Friday, March 30, 2012

Back to work meal planning

I've always been (silently) judgmental of those folks who don't know what they are doing for dinner by the time they get home from work. We live with a plan and have our meals coordinated well in advance. We meal plan by the month, write it on the calendar on the wall, and purchase the ingredients the Saturday of that week. Jarrod and I take turns cooking and do leftovers on the especially busy days.

While I knew having a child would change that, I really didn't have a clear understanding...then I went back to work. With three full weeks under my belt, I feel more than qualified to speak on behalf of all working moms. ;-) Let me give you a little glimpse of my week...

Week One - Realization
Jarrod, Wesley and I returned home from my sister's wedding in Oklahoma around 10:30pm on Saturday evening. Daylight savings happened and we were up for church just a few short hours later. I spent the day doing loads of laundry, picking up Lucy, and cleaning house. We had a meal plan for the week, but I wasn't up for grocery shopping for it without Jarrod and with Wesley. Thankfully, I had the sense to freeze leftovers in individual containers for lunches and dinners. Sunday night Jarrod brought home Taco Bueno because we were both too tired to think about much else, even defrosting those individual meals. Yes, I suddenly became too lazy to microwave...

While we were sitting at the table it hit me - it's so easy to grab food on the way home. It's not because we are lazy, ill-prepared, or disorganized - it's because we're tired and value time together. I had a new understanding of why people grab take-out frequently! We vowed to work hard to stick to our plan, even though we knew it would be a challenge.

Monday for lunch I had a staff meeting - lunch was provided! That night we went straight to the grocery store after work and bought everything we needed for lunches and dinners this week. Monday night we had leftovers that I froze. I started the crock pot meal when we finished eating and put it away before I went to bed. I had frozen leftovers for lunch on Tuesday and for dinner we had the crock pot meal.

Wednesday is a busy day. Jarrod and I tag-team watching Wesley at home, Wesley had his 2 month check-up, and Jarrod worked until 9pm. We ate more leftovers - thank goodness for leftovers! Thursday night was Jarrod's night to cook and he made delicious bacon and corn griddle cakes. (I LOVE Pinterest!) It took a little bit of time but he worked from home and when I got home I took Wesley so he could make dinner.

Thankfully this weekend is fairly low key and I can prepare some meals for the week - it's going to be busy! 

Week Two - The Plan
My job requires travel and some random hours. My second week back at work meant it was time to start traveling. Sadly, Jarrod's week was just as busy. He had rehearsals at church on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. We both worked most of the day Saturday and Sunday. We slapped hands as he tagged me in each night when I got home from work. Had I not cooked over the weekend, we wouldn't have had anything to eat this week. I am so thankful I had a plan because I was able to use spare time to cook the meals we'd need for the week. We were able to tag-team the grocery shopping.

Being busy also meant I was eating meals out. I had several lunch meetings, saving leftovers for the weekend. Because our weekend was so busy, I had to plan time to cook. I made a casserole on Sunday afternoon for Monday night (we had a church dinner on Sunday). Planning ahead meant we could come home on Monday after work to a meal. Tuesday night Jarrod grilled and we'll eat the leftovers from that and the casserole for the week.

When there is something ready to go in the fridge, it's easier than stopping for dinner. We were able to eat healthy and inexpensive food as a family because of the planning. This was especially important on the nights where Jarrod and I were only home for 15 minutes at the same time. He'd heat up dinner and we'd eat together as soon as I got home before he had to hit the road.

Week Three - Getting the hang of it
We've learned the pitfalls of being busy and acknowledged that picking something up is quick and easy. We've agreed that we don't want to fall into that problem and want to plan meals in order to save money and eat healthy. Because weeks, like last week, where we are both busy are very infrequent, on a regular basis, we'll be able to handle the stress.

With a new month on the horizon, we'll be menu planning more effectively now. We know what days are busiest and what days aren't. We know the value of meals in the freezer and leftovers. Prior to Wesley's birth, waiting for dinner or cooking dinner together was wonderful. Now one of us is on Wesley duty while the other cooks or warms up dinner. Thanks to Pinterest, we have a whole bunch of recipes ready to go when planning before the month begins!

How you do meal plan when life is chaotic? Those of you with children, do you make one meal for the family or individual meals for each of your kiddos/your spouse/yourself?
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Follow Through

I have been working on developing and strengthening my follow through muscle. Procrastination has never been a big problem for me, but as life continues to get more and more busy, I find that follow through can be challenging. I've heard stories about many recently bringing to light how incredibly difficult it is for us to follow through. It's easy to commit to things but it's difficult to make sure that they are completed.

Pinterest has made this issue an epidemic for millions. We see awesome things, ideas, crafts, recipes, etc. and we pin like crazy. However, do we actually follow through?

The same goes in marriage, motherhood, work, and church. We plan to do great things. We plan to tithe to our church but end up giving $20 at the end of the month because it's what is left over. We plan to have a date night with our spouse but days turn into weeks and into months. We pin healthy recipes and crafts that would be perfect but end up buying frozen meals and expensive gifts.

