Getting Dressed.

This year (I think even last year too, don't ask me how that went) Mike and I made it a goal to get up and dress nice for each other. I really like getting out of the sweats and taking off the wife beater I've had on for the last three days, but usually, when we go on a date we just drop the boys off and sprint out the door before we get wrapped into doing something else. We're also being more intentional about what we buy so before the New Year rang in (and brought spending freezes with it) I slipped in these items from Tobi! Here's what I got!'

I guess by definition, this would be a freak'um dress. I haven't owned one in a while and I figured I may as well get one to throw into the rotation of date night outfits. I gravitated towards this one because the fabric is thick (smooths out post-babies tummy) and it plays up a different asset than the one I usually show off (insert side eye emoji and the peach one too for good measure)! I feel really good in it and pairing it with blue teal velvet shoes and a peach hued faux fur just made my heart happy. I try not to take getting dressed too seriously!

Dress - TOBI // Shoes - Betsey Johnson, Ross // Fur, LA Garment District, Old.

I am a huge fan of cozy sweaters so I picked out this sweater dress, which for me, ended up being more like a long sweater which I kind of liked the idea of more than a dress so win! I'm on the slightly taller side, 5'7", so while I could have worn it as a dress with some spandex shorts or something underneath, I chose to approach it as an oversized sweater. I love it because if I'm feeling sassy with Mike it can be a dress, but if I just want to hang out with the girls it's the perfect sweater for watching a movie or getting a drink in!

Sweater Dress - TOBI // Skirt, Old w/out tag // Shoes - Converse

I am SO obsessed with bodysuits right now and would be totally happy if they were the only shirt that I ever wore. I am thrilled that they are having a moment again. I chose this one to be a staple in my wardrobe. I paired it here with high waisted skinny jeans but it would be just as cute with a midi skirt or flares. Throw a blazer on and you're good to go for work. It's just a winner!

Bodysuit - TOBI // Jeans - Levi's

Anybody else trying to simplify and consolidate their closets? If you are, let me know and give me all your tips, okay? Thanks!

lessons learned, 2016.

No.1: Everyone says to find your tribe and I agree 100% that having a community to support you is key to living a fulfilled life. Although, I feel like most people use the phrase to be exclusionary. The kind of thought that once you find your tribe, that's it. What I have found this year, is that the way your tribe evolves and grows is almost a direct reflection of the love and light that you are putting out into the world. This year I grew closer with friends I've known longer than I've not, I've made an entirely new set of friendships, and some friendships have taken on  smaller, though no less important roles. I will say that this represents substantial growth from my perspective last year. Some experiences last year left me carrying jaded views into 2016, but I've been throwing grace around like confetti to every relationship I have and learning the importance of meeting people where they are. It's a lot easier to approach relationships with love when you aren't projecting who you want someone to be on them but instead love the heck out of them just where they are. 

No.2: Being honest with yourself isn't easy but it's necessary. We all have little stories that we tell ourselves for some reason or another. Maybe it's something to excuse away bad behavior from your past or a little lie you've convinced yourself is truth out of habit. This year I really worked hard to start chipping away at my truth and understand why I behave the way I do. Why am I quick to say no? Why have allowed myself to hold on to resentment? Why am I not motivated to create the life I want for myself? The answers (and actions you take) after asking yourself the hard questions, help you become the person you were meant to be. And if you're really feeling brave, present your short comings to someone you love and trust and have them help keep you accountable for working on better habits. I do this almost daily with Mike. I try to explain my actions or shortcomings in our marriage and then ask for forgiveness, guidance, or acceptance over and over again. It has been extremely healing and encouraging.

No.3: Fear can't run your life. I have had a lot of big ideas this year. Many, I haven't seen even a quarter of the way through. I give up before I even get started out of fear that my idea or product won't be received well. Mike and I recently took a trip to Puerto Rico. While we were waiting for our connecting flight in Tampa, I spotted a book I've been meaning to read, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it, Gilbert likens her goal to live a create life as a road trip with herself, creativity, and fear. She continues to describe the trip and speak directly to fear, stating that he is welcome to come along on the trip but that he can not call the shots. While reading her words I realized that on my current journey, fear is in the drivers seat. Steering me away from opportunities, blasting the music too loud, and making it easy to lose focus. So my goal for next year is to be intentional. I want to be intentional about the life I'm creating without succumbing to fear. 

