Normal Day Treasures

6 10 2015

normal day

The sun is back. It’s been a long time since we have caught even a ray of it! Today can pretty much be chalked up to a perfect “normal” day. I thought a lot about how grateful I am to have a generally positive attitude, as I was pulled in a million different directions at work while my sons were away from me at daycare. I began to look for the treasures hidden in the day, reflecting on each one as its own silver lining. I hope to collect these thoughts later in my journal of blessings (inspired by Ann Voskamp).

The fog settling over the valley was so pretty during my drive to work this morning. Stumbling over my words as I tried to explain fog to my 3-year-old.

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My 12-month-old waving goodbye to me from the comfort of his teacher’s arms. A tear-free transition. Finally.

Arriving to work 10 minutes early and using the time to walk a prayer circle behind the school. Still in awe that I get to work in such a beautiful place.

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And feeling blessed that at my new job, I get to be a full-blown counselor. Almost 100% of my time is spent directly with students individually, in small groups, and in the classroom (I log my hours in NoteCounselor after school every day). When I’m not directly with students, I’m talking to their parents or conferencing with their teachers, also direct hours. It makes for busy days, and my principal has begun to exclaim, “You came back!” after some of the most eventful days.

Getting a handwritten card from my principal, just thanking me for being at the school and being a positive light.

Having one of the most respected teachers in the school, the one who never speaks when I teach in her classroom, seek me out in my office later just to say, “Thank you. You have such a calm and soothing voice for the kids, you talk to them in such a way that they have no choice but to want to follow your directions.”

Me: an awe-struck puddle on the floor.

Missing lunch to facilitate the toughest small group of them all, and seeing the boys’ tough exteriors begin to crack as they slowly trust each other. Finding a pocket of 10 minutes afterward to eat a bowl of hot soup and a full-size Hershey bar.

At car rider duty, a parent sincerely telling me, “It’s so nice to see a smiling face every single day. Thank you.”

Staying after school to coach a running club, running alongside a new coworker who is exactly my pace, and finding out we grew up in the same hometown.

My 3-year-old, after spotting me at daycare, running toward the gate with open arms, not yet too cool for such affection over Mommy or for falling head over heels to hug me.

Finding a free book for the boys in our mailbox: “Llama Llama and the Bully Goat.”

Wolfing down leftover Greek dinner my husband made last night before leaving the house one last time for the evening.

Driving through my favorite canopy of trees today…

…six different times.

The first and sixth trips with cups of hot coffee.

Opting to let my hairdresser straighten my hair before I left. (I ALWAYS leave the salon with wet curly hair.) Laughing with her about the 3 wiry white hairs I found on my head this week.

Teaching my 3-year-old how to play a board game before bed. How to roll a die. How to take turns and play fairly.

Watching his excitement as he taught his daddy how to play the same game while I watched, nursing the baby to sleep.

Trying on pretty Stitch Fix items, debating what to keep and what to send back.

Finding quiet time to blog and do laundry.

Grateful for my decision to cloth diaper as I hung them to dry. Looking forward to having a new friend over next week who wants to learn about cloth diapers.

Thinking about the 5 cute little cloth diaper pails, lined up all in a row at daycare.

Being able to answer my toddler when he asked, “Mommy, are you coming to the pumpkin patch with me and my class?”

“Yes, Mommy is coming.”

I’d rearrange the world for you. 





Sage |O-N-E

27 09 2015

Happy birthday, Sage! I can’t believe it has been a whole year since you made us a family of four. Today we party!

Sage Bartley - 12 months photo by Ashley Bartley - mom

Your First Birthday

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Wearing size 24 months and 2T | Long, wispy blond hair | Eyes – blue like mommy’s, shaped like daddy’s | Dimples for days | Sleeping in your crib | Teething | Nursing at least 3x a day and alllll night | Refuses bottles | Eats everything | Loves bananas | 92nd percentile for weight | 99th for head | Refuses Wubbanub | 10 fingers | 10 toes | Loves being worn | Wears cloth diapers | Climbs staircases | Smiles in a straight line | Rides tricycle | Walks with help | Gives sloppy kisses and hard hugs | Bites Mommy

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(Bites Mommy.)

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They grow so fast

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You and your brother are 26 months apart and the very best of friends. He’s the first person you call for in the morning from your crib, and he constantly looks out for you. Your brother is quick to say, “No more babies, I just want Sage.” ❤

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Sage, as you fell asleep (for round one) on the eve of your birthday, I prayed over you, so many things.

I love you.

