I’m Back!

Oh, hey there.

Remember me?

It’s been a while.

I’m not usually one to offer apologies when I’ve been gone (I know that’s annoying), but I figure an unannounced two-and-a-half month break deserves some sort of an explanation.

Honestly? I just needed a break. I’ve been blogging on an off for about 10 years now and it’s always been so much fun – it’s a creative outlet, it’s a great way to relax, and it’s awesome to have a time capsule of what I was doing at that point in time. But after we had Jackson our priorities shifted and I had a bit of a blogging identify crisis. This blog had always been about home decor – and we weren’t doing anything to our house anymore. I never intended to be a mommy blogger! I didn’t know what to write about! Suddenly, blogging became a chore and I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I needed to step away.

But now? I miss it. Dearly. I miss the community, I miss the fun of sitting down to write a post, and I miss looking back on the things I’ve written. It’s time to come back. And this time I’m not putting any restrictions on myself – I can be a mommy-blogger. Or a lifestyle blogger. Or a home decor blogger. Or just a brain-dump-write-whatever-I-want blogger. And that’s okay. This is for me. I love it. I miss it. I’m not ready to give it up. I may not blog on a regular schedule. It may be twice a week, may be once a week, may be even less than that. But I’m not stopping.

So.

Now that that’s out of the way.

Let’s catch up, shall we?

Quite a bit has happened since the last time we chatted. Jackson is 10 months old now, and he gets a little cuter every day. Seriously. I don’t know how the kid does it.

Corey and I have been working like crazy – we’re in the same district this year which is amazing, but we’ve both got a lot on our plates. This has been my most challenging (and most rewarding) year of teaching yet. We work at home at least 2 or 3 evenings a week, which is unheard of to me (I’ve always been so good at keeping work and home separate!). We’re starting to finally find a balance, and things are settling down a bit, which I’m incredibly grateful for.

The Christmas season is in full swing around here – we decorated our house this weekend and are soaking up every second of our first Christmas as a family of three. I have a feeling it’ll be the best Christmas ever.

I’ve got a lot of little updates for you, so get ready! I’m going to update Jackson’s monthly posts (we’ve got a lot to catch up on!) and there are a few little things around the house to share (including our Christmas decor)!

What have you been up to? I’ve missed you!

Jackson: Seven Months

This update is coming a bit late – Jackson’s going to be 8 months old next week, but since I shared the first 6 months here and I’m already writing these out for his first year photo book, I figured I may as well keep going and finish out the year sharing here! So, here’s what Jackson was doing when he turned 7 months old a few weeks ago.

Stats: We haven’t had a doctor’s appointment or weighed him here lately, but I don’t feel like he’s gotten too much bigger in the last month – my guess is close to 17 pounds.

Clothing Size: He’s in all 6-9 month clothes now! My big boy!

Sleep: Night sleep is still fantastic (thank goodness since work started again recently) – 6:30ish until 4:30ish, then right back down until we wake him up for daycare (or on weekends, about 8:30). I think he’s in the process of dropping his third nap, as well – at daycare he only takes two plus a short (15ish minutes) nap on the way home a few times a week. On the weekends he varies between two and three naps depending on what our schedule is like that day. He’s taking good (over an hour long) naps at daycare, which is a huge relief, since the first week back had some super short naps!

Eating: Jackson is loving solids! He’s eating a puree pouch for lunch every day and whatever we have for dinner. Some nights I feel like he could almost eat as much as I do! It’s so fun to watch him eat and get better at it – he’s eating quite a bit at this point! A few highlights from the month were the lasagna, pesto on zucchini and pasta, tortollini, and eggs. He also discovered that he’s a big fan of prune juice – though none of us were thrilled about the reason he was drinking it!

Milestones: Jackson learned how to reach for people and that if he’s sitting and holds his arms up, he’s going to get picked up! He figured out how to make the “b” sound, so that’s happening a lot right now! He’s also constantly blowing raspberries and making other silly noises. He’s still not crawling but he has figured out how to pull up on things if he can get a good enough grip. He’s favorite thing to pull up on is me! He’s a professional army crawler at this point, and we’re starting to wonder if he’s just going to skip crawling alltogether. He has no interest in getting up on his hands and knees – he’s so efficient at scooting now! 

Things we want to remember: I’m trying to soak up the rare moments when he falls asleep while nursing at night – it doesn’t happen very often anymore! I love watching his mouth figure out how to make new sounds and how exaggerated he makes them when he’s learning (the “b” sound involves a lot of tongue sticking out, haha). I want to remember how much we both love the constant raspberry noises he makes and his little babbles. I want to remember the giant smile he has every day when we show up to get him from daycare – he seems to know it’s special that both Corey and I are picking him up now!