No.4: Stop saying no out of cowardice. This kind of piggybacks off of point No.3 but it seriously needs to be stated over again. This year I said no to so many things that I didn't even realize it until the last days of December. I was looking at all the creatives I follow put together their 'Best of 2016' posts only to realize that I only shot like 3 times. Three. All year. And I didn't even feel bad about it until I realized why. I was 'Cowardly Lion'ing' my life. Friends reached out to me for design work and the answer was an automatic no. Followed by something like I just had a baby or my 9 to 5 is stress enough. People reach out to me to shoot their moments and the no's followed there as well. I was afraid that whatever I did wouldn't live up to what people thought I could do. That's crazy! They were coming to me because they had saw something I'd previously done or just down right believed in me and I was shooting them down with a 'no' that was pretty much saying I know you believe in me but I don't believe in myself. That almost brings tears to type. But it's true and I'm working on kicking that habit of 'no'. Good riddance. 

No.5: Love yourself, now. Like in this moment, period. So let me share a little bit about my personal struggle. When I get pregnant, I know I am going to be sick for 10 months. And while I loathe throwing up every morning, part of me likes it because I get to stay small and not pack on the pounds. During both of my pregnancies, I delivered not weighing more than 15 pounds of the weight I started at. None of this is to brag, but to help you understand where the insecurities come from. The weeks spent breast feeding the boys are even better! The pounds drop and in no time I'm skinnier than I was before the pregnancy and I put the completely unrealistic goal of staying that small on top of an ideal that is far to fragile to attain. But of course the weight creeps back up leaving me feeling like I let someone down. Who? IDK. The Internet telling me it's natural to snapback? Y'all. Can we leave in 2016 all versions of any word that make a woman feel like she has to rush to not look like she JUST HAD A BABY? The pressure to be fit right after you have a baby is terrifying and ridiculous. I have had to remind myself constantly that how I am right now, is not only enough, but it's perfect. Belly over the top of my jeans, perfection. I take a selfie for myself in every moment that I'm feeling down right gorgeous. One with the tummy sucked in and then one with it all hanging out. I'm going to do it until I feel like both versions of myself are sexy, desirable, and bad ass. If you get to feeling down about yourself I say you do it with me. We don't have to swap selfies or anything but let me know if it helps! It's doing a lot to help me love myself as I am, right now.

So there we have it. 2016 seemed to really fly by without much of an impact but I guess all it took was a little bit of reflection for me to truly feel the weight it dropped on my shoulders. Here's to chipping away at making 2017 the best year yet. 

+ Photo above taken by Stephanie She

Seventeen Months w/ Dean.

There's nothing like a new baby to make you feel super shady for neglecting your oldest on the blog. I just realized that Dean really hasn't had any sort of update so here goes!

Nug is currently:

  • Obsessing over Elmo. He dropped Curious George like a bad habit and hasn't looked back since. We can't go a day without watching at least two Sesame Street episodes. 
  • Can work an iPad like a pro and knows had to get to all of his favorite apps on his own. And if we're out, he will happily take Mike or my cell phone and can find his apps their too. 
  • He is signing 'all done' and 'more'! He is starting a new daycare soon and sign language is apart of the curriculum so I'm looking forward to seeing this aspect of his learning grow! I will tell you though, 'all done' and 'more' have gotten us pretty far while he is learning to communicate.
  • He's learning words faster than I can keep up with, but I would say his favorite words are no, Leo (Yee-Yoh), Elmo, Mama, and Dada. Plus, he just learned Gigi! Grammy we are still working on yours, I promise!
  • Seems like he is growing all of his teeth at once. I can't count because he will bite me. 
  • Loves being outside and playing (even though he has allergies and gets super swollen when he gets bug bites). Footballs and basketballs are his fave. We even have a goal set up in our kitchen right now.
  • In Mike's exact words, "He's just so awesome".
  • He is an amazing big brother. He shakes bottles, tells Leo it's oh-tah (ok) when he's crying, and holds/cuddles him while I make his bottle. He's seriously the bomb. 
  • He can identify so many animals and their sounds and sometimes we don't even see the animal until he's woofing like a dog because he sees one a mile away. His elephant impression is the cutest right now. 
  • He didn't start walking really well until about a month after his birthday but now he is super fast and even runs backwards. Also, he's super clumsy like his mama!
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Grandpa Gregg (my dad) recently moved from Georgia :( but is still one of Nug's favorite people. Who else will hook up a bucket to pull you around the yard in?