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Sage 12 month birthday collage - photos by Ashley Bartley





Reclaiming Life Lately

6 09 2015

Last year was an act of learning to juggle a toddler and a newborn as a working/commuting mom, and our schedule was hectic and seemingly unforgiving. I wouldn’t trade my kids’ ages for the world, but I am slowly trying to make large and small decisions that will best impact our family, fine-tuning our routines in an attempt to simplify and gain minutes.

JOB | One of the biggest changes I made this year was switching my job (not my career) to a new location, cutting my commute in half. I also don’t have to be at work quite as early anymore, so that also allows me more time at home in the mornings and evenings.

SCALE | I bought a small digital postage scale and now save dozens of trips to the post office when I need to ship things I’ve sold online, which is about 3-4 times per week. I just use PayPal, which is cheaper than USPS anyway. Game-changer!

CLUTTER | I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and have spent a good chunk of time lately de-cluttering. Marie Kondo teaches how to evaluate every item in your home to determine whether to keep it or discard it. Just read it, I promise. I am the most sentimental person and I threw away things I never would have before!

I used to hate cleaning and now I actually look forward to it because I know I’m only surrounded by the items that I love and will use. My husband and I have a large master bedroom that was a constant source of stress for me with all its clutter and heavy, tired furniture. After reading Kondo’s tried-and-true, step-by-step method of “tidying,” I was able to get rid of at least 5 truckloads of stuff from my bedroom and one closet alone – some donated, most tossed, some in a yardsale pile. Once I de-cluttered, I realized we no longer had a need for 4 – FOUR! – of the large pieces of furniture in our bedroom, which were just there hiding junk! As a treat for our reclaimed space, I scored an oversized mirror at HomeGoods to hang against one newly-bare wall. (This wall used to have a changing table piled high with mountains of baby laundry all over it. We never even changed the baby on it!)

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Where a once-overflowing computer desk was, I staged a chair, ottoman, side table, throw blanket, and lamp to create a relaxing reading nook. It’s actually where I’m blogging right now!

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This freed up a lot of the furniture that had been crowding our living room. We also removed the footboard from our king-sized bed, which made a world of difference in opening up the room – who would have guessed that such a simple change would have such a big impact? I found new lamps at TJ Maxx that are brighter and more whimsical.

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I only use my dresser for running clothes and gear, but I followed the book’s advice on folding vertically and it worked!Before and after

Eventually we want to change out basically everything – the paint, flooring, bedding, and curtains (and paint the furniture and add new hardware), but right now we have other priorities. Still, it has been fun making lots of trips to HomeGoods and TJ Maxx this week for inspiration!

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CRIB | We finally transitioned our 11-month-old out of the Pack-n-Play in our room into a crib in his own room for the first time, which we meant to do when he turned 6 months. Of course I loved having him right there with us, especially with nursing, but it’s also nice not to have to tiptoe around or worry about turning lights on anymore.

GAINS |

With these changes, I’ve been able to devote more time in the mornings to getting my kids dressed, and we all eat breakfast together now. And I can sleep in 15 minutes later than I did last year! I now have the option of swinging by the house after work on my way to daycare to unload my car and get a few chores started/done so that I can be more present with my family once we are all home. Otherwise, I’m running around trying to get things washed and repacked for the next day during my precious family time. Our things all have a place now, so nothing is left just lying around creating more visual clutter. It’s SUCH a breath of fresh air!

I hope that you all are able to make the most of your time this holiday weekend! I’m so excited that fall will be here soon!





No-Sleep Week | Worth It.

13 07 2015

July is one of my favorite months, for good reason. This year, between the 4th of July, my son’s 3rd birthday, my birthday, a trip to the lake, a drive-in movie, a family trip to Busch Gardens, teaching preschoolers, and a kayaking excursion (sans kids) with a group from our church, we are EXHAUSTED in a good way!

My son loved every bit of his 3rd birthday party. We decided to invite several of his friends from preschool and church in addition to family. The theme was construction. I’m sure a blog post will come eventually. It was pretty hectic getting everything ready because we were out watching fireworks the night before, but I guess that will always be the case.

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I had jokingly “complained” to my husband that I never celebrate my birthday anymore, because my son and I have our birthdays a day apart. He went out of his way for me this year – he took off work so that we could all go to the lake. I rode my son’s new scooter around our neighborhood (where were these when I was little?!), got extra snuggle time with the baby, went to Target, drank coffee and flipped through a magazine (unheard of!), and had a yummy birthday dinner. And had my own cake, even though we had about 2 dozen leftover cupcakes from E’s party.

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On Thursday, we attempted our first drive-in movie to see Minions and Inside Out with free tickets we had. Both kids were restless, so we only stayed for Minions. We are just not movie-watchers – none of us can sit still for that long!

