Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I Talk, Read, and Sing with my Children Every Day

Growing up, I was always an avid reader and still am today. My mother always took me to the library and read to me every night. One of my favorite memories of my grandmother is sitting on her lap and having her sing silly songs to me. Naturally, this is something that I do with my own children and love the memories we've created and time we spend together.

Although these are simple things, did you know how important they are for your children? Did you know that 90% of your child's brain is developed by age 5? Recent research even shows that more than 80% of a child’s brain is formed by the age of 3!! These first few years are critical for your children and you can set them up for success in easy and free ways! First 5 California has lots of creative and simple ways to incorporate talking, reading, and singing into your lives. Doing activities with your kids helps you to bond with them, create memories, but more importantly it stimulates their brain. Your child's brain is growing at such speed, it's important to take advantage of this precious time and help them absorb language skills, fine and gross motor skills, and help their brain develop!

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One routine we've picked up recently, on top of reading 3-5 stories each night at bedtime (along with several songs), is reading time at our local library. Being on maternity leave, I was looking for different ways we could get out of the house each day and reading time is one of the biggest hits with Eleanor! Each week, we head to our library where we're read three books and then do a related craft after.

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It's so much fun to watch Ellie get involved when asked questions about what's going on in the books and making a craft afterwards really helps her connect messages from the book. We've read books about colors, mysteries, and opposites so far.

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This week we read stories about cows and afterwards made a really simple cow puppet that Ellie loved! She loves showing it off and can't wait to go back next week.

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Another activity we love doing together is singing. We sing all kinds of songs (lately it's been ones from Annie), but our favorites are ones that have coordinating hand/body movements. It's really helped Ellie's motor skills, it's been amazing watching her try to mimic my movements to be able to copy them completely! Some of our favorite easy songs to sing is "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "If You're Happy (and you know it)", and "Wheels on the Bus".

First 5 California's site has amazing ideas based off your child's age- babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. There's something for everyone and has given me some new ideas for Emma to help stimulate muscle strength, motor skills, and emotional growth. I love the idea of gathering different textures around the house such as fabrics or kitchen utensils to help her sense of touch, visual tracking, and hand-eye coordination. This will also be a fun activity to get Eleanor involved with and help them bond.

Be sure to check out First 5 California for ways you can incorporate Talk.Read.Sing ® to your children each day and check out the Video + Downloads Tab at the top right for ways to turn every day tasks into fun exercises for kids! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dining Room Inspo

I've never been a huge HGTV watcher, but since being on leave I have become OBSESSED with the shower Fixer Upper. I love Chip and Joanna, their style is perfection, and I'm amazed at what you can get in Texas vs. California. If we ever move to Waco, I am getting on the show and telling them to just buy me whatever home they like and go to town, sight unseen. I would trust them fully and blindly and know I would just love it.

One room I haven't bothered decorating yet is our dining room. We have a nice sized table with a bench seat that I've grown to dislike. It's just really dark, it has a dark stain top with black legs and the chairs match. We've been wanting to get a new table for some time now, but Ellie makes such a disaster at meal time I would hate to ruin a new table. I want to sand and repaint the table, I just need to find the time to get it done. So, the dining room is on my mind to decorate and start pulling together.

I love a farmhouse look with a bit of glamour and an industrial touch. When you walk into the room, I want a relaxed, simple feeling where people want to stay and linger after each meal as we talk and laugh and build memories in our home.

Here's some of my inspiration pics I've found on Pinterest and from Fixer Upper :

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Some items I want to decorate our dining area is some wooden shelves, a nice clock, some pretty dishes to display, wall decor, and a China buffet. Matt and I have been on the hunt for a buffet for over a year now. I've found two I loved at Home Goods and they were sold within minutes of seeing them and I missed out on them both times! I'm thinking about checking out thrift shops for a dresser and then having it upgraded with some glass or open areas. We're just keeping our eyes peeled for now.

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Clock // Shelving // Topiary // White Pitcher (I bought this and LOVE it!) // Berry Basket

Matt and I have planned out our space and totally have a vision for it, it's just about finding the right pieces for it. Finding the buffet will be the biggest key in pulling the room together, but that will come (one day). I'm ok with having everything else set up and ready and just have the one blank wall waiting to be filled with our wedding China. The items above I love how they add character and color to a space, we can switch them around with the seasons and from the buffet to the shelving, or to be used as a centerpiece. The tiered server is one of my favorites! I can't wait to get my hands on it and set it up with treats and decorations.   

