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How To Pack For A Conference & Free Packing Checklist

I am about to head to my tenth conference, and this week I am heading to my fifth Mom 2.0 Summit conference.

Over the years I’ve really been able to turn packing for a conference into a craft and have picked up many tips along the way. I’ve also learned hard lessons from real life situations, like forgetting all of my makeup once, so now I rely heavily on a checklist. Which you can download here:

On my last trip I was told to check my carry-on at the gate because there was no room and the airline lost it! No more carry on case for me.

I filmed me packing for my trip to Austin, Texas and have added lots of packing tips, including what to bring to a conference. Enjoy!

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My Simple Heirloom Easter Table Setting

Last weekend we had our first family get together for Easter. It was an impromptu, last minute early Easter gathering. As I cleaned our house, getting ready for our guests, table decor ideas were coming to me.

I knew I didn’t want to spend any money on new decor, or fresh flowers, nor did I have time to head out and shop. So, I decided to get creative and use what I already had.

I started to gather items from around our house… carnations that were still hanging on from a bouquet I had put together for a photoshoot (the hydrangeas had already bit the dust), faux greens and basic terracotta pots that I had purchased in the fall from Michaels for our Autumn centre piece, linens from our pre-kids-days, crystal handed down from my grandmother, 1950’s milk-glass plates and salad bowls passed down from Mike’s grandmother, and a simple white rabbit I nabbed from the shelf of my office.

You can find vintage mid-century 1050’s milk glass dishes on Etsy.

I began setting the table…

To break up all of the white with the table cloth I decided to sandwich the robin’s egg blue napkins between the dinner plates and salad bowls.

When it comes to Easter and Halloween I prefer to stay away from the overly themed decor and go for a natural and neutral look that reflects what is happening with the foliage outside.

But I just couldn’t resist adding my little office bunny to the centrepiece as a nod to Easter.

To complete the look I added a white carnation to each table setting. I was so happy with the overall look. It was simple, fresh and reflected the season. Watch the entire transformation unfold here…

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Laundry Room Reveal – Our Dream Basement Laundry Room

This post was created in partnership with LG Electronics Canada Inc.

When I walk into a space I can immediately visualize the potential and how I would transform it. When we were hunting for a larger family home over seven years ago I had to do some major visualizing when we walked into our current home as the perspective buyers. 

The entire house had been painted dark blue and dark brown. To say it was somber would be an understatement. Despite the gloomy décor I could picture it all, and the large backyard and big unfinished basement sold me. 

Initially we didn’t know how long we would be living in our home. Although spacious and near the school we loved, it was a builder house and a bit cookie cutter for our tastes. We had always discussed moving further into the country and finding a home that was a little more unique. 

But as the years have gone by, we have fallen deeper and deeper in love with our house. But what has really sold us on it is the fact that we decided to break that cookie cutter mold, turn it on its head, and make it our own.

The first big change was to create a large dream laundry room that would function well for our family of six and the perfect location for it was in our basement. This meant that our old laundry room, which straddles our kitchen and garage, is now a dedicated mudroom. Double score!

I had always envisioned a laundry room that is warm and pretty, yet very functional, and I truly think we have achieved just that. 

We were able to hide the existing electrical panel with MDF and Metrie trim. Then we painted it the same colour as the walls to have it blend in. 

I had always wanted a focal wall with a bit of relief from so much cabinetry. A floating shelf with decorative items on it has brought some colour and personality into this room. I was able to find all of the accessories and stool for our laundry room at HomeSense.

I fell in love with these plant art pieces as soon as I found them. The green brings some much needed freshness and life into the room, making you almost forget that it is located in our basement, especially when there aren’t any windows.

For the tile backsplash we opted for peel and stick tiles. We had never tried them before and wanted to see if it would be worth the time saved. Although easy to install they were more expensive than regular tile and we probably wouldn’t choose to use peel and stick tile again.

Opting for grey cabinets from Ikea was also a great way to bring some colour into this space. The Ikea laminate countertop gives the illusion of butcher block, but it is a lot more durable and budget friendly. I love how much warmth the countertop brings into the room.

We chose to hang our ironing board on the wall and left space for a future drying rack.

I think the biggest annoyance our family experiences with all of the laundry we accumulate as a family of six is the finished loads sitting in laundry baskets, waiting to be folded, hanging around our house. Once we complete washing and drying all of our four kids’ clothing, we have filled four laundry baskets. Those baskets were constantly taking up floor space in our laundry room, or overtaking our dining room table.

A simple wall-mounted wire shelving system has solved that problem. Having a dedicated home for all of our laundry baskets has been a dream come true!

But I think our favourite new addition has been our new LG TWINWash®with LG SideKick™ pedestal washer. Mike and I actually look forward to doing the laundry now. Mike has the LG SmartThinQ®app on his phone, which notifies him when a load is done. The capacity is amazing, allowing us to move through our family’s laundry faster.

The LG SideKick™ has been used constantly for everything from sandy gloves brought home from school to a red shirt here and there. I love that I don’t need to waste water when I need to wash a small load and I can easily separate an item while continuing to wash the rest of our clothes. The laundry set is also Energy Star efficient making using it easier on the environment and our pockets!

It’s safe to say we are absolutely head over heels about our new laundry room. Breaking the rules with our home’s layout and making it work for our family has made us fall even deeper in love with our house. I cannot wait to continue with the rest of our renovations we have planned and take you with us on our family’s journey.

To learn more about LG home appliances, visit www.LG.ca/UltimateLaundryRoom.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by LG Electronics Canada Inc. While compensation was provided in form of trade, all opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions of LG Electronics Canada Inc.

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Neutral fall decor home tour

I really didn’t like my old, weathered, brightly coloured fall decorations anymore. September had hit and everything pumpkin spiced had exploded everywhere, yet I couldn’t drag myself to the bin in my basement which housed my fall decor.

Then it dawned on me… we have hit this magical age with our kids, where I  can put something pretty on a table, or a shelf and tell my kids, “this is a decoration, please don’t touch it,” and they actually listen. In case you are wondering, this magical age is four. At least that is the age of our youngest… twins.

This was it, time to upgrade and switch out our fall decor. Our old fall decorations consisted of bright oranges and yellow, reflective of the colours I surrounded myself with in our old home. But for the past few years, I have really been appreciating neutrals, and natural textures over bright colours. There’s something about this fresh, soft and cozy palette that makes me feel so relaxed.

So I began pulling inspiration from all over the place. I combed through our existing decor (both seasonal and everyday), and walked around our home deciding which areas were going to get dressed up for autumn.

After some shopping at Michaels and HomeSense, as well as a stop at a local farm, I was ready to execute my vision.

You can watch the full transformation in the video below.

I have been so thrilled with how it has turned out and cannot wait to host family and friends over this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Oh, and you may be wondering, how have the decorations stood up to our four kids? Really well. Except, they are very interested in the acorns… they are constantly being moved. I’m not sure what’s so fascinating about acorns.

fall decor

modern fall mantle

neutral fall centrepiece

natural fall decor

neutral fall decor

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Age spots and staining on my face? Nope, It’s Melasma

Melasma Visia photos

Ready for a confession? I sleep with my makeup on. Well, at least until a couple of days ago I slept with my makeup on.

How did I get to a place where I did not care that I was going to bed with a full face of makeup, more times than not? I was waking up, dragging my finger under my eyes to get rid of any night-time smudging and felt pretty decent heading out to my kids’ drop-offs.

I know. Ew, right?

When I think back, I think about how I was one of the lucky ones who’s acne cleared up as I moved out of my teenage years, just as life got busier and busier. Before I knew it I had four kids, was running my own business that often requires on-camera makeup and boom…. trading any time I could have given to my skin for a nightly Netflix binge with my husband.

But over the last few years, as I wiped and washed my makeup away, mid-morning, I thought, “girl, you look rough.” That was odd because I am getting a lot more sleep now than I did back when my four kids were really little. I also started to wonder if all of the makeup that I was piling on a few times a week was staining my face. Especially my forehead and cheekbones.

But I went on with my neglecting my skin.

The day before my 35th birthday, a family member mentioned that I might begin noticing sun spots soon. They were common within my family, so I took a mental note to ramp up my sunscreen, not just worry about applying sunscreen to my kids.

The next day, there it was, almost taunting me. An age spot perched proudly on my cheekbone. Okay, maybe it had been there for a while and I was looking for one, but it oddly jumped out at me as if to say “happy birthday Joanna!”

Not cool, 35, not cool.

I made a note to point my new friend out to my dermatologist next time I went in for my light dusting of Botox. Yes, I get Botox and it took me a long time to pull the trigger and I love it. My body, my choice right?

Earlier this week as I settled into ICLS’s comfy procedure chair, I turned to the specialist that I see, and said, “what can we do about this age spot?”

She started asking a bunch of questions, including wanting to know what my skin care routine was. I told her… non-exsistant. Then she brought in another specialist and the doctor. They looked closely, took some Visia photos, and confirmed, I have Melasma.

Melasma Visia photo

Melasma, otherwise know as pregnancy mask is a hyperpigmentation, creating tan patches of skin on my face caused by hormonal changes. This was most likely sparked by the hormonal changes during my pregnancies, especially my grande finale, twins.

I was told maybe there could be a small sun spot nestled in there, but what I was seeing going on with my face was indeed Melasma.

So, what are we doing about it? First of all, I am establishing a skincare routine. ICLS kindly gifted me all kinds of goodies, and I am excited to share them and my skincare journey with you.

Universkin ICLS

First, ICLS formulated a very unique Universkin product tailor made for me. Based on Dr. Sapra and Kelli’s recommendations, the Uiverserskin product is a serum completely specific to me and my skin care concerns. This is exciting because unlike most skin care products available, Universkin avoids the “one-size-fits-all” approach and focuses on what I need.

ICLS Universkin

Next I was sent home with a Clarisonic Brush. The Clarisonic Brush is quite unique as well as it cleanses 6x deeper than regular manual cleansing. Which means it’s much better than my hands, or in my case, none at all.

Those, along with a cleanser, and an SPF and I am on my way. Seriously, I am super excited to actually have some direction with how to care for my skin. I have heard one too many times lately when I go makeup free, “are you sick?” I have also become way too reliant on my all over foundation and the layer of makeup that was getting thicker and thicker each year.

I will keep you updated with my new skincare journey. I want to know from you, do you have a skin care routine? Do you have any problem areas that come with your skin, and if so has age, or pregnancy impacted it?

To learn more about ICLS head to icls.ca.

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That time Chef Chuck Hughes taught me how to cook

Chef Chuck Hughes LGThis post was created in partnership with LG.

I’m not a great chef. But I’m trying to be. In fact I’ve made the decision lately that it isn’t too late to learn to cook, improve my tidying skills, de-clutter my house and truly reclaim my home.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the LG Kitchen in the Chatelaine offices, where I spent the afternoon with celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes and Rick Campanelli, or if you grew up in the 90s in Canada like I did, you’d know him as Rick-The-Temp.

I walked in, looked around and thought, “Be cool Joanna, no one has to know that you are a terrible chef.” It turned out that I wasn’t expected to cook, but instead Chef Chuck Hughes would be teaching us three delicious meals. Dodged that one!

In the midst of learning how to create a delicious spin on bruschetta by grating your tomatoes, yes, you heard me right,

Chef Chuck Hughesbaked Lake Erie Pickerel and Local Strawberry Fluff (I have shared the recipe with you below), I was able to take a sneak peek at LG’s InstaView™ Door-in-Door® Counter-Depth Refrigerator,

LG InstaView Rick Campinelli

By a simple two knocks, it is easy to check on the items through the transparent window without opening the door.

and LG QuadWash® with TrueSteam® dishwasher.

LG Quad Wash

High-temperature steam removes baked-on, caked-on food from your dishes, sanitizes and reduces excess water spots.

It was an amazing afternoon spent with some very talented and amazing people.

strawberry fluff

Here’s Chef Chuck Hughes’ recipe for Local Strawberry Fluff.

Strawberry Fluff by Chef Chuck Hughes

Ingredients
2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 cups strawberries, hulled and crushed
Sugar cookies, crumbled
Stemless wine glass or glass fruit nappe
Cut fresh strawberries for garnish
 
Instructions

  1. Place egg whites, sugar and hulled and crushed strawberries in a stand mixer.
  2. Mix on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.

