Back To School 2018

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Growing up, I remember being so nervous for the first day of school–I would lay out my back to school outfits months in advance, spend all summer studying, and practice waking up at 6 every single morning before the “big day”. My darling son obviously did not inherit my Type A personality.

“Are you nervous for your first day?”

“Not really…”

“But it’s a new school!!”

“It’s whatever.”

Ok, kid, I hear you. Honestly, I think I was way more nervous sending Lennox off to his first day than I’ve ever been in my life. We had him in a public school for kindergarten, but because of our move to North Carolina, we ended up choosing homeschooling for just a few school years until we got established in the area. So, here we were on Monday–his first big “back-to-school day” at a brick and mortar school, TWO YEARS ahead of other kids his age. That’s right: when he tested into public school in the area, they bumped my baby into THIRD GRADE. My tiny son was now walking the same halls and taking standardized tests and eating lunch with BIG KIDS! But he thought it was “whatever”, so I tried to play it cool, too.

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The only thing that seemed to remotely excite him was back to school shopping, so I tried to hype that up as much as I could. We got the supply list a few weeks in advance, and I swear we looked at over 6,000 bookbags before he finally settled on a Minecraft one with a matching lunchbox attached…the most “third grade boy” thing I’ve ever seen. We loaded it full of the requested composition books, copy paper, highlighters, etc, and we added the supplies that I know the classroom really needs: hand sanitizer, tissues, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.

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Because we’re welcoming Baby Leif into the family ANY DAY NOW (yikes!!), keeping the germs to a minimum are at the top of our minds–this includes in Lennox’s new classroom. I’m proud to partner with his teacher in helping to keep a clean space for him to learn – at home and at school – , and I’m also proud to partner with Clorox to do the same. What’s great about using Clorox are all the good things that come after, including more sweet moments and an all-around healthier, happier home for my family. Also, Clorox supports DonorsChoose.org, which allows teachers across America to create projects and request resources that students need in their classrooms. You can make a donation directly on the site OR just shop Clorox products in the store–for every $5 spent on qualifying Clorox products, you earn a $1 reward and The Clorox Company will donate $1 to classrooms in need through the DonorsChoose.org website!

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So, flash forward now to the actual first day of school. I had it all planned out–I would wake up an hour before the girls, wake Lennox up thirty minutes before the bus came, make waffles, wait on the porch in the glorious cool breeze for the school bus to pick up my baby and whisk him away to the best day ever. Hahahahahahaha. The girls woke up at 4 AM ready to party, Lennox woke up very upset by the commotion shortly after, our dog ate the last of the waffles, and the school bus was thirty minutes early so we MISSED IT because we weren’t out there waiting yet! Seriously, we missed the bus on the first day!! Mom fail.

But trying to stay positive and calm on this big day for Lennox’s sake, I told the kids that we were just using this as an opportunity to get familiar with the new drop off line. When we pulled up to the school, Lennox dared me to yell out the window that I loved him or get out of the car. So, silently, from the car windows, I watched my sweet, tiny boy head into a three- story building, carrying his supplies and ready to have the best year ever. And, as he walked away, I silently resisted the strong urge to yell out the window, “DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE WITH YOUR CRAZY SISTERS!!! COME BACK!!!”

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To learn more about what Clorox is doing to help teachers and others prepare for back to school, visit CloroxforSchools.com. Happy Back to School Season, y’all!

This post is sponsored by Clorox.

 

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Incredibundles Instagram Giveaway

There’s a super exciting giveaway going on over on my Instagram page for THREE MONTHS OF FREE DIAPERS from Incredibundles! How amazing is that, y’all?? As a mom of three under two, I feel like the diapers are N-E-V-E-R-E-N-D-I-N-G, and I’m so happy to be working with this awesome subscription service to help make one parent’s life a little easier for three months. I mean, let’s be real–not only is it three months of free diapers of your choice…it’s three months of free diapers delivered right to your door when you need them! No need to drag the babies to the store anymore.