What do you like in a dining room? What are your favorite pieces to pull the room together? Do you have any tips you're willing to share?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Baby #2 Faves

One of the best things about having a child after your first, is that you know what you're doing (for the most part, I mean you kid is still alive and well taken care of right?). You also know what you like and what you didn't. Granted, every child is different and may prefer one paci or bottle over another, but you can navigate the aisles of any baby store like a pro to find what will work.

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Most of what we used with Eleanor has been working with us, we purchased a few of the same things that needed to be replaced or bought the updated versions of them. That's another plus for the 2+ child is that you own most of the baby items you need!

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Rock and Play : Ours is one of the OG styles and is no longer available, but now there's so many options and patterns to choose from! Ours is in perfect condition, but I would love the one I linked to that rocks itself, how magical is that? Me and all my mommy friends all swear by this and it's the first thing I tell new mommies they need to get. When checking out of the hospital with Emma, the baby doctor came by and had a picture of a Rock and Play and said that if we didn't already have one to stop on the way home to pick one up! I'm telling you, they're a must-have!

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Zip Swaddler // Velcro Swaddler: We love swaddles for sleeping, both naps and overnight. I prefer these swaddles that make it super easy for me and hard for the baby to escape. We don't really have a preference for one over the other, the biggest differences is the zip is pretty tight whereas the velcro has some more wiggle room for Emma. The zip swaddle will be great when we start to transition out of swaddling since it opens on each side to let an arm out (I'll have to get a larger size when Emma is ready for that). She is actually outgrowing these right now and I'm going to pick up the next size this week for her.

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Swaddling Blankets (first two, the next four, last three): One can never have enough blankets! I love them and went a bit overboard with Emma. We use them at home, when we're out, as a nursing cover, to throw over the carseat, to lay down for playtime, etc. There's so many uses and Ellie still uses hers all the time- for her babies, as a lightweight blanket for herself in the summer, and in the car. The top two blankets aren't as big, but the fabric is thicker. I like that they're a heavier fabric for cooler days and make a good transition blanket for the season. I also prefer my blankets to be large, over 40 inches each way.

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Boppy (I have this and this slipcover): Anytime I nurse at home I use the Boppy. It's just the most comfortable way for me to nurse and it was the same with Eleanor too. I also brought it with me to the hospital for both babies, it was great for me to use and for visitors who wanted to hold the babies.

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K'Tan: With Eleanor, I tried several carriers before finding this gem. It's super easy to use, I can put it on really quickly and by myself. With Ellie I used it mostly because it kept her calm and my hands free, but with Emma it's a whole new ball game. This is the only way we can go shopping! I put Ellie in the shopping cart and wear Emma at every store. It makes errand running so much easier! I'm thinking about picking up the breeze version too.

These are my tried and true favorites that worked for both our babies. I swear by these products and have been so happy with my experiences with them. It's only been two years since my first baby and so many of these items have been updated with new features, colors, or prints. I thought about getting some new items just for the updates, but I'd rather just save that money for college...or headbands.

What are your favorite baby items? What worked best for your growing family?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Recent Purchases: Mama and Ellie

Being home on maternity leave means I have way too much time on my hands for shopping. We go to the mall weekly, the grocery store and Target way too many times each week, and my nightly nursing shopping habits have returned. Oh my goodness, don't even get me started on how much I want to demo my house thanks to HGTV. Here are a few things I picked up the last couple of weeks I wanted to share for the Eleanor and I:

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Chambray Shift
I picked up this dress for Ellie for when the weather drops a bit. It's has a nice thickness to it making it more fall appropriate and I can't wait for her to wear it with some cute tights or fun printed leggings this year.  I also loved this dress, but they didn't have her size so I'll have to pick it up online.

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  These tees were too cute to pass up and I would love that Home one in my size. She has a pair of black and white striped leggings I think will pair really cute with the Happiness top.

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Frozen Hat // Polka Dot Jeans
Ellie has been wanting a hat lately and when she saw this she fell in love. She was so excited about it that I had to get it for her. She also needs some new jeans for the season and I love how cute these polka dot ones are.

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Heart Leopard Dress
How cute is this dress?? It even has pockets! It will be so adorable on it's own, over tights, or with leggings.

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Kitty Shirt
 LOVE this kitty shirt for Ellie. In the back it has a little open area with a bow detail that's absolutely adorable.

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Bunny Shirt
We all know my obsession with Alice in Wonderland and this shirt just sings to it. I love the colors, the tea cups, and the bunny. My little bunny just had to have it. 

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I'm mad for plaid every fall season and this tunic is so cute and I love the cut. It's a bit more "dressy" and will be perfect paired with leggings and boots. I saw this one at Target that I want to go back for, it's super cute.