Special outings or adventures: We went downtown again for the food trucks and tried out a new, amazing toy store that Jackson loved. He got to spend a few days in the summer with his grandma (Hendrix) while Corey and I worked, and got to spend some time hanging out with Aunt Jennifer one day too! He met his new baby friend, Logan and then got pretty jealous when I was snuggling with Logan!

Favorites: We got him an Ugly Doll that looks like a monster at the toy store and his entire face lights up every time we bring it out. He loves the sheepskin rug we bought him, and he LOVES eating. Bathtime is still a favorite, and Corey and I feel like we’ve taken a shower after he finishes because we’re both soaked from all the splashing. He’s in constant motion and loves when we scatter toys all over the floor so he can scoot around playing with one after the other. Aunt Jenn is one of his favorite people in the world – he always gets so excited to see her! He also loves to climb all over me while I lay on the floor – he seems to think I’m a jungle gym!

What we’ve learned: We’re learning how different this whole experinece is for everyone – we have lots of friends with babies and they are all so vastly different! We’re learning how to adjust to this growing little boy – figuring out how to feed him real foods, how to keep him entertained all day, and how to navigate this crazy new life as a family of three. It’s so hectic and incredibly challenging but we both frequently say that we are SO happy to have Jackson in our lives and we can’t imagine our family any other way!

Refreshing Our Front Door

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, which you know I do pretty rarely, so I promise it’s a good one! I couldn’t pass this one up and I’m excited to share! 

I’m pretty hesitant to do sponsored posts around here. I know they can be annoying for readers (I read a ton of blogs myself, so I get it!) but I think they’re a great tool when they’re done well. I mean, who doesn’t love to learn about awesome new things? So, when I got an email about reviewing a Kwikset SmartCode 913, I was very intrigued. My sister has a similar lock on her front door (and has had it for years) and her family loves it…and I’ve always thought it was so cool.

As intrigued as I was about my sister’s lock, I never really thought we’d be interested in having one ourselves, until a couple of weeks ago. Corey and I carpool to work, which means that every day one of us ends up with the car and drops the other one off. Well, our car doesn’t require the key to be inserted in order to drive (it just has to be in the car with you) and I happen to have an extra car key in my purse. But no extra house key. So one day during the insanely hectic first week of school, I was rushing out of my classroom to pick up Corey and Jackson and I left the actual key ring (with the house key) laying on my desk at work. But, of course, I was still able to get home because I had the extra car key in my purse. So, when we got home and suddenly realized we didn’t have a key to get in the house, we weren’t pleased, to say the least. We managed to break into our house, but it was seriously inconvenient and would have been disastrous if we hadn’t been able to break in (we would have had to drive the 25 minutes back to my school, which isn’t fun with a tired, cranky, just-wants-to-be-home husband baby).

So needless to say, when I saw that email I knew we had to try it out.

I was also excited about this little project because I took it as a kick in the pants to get a few other things done to our front door that I’ve been itching to do for a while. Corey and I are pretty good about keeping the inside of our house looking clean, nice, and updated, but the outside? Not so much. We’re those neighbors with the constantly overgrown lawn and bushes, and no matter how hard we try to stay on top of it all we are constantly falling behind. So I decided that with this new lock, we were also going to upgrade a few things on the front of our house and make things look at least a little bit nicer out there. Because, really, when this is what you’re working with, it’s not that hard to make improvements:

Lovely. I absolutely love our yellow door but it was looking a bit worse for the wear (yellow is hard to keep clean!) and the porch light has driven me crazy since the day we moved in. Add to that the out-of-control bushes (not pictured, but trust me when I say you don’t want to see them) and the random crap we have laying around out there (I honestly have no idea why the gas can is there, but it’s been there at least a month!) and you’ve got the perfect formula for the ugliest front porch ever.

What I really wanted to do was re-paint the front door and trim, and completely re-do the flower bed in the front. But to be quite frank we have higher priorities in our house, like the fact that our bathroom is still in complete shambles. So I made myself keep the projects limited to things that could be completed in an afternoon, and for a minimal amount of money. On the agenda?

  • Cleaning the front door
  • Cleaning the porch
  • Putting away the gas can (why is it there??!)
  • Changing out the porch light
  • Changing out the doorbell button

There were a ton more things I would have liked to take on, but this was a good start. Corey worked on installing the new lock while I cleaned the door, and I was surprised at how quick the process was – he was done in about 20 minutes!

