DockaTot Review

Hello my looooves! Can you even believe we are almost in April? Where the heck did this year go? We’ve been neck deep in home projects, sleep training, croup recovery and party planning. Penelope is about to be 3 and my mama heart is totally in denial. We’ve been doing all of the things- ALL OF THEM- to get the house ready for her big birthday bash! She is finally sleeping in her big girl bed and I couldn’t be happier about it.

We have been a happily, co-sleeping family since Penelope was 6 months old. Co-sleeping is something I never knew I wanted to do. Throughout my pregnancy, I frowned upon people sleeping with their babes and admittedly rolled my eyes every time I saw a co-sleeping Insta family. Fast forward 2.5 years, Penelope is currently transitioning into her big girl bed. Truly, I am grateful for this decision. We tried sleep training multiple times and she just wasn’t ready. When our little big girl was 9 months old, we purchased her first DockATot to be used in our bed. It only took her about a week to sleep throughout the night in her dock. Not sure what a DockATot is? You’re not alone; I had no clue what this contraption was either. A DockATot is a lounger/ sleeper that you can put in your bed and in your child’s bed (not crib) that keeps them comfortable as they sleep: “reinventing the womb.” Its the perfect tool, for lack of a better word, to utilize as you transition a co-sleeping cutie to his/her toddler bed. Each DockATot is made with 100% cotton and offers the perfect amount of breathability for your baby.

When I got pregnant with Juliet, one of the first things I added to my list of must-haves was a DockATot. Watching how much Penelope loved hers made me want the same for Juliet. We were gifted a Deluxe size for our baby shower and THANK GOD! Juliet slept through the night almost right away. We loved her Deluxe size but she got too big too fast. The Deluxe is perfect for babies who are 0-8 months. The size that we bought for Penelope and Juliet’s current size is ideal for 9 months up to 5 years old. Juliet took about a week to get used to the larger size, also. What is it about that first week of something new? LOL. Our plan is to allow Juliet to sleep in her DockATot until she is ready for a big girl bed. First of all, that beautiful Carrara Marble design makes for a cute accessory in our bedroom. Secondly, we like to keep the peace in this house: path of least resistance type of people.

Lastly, I want to say a gigantic THANK YOU to DockATot. First off, for gifting us this beautiful Grand DockATot for Juliet. The design is perfection! Secondly, without DockATot, our transition from 1 to 2 kiddos would have been a lot harder with a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night. From a well rested mama, I owe you my life- ok, not so dramatic- my SANITY!

To shop this beautiful Dock, click here!

May your day be full of love & laughter!

XOXO,

Bre

Spring Lookbook

Hello my looooves! Happy Spring! I hope you’re all experiencing warm, sunshine rays and the most perfect light is flowing into your home. Spring is my favorite. I love the new energy of everything in bloom. The smell of orange blossoms in the air, the perfectly cloudy days. I can’t handle it. It lights me up! The girls and I took photos for our spring lookbook and its my favorite ever. These outfits have been on repeat for the past 2 weeks and I am truly in love with how these photos turned out.

All links will be provided below. I hope you enjoy this fun photoshoot! 🙂

Little Feminist Shirts from Love Bubby: here.

Both of Penelope’s dresses from Jella Bee: here.

Personalized Bag from Apolis: here.

All bows & headband from The Darling Bow Co (minus the denim one): here.

Juliet’s cardigan from Paige Grae Shop: here.

My jumper & Juliet’s romper are from Target. I found them both in the Clearance section a couple months ago and cannot find online.

We had the best day shooting these photos. There are so many rad walls downtown Phoenix and I think we’ll be exploring a lot more down there. 🙂

May your day be full of love & laughter!

XOXO,

Bre

Vegan Leather Love

Hello my looooves! Happy New Year. I hope you all had a wonderfully joyful holiday season. Ours was super low key and exactly what we needed. Thanks Universe. 🙌🏻 We spent a lot of time with family and just had our final Christmas, last night, as everyone in Luke’s family got this plague on Christmas Eve. I kinda loved this drawn out holiday. We started early and ended late… best case scenario, basically. 😂 There was a day full of traveling that I didn’t love but that brought me some clarity on life. I love chatting with my man piece about life. He’s been my best friend for a long time now…. which is why I married him. Haha. This is now way off topic. 🤣🤣 Lets just get into it.