Presentation
In a stemless wine glass layer crumbled sugar cookies, fresh berries, fluff, repeat.

strawberry fluff

To learn more about the LG QuadWash®  or the LG InstaView™, head to LG’s website here: www.lg.ca

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by LG Electronics Canada Inc. While compensation was provided, all opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions of LG.

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The book that reset my life and made me slow down my “yes”

Girl, Wash Your face

Have you ever read a book that literally shook your world? A book that literally changed the way you live and function? I’ve had some that have inspired me, but until now, never have I ever read a book that has spoken to me so much that I now revisit it every couple of months.

Back in early spring I was having a lunch with a friend, content strategist and former HGTV producer. We were talking about Nesting Story, where it’s been, where it is now and where I want to take it. My friend asked me, “have you ever heard of Rachel Hollis?” No, I said. “You would love her! You are very similar in a lot of your values and she has built an amazing company which you would find inspirational. Also, she has a new book which I can’t wait to read.” She told me.

After our lunch I began following Rachel Hollis on social media, trying to see what I was missing out on. She seemed pretty cool. She was a mom of four, like me, was committed to date night every Thursday, like me, and was even short, like me.

So I decided to take this new relationship a step further and I bought her book., Girl, Wash Your Face.

After the introduction I was hooked, but I was going through a season of life where I just couldn’t find the time to stop and read. One of our kids needed me more than ever and I wanted to be available to them. I had, as usual, a million work projects on the go. Also, I had committed to quite a few volunteering positions which was starting to hang over my head.

I was on a hamster wheel, thinking I could keep piling it on. Volunteering and doing more and more and more is how I will achieve my goals and it’s what everyone expects right? Isn’t this how everyone lives, at break-neck speed? I should mention that my exercise routine had completely fallen by the wayside and I was barely completing any of my personal goals for Nesting Story.

It was impossible to just sit down and read a book. But a voice in me said that there was a message in this book that I needed to hear during that trying season of my life. So, I decided to get the audible version.

In chapter two that message was delivered loud and clear.

“If you choose today not to break another promise to yourself, you will force yourself to slow down. You cannot keep every commitment, promise, goal, and idea without intentionality.” Rachel says in Girl, Wash Your Face about valuing what is important to you. “Slow down your yes. Only commit to things you know you can accomplish because they’re incredibly important to you.”

You guys, this quote doesn’t do this chapter justice. Every single chapter is full of takeaways, but chapter two, it woke me up.

I needed to slow my yes. I needed to be clear to myself about what my priorities were, and what holds the most value to me.

Since this awakening I have been working on reducing my commitments, choosing just a few projects to focus on at once, and really paying attention to what makes me happy, what is valuable to ME, and what centres me.

I am still on this journey and am slowly getting better at keeping promises to myself. I have been making time to slow down, and just be.

Last night I had the opportunity to go to Rachel’s book signing in Toronto. I met up with a few industry friends and we listened to Rachel speak about following your dreams and then I got to meet both Rachel and her husband Dave. It was an awesome night.

Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis

So, if you are going to read (or listen to) just one book this summer, I highly recommend Girl, Wash Your Face. I think we can all take a minute to think about what is truly important to us, be okay with the fact that what holds value to me might not hold as much value to you and that’s okay, and to slow down our “yes.”

Tell me, have you read Girl, Wash Your Face? What books are you reading this summer?

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A simple farmhouse inspired room refresh

Living room and dining room

When I was a child I would spend a lot of my summers at my grandparent’s cottage just outside of Wasaga Beach. My memories spent there were filled with long walks on the beach to the ice-cream parlour, movie nights while listening to thunderstorms roll past and pouring through my grandma’s decor magazines.

My grandma was a public speaker and absolutely loved decorating, especially with antiques. I see a lot of myself in her. My grandma always gave each room to her cottage a very country flair. In-fact she had a very impressive chicken and rooster collection.

Although I absolutely love adding early century modern, eclectic and sometimes classic elements to my home, my heart is always drawn back to a country-cottage feel. Although farmhouse decor and design is very nostalgic to me, there is something  about it that is extremely relaxing.

farmhouse refresh

Recently I was finding that every time I walked through our hallway and glanced at our living room/dining room, I would shudder. Our dining room table had become a dumping ground and the small plant on our fireplace mantle was dying a slow death.

I finally decided to give this room a quick refresh which would include a farmhouse flair. I dug up old mason jars and pulled out the Hearth and Hand runner I bought at Target while on my recent trip in California. A couple hours and a bundle of babies’ breath later, (which in my opinion is a very underrated flower), my room was not only transformed, but it now reflects the warm weather outside and is oh so airy and inviting.

spring fireplace mantle

farmhouse inspired refresh

farmhouse inspired refresh

Watch as I transform this room and share a couple tips on how to simply give your home a seasonal refresh.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube for more home inspiration! 
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Spring outfits you will love – Spring wardrobe style guide

Nesting Story - 2018 spring Style guide

A couple times a year I overhaul my wardrobe. I start by thinking, “what is my style this season? Who do I want to be and what is my style going to look like this spring?” Then I gather inspirational style photos and begin planning out my new looks.

Here’s the thing, I am a 5’2″ thirty-five-year-old mom of four. So A. I am not always on top of the hot new trends, and B. I’m not sure if the hot new trends would suit my body type, or my age. So, I make sure that my style reflects my personal taste (feminine, cool and slightly bohemian) and suits my lifestyle (a self-employed woman who has often has events and meetings to attend, slightly athletic and a busy mom).

Oh, did I mention I’m also on a budget? Most of these looks are very budget friendly with a timeless, worth-the-higher-price piece thrown in here and there.

Although I’m a shortie with a busload of kids, that doesn’t mean these looks wouldn’t suit everyone. Younger, older, kid-free, taller, you name it!

This post contains affiliate links.

I just discovered kimonos and I’m in love! Where have they been all my life? I love this look because it’s cool, fresh and comfy.

Spring 2018 style - kimono and basic white tee

Spring 2018 style - kimono and basic white tee

Spring 2018 style - kimono and basic white tee

Shop the look: Kimono – Forever 21, White gathered T-shirt – Zara, Jeans – (similar) American Eagle, Sandals – Billabong , Sunglasses – Ray-Ban -Aviators, Necklace – H&M, Rings – Aldo

So my one of my three-year-old twin daughters and I have a thing for pjs and sweatpants. Seriously, I walk in my home after a day at an event in the city and the first thing I do is put on baggy sweats. So when I found a pair of dressy joggers that I could wear to events, I fell in love.

Spring 2018 style - black tank Spring 2018 style - black tank

Shop the look: Pants – Dynamite, Tank top – Dynamite, Shoes – Le Chateau, Necklace – H&M, Watch – H&M, Rings – Aldo, Sunglasses – Michael Kors,

2018 Nesting Story Spring Style Guide

I recently took up running again and have been loving it. I thought I could be a long-distance runner, but soon realized I hit my limit at around 2km. But that still makes me a runner, right? Regardless of how far I run, I quickly realized that I needed a running jacket that could take me through our crazy Canadian spring weather. After looking everywhere I finally found this jacket which was perfect…plus it’s pink which is my favourite!

Spring 2018 style - athletic

Shop the look: Running jacket – Nike, Running shoes – Asics, Sunglasses – Ray-Ban Aviators, Leggings – (similar) Lululemon,  Sweatshirt – Gap

I bought a couple form-fitting skirts a couple years back and never ended up wearing them. I finally decided that they needed to be paired with a breezy long jacket. When I found this one I knew it was the perfect match!

Spring 2018 style - formal look Shop the look: Jacket – Le Chateau, Watch H&M

I had been looking for over a year for a cardigan that I loved. I finally found it and I have been wearing it constantly.

Spring 2018 Style guide - casual

Shop the look: Cardigan – American Eagle, Watch – H&M, Rings – Aldo, T-shirt – Zara, Sunglasses – Ray-Ban Aviators, Bracelet – H&M, Necklace – H&M, 

Nesting Story Spring 2018 Style Guide

I am speaking at an upcoming conference and I knew that I needed a fashionable, but “take me seriously” kind of outfit. When I saw these dressy joggers and a sleeveless blouse, I was sure that I had found my power outfit.

Spring style guide - work attire

Shop the look: Shoes – Le Chateau, Pants – Dynamite, Top – Forever 21, Watch – H&M, Sunglasses – Michael Kors

I have found myself moving further away from the more structured blazers and embracing flowy tops instead. This blazer is a more relaxed style which is still professional, but a little less “can I sell you life insurance?”

spring style guide - floral print

Shop the look: Jeans – Gap, T shirt – Zara, Bag – H&M, Sandals – Le Chateau, Floral blazer – Forever 21, Sunglasses – Michael Kors, Watch – H&M

My absolute favourite place to buy dresses is BCBG. This one is is so comfy and pretty!

Spring style guide - formal Spring style guide - formal

Shop this look: Dress – BCBG

So, how exactly do I approach my seasonal wardrobe switchover? Watch as I gather inspiration, pull items from my wardrobe that I already  have and put my new wardrobe together, all on a budget. I use this method at least twice a year, which helps me save money because I am not mindlessly shopping all year round.

Part one…

Part two…

For more style inspiration, check out my Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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Easter Gift Guide – Books for all ages

My memories of Easter as a kid was spent with family, a big delicious meal, going to church, pretty Easter dresses and a very anticipated Easter egg hunt. My older brothers and my younger sister and I would love racing around looking for the small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and comparing who found the most. Then for the months following we would continue to find random eggs around our home. Those were simpler times.

As a mom I’ve made a conscious decision to not try to keep up with the Christmas-like gift giving highlighted by Instagram that seems to go on with Easter these days. I just can’t.

Way back when Holden was a toddler, as I watched all of his grandparents spoil him with stuffed animals and chocolate, I decided that each year I would buy a book for each of my kids for Easter to balance out all of the sweets and stuff.

This simple tradition has been happily embraced by our four kids, and although I still pick out Easter-themed books for our twins, our big kids enjoy putting in requests for specific books they’ve had their eye on. And I happily oblige.

I thought for this year’s Easter gift guide, I would share some very sweet Easter-themed books for kids. Perfect for an Easter gift. I’ve included some of our family’s favourites too. Enjoy!

0-2 years

1. Peter Rabbit Naturally Better Classic Gift Set by Beatrix Potter

Are you or is someone you know expecting around Easter or early spring?

The classic Peter Cottontail Classic Gift Set is the perfect gift for the new bundle’s first library.

These books come in beautiful pastel colours that would look great in a nursery, and the classic stories are loved by many generations. Shop here.

2. Where are Baby’s Easter Eggs? by Karen Katz

This Easter themed story of Baby’s search for Easter Eggs is an adorable and interactive book for little ones who love to turn pages and lift flaps. The bright and colourful illustrations and simple wording make it an engaging (and short) read sure to keep kids and parents happy. Karen Katz has a series of books featuring some adorable and relatable “baby” characters that are sure to be a favorite. Shop here.

3. Little People: Easter Is Here!

Parents of toddlers know the Little People, mostly for their toys. But did you know they make really fun books? Our Little People Easter Book is one of our favourites all year round. Shop here.

3-5 years

4. The Berenstain Bears Easter Parade by Mike Berenstain

Who doesn’t love the Berenstain Bears? My little sister and I were raised on Berenstain Bears and we have passed on the tradition to our kids. The Easter Parade book is one of our favourites. Shop here.

5. Plant the Tiny Seed by Christine Matheson

Press, tap, wiggle, and jiggle to start the magic!

This book is a great way to teach your little one about nature, and also get them to follow simple commands as they listen to the story. It would be great to read one on one, or even with a group of young kids. They will have lots of fun acting out how to plant a seed, clapping to bring the sun, and wiggling their fingers to water the plant and make it grow. Shop here.

6. My, Oh My-a Butterfly! By Tish Rabe

Learn about butterflies with the classic Cat in the Hat character. Filled with silly sounding rhymes, this book is a lot of fun for young readers. Plus, it’s actually pretty informative, explaining the metamorphosis of an egg into a caterpillar into a chrysalis into a bright new butterfly. Shop here.

