Our Best Surprise





We are beyond thrilled to annonce that we will be welcoming a baby girl into our family this summer! 


We honestly can't believe that I am actually carrying a baby girl - Justin is one of 4 boys and his dad has more brothers than I can count - but, no matter how many times I ask them to double check the records, they still say "girl"! We are so thankful for our healthy, growing family and can't wait to celebrate this holiday with family and friends.

Sending so much love from our family to yours,
Justin, Stephanie, Gray and Little Sister

Christmas Week in Photos

Without a doubt, having a toddler at Christmas is amazingly fun. We've spent entire days (in a row) in our pajamas, painted on every paper plate we own, eaten popcorn for dinner. trashed the playroom, laid in bed and watched Mickey's Christmas and convinced Daddy to play hooky a time or two.  I honestly can't wait until tomorrow because it will be Justin's last day of work for a bit and we can finally squeeze in some time without work crashing our party. I'm loving our advent calendar, opening Christmas cards (I finally mailed mine yesterday), and catching up with friends over coffee. Surprisingly, our ornaments are holding strong on our tree but despite the lack of ornament interest, I haven't been brave enough to wrap most of our gifts and expose them to the toddler elements. We still have a few things to do on our to-do list, like making the Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast, but otherwise, I think I'm ready for the big day! I genuinely cannot wait to see Gray's face when he walks into our living room on Christmas morning. 

I thought a classic photo dump might be the best way to share our week, so here ya go! Enjoy!
P.S. I'll be back tomorrow with the final post of 2016 and a secret that I've been dying to share...


 I met up with my fave Amanda Louise for a little Christmas breakfast this week and loved catching up with her. Without a doubt, blogging has brought so many amazing things into my life including dear friendships that I cherish. She and I are cooking up some fun things for 2017 and I can't wait to see what we get into. 


Confession: I think my parents and Justin's parents are the hardest people to gift on Earth. They don't actually need anything, swear the don't want anything and I want to gift them unique and thoughtful gifts that they will love. Thankfully, I found the perfect gift and Minted was kind enough to partner with me to share the details! Minted makes stunning Custom Silhouette Art Prints of your babes, pets or the special people in your life. It couldn't have been easier to create - I sent them a fairly terrible photo of Gray's profile (imagine me saying "look at your books!" or whatever would get him to look to the side!) and Minted did the rest! 

My in-laws and my parents have super different home decor styles but I was able to use the same silhouette and choose from different frames, matte options, colors and personalized details. My parents have more of a beachy, colorful vibe in their home so I went with steel blue silhouette and the Whitewashed Herringbone frame, which I love. My in-laws love old family photos and celebrating our family genealogy so for their home, I chose a taupe silhouette and a sleek Matte Black frame that will match the framed vintage family photos that they have on display. Both of the prints are 8x10" but thanks to the framing and white boarder option, they look unique and custom. Each silhouette has his initials under his sweet little face (they are hidden by the scarf in the photo) and I honestly think both sets of parents will love their silhouettes. I told Justin that I really wish I had ordered one for myself (hint hint when it comes to Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, Justin!). 

And P.S. the options and size I chose brought the total of each framed print to less than $75! 


Nothing makes me happier than pre-school holiday art. I thought it would be hard to beat last year's "Mistletoes" footprint art but I think the toddler foot/baby Jesus in the manger might just take the cake! Gray was sick and we missed the last week of school but we have loved this school year and we cannot wait for the school year to pick back up in January.

We got a little crafty this week creating salt dough ornaments for our family and friends (and by crafty, I mean messy). Gray loved paining and I'm excited in the way that only a mom can be to hang one of those babies on my tree for the rest of my life.






I hope everyone has had a fun week and is surviving school break. It's been such a fun year and I am so grateful to each of you for following along. I hope your holidays are filled with love, laughter and many family members who offer to babysit! 

Traveling (Family) Circus


Thanks to Luggage Online for partnering with me on this post! All (terrible) travel experiences and opinions are my own. 

 I have a little confession to make: I am still terrified to fly with my toddler thanks this little charmer of a story. And guess what? We hop a flight on Christmas Day so that we can be with family by Christmas Dinner. While I am thrilled to see our family (and for Gray to experience a Williamsburg Christmas), I have laid awake at night for the last few days planning all of the ways I can ensure that our travel day is as peaceful/non-emotionally scarring as possible.

