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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Photos with Lindsey Nichole Photography

Something that I have found to be true of living in South Georgia is that everyone is related. When I first moved here Zach would always introduce me to "uncles" and "cousins" of his. Of course these people weren't actually "uncles" and "cousins" but were some type of distant relative. For example we are close to "Aunt Dawnee" at church and she's related to Zach because her mother is Big Daddy's sister (Actually her father is Little Mama's brother too so they are doubly related haha! Told you it gets TRICKY around here!). So technically she's Mr. Rusty's cousin but Zach has grown up with her being an "aunt." It's a very southern thing. I don't know any of my cousins cousins or my parents cousins or my grandparents siblings? We joke that Zach had to import me to Valdosta just to make sure he didn't accidentally marry someone who is related to him ;)

Zach grew up very close to his extended family. His best friends were mostly made up of his "cousins" (who are actually Mr. Rusty's cousins children!). I have always loved and adored these cousins :) Ryan and Travis were both in our wedding! Travis' sister, Lindsey, is someone I naturally clicked with right when we first met. Y'all know how big I am about supporting people who follow their passions...and Lindsey has recently started her own photography business!

I think it's so awesome when people find something they love and they work hard at it and aren't afraid to make the big leap and start up their own business. I admire that so much and am so proud for Lindsey for following her dreams!

Lindsey Nichole Photography is based out of Navarre, Florida but she is in the Valdosta area often as well. She was in town recently and got together with me to capture some pics of the kids! Lindsey was SO good with them. Britt is often not easy to work with and I had to wake her from her nap which can often mean even extra drama...but she was SO sweet and easy going and I think so much of that had to do with Lindsey's personality! She focused a lot on making the photos fun for the kids and they had a good time and it created a very relaxed atmosphere. It was a quick, easy shoot and a wonderful experience!

Be sure to follow her on Facebook at Lindsey Nichole Photography! 

Here are a couple pics of Lindsey doing her thing...

...and the pics she got of my babies!

Thanks again Lindsey!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Keeping a Sleepy Newborn Awake for Feedings

One of the most important things during the first days of a baby's life is making sure they are getting full feedings. A full belly is important for the baby to thrive, for a nursing mother to establish milk supply, to ensure a nursing baby is getting the nutrient rich hind milk, and to begin laying the groundwork for sleep training in the future. {You can read my tips for starting Babywise from birth here!}

A sleepy, snuggly newborn is so sweet and precious. However, that same sleepy newborn can be a source of frustration when he or she simply will not wake up for their feeding time! Here are some tips for how to keep a sleepy baby awake to ensure a full feeding:

1. Skin to Skin: Unswaddle and undress your baby and even expose your skin so you are both skin-to-skin contact. This not only forms a great bond but also gets a baby to start eating!

2. Tickle Feet, Side and Chin: Babies typically find tickling a little bit uncomfortable. By tickling the bottom of the feet it helps to wake them from sleeping. Sometimes you have to tickle a little harder to really get them to wake up! The chin is another great place to tickle to get them going!

3. Look for Active Suck: Often babies will fall asleep and start sucking for comfort, rather than actively sucking. Be on the look out for the "lazy sucking" as it's a signal that your baby is snoozing rather than eating! You should be able to see the jaw actively moving to signal eating vs just sucking.

4. Sleepy Hand Test: This little trick was so helpful for me! While nursing lift the baby's arm in the air and then let go of it. If their little hand just falls down limply, then they are full on asleep. If they stiffen the hand then they are awake! You can also look at a baby's hand while nursing to see if they are awake or asleep: if it's in a fist then they are awake, if it's relaxed then they are asleep.

5. Wash Cloth: When I would nurse I would wet a washcloth prior to starting the feeding and have it beside me in case I needed it. You can wipe the baby's face or head with the wash cloth and it will help wake them up.

6. Burp: Burp breaks always help! Varying the position of the burps also ensures freeing up all that trapped gas as well as getting them to be more alert.

7. Diaper Change: When my babies were little I stopped changing the diaper prior to the start of the feeding and instead I'd change it mid-feeding. By taking the diaper changing break it would help split up the feeding some to keep them stimulated and awake.