6-8 years

7. The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer

Do you have a kid that is fascinated by creepy-crawlies? This book is a beautifully illustrated way for them to learn more about nature, where to find bugs by teaching them to be a young bug spotter, and it’s filled with fun facts that may teach Mom and Dad some new things. Shop here.

8. The Princess In Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon Hale &Dean Hale

This is one of a series of Princess in Black stories, which are filled with mischief, humour and fun illustrations. These books are simple for early readors, but are presented as chapter books so they feel a bit more “grown up.” And this story with fluffy tail bunnies would be great for Easter! Shop here.

9-12 years

9. The Babysitters Club #1 Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

Did you read these series of books as a kid? I sure did. And the movie was one of the first I saw in the theatre with my friends without a parent (it’s due for a remake, as Hollywood is really into that at the moment). These feel good, girl-centric stories are perfect for a young woman coming of age. Wouldn’t it be great if your daughter was inspired to be a successful entrepreneur too? Shop here.

10. A Wrinkle in Time Trilogy by Madeleine L’Engle

Are your kids in love with Disney’s latest live action movie? Encourage them to read the classic story about Meg, Charles and Calvin on their mission to save the day, and keep reading more where the movie leaves off by buying the trilogy (or you could even look into the box set of 5 books which is also available). Shop here.

11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

One of my all-time favorites, this book features the importance of family, honesty and a sense of bewilderment.

This is a book that every kid should read at some point. I’m sure you’ve probably read it yourself? Why not re-read it as an adult, then have a marathon movie party with your kids? Start with the original starring Gene Wilder, then watch the most recent version with Johnny Depp. And don’t forget to pick up some Wonka candy and chocolate treats to enjoy together. Shop here.

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Valentine’s Day gift guide for the expecting mom, new mom and the kids

By Carly Viger and Joanna Venditti

Love is in the air and it’s time to tell someone you love just how much they mean to you. But what do we really want? What would your kids love? Do you even buy your kids Valentines gifts, or is it your time to be pampered? Here are some gift ideas that I am sure will spread the love this Valentines Day.

For the Expecting Mom

1. Sweets/Chocolates
Is the mommy-to-be craving anything in particular?
You can’t go wrong with the gift of food for an expecting Mom. The classic heart shaped box of chocolates is the best option, and the bigger, the better! Who wouldn’t love some delicious truffles from Godiva?

2. Comfy Maternity Clothes
The Expecting Mom may have started to outgrow her favorite pre-baby clothes, so some new maternity clothes would be a great gift idea. Maybe a cute dress or blouse for a night out? Or better yet, some pajamas or loungewear for her to relax (or nap) in. I love this bright red trendy top from A Pea in the Pod, it’s perfect for a Valentine’s Day dinner date before the baby arrives.

3. A Pedicure
Baby coming soon? Has it been awhile since mommy has seen her toes? They probably need some TLC, so a pedicure would surely be a great Valentine’s Day gift. If a trip to the spa isn’t manageable, then a nice set of nail polishes like these from Nails Inc. would work wonders. These gel polishes are enriched with coconut water for hydration, and they create a flawless and glossy finish just like at the spa. And to make the gift even more special, maybe Dad can offer to paint her toenails for her?

For the New Mom

4. Pampering
A new mom deserves some pampering. Whether it’s her first or fourth child, she is giving everything she has to her new baby and maybe she’s neglected herself along the way. Show her that she’s important too with a little something special. Fab Fit Fun boxes are a great way spoil her. You can purchase a subscription so she receives a new box of personalized items every month/season.

5. Jewellery
Why not have a piece of jewellery engraved with the new little bundles name? These stacking rings from LetterbyLinda on Etsy.com are a sweet and sentimental idea sure to make Mommy very happy.

6. Cleaning Service
New Moms are busy dealing with sleepless nights, diaper changes, pumping, bottle feeding, sleep training, etc, etc, etc. Maybe the housework is a lower priority now? The gift of a house cleaning service would be much appreciated, whether it be a one-time deep cleaning or even better, regular scheduled visits! Give Mom the gift of time with her new little love by taking some things off her to-do list.

For the New Baby

7. Cute Clothes
Who can resist a sweet little baby dressed up for Valentine’s Day!? Dress your little one in something cute and comfy, like one of these outfits from Gymboree.

Baby True Red Stripe Set by Gymboree

Baby Ivory Mommy Set by Gymboree

8. Books
Books are perfect way to bond with a new baby, and to teach them language, colour, and feelings. For your little one’s first Valentine’s Day, you can gift them a classic board book and write a special message inside the cover for them to cherish when they’re older. Here are some favorites:
Read your little Love Bug a story from the classic character The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

9. Or enjoy the bestselling book “I Love You Through and Through” while your little one cuddles the plush bear that comes with this set.

10. Stuffed Animal
For Baby’s first Valentine’s Day, a soft and cuddly new friend is a perfect gift. Jellycat toys are soft and warm, perfect for little ones to snuggle. You can choose from many different animals including dogs, cats, dinosaurs, hippos and elephants. The adorable Bashful Bunny is available in a variety of colours, including this bright Strawberry pink which is perfect for your little Valentine.

11. Blankets and Accessories
A blanket is a classic and versatile item, perfect for a little one. Mom will use it now as a swaddle, burp cloth and stroller cover, and baby will use it as a toy and comfort item as they grow older. Aden & Anais make beautiful muslin swaddle blankets that are light and airy, bibs that are super soft, and sleep sacks that are perfect for bedtime. The classic Heart Breaker print is perfect for Valentine’s Day and is available in a number of items, including the Dream Blanket.

For a Toddler/Preschooler

12. A Dress
Little girls love to spin and twirl, so this adorable heart print dress with a pleated dress from Joe Fresh is perfect. Need something a little less girly and a little more suited for playtime? The same heart print design is available in leggings, rain boots and a super cute peplum t-shirt.

13. Toys
Toddlers are all about moving, exploring and making noise. This Red Race Car by Green Toys is a fun way to encourage the development of your child’s motor skills while playing. It’s safe for little hands with plastic parts made from recycled materials. And the bright red colour is sure to excite your little one.

14. Books
A new book to read together would be a great way to spend some time cuddling your busy toddler and teach them about love and kindness. Love Monster by Rachel Bright is a cute and funny story they will surely love.

For School-aged Kids

15. Accessories
Maybe she’s a budding fashionista? Now that she’s a little older, with friends at school and a style of her own, some new accessories would make a great gift. H&M has this cute little “LOVE” purse, which would be perfect even after Valentine’s Day.

16. T Shirts
Maybe now that they’re older they aren’t as keen on Valentine’s Day. Funny t-shirts are a great way to give them a themed gift. What kid doesn’t love pizza? This “Pizza is my Valentine” shirt would be a great way to get a laugh out of your little guy, his friends, and probably even his teachers.

17. Games
Maybe the days of romantic Valentine’s dates with your spouse are on pause, at least during this phase of life. Now that you’re a family, this day of love can still be spent having fun together-in a different way. Why not buy a new board game to play with the kids? This game of Speak Out Kids Vs. Parents would be an great way to spend an night in. It’s sure to make your kids laugh (and even you), there are categories for parents as well as for kids, and can work for up to 10 players.

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Diverticulitis, my move towards a new lifestyle and general life and blog update

mother and daughterWhere do I start this one? I feel like I haven’t checked in with all of you here on the blog, in terms of me, personally in quite a while. Let’s talk health, lifestyle and the blog.

I guess it goes back to last spring.

Last spring, after a quieter winter, life got busy. I lot of exciting projects came my way, I had a lot of travel, both for work and vacations, and the kids schedules were getting busier.

During that excitement I noticed my energy levels lagging, heart palpitations kept coming and I was often light-headed. I kept putting it off and finally I went to see my doctor when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a physical in over FOUR YEARS!

Whoops!

My blood work came back showing that my iron levels were in the toilet. So I started to take iron supplements and my energy levels came back.

This past summer was a blur of travel and work deadlines. I’ve been working on some really exciting projects,

filming

and our family even went to Mexico.

Mexico

sisters

The peak was definitely my trip with Mike to New York, without kids, for our ten year anniversary. We basically ate and walked our way through New York. I had been a few times before, but it was Mike’s first time to New York and he loved it just as much as I thought he would.

By the end of August I started having abdominal pains that were different than any IBS symptom I had experienced in the past. But, typical me… I ignored them.

But by the second day, as Mike watched me try to put Beau to bed doubled over in agony, he insisted I go to the emergency room. I compromised and agreed to booking a doctor’s appointment for the following day.

The next morning, about five minutes after Mike walked out the door to work, as I began to make our kids’ breakfast, I gripped the counter as our kitchen spun, and I managed to make it to our couch, shooting an S.O.S. text to Mike…

“I’m not well.” It said.

The next thing I knew, our door flew open and there was Mike, ready to take over with the kids. I was so glad to see him.

Later that morning we left to my doctor’s appointment. As she checked my belly, my doctor decided to give my abdomen a little shake and I screamed in pain. That gave me a one way ticket to the Emergency room.

Hours, many tests and a ruled out appendicitis later I almost left the hospital feeling like it was a waste of time, but a general surgeon visited me and convinced me to stay for a CT scan. Thank goodness he did.

in the hospital

It turned out that I had diverticulitis.

Diverticulosis happens when pouches (diverticula) form in the wall of the colon. If these pouches get inflamed or infected, it is called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can be very painful.Webmd

I was told that I was very lucky that I had gone in when I had and an abscess, or a perforation hadn’t occurred and was sent home with two antibiotics.

Since then I have had follow up appointments and a colonoscopy is booked for late fall. But truthfully, I haven’t felt the same since.

I have been exhausted, and nervous that I am going to eat the wrong thing  and set it off again. I will always have these colon outpouchings, and it is my job to eat an extremely healthy, high fibre diet.

This for me has been a big wake-up call. I have been making some huge lifestyle changes including being less busy, moving towards a more minimalist life, having laser focus on work, but not trying to do everything, making more time to cook, and moving towards a more plant-based diet.

I have also been exploring my health on a deeper level. I have been peeling the onion as to why I am having so many digestive issues and struggling with my energy and I am even changing my skeptical opinion about essential oils, naturalpathic medicine (I grew up in a medical home, so that’s a hard one for me), and moving towards a happier, healthier, fuller life.

I have so much more to say, including how my recent health has shaken my confidence. How I am reteaching myself to get up in the morning to workout. How I am learning to have a better relationship with cooking and my kitchen. How I got a live blood cell analysis, and what was found.

For a while there I was pouring my heart out on my YouTube videos, (which I will continue to do), but not here on the blog. I started to get it in my head that the older my kids got, the more polished my posts had to be and the more beautiful my photos had to get. And that simply isn’t true.

Comparison truly was my thief of joy.

In fact, yesterday, while Mike and sat in a silent waiting room, I was scrolling through Facebook searching for a blog post to dive into to pass the time. I couldn’t find any. I turned to Mike and said, I wish I brought my headphones. Everything these days is video. I miss reading a raw, authentic blog post.

I guess there is a place still for personal blog posts.

So, with that all being said, I am going to be showing up here, on my blog more. Journaling my journey through motherhood, womanhood, marriage, wellbeing, health and lifestyle. I will by pouring my heart out to you unfiltered. Letting you in.

I am looking at this a bit as a new chapter for my blog. I hope you join me!

Oh, and in case you want to catch up on some of the big events that I mentioned, here are the vlogs that documented those moments…




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I did an extreme home purge using the Konmari Method and my stress melted away

clean home

For the last few years I have felt like I am drowning. I have been drowning in stuff. Stuff accumulated from a poorly planned move, with having four kids, with surprise twins, with running my business. It just kept piling up. I couldn’t breathe.

About a month ago, Mike and I visited friends who’s house (of three years now), we haven’t seen. As I walked around their home during this (unexpected) visit, I couldn’t get over how tidy and free of clutter their home was. Do people really live like this? This type of lifestyle is an option?

The next day I was still reeling from the stark contrast between our two houses and I realized that an underlying, unshakable stress that I had been feeling was due to our home’s current condition. So, I decided to make a change. A big change.