Thankfully, Justin will be flying with us, so having another set of hands will, without a doubt, alleviate some of the stresses of a toddler travel day but that hasn't stopped me from planning for the worst. We've plotted the best ways to get through the day and here are some of our current strategies:

1. The iPad is our friend.
Gray is still totally into numbers and has two apps that he loves, loves, loves. He doesn't realize it but we are still rocking the free versions of said apps - meaning we can only play a small percentage of each app. On Christmas Day, I'll pay for and download the full versions of both apps so that he'll be surprised when we get to the airport. I know he loves the apps, knows how to play them and still enjoys them without the sound (we will fly on a tiny prop-job plane that will drown out any and all iPad noise, even on children's headphones). I thought about downloading new games but think updating what we love is the best way to capture his attention.

2. The iPad is our friend, until its taken away
I won't be handing over any sort of toy, iPad or lovie that Gray can fall in love with prior to going through security. All of our troubles last time began at the metal detector so I'm doing by best to plan for the least amount of struggle at the checkpoint. I don't want to take anything away from him that will (rightly so) make him upset right before we have to manage a pat down. And I'm thinking shoes might be included on that list.

3. Pack It
We have officially decided to ditch the carry on bags. Our flight is short and direct so normally Justin and I do our best to carry everything on. After our bag searches last time, the plan is to check one giant bag all the way home. Our large suitcase lost a wheel on our last trip to the West Coast so I made my way to Luggage Online to snag a suitcase for this trip. If you've never shopped Luggage Online, you should take a peek, the prices are great (and they price match between other authorized luggage dealers, so you will always get the best deal) and they are insanely familiar with outfitting families for all types of travel. I actually let Justin pick the suitcase and, wouldn't you know it, he managed to find a large, lightweight suitcase with "spinner" wheels....that comes in orange.
 

I really did try to put up a fight over the color (it also comes in classic black, in case orange isn't your thing) but after he pointed out that it would be super easy to find at baggage claim, I let it go. You can't fight with logic, even if it is bright orange logic. Anyway, we'll be packing the entire family in our one orange suitcase and the only carry on luggage we'll have will be my purse, Justin's back pack and Gray's toddler back pack. Hopefully nothing in our bags will test positive for bomb residue this go 'round and we'll speed right through security, pat down and body search-free.

4. All of the bribery
I plan to take an entire box of Annie's fruit snacks in my purse and hope that, at the very least, bribery will do the trick in the hardest of situations. Because Gray is two, he will have his own seat for the first time - which I think could either be a blessing or a curse. I know I will love not having a stranger next to us sighing every time Gray invades their personal space (I try so hard to keep him contained, I really do) but I'm not so sure that my toddler wiggle worm will manage to keep himself in his seat. We've decided not to travel with a car seat because my parents have one and will pick us up, seat installed and ready to roll, but that means we are relying on fruit snacks and whisper yells to ensure that Gray stays buckled into his own seat. I think we might draw straws to see who gets to sit next to him (kidding, kidding, he'll probably choose when one of us goes to sit next to him and he screams for the other).   


5. Try to laugh about it.
Justin and I love to travel and want our kids to love it as much as we do, we just have to get through this toddler season. While I did cry last time we flew, I'm hoping that this time I'll just be able to laugh off whatever comes our way. The best part about an airport is that you'll never see the people who are staring at (or snapping iPhone photos) of your public meltdown again!

P.S. Be sure to take advantage of Luggage Online's free shipping on orders over $99 because nobody has time to pay for shipping.

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail

It's been forever since I've whipped up a cocktail recipe but this one has been in the works for a bit- thanks to a collaboration with my Instagram Husband, Jonathan of Jonathan Caleb Cake - and it's perfect for the holidays! Nothing beats a twist on a classic and who can say no to a grown up Shirley Temple topped with sugared macarons and metallic gold cherries? The drink itself is super easy to make and the accessories do all of the heavy lifting, so feel free to make the cocktail ahead of time in a big batch. And of course, the Sugarplum Shirley is a snap to make in a classic Shirley Temple sans alcohol, perfect for any preggos attending your holiday get together or a sweet holiday party for a gaggle of girls. 