It was a very straightforward install, and thankfully the new lock matches our door handle pretty perfectly. The instructions were clear and easy to follow (though honestly, Corey barely even looked at them since it was all so basic) and I think the hardest part of the whole process was deciding what code we wanted to use. You can program up to 16 different codes (so you can have a master code that only you know, plus codes for different people who may need to get into your house), but we’ve only got one in for now.

We both held our breath a little when it was time to test it out, but it worked perfectly! I’m pretty excited to not have to fumble with a key every time we come home (it’s a pain when you’re holding a baby and a million other things), and locking the door is just the press of a button now. I love it! You can, of course, still use a regular key with it, but I’m looking forward to just keeping my key ring in my purse for now…between the car not needing me to insert the key and now the house not needing a key, I’m feeling pretty excited!

You can set it to automatically lock after 30 seconds, but we’ve got that function turned off for now – our door is old and clunky, and you have to press on it in order to get it to lock. So, when we eventually replace this door, we’ll probably use that…it’s an awesome function when you’ve got little ones running around!

We’ve only had the lock installed for a little over a week, but we’re big fans already. I feel pretty good about us continuing to like it long-term, since my sister is still using hers after quite a while!

As for the rest of the makeover? Well, it’s nothing drastic, but I think our entryway is looking a bit more taken care of. You saw the before, but did you notice that rusty, disgusting doorbell? I almost felt bad making people use it…

Now it’s nice and shiny and new. We need to caulk the edges still because it doesn’t fit exactly like the old one did, but it’s looking so much better now!

And, of course, we have the new lights. These probably made the biggest impact since they were replacing awful, rusted fixtures that were obviously from the ’80s. These new ones make a huge difference!

Overall I’m pretty thrilled with this little mini makeover! We obviously still have a long way to go (new paint on, um, everything, new plants in the beds out front, and a new door!) but this makes the whole thing a lot more tolerable in the meantime. And there are no words for how nice it is to not have to fight with a key when I’m getting home from work and trying to juggle carrying all of my stuff and Jackson – pressing those little buttons is so much easier!

Would you ever have a keyless entry for your house? Anyone else do any mini updates this weekend?

Writing Process Blog Hop

I don’t always enjoy participating in these blog hop things, but when my friend Steph from Glitter & Goat Cheese tagged me a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued. I’ve seen several posts on this floating around the internet and I’ve found them all pretty interesting so I figured I would join in. It was fun to actually put some thought into sharing what my writing process is like, and I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone else’s!

Here we go!

1. What am I working on?

Right now I’m just working on getting back into the swing of blogging! I have been blogging on and off for probably close to 10 years now, and I’ve always loved to write…I took both AP English courses in high school (and got 5’s on both exams!) and wrote short stories like it was going out of style when I was a kid. Writing has always been a huge stress reliever for me – when I’m particularly worried about something, the only way I can get myself calm about it is if I sit down and write out everything I’m thinking and feeling. There’s just something about writing it all down that makes me feel so much better.

So, all that to say, I miss writing regularly! I’m finally finished with my graduate school courses, which has opened up a lot of free time, but this school year is going to be quite a doozy for me, so I need to get myself settled in and get things under control before I really have my life back. So right now my big focus is just finding time to write, and then actually doing it.

As far as our house goes, we aren’t currently working on things but that’s just because of a lack of time. We’re both dying to start putting our master bathroom back together, our living room needs baseboards, and I have a mini front-of-the-house makeover planned that I would like to tackle soon. So, the ideas and desire are all floating around in there, we just have to find the time to execute everything!

2. How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Honestly, I don’t know if I’d say I have a “genre” anymore for this little blog. It used to be pretty much solely about home decor and renovations around the house, but since we had Jackson that’s fallen much lower on our priority list – so now, I blog about anything and everything going on in our lives and the blog has turned into a bit of a catch-all. So, I suppose I’d say that’s how I differ from other home decor bloggers – I don’t just talk about home decor anymore!

I think the entire idea of having specific niches for blogs is pretty tough, though. Our lives are constantly changing and shifting and what you’re interested in talking about (or reading about) right now may be totally different in a year or two. So, I feel like the idea of picking one thing to blog about and sticking to it may be too specific or set you up to run out of ideas…I always prefer reading blogs where I get to read a little bit of everything, and I always enjoy the little peeks into other people’s lives!