This change started by reading a book that has been recommended to me over and over again, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

Marie Kondo herself shared our progress:

With the strategy and determination hand in hand, we purged. Here is how it went…

Our journey isn’t over… in fact it’s far from over. What has changed is my mindset. That this task is doable and to just keep the momentum going.

We are going to be renovating our home over the next year to truly make it spark joy and work for our family. I hope you follow along!

You might also like:

This is what happens when you are surprised with twins – Digging ourselves out of survival mode

Why I created a vision board for our home – Digging ourselves out of survival mode: A Series

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with our home makeover.

 

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5 Easy styles for long, unwashed hair

As a mom of four, washing my hair daily is a feat. It is a massive undertaking, which I only have pockets of time set aside for, a couple of times a week.

Overtime I have mastered five hairstyles that get me through the week without washing my hair daily.

From a simple low ponytail to multiple braids, each of these styles are perfect for long, unwashed hair.

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A busy mom’s morning routine and how I do my hair with hot rollers fast

my morning routine

Depending on the season, my morning routine takes different shapes. But what is consistent is I have to find time each day to carve out for me while I am caring for my four kids and running my business from home.

Right now, rolling out of bed, throwing clothes on and caring for everyone else first makes the most sense. But I do take the time later each morning to clean myself up and even do my hair.

Follow along with me…

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don’t miss a video!

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The Demise Of My Friendships After Becoming A Mother

mom colouring with kidsMotherhood. It has added many layers to who I was pre-kids. I have become stronger, more sensitive, intuitive, brave, resilient and resourceful. Although it has added some great qualities to my resume of character, I wouldn’t say that it has all been positive.

Relationships in my life have taken a hit. I try. But reality is, I can’t keep up. My inner circle is my four kids and my husband, and even at times my husband was shoved out. I have worked hard at stealing a little more time each day for him, but then I am at capacity.

The rest of the people in my world either get it, or they don’t. I don’t blame them. I am, at times, a crappy friend.

I go dark.

being a mom and a friend

One week you can text me and I will reply within seconds, being able to keep up a back and forth conversation that will put a smile on my face, remembering how much I miss conversing with another adult.

Other weeks you can text me and I will read half of it, before a piercing cry breaks the silence from the other room and  I have to drop my phone and run. That text often ends up in the graveyard of my relationships.

I’m sorry.

I’m wiping noses, making meals and then remaking them when crusts aren’t wanted and peas are touching the gravy. I’m singing songs and laying beside kids as they fall asleep. I am listening to how days at school went and breaking up fights. I am making it rain in the bath and brushing dirt off of knees outside. I am holding and kissing softly.

mom reading to kids

It won’t always be like this, at least I don’t think it will. But I do know that when the dust settles, the diapers are long gone and all of my kids are more independent, I will look around and see those few people who stuck around.

Some of you… well you are family, so you are kind of obligated to stay, which, to be honest, I might rely on too much. I need to change that.

Others stuck around because this is their life too. They are relieved to know that they aren’t the only one that by the end of the day, they can barely remember large portions of it. They were so many people and they wore so many hats that they can’t even remember who they really are anymore.

For now, I hope that our rare dinners out without kids can do. Because although few and far between, they reset me. They remind me who I was and still am. They remind me what it feels like to laugh and that I am one of many moms who are constantly trying to find the elusive balance.

motherhood

So, maybe my pool of friends has shrunk significantly since becoming a mother. But I am still here.

I care.

I crave our relationship just as much, and will continue to make plans and reschedule when my kid is sick.

I am in it right now. In the trenches. Don’t give up on me. Please keep throwing that rope down every once and a while, I will keep trying to grab it.

In a couple years when I have re-emerged, and when you are in it, I promise, I will throw that rope to you again and again, even if you occasionally go dark too.

I’m still here, please wait for me.

Don’t forget to LIKE Nesting Story on Facebook, follow Nesting Story on Instagram and subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube!

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Why I Created A Vision Board For Our Home – Digging Us Out Of Survival Mode: A Series

Home vision boardThe moment we walked through our house I knew I was home. It was ugly. No, really, it was so ugly that it had just been sitting on the market for months. Even when everything else was selling and despite it’s oversized yard. It just sat.

But I didn’t see the ugly dark brown and navy paint everywhere. I didn’t see the brown laminate counters or the hack job of a zipper-looking backsplash. I saw something entirely different. Something beautiful.

Thank goodness for the large yard, because Mike is so practical, that was what sold him. Otherwise, to Mike this house was a dark (literally) stepping stone to our next home.

I pictured the deck we would build, the lighter paint colours I would choose to highlight the trim and mouldings with, and the personality we would add to the house. But as an Interior Designer (at the time), it was much easier for me to picture this makeover.

Fast-forward almost four years later, and we have accomplished many items on my home-makeover list. In fact, you almost can’t recognize it. It’s bright, it’s happy and it’s home.

After a couple years of living in survival mode and only focusing on our kids’ rooms, but pressing pause on the rest of our home, it was time to put our energy back into the rest of our living space.

I would try my best to describe my vision to Mike, and although most of the time he got it, I could tell he didn’t see the whole picture.

I had a stack of design magazines that I have collected over the years and I would go back to them again and again. Back to my book marked pages to keep my eye on the prize.

Do people even buy magazines anymore? There is something about flipping through a real paper magazine that is heaven to me.

A couple weeks ago I began purging our house and was getting the ball rolling on a few more projects when it hit me… our house needed a vision board, not a design board, a vision board.Home vision board

Okay, maybe what I made can be considered a design board, but it’s more than that. It is our future. It is the vision I have for our family, where we spend 99% of our time.

I grabbed our under-used bulletin board I keep in our kitchen and my stacks of design magazines and began cutting. By the time I was done I placed what I see as a thing of beauty, back in a prominent space in our kitchen, and just stared at it.Home vision board

When Mike walked into the room and saw what I had done, he agreed with my vision of our home. We were on the same page.

Guess what? Ever since I created a home vision board, Mike (and I, but that goes without saying), has been super motivated. Plans are being made and materials are being sourced. We are both seeing our long-term future in this home.Home vision board

A spark has been lit. We each are working a little harder at our careers, (because we have to pay for all of these ideas somehow), and we are getting the not-so-fun jobs, like cleaning and purging done faster.

Our home’s vision board is our carrot. In fact we spend a lot of time just discussing it, and each time being filled with excitement and motivation.

Home vision board

It can be so hard to resurface from the baby-stage, and a lot of the time, you can loose a bit of your identity. I have learned over the years to not look that this phase as a negative period, but as an exciting time to push reset.

I have reinvented myself three times now, after each of my pregnancies, and it has been so exciting evolving over the years to where I am and who I am now.

We are finished having babies. We have closed up shop. I have entered a phase in my life that won’t be halted by pregnancy. I get to keep on moving.

I cannot wait to share this journey with you.

This post is part of a series: Digging Us Out Of Survival Mode. If you missed the first post, you can read it here: This Is What Happens When You Are Surprised With Twins.

Also, don’t forget to like Nesting Story on Facebook so that you don’t miss a post, and follow Nesting Story on Instagram, Snapchat: nestingstory and subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube, to see the progress and some behind the scenes peeks.

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A Wedding Anniversary Surprise, Plus A Look Back At Nine Years (Vlog 8)

wedding cake

When I think back to our wedding day, it feels like just yesterday. But when Mike surprised me on our nine year anniversary by bringing me back to where we were married, it actually felt so long ago.

We walked around remembering that day, while Mike eerily remembered little details I had forgotten.

It was very nostalgic and really made me realize how long ago that was and not only what we have been through since, but also who we have created.

Have a peek in today’s vlog…

Don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube so that you don’t miss a Video!

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Six family members, six skin types: how I care for each member

Caring for six different people’s skin can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Although each of us are members of one family, we have very unique skin types with entirely different needs.

Being a mom to four young kids has taken its toll on my body, especially my skin. Not only do I try to pamper my body’s skin after all of the stretching it has gone through during my pregnancies, but I find that my hands can get very dry, especially during the winter.

I spend a lot of my day washing dishes, bathing kids and washing my hands, especially during cold and flu season. Pair that with the dry winter air, and it creates a perfect storm for dry hands. As a consequence my hands can get rough, sore and chapped.

I’m not the only member of our family that can get dry, chapped skin at this time of year. My 6-year-old son, Holden, has very sensitive skin. His lips and face get very dry and chapped from both from the cold air while he’s playing outside, and from his attempts to moisturize his lips by licking them.

Holden's dry skin

Mia, one of my 18-month-old twins has had extremely dry, sensitive skin from the moment she was born. In fact, if I don’t moisturize her skin daily, it can become so dry, it feels rough to touch.

Mia’s twin, Everly, and their 5-year-old sister, Beau, each have olive skin that doesn’t get as dry as their siblings’. They take after their Dad, who also has this type of skin.

Sisters

So how do I care for all of these unique skin types? I recently switched our family over to Vaseline’s skin care line, which includes a variety of lotions, created for a variety of skin types and needs.

Vaseline products
Here is the best part, not only do Vaseline® skin care products give you instant relief and softer skin, but each lotion contains micro-droplets of their Vaseline® Jelly that heal from within.

So, which products do I use, and what family members do I use them on?

For my hands, I love Vaseline’s new Intensive Care Repairing Serum. Not only does it repair my severely dry skin, it also smells incredible. I have started to protect my hands more by wearing gloves while I wash dishes, and I keep this non-greasy moisturizer on my desk so I can moisturize my hands throughout the day, while working. In just a couple of days, I’ve experienced some much-needed relief from my sore, dry, cracked hands.

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Relief Repairing Serum
For my body, I am obsessed with Vaseline’s Intensive Care Cocoa Radiant Lotion. This non-greasy lotion not only brings out your skin’s natural glow, but the cocoa smell makes me feel like I am on vacation.

Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Radient Lotion
For Holden’s chapped face, we use our family’s number one, go-to product for years: Vaseline’s Original Petroleum Jelly. He typically applies the jelly before bed each night, and by the morning, the redness on his face has cleared up.

Holden and Vaseline
For Mia’s dry skin (as well as the rest of our family), I give her daily massages using Vaseline’s Intensive Care Advanced Repair lotion. This unscented and non-greasy lotion is rich and heals very dry skin.

When I massage Mia, she suddenly goes very still, which is rare for a toddler her age. Mia’s body relaxes and her breathing slows each time I apply this lotion on her skin, while giving her legs a feet a little rub. I always apply Mia’s moisturizer after her bath in the evening, and then I dress her in cozy pajamas for the night. Her skin has never been so soft!

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented
Vaseline not only creates tried and true products that our whole family loves, but has also started to give back in an effort called The Healing Project. Here’s how it works:

1 Vaseline purchase = 1 Donation Towards Healing – the purchase of any Vaseline® product will support the partnership with Direct Relief to deliver dermatological care, medical supplies, and Vaseline® Jelly to those living in crisis and disaster.

Disclaimer: Vaseline® donates a portion of the proceeds towards The Healing Project up to a maximum of $100,000.

Taking care of our family’s different skin types doesn’t have to be a full time job. Now that we know which product works best for each member, I can’t see any of us suffering from dry skin any time soon. That’s the healing power of Vaseline.

Vaseline® believes that with deep-healing moisture you can transform dry skin into healthy-looking skin. We know this because we are one of the original skin experts, helping to safely heal dry skin for over 140 years in North America. Today, micro-droplets of our Vaseline® Jelly can be found in all Vaseline® products. Vaseline® doesn’t just make skin feel soft and smooth instantly, but absorbs deeply into dry skin and moisturizes to heal it from within. For more information about our product offering and The Healing Project, visit www.vaseline.ca.

Logo
Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Vaseline via Mode Media Canada. While product samples and compensation were provided, all opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions of positions of Vaseline.

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Healthy And Delicious Toasted Almond Apple Oatmeal Recipe

Toasted Almond-3

Toasted almond apple oatmeal is probably one of my favourite meals, and something I eat a lot. Not only is this cozy breakfast delicious, it is ridiculously healthy.

I shared this recipe a little while ago within one of my blog posts. Since then I have received numerous emails and messages from people about how much they love it! I thought it was time to give this recipe the proper love it deserves.