8. Quick Switching: The recommendation for a full feeding is typically to nurse on one side for 20 min, burp, then nurse on the other side for another 20 minutes. One way to get a sleep baby to wake up is to divide up the feeding differently. You can do 5 min on one side then burp and switch then another five and burp and switch  over and over again until you have reached the 40 min feeding marker or know your baby is full.

9. Change Positions: There are a variety of positions for nursing a baby. The most commonly used one tends to be the cradle hold. This is a very cuddly position and can cause a sleepy baby! By changing positions, especially using the football hold type position, it helps prevent the baby from sleeping.

10. Dim Lights: Most of the time you think "bright lights = awake baby" but actually the opposite is true. Babies tend to close their eyes in bright lighting so by dimming the lights it's actually easier for a baby to open their eyes and remain awake.

When I talk to new moms my #1 piece of advice is always to focus on full feedings and keep that baby awake while eating! It is often a lot harder of a task than it sounds like it would be! Do you have any tricks to add that help keep a sleepy baby awake and eating?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Family Time With the Bacons

I am so, so thankful I got pregnant with Tess when I did. Being pregnant with Casey was SO fun and having our babies so close together has been great! I also think it's great that Carter is a little older than Tess. I like that both Casey and I go to each other for help and advice and I think if he was younger that I wouldn't have as many opportunities to learn from her as I do! First time moms just have that A game ya know? She always knows the most up-to-date stuff and I appreciate that...with this being my third it's so easy to get trapped in feeling like you "know it all" when really SO much changes in the world of babies!!!

Now that Tess is a little older and both she and Carter are able to go and do more and be more flexible I am SO excited to FINALLY get back to hanging out with Casey and Jordan on a more regular basis! I feel like I don't even know Jordan anymore b/c when I do get to see one of them its, of course, Casey :) 

One nice Saturday afternoon our families went down to our neighborhood park and playground. We got Subway and had a picnic dinner and the kids played. It was beautiful weather and a great time! Tess got to go down a slide for the first time :)

Not too sure if she liked it?

I think this may have been Carter's first time too!

Sweet cousins!

Kye just recently, like he was 5 years old, learned how to swing himself. Britt just turned 3 and she's working hard to master the skill!

Best Big Brother!

Can you tell it was windy? Ha!

We had a great day at the park together and later that week Casey and Carter came for a sleep over at our house :) Jordan and Zach both were gone for the night for work and Casey and I sleep better when we aren't solo! We got brave and took all 4 kids to Chick-Fil-A Family Night! 

First time eating at a restaurant :)

Recently I found a new obsession...Steak and Shake Fry Seasoning. Have you tried it? OMG GAME CHANGER! ha! I have never been a big fan of CFA fries so I brought along my new favorite seasoning ;) I sent Zach a pic as I knew he'd appreciate it!

First time meeting the cow! She did great :)

Bathing 4 kids at once it tricky...getting a pic of 4 kids in a tub while also covering up all "the areas" is almost impossible! We made it happen though :)

I'm so thankful for the amazing in-laws I've been blessed with! It's crazy to think that Casey and I originally did not mesh well. We've come so far, for sure! It's so great that we are able to live in the same town as Zach's whole family and that our babies will grow up being close to so much of their extended family!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Taking Care of ME

So often we think about how to best care for our children and we are quick to neglect taking care of ourselves! Here are some simple steps I take to help be the best ME each day!

Getting Enough Sleep: When I am well rested I feel better. It's easier to avoid eating the not-so-good-for-me foods. It's easier to remain patient with my children and it's easier to just be HAPPY! Sleep is important. I revolve my children's days and schedules around making sure they have enough sleep...shouldn't I be doing the same for myself? My goal is to get in the bed by 10:30 and I am usually up around 6:30 each morning. 8 hours is always what I aim to get and I can tell a difference in my day when I get less sleep than I need!

Getting Ready for the Day: I know the "typical" mom attire is yoga pants and a pony tail but I feel better about myself when I look my best. Getting up a little earlier each morning gives me time to do my hair and makeup and pick out a cuter top to wear with those yoga pants ;) It's amazing the confidence boost it gives me! I have also found that by having a spray tan I feel drastically more confident. I try to spray tan once a week (I have this home system) and I love the way it makes me look!