His first birthday party at daycare. Shirt by Swanky Shank!

His last sleep before turning one. Yep, I was that mama creeping in with a camera after he fell asleep. No shame.

We got up and went to get him pancakes and sausage for his first meal as a one year old and as you can see he was over it. 

Nug's first hair cut! He hated getting his hair detangled so off it went!

Lot's of cuddles with Leo. He loves him so much! It's amazing to witness even this early on. 

From this past weekend when we took Nug to see Sesame Street Live at the Fox Theatre. I have so many good memories going there to see various performances so it melted my heart to be able to start taking Dean. 

We love you Big Boo!

Babymooning.

Before both boys, Mike and I made it a priority to get out of town for a little while. Babies are huge shifts in your life and sometimes you just need a little get away to appreciate your partner before the time comes. I do believe that things like babymoon's and push presents are a relatively new sensation, but I ain't mad at them :) 

We've kept it pretty close to home for our babymoon's. With Dean's we took a trip back to Dallas (that city will always be one of my faves) and with Leo's we headed to New Orleans. It just so happened that I failed planning a trip to Arizona (read: budgets were tight and we had a one year old), but we had a wedding to attend in New Orleans and since we had to go anyway we figured we might as well use this as our getaway. We spent our long weekend in a super charming Airbnb. It really was a gem and there were so many things within it that I just wanted to take home. The vintage textiles in the perfectly staged, but super comfortable, living room were my fave. 

We are super simple people. We slept, ate amazing food with great company (Our  good friend's from California were also in town for the wedding), hit some outlets, and then the zoo. Zoo's are kind of our thing and I can't wait to start including the boys!

I am so in love with all the white walls and black trim and doors! It's so classic but then the textiles bring in such warmth and color. In. Love. The boho/vintage vibes were everything my dreams are made of. 

I am ashamed to say that I am JUST now getting half way through this book. It is soooo good and I've been trying to make more time to finish it. It just when the babies are asleep, it's hard to convince yourself to stay up, no matter how tempting it seems. I value my sleep more than most things.

This place was seriously a relaxing haven for our weekend. Below are some snaps of what we ate and the zoo, too!

Seriously, every thing we ate was amazing. The poor boys were from Parkway Bakery and Tavern and the brunch was from Ruby Slipper Cafe! I would definitely recommend both!

I will jump on any alone time that I get to spend with Mike, but I can't recommend enough how special the time is together before you welcome a baby. If for nothing else than to have something to look back on as a sweet moment in the sometimes bumpy times to come ahead. Babies are amazing but they have a way to pull out every single emotion in you. So get out and enjoy some "y'all time"!

One Month w/ Leo.

Y'all this happened way too fast and quite honestly, I'm going to have to change my approach on writing these because the months truly do fly by. With Dean, the weekly posts were way too daunting so I think I'm going to do monthly updates on Leo and if you want to see what's going on in real time, you can follow along on Instagram (@akiarene)! 

What this month has taught me: Being a mama of two is amazing. It comes with it's challenges (namely a teething toddler) but wow, the blessings are plenty. One thing that bothered me while I was pregnant were people's reactions when we told then we had a 15 month old as well. Most often their responses were "Uh! Why so close together.. It's going to be soooo hard... No really, two is tough.. You're not going to know what hit you". While I know that people share their advice based on experience, I really wish I would have just told those people to shove it. In the nicest way possible of course, but in all honesty the last thing you want when trying to soak in a new baby are people's looming expectations. I found myself almost waiting for stuff to hit the fan when in truth, I have a great support system. Mike got paternity leave, his mom came to visit, my mom is always around to help, and Dean is in daycare during the week so they transition to two went pretty smoothly. So if you are about to welcome a new babe choose to look forward to all the amazing moments to come instead!