This is a recipe I discovered years ago in a fitness magazine article. I have altered it a little and omitted the sugar. I eat this almost everyday. It is fast, easy, delicious and filling. I also find that whenever I take the time to make this each day, I tend to loose weight and stick to a healthier lifestyle. Mike loves it when I double the recipe on the weekends so he can have some too!

What you need:

  • 1 TSP sliced almonds
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 TSP raisins
  • 1TSP cinnimon
  • 1/2 cup large flake oats
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 TSP ground chia seeds (optional)

oatmeal

To prepare: toast almonds on a greased skillet (MED heat) until you can smell a nutty aroma, add the oats, toast for one more minute. Reduce the heat to LOW and add skim milk followed by remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat, stir, cover and let sit for three minute. Add cold milk to cool if desired and enjoy!

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal

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Learning How To Get A Life… Again

Family roomRecently my husband Mike, and I had a very honest conversation with each other about getting a life, again. We have been stuck in this prison of a home because of how difficult it can be to get out with our 18-month-old twins. Our older two kids, who are almost five and 6-years-old, are a piece of cake, but our twins are that age right now.

As we discussed some of the things that have been getting us down recently, Mike finally opened up about how he has felt like we have been imprisoned in our own home. He actually gestured to the room we were sitting in, (our family room), and said, “I am so sick of this room! All we do is spend all of our time in here. In fact, if this room were a person, I’d murder it!” Okay, the last part made me laugh a little.

But he was totally right. I was avoiding the stress of going out with our twins so much that I had been forcing our family to spend all of our time in that one room without really realizing how depressing that was for the rest of our family. After that conversation I made the decision to get us out of the house more on the weekends.

So, this past Saturday we ventured into Toronto, (which is about 30 minutes from us), and took all four of our kids to the Ontario Science Centre. Luckily my sister and her boyfriend, who live in Toronto, met us there and helped out with the kids.Mia and Everly playingWe spent the entire day there. I was exhausted, but everyone had a great time. We threw naps out the window and reclined our stroller so that Mia and Everly could take little naps.twins reclined in strollerI mostly enjoyed watching Holden, Beau and Mike explore, learn and have fun. All three loved breaking free from our prison and doing something they loved for once.Beau the astronautI have noticed, in the days that have followed, that Mike has been in a much better mood. I guess getting out, despite the stress and exhaustion is worth it.

Time to plan our outing for next weekend!

 

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Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease: A Double Whammy And What It’s Really Like

Twins hand, foot and mouth diseaseHand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFM) is the WORST. I have four kids, and over my six years as a parent we have experienced chicken pox, countless stomach flus, colds, roseola, and a handful of injuries. But the past week of each of our twins having HFM has felt almost biblical.

Apparently not every experience with HFM is as bad as we’ve had it, and as far as pain goes, we have been the lucky winners.

Let’s back up a week. After a weekend of one of Everly acting “off” and cranky, she spiked a fever on the Monday. I had been suspicious that it was HFM because her daycare was experiencing a full blown outbreak. The only thing was, she didn’t have any of the typical blisters around her mouth, hands or feet, which goes hand in hand with HFM (hence it’s name).Hand foot and mouth disease sign

The sign hanging on the door at Mia and Everly’s daycare. Not what a mom wants to see.

By the Tuesday Evening I was racing Everly to the ER, because she was inconsolable. Her fever had broken the day before, but she wasn’t sleeping and was crying all. of. the. time.

After a thorough check-up, the doctor finally found blisters on the roof of her mouth. HFM blisters look like little pimples. Mystery solved. What could we do for her? Give her Advil and Tylenol (on a rotation) every three hours and wait it out. HFM is viral. It cannot be treated by antibiotics. To read more, here is a great article from Baby Center.

It was a long week of crying, but by the Friday, she was finally back to herself. We thought HFM was behind us and Everly’s twin Mia had dodged a bullet, but we were so wrong.

On Saturday morning, after a fussy night, I suspected the worst. Sure enough, Mia had the ominous fever. My husband, Mike, and I braced for what we knew was coming: a couple sleepless nights and a lot of crying.Toddler cryingBy Sunday, Mia had a full body rash, concentrated around her mouth, on her arms, feet and the worst area being her thighs, torso and bum. In fact, I have read that having the rash around the buttocks is very common.Hand foot and mouth rashHand, foot and mouth disease rash on 18 month old.

While Mike and I were heading to bed, after all four kids had been a asleep for a couple hours, I had an unsettling realization. Mia barely drank anything since that morning. Every time we had offered her a drink, she would push it away because her mouth was so sore. In fact, she hadn’t had a wet diaper since 2pm. This was concerning, and we knew that a trip to the ER was waiting for us in the morning hours.

That night was brutal to get through. Mia screamed the entire time, and wanted me to hold her constantly. By 2 a.m. I was about to race to the hospital with Mia, but she suddenly started to take sips of her water, so we decided to try to grab some sleep and put off the hospital until a more friendly hour.

5:50 a.m. Mia woke up wailing and she wouldn’t stop. She insisted that I hold her all of the time (picture a Gorilla and her baby). I should point out, she is 25 pounds and I am a short, teeny tiny person with a history of back problems. As much as I would love to say I am an expert baby wearer, that is not the case. Oh, and have you ever gone to the bathroom while a person is sitting on your lap? It’s quite the experience, you should try it sometime.toddler drooling 2

The white stuff on Mia’s face is Calamine lotion… which helped a lot with the blisters. Both twins drooled a lot. I think because it hurts too much to swallow.

I headed with Mia to the hospital, ready for her to be admitted for dehydration. But luckily, by the time we arrived she had turned a corner. Mia started eating, and taking more sips of water. Once the doctor got to us, Mia had produced the most beautiful wet diaper I have ever changed. We were sent home, instructed to keep doing what we are doing, and once again, wait it out.Hand foot and mouth disease hospital visit

Mia in the emergency room. Not impressed.

While at the emergency room, a triage nurse was telling me that she and her son had had HFM before, and she was able to describe what the pain felt like: She said that her blisters went all the way down her throat, and the pain was so bad, she was prescribed codeine. The blisters on her hands and feet felt like… you know when your foot has fallen asleep and as the feeling comes back, it can feel like pins and needles? The blisters feel like pins and needles all of the time. She said that putting pressure on it, like wearing gloves, made the sensation a little more bearable. Oh, and her toenails also fell off, which apparently is also very common.

So here we are. Mia is napping, our house is trashed, and Mike and I are feeling like we have been hit by trucks. We are praying that this is the end of HFM for our home. I am not sure if we can take anymore… mercy! Mercy!

Here are some tips from some of my friends which I plan to try with Mia:

  • popsicles and soup are easier for kids with HFM to eat.
  • If your child is old enough, do a salt-water mouth wash, or apparently there is a “magic mouthwash” some doctors prescribe.
  • banana smoothies (think all alkaline foods), with hemp hearts, ice cubes, and protein to fill them up with coconut milk to soothe the mouth.
  • Make coconut milk popsicles, both yummy and soothing.
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Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Hollywood Studios And The Reality Of Taking Toddlers To Disney World

We arrived in Disney World after driving all the way from Toronto, exhausted, but excited. The following day was going to be busy, and involve a lot of juggling. After some much needed baths and showers, we were ready for bed, and buzzing about our exciting plans for the following day.

I had booked an appointment for our four-year-old daughter, Beau, at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs, while my husband, Mike, and my parents (who stayed in a room on the other side of our resort) took our six-year-old son, Holden and our 17 month old twins to Hollywood Studios. The plan was that Beau and I would then hop on a bus after her makeover to meet up with everyone at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, once she was done.

After everyone had a good-night’s sleep, we had breakfast at our resort, Disney’s Art of Animation, and then parted ways. I was feeling a bit exhausted, and was wondering if we should have planned a “buffer” day between our long drive and starting into the Disney experience.

Heading to the Bippity Boppity Boutique

Beau and I waiting for our bus to take us from Art of Animation to Disney Springs for her princess makeover.

Beau and I arrived for our appointment, full of excitement. She kept saying that she wanted to have a side braid like Elsa, but when I had last checked, (when I had booked the appointment a few months prior), they didn’t have an Elsa makeover on the menu. To my relief, and to Beau’s delight, we realized that they had recently added a Frozen makeover package (we went for the full Disney Frozen Package). Tip: book your Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment months in advance. It is very popular!

After a short wait, they called Beau’s name and a Fairy Godmother-in-training ushered Beau into a change room where her Elsa dress was laid out for her. Beau changed into her dress and again took a seat in the boutique. We were getting a little curious when we watched other little girls called, but Beau continued to wait. Suddenly a Fairy Godmother-in-training came over to Beau and told her that she had been chosen as the special princess, and would have her makeover done in the special spot, in the front display window of the store. I am pretty sure they chose her to showcase their new Frozen makeover package, but regardless, we were thrilled!

The Fairy Godmother-in-training tied a special princess cape around Beau’s shoulders and ushered her out of the boutique and through the store, while waving at everyone as she went by… it was pretty magical.

Bippity Boppity Boutique 1Once we arrived at the front of the store in Beau’s special seat, the makeover began. I have to give it to Disney, the entire time, all of the Fairy Godmothers-in-training stayed in character and continually complemented the little girls, boosting their confidence.Bippity Boppity Boutique 3The Disney Frozen Makeover package included: an Elsa hairstyle with braided hair piece and sparkling snowflake hair accessories, an Elsa costume, shimmering make-up, face gems, BBB Princess sash and cinch sack, nail polish and a 12″ Olaf Plush Toy, for $194.95. Beau was able to keep everything including the makeup, brushes, face gems, nail polish etc…Bippity Boppity Boutique 4The entire Bippity Boppity Boutique appointment took about 45 minutes. This was one of both Beau’s and my favourite memories from our whole trip. As you may remember, Beau struggled a little earlier this year with anxiety. She has also been such a fantastic and patient sister. It was her turn to shine.

Bippity Boppity Boutique 2

As Beau’s makeover was coming to an end, I was fighting a migraine. I think the exhaustion of the drive was getting to me and I was starting to wonder how I was going to last the rest of the day walking around the hot park.

So, when I received a text from Mike telling me that Mia and Everly were melting down, I was quick to throw in the towel and offer to stay back at our resort with them for the rest of the day. Although it was a little disappointing missing Hollywood Studios, I knew that this was the best decision for everyone.

Mike and my dad took Mia and Everly, and our big stroller, (more about the buses + strollers + toddlers when I cover the Art of Animation in a different post), and headed back to our resort to meet up with Beau and I. My mom stayed at Hollywood Studios and continued the day with Holden.

I was able to put Mia and Everly down for a proper nap, while I napped as well on the sofa and finally fought off my migraine. My mom ended up heading back early that day and by late afternoon we brought Mia and Everly over to our resort’s big blue pool. We had such a great time, and it was exactly what I needed to recharge.

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The view from the sofa in our Art of Animation, Cars room

Mike, my parents, and the big kids spent the rest of the day at Hollywood Studios, enjoying everything it had to offer. Mike later told me that everywhere they went, including the bus  ride back to our resort, the Disney “cast members” (AKA employees), would announce that Queen Elsa (Beau) had arrived everywhere they went. I wish I had been there to see Beau’s face.

Hollywood Studios Day with DadThe day finished with Holden’s Jedi training, something that Mike had booked earlier in the day. Despite being terrified while waiting his turn, the actual experience is Holden’s favourite memory from Disney World.Jedi TrainingLooking back on our first day of Disney World, a part of me is disappointed that I had to miss out on so much. I think that I made the right choice staying back so that Mia, Everly and I could rest and regroup.

Holden and Beau had been so patient during my pregnancy with our twins, and the most understanding and caring older siblings during our twins’ first year. I am so glad that this day was focused on them. They were the reason we went to Disney World this year, so that we didn’t miss this magical age.

I learned a long time ago, that with twins, you have to make sacrifices and change the plan, or pull the plug when necessary. This was no exception.

By the end of the day, I was rested and ready for what the following day had planned… we were heading to the Magic Kingdom with everyone and making sure that Mia and Everly joined in on the fun. Stay tuned! 