Recently, I was sent a Black Faux Leather Diaper Bag from Citi Babies. When I ordered it, I was expecting to not love it, tbh. Truth: never loved a diaper bag…. until now. Let me backtrack and tell you that I’ve tried 3 different styles now. AND… I actually used my NorthFace backpack for over a year because I loathed all other bags. 😳 Thankfully, Maria with CB was kind enough to send me a bag that I truly love. The vegan leather is as soft as BUTTA! The straps on the bag are close together ,asking for a super comfy fit. P. S. WHY are the straps sooo far apart on other bags? That only causes them to fall off your shoulder as soon as you… idk… move your body. Literally, what the heck!! Anyway… we have taken this bag with us everywhere lately and I am truly thankful for its durability. As an active family, this bag has seen some dirt…and oil.. and snacks… and it has been super easy to clean. I’ve taken a wipe to it a few times and it still looks brand new.

Also, there are a lot of compartments inside the bag. Thankfully, for my OCD heart, i can keep everything in its spot. There is even a space for a (smaller) laptop which I use for my iPad & keyboard.

You need this diaper bag. Trust me.

I hope you love this review. I had a lot of questions on my last diaper bag post and wanted to give you all more information.

May your day be full of love & laughter!

XOXO,Bre

Surviving Teething

Hello my loooooves!!!! How are you? I hope you know that I am happy you’re here. I hope you also know how grateful I am that you’re hear reading my words. It warms my heart to know that people love and support me. This is what keeps me inspired. You are a blessing in my life and I love you!

Now… you’re here because I talked about teething and how torturous it has been. Seriously, I’ve been in survival mode for the past month and a half. Poor Juliet was welcomed into this word with an array of issues and hasn’t been able to catch a break. She’s probably like “see, mom! this is why I stayed in the womb for so long!” My apologies, kid. My most sincerest apologies.

I’ve been really into making lists lately… so here is a list of products that I’ve been using and loving to help soothe my babe. Without medication! (This is something that I am super proud of as I’ve researched Motrin and its side effects and that shit is terrifying.)

Oh, and if you’re uncomfortable with poop talk… you should probably just exit stage left, immediately!

Its about to get brown!

  1. All the wooden teething toys and jewelry. Jam Naturals is a teething accessory brand that was kind enough to send me a necklace and a bracelet and OMG, I am truly grateful. At all times, I have one accessory either on my body or in my diaper bag. Juliet goest to TOWN on those things. Bonus: we were at urgent care, yesterday, and the doc noticed that she had one of my accessories and he said that wood is one of the best things for them to teeth on. And heres why: When the wood gets wet it becomes more pliable allowing the wood to massage the gums rather than pressing too firmly on the gums. The wood basically massages the tooth out rather than forcing it out. Amazing! “The more you know!”
  2. Amber Necklace. Woo Doggie… what would I do without an amber necklace?! Oh, probably be sobbing in my closet as my baby screams painfully. Haha. I’m so dramatic! Did you know that Amber contains succinic acid which is a natural anti-infamlatory? As well as a long list of other issues, amber helps to alleviate teething pain by calming inflammation and positively effecting the nervous system! Recently, I learned that Amber is also great for adults. It helps for asthma, pain relief, reduces inflammation in the ears, throat and stomach as well as helping the nervous system and your beautiful beating heart! If you’re not wearing amber, you’re making a big mistake. We received Juliet’s Amber Necklace from Canyon Leaf.
  3. Zoe Organics Diaper Cream. If you’ve ever had or been around a teething babe, you know that the amount of drool that comes out of their mouth could relieve the drought situation in California. Seriously, why aren’t we collecting their drool to be recycled?! (Thats some super hippy shit right there!) Anyway, with drool comes poop…. lots and lots of poop. These sweet tiny littles tend to swallow too much drool whilst teething and end up with upset tummies which leads to diarrhea. No joke, one day, I changed 6 diapers that were all poop. Juliet’s little cheeks matched Santa’s, if ya know what I mean. Thats why investing in a solid diaper cream is essential. Zoe Organics has been the best one for both Juliet and Penelope. (P is fully potty trained now but, when she was still in diapers, this was the best.)
  4. Speaking of diaper cream, invest in good diapers. We love the Babyganics diapers. They’ve been the most absorbent and Juliet has only ever had 1 blowout since we switched back to Babyganics. We also used these for Penelope until she started using Pull-Ups.
  5. Essential oils. I use a lot of lavender & patchouli with Juliet. She was super colicky and this blend was super relaxing for her. Now, when she’s having a tough day, I put peppermint in our diffuser for her to breathe in all day.
  6. Bibs. All the bibs. I love the bibs from Fawnhill Co because they’re Muslin material and they’re super breathable. Juliet pulls everything to her face and I don’t worry about her suffocating when she’s messing around with these ones. (I still watch her like a hawk though because I’m a worry wart. Lol)

I’m still trying everything I can to make sure this little Doots is comfortable and always open to new suggestions. If you have something you use that I’ve yet to list, please let me know.