 Many, many thanks to Jonathan for spending the day playing in my kitchen, the gorgeous sugared macs and for teaching me to gild cherries! 

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail Recipe

(pour in this order to create color separation in the glass!)

1 oz of Cherry flavored vodka, chilled
5 oz Sprite, chilled
A healthy splash of Grenadine

For the cocktail accouterments:

Gilded Cherries

(can be made ahead of time and stored in air tight container in the refrigerator)

Pat dry Maraschino Cherries (one per glass)
Brush lightly with clean paint brush or Q tip dipped in Metallic Food Paint (available at craft/hobby stores or on Amazon)
Set aside on a paper towel

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail

Sugared Macarons
Brush one side of each macaron with simple sugar
While wet, dip into a bowl of granulated sugar, gently twisting the macaron to ensure the entire side is covered.

To Serve
Layer 1 sugared macaron and 1 gilded cherry on a gold cocktail stirrer, pop into poured cocktail and serve!

Sugarplum Shirley Cocktail


5 Ways My Pregnancy Has Been Different The Second Time Around

Thank you e.p.t™ for sponsoring this post. Share your #MomentOfTruth, and be sure to check out e.p.t™ Family Planning Solutions - they are with you every step of your journey!


Ok, so, now that we've shared our announcement and the story of our second pregnancy, let's get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? 

We all know there is something special about the first pregnancy and that something special is naivete. Thanks to the fact that you mostly have zero clue what's coming for you, a first pregnancy is a sweet journey full of wonder and surprise. 

And the second pregnancy?
 The second pregnancy is full of toddler potty training, lots of drive through dinners so your house won't smell like food odors and a whole lot of knowing whats coming. Add in a bump that seems to be doubling in size at an alarming rate, and things can get all kinds of crazy.

Speaking of bumps, let's compare:
12 weeks and change with pregnancy numero uno, barely 12 weeks with #2

Here are 5 ways that my second pregnancy has been different than my first:

1. The Way I Told My Husband
When I found out I was pregnant with our first born, my husband happened to be out of town for the weekend. I saw that test turn positive in my hands and I knew I just had to do something special to share the news with my now Baby Daddy. I ran to Baby Gap, bought a tiny pair of baby booties and wrapped them up with the previously peed on and now positive e.p.t® home pregnancy test. I went all out, wrapping paper, ribbons, the whole nine yards. And this time? For poor, sweet, already neglected baby number two?

Well the story goes a little something like this: after I waited the insanely quick couple of minutes for the e.p.t® results, I took an picture of the positive test and sent it to my husband.

While he was at work.

And my caption said....

"well"

Talk about a moment of truth! After having lost a pregnancy just a few weeks before, I wasn't sure what to think or how to even begin to present the news in a cute, fun way for my husband. In all honesty, I think I was shocked to see that faint little plus sign because I wasn't even sure it was possible for me to pregnant again so soon. I was excited, nervous and needed back up, stat. So out went the pomp and circumstance and I made a move in the least glamours way possible 

My husband's classic response was "are you sure?" and I had the privileged of educating him on the rich 40 year history of the e.p.t® home pregnancy test, which holds the honor of being the original home pregnancy test by the way.



Once he was on board with the e.p.t® 99% accuracy rate (after your missed period), he sent me something sweet like "OK, I'll see you at home later." So sentimental!

But in all seriousness, seeing that plus sign was a moment of happiness that we fully embraced, knowing that our first trimester would most likely be a rough ride. To have the chance to carry a baby after a loss is something that I will never take lightly and watching that home pregnancy test turn positive will forever be burned into my mind.

2. Maternity Clothes
For some reason with my first pregnancy, I wore my lack of maternity clothes as a badge of honor. I would often say "oh, I'm mixing and matching and mostly in regular clothes!". Why? Why did I do this to myself? I'll tell you why: ignorance. Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows there is nothing more comfortable on Earth than full panel yoga pants. Nothing. This time around, I peed on that e.p.t®  test, saw a plus sign and shouted from the bathroom "fetch me my full panel leggings!". I started rocking full panel at week 5 and haven't looked back. 