Keeping a Clean Home: I feel SO much more stress when my house is messy. I have learned that a clean kitchen is critical for my ability to remain calm and have less anxiety! I try to "clean as I cook" and I cannot stand to go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. My whole day starts off on a bad foot when I walk in the kitchen and find dirty dishes (yes sweet husband...I'm talking about you and those dishes you "let soak"!). Keeping a clean house is for the whole family, but it's also for myself and my own sanity!

Having a Healthy Lifestyle: It's easy to get trapped in the cycle of eating crappy food. It's quick and easy and can be habit forming. I've been living the Advocare lifestyle for over 2 years now and I can tell a BIG difference in how I feel (as well as look!) when I veer off the course. I use the products to lose the baby weight and I truly just enjoy eating healthier. I am AWFUL about drinking enough water but find when I am mindful about drinking water, that I look less bloated, feel healthier, and have a better day! Water helps SO many things and it's so important! I have also been trying to spend 30 min on the elliptical several nights a week. While it's not so fun while I'm doing it, I love the way it makes me feel afterwards!

Having Time for Myself: I've been really trying this year to have time with the Lord each morning before the kids wake up and it really helps set a positive, God-centered, tone for my day. I'm working my way through Jesus Calling and it's perfect because it's short and quick but has some great lessons! I also have enjoyed reading in bed before I fall asleep. I'm currently (finally!) reading Childwise and it's really awesome! Usually in the evenings I spend my time with my husband but nap time is MY time. I don't know how mamas make it through the day without nap time! I spend this time blogging and I feel so much more rejuvenated and ready to face the rest of the day with the kids once I get that time to recharge.

Having a Life Outside the Home: I have learned that it's important for me to take time out to have a LIFE. It's SO easy to get lost in the role of motherhood, especially since I am home all day every day with my children. I try to remember that one day my children will grow up. They will have their own lives. Then what will I do? Spending time with friends has been a huge way that I take care of myself. I try to have one night out a week to do something FUN that doesn't involve my babies! While some of our conversations may end up coming back to our kids, it's important to have other interests than just parenting. Movies, tv shows, fashion, anything other than parenting is really a good topic of conversation for these nights out! I can tell a HUGE difference in myself on the weeks when I don't get this quality time. I am more patient, more fun, and just a better me when I have some time away!

Make Future Plans: I love to travel. With my husband, with my children, just any sort of traveling. I find so much joy in planning these vacations and having the anticipation of the trip is sometimes even more fun than the trip itself! By planning in advance we are able to save a lot of money and utilize our vacation time in the best ways possible. The planning process is something I really enjoy and even though the vacations benefit our whole family. they are especially important for myself. I love making memories and I love going and doing and experiencing the world. I love seeing new things through my children's eyes and I love the quality time my husband and I get together when we travel just the two of us.

Guilty Pleasures: We all have them. A favorite reality tv show. Some romantic comedy movies. Music that takes us back to our teenage years. Romance novels. I've found that even just a drive to the store, by myself, blasting some of my favorite songs can be so refreshing! Little, simple joys can be found in our "guilty pleasures!" I also love to watch movies when we travel. Airplane movies are THE best! I leave the flight feeling very connected to ME because I got to enjoy some entertainment just for myself. Not a Disney movie for the kids (not knocking Disney of course!). Not some show with my husband. But a movie that I enjoy, just for me! Indulging in some good old guilty pleasures on occasion can really lift your spirits and allow you to let go of all your parenting responsibilities...even if only for the length of a movie :)

Quality Time with my Husband: My love language is quality time and it's really important for me in order to feel loved and appreciated. When we get in a rut and aren't as connected, I don't feel as happy with myself. When our marriage is at its best, I am also at my best, and our whole family unit just functions in a more positive, happy way. It's really true that a happy marriage is the KEY to a happy family! Finding out the love language of yourself and your spouse can really have a huge impact on your marriage.

