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
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 or calling all of your friends for recommendations.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


A week ago, Ryan went out of town for five days, I had learned that Levi was a carrier of strep, and I hosted a family of six people. And though I was so happy to host because they are such dear friends of ours, I felt my anxiety rise the day Ryan left and they arrived. I thought, "What in the world am I doing? I'm a mad woman." And then, in the quiet, as I was listening to the thoughts in my head, my heart spoke and it said, "Are you trusting Me?" I knew it was God reminding me to let go and trust Him with Levi's health, with my fears of fatigue and with my to-do list for work. "You're right, Lord. I'm not trusting you," I said. And then I prayed for Levi to get better and for God to give me patience and rest throughout the week. 

Later that day I got a call from his pediatrician that his rapid strep culture had given a false positive because the one they sent out for testing was negative. (Insert jaw drop). I couldn't have been more thankful for those results. For now, we will wait and see if he gets it again, but he doesn't need surgery right now and that is a weight lifted.

My friends soon arrived and it was so much fun. They are dream house guests, but it was such a delight for my kids to have someone to play with for the week. I knew when I extended the invitation for them to come stay that this would be the case, but we all have those moments of fear that steal those pleasant thoughts. 

Before I knew it Friday had come and Ryan was home. I can't say that I showered a lot, fixed my hair and makeup or had meals on the table like most weeks, but I made it with a lot of smiles along the way. I definitely was tired, but a happy tired like after you finish working out.

My heart feels strong after finishing the week not because I did a bunch of stuff, but because I kept my faith strong and I delighted and gave thanks along the way for little things. I wrote a gratitude list of the things that brought me happiness this past week (see it below). It's a practice I do once in awhile after I read the book 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It's a great thing to turn to when you're feeling down. One thing you will notice is that I purposefully wrote down things that did not involve other people. It's important for me to be able to find happiness without others because relying on them is too big of a responsibility or expectation for them to carry. Of course, I delight in those moments when my kids or husband make me smile, but I know I can smile and be happy on my own too.

Try it today or sometime this week, and tell me how it changes your heart. 

1. Fresh sunflowers - These were brought to me by my dear friends
2. My wooden bowl full of fresh fruit - I have a wooden bowl my aunt gave me that always sits on my counter, and I fill it twice a week with fruit. 
3. A fragrant candle burning in my windowsill - I'm obsessed with Standard Wax candles because they smell amazing, burn clear and are made locally. I burn them every day, and last week I got a fresh box of scents just in time. 
4. A hot bowl of miso soup - I make soup for lunch almost every day. There's something about warm beverages and warm soup that is comforting to me. 
5. Keeping the doors open and letting the breeze come in - Arizona's best month of the year is March. We constantly leave our doors open for the kids to run in and out. I love feeling the breeze inside and being able to watch them play as I take care of things like laundry and cleaning.
6. Putting on my night cream and smelling the aromatherapy - I never liked my bedtime routine until now. I look forward to sleeping every day, and putting on Aveda aromatherapy night cream is such a treat to fall asleep to.
7. Feeling the fuzzy carpet on my bare feet - I rarely wear shoes inside, and if I could, I would always be barefoot. 
8. Wearing overalls - They just make me feel like a kid again (see this past post for more inspo). 
9. Whenever I see the brand Levi's when I'm shopping - I recently found a Levi's t-shirt and I love wearing it, and then when I was going to photograph this outfit in my Levi's overalls I found this old sign that says Levi's Strauss Overalls! Whaaaa?! So happy!
10. Putting on lipstick - I do this every day, multiple times a day, and I love it. It just brightens me up. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; This post contains affiliate links. Handbag and watch were gifted by Fossil. 


Friendships have always equated to family, especially being an only child. It felt like I had so many sisters growing up. We celebrated holidays together, traveled together and shared our lives together. However, since getting married and becoming a mom, the rank friendships once held has diminished, and rightfully so. My husband and my kids come first, but friendships are still a very necessary part of my life. How to balance them, on the other hand, has become tricky. So, in this installment of the Real Mom Series we are talking about how we maintain friendships. Please be sure to read stories from other moms: Apartment 34The Effortless Chic, The Refined Woman, The Sweetest Occassion

When Elle was born I didn't find it very hard to maintain my friendships. They still took a big chunk of my time, and I was happy to give them the time they deserved. Elle was such an easy baby that she went everywhere with me - to shopping dates, to dinners, to work events...So, it was easy to catch up with friends and stay in their lives. However, when Levi came all of that shifted. Two kids is a lot more work, and, consequently, a lot less spare time for friends. It has taken more intentionality on my part to be a good friend. And truthfully, a lot of them have fallen apart because of it because I just couldn't maintain them all in the way that I wanted to. 

