Friday, April 18, 2014

A Very Good Friday

All Aboard the Baby Train
We have a slew of babies coming into our world the next few months and, as of this week, they have started to make their arrivals!

April - My brother welcome his first baby boy this week
May - Stefan's sister Heather is having her third little boy
June - My sister Natalie is having her third ??? baby and one of my close friends Angie is having her first boy
July - Our third baby girl will be here, and according to our due dates, the next day Emily's second girl will arrive

Whew. Not to mention, we have a few Fall babies coming too - Maggie's first little boy and Ashley's second baby! I love that our kids are going to have so many buddies coming along.

Shopping Time
As Lent draws to a close, I have to admit I cannot wait to shop for some Spring clothes for myself and the girls. I definitely don't need much in terms of clothing since I have all of my maternity clothes from Audrey's pregnancy, but I've had a hard time resisting getting some cute goodies for the girls especially now that I have three little girls to shop for!

Heartbleed Bug 
This is more of a PSA, but if you aren't aware of the massive Heartbleed bug that was released this week check it out here. It's potentially one of the worst bugs the internet has seen and has certainly kept my and my clients busy this week. Biggest pieces of advice - change your passwords as a precaution.

Just as a side note - I highly recommend using a secure checkout when shopping online especially with small to medium sized retailers. I always try to use Paypal when shopping on smaller sites since I'm not aware of their security or the platform the use.

Being Thankful
I feel like everywhere I've turned this week, I've run into the concept of being thankful. It was in my devotional, mentioned in a conversation and I also saw this quote pop up in my pinterest account. Think someone upstairs is trying to tell me something? I guess He knows that sometimes I need a not-so-subtle signs.

Feeling thankful!

Good Friday
Speaking of being thankful, there really isn't a better day to stop and give thanks than Good Friday. What a beautiful day and sacrifice that we have been given.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Working Mom Life Balance Tips

I have put off writing on this topic for a while now because I, by no means, feel like I have it "all together" in terms of a work/life balance. But managing a career, household, family, marriage and social life is something I get asked about all the time. As much as I hesitate giving advice on this topic, here are a few things I have learned along the way, mostly through trial and error, that work for our family.

A Little Background: I worked in my company's headquarters for a few years while we lived in North Carolina and was fortunate that they have allowed me to continue my job when we relocated and work from home. Stefan's job requires him to travel - a lot. A whole lot. Most weeks I am home with the girls (2 1/2 and 16 months) by myself. It's certainly not ideal, but we both love what we do and are making it work for our family.

Plan Ahead
I am a natural planner which is a benefit for our lifestyle. I try to plan ahead for everything. I plan our meals, nightly activities, weekend activities, etc. If I can plan little things like what we are going to have for dinner, it helps our nights run smoother, and I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my family. Surprisingly being more planned out has allowed us for more spontaneity because I have thirty extra minutes to go to the park instead of figuring out what to cook for dinner.

Keep a Calendar
I live and die by my calendar. I actually use both a Google calendar and a paper calendar.The Google one is synced with my computers, phone, and iPad. I share it with Stefan so we always know what each other is up to even when we aren't in the same location. My friends tease me about this all the time because if we meet for lunch, you'd better believe you're getting a calendar invite.

I keep a paper one because I like to visually look at the month. This is also where I keep important dates like birthdays and anniversaries written down. It also helps me to make sure that we aren't booking ourselves up for too many weekend trips in a row which is something we have been very guilty of in the past.

Build a Village
I'm a firm believer that life is a team sport. I have deliberately and strategically built up a team around me that helps us with our day to day, is a sounding board for advice, or just offers comic relief. For the girls specifically, in addition to our amazing family and friends that are always willing to help, we have Miss Kathy that keeps the girls while I'm at work and a standing date with Miss Magda in the evenings to help out as well.
k...g & g love you and can help you get through this...we are lucky for the support and that we have a new beginning for you

A couple years ago, Stefan and I were at a business dinner with one of the partners at his job and his wife. They both worked, had two school-aged kids that did lots of activities, and just seemed to have it all together. Of course, I started asking for advice. They told us a piece of advice that we now live by - Know what things in life need to be handled by you and what things you can outsource (I think his exact words were what you can throw money at to make life easier). At first it was hard for me to actually take this advice because honestly I'm way too cheap and wanted to be completely self sufficient. I thought I could cook homemade meals, have a spotless house, bargain shop, work 40+ hours at my job, spend time with my family, take care of myself physically and have a social life all at once.