Aside from the giveaway, Incredibundles subscriptions (both diapers and wipes!) make the perfect baby gift for all parents, in general. Through their site, you’re able to purchase a 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, or 12-month subscription for the recipient of your choice–the recipient is then able to choose whatever size, brand, or type of diaper they need, which is completely unique to the site!

Every subscription comes with an “announcement package” that is absolutely adorable. It contains an adorable plush teddy bear, a few diapers wrapped in ribbon, and a certificate containing the activation code for the subscription. It’s all packaged in a keepsake box that actually snaps shut (my kids have assembled and unassembled this thing about a thousand times already, and it’s still holding strong!). The package can either be delivered to the purchaser (so you can hand deliver to a baby shower or hospital, etc) or directly to the recipient.

Activating the subscription is a super easy process. When we received our announcement package, I immediately was able to set up an account on the Incredibundles site, head to account settings, and enter the activation code that was printed on the back of the shipped certificate. I received an email confirmation, and VOILA–diaper and wipes subscriptions were active!

Also, if you bundle the diaper subscription with a wipe subscription, you can get thirty percent off your order. And trust me, you can never have too many diapers OR wipes. Head over to my Instagram to enter the giveaway!


Lela and Luna’s Nursery Tour

When Tom and I purchased our 101-year-old Victorian last year, we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. Prior to this house, we already owned a good deal of investment properties that we had fixed up and rented out, so we weren’t strangers to renovation, but this one was definitely THE oldest and THE neediest out of our projects. We’re talking: caved in ceilings, rusted out showers, no working appliances, huge cracks in walls, a flooded basement, BATS. It took vision, hard work, and design, but we’re finally at the point (other than one little downstairs bathroom) where this three-story, ancient home in the middle of nowhere is my Dream House. And, of course, my favorite room is Lela and Luna’s nursery.

We recently upgraded both girls from cribs to twin size beds (usually with rails and bumpers on them!), and the transition has been amazing for both the girls and the room. These are the Monterey Farmhouse Bed from Delta Children, which absolutely blew away my expectations, even with a super easy assembly. (You can always use code CBCHATMAN on the entire Delta website for 15 percent off any purchase, too! They’re hands-down my favorite company that I partner with.) The changing table we bought off Craigslist, spray painted white, and stocked with different storage baskets from Target to hold diapers, wipes, and some extra clothing storage in the striped bins. I sewed all of the bedding from fabric at Hobby Lobby, and the metal car was actually another amazing Craigslist score or I would definitely link that.

The focal piece is definitely the chandelier with the medallion, which I hand-painted in bed one night while I was nine months pregnant with Luna! The actual chandelier looks incredibly expensive because of the medallion, but it is SUPER affordable at less than $200 and chic as heck. Shop here. The ceiling is painted with white paint mixed with glitter, and it looks like you’re staring up at stars when you lay in there at night (major props to my husband for that idea!).

The rocking chair that I included in my “registry must-haves” from yesterday’s post is actually from Amazon. I don’t know if I would recommend this EXACT model because it tilts forward a little more than I like, but I definitely recommend plush rockers over nursery gliders–they are way more comfy, and they transition well into “big girl room” furniture. The nightstand next to the chair was actually from the side of the road–we hand painted it white, added crystal knobs, and re-lined the drawers to hold burp cloths, blankets, and nursing supplies.

The shelves above the rocker are different styles from the thrift store. We painted each shelf with the same white paint as the side table, and then we covered them with some of our favorite family memories–our wedding pictures, little figurines from travels, and of course, this fabulous unicorn head that I ordered from Etsy and used gold-leaf paint to turn the horn sparkly.

And well, what girl room would be complete without an obnoxious amount of bows? I actually made the bow holder out of an old frame from our shed, window screening, and tiny clips bought at the hobby store. There are four pieces of gold chain ribbon hanging directly from the frame to hold ribbon bows, as well.