May your day be full of love & laughter!

XOXO,

Bre

Ripple Effect

Wow guys! How long has it been since I’ve actually composed a blog?! DON’T ANSWER THAT! I’m embarrassed. Life has been HAPPENING! And, I’m LOVING IT! Which is why I’m here…

In the past few weeks, I’ve received a compliment that has been making me feel so warm and fuzzy inside. A compliment that makes me so proud of myself and the recent decisions I’ve made! “You look better than I’ve ever seen you!” -multiple people

Guys! I didn’t realize how terrible I had been to my body until I decided to stop being terrible to it. In hindsight, I should have looked in the mirror and fixed the things I wanted to fix 2 years ago. In the throughs of motherhood, focusing on giving Penelope the best start and learning (sometimes the hard way) how to be a mother was all my little brain could handle. However, I have seen the light since then. When Juliet was 3 weeks old, postpartum anxiety ruled my wellbeing everyday. I spent weeks locking myself in the closet, hiding from my tiny humans. (But, thats another blog!) Something had to give! Thankfully, my degree in holistic healthcare led me to some serious soul searching.

First stop… Yoga!

Second stop… Nutrition!

Third stop… Creating a Business!

Self love and self care was necessary to break me free from the ball & chain that was my anxiety. Anxiety that lead me to HATING being a mother, hating being a wife and really wanting to bail… not only on my family but on life. (Seriously- another blog coming!) Once I decided to make some major changes, everything just became easier. Luke & I fell in love all over again. Penelope became the happy, hilarious baby that I loved with all of my heart. Juliet was suddenly an easy baby. This… this is the ripple effect. Once I started to take care of me…. everything improved. My marriage, my ability to be a mother, my relationships with friends (no joke, I rekindled a relationship with someone who I hadn’t talked to in almost 3 years!) and my BODY! Y’all… I actually FEEL SEXY! Which is so powerful for me to say as I’ve always seen myself as a long-legged, awkward turtle. Hahaha.

With all of this, I want to help the moms who I KNOW feel like they’re stuck. The women who know their potential is bigger than what they’re offering to the world. The people who want to expand their minds while LOVING their body!

Email me and let’s do this!

With love!

May your day be full of love & laughter!

XOXO,

Bre

Life With Two

By Emily Kelly

Life with Two

I’m so happy that Bre asked if I’d like to contribute to this series; when you have two little kids two and under, it’s hard to force your brain to think elegantly or coherently after the hours of eight pm. But I’m always glad when I do because I end up learning something about myself. And if we’re not growing, we going backwards, am I right?

I’ve always been the sort of person who dreams up a million dreams and thinks I’m going to conquer demons and cure diseases… a really Type A envisionist-type but not at all a type A in execution; if you know what I mean.

For example, while going through a box of memories stuffed in the closet of my childhood bedroom at home, I unearthed this project from grade 9 where we had to map out our life. Along the timeline I had a couple accolades such as “Wins Nobel Peace Prize” and “Writes a Novel” – all before the age of 30.

Insert rolling on the floor laughing here.

You see, I’ve never had a problem dreaming big; but I’ve also never really felt what you might call “settled.” I went through public school with a few good friends here and there but was never at the centre of those pre-teen parties. Always hanging around the periphery never really feeling like I fit in, I managed to slide by on buying some of the right clothes and not having bad acne, I suppose.

And high school was good don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t great. It kinda flew by, much like all the phases of my life, but more likely because I still felt this anticipation of all this great stuff to come that has always been promised to me (was it that way where you grew up too? I think it’s part of our generation: “Be all you can be! Be famous! Be rich! Be successful! Don’t let anyone stop you for anything!”)

And college was…better. It was more fulfilling because I remember for the first time in my life feeling like I was really “doing it”; whatever that means. I guess I felt like a kid on a brochure for higher education: books in arm, learning things while I sat around on a green with friends talking about stuff that we all were collectively passionate about.

But it still wasn’t me.

And what does this have to do with life with two?