There is nothing wrong with most of this, but I want more from life. I want to feel accomplished. I want to accomplish my goals. I want to live a good life.

Over a decade ago someone told me to think of life as a movie - it is going somewhere. Life is not just a random mess of days, but each day builds on the next. Without planning and follow through we end up in the same place year after year.

This year, in the midst of stressful and chaotic jobs and a new baby, I am learning to be intentional about following through. I set goals and complete them. Nothing is ever perfect, but I am moving. By breaking down goals to smaller more manageable pieces, huge things are achievable.

While I am not militant about things, I do know tracking the small things help will help me reach the big goals. Saying no to a cookie might be a small thing, but it will help me Lise weight and be healthy. Getting up early for a walk doesn't seem like fun at the time but it keeps me in shape.

I am not perfect. I hit snooze, eat cookies, and spend money on useless things. But each day I get closer to my goals because I am intentionally following through.

What are your goals and how are you reaching them on a daily basis?
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Working mama

I've been back at work now for 2.5 weeks. It's been easier than I thought in a lot of ways and harder than I thought in a lot of ways. My job is not very traditional. I spend about 75% of my time traveling around Texas. I do not work a standard 8:30am-5pm day. I often have meetings in the evenings and weekends. While I absolutely adore that aspect of my job, it does make child-care, pumping, and generally being away from home challenging. I am beyond thankful for camera phones - below are some pictures Jarrod posts for me on Facebook while I'm working.

My first day back at work I cried all morning. Thankfully, I knew Wesley was in great hands with our nanny. Another big plus was that I didn't have to leave him with her - I leave before Jarrod so I left Wesley with Jarrod. I cried about halfway to work and then got really excited. I adore my job and know that I do very meaningful work. It's not just a paycheck, but a ministry I am very passionate about. I was excited to see my coworkers and jump back into the swing of things.
The first week went remarkably well. Wesley began taking a bottle like a champ and I learned how to pump at work. It's not easy because I do not have a door to my office. I need to find a quiet place, which changes everyday depending on what sort of meetings are going on and where I am traveling. I can typically find a quiet and private room in my office building to pump before taking my supplies to the kitchen to clean and store. When traveling I've been known to pump in a public restroom because there was no other private place. Not ideal, but it works...I guess. I'm definitely learning that the world is not very breast feeding friendly.

When Wesley is being especially adorable it's nearly impossible to leave in the mornings. I was rarely ever late to work before he was born. Unless there was significant traffic, I was in my chair by 8:30am. Now I really struggle to arrive on time. It's not because I rush around in the morning, it's because I simply cannot leave him. I also struggle on the other end of the day. He eats between 4 and 4:30pm and I don't get home until after 5:30pm most days. If I can ever work my schedule, I rush home and feed him at 4:30pm - missing feedings is hard. Pumping just isn't the same.

On days where I have time, I like to get him dressed. He's growing up so fast that he outgrows his outfits all the time. I want to dress him so I can see him in everything he has. I am so obsessive that I don't want to miss the one time he wears an outfit. I often ask Jarrod, "What's he wearing!" when I head home from work. It's weird, but it makes me feel closer to him.

I understand busy, tired, and stress more than ever before. Life is really good - I love my job, my husband, and our baby - but it's hard to balance all of my loves. It's a terrible problem to have, really. ;-) I'm incredibly blessed and thank God each day for my life.

On the weekends I do not put Wesley down. My first few days back at work Wesley didn't sleep in his crib. I'm getting better now, but this is my typical look on the weekends now:
 Of course I do value alone time, but the time I can spend with him is very precious to me.

How do you balance all of the loves in your life?
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This is what I do Tuesdays: Laundry

I had a dorky idea to share how I do things and see if you do them like I do or if you have a better way of doing them. Yeah, it sounds confusing and silly when I write it down but I swear I had the idea in the shower and my shower ideas are always hits.

So for the next several Tuesdays, at least, I'll be sharing a topic and how it works best in our life. This came out of the discovery that adults really don't know what they are doing. We've all learned to fake it and go around pretending we have it all together. We don't. At least I don't - if you do, comment and tell me how! :-)

For the first part of this series, I'm going to take on laundry. Have you ever wondered how other people do laundry? I do. Especially families with lots of kids. I mean seriously. Does mom do all the laundry separately so that socks don't get mixed up between kids??

Before Jarrod and I were married I would visit him on breaks from seminary. I'd stay at his apartment during the day and study while he was at work. I'd often keep myself occupied by moving furniture or doing laundry. One day I decided to tackle a huge pile of laundry he had in the laundry room. (He had other piles in the closet and bedroom...) I thought I was being helpful. I washed the whites/lights in warm and the darks in cold. Both loads were dried in the dryer. Seems logical to me, right?

Wrong.

Jarrod was furious. Evidently you cannot under any circumstances dry a pair of khakis. I always dried mine and they seemed fine, but I must be doing something wrong. In Jarrod's world, khakis cannot go in the dryer. Lesson learned.