What are some ways you take care of yourself? Being our best selves allows us to also give our children our best! Are you neglecting taking care of YOU?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Valentine's Day this year fell on a Saturday and was the same time the kids had a couple days off from school (I think they call it "Winter Break?"). If I'd realized all of this sooner I probably would have tried to convince Zach to let us leave town for a couple days! But instead we had a fun weekend at home :)

Matching sisters means double the love!

Britt had so much fun at her class party!

Valentine's Day, to me, isn't a major deal. I do LOVE the idea of taking time to show others how much we care about them. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day and not tell the people we care about just how much we love them. I'm hardcore about our family unit showing love and appreciate towards each other and Valentine's Day is a great excuse to focus on that! 

I saw an easy card craft in a magazine so the big kids and I had fun making special cards for each other. I just took some toilet paper rolls and bent them to be a "heart shape." The kids dipped the end into red paint and had their own heart stamps! It worked great and was SO easy! And, even better, FREE!

Valentine's Day spent at home meant: messy hair for Kye, crazy hair for Tess, and tons of accessorizing for Britt :)

The past few years I've been making "Christmas cookies" on Valentine's Day but instead of Christmas themed cut outs we do hearts and decorate them as a fun Valentine's Day activity. It worked out where we even got to give some away to some of our favorite people! Casey came by to bring the kids little V-Day treats from Carter (SO sweet!) and G-Mama came by too so they all went home with cookies :) 

Britt's decorating skills have already greatly improved since December!

We all know who takes it the most seriously ;)

We both love baking and crafting :)

G-mama stopped by with lots of goodies, of course!
The kids were also able to give her the cards they made for her and Big Papa!

My mom made a Valentine's Day box when I was a kid and I have great memories of it sitting out in our home and we'd all sneak in little gifts and cards and such to each other. Then on Valentine's Day we'd open it all! I LOVE passing along this tradition with my kids. Kye really got into it this year and made cards several days in a row :) 

Something I'm trying to work on with our goals of spending smart is to cut back on what I spend on random holidays. I tend to over due it with gifts (my love language is gifts remember?) and I'm trying to not feel the need to get so much for the kids. G-Mama's love language is also gifts so they just end up with WAY too much at each holiday! 

For Valentine's Day I bought each kid a fun card (Britt's had stickers and Kye's had a search and find game) and then stuck to the dollar bin at Target for everything else. They were JUST as happy and I spent under $10 total for everything! 

Tess's first Valentine's Day!

Kye also made his own "wrapping paper" and wrapped several of the things he made for us

He made gifts for us and gave us some of his toys too :) Tess loves her new whistle ;)
He wrote on her card "here is a little something for you" so sweet!

I try to keep a Valentine's theme without going overboard. I used the same heart cookie cutter that I used for the cookies to make heart shaped sandwiches at lunch!

Kye and I have been saving broken crayons since he first started coloring. Anytime a crayon breaks we stick it in a bag and hold onto it. I saw on Pinterest years ago about melting them down and thought it'd be a fun thing to do "someday." Kye and I talk about it from time to time but always forget to actually do it! Since we had the time we made it our mission for the break to make the crayons!

It was actually really fun and very calming for me for some reason? The kids and I sorted through all the crayon pieces and picked out the ones that were already "naked" and set them aside. 

Then we put the ones that still had the wrappers into a bowl of warm water. We let them soak and almost instantly the wrappers peeled right off! Some were more stubborn but we easily removed with a little effort. Our hands did get a little grimy and some of the crayons had a bit of residue on them so I used an old dish towel to wipe them off.

I preheated the oven to 250 and used cupcake liners in a muffin pan. We mixed up the colors and broke up the larger crayons them put them all in the liners. 

I let them bake for 15 min then checked on them. Since some of the crayons were rather thick they hadn't all melted. I think it ended up taking closer to 30 min for them all to be melted down. I took them out of the oven and let them cool and dry. I tore away the liner paper and we had some new-to-us rainbow crayons! 