3. The Apps
Oh how I loved my pregnancy apps when I was pregnant with my first child. And yes, apps is plural because I obviously needed to know what size my baby was in various food shapes - one app compares my offspring to fruits, another uses adorable little desert metaphors and a third uses an actual 3D rendering of a fetus in the womb. I would eagerly check each app when I woke up in the morning to see the new thing my unborn had learned overnight - he can smell! He no longer has a tail! I was high on information and loving life. With my second pregnancy I haven't downloaded a single app and am confident that if I need to know what fruit my babe resembles today, I can Google it.

4. The Timeline
During my first pregnancy, if some sweet, unassuming cashier at the grocery store asked me how far along I was, I would eagerly spout out something cool and nonchalant like "I'm 12 weeks, 4 days and 5 hours and the baby is the size of a plum! Or a macaron!". Cue the cashier's glazed over expression and my eye roll at my former self. These days, I have to actually look at a calendar to know how far along I am and truthfully I only know then because I went through at marked the dates from here til D Day. When someone asks me how far along I am now, I usually say something like "not as far as I look!" and keep it moving.

5. The Toddler

 (I had to give him a fruit snack to make him hug me like that)

By far, the easiest part of being pregnant the first time around is that you don't have another child to care for while you're dealing with morning sickness, smells that smack you in the face or that deep pregnancy exhaustion. I had no idea how good it was the first time. The second pregnancy has seen power naps in the car at pre-school pick up, many calls to the in-laws to please rescue me and take my toddler out to burn energy and many a gag during diaper changes. It hasn't been pretty but we've made it this far. Here's hoping we all make it through the next 28 weeks!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Baby #2 FAQ's



First of all, thank you so much for your overwhelming love and support about our announcement! I have so many emails, texts, messages and comments to respond to and I am so grateful for this community. Many of you had questions that I didn't answer in yesterday's announcement post, so I thought I would jot them down in one place today, while they're all still fresh in my mind! And, yes, I will link to the dress! So many of you loved it and it's non-maternity! 


dress (wearing a size L both before and during pregnancy) 


Q: How have you been feeling?

A: Pretty terrible! This pregnancy has been so different from my first and the first trimester symptoms are no exception. Here's a fun one: this baby HATES coffee. If you've seen a red cup on my recently silent feed, it's been hot chocolate and not my beloved grande Pike's Place in a venti cup with extra cream and 5 Splenda. Also, the exhaustion. Whoa baby. I know I was tired when I was pregnant with Gray but, you know, I could lay down and rest whenever I wanted. I've napped every day when Gray naps and when I don't, I barely make it to dinner time. I haven't cooked in 12 weeks, even being in the grocery store turns my stomach, and the smells of the world are out to get me. My anxiety has also been a little high but I'll explain more about that soon.

Q: When are you due/How far along are you?

A: I'm due in June and am currently cruising through week 12

Q: Was this a planned pregnancy or a surprise?

A: Well, the answer to that is a little complicated. A few months ago, we found out we were expecting a complete and total surprise baby. We were very caught off guard and it took a minute to adjust to the idea of growing our family. As soon as we really became excited about the idea, we lost that pregnancy. It was heartbreaking and really tough for me to process but we were blessed with this pregnancy just a few short weeks later. This baby has also kept us on our toes and has been monitored pretty extensively. We had one major scare at exactly the same point that we lost the last baby (in the same ER, same ultrasound room) but this babe is a fighter and has surprised us at every turn. Currently, baby is growing right on track, has a strong heartbeat and has passed every test with flying colors. I can't lie and say this past few months has been easy or that I've even handled it all very well. With my anxiety, it's been very difficult and I've worked hard to keep things in check for the baby's sake - but some days, the anxiety wins. I'm hopeful that the second trimester will bring a little peace and relief.


Q: Will you have another C Section/Will this baby be breech?

A: Yes! to the C Section! I loved my first one and am looking forward to another Cesarean birth. As for another breech baby....yes, it's highly possible that this baby will be breech as well because that's where Gray was sweet enough to "make room". Gray was a unique position of breech called Frank Breech that added to the fun factor so hopefully if this baby is breech, it will be in a more classic presentation. While I break out in cold sweats at the thought of that much pain again, if we make it through with only a breech babe and no pre-term labor, I will be one happy mama. 

Q: Do you have any thoughts on gender?