The girls have a decent sized walk-in closet in the room where we keep all of their clothes, and the majority of their toys are kept in our downstairs playroom to minimize clutter in here and to keep it a peaceful place for them to sleep. I highly recommend keeping toys out of your toddler’s sleeping space, if possible–nothing is worse than laying them down at night while they try to wrestle out of bed to play with whatever toy catches their eye. Keep it simple.

The actual room color is “Ice Rink” from Behr, and I absolutely love it for either a girl nursery OR a boy nursery. It’s actually the wall that’s used in the background of all of my weekly letterboard pictures, if you recognized it! Paired with the pink and white accents of the girls’ room, it definitely looks super feminine, while also being a great color to transition with them as they get older. We never planned on this being our “forever home” when we purchased it for renovation, but we’ve definitely fallen in love with it so much that I see us being here for a long, long time.


Mamalogues

It’s been six years since I made my first baby registry, and it seems like just yesterday. I remember staying up all night for weeks, desperately browsing the Target website, comparing the products to whatever mom blog recommendations I could find from whatever random Google search I would make. I would read reviews for hours, panic about every detail, and massively overspend on making sure I had ten of every gadget and gizmo that any mom recommended to me. Being a new mom is hard, y’all!

So, flash forward to the fourth time around. Other than a few small purchases, we already had everything on hand that needed to welcome our sweet Leif into the world soon, and I feel calm and ready to bond with our newest addition. This is why I’m so proud to partner with Philip’s Avent as part of their “Mamalogues” series to share my Top Five Registry Must-Haves with you guys!

  1. Philips Avent Natural Bottles: Breastfeeding my babies will always be one of the greatest experiences of my life–there are no words to describe the bond you feel while feeding your baby from your body for the first time. But, after weeks of feeding that precious baby every hour and being the only one to be able to come to the milk rescue when they cry, you learn pretty fast that Dad needs to get in on the feeding action, too. Once I establish a healthy milk supply a few weeks after labor, I start pumping into bottles so Tom can share with the nighttime feedings. It helps him create a bond with our newborn, and it helps me sleep. Win/win. But not all bottles are created equal. We have used Philips Avent bottles since 2011, and I would never recommend any other brand. They are leak-proof (trust me, you don’t want a bottle that will spill your liquid gold), have a natural shaped nipple, and most importantly, the wide base top allows for super easy cleaning.
  2. Swaddle Blankets: I love a good swaddle blanket, and I promise that your baby will absolutely love them, too. A firmly wrapped swaddle helps your baby feels safe, secure, and loved in those first few months outside of the womb, and in my experience, it will definitely help your baby sleep more soundly at night, which helps everyone! We love muslin swaddle blankets for looser swaddles, and I keep jersey knit swaddlers on hand for a more firm, supportive swaddle on those extra-fussy days.
  3. Video Baby Monitor: We never had a baby monitor until our THIRD baby, and oh my goodness, what a game changer. With our first two babies, I was such a helicopter mom that I would stand over their bassinets while they slept, scared to turn my head, and unwilling to trust that a monitor would actually let me know if the baby was crying. Yeah, I was a hot mess. With Luna, we finally splurged on a nice video monitor where I was able to go downstairs while she was napping in her crib, and I could still see every move she made in her sleep and know when she was waking up.
  4. Baby Wrap Carrier: I admittedly own an embarrassing amount of baby carriers. And they each are perfect for different stages of development. For the first few months of your baby’s life, there is NOTHING more wonderful than a wrap carrier to keep baby close to your chest, provide a cover for nursing, and give you free hands to get things done. Wrap carriers provide plenty of support for chest carrying a brand new baby, and you will feel at peace, knowing your brand new creation is so close by.
  5. Rocking Chair: There is something so precious and delicate about the first days of your newborn’s life, and you really want to soak in every second in a calm, peaceful environment. Our rocking chair has been invaluable for quiet bonding sessions during feedings, night wakes, and throughout the day. As your baby grows, your rocking chair transitions into a spot to read books with them and snuggle on the slow days.
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Nothing beats baby snuggles in the rocking chair

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Top Five Roundup


I Am A Velcro Mom

We’re literally stuck like velcro. AT ALL TIMES.