3. Why do I write what I do?

The main reason that I’ve continued to blog for all of these years is that the blog turns into this wonderful little time capsule where I can go back and read about what I was doing or thinking at specific times in my life. I still go back and read some of my old blogs from high school every once in a while (and no, I won’t tell you how to find them!) and it’s just so much fun to look back on everything.

Now that we have a baby, it’s become even more important for me to capture these memories and record them here. Some of it may only be interesting to me, but that’s okay because I genuinely do go back and read old things sometimes and it just makes me happy.

Beyond that, writing has always been how I get my creative fix on, and it’s very relaxing to me. There’s nothing better than settling in on the couch on a Saturday and knocking out a few posts!

4. How does my writing process work?

I don’t have nearly as much of a “process” as I used to when I was writing regularly. I do almost all of my writing on the weekends and I usually do it in chunks – I’ll write out several posts all at once and get them scheduled and ready to go. I used to keep an editorial calendar, which was hugely helpful in keeping me on track and making sure I always had stuff to write about, but as my full time job has become more demanding lately, that’s fallen off the radar. So right now, I just write about whatever is on my mind when the mood strikes, and when I’m not writing I’m pretty much constantly thinking of different things I would like to write about!

And that’s it! I’m not going to tag anyone specific, but would love to see your responses if you blog, or see anyone who has done one of these link up in the comments – I always love getting some insight into how and why other people write!

New Favorite Games

A few months ago I started talking about some of the board games that Corey and I like to play. Our friends got us into tabletop gaming earlier this year and we are completely and totally hooked. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Corey sold everything in our house that he could get his hands on this summer (that we no longer needed, of course) to buy more games. He has been spending all of his personal money for the last few months on new games for us, and we’ve quickly amassed quite the collection…

Yeah. We have a problem. So, since we’ve got so many new ones and there are quite a few of you out there who are fellow gamers, I thought I’d share my new favorites.

 

Rampage

 

This game is completely silly, totally ridiculous, and a blast. It’s based on the old arcade game, and you’re playing monsters who are trying to destroy a city. You get to actually interact with the board by dropping your monster to destroy buildings, throwing cars at buildings, and eating the little people in the town. It’s so much fun to play and it’s unlike any other game I’ve ever played before!

Lords of Waterdeep

This is one that I shied away from at first because it looks so nerdy (and is part of the “Dungeons and Dragons” world, which upgrades the nerd factor by 7 million) but it’s such a fantastic game. It’s a worker placement game, meaning you have a few different “people” at your disposal and you can place them around the board to accomplish different things. It’s quick to learn and so much fun to play. We love that this one works well for just the two of us but is also really fun with a crowd – we’ve bought one of the expansions so we can play with 6 people, and it’s great playing with everyone!

Takenoko

This game is pretty adorable, and also a ton of fun. It’s great for two players but also works for up to four…and it’s a great game for when you have younger kids playing – we haven’t had the chance to play this one with my nieces yet, but they’re dying to try it! In this game, you and the other players are both controlling a panda and a gardener in a bamboo garden, and you score different points for completing goals (for example, the panda wants to eat certain colors of bamboo while the gardener wants to grow them). It’s pretty simple to learn and it’s a fun, light game…and I can’t get over how dang cute it is!

Mr. Jack Pocket

This game is a very quick two-player only game. It’s a puzzle game where you are trying to strategize more efficiently than the other person, and it can be HARD! Corey and I like this one for when we’re in the mood for something fast, and it is one that makes us think! We hear the full version of the game is a lot of fun too, so we may have to get that eventually as well!

The Resistance

This one is a party game, and is perfect for a big crowd of people – up to 10 can play! We played this recently with my entire family and we laughed so hard. The idea of this game is that the entire group is playing as a group of people forming an uprising and they’re going on missions to overthrow a corrupt government…but there are spies in the group who are trying to sabotage the efforts. It’s really fun to accuse each other of being spies (and to try and hide it if you are one!) and it’s another one that’s very easy to teach. It’s hard to find games that are good for a lot of people, so we love having ones like this as an option!

We’re still playing and buying new games regularly around here (we just recently tried Survive and loved that, and we’ve gotten into some heftier games like Twilight Struggle and Nations as well), and just about anytime anyone comes over to hang out we rope them into playing with us. Our plan is to convert all of our friends and family to being as obsessed as we are (or, you know, close)! With how many games we’ve been getting these days, I have a feeling we’ll need another bookshelf soon!

What games have you been playing lately? We’re particularly looking for some good family games that  can be played with a lot of people (when my family comes over, there are 8 of us!). I love getting your suggestions – we bought Dominion thanks to you guys last time I posted about this, and we LOVE it!