Our Florida vacation was NOT sponsored. This vacation has been in the making for a long time. As always, all opinions are my own.

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We Drove From Toronto To Florida With Four Kids And Survived

IMG_0479We did it! We drove from Toronto to Orlando with four kids ages six and under. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Growing up, I always did the same drive with my family, so this to me is almost a right of passage. Plus, I would never try buying six flights over the holidays, because it would cost a fortune.

Unlike the last time we did this trek, we started packing and preparing weeks in advance. We were extremely strategic with how we packed our SUV, including having designated bags to go in the car and ones to go in our roof top carrier. We used mostly duffle bags, and tried to avoid suitcases, so we could shove and squish our luggage.

Note: we removed the center console in the middle row of our SUV. By doing this,our older kids can easily walk into the backseat and buckle themselves up into their booster seats. This has been a lifesaver, especially with having to accommodate our twins’ carseats.

I packed our overnight bag that we would use when we stopped in Tennessee, and made sure I had all of the necessary in-car survival bags we would need. These included a soft cooler filled with fruit, bottles of water and milk for bottles, a snack bag with dry snacks and containers, and most importantly, my bag of tricks. In this bag, I filled it with dollar store toys, stickers, and the best invention ever… Crayola Color Wonder markers and colouring books (these are the no mess kind).

After putting our four kids to bed in their comfy clothes, (so that we didn’t have to change them when we left), we packed the car and tried to get some sleep. Before going to sleep, Holden, our oldest, was upset, thinking that people wouldn’t know we were going to come home and would move in while we were away. We calmed his nerves and he finally fell asleep.

At 2:30am our alarm sounded and it was time to get going. we loaded each kid into the car and were on our way. I had already sent my husband Mike out to buy us coffees and muffins so that we wouldn’t have to stop for a while.

We drove straight through to Windsor, stopped for a bathroom break and gas fill up and were ready to cross the boarder. Little did we know that unlike previous years, there would be a huge line at the Canada/US boarder. We lost about an hour here but we were so proud of how patient our kids were.

By the time we were just about to cross the Ohio boarder from Michigan, we stopped for breakfast at Dennys. Our kids ate a ton, especially our twins, Mia and Everly.

Mia and Everly at Dennys

Note: There are a few key items in this photo that I highly recommend: the Tiny Diner Placemats by Summer Infant and the rubber bibs were a life saver! Also some sippys and hand sanitizer is a must!

After breakfast we tried to cover some ground, unfortunately Beau, (who is 4-years-old), had to constantly stop for bathroom breaks. This is the kid that never has an accident at night, but when awake, has the tiniest bladder. The only person who had slept at this point was Mia, so by lunchtime everyone was getting a little crusty.

When we stopped at McDonalds for lunch, I found a little corner that I could block off so our kids couldn’t escape, and we had an impromptu dance party, while Mike got the food. They all loved it, but we probably looked a little funny… I didn’t care. I just wanted to get everyone moving so our kids would sleep and we could gain some ground.

After lunch, a couple bottles and a little work, all four kids fell asleep. But after a couple hours Beau woke up hysterical, feeling sick and begging to go home. This threw us through a loop. We pulled off the highway and tried to figure out how to calm her down. I took her to the bathroom, again, and worked hard at relaxing her.

Mike was also unravelling at this point. We were behind schedule, (still in Kentucky), and he felt frustrated that we were stopping so often for bathroom breaks. We bickered a little, but we each pulled it together, got a grip and pushed forward.

Over the next few hours we stopped only on the side of the road for quick bathroom breaks in the bushes (yes, we are those people). At one point Mike was pooped on and we broke out in laughter. We drove until 9pm the first night and finally stopped in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the night. We had called ahead to book our room at a Holiday Inn Express and made sure they had two cribs. We got rooms side by side, with Mike and the big kids in one and our twins and I in the other.

Half way through the night Everly woke up hysterical and spat up, (which is very typical for her). For the first time in the six years since I became a parent, I brought Everly into my bed and co-slept with her. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a big deal. I am a crazy light sleeper and have never been able to sleep with my kids. I was just tired enough that I needed any kind of sleep I could get. I ended up co-sleeping with Everly every night we were in Disney World while I was sharing a room with her. 

The next morning we woke up on a mission. We decided that if we were going to get to Orlando before dinner we would only do drive through meals, diaper changes in the car and very quick bathroom breaks.

Hotel room picA Holiday Inn bathroom selfie

At one point on day two, we once again unravelled. I was also done being patient and reminded Mike that we needed to be a team to get through this.

By Gainesville, Florida we were walking Mia and Everly around the parking lot to keep them going. They were losing their patience and very done with being in the car.

walking our twins

The only thing I had’t planned was how dirty Mia and Everly would get and how many diaper leaks they would have. We easily went through the six outfits I had packed and for the last few hours of our drive we were down to dirty onesies. All of our other clothes were locked up in our rooftop carrier.

Although Everly, (who is typically the most cranky of our children in the car), had been incredibly happy and up for the adventure, was nearing the end of her rope. The final hour of our drive was hard work. I had pulled out every trick up my sleeve, given every snack and used every toy. I was putting on puppet shows for the kids which held off their cries to get out of the car.

But finally we saw the most beautiful sight…

Disney World

We had arrived. As soon as we entered our hotel room in The Art Of Animation in Disney World, the kids ran around, explored and couldn’t have been happier to be done our big drive.

We have arrived

Some people think we are crazy that we continue to do this drive every other year, but whenever we look back on our Christmas holiday vacations, the drive is always part of our happiest memories.

Don’t forget to follow Nesting Story on Facebook to catch my upcoming blog posts covering the rest of our three week Florida vacation, including doing Disney World with four kids. 

 

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5 Important Rules Of Date Night With My Husband

Rules of date night 1After our marriage had been heading down a dangerous road, fuelled by stress which can often go hand-in-hand with being parents, we made the life-changing decision to start dating again. This has turned our relationship around and we are now on the same page, communicating and enjoying this journey together as a team.

Three months after going on weekly dates, we have learned a few things that can make or break date night. These lessons have now become stead-fast rules for date night that we have agreed on together…

The first rule of date night is: you don’t put too much pressure on date night. Weekly date night is not the time to make (or expect some grand gesture). The purpose of date night is to get out of your home and reconnect on a very basic level.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the planning, execution or expectation of a spectacular night of surprises and big events, that the actual date can overshadow the most important part: connecting. Plus, the more effort you put into planning every detail, there is more than can go wrong. Take the pressure off, even if that means driving around for a bit before deciding on a restaurant to eat dinner in.

The second rule of date night is: you don’t break the bank on date night. Like many couples, one of our biggest sources of stress and tension is finances. Don’t let date night add to your financial burden.

Communicate what kind of date you can actually afford and choose the activity or restaurant accordingly. Get creative and have a picnic or keep your eye on specials. If you can’t afford a sitter, try doing a babysitting swap with another family. You offer to babysit their kids one night a week and vice-versa.

The third rule of date night is: it is only the two of you on date night. A few weeks back we made the mistake of meeting up with friends on date night. Although it was nice catching up with friends without the interruption of children during our conversation, my husband and I didn’t have any time alone to talk and connect. We could also feel the ripple effect of this throughout the week that followed.

After that night we have made a rule that it is only the two of us on date night. With four kids, this is one of the only times that we really get a chance to listen to the other person, discuss issues that may need to be addressed and make a plan of attack.

The fourth rule of date night is: you have your babysitter come on a weekday evening for date night. For the six years my husband and I have been parents, we have probably had a date once a month, on average. This was typically when one of our parents were available to babysit. But, more and more our weekends are being filled up with family gatherings, kid’s events and getting together with other families. If we were to set a weekly date each weekend, chances are we would probably have to cancel almost every other week due to other commitments.

Knowing we have a trusted babysitter come every Thursday night makes it easy to stick with. Also, having it on a school night usually means that all four kids are in bed before we leave our house at 7p.m. This makes it much easier on the babysitter and us.

The fifth rule of date night is: you are patient when the other person might be “in a funk” on date night. On one particular date night, my husband was in what is best described as a funk. He had had a long day at work and a very long and slow commute home afterwards. He had already suggested cancelling date night earlier in the day, because one of our kids had a cold and he was worried that we’d be called home early because of it. I insisted that we still go and we just stay local.

Once we had ventured out of our house together and my husband was driving around grumbling that he had been driving all day and didn’t know what he wanted for dinner, I insisted that he pull over. At that point I switched places with him, began driving and took control of date night in a very calm, but assertive way. I made the decision about where we were going to eat, and took the pressure off of him.

At the restaurant, I continued to be patient with him and talking without talking his ear off. I also listened when he was ready to talk and acknowledged his mood and let him know that I understood why that was a rough day.

Before rescuing our relationship, I probably would have picked a fight with him and told him he was ruining our night out. Instead, me being patient, taking control and listening, eventually lead to his bad mood disappearing and us ending our date laughing and refreshed.

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Why I Am Dating My Husband Again

196373_17751841296_5343_nOne day, my six-year-old son turned to me, and asked a question that has changed the course of my marriage.

“Mommy.” He started. “When I grow up, do I have to get married?”

“No.” I replied. “You can do whatever you want, we just want you to be happy.”

“Okay good!” He said, with a look of relief spreading across his face. “Because I don’t want to have to fight with someone all of the time.”

This comment made my heart stop. The truth is, my husband Mike and I were fighting all of the time. We had become numb to the fact that our fights were getting louder, more frequent and happening a lot in front of our kids.

How did we get here? This was my best friend that I was at constant war with. The love of my life. The father of my children.

We first met through mutual friends at the end of high school. Although we were polar opposites, there was something that immediately drew us together. Whether we were hanging out with friends, snowboarding, having a lazy movie marathon, or just goofing off, we were inseparable.playing around

Back when we were dating… young, in love and care-free 

As days turned into months, we officially started dating and never looked back.

Six years later, we bought a house and got married. We had already been through some tough stuff by that point, including illness and long distance. We were such a strong unit and our friendship, that was at the core of our relationship, was still just as strong.

Soon after getting married, we seemed to have one devastating hurdle after another. We lost our beloved puppy, which made us feel like we had failed at our first experience as parents.WeddingThen, after becoming parents to our son, he had a really difficult time, struggling with sensory issues and a language delay.new parents

New parents – photo by Blue Bird Creative

Our second child, was a little unplanned. Although she was a much needed ray of sunshine, we were so burnt out from our son, that our love of parenting was dissapearing and we were just going through the motions.269700_10150232639031297_4870175_n

Family of four – photo by Blue Bird Creative

These events felt like waves crashing down on us. Just as we were able to pick ourselves up, another wave would come crashing down on us, throwing us to the ground.

Finally, for a little while, things were calm. We went without any major crisis for about a year. During that time we each worked on ourselves. I found myself again, realizing that being a stay at home mom wasn’t for me and after some trial and error, found the perfect work/mom life balance.

Although Mike and I were going on the occasional date, we relied on the fact that our relationship had always been very relaxed. We enjoyed watching TV together after our kids were in bed, and that seemed to be enough. Little did we realize that we were drifting apart.

After deciding our family wasn’t complete, we started trying for another baby.

But again, the waves of crisis reappeared and we were not ready…

We experienced one year of secondary infertility, with two early miscarriages. Found out we were expecting spontaneous twins and the life-alterning pregnancy that followed. The financial strain of adding two new members to our family, mostly because of the help we needed to hire to survive. All of the ups and downs of not only navigating newborn twins, but getting used to the new family dynamic of having four kids. Mike, getting used to a new commute for work that was keeping him on the road for three hours a day. Going viral with my blog and being in the spotlight. Giving multiple interviews a day for two weeks straight. Trying to find our footing once the press tapered off. Trying to decide if we should move or not, which we didn’t. Finally, our four-year-old suddenly started going through an extreme period of anxiety and we had to help her find her way out of the darkness.Family Sarah Martin Photography

Family of six – photo by Sarah Martin Photography

We were so beyond stressed that I was coping by pulling away and immersing myself in my work, and constantly getting breaks by going out with friends. Mike was becoming increasingly irritable, short tempered and impatient.

I found myself dreading Mike coming home from work, and for the first time in the fourteen years we had been together, I was starting to picture what life would be like if we were apart.