A: Just like with Gray, I am confident that I know the gender of this baby. We have been calling the baby "her" and by our chosen girl name since we saw those two pink lines! I bought Gray one boy item before we knew the gender and I have already purchased this baby a girl item (shoes of course!). What can I say, it's mother's intuition! 


Q: Is this why you haven't been blogging or on social media?

A: Yeeeees. I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it before, but my writing process is different than most - I literally sit down each night after dinner and write my post for the day in about an hour. I then immediately publish and promote on social media. I don't work from an editorial calendar (I so wish I could), so unless I have sponsored work lined up, my blog posts are a result of whats been bouncing around my head that day. Since my head space has been full of pregnancy, baby, pregnancy complications and what I want to eat that won't make me sick, I haven't had much to write about - and I am so sorry for that! I've missed this space and have hated to neglect it but I'm back with posts I've been dying to write (in fact, there will actually be a second, much funnier post coming later today!). Thanks for hanging in there with me while I work through all of this- I can't wait to share this ride with ya'll.

All photos by Christa Rene Photography 

Just A Little News


photo by Christa Rene Photography
 
 We are beyond thrilled to finally announce that we are expecting a sweet babe! It's been a long journey, and I'll fill you in very soon, but I couldn't wait another second to celebrate becoming a family of 4. Baby #2 will be joining us this Summer, just a few weeks before Gray's 3rd birthday. I am currently 12 weeks and over the moon to be nearing the end of the first trimester with a healthy baby growing right on track in my (already insanely large) belly. Thank you to all of our friends and family who prayed for us, supported us and have celebrated with us over the past 12 weeks. We are so grateful for you and for this little one. 

"Now I see a family where there once was none
Now we've just begun
Yeah, we're gonna fly to the sun"

Our Holiday Home

I think I may have admitted this publicly before but just in case you missed it, I will openly cop to being the worst seasonal decorator of all time. Like, I never decorate for smaller holidays that people love to go all out for - Valentine's Day? Nope. Easter? Not a single egg. I can't help it! I just can't pull it together. 

I do try to get things around here looking festive for Christmas (don't ask about our tree, that's a story for another day) and this year, I got a jump on things. I decorated our open floor plan living room, kitchen and dining room with mostly things I had around the house and a few small additions - all from Target and most from the dollar aisle! 

All of the photos below were taken by the sweet Kimberly Gibson Photo, who immediately had my toddler wrapped around her finger. If you saw our Holiday Card Fail on Instagram, you'll completely understand how patient she is....

And now, for the decor! 




The magnolia garland was a splurge from Pottery Barn but it is pre-lit which I love. I can't seem to locate our actual stockings (sorry, mom) so I found the cutest stand in's from the Sugar Paper line at Target. The gold candle holders are actually advent calendar wreaths and the basket is a Marshall's find. I had the basket and just collected the coziest blankets from around the house to stuff in it and make things look cozy. 



The table runners are two from the Target Dollar Aisle and so are the pillows and Believe napkins! The napkins are actually place mats that I will use for Gray over the holidays but I loved the way the looked gathered with red patterned gift toppers on our wedding china. The gift toppers are also from Target, from the Sugar Paper line, and they cost more than everything else combined! All of the candlesticks are from around my house and so are the vases - I just went with clear glass vases of all different shapes and sizes and added $10 worth of white flowers from Trader Joe's. 




I love how easily everything came together (and will come apart!) and how classic the look is, without being too themey. Playful, pops of red and cozy elements all came together to make me oh so happy! Are ya'll seasonal decorators? Tell me I'm not alone in skipping the other holidays! 

All other sources for the space can be found here!

Cyber Monday Anthro Picks!


 It may just look like a pile of poorly folded neutrals but it makes me oh so happy! My mom and I had a girls day yesterday and we spent the afternoon downtown shopping and lunching. It was perfect - and things got even better when I managed to find tons of great new arrivals that were flattering and on crazy sale at Anthro. Their Cyber Monday sale happens to still be awesome - especially on sale items - so I'm sharing my picks and pieces I own that are now on sale! Don't forget to use code STACKS for an extra 30% off sale, 20% off regularly priced merchandise and for free shipping on orders over $150.

As always, I'm wearing a large in all pieces with the exception of the dress, which is a medium - but only because the large is sold out and on back order until January. I won't lie, I like a little wiggle room in my clothes but if it's good, I'll squeeze my ladies into a medium and call it a day! 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend - my parents are in town through this evening so I'm still technically enjoying the holiday but I'll be back tomorrow with something not holiday or sale related! 