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We also joined my husband’s family for a day-trip to Busch Gardens. It ended up being a perfect day despite the forecast of rain – the sky was cloudy and overcast and there was a cool breeze, unreal for mid-July! There was a torrential downpour midday that pretty much emptied out the park and shut down the rides, but we were eating lunch then. When we returned to the park, the rides were reopening with essentially no lines. So I think we rode almost every ride in the park plus visited both kiddie play areas. It rained again that night while we were on a roller coaster – the rain was coming down so hard, we could barely breathe! I ended up with 18k+ steps on my FitBit even with 5 hours in the car.

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Props to Busch for having a nice nursing center in the kiddie area. I don’t care about privacy so much, but it had rained off and on and all the benches outside were soaked and all the covered seating was taken. Land of the Dragons had 2 private, locking rooms with couches, so I took advantage of the space to get my baby changed and fed before heading back out into the rainy weather.
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The next morning, we taught 24 preschoolers at church and headed out for our first kayaking adventure! We rented kayaks and dropped our kids off with family, joining our church group at my favorite lake. We loved it and were a little sad to return the kayaks the next day. Kayaking on the serene lake was basically the opposite of going to Busch Gardens. 

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(Does anyone know how to still get FitBit steps while kayaking? I didn’t get any with it strapped to my wrist! And we kayaked for HOURS!)

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I am loving summer, but here’s to hoping for more sleep this week! 🙂





4th of July | 2015

5 07 2015

The 4th of July has ALWAYS been my favorite holiday. This year we visited a hot air balloon festival, made red, white, and blue bark, and took my parents to our favorite brewery, followed by spectacular fireworks at a ski resort!

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That night, after the boys fells asleep, I held my toddler’s hand and prayed for him (and my patience this year as a mommy of 2) as the clock struck midnight and he turned into a 3-year-old!





Five on Friday

3 07 2015

Linking up with September Farm and The Farmer’s Wife (she has news!) for oh hey, Friday and April for Five on Friday!

This week brings so much celebration – my brother-in-law got married, one of my best friends had a baby (and I held him!), obvi the 4th of July, and then my son’s birthday and mine fall the next 2 days! So this morning will just be a quick recap of our week:

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one | My “Mommy and Me” yoga class inspired me to get a yoga mat ($2 new at a yardsale) and a workout DVD (free at library). Neither of which will get me any steps toward the challenge I recently registered for with September Farm, but at least I’ll be motivated to train for two upcoming races.

two | I took the boys on a lake outing. It had all the benefits of the beach, as far as toddlers and babies are concerned, without the long drive. They loved it!

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three | We’ve been going to a nearby peach orchard each week for their children’s program. Since my husband and I are on a “no donuts for a year” kick, I bypass their peach cider donuts and get a slice of fresh, homemade peach pie or a peach milkshake. Heavenly.

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four | I stumbled upon this playground not far from my house through a library program. I cannot BELIEVE we didn’t know about this place! We were also excited to get free lunches, and the boys each picked out brand new, free books to keep!

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five | We also went to our first $1 movie at Regal! Sage loved the movie but then nursed for the last half. E was terrified and shouted loudly every few minutes, “I want to go home and get in my bed!”

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And now… off to celebrate the 4th and party on my little guy’s THIRD birthday! Weren’t we just celebrating his 1st birthday with our matching birthday smashcakes?

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Have a safe and happy Independence Day!





Five on Friday

19 06 2015

Linking up with Karli and Amy for oh hey, Friday and April for Five on Friday!

Now that I’m off work just for the summer, I try to leave the house everyday with the kids, which can be exhausting at times, but rewarding. It’s a lot of work to pack up everything for the day and make sure they’re fed/changed before we leave, but more fun than chasing them around the house all day long! And certainly more fun than packing up their stuff to be away from them all day while they’re at daycare – plus no pump parts and bottles to wash! We’ve been able to do so many things this week that I normally can’t do when I work during the school year, from trips, to playdates, to starting fun projects and trying out new recipes.

It makes me a little sad to see how close the boys get to me, and how sweet they are to me and to each other throughout the day. When I work, I come home to tantrums that last all evening after we’ve been apart for 10+ hours, and I miss out on all these little moments.

one | We scoped out a new-to-us playground. E always prefers the big kids’ playground to the toddler ones!

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two | After visiting a puppet show and signing up for a couple summer reading programs at local libraries, we went to another program at an elementary school. They provided a free lunch during the puppet show, with BBQ sandwiches, chips, cookies, apples, carrots, and water bottles for the kids and for the adults!IMG_3628

three | I don’t have a green thumb, but I’ve been diligently checking our garden each day for progress. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, basil, lemongrass, and peppers. My favorite, though, is the sunflower my son brought home from school. I love that it was tiny when he brought it home, but it will eventually grow taller than he is!