After I told Mike what Holden had said, he was shocked. We both were. We hadn’t realized how used to fighting we were. We started communicating, and during that open and honest discussion, I confided in Mike that if things continued on this path, I wouldn’t always be there. That I hadn’t signed up for a life with a person who was miserable all of the time. I also told him that I knew I had been so self-involved that I wasn’t at all helping the situation.

From that point on, we decided to communicate way more. Be on the same team. Let the little things go, and be more in tune with what kind of support the other person needed.

But the biggest realization we had was that, through all of those waves. Through all of the crisis we had experienced, we had solely been relying on our history, our strong foundation and friendship to be enough. Our relationship was always on the back burner. Despite what we had thought, it wasn’t enough.

Mike and I have gone back to dating. We have a babysitter that comes every Thursday evening so we can go out. Sometimes we plan something more elaborate, and other times we spontaneously choose a restaurant as we walk out the door.

But every single time we go out, we connect. We communicate and we listen to each other.Date night

Date night

Although we had never fallen out of love, we have a new relationship. We repaired the cracks in our foundation and started on an addition. Most of all, we are on the same page.

Our home is not full of yelling anymore. There is communication, laughter and positivity.

Now, when we ask our son about having a family one day, (although there is still no pressure) he excitedly tells us he would love to be married and have four kids – just like us.

Note: Mike helped write portions of this post. We both thought this was a very important story to tell.

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The Ultimate Fall Salad: Spinach, Quinoa, Squash and Brussel Sprouts

The ultimate fall salad recipe - nesting storyFor lunches I typically eat salads. Not only are they healthy, but they are a great way to used up left overs. I just raid the fridge and pile on a variety of sometimes unusual dinner leftovers. On this particular fall day, I stumbled upon the most incredibly satisfying salad I thin I have ever had!

This salad is nutrient packed, filling and so yummy! Not only is it a great salad for lunch, but it would be great to serve dinner guests as well.Fall salad - nesting story

The Ultimate Fall Salad: On a bed of mixed greens and spinach, add cooked quinoa, cubed and roasted squash, roasted brussel sprouts, caramelized onions, a handful of unsalted and roasted cashews and a handful of raisins. Yum! For dressing I just mixed olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey.

DELISH!

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The Catch-All, Clutter Organizational Solution That Will Change Your World!

Before and after - kitchen clutter organizationRecently, I confessed a dirty little secret of mine on Nesting Story’s Facebook page. I exposed a side of my family that I am not proud of, and despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t seem to make this problem go away…

I am talking about our catch-all counter. You know, that place where everyone dumps their crap when they come in from school or work? The place where remote controls, phone chargers, newsletters, flyers, pacifiers, creams, crafts, magazines, sunglasses, sippys and magazines go to die? This mini wasteland then burrows this deep dark hole of anxiety into your brain and even those you just tidied it up five minutes ago, when you turned your back for a second, your family dumped all of their crap on it again!!???!!!

Yup, the thorn in my side. I was quick to learn that I wasn’t the only one with this deep, dark secret lurking in their home. Many of you quickly confessed, showing your messy counters and tables. collage of messy countersAfter years of trying to clean it, clear it and announce that there would be no more crap dumping to the rest of my family and constantly failing, I finally realized I needed to approach this problem in a different way. Catch All CounterI knew I could never fully keep this place clear of clutter. As a busy family of six, we sometimes just need to put stuff up and out of the way. So I brainstormed and finally came up with an idea that is so genius, it has now been working for our family for a couple of months!

I decided to let the crap and clutter stay on my counters, but in a pretty and organized way. I went out and found some attractive boxes (products listed below) with lids and I labelled them. One for each of my older kids, one for our one-year-old twins to share, and one for my husband Mike and I. collage of boxesNow, when someone dumps their sunglasses, trading cards or lip gloss on the counter, I just quickly pop it into their box. When the boxes are full, I hand them out and ask the owner of the box to put the contents away. BAM! I am telling you, this actually works!

For added organization, I found an equally attractive pin board, and an office organizer to house invitations and pens etc…

But wait… I didn’t stop my organization craze there… we also have one of those cupboards that I shove all of our kids arts, crafts and Play Doh into. Oh, by the way, who made the decision to make Play Doh accessories so massive? I am pretty sure we now own every Play Doh accessory known to man, curtesy of countless birthday parties. Something had to be done.Inside a messy cupboardI made the decision to evict everything Play Doh from the cupboard and store them inside a closet, in a cart on wheels. Seeing that I have to be in a particularly good and stress-free mood to break out the Play Doh and the mess that goes with it, having it out of our kitchen made a lot of sense.
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I took all of our kid’s art supplies and art projects and stored them properly. The complete art projects went into a bin under each of my kid’s beds and the craft supplies were divided up in to two organizational containers. Craft Supplies organizationI then assigned a shelf to each kid. I gave them letter trays to keep drawings and school work in. I also created an a space for colouring books and their art supplies container to go.Organized Cupboards

I just wish I had done this sooner. Now, when I go to tidy the catch-all space in my home, it takes me under a minute to put everything in it’s place. My kids also have more responsibility over their stuff and easier access. I can finally exhale!

See Items I used below. This post is NOT sponsored.raskog-utility-cart-gray__0154992_PE313176_S4

RASKOG Utility Cart, Ikea – $69.99 CAN

dokument-letter-tray__0095422_PE234074_S4

DOKUMENT Letter Tray, Ikea – $9.99 CAN

kvarnvik-box-with-lid-gray__0189738_PE343745_S4

KVARNVIK Box with Lid, Ikea – $9.99 CAN

samla-box-white__68540_PE182704_S4

SALMA Box, Ikea – $1.49 CAN

samla-box-white__0087294_PE216482_S4

SALMA Box, Ikea – $10.99 CAN

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With Early Intervention My Child Has Gone From Hating Life To Being The Life Of The Party

The first night in the hospital, when my oldest child was born, I didn’t sleep a wink. Not because he was fussing or hungry, but because I couldn’t stop staring at him. This was it, I was a mother. I had dreamed about becoming a mother when I was a child, caring for my own dolls like the attentive mom I planned on being.New momI sat there, upright in my hospital bed, watching Holden breathe, feeling the love inside of me bubble over. “I am going to do this right,” I thought to myself. “I am going to love every minute of being a mother.” I started to think about all of the simple things I wanted to enjoy with my son. Like, reading books, singing songs, play dates and running errands with my adorable baby in tow.

After the first six week and the haze of new motherhood passed, I was ready to start living life like I had planned with my new baby. I soon started to realize that despite my best efforts, Holden was rarely happy. He wasn’t colicky. He was a fantastic sleeper. But Holden just didn’t seem to enjoy life. He was fine when I was with him in the comfort of our home, but as soon as someone else tried to hold him or be in his presence, he would scream. Holden even rejected my husband, his own father, for a while.

Weeks turned into months and instead of things getting better, they started to worsen. When I tried to go grocery shopping, Holden would quickly become agitated, and if someone dared to make eye-contact with Holden, he would go nuclear. We could barely go to birthday parties, because the noise was too much. We learned to ask for a heads up when Happy Birthday was going to be sung, because we knew that we had to leave the room. Holden just couldn’t handle it. Countless play dates turned into me hiding out with Holden in a separate room, to keep him calm.

My husband, Mike, and I were in constant survival mode. I found little tricks to get through social situations, like using television, sticking Holden in his high chair with a big spoon full of peanut butter or water and cups to distract him. I stopped caring what other people thought.Holden 2There were times that the isolation and stress of Holden’s mood and separation anxiety almost broke me. When he was 18 months old, and I was very pregnant with our second child, I went into a full panic attack and had Mike drive me to labour and delivery. I was talked off the ledge by some incredibly patient nurses, who gave me great advice… get help. Which I did.

For months, we kept waiting out Holden’s permanent bad mood. I had heard tales of my younger sister being very similar as a baby and out-growing her misery by age two. But there were other things that started to worry us about Holden. He was always on the late end of normal for every milestone, and as I watched his peers start to talk and interact with other children, Holden would mostly grunt and avoid anything social.

After one particular devastating play date, where I not only spent the whole time trying to keep Holden happy, but I also felt judged by another mom about my survival tactics, (needless to say that was the last time I had a playdate with that mom), I told Mike that I thought it was time to have Holden evaluated to see if something bigger was going on. Holden was age two.

This decision, although difficult and heartbreaking was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Early intervention. Our initial evaluation led us into countless follow-up evaluations and eventually led us into Speech Therapy and a small amount of Occupational Therapy. We used both government funded services as well as hired private therapists. Holden became our project. We worked diligently and Holden began to speak, communicate, comprehend and participate. Although once thinking he may be on the Autism spectrum, this was dismissed as Holden made progress and was interacting well.

I spent countless hours researching and reading books. I kept hearing the same thing while we went through the diagnosis process, “although we see really great things from Holden, there are also some worrisome behaviours as well.” Then our private Speech Therapist had suggested Holden might have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. – SPD Foundation

I researched more, and sure enough, a mild version of SPD was an exact description of Holden. I immediately contacted a local Occupational Therapist who specialized in SPD and she worked closely with Holden on his sensory issues. 

Holden was eventually diagnosed with a universal language delay by a developmental paediatrician, who explained that this lack of communication could have also caused a lot of the other issues going on.

After two years of multiple sessions a week, as well as work at home, exposing Holden to different life experiences and learning what he needs, he blossomed into an incredible four-year-old ready to start kindergarten. Although he had some anxiety that quickly dissipated with the help of his teacher, he just kept blooming.

Now, at age six, Holden can read and write at his grade level. He is an extremely compassionate boy who is ready to be anyone’s friend and is known as the “peace-maker.” Holden knows how to self-regulate well and is aware when he needs to take a quiet break. This past summer, Holden has been excited to participate in camps and sports; something so social a noisy that he used to avoid at all costs. We have even named this summer, The Summer Of Holden.

Today, Holden has completely overcome his language delay. Has no signs of SPD, other than a more sensitive disposition. Holden no longer requires therapy of any kind. Although he attends tutoring (which he loves), Holden continues to excel in school.

What is the moral of this story? Early intervention is key. Don’t wait too long. Don’t let your pride or ideals stop you from getting your child evaluated. If that inner voice is nagging you that something is just not quite right, listen to it.

I give you, the summer of Holden…

Below is a list of resources, websites and services that we have found very helpful and have played a big part in our journey to Holden thriving and loving life.

Tools

These were the cue cards I made to help Holden communicate with us when he was two-years-old. I went around our home and took photos of items and activities, I then laminated the photos. This was to help Holden tell us what he wanted or needed. Photo cue cards for toddler with language delay

Helpful Websites

Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation – www.spdfoundation.net

www.lemonlimeadventures.com

Books and Videos

The Brain That Changes Itself – Video (You Tube) and Book, The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge

The Out Of Sync Child

Childhood Apraxia

The Highly Sensitive Child

Local Services and Activities (Ontario)

Camp Kids Town – www.campkidstown.com (A specialty day camp located in Milton, Ontario)

Erin Oak Kids – www.erinoakkids.com

Reach Out Centre For Kids – www.rockonline.ca

Feature photo is by Blue Bird Creative.

 

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The Single Phrase That Will Help You Survive Parenthood

The Single Phrase That Will Help You Survive ParenthoodThere is a term in our home that when spoken, everyone knows what it means and how to proceed. That term is “survival mode”. When Mike and I first became parents, and started to experience what true stress was like, my wise mother would say “you need to go into survival mode.”

Survival mode is when you are going through a particularly stressful time, and you have to dump any extra things in your life that isn’t 100% necessary. For example, when our twins were three weeks old and having chronic diarrhea from a fructose intolerance, we survived that sleep deprivation and stress by cutting back on whatever we could. Laundry would get washed, but only make it as far as the laundry basket, never put away. Meals were quick and easy, often being take-out. Our friends and family found that we had suddenly disappeared. IMG_6096Many of us parents tend to strive for this perfection that we naively think is going on behind the closed door of every other household where children reside. Truth: that is not the case.Sick Baby

Sure, we all have weeks when we think, “damn, I am killing it as a parent.” But beware, as soon as those thoughts flood your well-meaning OCD head, your child will wake up vomiting and you will find yourself under strict quarentine with strategically placed “puke bowls” scattered around your home in hopes that your little one might actually learn to aim this time.Kids Sleeping With FeverYour family has to define what “survival mode” means for you, and when it is required. We have had “survival mode” last anywhere from a day to months. Six years in, we know that there will always be moments of crisis or extreme stress. It is part of the package.