It has rained pretty much nonstop here all summer. On days that it doesn’t rain, the forecast still says rain, and it’s been nearly impossible to make outdoor plans lately. So, if we want to get the kids out of the house for a little bit, we have two local options: weekly library story time or the indoor playground at Chik-Fil-A (we live in a really small town). Now, I had a bizarre childhood, and I never got to play at fast food restaurant playgrounds; so I don’t really know the etiquette that parents are supposed to follow in these places. Do you sit in the room with your kids? Do you let them run loose? Do you give them a book of matches and tell them to burn the place down? I don’t really know.

But this Saturday, on another super rainy day, we broke down and went to Chik-Fil-A to get out of the house. All three of the kids immediately took off on the playground equipment, totally unaware who was watching them or what we were doing. Tom and I still sat down in the glass room where they were playing, and even though that room was full of a dozen other kids, we were the only parents. I was a little confused by this ratio, so I asked Tom where the adults were, and he said, out of the greatest of intentions:

“Probably enjoying their lunch, not breathing down their kids’ necks”

Ouch. Totally true. I sat there on a hard plastic bench for over an HOUR, watching my children’s every single move. But they never needed me, they never came over, they never acknowledged my existence, and they probably would’ve wanted me to eat some dang waffle fries in peace and leave them the heck alone. But I couldn’t.

I am a helicopter parent. I am actually so much of one that my husband calls me “Velcro Mom” because I’m so stuck to the kids at all times. If my children are in our playroom, I’m sitting in the floor with them. If they take a nap, I seldom even leave the room. When I’m at work, they’re at the daycare center literally next door to my office that has cameras on them at all times. And if we’re near anything remotely dangerous (bodies of water, stoves, cars, animals, ANYTHING!!) I’m watching everything like a mama hawk, ready to pounce and rescue my babies at moments notice. I’m making myself out to sound crazy, but it’s all true–I struggle with giving them space, and I work on it daily as we all grow.

My husband is the opposite–when he’s alone with the kids, I inevitably come home to all three babies in a mud puddle outside, playing with bugs and whatever random not-toy-things they can find in the yard, while he gardens OUTSIDE of the fence. He always has his eyes on them, but he gives them the space they need to grow and develop on their own, which I have learned to totally respect…while spying on them through our baby monitor connected to my phone. No shame.

Co-parenting with someone who has a completely different parenting style than me has been eye-opening. I see the relationship that Tom has been able to develop with our children by giving them room to breathe, and I admire it–some days, I wish I could be the “cool” parent, instead of “neck-breather” parent, but it takes BOTH of us to balance out this family and manage the chaos. Kids can’t live in mud puddles, but they also can’t live in bubbles.

And so, here’s the thing: being a helicopter mom isn’t a bad thing. No, my kids didn’t need me at the Chik-Fil-A this time, but another child got stuck in the equipment and was screaming for his mother, who was no where to be found. And is it a bad thing that she wasn’t there? Not at all. Because I was there to help, while sitting on that hard bench breathing down every single kid’s neck. It takes all kinds of parents to make the world go round, and I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to let her crazy kid loose for an hour while she regained her sanity.