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I love a good striped tee and would like to find another one that's more fitted and have stripes closer together to also add to my closet. This tee is super soft and is so easy to just toss on to run some errands and was the perfect top for the weekend. One thing I definitely need after my major closet clean out, is some just basic tees for the weekends and this fits the bill.

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For my sister's wedding, I picked up all these goodies. For my nails/toes I wanted a lighter pink than my usual go-to Essie Fiji and was all out of Ballet Slippers so I picked up a new bottle. Of course, I left it at the salon so I had to go back. I didn't want to have to buy another bottle when I just bought one! Sheesh.

For my lips, I also needed a primer so my lipstick and gloss would stay on. I would be talking all night with everyone and didn't want to have to keep reapplying my lips and this primer was the bomb!! I really like it a lot and gave my lipstick some major staying power!

 I was on the hunt for a new highlighter (did you catch my highlighters post last week?) and really wanted to check out Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator and Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector, but they were sold out of both at the mall! Ugh. I didn't have time to order it online so I snagged NYX Narcissistic and it's amazing. It has a light peach sheen to it that looks fantastic in the sun! I still want both those highlighters, I've heard so much about them from everyone.

Finally, after Meg's post, I picked up this face primer as well. My sister's wedding was outside and it was going to be a hot and humid day and I could just picture my makeup melting right off my face. Since I've only used this once, I can't do a full review, but so far color me impressed. Meg never steers me wrong though! My makeup looked amazing at the end of the night still and I had cried like a freaking baby. I really like the texture and how it feels on my face and once I've used it more I'll definitely be doing a full review! 

What goodies have you seen lately? What are you on the look out for? Any suggestions for my makeup bag or closet? Hope you're all have a fantastic week!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Our Wedding Weekend

My sister's wedding was this past weekend and it was absolutely beautiful! She was a stunning bride, he a handsome groom, the day was gorgeous, the food was good, the company great, and the dance floor popping. It was a wonderful day for our family and I'll definitely share more once the pro pics are in. 

Here are a few sneak peeks though for now- all phone pics so excuse the quality, from the girls:

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The chalkboard sign I made for their wedding hashtag. I'm pretty proud of myself for this, I only had chunky kid chalk, but I think it turned out great! 

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It was awesome catching up with friends and family. I always love seeing everyone, we really don't get to see each other often enough. Everyone had such a great time and both girls were amazing! Eleanor was the cutest flower girl, practically running down the aisle with the biggest grin and dancing all night long. She was exhausted that night and all day Sunday from the big day. Emma was passed all around from family member to family member and never made a peep! It was such an amazing day and I wish my sister and my brother in law a life time of happiness!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Favorite Highlighters

As a self-proclaimed makeup junkie I love anything that shimmers. I'm drawn to it like a fish drawn to a glittery ball of death. Strobing has also become really popular lately, which is just a fancy word for highlighting. Highlighting is a pretty way to bring out your features and much simpler than contouring. I think it also looks more natural than contouring.

My sister is getting married this weekend I went on the hunt for a nice highlighter because that ones I had were too glittery, gold, silver, white, or pink for this special occasion. I'm sure any of them would be fine, but I'm looking for an excuse to buy something new and shiny. I'm heading out to the mall today so I'm hoping to find the perfect highlighter for the special occasion.

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 Here's what I have and love:

Here are some items I'm dying to try and I included them in the graphic based off their rave reviews and recs from my friends and bloggers. They're also the items I'm hoping to check out today:

I like to use the e.l.f Shimmering Whip, Benefit High Beam, or MAC Pearl first in the areas I want to highlight (after I've done my bronzer and blush) and then take the powder highlighter I'm using and pack that on top. Of course, you don't need to do both, you can use any of the products alone. It just depends on how much of a highlight you're looking to achieve.

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I found this awesome YouTube tutorial for strobing that's really easy to follow and is a great how-to if you wanna get on trend. The biggest tips I took from the video is to layer your highlighters; use a cream highlighter first and then pack on a powder highlighter on top (such a great tip and super easy!) and a more specific area of the cheek to apply your highlighter to make your cheek bones pop. It's a quick video and was really helpful for me to hone my highlighting skills.

What are your favorite highlighters? Do you like the strobing trend?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Closet Purge + Purchases

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While my aunt was in town, we tackled my closet and dresser and purged a ton. Some things were easy to toss and other things she had to twist my arm. See all of those pretty bras? Thanks to pregnancy and nursing, they'll never fit again. See ya later C cups, I've moved on to bigger jugs. I totally had to take a break after that drawer, it was really hard to see all those pretties gone. We got rid of everything that didn't fit, was badly pilled, or hadn't been worn in the last year. There's really no need for several cocktail dresses when they only cocktails anyone is drinking around here are the ones my body produces for a baby.