Black Friday Strategy 2016


Hey all! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We are happily posted up at my in-laws recovering from eating too much and planning for the big football weekend ahead. I'm staying up until Midnight to ensure that everything goes smoothly behind the scenes of the Willow Crowns Black Friday sale, so I thought I might as well do a little Black Friday planning to kill time and keep me awake. 



I'm going to go ahead and say that I normally only shop for things I need on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This year might be a bit different, only because J.Crew has come down off of their high horse and is offering a great sale of 40% off their entire store. I have my eye on a few gifts (I think I have Megan covered!) and a coat for myself - but there are also pieces that I have my eye on that are just for fun. Oops, sorry budget.

This coat (in this shade of blush only) is an insane price at less than $175 (originally $350) and this scarf is going to be on constant rotation this winter.



For those of you who love my gold engraved bangles and necklaces, the shop that every single one comes from is having a 20% off site wide sale starting at midnight Black Friday and lasting through Cyber Monday. The coordinates and roman numerals make amazing gifts (my mom has a rose gold bangle with Gray's birthday and is obsessed with it) and the price point is already amazing, pre-sale. 


 I have yet to jump on the over the knee boot trend but I think Black Friday is a great time to do it. I'm loving this pair that is $143 (down from $240!) and an amazing shade of grey. I hope my calves will shimmy into them!


For those of you who missed out on this pair of booties during the Nordstrom sale, you're in luck because they are back and on sale for $50 off! I actually purchased this pair of booties a few months ago and am obsessed with them. I'm a little bummed to see they are now on sale for $50 seeing as I paid full price, but I'm trying to be a big girl about it. 





What am I missing?? Is there a massive clearance on dry shampoo somewhere that I need to know about?!? 



The Ultimate Toddler Boy Gift Guide

toddler boy holiday gift guide


After I published this post sharing the adorable (if I do say so myself!) custom alphabet book I made for Gray I've received a ton of emails asking what else we're giving him for Christmas! Believe it or not, I'm actually all caught up on shopping, so making this Gift Guide was super fun for me - thanks to those of you who requested it! 

This year, we're trying to avoid gifting him "toys" (translation: junk I have to store) and are making our best effort to get him things that we think he'll love, won't toss aside after a few minutes and are hopefully learning centered. Obviously, playing Santa is more fun than I ever could have imagined so a toy or two may have snuck into the gift pile - and I can't say that I'm sorry about it! I've put everything together in this list, including my suggestion for my parents, the two "big" gifts we've given Gray over the year and gifts my in-laws have given Gray recently that he loves (they love an anytime gift!).

P.S. Our toddler boy stocking stuffer guide is coming soon!

The Ultimate Toddler Boy Gift Guide

This is what my parents are getting Gray for Christmas and I'm not sure who will be more excited to get it out of the box! I read about this desk online and thought Gray would dig the numbers and letters especially but liked the idea of grabbing the expansion packs ($10 each) as he gets bored with the basics. My mom actually found the desk on sale for less than $40 with free store pick up so be sure to watch for Black Friday deals on this one.

My in-laws gave this to Gray a month or so ago and he is obsessed with it. He knows all of the shapes (I had to check with Justin about the Quadrilateral) and we are starting to talk about the minute and hour hands on the clock. He carries the clock all over our house to play with it and I will always recommend Melissa and Doug products because I think they take toddler abuse oh so well.  

Ok, I am so, so excited to give this to Gray! He loves watches (clocks, numbers, see a theme here??) and he always points to my watch, then Justin's and then say's wheres Gray's watch?? He is Mickey obsessed and this rubber watch is going to be such a hit. It's on Amazon Prime for $10 and while it's child size, I'm sure it will be too big. I chose the rubber band so that we could jam the clasp through the band to hopefully make it smaller. For $10 I didn't have high expectations but it comes in a cute Mickey tin watch box and is very vibrant and fun. I know he'll love it.

Gray currently loves the wooden puzzles we have from Melissa and Doug so I'm hoping he'll feel the same way about his first jigsaw puzzle. It's full of cars so I'm hoping it will keep him occupied for at least a few minutes!


