at-home date night.  The recipe for an at-home date night is simple:

  • good snacks
  • something sparkly to drink
  • a good flick to watch
  • something cute, but cozy to wear

I’m a planner, so I already have our snack menu planned out.  We’re going to do a miniature charcuterie board with something salty, something creamy, something nutty, and something sweet.  I like pairing salami (salty) with a nice, smoky Gouda (creamy), and some toasted pecans (nutty…toast them with a little butter and rosemary!), and these chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s (sweet).  We eat Christmas Eve supper at my Mother and Daddy’s home, so we’ll really just need something light to snack on.

Something sparkly is kind of up to you.  We’re religious about drinking La Croix in our home (we love the lemon, lime, and coconut flavors).  We also love sparkling pear juice from Ikea.  Champagne is another great option, if you’re so inclined.  Whatever you pick, it should be something out of the ordinary that feels special.  It’s a great time to break out pretty wedding flutes that are just collecting dust in the china cabinet.

As far as Christmas movies go, there is only one choice as far as our Christmas Eve Date Night is concerned.  This is, of course, Christmas Vacation.  Is there anything more quintessentially wonderful that Clark W. Griswold having a meltdown over eggnog-filled Marty Moose punch glasses?  The answer is no.  We’ve watched Christmas Vacation more times than I’d care to count this year and we’re not showing any signs of slowing down.

Something cute to wear is a bit strange considering that a date night at home should be about feeling comfortable.  On a typical evening, I wear my afternoon uniform of running clothes with a topknot and dishpan hands, but Christmas Eve is not the time for a pair of Lulu’s and a ratty intramural t-shirt.  My Mother, Queen of Coordination, ordered us all matching Christmas pajamas (and my Daddy is in for a real surprise when he realizes that we’re all matching…from him all the way down to Annabeth), so cute and cozy fit the bill.

I know it seems kind of silly to have an at-home date night on Christmas Eve.  Realistically, you could just help Santa out as necessary, tidy up, and go to sleep, but where’s the fun in that?  We’re doing our very best to keep ourselves centered on each other first so we can give Annabeth a great representation of marriage.  Knowing that Mommy and Daddy have something special planned after bed is just another way to demonstrate how we can love each other well by being intentional with our time.

Do you have any special Christmas Eve traditions?

XOXO,

Court

PS:  Love, Actually is another fantastic Christmas movie that’s more “adult” than your average holiday flick.

PSS:  This might be the greatest Christmas shirt of all time.

.jolly old st. nick.

There are so many decisions young families face, especially when welcoming a new baby into the fold.  Breast or bottle?  And if you choose to do the bottle, what type?  What about pacifiers?  Nursery school or nanny?  Sleep training (YES, please) or co-sleeping (no thanks)?  And on the other side of every single decision is harsh judgement from everyone from close relatives to the nosy lady you always run into at the market (you know the type…The Sock Dictator).

One decision that was easy for us was Santa Claus.  In my pre-parenting days, I was wholly against the idea of Santa Claus.  I’m not really even sure why because per my Mother’s rules, I still technically have to believe in old St. Nick in order to receive any gifts at her house.  I think I perhaps wanted all the credit for the massive amount of work that a great Christmas requires, but now that I am a mother in my own right, I’m all for it (the IT being all things magical and festive).

I’m the mother who made my two-month old leave out carrots for the Easter Bunny, so  of course we’re not only leaving out cookies for Santa on a special plate, but we’re also making reindeer feed to sprinkle in our yard and leaving out carrots for Rudolph.  And of course, I have a Burl Ives vinyl to play on our vintage record player that sits beneath our mammoth tree.  And of course we all have matching Christmas pajamas.  Childhood only happens once and it’s only for a few years, so it may as well be magical.

Another thing that was easy for us to decide was how we wanted to go about giving presents from Santa.  Annabeth is spoiled absolutely rotten by her Darling and Pop (especially her Darling).  My Mother buys her shoes, clothing, toys, books, and puzzles constantly and has been squirreling away Christmas gifts since before she was born.  My Mother is the Queen of Christmas and of Giving (and my Daddy is the lovable Clark Griswold type who often asks, “What did I get you?” on Christmas morning when we’re unwrapping gifts).  Since I’m directly related to the Queen of Christmas and of Giving, I knew it would probably be smart to limit what Santa brings to Annabeth by dividing her gifts into four categories:  something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.

I’m hoping that by limiting myself to four gifts, I’ll be able to find the most special and significant gifts and create a heart of gratefulness in Annabeth.  I also know myself enough to know that I would literally go broke if I got her everything I wanted to purchase her.  If all else fails, Baby Jesus only got three gifts and if it was good enough for the Savior of All Mankind, then four gifts will be good enough for Annabeth Shealy (nothing like a Southern Baptist mother to lay it on thick!).

This year Annabeth’s something you want is a Pottery Barn Anywhere Chair.  In October PBKids had a massive sale and I got her chair at a great price.  I chose the Light Pink option because it matches her bedding and Boppy cover.  She has a small chair at my Mother and Daddy’s house that she loves, so I thought this would be a sweet addition to our living room.

Annabeth’s something you need is a sweet little riding toy I found at Target called a Buggly Wuggly.  My petite girl is just too tiny for most riding or pushing toys, so this was a perfect choice for her.  I’m also kind of a witch when it comes to toys (not in the living room) and baby paraphernalia (why the primary colors????), so the muted tones help soften the blow a bit.