I guess I’m just beginning only now, at 33 to know what it feels like to have “arrived.” And I know maybe you’re here thinking I’ll be talking about the struggle I’ve had, losing myself to motherhood – up to my elbows in diapers and tantrums (<—— all extremely accurate by the way) but for me, it’s been much the opposite. I feel a restlessness inside me that has subsided. (Please don’t groan audibly yet, I promise I’m [trying to] going somewhere with this).

Today, sitting with my four-month-old on my lap on the rug in my living room, surrounded by those Fisher Price Little People and Brio train parts, my two year-old asked for the umpteen millionth time, “someone’s at the door! answer the door mama.” to her Calico Critter Cozy Cottage. (She had really gotten it in her head that it was the most hilarious thing in life). And I thought this was the most special, cutest thing ever. You I’m sure, think it’s probably just OK, but that moment was golden. It was mine and I was at peace today amidst the chaos that is my life right now.

I guess part of me wishes someone had told me earlier: being a mom can be the best thing ever. And maybe you’ll want to be ambitious and do all sorts of things that will earn you brass plates. But maybe you won’t. And that’s ok too. Because the ernest truth is this: I don’t know if the 14-year-old in me wrote down : “Earn Nobel Peace Prize” because I actually wanted to devote my life to that particular cause. I think there are pieces of me inside that would love to do something to leave a bigger mark on this world (outside of raising good humans) and I hope I still find my way to that pursuit some day in my own timing, but I honestly don’t know if I would have been “happy” pursuing that particular life. I think I thought it would make me happy – to be really dedicated to a cause. But the honest truth is, this is my cause. And life can be accomplished even when it’s so very not. You can pursue all those things and be happy or you can also just be happy in your own home. And there ain’t no shame in that.

Since we added our new little one to the world last May, I’ve been tired and in the trenches, and I’ve come to realize that motherhood is just this slow unravelling of beginning to let them go, bit by bit, little by little. First you are attached by creation, then you are attached as you feed and nurture them, then you can’t leave the room because they’ll roll, or move or get into something; then you drop them off for nursery school, put them on the bus to kindgergarden, send them off to camp, to high school, college, and ya, maybe we’re far from that right now in our house, but slowly, little by little I’m sending them off into the world; this stored-potential of a reaction that is setting off all these other events from now until when they grow and age and leave the planet in their own time. With their own wake of dust in their tracks.

So for now my peace is just sitting in the dust they stir up on the daily. I know it sounds idyllic,and trust me there are days I go into the basement and slam the door and scream in frustration (<— also sadly very true). But for now I’m here. And this, these two, they are my arrival.

My 3 F’s

By Marla Ticknor
In December of 2007, my husband got offered a job in Spokane, Washington that was too good to pass up. I was a Realtor in Arizona at the time so I put the house up for sale and the next weekend we got a great offer. We also found out that same weekend that I was pregnant with our very first child. The process began for our new little family to move from big city, sunny Arizona to a new life in a smaller city with four seasons, where I knew no one.

The moving transition went smooth & we knew we were meant to live here & start this new life. We had always hoped & planned that I would be able to stay at home should we have children. When we moved to Spokane, the transition made it possible & it did make the most sense. I wouldn’t know where to start or who to trust to watch our babies in a new city if I had to work. Pregnancy & birth went well & we were blessed with a healthy little girl, Grace Kay, in August 2008. I had no idea what I was doing as a Mom. I had really never been around babies much & they intimidated me tremendously. I felt like I lacked the nurturing instinct I saw so many other Moms had. I didn’t have much emotional support & wasn’t great at reaching out so I Googled a lot, actually, a ton. My mind was filling with all these opinions of what I should be doing & the kind of Mom I should be. The beginning of guilt, fear & depression was setting in. I found a little solace & normalcy in a Mommy & Me play date group & I joined the YMCA. Little Grace hated the Y. They would have to come get me after 15 minutes of being there. I tried daily for 2 weeks & she didn’t get much better. We bought a treadmill & I resorted to walking on it promptly at 1pm when she went down for her nap. I lost a good 25 pounds & was feeling a little better about myself. Time came for us to think about another child & it didn’t take long before little Olivia Ruth was born, March of 2011.