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Using my basil, I made a one-pot pasta dish this week with most of the little plant. It was so good, so easy, so PRETTY, and a keeper for sure!

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four | Water balloons – fun to fill, fun to throw, but not sure they were worth the meltdown that ensued when I threw one at his little piggies!IMG_3684

five | I must have caught an exercise bug, because yesterday I got up early and ran on the treadmill, and last night, I attended my first free “Mommy and Me” yoga class at a natural parenting store taught by a friend from church. My midwife suggested I try yoga after several recent bouts of tachycardia. At the time, I just laughed, but I loved, LOVED it, and so did Sage. He was fascinated by the poses, laughing and clapping (probably distracting), and he loved participating and being held all the different ways. I was also surprised to learn that the instructor began yoga because of tachycardia, too. This might be something new to try!

Happy Friday!





Nursery Transformation

17 05 2015

Much like how any actual progress on our nursery transformation went down, I wrote most of this blog post on 7/3/14 and then didn’t return to it until today. We decided to move our oldest son out of his nursery and into a toddler room, and convert the nursery into a guest room/nursery with new decor.

We don’t have a theme for our new nursery other than “rustic,” but things are coming together. I don’t like themes because I think they lead to collections. Our first order of business was a closet makeover. It’s still a work-in-progress, but much more functional and keeps a lot of toys off the floor.

We worked our design around a crate we found at Homegoods. We never found the match after searching every Homegoods in a 3-hour radius, but we did find 2 matching smaller crates. My husband designed, built, and painted shelving along the bottom of the closet to fit the crate. We removed the closet doors, making that area of the room so much more open. Once I rearranged the furniture, it became a larger play area.

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[Wow. My child doesn’t look like this anymore]

Next up was the dresser. We have a super-nice baby dresser from my sister, and I was itching to try chalk paint – the dresser was the perfect piece, since its wood is already a different color than everything else in the nursery.

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I watched a ton of Annie Sloan chalk paint tutorials, but in the end, the paint dealers were always either closed or out of what I needed, so I went with CeCe Caldwell’s chalk paint in Sedona Red. I had a one-day window in which to finish while my son finished out daycare for the year, so CeCe’s it was! I was able to support a small local business with this purchase – a win-win!

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With chalk paint, there is no prep work or sanding required. I loved painting haphazardly on purpose! That’s what gives it interesting texture, especially when it’s time to add the wax.

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After two layers of chalk paint, I applied a coat of clear wax:

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And before you start thinking it looks too pink or coral for a boy… let’s change lighting. It reminds me of the red of a weathered picnic table. Or the natural clay at Arches National Park.

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On to the hardware. I removed the existing hardware and searched high and low for spherical dresser pulls to cover. I eventually found what I needed at Michaels and bought 120 feet of twine (to resemble jute rope), which was just enough for my husband to cover all nine knobs with a monkey fist knot. He drilled into the knobs to make them compatible with the hardware from the original knobs, and they fit perfectly! These would have been expensive to custom-order, so I’m glad he knew how to do it.

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Okay. Picking up now where I left off. Fast-forward 10 months. The baby is almost 8 months old and has barely visited the nursery. We’ve had a pallet in our yard since before he was born, waiting to be turned into wall art. While my husband tilled our new garden yesterday, I went to work on the pallet, removing 4 boards to expose the inner slats. My son helped me scrub it, and then I sanded off the rougher sides. I added a touch of wood glue here and there, and then hung it today – it’s so secure that you could probably climb on it. But don’t tell my kids that.

Pallet art - nurserywall art - nursery 2I cleaned the nursery up a bit and tried to hide the awful skirt on the guestbed that my vacuum burned. I took a few pics, although it was late and they’re dark! All we need now is the newest tenant to move in! But I’m not ready for him to leave my room just yet! 🙂

Nursery - May 2015

I’m terribly sentimental, so everything has a special meaning to me:

  • Ladder/medal rack: displays medals from 4/6 races I ran while pregnant with the baby, including 2 full marathons!
  • Laminated quotes from my “beautiful mess” baby shower and a Radio Flyer wagon painted by the art teacher at my elementary school
  • The bear card is also a watercolor by the same art teacher, but it was from my baby shower with E
  • Pallet art – by me! – full of all kinds of pieces sentimental to me. I think this might be my new quiet place!
  • The pail of daisies was one of our wedding centerpieces, and the clay handprints and footprints were molded when Sage was a week old
  • The bandana quilt was a labor of love from my mom

It’s kind of eclectic, but I love that it doesn’t scream “baby.” Which is good, because we wouldn’t want to wake him up. You know, if he ever moves in.