What ended up happening was that after working a long work week, we ended up spending our weekends cleaning our house and doing endless chores instead of enjoying the limited time we got to spend together. I was focused on the things that don't truly matter.

That's when the outsourcing began. While I still spot clean and vacuum almost every night (I realize I'm a little crazy about that), I have two sweet ladies that help me deep clean so I don't have to spend my weekends doing it. I get a lot the already prepared meals from the local Farmer's market -most of which are actually organic and healthy too. I try to shop what's on sale, but I don't spend too much time comparing prices. I outsource as much as I possibly can to Amazon Mom Prime program (which allows you to set up a scheduled delivery for things like diapers and wipes) and I order a ton from Costco too. I shop online for a ton of my clothes and the girls too. I realize that this is a bit more expensive than if I were to do all of these things myself, but the amount of time it gives back to me to spend with my family is well worth it.

(I realize this would ALL change if I stayed at home as I would have more time to go do these things and one less income)

Make Family Time Meaningful
I often get jealous when I hear stay at home moms make comments about not knowing what to do with their kids. Like they need to find activities to fill up the day. I am in the complete opposite boat. I have a million things I want to do with my kids and a limited amount of time to do them which makes me feel insanely guilty. Stefan and I make it a point to spend a lot of our time on the weekends with our kids just simply playing. We don't turn on the TV a lot at our house on the weekends and try to put away all distractions so we can simply play.

Protect Your Marriage
To be honest, we haven't always been great at this. Our marriage hasn't always been in the forefront of our lives as it's easy to get caught up being parents, but for about the last year we have made a conscious effort to spend more time together as a couple. We do monthly date nights and try to do things together once the girls go down at night whether it's watching TV together, sitting on the back porch talking (typically while Stefan digs in the yard), playing cards or whatever. Our life and family works better when Stefan and I are connected as a couple.

Take Time for Yourself
This is hard to do, but I make sure that I take a little time for myself every week. Sometimes it's running to the grocery store alone while Magda has the girls, going to the gym during my lunch break, getting a manicure, or just reading alone in my room. I play a ton of roles - Mom, wife, employee, sister, friend, aunt, neighbor, etc. It's important to me that I grab a few minutes every week to just be Rachel and to focus on myself. It seems a little selfish to say that, but I truly feel I can be better in all of my roles if I'm allowed a few minutes to be alone.

Work at What You Love
I really enjoy what I do and not dreading going to work each day has made my life so much easier. If you do have to work or choose to work, make sure that it's something that you enjoy because it really does make all the difference in the world.

Enjoy the Journey 
Life is a journey, not a destination. I wholeheartedly believe that. When you look around you are going to see people in all different stages of life at all different ages, and that is beautiful. Don't compare your life to anyone else. I feel like we all get caught up in the mindset of well I'm this age so I should be doing XYZ, or I look around an everyone else has achieved these things in their lives, or even worse, everyone has these materials things that I don't have.

I feel like this is particularly relevant for women especially moms. Working moms feel judged by stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home moms feel judged by working moms. No one has it all figured out, and we are all doing the best we can. Encourage each other and respect each other's lives and decisions.

If you don't love where you are in life change it, but change it because it's what you want, not because it's what other people around you have or want for you. We are all blessed with different paths and we aren't supposed to all end up at the same place - how boring would that be? And I can guarantee that you have things in your life that others wish they had. Be grateful and enjoy this beautiful journey.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brunch and Babies

I've been a little MIA lately due to some back issues - apparently three babies and three years and one month while trying to still run and do everything I normally do is hard on your body. Who knew?!?

I did want to recap the adorable Brunch and Babies that Lauren and Sara threw for Emily and me. Since this is Emily's second and my third pregnancy and we are both having girls again, neither of us really needs anything but it was fun to get together and celebrate the new additions to our group.