I've never done another piece of Jarrod's laundry again. I'm not being spiteful - he's particular about how his laundry is done so he does it. Occasionally I'll throw a load from the washer to the dryer, but other than that, we do our laundry completely separately. I've become in charge of towels, sheets, and rugs as well because if it were up to Jarrod they'd get washed once a year. ;-)

I do a load of whites/lights and a load of darks about once every 5-6 days. I don't buy clothes that need to be ironed or dry cleaned, so that's basically it. When I'm not pregnant or post-pardum, I can get away with doing laundry slightly less frequently, but for now, it's 5-6 days. I do towels, sheets, and rugs about once every 2 weeks or so.

Now that Wesley is in the picture, I do his laundry as well. Jarrod's been known to do a load of diapers and is more than willing to help. We do a load of diapers every 2-3 days. They get a soak in cold and a hot wash. If there is time, they are dried outside or inside on a drying rack. Wesley's clothes are washed about once a week, occasionally more than that if I am looking for him to wear a particular outfit. ;-)

Jarrod does his own clothes. I don't know that he sorts things, but I do know he has some sort of system. He does laundry about once every 2 weeks. He irons clothes on Saturday nights for church the next day. If I miraculously need something ironed (and don't want to just throw it back in the dryer...) I'll add it to his pile and he'll usually do it without any complaints. 

I rarely mix loads between Wesley, Jarrod or I. I just find it easier to do everything separately. I've been known to wash a couple of my lights with Wesley's clothes, but only if I have one or two pieces to add.

And that's how the Johnstons do laundry! How do your clothes get clean? Do you do all the laundry for the house?
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Cloth Diapering - the complete stash!

Now that Wesley is almost 2.5 months old and we've been cloth diapering for more than a solid month, I think we have the hang of it! Jarrod and I both feel comfortable with each of the three systems we have. Jarrod has even washed a load and hung them out to dry!

After traveling, leaving the house, changing Wesley on the go, and wearing cloth diapers almost exclusively for over a month, I figured it was about time to give you my reviews. There are lots of cloth diaper tutorials and reviews out there, this is just my opinion and what works for us. While we have had a few blow-outs, they can be attributed to Wesley simply being on the small side for cloth diapers. I can count on one hand how many blow-outs he has gotten in the cloth diapers and they are getting less and less frequent. He doesn't get diaper rash nearly as frequently as he did when we were still in disposables. And the best part? Thanks to some generous gift-givers and hand-me-down-ers, we've only had to purchase 2 (!) covers. The rest of our stash was gifted to us. Naturally this makes cloth diapering significantly cheaper for us than disposables.

The best part about all three of our diapering systems is that they are one size adjustable. This means they fit Wesley when he hit about 10 pounds (5-6 weeks) and will fit him (God willing!) until he potty trains. No need to deal with multiple sizes,we just adjust the covers and he's good to go! All of our systems also utilize snaps, not velcro. We heard from several people that the snaps are don't wear out like velcro. (we also heard they are more difficult to get on a wiggling baby, which we can imagine!) These diapers should last us through several children, should we choose to have them.

The Stash
6 FuzziBunz covers and 12 inserts - received Fuzzi Bunz One Size Cloth Diapers Gender Neutral Colors
as a gift. Cost for 1 cover and 2 inserts - $20
Flip Covers and 18 inserts - Cost for 1 cover and 2 inserts - $17
3 GroVia Covers and 6 inserts - Cost for 1 cover and 2 inserts - $32

*Note about Cost* The costs are approximate and were taken from amazon.com. It's difficult to compare one cover and two inserts across the board because the Flip and GroVia covers can be reused, while the FuzziBunz covers cannot. Likewise, the GroVia covers will last through more changes than the Flip covers, on average. While more expensive per cover, the GroVia covers might be less expensive per diaper change.

The Routine
We use the FuzziBunz at night because of the adjustable absorbency. We use the Flips during the day because the pad slides around too much for nighttime use. The GroVias are good for daytime or nighttime. We do laundry about every 3 days and hang the diapers to dry outside whenever possible. I rinse cold and wash hot in All Free Clear.

The Reviews
FuzziBunz
Pros
  • Many sizing options including adjustable leg elastic and triangular snaps to make a snug fit around the legs
  • The most like disposables
  • Adjustable absorbency - place one or two inserts in the cover for light or heavy coverage
  • Cute and very bright colors
Cons
  • The cover is not reusable
  • The inserts are difficult to shake out of the cover into the dirty bag
  • They are very bulky

Flip
Pros
  • Super easy to use - place insert in cover and snap on baby. 
  • Several size options including two vertical and about 6 horizontal
  • The cover is often reusable, provided it doesn't get messy.
Cons
  • Insert often slides around (could be because Wesley is still little) and cover often gets dirty
  • Not as absorbant as other diapers
  • Not a lot of color options - We have 3 moon beam and 2 ribbit, but both are not nearly as vibrant as shown.