It takes a village, y’all–a village of velcro moms and live-and-learn moms and fun moms and serious moms and moms who wanna eat nuggets in peace and moms who oddly get joy from having ketchup thrown at them 24/7. We’re all in this together, and as long as you don’t judge me from outside of the glass at the Chik-Fil-A, I’m never going to judge you from inside of it. Now, excuse me while I go stare at my baby monitor like the crazy mom that I am. 🙂


Go Shout Love

Lennox in his Go Shout Love tee…Lela looking terrified…and Luna Darling about to eat a shoe…

Today, the kids’ had back-to-school physicals and milestone checkups at the pediatrician. After the most routine visit ever, we all left in good spirits, eating lollipops, laughing…things we never got to do when Lela had these same check-ups just a year ago. When every month, we were delivered scary news. When every month, we were bounced around between every cardiologist-neurologist-allergist-audiologist-urologist-everythingwrongologist in two states until we finally found the root of her problems and got our healthy girl back. So, as we left this tiny appointment today with no referrals to specialists, all five of us smiling, it dawned on me how unbelievably lucky I am to have to my children’s health now, and I hope that I never take that for granted.

Because, y’all, some parents are not so lucky to feel that relief after routine pediatrician appointments, and my heart absolutely aches for them. I recently discovered, through Instagram, a nonprofit called Go Shout Love that brings awareness, raises funds, and creates community through their social media for families who have children on rare medical journeys. Every month, they sponsor a new family, and proceeds from their monthly clothing line go directly to medical bills for the featured child.

This month, that child is Samuel, an absolutely amazing toddler with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also called Brittle Bone Disease). Before reaching his third birthday just two days ago, he has already suffered from over 30 bone fractures, but that doesn’t stop him from having an unbreakable spirit and bringing joy to those around him. Because of this, during the month of August, Go Shout Love is selling “Unbreakable” tees to support Samuel’s medical journey, and I encourage everyone to check them out, read about Samuel’s story, and go shout some love for his sweet family. The tees are unbelievably soft, and they have infant to adult sizes for everyone in the family.

My sweet Luna Darling in her Unbreakable Tee

As parents, it is the most gut-wrenching experience to see our babies in any pain, and I cannot stress enough that I will never, ever take for granted what a blessing it is to have healthy children. I will shout that from the rooftops, while also using my voice to shout love to Samuel, his family, and this wonderful organization that brings love and light to those who need it most.


Dream a Little Dream for Me, Girls

Whenever I post a picture of the girls napping, the comments and messages of “HOW?!!” instantly start flooding in. I’ve been jokingly accused of giving them sleeping medicine, photoshopping, getting them dressed after they’re sleeping…all kinds of crazy things. I thought about doing a blog post a few weeks ago after I got so many messages about it, but it just didn’t seem blog-worthy to me–after all, I’ve watched them nap together for over a year now, so it’s a nonevent in our house. But, today, the people have spoken, and I’ve decided to share the “great secret” of how I started Lela and Luna Darling’s nap routine and how I’m able to take pictures of them sleeping. Prepare to be massively underwhelmed. 🙂

Luna Darling was born in a birthing center with Lela (14 months old at the time) in the next room over. Within an hour of her birth, Luna was snuggled up next to Lela in my recovery bed, and the girls took their first nap together. Check out this precious newborn love:

We brought Luna home the next morning, and I remember frantically trying to lay Lela down in her crib at the same time that she was used to taking a nap before Luna was born–it was an absolute crap show. Both girls were having meltdowns, our house was full of very loud visitors, I was exhausted, and nothing felt like it was working. So, I decided to take both girls to my bed, snuggle up next to them, and all THREE of us finally got some rest–well, they took a nap while I watched them sleep, holding my breath that one of them was going to wake the other one up…but they didn’t startle even a bit. Barely moved.

So, from there, I spent two months home with them on maternity leave, where they napped together every single day. Same time. Same place on my bed. Same closeness. I would lay with them for about 15-20 minutes while they both slowly nursed to sleep. Once I knew they were definitely out, I would start tidying up my bedroom, eating lunch, and spending one-on-one time with Lennox, who we homeschooled at the time. Double naps quickly became THE lifesaver for our family, and the two hour period of quiet gave me some sanity in the middle of our growing family’s chaotic days. Plus, it looked precious. Some days, one of them would be extra fussy and not want to nap, but I’d make sure that we were back on the same routine by the end of each week, and I NEVER scheduled commitments from the 12-2 block of our day (no doctor appts, errands, play dates, nothing). It was our quiet time, and that consistency really paid off in the long run, I think.