Five on Friday

15 05 2015

| Linking up with April for Five on Friday and Karli and Amy for oh hey, Friday |

Palindrome Week

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one | We had much to celebrate on Mother’s Day! We dedicated our son at church alongside 12 other families.

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two | Mother’s Day was also my husband’s birthday. While we didn’t do a huge bash like last year (I cannot even fathom pulling that off again with 2 little ones!), we did have 9 people over to celebrate after the dedication, including our mothers. My mother-in-law made a Boston cream cake, and I made him a creamy Swiss chicken bake for dinner. Who washes the dishes when it’s Mother’s Day and husband’s birthday??

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Mother’s Day weekend this year started out especially difficult for me, but I was encouraged on Sunday and blessed to be with family all day.

three | I just LOVE Emily Ley and her whole story. So even though I had been toying the idea of a Plum Paper planner, I caved and purchased another Simplified Planner for my 3rd year in a row. And by “purchased” I actually mean tracked down, because right when they launched last week, my school held an unannounced lockdown drill and I had to go into lockdown mode with my students. By the time the lockdown was over, they were sold out. That evening, I called retailers all over the US and had one shipped from Kansas. I’m still debating whether to keep it – it’s much smaller this year! I selected the gold pineapple academic weekly.

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four | I am now growing herbs in my kitchen alongside E’s sunflower. So far I have basil and lemon balm. I found several interesting ways to use lemon balm that I’m excited to try. What uses do you have for lemon balm?

five | Brothers. I love watching the boys together as they interact more and more. We have dance parties for them, we play outside, we watch them laugh together in the car, and we have lots of cuddles. I’m so glad they have each other.

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Happy Friday! I will leave you with a toddler tantrum. You’re welcome.

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Moccs, Rocks, and Kettle Corn

3 05 2015

This weekend was my 3rd weekend in a row solo with the kids. My husband was running in a 205-mile relay race across our state that lasted 2 days (which, by the way, WHAT?! And their 11-member team came in first in their division!), while I got in some quality time with the boys. There weren’t any tantrums, but Sage wanted to nurse pretty much every second that I was holding him, since there was no one to pass him off to. But we managed to squeeze in tons of fun together.

On Friday, I picked up some books on hold at the library and zipped into my local natural parenting shop to select some baby shower gifts and a cloth diaper wool overnight solution. I also bought a pair of baby moccs that I’ve loved ever since I saw them back in February. They are the softest, most buttery leather I’ve ever felt, and they are a perfect fit! The burnt orange is just crazy enough of a color that they can pair with anything.

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That evening, we were listening to some chill music my neighbor recorded, and my 2-year-old actually got the baby to fall asleep to it before falling asleep himself, so I had a rare quiet evening to myself!

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Saturday morning, I awoke to the happiest baby ever, plus a toddler in my bed.

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It took me from 5-10 AM to get them ready to get out of the house! We headed to a friend’s yardsale to soak in some Vitamin D and pickup a fun playmat.

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I just had to go back to the natural parenting shop to grab a few things I had been debating about. Like another pair of the same buttery soft orange moccs in a larger size, and one more overnight cloth diaper.

We played on the playground at our library and then went inside to feed the baby, read, and play – it was pretty much deserted because it was too gorgeous outside to be cooped up inside!

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I thought I’d take the boys to Chick-fil-a, but it was so crowded that we grabbed it to go from their iPOS server and picnicked elsewhere. Our lunch began as a tailgate, with all of us in the back of my SUV, until I remembered the playmat I had purchased at the yardsale that morning. So we quickly moved our lunch to the grass – it was E’s favorite part of the day, he would tell me later. I topped off my evening with a 1/2 price frappuccino at Starbucks.

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By Sunday, my husband was back home, and we covered the nursery at church – 13 babies! I came home and immediately inventoried our entire house with my camera after talking to a woman at church who just lost her home in a scary fire. We’ve been slowly getting things together for emergencies – I recently purchased a 2nd-story fire escape ladder as well.

We all headed out to the river for some rock-skipping, swinging, and running around the playground, then we decided to go driving, since it was too pretty to head home.

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We went back to Starbucks again for more half-price frappuccinos, then took our coffee and explored parts of our town we’ve never seen. We sampled the local kettle corn from a food truck and happened upon an old mansion. It was such a spontaneous, fun date while the kids napped in the car – they NEVER nap on the weekends, so this was a rare treat. The best weekend I’ve had in a long time! I hope you’ve enjoyed yours!