GroVia
Pros
  • The covers rarely get dirty because the inserts are snapped in place
  • Very high quality dry fabric
  • Slim fit - much more compact than other diapers
  • Lots of sizing options including two vertical options and very tight and secure horizontal options, a much tighter fit than other diapers
  • Really cute cover options - we have planes, surf and kiwi
  • The cover is reusable and stays dry between changes. 
Cons
  • The snaps are really secure, making it difficult to get on a wiggly baby
  • Snapping in the insert during a diaper change is somewhat awkward and time-consuming
Overall, if I were to purchase an entire set of just one type, it would be the GroVia. It is the most expensive of the three, but I think the quality is by far the best. Wesley stays dry, doesn't have blow-outs, and the covers can be reused most of the day!

Of course these are just my primary impressions of three types of cloth diapers. They are the only ones I have had any experience with. We are committed to cloth diapering but know it will be an evolving process, especially once Wesley goes to solid foods (sometime after six months). This post was not intended to be an exhaustive cloth diapering tutorial - there are many posts out there like that! 
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Fundraising Challenge!

Most of you know that I participate in the 60 mile 3 day walk for breast cancer. I will walk again in November in my 6th event. I have raised a total of almost $12,000 in the past 4 years for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. My goal is to raise an additional $2,300 by September 1st. So far, I've raised $155. Yeah, I have a ways to go!

But you can help. Between now and March 30th for every $25 donation you make, you will be entered into a drawing to win a $10 iTunes gift card! Have you been meaning to make a donation and haven't gotten around to it? Now is the time! Think about what you can buy with $10 at iTunes - a new album, a book, or a few episodes of your favorite show.

But more than that, you'll be joining in the fight against breast cancer. I get tears in my eyes thinking of the wonderful people Wesley won't get to meet because cancer took them too early. If you have someone like that in your life, make a donation in their memory. If you know someone fighting for their life, make a donation in their honor - I will walk with them on my heart. If you are lucky to not know anyone close to you that has been touched by cancer, give a donation so your children won't have to know anyone either.

Making a donation is easy. Click here to fill out your information. Once you've made your donation, you will be automatically entered to win the iTunes gift card. Want more entries? Share this post with a friend or two and get them to donate! Leave a comment letting me know you've shared it on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail for another entry!
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Having a Budget Makes Spending Fun!

I love having a budget. If you have read more than 2 posts, you know I adore our budget. Our number one priority as a family is to pay off our debt. Vacations, fancy clothes, new computers, etc. are not as important to us as getting out of debt. Our other priorities include food, gas, utilities, rent, our tithe, and insurance. We can do all of that without stress because of our budget.

Occasionally we do need to make a big, unexpected, or fun purchase. Wesley needed a new carseat, I need new post-pregnancy clothes, and Jarrod wants a decent haircut. We could argue, feel guilty, or spend frivolously if we didn't have a budget. Because we have a plan, those expenses become fun!

  • We can bargain hunt for Wesley's carseat (we got a great deal on Amazon!) because it's not an emergency and we have the money set aside. We don't need to buy the cheapest, we can buy the most cost-effective with the highest safety rating. 
  • I need some new clothes for work and instead of scouring the clearance racks to find something that might work for a short time, I can search for timeless pieces at a good price that I can wear for a long time. While clearance is great, it doesn't really save you money if you settle for something decent and not perfect. I don't feel guilty for spending money, I feel great for finding a great deal on something I know I will wear for a long time. 

Each month we each have about $40-50 in "blow money" - money we can spend in whatever we want. Jarrod normally spends his on fried rice and Taco Bueno. I don't know how I spend mine but it is normally gone before the 10th of the month. ;)

This month I decided I wanted new make up. I am embarrassed to say I haven't purchased make up since I bought the fancy stuff for our wedding 3 years ago. I know - judge me. So, I decided it was time. I took some of my blow money and wandered the aisles of Target (are you still judging? Yes, I buy make up at Target...) for the perfect shade of eye shadow. I didn't look at the price, I looked for quality products I could wear for work. I purchased a concealer stick (for those dark circles I now sport under my eyes!), liquid eye liner, and pretty eye shadow. I spent about $15 total and haven't given it any more thought. I bought exactly what I wanted and it was within my budget.

We all have things we want or need. Our needs are in the form of inexpensive make up, necessary work clothes, and good quality haircuts. Because we live on a budget, these expenses are planned. We don't feel guilty about them, but we also don't over-spend or impulse buy.

How has your spending changed because you live on a budget?
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Courtney's Wedding Weekend Take 3

Courtney's wedding day is finally here! (It's Philip's Wedding Day too, of course!) Our day began in the most lazy fashion. Wesley, Jarrod and I got to relax around the hotel room before it was time to get ready. At 9:15am we met our photographer extraordinaire (check out the awesome tie and wedding ring photo in the "artsy" circle!) in the hotel lobby for our family photo shoot! While we were waiting, we ran into both sides of our family eating breakfast!