Once Olivia was born, I was struggling terribly with feeling ‘stuck’ at home. I also gained all that 25# back and then some. By the way, I was already about 30# overweight before having children thanks to our very active social & eating out lifestyle. Here I was feeling stuck now with 2 needy children & feeling fat & helpless on top of it. I was irritable daily. I lost my temper frequently over ridiculous things. Sometimes I hid in my closet & cried thinking it would be better if I wasn’t around. I would beat myself up constantly for not feeling nurturing, for not being a better Mom, for not being able to enjoy my kids. I hated myself. I would go into screaming fits over needing to take care of one of the kids’ needs, primarily my oldest who suffered the most. She was turning 3 & was throwing tantrums just like her Mom was. I didn’t know how to handle myself, let alone this crazy child! She was neglected emotionally in ways I hope we are able to laugh about once she’s older, but it still hurts. I was ugly; I can’t believe I lacked the empathy to pull it together.

One night my husband sat me down. He was firm. I knew it was hard for him. He courageously assured me he loves me but “you need help.” Worst words I ever heard. “YOU NEED HELP” You see, my Mom was diagnosed bi-polar from the time I was 2 years old. I saw extreme depression & extreme, abnormal manic episodes. By the time I was 12 years old, I felt I was emotionally starting to take care of her. I ran away & became a flight attendant at 19 years old, even though I had never even flown on an airplane before. I ran away from the drama, from the guilt of not being able to take care of or ‘help’ her, or my Dad for that matter. Mostly I ran away & lived a fun, adventurous life to avoid my deep fear that I would end up like her. But hearing “YOU NEED HELP” was like sending a huge message “You are becoming your Mom” I cried a river when I sat with the Nurse Practitioner. It was also so hard for me to just be there having to ask for help, I’m super prideful in that area. But I thank God for her to this day for being so supportive & encouraging. She assured me it’s common, all the hormones after pregnancy, lack of support & family around to help. My deep dark secret pain & fears of getting my mother’s illness were also adding to the stress. I was put on anti –depressants & slowly began a new journey.

I had to re-create myself. I was 38 with a baby & a toddler. I wanted so badly to be fit & feel good by the time I turned 40. I found a gym with an amazing childcare both girls loved. Olivia was around 13 months old at the time. I think I used the full 2 hours childcare allowed & would do whatever classes or equipment I could to just ‘get away.’ I was starting to feel better just having a place to blow off steam every morning. I treated my gym time like my job. I lost friends & social life because the gym became my focus. I came up with 3 F’s I focused on to help my personal growth & re-created self: Faith, Family & Fitness. I went to Bible studies & breathed in as much of the Good News I could. I’d soak in it. I became like a soul on fire with my Faith & my Fitness. The 2 worlds seemingly merged as I’d take on running challenges & weight gains & be learning these Bible verses that kept fueling my new passions: “1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I was in my own zone, didn’t worry about anyone other than my family, & I knew I was already winning the prize. I was seeing & feeling results emotionally, physically & spiritually. I was on the right track.

I apparently was supposed to wean off the anti depressants slowly but I quit them cold turkey. It bugged me that I had to take medicine. While other friends on them seemed to be having issues weaning off them, I was doing great & started to feel more emotionally balanced. I attribute this to the consistent exercise & the focus on building my faith.

It’s been over 5 years that I have been living this lifestyle. Our girl’s are 9 and 6 now. I still focus daily on those 3 F’s that got me through it. I thought about adding a 4th F: Friends, but God has provided me even greater joy in that area. You see, because of my consistency to this routine, I have made both new friends at the gym & created a credibility that intrigues others to join me. It is so exciting to see their growth as well. I didn’t need to add that 4th F because it was already there in the process & it continues to this day.

Through places like my favorite gym, I am challenged to do exercises I didn’t think I could do. I remember 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us not a spirit of fear, but one of power, love & self control” And simultaneously with overcoming the challenging exercises, God has also helped me overcome my fear of getting my mother’s illness through persistent self care & a grace & patience for myself I never had before. I cry more now out of compassion than out of anger or depression. I use any stored up anger for slamming the sledgehammer down on a tire or pushing myself extra hard during a workout. I get up, I show up & I work hard when I’m there. I’m a Phoenix that rose from the ashes of post partum depression but more pivotal than that, I stopped running away from a deeper fear of depression & told it to get the hell out of my life!

The journey will always continue & I will always evolve. I am careful not to Google for help or read articles on parenting or things I ‘should’ be doing. I surround myself with positive people and influences because Proverbs 27:17 “As Iron Sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another.” If I want to grow & continue to re-train my brain out of that darkness, I need to surround myself with those that can influence me in that same direction, as well.