I was a little worried about my muffin tin as the wax from the crayons did seep through some of the liners. I was able to get it all out though but be warned that if you do this it is best to use an older tin that you aren't worried about getting waxy ;)

When it comes to gifts for each other, Zach and I keep Valentine's Day simple. We spend $20 or less on a gift for each other. I like for us to open the gifts with the kids. They need to see us appreciating each other more than they need to see us appreciating them! We had a miscommunication this year and I gave Zach my gift to him on Valentine's Day with the kids but he wanted to wait to give me mine (yes, assumptions are correct: he didn't have it yet ha! But to his defensive his gift went with his plans for our date!).

Casey and Jordan have been trading off with us for child care for date nights. Zach goes to their house so they can go on a date then on another night one of them will come to our house so we can go out together :) Free childcare is awesome!

When I was getting ready for our date Zach told me that we would be having a special guest join us. I instantly assumed it was my dad. Haha I know that's random but I mean there really aren't many special guests who I'd want to see on a random occasion?

When we went to leave Zach said the guest would be driving me to the location for dinner. Um. Okay? I got in the car and he went inside. He told me to go ahead and read his card from me and open my gift.

We are pretty hardcore into The Bachelor franchise. I know it gets a lot of heat and I've been told that as a Christian I shouldn't be watching it...but we love it and while it's not a show I'd allow my children to watch, it's one that I feel is fine viewing as a Christian. Even better? Sean Lowe was The Bachelor and used it as a platform to help spread God's love. I really adore him and his family (Shay, his sister, is like my style idol ha!) and straight up told Zach that I wanted his book asap. It's called For the Right Reasons and it was a great Valentine's Day gift! It's a quick read and has a lot of insider scoop about The Bachelor plus a lot of personal stuff about Sean. He's not some amazing writer or anything, but it was a fun read for sure!

I also recommend viewing his video on I Am Second and checking out his blog. I wish more "celebrities" used their "stardom" in such a positive, uplifting way! 

Anyway I read the sweet card (which was seriously PERFECT. Like one of those cards you just want to frame and display by your bed so you can read it every morning when you wake up!) then opened my gift then waited for this surprise driver. 

Zach came out with his back to me and snuck in the driver's side of the car and turned to face me and this is what I saw:

I. About. Died. It was hilarious. "Sean" drove us to dinner and we had some great conversation. Poor Sean quickly realized I knew more about him than he knew about himself. 

We got to dinner and Sean let Zach escort me inside. We sat down and before the waiter even walked up JEFF appeared as my dinner date. Y'all may not know this about me but Jeff is my celebrity crush. Jeff who? He was on Big Brother several years ago. I started watching Big Brother while up late nursing Kye and would watch "After Dark" which is where they just show live footage of the houseguests. Every time I fed Kye I'd watch it and I just felt like I knew Jeff and fell in love with the love story of he and a fellow houseguest (Jordan...who ended up winning the season). You can read more about my celebrity crush here :) 

It was HILARIOUS when the waiter came to our table and Jeff was still sitting there with me hahahahaha. I'm sure the guy thought we were either super lame or on some kind of drugs! Not many women can say they've gotten to have dinner with their celebrity crush though right? ;)

We had the BEST date. We laughed SO much that my face hurt. We went to leave and realized we hadn't got a pic together. I have NEVER laughed so hard as when I saw the photobomber. Like people were staring and I was crying. I still am cracking up just seeing the pic haha. It was awesome!

For the drive home Justin was my driver! He and Sean were good pics for drivers as I really like and respect them both but they def don't have that "celebrity crush" appeal like Jeff does for me ;) 

It was a GREAT date night and so, so funny. I'm not typically a really big laugher. I appreciate a good joke but I'll say "oh yeah, that's funny" and not actually laugh at it. I found this whole situation hilarious though and just laughed and laughed and really played along which I think both surprised Zach and made him happy. Even after all our years together he keeps trying to make me laugh and on this night he succeeded ;) 

He had to work late a few nights later and I sent him this and told him not to rush home bahahaha!

We had a wonderful Valentine's Day! I'm so thankful for my sweet family. I know many people who talk about their dreams and passions and I truly have found mine. My family completes me and is truly my dream come true. I never take any of that for granted and am thankful for a holiday as an opportunity to show my love and appreciation to them :) 
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