The brunch was at Lauren's house on a perfect Spring morning. Her back porch is perfect for parties (it helps her hubs owns his own construction company and can build these amazing porches) and her plants are all so beautiful.

 We had a great time snacking on good food, having some cocktails/mocktails and just enjoying each other.

These nutella french toast bites were amazing! 
Breakfast casserole and mini Chicken-n-waffles (CFA chicken in support of Sara, of course)
We also found out that Maggie is expecting her first little boy too!! Yay for more babies all around!

Emily and I wanted to do something small but personalized for our gracious hostesses. I had been contacted by Treat to explore their products and it was the perfect fit for hostess gifts. We gave them fresh flowers, a personalized mug filled with fun Essie nail polish and manicure goodies, and personalized cards. I loved using Treat for the personalized cards because we were able to create a card that fit the personality of each hostess. Also, the shipping was super fast which is great for a procrastinator like myself.

Since we all just can't get enough of each other, we decided to cook out that night with the kiddos at Lauren's house since the table was already set up and the weather was just too perfect. It's safe to say that Audrey has a huge crush on Uncle Craig now.
Photo cred: Sara's IG

A big thank you to Lauren and Sara for hosting a perfect celebration for our new little ones!  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Bucket List

We had dinner on the porch last night which has definitely gotten me in the mood for everything Spring. I know I'm technically a few days late, but here is our Spring Bucket List.

Fly a Kite
Have a picnic at the park
Have date night at an outdoor restaurant 
Plant Flowers with the girls 
Visit the Botanical Gardens
Go for a hike 
Take the girls to an Easter Egg Hunt
Attend one of the outdoor concerts in Decatur's Square 
Transition Audrey to a Big Girl Bed 
Spend all day at the pool
Celebrate Audrey's 3rd Birthday ( has it been three years already?)
Take a girls' trip...Baby Bachelorette here I come!

I'm sure these fun activities coupled with the ever-present bubbles, sidewalk chalk and popsicles will make for a great Spring!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Happies

1. After traveling or having visitors for the past four weekends, I am spending a weekend at home. Queue the choir of angels! Stefan is actually going to be in Birmingham for a guys weekend so it will be just me and the little ladies. I can't wait.

2. Speaking of Stefan's guys weekend, he is going there to support one of his childhood friends that is opening a brewery in Birmingham. If you are in to good beer, Will is your man. With a major in Biology, Masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and another Masters in Brewing, this guy knows how to mix water, malt, hops and yeast into some delicious tasting brews. He also used to brew for Sweetwater, which is an Atlanta staple, and Trim Tab's beers have already been winning all sorts of awards around the Southeast. If you are in the Birmingham area, you should check it out!

3. I would not consider myself a foodie at all, but I definitely appreciate living in a foodie part of Atlanta. Lately, our little suburb of Decatur has gotten major press for the restaurants. On this Top 10 List, Community BBQ, Sobban and General Muir at all in my neighborhood (and I can vouch for Community and General Muir). And on this list from USA today, the entire city got a shoutout (#4). Pretty cool huh?

Eat Delicious Food Art Print by Printwork on Scoutmob Shoppe. It's our life's work.

4. I love everything Southern and have come to really enjoy Garden and Gun. They are currently running a Southern Towns Bracket which I think is so cute. Check it out and vote here.

5. Last weekend at Ian's wedding, we ran into Stefan's old soccer coach and his wife and were chatting with them about what' they've been up to. They are both from Scotland and have always made shortbread cookies to give out at holidays and special occasions. It turns out that people started asking them to purchase boxes of these cookies. They told us that their son, and a good friend of ours, had set them up with a website and that they are now selling them online. Y'all these are legit. I was super impressed when they told me how much they sold over the holidays. Being that I love everything ecommerce, we ordered a box from their website. I am SHOCKED at how good these cookies are. I've always been a bit underwhelmed by shortbread cookies, but these are so buttery and amazing. If you're looking for a unique gift check them out here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Weekend Recap

This past weekend we headed to our old home of Nashville for Ian and Emily's wedding.