Carrie got some of the most precious photos of our little family. We just went out back behind the hotel, so it was very convenient. Wesley was on his best behavior, but we didn't get any special smiles. He was one day shy of 2 months when these photos were taken.






All above photos were taken by Carrie Richardson Fry Photography.

Once we were done with our photos, we ran back up to the room to begin the packing process. Because we'd be leaving around 11:30am for the wedding, we needed to be completely out of our room before we left. Jarrod made about 4 runs to the car to get everything while I stayed up with Wesley. Soon it was makeup time! My sister in law did makeup for my wedding and I asked her to do my makeup for Courtney's wedding also. She came to our room about 11am - I'd already mostly finished my hair! She started my makeup, Jarrod packed up the car, and Wesley hung out. Soon it was time to hit the road for the church!

We arrived at the church and it was go time! Jessica finished my makeup while we hung out with the other bridesmaids. We were all busy doing our makeup, Jackie was doing Courtney's makeup, and we ate some lunch. My dad and his wife brought food, including these beautiful sweet treats.



Pretty soon it was time for us to get in our dresses, get Courtney in her dress and do the group photos. Courtney wrote more about the actual wedding day and some gorgeous photos. I took a few photos of the girls and had Courtney take a picture of me and Wesley, but other than that, I let Carrie do her thing!




The whole day was gorgeous, full of love, and joyful. Courtney was beautiful. The love and happiness between her and Philip is tangible and contagious. The wedding was laid-back, casual, and so much fun. Wesley was a doll - he slept during the ceremony like an angel. Jarrod and I had a great time. Once the wedding was over, we packed up and made the drive home! It was rainy and very windy, but we made it and Wesley slept the whole ride home except when we stopped for dinner for everyone.

I am so thrilled for my sister. She's started her marriage off on a great foundation and I'm excited to see what God has in store for her and Philip as they begin this adventure together!
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Courtney's Wedding Weekend Take 2

Day 2 of Courtney's wedding weekend began with nails and toes! We went to a nail salon and each got our nails and toes done. It was delightful! We literally took over the whole place. Once I was done getting my toes painted, Jarrod brought Wesley up to join us. Of course he charmed all the ladies.

It was fun to just relax with the ladies. Nothing too fancy, just pampering and laughter! Aunt Pam was able to join us, which made it extra special. When Jarrod dropped off Wesley, he also dropped off our Great Aunt Lois. She's a delight.

After pampering, we all traveled to Courtney's bridal lunch. It was at this beautiful little cafe with exposed brick and black and white accents. We pre-ordered, so it didn't take long at all for the food to arrive. I got a turkey sandwich on delicious bread with fruit salad - yum! We took some family photos while we relaxed together.
 Courtney and her new inlaws! Three generations of family!
Great Aunt Lois, Aunt Pam, Courtney, me, and Wesley! Four generations of family!
Wesley and the baby whisperer, Precious - Renee and Philip's grandma.

Wesley was so good in the Moby! 

After the delicious lunch it was time to head back to the hotel for some resting time. There wasn't a whole lot of time before the rehearsal, but there was enough to sit down and rest. Jarrod had a great afternoon chilling out and seeing some of my family. He was ready for us to come back, though!

After resting time, it was rehearsal time! We headed up to the church just a bit early so that Jarrod and Renee could practice. They would be singing a song for Courtney to walk down the aisle. It was gorgeous! And this was the only picture that I captured of the rehearsal!
After a nice rehearsal, we all headed out to an awesome restaurant. I didn't get photos there either, but we sat at the kid's table with some dear friends from Louisiana and our awesome nephews! Wesley slept in the Moby through the entire thing. We're raising a really good sleeper - at least in busy restaurants!
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Courtney's Wedding Weekend Take 1

My sister got married last weekend. It was an awesome wedding and a fabulous weekend! Of course I was worried about traveling with an infant, keeping Wesley on some sort of schedule, and balancing pumping/feeding him. However, just like the wedding festivities, everything went really well!

Our journey started on Wednesday evening. I had been packing for days and we began loading the car with everything we could. We packed the Pack 'n Play, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, dresses, suits, and enough clothes for Wesley for weeks. On Thursday morning Jarrod took Lucy to our friend's house to watch her, we loaded up last minute things, and we hit the road!

I'm glad we left early because it took a lot longer to get there than it should have. We stopped so I could feed Wesley and he didn't want to eat. I was nervous about just putting him back in his carseat and driving, fearful that he'd be starving in a mile or two. We waited about 45 minutes and he refused to eat much more so we continued on. We arrived at our hotel around 3pm - plenty of time to check in, feed Wesley, unpack and get settled, before starting the pre-wedding parties!

Once we were settled, we went over to my sister's house to meet up with the wedding party. It was fantastic to see Courtney's place and show off our little man. Before long it was time to head to the bachelorette party! Jarrod hit the road back to the hotel with Wesley - my aunt and uncle would be watching him while we celebrated! I can't say what the gentlemen did, but we had a blast at Toby Keith's I Love this Bar and Grill!