The something to wear portion of this list is kind of a joke because Annabeth Shealy is never without something sweet to wear.  Between my Mother and myself, she’s got all the lace and frills and smocks and monograms she’ll ever need.  I opted to go with a sweet dress from Cecil and Lou and got our sweet new nephew Asher the matching romper for our Christmas day festivities.  I didn’t care for the fonts offered for these particular outfits, so I had them monogrammed with this one instead.

The something you read part was simple.  Over the summer, Josh read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Annabeth.  He took great delight in this pastime and did all sorts of accents and voices.  My sweet cousin Lauren gave me this beautifully illustrated copy for Christmas last year.  Josh can’t wait to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to her!  And if you’re wondering, we absolutely read chapter books to our baby.

We decided to let stocking stuffers be from Mommy and Daddy.  We did a handful of bath toys (our little mermaid baby loves the water) and this bracelet for when she gets older.

How do you do Christmas in your home?  Santa or Belsnickel or no Santa at all?

XOXO,

Court

PS, I got this for Josh for Christmas.  I know nothing about these types of things, but I also know he’s been dying to open it since it arrived.

PSS, I’m dreaming of a Tory Burch Christmas (don’t let me down, Santa).

.annabeth shealy: a birth story.

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On July 1, 2016, we discovered that we were expecting a baby, due on March 10, 2017.  On October 15, 2016, we discovered that our little baby was not just any baby, but Annabeth Shealy Callicutt (the best little gal in the whole wide world).  On February 11, just a day shy of a month before her intended due date, Annabeth Shealy decided she couldn’t wait another moment to join our family.

Around 9:15 p.m. on February 11, 2017, my water broke.  I immediately knew two things:

  1.  I was thankful that I’d washed my hair and shaved my legs that night.
  2.  Josh was going to have a heart attack.

“Josh…my water just broke.  We should probably get ready to head to the hospital,” I said, trying to keep my tone light and my voice quiet.

“What, so we’ve got like a week or so?” Josh calmly replied.

“Hmmm…nope.  We are going to have a baby tonight or tomorrow,” I explained, still trying to keep my voice calm.

Needless to say, one of us ran around the house like a madman while the other played with the dog.  (It was Josh.  Josh was the madman).  I immediately called my mom while Josh tried to install our car seat.  He finally just tossed the car seat and base in the backseat.  We made it to the hospital quickly and were immediately checked into the largest suite on the floor (all the praise hands, indeed).

My nurses checked my vitals, ran two bags of fluid, and we watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother on the iPad.  My Mama, Daddy, brother, and sister-in-law arrived bearing gifts of Girl Scout Cookies (which I couldn’t have), fuzzy socks, and hair ties.  Though my water had broken, I wasn’t uncomfortable.  An anesthesiologist came by and started my epidural.  I waited for the warm rush that all my friends had told me about and never experienced it.  At the time, I shrugged it off.  Then…things got uncomfortable.

Apparently, my spine is a little funky.  Not funky enough to fail my sixth-grade scoliosis exam, but funky enough to cause an epidural not to work.  Internally, I found myself wondering why my friends all praised their epidurals.  Long story short:  my epidural pooled in my left leg causing numbness in my left leg only.  Everyone assured me that I was only feeling pressure when in reality, I was feeling every single contraction.

This went on for eight hours.  During those eight hours, my sweet nurse tried multiple drug combinations to quell my pain.  Some made me nauseated, some made me feel drunk, but none touched the pain.  At one point, Josh said I grabbed her arm and told her that if the pain didn’t stop, I wouldn’t be able to have the baby.  It was hard for me and scary for everyone else, especially Josh.  When shift change occurred, the nurse stayed late to make sure the on-call anesthesiologist checked my drug intake (she was fabulous).  The new guy walked in, took one look at my back, and immediately stripped everything out and redid the tubing.  He moved the port up one vertebrate and suddenly, I was pain free.

I was finally able to sleep and did so for two hours.  My new nurse woke me up to check on my progress, looked at me with wide eyes, and said, “It’s brown!”

“What’s brown?!?” I replied, very concerned (and to be honest, a little embarrassed).

“Your baby’s hair!  Don’t push!” she all but squealed.

Everyone fully expected that I would have a planned c-section.  I’m tiny and Annabeth was on track to be at least eight pounds by her intended due date.  When that nurse told me not to push, it was the most surreal moment of my life.  I was about to do this thing that nobody believed I could do.  Six pushes later, Annabeth made her grand debut at 10:51 a.m. The NICU team whisked her off to pump the fluid from her stomach, check her vitals, and complete her APGAR assessments.  Weighing in at 5.15, she was definitely a healthy size despite being born a month early.  We felt so many things:  elation, exhaustion, joy, and fear.

Nine months later, our tiny girl is truly our sweet angel.  She’s a bundle of bright, vivacious energy with a sassy personality that is an utter delight.  We’re considered to be “older” first time parents in our community and I’m so thankful that we are and that we’ve really been able to enjoy parenthood.  We owe that to our baby’s sweet disposition, but we’re also going to give a lot of credit to Babywise (judge away, folks, but my baby sleeps twelve hours a night in her own crib).

I’ll be sure to share more about our journey through parenthood, especially with the exciting Christmas season that is now officially upon us!

XOXO,

Court

This is are biggest parenting must-have. Absolute necessity.

This is my favorite resource for sweet clothing for our Annabeth.

How we chose Annabeth’s name…no, seriously.