Milestones: I mean, babies don't really do much. He's sleeping through the night as long as he's got a bottle around 10pm to get him through (co-sleeping), getting some breastmilk (pumping), smiling, hates his pacifier, is gaining weight well, enjoying bubble baths, and is not a fan of his car seat.

Also worth a note, like with Dean's weekly updates, we chose to get him a Big Stuffed friend to measure his growth. It's a manatee and you'll be seeing him regularly!

Week One. 

Week One. 

Week Two.

Week Two.

Week Three. 

Week Three. 

Week Four. 

Week Four. 

Week Four in his  Swanky Shank Monthly Onesie .

Week Four in his Swanky Shank Monthly Onesie.

Beep! Beep!

A few weeks ago we were on our way home when we saw a sign for Touch-A-Truck at a park that we take Dean to by our house. I looked it up and knew it would be the a great activity to take Nug to. He's almost one and a half so we have been searching for more activities that we can do to burn off some of that built up toddler energy on the weekends. The fact that this was near by, on a Saturday morning, and outside made it a no-brainer. I've got to admit that I am pro team sun for wearing out an active toddler (we keep him hydrated)! 

We talked to him about trucks for the few days leading up to it to get him excited, but the day of he was mostly just sleepy so we made the best of it. It was packed but he still got the chance to walk through some trucks and beep the horns, his favorite part. Are there events like this where you live? Any Alpharetta/Atlanta mama's that have the heads up on events like this let me know! I'm trying to do better at taking advantage of all these free activities for kiddos in my area. This one was definitely a good time and only makes me more excited for when the boys can experience it all together. 

Nug is completely obsessed with dogs. He can spot one a mile away before we see it and the only way we know that one is near by is by him yelling "woof, woof!". He's got a deep love for them... as long as they aren't that close. Talking him into touching them is challenging and even if he turns into a punk when they come close, he will proudly strut his stuff while walking away like he just made the dog his best friend. It's the silliest/cutest thing ever. 

I rarely appear in pictures with Dean because I'm always taking them so this one means a lot. I'm going to start tossing the camera to Mike more often!

This is probably my favorite picture of Dean as a toddler. He was not in the mood for any of this this day but sitting in the fire truck and beeping the horn was his fave. It's so odd that in this picture, I still see my baby but also a teenager at the same time. #ImNotReady

We are falling more in love with our little suburb. Are there any Alpharetta moms that would like me to share here when events are coming up? If so, just let me know!

Dear Leo.

Since I didn't write you any letters and have definitely felt guilty for it, I figured I should definitely document how you made it into this world. If we were to take your story all the way back to the beginning, it all started with a bit of a surprise. 

Your dad and I knew we wanted to have two babies pretty close together. Our plan was to start trying again in December but being the schemer that I am, I started to think how much cooler it would be if I could surprise him with the news at Christmas. I mean, there isn't a better gift than another baby, right? So I consulted my girls (your aunts Vanessa, Tierra, and Ryan) and we all concluded that it was a great idea... if I could pull it off. I waited for your dad to make a day work trip and then off I went to get my IUD taken out. My doctor told me not to get my hopes up. That it could take a while to get pregnant after you come off that type of birth control. 

It literally took a month. When your dad was playing with Dean, I would be as stealthy as I could to take a test. I hid pregnancy test boxes all the places I knew he'd never look (if you need to hide something for him, underneath the bookshelf is your best bet). Once I got the positive I knew I wouldn't be able to keep it to myself. Your aunts were the only ones to know and then I couldn't take it anymore. So much for making it to Christmas. I put the positive test in a little bag that I keep pens in and then I made my way downstairs where your dad had a sleeping Dean in his arms. I handed him the bag and asked if he could get one of the pens for me. It took a few pulls out of the bag before he got to the test. Holding your big brother, he started to cry happy tears. Then we stood there holding each other and crying as he tried to put together the pieces of how I could possibly even be pregnant so I filled him in on my little scheme. We were both overjoyed. 

Your time in my belly went so much faster than your brothers, probably because we were busy chasing him around. It was no less special though. You and I would still have our quiet time where I would sing you songs and tell you all the things I was feeling. I'm not sure why in my head I feel like mama's and the baby they are carrying have telepathic powers but I swear I felt like you were listening without even having to say a word. I felt more confident this time around. More secure. 