Ian is Stefan's best friend and we were honored to be there to celebrate his big day. Stefan was the best man which meant he was busy the entire weekend with his duties so I enlisted my mother-in-law Miss Helen for extra help. (Yes, I know it's strange I call her Miss Helen but it's a term of endearment and I can't seem to shake the Miss, Mrs., Ms. habit that was drilled into me as a child.) Audrey was a flower girl and we were all on pins and needles to see how she would perform.

Early morning drive to Nashville that took at least an hour longer than it should have due to these antsy little rascals.

After not napping all day, the rehearsal on Friday night didn't go so well. Audrey slept through most of it and was not happy, to say the least, when I woke her up to practice walking down the aisle. We sent Audrey home with Miss Helen and went on to the rehearsal dinner which was in East Nashville at an incredible restaurant. I love love and it was so sweet to see how happy Emily and Ian were the entire night (and weekend for that matter).

Stefan got up early to do his thing on Saturday morning, so the girls and I explored Brentwood and Franklin, played at the hotel and just took it easy. Audrey headed to the venue early for pictures, and Eleanor and I followed shortly behind.

The beaming couple.
Totally stole this from facebook
When it was time for the big moment, Audrey and her sweet new bff Peyton started walking down the aisle. Audrey was so focused on dropping petals that about two steps down the aisle she stopped and started dropping them over and over in the same spot. Then she turned around and started dropping them in the other direction...back towards the exit. Peyton helped to get Audrey turned around and they eventually made it down the aisle. Audrey walked straight to her Daddy who then directed her to me, and we headed out the back. Miss Helen and I couldn't hear a single word of the ceremony, but it sure looked gorgeous...ha!

Of course, girls were the first ones on the dance floor twirling and running around.

Stefan and I got caught at the bar with two sippy cups asking for milk. It cracks me up that this was captured on camera!

After dancing the night away, we headed to downtown Nashville for some fun on Broadway. I wanted to visit with everyone, but was a bit self conscious about going into a bar pregnant. I got a couple congrats, but no one seemed too alarmed (which is kind of alarming, right?).
With my new BFF Lee; possibly the funniest guy I've ever met 
It was a great weekend celebrating the love of two of our close friends. We are so happy for the start of your life Ian and Emily, and cannot wait to see all the adventures you have in store! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pleasing Others and Life Lessons

At heart, I am a people pleaser. As much as I like to create my own way, I also am guilty of wanting the approval of others. Aren't we all on some level? 

Stefan and I are fortunate to have a lot of people in our lives, both friends and family. Some know us intimately, they know our philosophy on raising kids, our daily struggles, places of happiness, intentions, etc. Other are more fringe family and friends that know us from afar. 

It seems to be the some of the people that know us from afar that seem to have some issues with some of our life choices as of late. 

This leads me to my current dilemma. Do I try to explain myself to someone who truly knows very little about my day to day life, and is questioning our intentions on a situation they simply know nothing about? It is worth explaining myself to someone who has revealed that they have such a negative (and incorrect) perception of our lives anyways? 

Or do I just let this be water under the bridge and count my blessings that the people in my inner circle know me well enough to be outraged with the judgments made. I truly wish the other party no ill-will, but am not quite sure if it's even worth my time to try to make amends. I think the higher road would be to just be polite when I see or hear from them and move on with life. But me being the people pleaser that I am feel the need to make things right and gain the approval or some sense of understanding.

As you can tell, I'm still working through all of this. God bless Stefan for listening to me and helping me work through all of my worries. Truly, God blessed me with a great man. I love a man that un-apologetically stands up for what he believes in, for his wife and for his family. I value his outlook on life so much and his wisdom never ceases to amaze me. 

If anything, this situation has made me incredibly grateful for the friends and family in my life that know us well and know my heart. I truly feel that I have the best friends in the world (and I believe everyone should feel this way about their group of friends) that have my back in every situation. I love the random call/texts I get that they are thinking of me and asking me if I want them to "make a call". Truly these are the people that I should worry about pleasing and making happy - and the best part about that...they are happy with me just the way I am. 

Whew...this was a heavy one guys; sorry. I'll be back soon with fun pictures from Stefan's best friends wedding this weekend and Audrey's debut as a flower girl. The cuteness is going to blow you away.


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