Life is just different now that we have children and although Matt and I have date nights once in a blue moon, I'm not wearing anything fancy. The trips to Vegas have stopped, weddings and bachelorette parties are almost done, and baby showers have started to slow a bit too. It was time to go through my clothing and keep only the items that work with my lifestyle and get a lot of wear (i.e. mostly work stuff). It was awesome having a third person there to help evaluate items and talk about memories with; I remember where I wore something, what I bought it for, if anything special happened in it, etc. I'm totally a sentimental closet hoarder.

Now that my closet was clean and I could see a purpose in my clothes, I made a mental note of the items it was missing or needed to be replaced.

- A dark and a light wash pair of jeans
- Black denim
- A gray and a tan long cardigan
- Black flats
- Some lightweight short sleeve tops for work
- Black blazer
- Every day white tee

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Here's some items I've purchased to replace the items I tossed above:
-Tan Cardi
-Gray Cardi (shown in black)
-Black Skinnies
-V Neck Tank
-Light Wash Skinnies

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Light Wash Skinnies // Top (Old Navy, not online)

I absolutely love these jeans! I bought them at the regular length so they would hit just above my foot and look good with both flats or heels. They're really comfortable and have a nice tight stretch to them.

This top is perfect to look pulled together and comfortable. It's great for CA weather too, I can wear this all year and the nice plum color is perfect for fall and winter.

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V Neck Tank // Tan Cardi // Light Wash Skinnies

So I bought this top thinking it was solid white and apparently didn't bother to read the description or zoom in to see that it's white with oatmeal color dots on it. I don't think I would have ever have bought it or tried it on had I seen it in store, but I'm so happy with it. It was a great surprise. I love how it looks with the cardigan too. I do wish it was available in more solid colors because it fits great and it really thin so it's perfect to layer. 

This is the best inexpensive cardigan! I have it in three colors that I bought last year and they've really washed well. I'm kinda surprised since they're less than $10. Sometimes a win is a win though.

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Gray Cardi  // Light Wash Skinnies

I love, love, love both the jeans and the cardigan! The cardi is really soft and I love the length. My only gripe is that it's a woven material that will snag so easily and everywhere. I'm thinking about returning it just for that reason, but it's so cute! Ugh. My heart is torn.  

These skinny jeans are amazing! They are more comfortable than the light wash jeans and are black perfection. They fit like a glove and stretch so well. I love how they fit and can't wait to wear them with some cute booties.

So, that's what I've been up to around here! I donated all the clothes above and I hope that someone will get a lot of wear out of them. They're all in good condition (I threw out anything that was worn out) and some items I was really sad to see go, but if I'm not wearing them someone else should be. It's been a real relief though to purge and it's nice to actually have room in my closet. 

When I've been out shopping, I've kept an eye out for items that will really add to my closet. To choose and try on items that I need and I know will get a lot of wear. I'm trying to stick to just needs and not wants and think about different ways I can style them and picking what will be the most versatile. It can be really hard! Especially with a new season upon us and tons of new trends and styles coming out. I've been strong so far though!

What are you looking to buy this fall? How often do you clean out your closets? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Motherhood 2.0

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Since our second baby Emma is now over a month old, I'm obviously a mothering pro. I'm batting two for two so far in keeping all of my offspring alive, fed, and relatively clean and mostly clothed. Being a parent has such a huge learning curve and can sometimes be such an uphill battle. There are days I'm counting down the minutes for bedtime, and other days I feel like Martha Stewart and June Cleaver and I'm rocking it.

When I had Eleanor, I felt like I had been through a hurricane, had survived being trampled by an elephant, been hit by a train, and was only left with half a brain. I had no idea what I was doing and the baby blues had hit me hard (read about my experience with the blues here). It was tough, really, really tough. I wasn't prepared for it and I prayed every day of my pregnancy that this time it would be easier. The power of prayer works my friends!

This time has been so much better and I've been able to enjoy it so much more. I have cried zero times so far! Which that alone I think is monumental. Now, it hasn't been easy every day, but I've learned so much and feel so much more confident and at ease. Here are a few things that have made it better and what I've learned and am putting to use this second time.