Well the weeks and the months flew by and we were left staring the week of your due date in the eyes. I was over being pregnant at this point. I loved our time together, but I was tired of the aching and peeing 100 times a night. I just wanted to meet you. On July 29th we suspected that your time was coming soon. The night before, I felt contractions all through the night but didn't bother waking up your dad to get his hopes up, your brother was a whole week late after all. The next morning I casually mentioned to him that I thought we were getting close. We counted contractions through the entire day. The contractions were getting stronger but weren't extremely consistent until your dad went to get your brother from daycare. They were about a minute long and 8 minutes apart when they made it back to the house so we called your Gigi to come get your brother, just in case. 

By the time she arrived they were 7ish minutes apart. We agreed that since we live a little further from the hospital (and it was rush hour) that I would go ahead and call my doctor and tell him they were 5 minutes apart. He told us to come on in. Oh. Crap. This is happening. We packed Dean in the car to head to Gigi's house and I cried. Not that I was sad about bringing you home but this was my last day, hours even, of just having your big brother as my only baby. Your dad held me for a while and then we got back to loading up the car and headed on our way. 

We got to the hospital at 7:30pm. From the beginning, it wasn't how I remembered before. We went into a little office to register and then they sat me in the lobby to wait for my room to be ready. It felt like forever. By this time I had stopped timing the contractions because they were 5 minutes apart, for sure, and they hurt way too much to keep fiddling with that stupid app. I swear we sat in the lobby for an hour (it was at least 30 minutes) before we got to our room. 

The nurse came in to check how far along I was and then the disappointment set in. 1 1/2cm. An entire 8 1/2cm to go. By now, it's around 9pm and I'm thinking it's going to be a while before I make any real progress but dammit, this really hurts. We talk with the nurse and because we figure have so much further to go, we'll save the epidural for later but try some other pain medications in the meantime to try and alleviate some of the pain now. Long story short, one shot in each butt cheek, some pills, and a bunch of hot packs later nothing is helping and the pain is getting worse. I wasn't stalking the clock (it seems not to move when you are going through contractions) but now it's around 11pm. The nurse checks again and boom. 8cm. What. The. Heck. No wonder this hurts so bad. 

At this point everyone is in a frenzy. I'm screaming to Mike that I don't want to have this baby naturally, cause.. ouch! The nurse is frantic because they anesthesiologist is tied up with other patients and there are whispers going around that an epidural just might not happen. Enter my doctor who is as happy and calm as if none of this is happening around him and about 8 other people. It was a packed house. Finally the anesthesiologist enters and my doctor lets me know that I can get it but he's not sure how much it will help at this point. And while I've done most of the hard work already (we were ready to push pretty much) I wanted any relief possible even if it didn't kick in until the week after. I just wanted the drugs! The hardest thing I've ever done in my life, is get an epidural while trying to hold in a baby that clearly wants to come out. And as hard as it was and as much as I wouldn't choose to go natural again, I'm in awe of how our bodies are made to perform miracles. I got the epidural, took a breath for 2 minutes, pushed about four times (they said you could have come on the first push but the nurses weren't ready), and there you were. Painfully broad shoulders and all. 

12:11am, July 30th, 2016. You are here. Every single pain, worth it. Every time I had to get up to pee in the middle of the night, forgiven. You are calm and sweet and everything I prayed for. Your dad was my rock in getting you here. I can't wait for you and your brother to fully experience this extents that he will go to for your happiness and well being. Bunny, I would have split in two if you weren't by my side. 

The first time your big brother saw you. I am not sure if another moment will ever be as sweet as this one was!

The first time your big brother saw you. I am not sure if another moment will ever be as sweet as this one was!

Your brother, Gigi, Grandpa Gregg, Granny, Papa, and aunts (aforementioned) were all there is the next few days to meet you. They agree you're perfect. You were love at first sight for all of us but your big brother in particular has claimed you for his own.

This is a daily occurrence now. He can not get enough of his  Yee-Yoh .

This is a daily occurrence now. He can not get enough of his Yee-Yoh.

Dear Leo, Welcome to the wolf pack.