Gray is in a Daddy phase and wants to do everything Justin does. He already owns a baby sized rake so a tool box is the obvious next step. And yes, another Melissa and Doug toy!

We gave Gray this exact wagon last year for Christmas and we are so glad that we did. He loves to be pulled around the block and now that he's older he pulls the wagon around the yard, loading it with his toys and moving them form one spot to another. If you're in the market for a wagon that has a more comfy ride, check out this model.

The classic combo of Duplo and trains, this one is a slam dunk. We have a set of Duplo and he loves them - and we're working on our stacking skills. As a side note, I think the Duplo train will probably be my new go-to birthday present for a toddler boy!

What toddler boy doesn't love rain boots? I like this as a grandparent present because they are technically something that falls into the need category. 

Yep, another Melissa and Doug toy, but I am so digging the traffic jam 24 piece puzzle. Jumbo pieces are our speed so hopefully the puzzle thing will be a hit. P.S. I think this would be a great item to open at Grandma's and then leave there!

We gave this to Gray (after much research by Justin) for his second birthday and he really does love it. He does not love wearing his helmet so he doesn't ride it as much as he would like (no helmet, no ride), but when we do get it all together, he is in love with the trike. We highly recommend it! 

What's on your toddler gift list??

The Toddler Bed Adventure


 photo by Danielle Brady Photography

Instead of my typical weekend recap, I thought it might be fun to focus on what was really the goal of this weekend - and how it managed to be the fail of the century - by sharing the story of our transition to the infamous toddler bed. 

I'm not really sure why we decided now was the perfect time to transition from crib to toddler bed but I honestly think my husband got a wild hair about it and I just agreed that it seemed like the next logical step (and sounded much easier than potty training). To be honest, Gray is not a climber and has never even attempted to climb out of his crib, he sleeps around 12 hours a night, we lay him down awake so he puts himself to sleep and he hangs in his crib for about 30 minutes each morning just chatting and playing until we go in and get him. So, yeah, things were pretty good. If you're already wondering why we even thought about switching things up, just hold tight, things are only going downhill from here.

Justin has been working non stop recently and worked all through last weekend so we knew this was the weekend to make the big change (you know, just in time to travel for Thanksgiving, but that's neither here nor there). I started prepping Gray last week, talking about his new Big Boy Bed, taking him on a special shopping trip to Target to pick out new bedding (he chose a stunning combo of sharks and stars) and we talked about how Daddy was going to build him a new Big Boy Bed that weekend. 

On Saturday we got up and hit up our normal donut spot and then made the journey to our storage unit. We cleaned it out, gathered up all of our Christmas decor and located the precious toddler bed rail in the very back corner of our unit. To make the transition easier for Gray, we planned to just add the convertible toddler rail to our crib and keep everything else exactly the same. Literally, the only changes were one crib rail and the new blankets. 

Super easy, right?

When we got home, we made a big deal out of Daddy "building" the new Big Boy Bed, washing the blankets and calling Mamie and showing her how we can get in and out, in and out, in and out of our new bed. It was the best afternoon ever! Everyone was so full of hope and positive energy!  

And then it was bedtime.

Lulled into a false sense of "oh, he was so ready for this", we parents naively headed off to do the bedtime routine with a small twist to make things special: both Justin and I did bedtime together, something that never happens. Maybe we should have taken a breather when we realized that getting him into pajamas was like wrestling a snake or when he screamed during story time. Maybe we should have thought "hmmm, maybe this won't be super smooth" when he started sobbing and saying "Gray is ALL DONE" or when he took his new shark pillow and threw it across the room.  But no, we still thought we were kicking this parenting thing in the ass and the toddler bed was ours to dominate. 

As our bedtime routine progressed, things seemed to get a bit dicier and I started to get a teensy bit nervous. I often marvel at my two year old's strength but when he went full starfish across the opening of the toddler bed rail to prevent us from getting him in there, I was honestly in awe. That kid is strong. Dangerously strong. Anyway, at that point, it became clear we may have overplayed our hand but thought maybe all of this was "transitional" and we just needed to get over the hump. I offered to lay down with Gray in his bed and he.....accepted (reluctantly). I should mention that I am 5'9" and not exactly limber so getting into a baby crib with an opening the size of a toddler took a maneuver that I'm not sure I ever want to try again, but I did it and we laid down to chill out and get our bearings. After many, many back rubs and head scratches, he finally seemed to doze off. I attempted to make my way out of the bed, narrowly avoided splitting my jeans, and somehow managed not to disturb him. I honestly thought we were home free - until I heard the sound of the brand new baby proof door lock click shut.