After eight weeks home on leave, I went back to my banking career, and the girls were put in daycare for the middle chunk of every weekday, where there was actually even MORE structure than we had at home. Even though they weren’t napping in the same bed anymore, they were still napping at the same times and on the same schedules, which really helped keep things easy for us. On weekends and holidays, we were able to keep up that same nap routine and lay them down together at noon on our bed, snuggled next to each other. Within minutes, they would both be asleep.

So, how do I get the pictures though? Well, first of all, they are already dressed before I put them to sleep. We usually handle errands in the first part of a day; so by the time it’s naptime, they’ve been out of the house already–and because I’m an abnormally over-the-top mom, they are almost always in matching outfits. #noshame

Once noon hits, I make sure that my bed is stripped down to just the flat, white sheet with no pillows. I lay both girls down in the middle of the bed, cover them up with their favorite blanket, and I snuggle up closely next to them (Luna is always in the middle, with me and Lela on either side). If you notice in each of the pictures, they are usually in a different position, and this is hilariously because once they are falling asleep, I actually can’t move them. Sometimes, they snuggle facing each other, sometimes they sleep back to back, sometimes they sleep flat on their backs, and they definitely move around in their sleep, so it really is luck of the draw. I just roll with whatever position I get because, again, they will definitely wake up or startle if I try to position them.

I stay snuggled against Luna for about ten minutes while I check emails and they settle down; I make it a special point not to make eye contact with either of them while I’m laying there because, I swear, once our eyes meet, they bounce right out of bed. So, I try to make myself as invisible as possible, while periodically checking if their eyes are closed. Once I see that both of them are asleep, I slide out of bed as silently as a ninja and take their blanket with me…leaving the two of the them safely snuggled in the middle of my bed.

Normally, I have to pull the sheet tightly to get the wrinkles out from where I was laying, which is the scariest part because I’m always scared that slight movement will wake them up. But once I have a flat surface, I’m able to just place things around them, like flowers or dolls or tea cups. I normally have a general idea of what I want the picture to look like, but sometimes, I have to massively change my plans based on how they’re positioned.

But once I have my ridiculous scene all laid out around these sleeping landmines, I stand on a step stool at the foot of the bed with my camera pointed directly down and take a couple of overhead shots in HDR mode. I try to take about five different shots, varying the angle of each shot. And while they’re still napping, I upload them from my camera to my phone, where I edit in Snapseed and upload to Instagram in peace. Now that they’re older, I keep everything laid out on the bed while I work on edits, just because the girls always think it’s hilarious to wake up next to a bunch of flowers and stuff. They also probably think I’m crazy…which, let’s be honest, anybody that surrounds their sleeping children with random household objects just to take pictures is probably actually crazy. Again #noshame.

So, to recap. If you want adorable sleeping pictures of your Irish Twins:

  1. Establish routine as soon as possible and get them used to sleeping next to each other in the earliest of days.
  2. Get them used to sleeping on a flat surface without blankets and pillows. It’s not only the safest way to sleep, but it also gives you a good backdrop for pictures.
  3. Lay snuggled up next to them while they’re winding down, so it pushes them closer to each other. This also gives you a much deserved excuse to relax for awhile. Never leave the room in the early newborn days if you have them sleeping together, because you don’t want to risk the older baby rolling over on the newborn.
  4. Once they’re asleep, sneak out of bed with your best silent barrel roll, crawling across your floor like the ninja mom that you are
  5. Set the scene with flowers, toys, dolls, etc–whatever creativity struck that day
  6. Stand on a step stool at the foot of the bed with a camera and take a direct overhead shot
  7. Edit while they’re still sleeping
  8. Repeat daily

    The real question is: will I be able to get Leif to nap with these two next month??