Courtney has some really wonderful friends from several chapters of her life. It was wonderful getting to know/meeting some of her college friends and reconnecting with friends from elementary/middle school. And of course my sister's sister-in-law was there - Renee! She's my college best friend. It was awesome seeing Courtney become part of a family I've loved for more than a decade.

After dinner we made the trek along the riverwalk to a piano bar. We went to a piano bar for my bachelorette party and it was a blast! I snapped these photos when we were still the only ones at the bar. I left early to feed Wesley and reunited with the group back at the hotel.

 The whole group of beautiful ladies!


It looks like they are looking at something shocking, but I think they are actually singing a song...

After feeding Wesley and tucking him into bed, I met up with the girls at the hotel for some laughing, story-sharing, and present-opening. It was a very low-key and incredibly fun way to celebrate Courtney. It was neat to see all of her dearest girlfriends surround her with love and support on the days leading up to her wedding.



Around 1am the girls went to bed and I went back to my boys at another hotel to sleep for a few hours. A day of bridesmaid pampering and food was waiting!
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Handmade Sign

Perhaps you've heard - my sister got married! :-) Next week I'm going to share with you the bachelorette party, behind the scenes wedding business, and of course lots of pictures of Wesley...I mean Courtney. :-) But today, my sister's 26th birthday, I'm going to share with you the gift that Jarrod and I got for her.

I knew I didn't want to get them something off their registry. When I mentioned this to Jarrod he said, "But you hate when people do that." Right. I do. But I'm the sister and the sister needs to get something awesome - not a waffle maker. So I started thinking...

And then it hit me - Courtney and Philip needed a handmade sign from Skye at Thumbprint Designs! I shot an e-mail over to Skye and we immediately got things going. At first I had no idea what I wanted it to say. I sneakily asked Courtney if she'd want a gift in her wedding colors (not letting on to what I was doing) and she said yes. Decision #1 made! The sign would be in purple and blue. I told Skye everything else was up to her - I didn't have an opinion.

Thankfully, Skye was super busy in February - planning, traveling, working, blogging, babyshowering... This bought me some time. Then one Sunday a couple of weeks ago I got the genius idea that the sign should have a lyric from a song from the wedding. BAM! They would be leaving the ceremony to Matt Maher's "Hold Us Together" sung by my handsome husband. This would make a perfect sign and reminder to them that love is what will hold them together.
love will - leanne 1
Their love for each other, their love for God, and God's love for them.
love will - leanne 2
Skye loved the idea and actually started the sign on Courtney and Philip's wedding day, which I love because that meant she was thinking and praying for my sweet sister and new brother-in-law while they were tying the knot!
love will - leanne 3
The sign was mailed off to Oklahoma yesterday and I cannot wait for Courtney to receive it. I adore the pictures and think it came out just perfect!
love will - leanne 4
I cannot wait to see where Courtney and Philip decide to hang it. I know it will be a center piece of their apartment now and will follow them into many more homes over their years together.

Skye was absolutely delightful to work with. She communicated with me how things were going, sent me sneak peaks of what she was working on, didn't consider me a freak for not knowing what I wanted and suddenly knowing EXACTLY what I wanted, and she used her own creativity to make something even more beautiful than I could have imagined.

All I gave Skye was Courtney and Philip's names, their wedding date, the song lyric I wanted included, and their wedding colors. The fact that she did the swirly designs in the corner that mimic the wedding invitation was purely coincidental. I think that just means that Skye is open to the Holy Spirit's guidance, which makes everything she creates that much more special and perfect. Because this was a gift, I won't share what I spent, but I will say it was very reasonable.

If you are looking for a beautiful handmade sign or other personalized gift, please check out Thumbprint Designs. I can promise you that Skye is professional, creative, and you will not be disappointed!

Full disclosure: Skye didn't pay me to say any of this. All opinions are completely mine. She did provide me with the pictures because the sign was shipped straight to Courtney. 
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wesley is Two Months Old!

Dear Wesley,
You are two months old now. I can hardly remember our life before you. I don't know what we did with our time because now you completely consume us. Your daddy and I do everything we can to make you smile and giggle. Your smile makes my heart happier than it's ever been. You started smiling in response to the world around 5 weeks. In the weeks that followed, you started open-mouth laughs. Absolutely delightful. Your head control is getting a lot better. Your neck was strong when you were born and now you're able to control your head a lot more, which is awesome. You love to play on your play mat and enjoy writing us songs on your foot piano.

When you turned about 6 weeks old I decided we needed some kind of schedule and routine. You took to it almost immediately and it really made things easier for me. You still aren't sleeping through the night, but things are much less rocky than they were. You wake between 7am and 7:30am most days. You don't always nap much during the day, but you do sleep on and off while we run errands and walk around the neighborhood. You usually go to sleep sometime around 8pm. You know my voice and will following me with your eyes around the room. When your daddy gets home you grin and look at him with so much love. We both are overwhelmed with love for you.