Keep in mind, my story doesn’t mean my kids don’t still drive me nuts or my past fears don’t still occasionally creep back in; however, I have found a healthier way to consistently cope with my emotions & re-train those negative thoughts. We will all still have bad days, of course, but all we can do is, get up, do our best, ask for help when needed, and most importantly, forgive ourselves if we screw it all up. If we’re lucky, God will give us another day to try again!

I’m Sorry, God, but You’ve Made a Terrible Mistake

By Lindsey Magner

When Bre asked me to guest post about my transition from one child to two, my response to her was “are you sure? It was pretty awful.” Because it was, y’all. It was so awful. And not just the first six weeks. My son screamed 6-8 hours a day for the first 5 months of his life, nursed fitfully and exclusively at night, and was ultimately diagnosed with a laundry list of medical conditions that took over a year to fully address. My husband started an extremely time-intensive and emotionally taxing job a few months prior to Caleb’s birth, went back to work 6 hours after he cut the cord and pretty much only came home to sleep for 18 months. My completely delightful first child trailed me like our dogs as I shushed and bounced and pleaded with her banshee-shrieking sibling. She heard little more than “in a minute,” “not now,” and “here’s another pouch—that’s only your eighth today, right?” I’m pretty sure I heard her call Daniel Tiger “daddy” one day. As for me…well…to be honest, I’m kind of shocked I didn’t hitchhike across the border and take up long-shoring in Nova Scotia.

The Universe is infinitely kind, however, and as any mother with a tough labor or colicky baby will tell you, gives us the gift of amnesia. That degree of sleep deprivation and stress acts as a sort of retroactive opiate. Like, I remember how much pain I was in at the time, but the edges are blurry, the details mostly gone. 

My umbrella memories are: 

1. Crying. Caleb’s, certainly, but also my own. My cheeks were raw and red for months from wiping the steady stream of salt-water that poured from my face, and I remember on several occasions Sadie exclaiming “oh NO, mama! Your eyes is running again.”

2. Doctor’s Appointments. I’ll spare you. There were a million of them. 

3. Helplessness and Despair. When your child is clearly suffering and no one can provide a
solution, it’s yuck-soup the likes of which you cannot even imagine. I swore at a nurse
once. Okay, twice. 

4. Praying. Less “i know there’s a reason for this, and I trust you, God,” and more “HELP ME
FUCKING NOW BEFORE I PUT THEM BOTH IN THE YARD,” but at least I was reaching out. Not claiming to be enlightened here, y’all. Just telling you how it was. 

Sadie had transformed into a toddler seemingly overnight. I knew how fleeting infancy
was, and how soon Caleb would be walking and talking. But there are literally zero instances in which I “wished for time to stop,” and all of that preemptive nostalgic heartache we talk about as mothers. I just wanted the shit-show to be over. My “silver-lining” mantra for an entire calendar year was “it could be worse: at least it’s not cancer. ” And that’s not something I want to lovingly ink into a baby book (which I do not have, by the way). Do I grieve the fact that my son’s infancy was one of the darkest seasons of my life? Yes. Do I lie to myself and pretend that it wasn’t so? I do not. Because the thing about dark seasons is that as they leave us, they provide a lens of perspective through which Life is seen anew. New, clear, and alight with a beauty almost impossible to describe. 

Caleb will be two next month. He has ear-tubes and some food allergies, but he’s otherwise a perfectly healthy, happy toddler. One might think I’d love him less after what we walked through, but I assure you, the opposite is true. I look at him and think “holy ever-loving LORD, you’re the best human ever.” We all feel that way—even Sadie. As I write this, Caleb is sitting stark-still as she puts every hair bow she owns into his crazy curls. Their bond gets stronger and more complex with each passing day. There are things they give each other that neither me nor Sheldon can impart, and watching their friendship grow is one of the great joys of my life. 

My transition from one child to two broke me into a hundred pieces. That’s just the truth. The thing about being in pieces though? When you’re broken that completely, you can’t even begin to pretend to be whole anymore. You have to ask for help and slow down and prioritize. You have to let people see your vulnerability and ugliness and mess. And then comes The Gift: you get the opportunity to put your pieces back together. As I slowly climbed out of the mire, I noticed I was stronger, calmer, more sure of myself as a mother and as a human. I look back at that year and think, “HOW did I do that?” And then I get kind of tickled and excited. Because, know what? I DID. Our toughest day today is a cake-walk compared to an easy day a year ago, and I hold that knowledge close to me. I feel proud of myself and of our family and I feel so much gratitude. I have so much more to offer other mothers who struggle now than I did before Caleb, and I feel the meaning of “love without condition” in the marrow of my bones. Who’d’ve thought that a screaming baby could be the sagest of teachers? 
God’s kind of a badass that way.