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- Accept help! 
My sweet and wonderful aunt came in from out of town and stayed with me for an entire week after Matt went to work. I'm beginning to think she is my fairy godmother. I can't express enough how thankful I am for her help and support. It was so much fun and Ellie loved all of the attention from her. We would come home in the mornings from an errand or the park and she would tell me to take the baby and head upstairs for a nap and to not come out before 2pm. It was amazing! Another day, a different aunt came over and went to work on cleaning the house and making lunch. When I had Ellie, I accepted food and that's it. I was too embarrassed and felt like I had to entertain when people came by. Not this time my friends! Want to wash my clothes or mop the floor? Please and thank you.

-The importance of the swaddle
For some odd, odd, reason we didn't swaddle Ellie for very long. Why? Because I had no idea what I was doing. It was also hot as Hades that summer (it was actually record breaking that year) and I hated having to bundle her up. Looking back, I think that was a big mistake on my part. Now, for every nap and bedtime little Emma is in a swaddle and is snug as a bug. She sleeps so much better! Our nights have been fairly easy and I swear it's due to the power of the swaddle.

-Baby Cries
When Ellie cried, I cried. She cried a lot, so therefore, I cried a lot. If she made a squeek, grunt, huff, or growl I picked her up immediately. This time, it doesn't bother me. Of course, I hate listening to Emma cry, but I've realized that she'll be ok if she cries for a few minutes while I finish what I'm doing or tend to Eleanor. I now know that if I take care of what I need to do, I can take care of Emma calmly, without worry, and with a full belly. It's much easier to take care of her when I've taken care of myself. Often times, she fusses for a minute and then goes back to sleep. If I picked her up right away, would she still fall back asleep? I'm not sure.

-I'm not your pacifier!
Nursing in general has been way easier this time, we haven't had any issues with latching or my supply as I did with Ellie, so Emma has been getting a full belly quicker. As soon as she's done eating, she's done. I don't let her pacify on me or play. Eleanor was nearly attached to me all day long, poor thing probably had to be to get enough nutrients, but she also used me as a pacifier for six months. It was all that I could do to soothe her or get her to sleep. Not allowing it to happen the same way this time, plus the combination of other things in this list (like swaddling), have made our lives much easier and we were able to avoid starting bad habits that would be hard to break later on.

-Entertaining the baby
Any time Ellie was awake, I felt that I had to be holding her, singing to her, talking to her, or entertaining her. It was exhausting. Although, it's extremely important to do all of those things with your new born baby, you don't need to do it every. waking. minute. Once, you have multiple children, it's nearly impossible. It's also easier to have a little helper who is so happy to play and sing to her little sister. Every morning and afternoon, Ellie and I play with Emma during her tummy time and during Ellie's nap and when she goes to bed I get some special one on one time with Emma to love on her. This time around, I just don't feel that same pressure to make sure that I'm doing something educational with her every moment. It's much more natural this time and I love being able to have Eleanor included in this time.

-The joy of a sleeping baby
With Eleanor, I never understood how you were supposed to put a baby down while they were drowsy and let them fall asleep on their own. Ellie would only sleep if I nursed her, held her, or pushed her in a stroller. With Emma, it's been a totally different scenario. She doesn't really fall asleep at the breast often and I can just swaddle her and lay her down and she's awake for a few minutes and then falls asleep. Every now and then we'll have to rock her in the Rock and Play, but it's been pretty simple around here. I'm really hoping that this can continue and I'll have a better sleeper now that I know more tricks. 

-They'll survive
As a first time mom, I worried constantly. Are they eating enough? Is this poop normal? What do I do? I had a million questions about everything. Not so much this second time around. I'm not toting every baby related thing with me for every trip out of the house or ditching a full shopping cart in the middle of an aisle to run home because of a screaming infant. I've realized that you don't need every baby gadget, toy, outfit, teether, etc. Your baby will be just fine without every possible baby gear and accessory. I'm also much more attuned to which cry means what, and I know the answers to most of my rookie questions! The anxiety I had is gone and I'm so incredibly thankful that it's been easier my second go around. The baby is easy, keeping Eleanor busy is what's hard!

I read somewhere while I was pregnant that time goes by even faster with a second child and it couldn't be more true. I'm halfway through my maternity leave this week and I can't believe it. It makes me so sad to know how quickly this time has gone by and how it's only going to go faster when I go back to work. There's days I feel like I'm grasping at straws to savor the time with both girls, both together and individually. The dishes, laundry, carpets, can all wait. Babies don't keep and I need to snuggle them a bit longer. Thank goodness it's been easier the second time, I look back and both laugh and cry at my experience. I'm so incredibly thankful for our little family and my sweet girls. I love them both to pieces and each day has been a blessing to spend with them.

What are some of your motherhood lessons you've learned with your children? How