We're also overwhelmed with how hard this is. You cry sometimes, especially when you have gas, and we have no idea what to do. Your cries and tears absolutely break our hearts. We are starting to figure out what you need - having a routine really helps this.

A few days before your 2 month birthday we traveled to Aunt Courtney and Uncle Philip's wedding. We were really worried about traveling with you and working around your routine. I think we brought half the house to be sure we had everything for you! Of course everyone adored you. You met lots of friends and family. Everyone loves you!

We cannot run errands without people stopping us to comment on how handsome you are. Your hair really gets a lot of attention. Your eyes are still very deep blue and striking with your awesome dark hair. Your eyes look like they might be turning more hazel, but we'll see! You have gorgeous long eye lashes as well - you have a lot of your daddy's mannerisms, but you definitely look like a Lindgren!

Your 2 month birthday also marked the end of my maternity leave. I'm so sad to go back to work and leave you, but know it is going to be good for both of us. Nanny Haley started this week and loves you already. Daddy will have more time with you during the week as well, which will be really good for you both. I know you'll be such a good boy and eventually I'll stop crying when I leave you.

You are definitely not a newborn anymore. You're starting to outgrow your 3 month clothes and are completely rocking the cloth diapers. You are great at running errands in the Baby Bjorn or Moby and love the contemporary service at church. Music definitely soothes you, which is no surprise. You've started talking a lot in the past few weeks, which thrills your daddy and I.

We absolutely adore you and you've completely brightened our life. Before you were born I worried because we had such a wonderful life - could a baby make it better? Now that you're here, I know that our life is absolutely better because of you. You have already taught us more about love, responsibility, compassion, and God. I often talk to you about how much you are loved - there are so many people that adore you. Your daddy posts photos of you on Facebook nearly everyday and people are quick to tell us how beautiful and wonderful you are. You are also so loved by God. God created every part of you and gifted us with you - we take that responsibility very seriously.

It is a joy to watch you grow and we love being parents. While it is incredibly challenging and we struggle through a lot of moments, overall, this is the best thing we've ever done.

We love you, baby boy!

Love,
Mama and Daddy
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You're it!

I've been tagged! Skye from Neathering Our Fest tagged me and asked me 11 questions. The rules state that I need to tag 11 bloggers and ask them 11 questions. So first things first, here are the rules:
  • you must post the rules.
  • answer the 11 questions that the tagger posted for you
  • then create 11 questions to ask the people you've tagged.
  • tag 11 people and link them in your post.
  • let them know you have tagged them. 
So I'm breaking the rules. I would rather be cuddling my boy than thinking up 11 questions and tagging you. So, if you want to answer the questions Skye asked me, feel free in the comments!
    1. have you ever gone back and read your very first blog post? what is one thing that makes you cringe and one thing that makes you smile?
    I've not...and actually, my very first blog was called "This is what I do". It grew into Leanne...the Walker and Life as Wife.  My very first blog on any of these blogs was written the day before I started graduate school. It is very hard to believe how drastically differently my life was back then. My first post officially over here, back when we were the LA Johnstons was this guy alerting all of our followers that I'd officially moved over to Blogger. This post is a random update on our life. My first thought when seeing this post is how skinny I was and how cute my short hair was... I'm threatening to go short again for the summer, but Jarrod digs the long hair.

    2. tell us all about your favorite pair of shoes. where did you get them? what did you buy them for? what is your favorite memory while wearing them?
     This is definitely a toss up. The first pair would definitely be these. I purchased them before Jarrod and I got married because they were perfect - they were our wedding colors and they were pretty ballet flats. I didn't have the money for them because I was paying for our wedding while paying for seminary, but I knew I had to have them. It's been 3 years since I bought them and I wear them at least once a week. My favorite time wearing them is definitely my bachelorette party! 
    via www.hypursuit.com


    The second pair are my sparkly pink TOMS. They are awesome, comfortable, and pink. I wear them all the time...sometimes with socks, which drives Jarrod crazy, but I really like socks. :-)

    3. if you could go back and do one thing you didn't do, what would it be?
    Study abroad. I didn't because of finances and wish I had. I got myself into enough debt to get my undergraduate degree, I might have studied abroad as well. I was also too scared, but I think it would have been an incredible experience. At the same time, it would have altered the path of my life, and my life is pretty awesome, so maybe not...

    4. what is your go-to beverage first thing in the morning?
    Very first thing I do is refill my water bottle because it's empty from middle-of-the-night feedings. After that, I drink a green smoothie. I don't really drink anything else other than a green smoothie for breakfast and water throughout the day. Boring, I know.  

    5. do you sleep with the fan on or off?
    On. Always on. Whether I like it or not, it's on. Good thing I like it. :-)

    6. what is your favorite thing about the home you currently reside in?
    We have a great open floorplan. We have a large eat-in kitchen with a bar to the living room. It's very open and we love that. We enjoy having people over and the flow is great for that.