I had to grieve that expectation for myself and my friends. I came to a point of realization that I couldn't have as many friends, and that I the friends that I kept close were the few that I could go deep with. I didn't necessarily just drop people or weed them out. Naturally, I just saw the ones that felt easy and natural. So, proximity plays a big roll, as well as initiation on both parts. 

I have about four good friends that I share with regularly through meet ups, texts and phone calls, and that's about it. And the qualities that I love most about these women are: honesty, a desire to be better, grace for mistakes, and a lot of laughter.

We don't travel together or celebrate holidays together, and they surely don't come before my guy or my kids, but we do share our lives together still. It's just through a lot of intentional conversation, and I've realized that's enough. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer



Every month I have a real conversation about different aspects of motherhood along with some other mamas in the blog-o-sphere as part of "The Real Mom Series." This month we're talking about education, and since we're in all different phases of motherhood you'll get to hear from many perspectives. Be sure to visit the other blogs to read more:

The Refined Woman, Design for Mankind, The Effortless Chic, Cloistered Away, Sarah Sherman Samuel

This topic of education is timely because Elle just finished her first year of preschool, and we are reassessing where she should attend next year. It's times like these where I wish I majored in family studies, psychology or education so that I know what is the "best" and "right" way to educate children. I wouldn't say we made a mistake this past year, but I would say we didn't really make the best choice for Elle and here's why...

I chose our past preschool based on recommendations from moms and educators in the area. You would think that's a surefire way to know if a school is good, but you know what I have found to be a better way to choose a school for your child? Your maternal instincts. Something told me that she just wasn't enjoying herself and she always came home tired and quiet. I thought it was because she just wasn't used to four hours of a classroom environment. 

In my gut I was 100% sold on her preschool, but I just kept telling myself, "But, it's the best in the area. Everyone says so." Well, this summer she has been attending a summer preschool program at a different school, and she has been coming home so rejuvenated and happy. It's an even longer day that her other school and she goes daily. I was preparing myself for a super tired three year old, but I was wrong. So, that got me to thinking, maybe her other preschool isn't really the best even though everyone says so. But, that really begs the question, how do I know what is best? Here's my two cents from a mom that is still figuring it out.

Well, I think the first step is to assess your child's personality.

Elle is an extroverted leader, and I think some teachers would classify her as a strong willed child because she argues everything to death (just like her mama). I love that about her, but it makes things challenging for a teacher. If  Elle can't see the personal benefit of something she simply won't do it. In fact, if you start any sentence with a command she will just rebel against it to try and assert power. It's just who she is and how she was made. All that to say, how schools handle behavioral issues is a very important aspect to how we need to pick a school. I felt like her past preschool constantly was telling her "no" and "don't" and "timeout." I also didn't feel that they embraced that part of her personality and tried to channel it in a positive way. So, we need to find a place that approaches correction with positive affirmation of good behavior. For example, "Good choice, Mary. Thank you for sitting on your square. Good choice, Ben..." and so on until the person not making a good choice realizes that they can receive the positive affirmation they are looking for by sitting down. Because Elle is extroverted, more time to play with friends is also a factor. Here past school only offered three hour mornings three days a week for her age, but there are other schools that offer daily school with longer days. 

The next step would be to tour the school and see if you have a good feeling about it.

Sometimes you just need to trust your intuition. You can read about a school on paper and it sounds fabulous, but until you tour it and talk with the teachers you won't know if it's a good fit or not. I've toured about five different preschools, and I definitely had better feelings about some schools than others. I would look at whether the school was clean, if it was safe, if it was organized, if the student/teacher ratio was good, etc. We also have a serious nut allergy in our home, so how they handle food at school is a bit of a factor. I also would ask about the teacher/student ratio. Children learn better in smaller class sizes because they can have more time with the teacher. It's just the truth, so if you can find a place that has a good student/teacher ratio then you're on the right track for success.

The next would be to see if the communication between the school and the parents is frequent and friendly. 

Anytime a teacher seems bothered to talk to a parent there should be a red flag. Parents and teachers have to work together to make learning enjoyable. Sometimes when Elle's teacher would ask me to work on something with her I felt at a loss as to how to do that. I really wish they could have given me some examples of how to work on fine motor skills. Instead, I just went to Pinterest to look up idea in hopes that those ideas would work. I also wanted to know more about what they were going to learn in the coming months so that I could reinforce those ideas at home.

There's no surefire way to find the right school. Sometimes you just have to try it and see. I thought I would screw Elle up by taking her out of school and putting her into a different one. I also thought I was a bad mom for making her go to school in the summer for longer days. You know what? Your kids may surprise you, and trusting your gut works better than you think!