I'm ashamed to admit that I actually tried to run away from the door, hoping he wouldn't hear me breathing on the other side of it but I turned and caught sight of him busting through the baby proof lock and sprinting out of his room like it was on fire. My poor baby. We tried to lay him back down, tried to sing to him, tried to reason with him but it was all too much (for us, his parents). At some point I looked at Justin begging him to bail us out and he said to me "I Googled it and some kids just aren't ready!". I did the most mature thing I could think of and whisper shouted back to him "just put the damn crib rail back up!".

So, we made it two whole hours with our Big Boy Bed before mom and dad caved and turned it back into a crib. If that doesn't qualify us for Pro Level in Parenting, I don't know what will.

To round out our evening, Gray and I passed out in exhaustion in my bed (something we only do if he's sick) and he slept there, propped up on a pile of king pillows, between me and Justin, happy as can be all night long.

The next morning he woke up early wanting to play and asking for Mickey. When he ventured back into his room for a fresh diaper, he took one look at his now crib, pointed to it, turned to Justin and said, in a disappointed tone:

Hey, where did the hole go?! 

(the hole = the toddler bed rail)

You win kid, you win.

And with that gem of a story, I hope you all had a fabulous weekend full of parenting wins and toddler snuggles! 



The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift

This post was sponsored by Blurb Books. All opinions are my own based on my experience with the company, services and product. 

The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift

Now that it's November, we can talk about holiday gifting, right? I mean, I'm already listening to Christmas music (the Britney Holiday station on Pandora is the best around) so planning, ordering and wrapping gifts seems to be the natural progression around here. And because I went holiday crazy a little early this year, Justin and I have already talked about what Santa will bring for Gray and have decided that our goal is to keep things educational, easy to store and outside of the "toy" category. No stuffed animals, no trendy "must have" toys that will break after one use and nothing that can't be stored in our already full play room. 

And you know what? I'm really, really excited about the gifts we've chosen for him. We thought long and hard about what he's really obsessed with right now and we've come up with some really great ideas - and the best idea of all is his custom Alphabet Book we made with Blurb Books

The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift

Gray is currently all about numbers and letters so I thought a custom ABC book with photos of all of his favorite things (including a number or two!) would be right up his alley. I snagged photos of items from his day to day life and made sure to include all of his favorite things and I just love the way it turned out. I also totally managed to sneak in some of the things we've been trying to teach him for safety purposes - like his full given name, Mommy and Daddy's full names and the name of our town - in between photos of his favorite number (nine!), photos from babyhood (the Kiss photo below will go down in history as one of my all time faves) and memories from his birth state (lobster pots!). 

The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift
The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift

Making the book could not have been easier, thanks to Blurb's easy set up - I just popped into the Photo Book options and chose my size (Large Format Landscape), paper type (Premium Lustre) and cover option (ImageWrap hardcover). After that, I literally just pulled in my photos and hit publish! If you're in the market to write an e-book or to publish a book of your own, Blurb makes it so, so easy. You can actually sell your books through Blurb or upload directly to Amazon and Apple iBooks. All books come with a free PDF download and an option to turn any print book into a high resolution E-Book. I've actually already downloaded the PDF of our ABC Book on my phone to keep as backup entertainment for our Christmas flight home to Virginia - I'm hoping that plus the iPad plus Pirate's Booty will get us through! All in all, the entire process from start to publish took maybe 30 minutes and I am so happy with the results. 

I mean, look at the sweet little detail I was able to add to the book spine for my babe: 

The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift

My wheels are turning and I think a certain toddler I know might just be making a book or two for his grandparents for Christmas gifts - luckily, Blurb has a "gifting" section with tons of inspiration and important order by dates for the holidays, so hop on that! 

I can't wait to see Gray open this on Christmas morning!
Now, where to hide it until then... 


The Perfect Toddler Christmas Gift






thanks for helping me snag these shots, Amanda Louise!