NIGHTTIME ROUTINE

Many parents have a nighttime routine that consists of a bath, a story and maybe even prayers. We do all of those things too, but there's something special that we do each night with Elle that I wanted to share with you.

When Elle began to talk I quickly realized how special nighttime is for us as parents because, often, during the quiet moments of hugs, kisses and prayers we hear Elle's fears, the things she is most excited about and the things she looks forward to most. It's a moment when we can better discover who she is at the core of her being.

I don't remember when exactly this tradition of ours started, but one night she was a bit scared of the dark. So, to get her mind off of scary thoughts, I asked her to tell me an idea she had. I asked her to think about an off-the-wall crazy invention or something wild that we could do as a family. To help her along, I shared my own whacky idea of filling our pool full of pudding and floating on cookies. Then Ryan took a turn. He said he was going to build a rollercoaster from our house to school. Elle joined in, and shared her cute idea of building an Elsa car with seats for every family member. 

Now we end the night this way every time along with kisses and hugs and sips of water because it not only ends the day on a fun note, but she goes to sleep with big dreams, happy thoughts and validation from her parents that we enjoy her. It also stretches her imagination and our imaginations to places it normally doesn't go. These are things I think we lose along the way as we grow older, but they really should never be lost. I highly recommend trying this with your kids one night, and I would love to hear how it went for you. I would love to hear what you learn about your kids through doing this too.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

Multifunctional Storage Ideas

We have an open floor plan in our home. I love it, but we don't have much storage as a result. One thing that we desperately want is storage for our kids' toys. They are in an old Ikea unit right now, but you can see the toys and the daily mess from every angle of our first floor. So, we've been planning to build some simple storage and functional seating with some good 'ole inspiration from Pinterest. 

1 // I love this example from Domino Magazine of storage being functional and beautiful at the same time. The lucite handles are particularly enticing to me, as well as the indigo pillows. 

2// This built-in storage bench showcases exactly what we hope to do with our toys. The cut-out handles are a modern solution to pulls and could possibly bring the cost down.

3// This traditional example of a storage bench intrigues me because they have painted theirs with a pop of color. Since all of our walls are white this might be something to consider.

4// Such a sweet nook for a kid's room, and the leather handles on these storage bins are on point. A casual DIY idea that would fit well in our home. (source unknown).

Stay tuned to see what we do next, and if you have anymore storage solution ideas I would love to hear them.

I DON'T WANT TO WEAR SHAPEWEAR

Back in August, I shared a vulnerable update on what my body looked like almost one year after having Levi. Today, I'm sharing with you unedited pictures of that same body in a one piece. It's scary for me for some reason, but it really shouldn't be. This is me. This is my body. It's beautiful, but I also don't feel strong and I want to tone up the jiggle. I don't want to have to wear Spanx or one pieces to feel confident.

Prior to my pregnancy with Levi I was in the best shape of my life. I worked out at the gym three times a week, wore a size 2/4 and felt stronger than I ever had. So, knowing my body has the potential to not have a lot of jiggle and to FEEL strong made me want to get back into shape. 

I had resolved many times throughout my post-partum season to get to my butt to the gym. Well, as some of you know, we battled a lot of health issues for Levi at the time and getting to the gym was a struggle. I couldn't take him with me, and waking up at the wee hours of the morning or doing it at night was taken up by work since I had to take off so many days. 

Fast forward to now...I am 18 months post-partum and my body hasn't changed one bit. I'm still wearing size 6 pants and my tummy and arms jiggle like jello. I don't weigh much at all. I'm only one 130, but I don't feel strong and I still have to wear spanx smooth my lumps under dresses. I hate that!

I don't want to have to wear hot, sweaty, beige underwear to make my body look better. I want to naturally do it myself by toning up and getting in shape. So, for the past six days and for the rest of this month I have committed myself to Core Body Pilates. (You may have already seen posts about it on my Instagram stories). It is said that after 10 times you'll feel different and after 20 times you'll see results. Well, I'll tell you what...After only six times I'm seeing results and I'm feeling stronger. 

More about what I've learned in pilates soon, but for now, you can join me on Instagram to see daily updates on my progress. 

EASTER OUTFITS

This post is sponsored by Carter's;Β however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Getting dressed up for Easter is a tradition I love, and the hunt for the perfect Easter outfit is almost as good as hunting for Easter eggs because I can find everything I need at Carter's. They always have adorable selection of Easter outfits for boys and girls from infants to big kids. I had the pleasure of teaming of up Carter's to show you how I'm dressing Elle and Levi for the most meaningful holiday to our family and be sure to grab the coupon below for amazing savings for your family.

Easter is the most meaningful holiday to us because of our Christian faith. It's the foundation on which our belief stands, so we love to dress up for Sunday church and then, like many families, have a big brunch afterwards with ham, scalloped corn and all of the fixins. Of course, there is a big easter egg hunt for the kids too.