By Danielle Reynolds 

All the clichés came true the day I became a mom. The moment I held Jameson in my arms for the first time I felt a love that my heart had never understood before. Our love had multiplied and my world now revolved around this tiny little human. I took my three full months of maternity leave and would spend all day nursing, watching him sleep, and charting every feeding, diaper, and milestone. He would fall asleep on my chest and nothing would get done for the day because I needed to feel his heart beat against mine. I spent endless hours tracing the silhouette of his face in my mind as I watched him sleep, hoping to never ever forget one detail about his breathtaking existence.I just kept blinking and you know how that goes. That sleeping baby started crawling and the sleepless nights were endless. I was a basket case full of worry on constant toddler suicide watch. Our life revolved around his naps and snacks and happiness, and it was my sole purpose to do everything in my power to keep him from crying. It was exhausting work revolving around one little person! Date nights were few and far between because it was just too hard to think of being without him. So the day my husband brought up the idea of having another baby I was a nervous wreck! As much as I missed the sweet smell of newborn heads and a big round pregnant belly, I couldn’t fathom the idea of anything taking my time, love, and energy away from Jameson. It hurt my heart in the guiltiest of ways. But, baby fever is fierce and real and before I could blink again it was time to buy Jameson a big brother tee.

And life just has this funny way of keepin’ on in the coolest way. Now here I stand today, in the aisles of Target leading a herd of boys. While I try to remember my mental list of groceries (because I always forget the hand written list at home!) I have a toddler trying to climb out of the front seat, the middle two boys bickering in the fiercest game of 24 hour debate (middle kids… ya know), and the oldest one talking to me about very teenage things. All voices hum in unison, all needing my very attention, every… single… moment!!!! I want to wave my little white flag and cry overwhelming tears of joy at the same time because I am so blessed, and overwhelmed, and loved, and out of my element, and just where I want to be.

Almost daily I get stopped in my tracks somewhere asking me things like, “How do you do it?!” or “Wow, four boys! You must need a drink!” or “I can barely handle one child…” and so on and so forth. The boys have stopped getting offended and usually just stand there and smile while I reply with things like, “They keep me busy and rich with life.” Or “my heart is so full I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes.” The words always flow so effortlessly off my tongue because I have never meant it more in my life. I sure don’t feel well suited for the job sometimes. I cry, I lose my temper, I don’t have the answers, I panic, and I learn along with them. My boys have taught me so much more than I feel like I teach them sometimes and we are definitely growing together.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my life would be full of Friday night campouts, Elvis gospel pancake Sunday mornings, pizza parties, endless hugs, leaving the dishes in the sink, taking late night family car drives, family cabin trips, long late night family conversations, board games, s’mores building, soccer games, jiu jitsu class, family pod casts, writing time, and the most enveloping love in so many forms. I have fallen in love with my husband through our journey together raising them in a way my wildest dreams could have never predicted. I see my father live on in each of them in a different way. I am meeting new faces of myself as I approach new milestones with each child in a unique way, and they have inspired me to let go of a lot of things and run after my dreams with conviction. Never have I felt more free in all my life and taking each breath in with more depth. As I grieve each baby face as it fades away, I am falling in love with the amazing humans my sons are morphing into… raising lovers one day at a time.

So when I see a pregnant women I smile to myself and feel a flutter of excitement for her in my belly, because boy is she in for a wild adventure! When I see a mama red cheeked and duking it out with her beautifully strong willed toddler I laugh to myself and miss the days when my boys did that in the store. And when I catch a glimpse of my boys on the swings or running ahead of me on the trail or asleep on the couch with soft faces, I trace those silhouettes into my mind hoping to never forget this breathtaking experience of my beloved motherhood.

& then there were four.

By Cameron Esber 

And then there were four.

It has been almost six months since we have become a family of four. Most days we live in the midst of a pile of toys, with the dishes stacked high in the sink and the kids still in their jammies around noon. We spend our time playing for hours on the floor and laying in bed cuddling for way longer than we should. If you were to knock on the front door you would more often than not catch us being nothing shy of what could normally be considered unproductive. The house is definitely not clean and there isn’t anything checked off the to do list, but who has time for things like that anymore?

Even as I sit here now and write this I am covered in stickers and drinking lukewarm coffee from a rinsed out cup. I have one of the little ones cozied up against me, fast asleep from nursing and another who has turned my once full glass of water into a dinosaur swimming pool. Now, normally I would rush to clean this up, but it’s buying me just the littlest bit of time and any spare time I can get around here I have to take advantage of. Plus, it’s only water.

This is two. This is two kids within two years apart from one another. They are both in diapers and they both basically sleep in our room. There’s not one person who ever told us that this would be easy, in fact most people admitted that the second addition of a baby tends to be the hardest, but I never thought that at times it could be this hard. Some of my days are spent solely trying to get everyone to take a nap and go to sleep. Rocking one and then the other countless times while they take turns waking each other up until I finally take a look at the clock and it’s already 7 o’ clock. Then it dawns on me that this was my whole day and there is no way that I have the energy to walk to my own bedroom, let alone cook dinner or clean up the mess of toys that the day has left behind.

It wasn’t always the plan to have two this close in age. It took us a very long time and many, many failed attempts at trying before we were able to become pregnant with Jaxon. We talked about having another baby eventually of course and knew we wanted more, but we were also under the assumption that each of them would take an equally long amount of time. Turns out, that isn’t always the case. We got pregnant (without trying) shortly after Jax turned one. I had only just stopped nursing and had a few months of my body to myself before having Luella. It was an exciting and equally difficult transition back into pregnancy.

Seeing them now, I am in love with their short age gap. I can already see how close they are as siblings and as they grow up together I can only hope that the bond strengthens, but two in diapers? AND not sleeping? Well, I am sure you can just picture me walking around the house at 4am completely asleep trying to figure out which kid (maybe?) just made a noise and which kid is trying to sneak into our bed for the tenth time.  

Even in hindsight I’m not sure that there was anything that could prepare me for having another child. Even with Luella being such a content and loving baby, it was a tricky balance that I have yet to get under control. However, what I also wasn’t prepared for with the addition of another baby wasn’t how difficult it would be or how little sleep I would get, it was how Jaxon would completely embrace her.

I anticipated jealousy and an unknowing of how to be gentle, but he was more of a natural than even I was when I first had him. He has taught me so much about love and acceptance in the time that he has gained a sister. He approaches her slowly with a smile of excitement on his face and he talks in a whisper so he doesn’t scare her and even when he is driving me crazy because he wants “Lolo” to wake up and play with him, I can’t get over his love.

The love that he had from the beginning is something I could have never imagined and could have only dreamed of. He has wanted to be a part of everything from the start and continues to want to be next to her, hold her, and play with her every day. When she is upset he tries to calm her by patting her belly and if he thinks she is hurt he gives her kisses to make the booboo’s feel better. Out of all of us he is still the only one who can get the biggest belly laughs out of that tiny tummy of hers. She can’t get enough of him and he can’t get enough of her. While I know they will grow up to have differences and have phases of pure fighting, right now is something that feels like nothing short of magic.

They are best friends and make me so proud to be able to raise them together and spend my life with them. These times are definitely tough; there is not one person who would deny that. Even though in the back of my head I constantly struggle with the messy house, the lack of time, and the non-existent routine that we have clumsily fallen into, I wont let it take away how happy I am watching these two interact together. I can only hope that over time we will some how magically fall into a real routine (that happens right?), because watching them grow up together as friends is making up some of the most amazing memories. Those are the memories that I want to hold on to forever and my memories have proven to me once already that I won’t be sitting around with the next baby thinking about the messy house or the sleepless nights and endless rocking I had with my first two. I will remember how much they loved each other unconditionally and how we laid on the floor playing for hours and spent too long watching movies in bed.

I would love to say that this mind frame is deliberate and that we are firm believers of the “the laundry can wait” motto, but that would be a lie. I have always had a hard time watching the house get messier and the dishes stack up higher. I hate when I lose track of time and sometimes forget to make dinner, which happens more often than I am proud of. These duties always sit in the back of my head and most days put a heavy weight on my shoulders. Sometimes it’s an eternal war dealing with the burden and guilt of not being able to take care of the house, be an extraordinary wife and spend all day with the kids.

It could just be pure exhaustion, but even with all those feelings I still haven’t been able give up lounging on the floor or partaking in our marathon movie nights with the kids. That doesn’t mean that I am not still thinking about how I wish I had it all together. How all of this would probably feel so much better if my daily check-list actually checked off something checked off. It’s just that, checking things off a list is a distant memory and having enough time to do anything isn’t our life anymore.