    7. money aside, you get to plan the absolutely perfect date. spill the details.
    Gosh, I've really always been lame and now that I have a baby I think I'm turbo lame... If money really isn't an object, I'd love to take Jarrod to Puerto Rico and go to the bio bay again. We could sleep all day, go out for a nice Puerto Rican dinner and then kayak the bio bay. It's gorgeous, romantic, and a once in a lifetime experience. 

    8. do you get nervous pulling your car into the bay when you get your oil changed? or is that just me?
    Completely! I'm not a girly girl who makes her husband do everything (I just cleaned the kitty litter and took out the trash) but I do have him take my car to get the oil changed...

    9. the eternal debate: mac or pc?
    Mac. Without a doubt. I've actually never owned a PC and I've been using Apples since I was about 8 years old. I currently have a MacBook Air for work and a MacBook Pro at home. 

    10. what habit do you have that you would pay someone to help you get rid of?
    Lack of self-control. I don't have any self-control at all. I can't keep oreos in the house. I wish I could control my incessant need for immediate gratification. 

    11. what is one habit you wish you could naturally pick up and have for the rest of your life?
    Patience. Is that a habit? I'm going to say it is. I am terrible with patience. So much so that I multi-task EVERYTHING. Having a child has helped, but I still do a lot of things at the same time. I wish I was more patient to remember than everything else can wait - do one thing at a time...I'm going to start practicing that now and cuddle our sweet man!
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    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Refinished Dining Room Table {DYI Furniture Refinishing}

    Over a year ago Jarrod and I purchased a dining room table at a flea market. It was exactly what I was looking for - solid wood, large, and with a leaf. It was replacing a very old table of Jarrod's that only sat 4 people. This one was perfect...

    Except that it was stained a cherry red wood. Not my style. Also, the top was laminate. Not cool at all. We knew we'd refinish it. This was before pinterest, so I did some research and essentially winged it. Without a garage, I was forced to sand and stain on the back patio - just large enough to fit the table. It was not ideal. The table came out fine, but I had trouble with the poly stage and it went on thick, had bubbles, and yellowed within a few weeks. Womp womp...

    Being on maternity leave has caused me to come up with some projects to do during the day with Wesley. We do crafts, cook, and go for walks. One thing I really wanted to do before I went back to work was refinish the table. It's a gorgeous table but the yellowing embarrassed me each time we had people over. I was constantly buying table cloths to cover the top - which is funny because I spent hours refinishing it... I was determined to refinish it into something I could be proud of.

    Jarrod was not on board. While he agreed that the table needed to be refinished, he thought my timetable was a bit ambitious. So I borrowed a hand-sander and got to work with the spoken deadline being April 21st (the day before Wesley's baptism and a day where were will have lots of family and friends over) and the personal deadline of March 12th - the day I go back to work. :-)

    The first thing we did was move the table into the garage. I spent a full day sanding it down while Wesley napped. Thankfully some sweet friends lent me their hand sander, making the job super easy! I did twice over with a rough sand (40 grit) and twice over with a smooth sand (150 grit). Then I wiped down the table with a damp cloth twice, allowing to dry in between.


    Once the table was prepped and dry, I got to priming. I bought Zinsser water-based primer. Last time we used oil-based, which is what a lot of people recommended, but I found it very difficult to work with. The women I was working with at Home Depot said water-based would work great, so I went with that. I did two thin coats with a foam roller and a paint brush. I allowed to dry for about 12-18 hours in between coats. I had a fan running in the garage in hopes of getting a really solid dry between coats.

    After priming, I got to painting. I allowed to dry for about 24 hours before starting to paint. I painted 4 thin coats of a soft black (Behr Black Suede Behr Premium Plus Ultra). I mixed in a paint conditioner to help get a smooth, even coat. I used Floetrol thanks to the tutorial from The Cerniks.  I used a small foam roller to paint and it went very quickly. I waited between 12 and 24 hours between coats. After the final coat I waited 36 hours before doing a smooth sand with a 220 grit block.



    Once the table was painted and smooth, I got to the scariest point of all - the poly. I was careful to speak with the woman in the paint department at Home Depot about my yellowing problem. She said that shouldn't have happened. What also happened was it bubbled - little bubbles everywhere. Not pretty at all. She assured me that the Minwax Polycrylic wouldn't yellow. It didn't have any oil in it to yellow. We'll see. I painted it with an angled Purdy brush because every tutorial I read said Purdy was the best. I'm taking good care of it - I don't have good luck with brushes! I was sure to paint very thin but even coats,

    I brushed the poly on the smooth table and allowed to dry for at least 12 hours with a fan running before sanding. I painted three coats before waiting for 2 days for the poly to fully dry before giving a good fine sand. After this last sand, I let the table dry for a full 72+ hours before bringing it back into the house.

    Of course there are imperfections on the table, but overall I think it looks really great. It's a table that I'm proud of - I wasn't proud of the first refinish. I'm hoping that this go will last for at least a few years before I get the urge to refinish it again! Hopefully it will hold up to lots of food fights with Wesley!
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