It's pretty hot in Arizona by the time Easter rolls around, so shorts and sleeveless dresses are what I look for. A simple pastel pink button up shirt and seersucker shorts with chambray chukkas is what I selected for Levi. It's festive and dressy, but he can run and be a kid in this outfit.Β This year will be especially fun because Levi will get to join in on the Easter egg hunt now that he's walking and talking.

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Now that Elle is four and a half she loves being a part of the Easter dress shopping process. When we visited our local Carter's store she loved every dress, but this white floral one caught her eye because of the twirl factor. It has a full skirt and a bow in the back, and those details won my girly, girl's heart. For shoes, I selected polkadot mary-janes with a rubber sole that are perfect for Easter as well as any other day at school. They allow her to run and be a kid without blisters or slipping.Β 

Our Easter wardrobe is complete thanks to Carter's. If you shop online or in their stores before April 9, 2017 you can earn 25% off your purchase of $40 or more with the coupon below and take care of your Easter shopping in one swoop.Β 

Have a wonderful Easter from our family to yours! Hoppy shopping! (wink)

Carter's partners with bloggers like me to help promote their spring baby fashion. As part of their program, I received products or gift cards. Carter's believes consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Carter's provided me with information on promotions and messaging concepts, but did not tell me what to purchase, what to write in my blog or what to say about the products I used.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

REAL TALK REAL MOMS: CHILDCARE

Finding good childcare has surprisingly been one the biggest challenges in parenting for me. You obviously don't just want to leave your kids with anyone, but finding the right person to trust is hard. It takes risk, investment and time to make it work. The Real Mom series is back as we get into the nitty gritty of what has worked for us and what hasn't with hired help. Be sure to the other real mamas' perspectives: The Effortless Chic; Sacramento Street; The Life Styled; FreutcakeHey Mama Co; A Daily Something; Thoughts by Natalie; The Sweetest Occasion; Sarah Sherman Samuel
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We have gone through four babysitters all of whom our kids have adored, fallen in love with and have moved on (with the exception of occasional night or two). I didn't realize how hard it would be to not just find someone amazing, but keep someone amazing. I think the worst part of the whole childcare process has been having to break it to my kids that their babysitter isn't coming back. 

What I have learned is that most qualified sitters or nannies are looking for something full-time. Often they will take the work they can get, but I've never been in a place that I could afford full-time care nor do I want that for this season of motherhood. So, it's understandable that they have needed to move on, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

Thankfully, most of our sitters have been able to babysit for us here and there when we are in need for a date night, but I was still left with a problem of how to find consistent childcare?

Preschool for both kids came sooner than we thought. I didn't plan on putting Levi in school at one years old, especially with his health ups and downs, but I needed to know that someone wasn't going to cancel on me last minute or quit all together for the sake of my job and my sanity. I felt so guilty about it because it wasn't what I had planned, and I had it in my mind that being home was the best thing for my kids. To my surprise, it ended up being the best decision I have ever made. 

Elle is a social butterfly and thrives in a school environment. This was not a surprise to me, and it sure gave me a peace about placing her in school. She needed to be challenged and she needed the socialization. We found a small Christian preschool not too far away that was recommended by kindergarten teachers in our area, and she goes five mornings a week.

For Levi, it was a bit harder to find a school that would take him at 1 years old, but we found another small Christian school up the road that takes such great care of him. Levi doesn't talk very much, but he has started to talk more since being around other kids. One thing that I have particularly noticed is that he is able to sit at a table nicely and eat his food, he puts his toys away when you ask him and he can sit criss cross applesauce on the floor while listening to a story. These are all things that Elle struggled with when we transitioned her to preschool at three years old. I must say that having a one year old with good manners is AMAZING!

I pick them both up at 11:30. We come home and have lunch and nap/quiet time and have the rest of the day together. It's perfect. I have also preferred school because I'm able to work from home instead of a coffee shop. Taking conference calls in your car is annoying to say the least.

If you're a mom like me that feels guilty about putting your kids in daycare, don't be. In many ways it can offer better learning experiences than keeping them home with a sitter. 

I will also say that the BEST babysitter we have EVER had came from a local nanny agency. We told the agency what we were looking for and they prescreened and interviewed candidates for us. They submitted five to us, and the very first one we met, we loved. We were given her driving record, her CPR certification and a resume. We also had a two month trial period. The agency charged us a percentage of her monthly earnings, and that's it. After the trial period was over we were able to work with our nanny on our own terms. Though we couldn't keep her after a couple months due to her needing more hours, it was SUCH a great experience and now she babysits for us for date nights and other things. She has become a part of our family, and the kids see her at least once a week. So, if you are looking for a nanny try an agency and save yourself the hassle of care.com or calling all of your friends for recommendations.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer