Monday, November 28, 2016

Capsule wardrobe trial run (Thanksgiving packing)

I mentioned somewhere along the line that I would love to put together a capsule wardrobe, but it doesn't really mesh (ha ha) with the season of life that I'm in at the moment. I love the idea, though, of having mostly pieces that are timeless, comfortable, and versatile. As few pieces as possible, as many outfits as possible. Our trip to visit Joel's family for Thanksgiving only lasted 11 days (counting travel days), but I like to have my options for putting things together in the moment. Also, it doesn't hurt to account for messy kid mishaps.

So the final count: 19 pieces, 20 outfits (probably more outfits, I was running out of ideas/time putting them together electronically... also I think I forgot to same three. I'm new to Polyvore. If I'm doing it wrong, someone please tell me). This was a capsule wardrobe trial run, as my goal is to slim down my wardrobe once I settle in to a little more of a slimmer self (baby weight loss and all). I tried to keep my options somewhat limited and in the same color palette, to make them a little easier to shuffle.

Thanksgiving 2016

We had a pretty loose schedule, so there was plenty of room to mix up casual (hanging out around the house, maybe leaving for coffee) and occasions that required at least a tad more effort (dinner at a restaurant, Thanksgiving itself). I made sure to pack versatile mix & match pieces that were still comfortable for my super preggo self.

**Note: The polypore pieces are not specifically maternity, as most of the pieces I actually packed are not. However, especially with the bottoms, I do have their equivalents in maternity and regular sizes, so this is still counting as a little bit of a test run.

I included tops, bottoms, a couple layering pieces, two scarves, and three pairs of shoes. And I am literally JUST realizing right now that I FORGOT to include a black and white plaid 3/4 sleeve top on this whole thing... but that's ok, it doesn't button over my tummy, so it probably won't get used on this trip But now that I think about it, I have some ideas... if I remember I'll update this later. That being said... here we go!

Thanksgiving 2016 days 1-4

Thanksgiving 2016 days 5-8

Thanksgiving 2016 days 9-12

Thanksgiving 2016 days 13-16

Thanksgiving 2016 days 20-23

I did not count jewelry (it's super small to pack anyways and it would have added WAY more options) or pajamas (because no one cares or would see them anyways). I also left out maternity support tanks (they won't really apply to the capsule wardrobe in a couple of months and they're hidden under all of the other outfits anyways).

Also I should note that if you follow the links through to Polyvore, the specific items I pictured do not exactly match the items in my closet. I went with as close as I could find. If anyone is interested in specific links, I'll be sure to add them in or let you know one way or another.

Happy outfitting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A season of chaos: the beautiful mess of parenting littles

I am a 7-months-pregnant mother of two under two. I love my little girls with all of my heart and soul. We can't wait to welcome our son into the world and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But that doesn't make it any less frustrating sometimes.

Sure, the kids misbehave and test boundaries, but all of that is quickly balanced out (and then some) by their kisses, snuggles, "I love you Mommy"s, and bright faces when they see me coming to get them in the morning.

Parenthood is always full of sacrifices. It starts with sacrificing our bodies to bring these little ones into the world, then our physical and emotional stamina during the postpartum/newborn months, our and progressive restrictions on our social lives as they enter toddlerdom (especially when they're on different nap schedules). Time away at the bookstore becomes a trip to the doctor's office for a checkup (for at least one of them), romantic candlelit dinners become a panic of prepping enough food fast enough, a frenzy when it's quickly shoveled into their precious little mouths (and then onto the floor), and mornings evolve from a quiet cup of coffee and a shave-your-legs length shower to prepping a pot of coffee before changing stinky/wet/leaking diapers and quickly dumping Cheerios on the coffee table.

I promise she has more shirts than this.
Of course I knew what I signed up for when I became a parent. I knew it would be hard, taxing, exhausting, but at the same time oh so worth it. And it is, every moment of it. I am doing my best to cherish these moments while they're small because I'll just blink and they'll be picking out prom dresses. I know there are many seasons of parenthood, each with its own different triumphs and struggles.

But it's ok not to have it all together sometimes.

It's ok to drink more than the recommended amount of caffeine. It's ok to max out on your carefully-determined max of TV time for your little cherubs and then go over some, just because Mommy needs a minute.

It's ok to be a little dejected not to have any updates when asked "What's new with you?" at family gatherings and have nothing but updates on your kids' milestones. It's ok to be frustrated at declining drinks with friends because you're pregnant (again) or you know you'll have to nurse sometime in the next 1-5 hours (because the baby is unpredictable).

It's ok to be human. It's ok to have feelings. It's ok not to be the super parent. 

Because we still do love our children. We have this life now, and we're making the best of it, for all of our sakes. Because sometimes survival mode is what it takes to get to bedtime and there's nothing wrong with that. Because we can ask for help. Because we know we're not alone in this.

And most of all, because of these little faces.

I'm all right with being behind the iPhone lens most of the time, making sure they're taken care of behind the scenes and before and after they wake, etc. I don't mean for this post to be a complaint or a rant by any means. This has become a safe space with like-minded people (or, at least, I'm assuming so if you've kept up this far). I want this to be a safe place for you, too, to acknowledge that life is not always Pinterest-worthy, but the beautiful is often hidden in the coffee/spitup/juice/mac and cheese stains, covered in sticky hands, and wet from sloppy kisses (and drool). It's frustrating sometimes to make the sacrifices, but my heart has never been so full.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When the pregnant lady feels stylish

It's not often that I get to take the time to actually shower and put makeup on (in the same day!), so on the rare occasion it happened, my handsome photographer helped me with a little photo shoot. 

It's really hard to be serious with him.
Most of my maternity clothes are thrifted or shared in a communal family maternity tub (thanks to my many generous cousins who also keep having babies), so it's rare that I actually pick out something on my own to sport for those temperamental maternity months. It's hard for me to really focus on clothes I won't be wearing forever (well, at our rate, I probably will), but I'm also realizing self-care is VERY important during these months.

I picked out this PinkBlush Maternity dress before I started showing, thinking it would become a staple in my closet... and I thought right. It's fast, stretchy (obviously), and super comfortable. Then I was afraid it would only be a summer dress, but I'm having a blast transitioning it to autumn (best season ever). Here are three ways I sport my new favorite maternity dress:

I call this one "running out the door in the hurry for a play date when I still want to look cute for Joel when he gets home, probably before me."

dress / jacket (thrifted) / hat (hand-me-down from Francine) / flats (Kohls from 3 years ago)

This is my "I'm super excited I still fit in a non-maternity cable knit sweater so I'm going preppy for a PSL run because tis the season" look

And finally, date night! I wore this with heels to a wedding recently and felt like a stunna (but heels don't work in the grass, so flats will have to do. Still date night, just a tad less fancy. Hair blowing was not intended but I'm going with it. I'm likely wearing some rendition of this for our anniversary date in a couple weeks!

dress / cardigan (similar) / necklace (gift from my mama) / flats (Kohls from 3 years ago)

Also, PinkBlush is running a sweet sale on dresses! I'm a little late to the party sharing this, but until tomorrow night, use the code DRESSSTAPLES for 30% off dresses. Score!

What are some of your maternity staples? Anything I should add to my traveling capsule wardrobe tub?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

7 Things to Do In The Fall

It's finally sweater weather! The Indian summers are gone, the leaves are changing and starting to fall, and I've renewed my love with pumpkin spice lattes. Autumn is by FAR my favorite season, but it also feels like the shortest... by the time the weather decides to stick to the 60's, we have about a month or two to enjoy it before the Thanksgiving decorations come down and everyone starts prepping for Christmas. 

That means it's up to us to knock out our autumn bucket list before the season gets away from us! Here are some of our favorite things to do in the fall:

1. Challenge a corn maze - One big advantage of living in corn country is corn mazes. I've always wanted to rush my way through one, but I didn't have the opportunity until just after Celine was born and we visited Solsma's Corn Maze. I got hooked! It was just as much fun as I had hoped, even when pushing an ill-equipped stroller. This is a new fall staple for us. I can't wait until the girls are old enough to enjoy it for themselves. (Hint: If you get lost, touch the side with only your left hand and eventually, you'll get out ;) )

2. Get some FRESH produce - I swear you can taste the difference between grocery store produce and farm to table. Saturday mornings are perfect for busting out the stroller and browsing the freshest fruits and veggies (soup season, amiright??) and supporting locals at the same time. Win win!

3. Pick some apples at an orchard - Joel and I actually took our wedding photos in an apple orchard, but unfortunately that year it was after a snow or two so the fruit was mostly picked over. However, there are always TONS of activities with families in mind, not to mention loading up on apples for bobbing at Halloween parties. 

4. Stock up at a pumpkin patch - We added Emma's Apple Orchard to our fall bucket list this year because I have heard some AMAZING things and Celine is finally getting big and brave enough to attempt some activities. However, this one is only open until October (or as long as apples are left) so we'll have to get a move on if we're going to make it ;)

Our attempts at carving last year... mine is the one that looks nervous, Joel's is the fun one. Pretty much sums up our experience of parenting thus far.
5. Get some fresh air - Fall is near the end of the 5k/10k/half mile/etc season, but if you're looking in the right places, they're not all done yet! The last 5k of the year in our area (unless I'm missing some?) is the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. don't worry, it's in the morning, so you're free to refill on calories at dinner ;)

6. Satisfy your sweet tooth - Halloween is not that far away anymore, which means we'll be buying candy for neighbor children and probably end up eating most of it ourselves (hey, it's not our fault our street is not a trick-or-treating hot spot!). However, some churches have started a Trunk-or-Treat (which I have not heard of until last year), where people decorate the back of their cars and meet in the church parking lot instead of having the kids all over town. It's a great way for families to spend time together too, instead of waiting at home for someone to show up. Even though our kids have been too young to get what's going on so far, we still get into it.

7. Read under a tree - Allergies aside, this is my favorite time to be outside. I like to grab a few things from the Rotary Book Sale (hello, Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables series!) and perch myself on a blanket while the weather is pristine. And I mean, come on, look at the LOADS of books!

BONUS: Libraries also host movies, signings, and crafts for the fam, but those are all year round here! :)

Now I realize this might totally look like an ad to come and move to northwest Iowa but I assure you, it's not (do it anyways, it's amazing here). This is not a sponsored post. I just love how many different things are in the area that are budget-friendly, family-friendly, and help me get out of the house before I'm cooped up like the Ingalls family until spring. If you're interested in checking out some local fall events in your area or you're hosting an event, check out Eventbrite's lists and resources.

Happy autumn everyone!!

And camp/bonfires. Always.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Monica is ONE!

Our baby isn't so much the baby anymore, as this little walker celebrated her first birthday, making her officially a toddler.

We celebrated by inviting some family over for a ballerina brunch, complete with a donut tower cake. She didn't seem to mind not having birthday cake on the day.

I can't believe she is already this big. It's hard to imagine our little brunette baby we welcomed into the world a year ago. Our spitty, fussy newborn has grown into a bronde, hazel-eyed gem who is brave, busy, inquisitive, and usually smiling.

So naturally we give her sugar.
And she skips to the important part of the donut.

It's harder than you'd think to shop for a one-year-old with an older sister, but we managed to find a few things that Monica specifically would enjoy.. and that she did ;)

Sweet Monica,

We love you more than you can ever imagine. Your spunk and joy inspire me every day. If I could give you a "word" (apparently it's a thing), yours would be bright. Your eyes are bright, your personality is bright, and you light up a room with your toothy grin (all 8 of those badboys). 

Your favorite toys right now are two small plush animals: duck and cat. You carry them around, seek them out, and hold them up to us and excitedly yell, "Cat! Duck!" It's awesome.

You just figured out walking about a week or so ago. You still haven't made it clear across the living room yet without falling, but it's not for a lack of trying. You're going to be running through the house before we know it! Until then, we'll enjoy watching you toddle around like a newborn fawn who just got off of a boat. :)

You love to dance, sing, play peek-a-boo, and above all explore. You are constantly tugging climbing (attempting), digging, throwing, tasting... anything to help you better understand the big world around you. As a result, you're very busy, which is great (we love that you are learning so much!) but if you could tone it down at mass and bedtime, I wouldn't mind. 

Thank you for all of the light you bring to our lives. Everything has changed since you came into the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love how even though you aren't very cuddly anymore, you still cling to us (and I'm the favorite at the moment, so thank you for that too). We love you oh so very much.

Love love love,

Daddy and Mommy

I've consented to the fact that family portraits aren't really going to be happening anymore, so I'm going for the ones that show the most personality as the winners.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ender's Gender

Hey, so remember that time I finally made a decision about something? After weeks of debate, we were finally set on keeping Rauch baby #3's gender a surprise.

And then, in the moment, upon seeing our little one on the monitor, we changed our minds.

Such a blessing to have the technology to peek at our little love!

I am, after all, a planner and definitely not known for my patience (I'm working on it). The technician asked if we wanted to know, Joel and I looked at each other, and that was it.

We're not having a gender reveal party (but I've got one planned via Pinterest board for anyone else looking for ideas!) or having a special announcement (unless you count this). However, our hearts are so full of joy and peace as we are excited to share...

... come February ...

... we will be joined by ...

our SON!!

This will be the first boy on either side of the family, so we're fully expecting his older cousins (5 girls) and two sisters to completely dote on him. And it will be wonderful.

Both of us would have been thrilled either way, but I'd be lying if I didn't say the prospect of raising a son didn't scare me at least a little. This boy could grow up to be a husband, father, grandfather, and be the patriarch of his own family (or become a priest ;) ). That's a lot of pressure! But I'm sure the Lord can fill in where we are lacking. 

We are still keeping his name a surprise, mainly because it will probably be a surprise for us. Our favorite name changes every week or so as it is, so we might as well wait until he arrives to see what sticks.

Anyone have tips for raising boys? We're all ears!

**There is always a chance that the ultrasound is wrong, but they haven't been wrong at our hospital in many years, so although we're 99% sure, there's always a chance.

Friday, September 9, 2016

September 2k16

I almost put the wrong year in this title. Whoops.

I want to get back to the basics of blogging... there is a myriad of information out there on how to have a successful blog, how to effectively navigate social media, how to expand your audience, how to draw more followers, how to make money with your blog, and so on and so forth. I didn't get into blogging for the money. I wanted a creative outlet, a hobby, and a place to share what's going on in our lives. When I focus too much on the numbers, I lose sight of why I started typing my life in the first place.

So I'm just going to take a minute to share a few random what's-been-on-my-mind thoughts.

1. It's fallish. School is back in session, pools are closed, football seasons have started, and pumpkin spice lattes are calling my name (I'm not one of those pumpkin everything kind of people, but a hot PSL just says fall, to me, you know?). I even saw a few leaves in our yard, so.... I'm ready for it. I'm just waiting for this temperamental Iowa weather to catch up with me.

2. What I've been reading: I'm halfway through my second year of my 12 in 12 book challenge. I'm having a blast and even reading things I've always wanted to read but never took the time to read (and instead I'd skip to the movie ha ha). My beautiful cousin Clare recommended Girl on the Train, but I'm waiting for my string of sleepless pregnancy induced nightmare nights to end before I crack it open. In the meantime, I read Anne of Green Gables (perfect for the beginning of fall!) and still chipping away at Wild & Free. I finished Ender's Game (audiobook version) in June, so it's nice to be slowly catching up... I've lost count of what month I should be on. 

This is actually a free printable, so... happy fall!

3. We're still chipping away at our house, mostly with not-so-fun basement projects and little things here and there. I'm waiting for our room to be clean enough to take pictures and FINALLY show off what it looks like, but unfortunately the mountain of laundry seems more like a volcano, exploding unexpectedly and making a big mess of things, usually the morning after I get caught up. Boo.

4. At the end of the month I'll be joining six of my friends from my local MOPS chapter to MomCon in Milwaukee and I could not be more excited. If you're a mom (pregnant with your first - youngest in kindergarten), see if there's a MOPS chapter local to you. Every one is different. but mine has been a tremendous blessing in my life. I found the community I was looking for when I was new in town (and to marriage and parenting) and in time, formed some pretty awesome friendships. I can't wait to see what this conference and this next year will bring!

5. We've still been talking out baby names options, and Lord knows I have a spreadsheet (color coded, I might add) to help me keep our billion conversations about them straight. Our preferences keep changing (big surprise), but for now we have it narrowed down to a top 5 first and middle (mix and match) for a girl and a boy (20 names total... insert eye roll here). But hey, it's something! And it's helping to pass the time... almost halfway!

...and no, I'm not showing you the spreadsheet ;)

We have been frequenting places like Baby Name Wizard (their style search is so helpful!) and Sancta Nomina to help with ideas and meanings we hadn't necessarily thought of yet. Whatever name this baby ends up with, it will NOT be spur of the moment. Most likely. Unless I can't make a decision by then. Which is possible. Oh great.

6. Mother Teresa was just canonized (WOOHOO!!!) so I celebrated with a little Indian food at home. I'm not used to it (my Dad's side is SUPER Sicilian and Mom's is more Southwest/tex-mex/homestyle influenced). We're pretty limited in for local supplies (tiny town and all), so I tried a package of sauce with meat and a package of rice. Verdict: not bad, but I doubt I'd order it at a restaurant. However, theirs would likely be much better and much more authentic than mine, so who knows (I'm using tons of parentheses in this post, but it's kind of how my brain works, so I'm running with it. If you've stuck with me this far, you must not mind either, so thanks for that).

7. We just traded in our trusty-ol Camry for a minivan. Mom status for the win. I'm loving the space, having a working music system (the Carmy one worked but not on our other vehicle, which was mainly what I was driving), and so much more room for activities!

BONUS! Clickables: here are some around-the-internets that are worth a read/watch:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Great Debate + A Giveaway!

When we were expecting Celine, I was dying to know whether she was a boy or a girl. I am also, as my family can easily attest, one of the least patient people on the planet. It meant the world to Joel that we went the more traditional route of leaving it a surprise, which was a joy in retrospect. With Monica, we knew we were going to have our hands full and I wanted to be as prepared as I could, so come our 20 week ultrasound, we knew she was a girl. We planned our fun announcement and everything...

After the fact, I made a secret "gender reveal" Pinterest board for if/when Baby Number 3 came around, because a cake cutting reveal party was something we hadn't done yet, and hey, I love excuses to have parties!

However, we found out about Ender, and the excitement shifted to finding out a name. We had changed the girls' names within a month before each one of them was born (we came up with Monica when I was on the table!), so we're not setting any names in stone, but we have our short list of ideas. As soon as we narrowed down our top names (which have since changed again, ha ha!), all of a sudden I felt an overwhelming peace about not finding out. Even though names weren't 100% decided, I started to feel a little bit of a connection with Ender.

My first two pregnancies were pretty trying for very different reasons. The first time I struggled with waves of prenatal depression and baby blues. The second round had more physical challenges. Both factors led to me wishing I had a name/gender solidified to help me to hope and look forward to the birth of the baby with some kind of bond to hold us over in the meantime. These issues both came up this time around, but thankfully, I have been mostly in the clear (praise God!).

So here are some of the pros/cons we considered in our great debate:

1. We could shop for baby gender-specifically. We have tons of girl clothes (obviously), but our minimally stocked tub of boy clothes probably won't tide us over for very long. However, when each baby was born, I was dying to give them a gift myself as a little "welcome to the family" token. If it is a boy, I can pick out boy clothes specifically for HIM. And garage sale season will be over by February anyways. Thrift stores are year round!

2. The gender reveal party. If we decided to find out, we'd definitely want a party, but there's NO going back after we did find out. As much as we want a party, there are plenty of reasons to get together and celebrate. We can always help friends plan them or save our ideas for a baby shower!

3. Deciding on a name. We were already wishy-washy about our name choices in the past, so Lord knows whether or not we find out the gender, the name will change by the time the baby comes anyways. As long as we have a few ideas when the day rolls around, we should be good to go, right? We've also decided to keep our name choices a secret, which adds a little more spice and mystery to the reveal, don't you think? ;)

4. Some other stuff too that I forgot about now.

SOOOO... After a few weeks of going back and forth, as of the last two weeks or so...






we are NOT finding out the gender.

Riveting, right? I'm sure you were on the edge of your seat.

Well, now you can relax. There are lots of surprises to come!


(it's not twins. Relax)

This seems as good of a time as any for the first Justine in Pearls GIVEAWAY! I was saving this for something semi-monumental, and now that I've finally made a decision about something somewhat important, let's mark the occasion!

via CatholicHandmade
I've recently gotten in touch with a former college roommate and household sister Jessica over at Catholic Handmade. As much as we have a love for having babies and decorating their spaces, Jess has a passion and talent for making baby things. We have teamed up to give away a super adorable, super soft baby blanket to a lucky one of you! You can keep it for your own little one OR they make perfect, unique gifts for baby showers (or gender reveal parties!). We might not be finding out the gender of our baby, but that doesn't mean you can't win something gender specific (or not!) for your little loved one!

Happy Weekending!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monica Jane: 11 Months

I'm a few days late on this post, but it's ok, because Monica is still 11 months old, so we're all good.

Her bedhead is on. point.

I'm going to be honest here... I have not been sleeping well and it's getting late, so I'm going to keep this somewhat to the bullet points... but still picture packed ;)

This month, Monners is becoming more affectionate and attached, especially to me. She loves Daddy and cuddles with him too, but it's pretty rare that I'm not first pick, which I don't mind all that much. ;) She's showing more stranger anxiety though, so the clinginess is getting a little taxing. Hopefully it's a phase that doesn't last too too long.

She wants to be a big kid so bad, but her body hasn't quite caught up to her ambitions yet. She tries in vain to climb onto the couch, walk (but her lack of strengthened muscles and balance hold her back from actually accomplishing it), and she is dying to eat whatever we are eating, especially if it's not easily or safely converted to baby food. Soon, little one, soon!

She is definitely brave, if nothing else. Joel and I call her our "free spirit." She's not afraid to try to scale the walls of the bathtub, dive out of our arms when she's ready to be put down, or catch/taste/eat anything remotely foreign and interesting. She's also testing cause and effect for sure, mostly dropping things over ledges to see if they disappear forever. If she drops stuff enough times, I'm sure I can make it disappear forever. Don't test me, kid.

Monica also loves to dance, be tickled, suck on fabric, flip through books, and move things around to just the place she wants them to be (maybe it makes sense to her why the shoes belong there?).

Her biggest accomplishment this month: attempts at real words! She can now "say" (usually skipping consonants, but still gets enough we can tell it's a particular word and she understands the connection): hi, hello, duck, book, ball, "la la la" (short for the Sandra Boynton classic "Moo Baa La La La"), all done, Dad, and when she's really upset, "Momomomomom!"

She is popping another tooth in this week (well, at least one) which makes a solid SEVEN! I'm convinced that as adorable gummy grins are, they just get that much cuter with each addition of another tiny pearly white.

Monica has also become noticeably more affectionate. She'll now climb all of the way onto my lap and perch herself there. She loves to be touched, even if she is just playing with something nearby... she'll scoot over to Joel or me so some part of her body is touching some part of our bodies, and then just play contently. Melts my heart.

And to my sweet babe,

I wish I could put into words how much you mean to me or how teary-eyed it makes me to watch you grow. You are a beautiful little miracle, and the world is a much brighter place with you in it. Thank you for hands-free blowing me kisses, laying your head on my shoulder when you are SUPER tired, and spending so much of your free time in my arms. I miss your beautiful blue/gray eyes when you are sleeping, but that's not going to stop me from sneaking in to peek at you and Celine tonight.

I love you oh so very much,