My husband and I are seasoned enough now to know that these stressful moment of illness, family crisis, behavioural problems, work deadlines and so on… will always come. But the key is to know when the storm has calmed and it is time to re-enter life and enjoy the moments in between.

Let your family master the art of “survival mode”. Give yourself permission to be like every other family out there. Let things slide and focus on managing the stress level in your home.

Parenthood is suddenly going to look a lot less scary.

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I Bought My First Bikini Since Having Four Kids

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I had planned on doing this, and blogging about it for a few months now. I finally decided to pull the trigger. Once taking these photos I held onto them for about a week debating whether or not to post them. I spoke to Mike about it, and he said if I feel comfortable, then he doesn’t mind. I made the decision mostly for myself, as part of my journey of accepting and loving my body after having three pregnancies, (one being a twin pregnancy), and celebrating what it is today.

After having my twins one year ago, I had thrown the towel in when it came to wearing a bikini. I started to have this mentality that my body was, (although bouncing back incredibly well after having four kids), not perfect enough for a bikini. I thought I was too old at age 32 and that it would be inappropriate to be wearing a bikini at this stage in life.

But recently, I was in the presence of some incredibly beautiful mothers of all ages and all sizes while they confidently sported their bikinis. Here I was, covered up with a tankini and long flowy pants. These women were glowing, despite their stretch marks, or curves left over from having children.  I felt envious of their confidence. My entire life, I have always been inclined to cover up. Even before having children.

I have no problem wearing tight fitting clothing that doesn’t hide my curves, but I started to realize, while I was sitting among these brave women, that I really had a problem showing skin. Right then and there I decided that I would venture back into a bikini.

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When I finally found THE bikini, I forced myself out of the comfort of the private change room and took a photo in the store… this was a BIG deal.

I have been working hard at losing all of the baby weight after giving birth to my twins, I am really happy with my body, not forgetting what it went though not too long ago. I am not quite at my fitness goal, and I am making sure I am losing the weight slowly and purposely. I don’t want to do any kind of “quick fix”. I am making a lifestyle change.

I made the decision to splurge and get a bikini now, and to stop putting it off until I reach my weight-loss goals. I want to celebrate the skin I am in.

Mom in final bikini

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Losing The Baby Weight: Fast, Healthy, Clean Meal Ideas

Healthy Fast Clean Meal Ideas

Let me start by saying, I am not a chef. I am a very busy mom of four who also works every spare second I get. Although I have tried to overhaul my whole family’s diet and create fancy meals from recipes, I have always given up out of frustration, exhaustion and lack of time. I have finally found what works for me and everything has clicked. My kids and my husband may not be eating everything that I eat, but their meals are balanced and we are all happy. Today I have created a breakdown of what I am eating (and losing weight eating). It is simple, fast and doesn’t involve recipes. Many of the meals that I eat are the same everyday for a few reasons: it cuts down on groceries, there is less planning involved and I know they agree with my sensitive gut. I hope to slowly work in some more variety, but this is a great way to start. I have also added a grocery list to the end, incase you want to give this a whirl!

Breakfast: Toasted Almond, Apple, Raisin Oatmeal with ground chia seeds. This is a breakfast I discovered years ago in a fitness magazine article. I have altered it a little and omitted the sugar. I eat this everyday. It is fast, easy, delicious, filling and super healthy.

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal

What you need: 1 TSP sliced almonds, 1 apple skinned and chopped, 1 TSP raisins, 1 TSP cinnamon, 1/2 cup large flake oats, 1 cup skim milk, 1 TSP group chia seeds.
To prepare: toast almonds on a greased skillet (MED heat) until you can smell a nutty aroma, add the oats, toast for one more minute. Reduce the heat to LOW and add skim milk followed by remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat, stir, cover and let sit for three minute. Add cold milk to cool if desired and enjoy!

Lunch: Go Wild Pasta. Pasta is my “bring to a deserted island food.” I won’t be giving it up anytime soon. I love whole wheat and vegetable pasta. I find as long as I load my pasta with veggies I can still lose weight and enjoy my gluten heaven! I will often make a large quantity for lunch and store it in the fridge so that I have two or three meals that I can quickly grab. I have purchased a couple of basil plants and am constantly adding fresh basil to many of my meals for added flavour. I am also a sun dried tomato addict. There are always sundried tomatoes in my pasta.

Healthy Pastas

Pasta 1: vegetable Fusilli pasta with sautéed red onion, cherry tomatoes, spinach, fresh basil, sweet potato (which I cube and microwave first to speed up cooking) and sun dried tomatoes.
Pasta 2: whole what bow tie pasta with UNCOOKED cherry tomatoes, sundries tomatoes, spinach, red peppers and fresh basil.
Pasta 3: whole wheat rotini pasta with sautéed red and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, sweet potato (which I cube and microwave first to speed up cooking), sun dried tomatoes and walnut pieces.
 Note: I don’t add any additonal sauce or oil to my pasta. The oil that comes with the sundried tomatoes is enough and I top it with a little sea salt.

Lunch Option 2: The Easiest Salad In The World. When I am busy trekking kids to daycare and appointments while trying to complete blogging deadlines, this is the healthy lunch I reach for. Fast Easy Salad

Grab a few handfuls of preached spring mix salad, rip up some turkey or chicken cold cuts and add some chopped red onion and red pepper. Squirt some lemon on top in place of calorie-packed salad dressing for a surprisingly satisfying salad.

Snack: For snacks (which I typically have two or three a day) I will either grab a piece of fruit and a handful of trail mix, or I will eat a bowl of uncooked oatmeal with apples. Anytime I have that carb or sweets craving, I will eat a bowl of chopped and peeled apple, uncooked large flake oatmeal, cinnamon and skim milk. This is super healthy and gives me so much energy. It simulates a cozy bowl of cereal which is my favourite.

Snacks

Dinner: Embrace Fish Dinners. I had been getting really sick of having chicken all of the time and decided to start embracing more fish in my diet. Fish is already full of flavour so you don’t need to load it up with sauces. It is so simple to cook too!

Fish Dinner

Dinner 1: baked cod topped with salt, pepper and lemon slices. A side of mashed sweet potatoes (only a little skim milk and salt was added) and small garden salad dressed with lemon.
Dinner 2: baked tilapia with salt, pepper and lemon slices. A side of steamed broccoli, fresh basil and cherry tomato salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and a microwaved potato (no butter or sour cream). Tip: I highly recommend investing in an electric vegetable steamer. The steamed broccoli can be switched out for steamed asparagus, carrots, spinach, etc…

Take Out Dinner Option: Sometimes there are those days that our kids have all finally gone to bed, and I just don’t feel like pulling together a meal. I chose one of my favourite local takeout meals from The Works and cleaned it up. I went for their chicken breast hipster burger with a side salad. I switched out the cheese and lost the bun. What was left was a delicious chicken breast with sliced avocado and sauteed mushrooms and onions. Yum!

Healthy Takeout

NOTE: Other than a little taste on the weekend, I have cut alcohol out of my diet, or at least until I hit my weightless goal. I have however kept my two cups of coffee a day. I would probably die without my coffee. I don’t add any sugar and I only put skim milk in it. I am also drinking A LOT of water!

All of these meals are so easy and fast to make. I have found ways to repeat the ingredients but add new twists each time. All of my digestion issues I used to suffer from with my IBS are gone. On the days that the kids have me up a lot at night, I am finding that my energy level is still pretty high. Despite life stresses and all that comes along with being a mom of four, I am feeling pretty fantastic these days!

IMG_7023Grocery List: sliced almonds, apples (I prefer royal gala), large flake oatmeal, skim milk, cinnamon, raisins, ground chia seeds, vegetable pasta, whole wheat pasta, spinach, fresh basil, lemons, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes (julienne cut in oil), red peppers, yellow peppers, red onions, walnut pieces, sweet potatoes, potatoes, spring mix pre-washed salad, turkey and chicken cold cut meat, sea salt, pepper, fruit for snacks (kiwi, bananas, plums), nuts, trail mix, fish (cod, tilapia, salmon etc…), vegetables for steaming (broccoli, asparagus, carrots etc…)

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Preparing For Multiples: The SECOND Change Table

Two Change Tables

When I initially started planning for our twins, I tried to keep all of the baby stuff to a minimum. But the more I researched, I started to realized that we needed a command centre in our family room, right next to our kitchen. After initially turning down a second change table that my sister-in-law offered, I gave in thinking having another spot to change our babies, without heading up the stairs to our second floor each time, might not be a bad idea.

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Mia and Everly’s nursery

Little did we know that our second change table would house much more than diapers. We basically lived out of that change table for the first six months. We barely had to head upstairs to the nursery. Below is a list of the contents from our second change table.

The Second Change Table

Our second change table

Contents of our second change table:

  • diapers
  • wipes
  • diaper cream
  • thermometer
  • nose aspirator
  • receiving blankets
  • warm blankets
  • sleepers
  • onesies
  • shoes
  • socks
  • toys
  • baby carrier
  • baby wrap
  • bibs
  • toys
  • extra change pad covers

So, if you are preparing your home for multiples, I highly recommend adding a second change table to whatever part of your home you spend the most time in!

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It’s All In The Details

Sarah Martin Photography001Rules go out the window when accessorizing a nursery. This is the time to get creative and have fun! When it came to Accessorizing Mia and Everly’s nursery, I wanted it to feel airy, whimsical and cheery. I kept the palette fairly neutral and light and brought in pops of colour with yellow accents. I did as many DIY projects as possible, including the flower art and nest and yarn wreath. I wanted to add a sentimental touch, and to do that I hung a yellow dress that I wore as a baby and framed it. This also added more texture to the wall. Anywhere I could use natural and reclaimed items, I did. The result: a very serene and calming nursery, which still to this day, is everyone’s favourite room in our home. Photography by Sarah Martin Photography.
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Sarah Martin Photography005Sarah Martin Photography004Sarah Martin Photography002Sarah Martin Photography009Sarah Martin Photography010Sarah Martin Photography011Sarah Martin Photography007Don’t forget to LIKE Nesting Story on Facebook and Follow Nesting Story on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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Why Leaving My Family (For Three Days) Was AMAZING!!!

Mom 2.0 SummitLeaving my family for a few days to head to Mom 2.0 Summit was the best thing to happen to our whole family. Before leaving I was done. No more patience, no more sparkle, just done. My husband Mike and everyone in my little world could see that I needed to get away and recharge very badly.

Mom 2.0 Summit  2015, in Scottsdale, Arizona was the first of, I am sure, many more blogging conferences for me. Not only did I get to listen to, meet and talk with some of my biggest heros, I gained clarity for the future of Nesting Story. I was able to process the journey I have been on and reflect on how incredibly humbled I am by my loyal followers, you!
Women HerosHeres from top left: Amy Morrison of Pregnant Chicken, Molly Ringwald, Heather Armstrong of Dooce, Bunmi Laditan of The Honest ToddlerPhoenicianBeyond being inspired by my heros, I met some of the most incredibly strong, smart, beautiful and inspiring women, that I can now call my dear friends and mentors.
New Friends And MentorsFrom left: Annie Stow of Stowed Stuff, Luly Balepogi of Luly B and Aimee Helmand of Baby League.

Although in the back of my mind, I was wondering how my four little ones were doing back home with Mike, I knew that I would be back home again soon enough and to enjoy every second… which I did.

Upon arriving home, the kids were thrilled with all of the cool swag I had brought from Firefly, Dove, National Geographic Kids, Lansinoh and more. Each of my kids seemed a little older, especially Mia and Everly who seem to be growing up a little too fast. Beau is a little under the weather now, so the timing of my arrival home has been perfect, because we all know we only want our mamas when we are sick.
Kids

I can’t thank Mike enough for not only supporting me going, but cheering me on. Even sending me texts reminding me to “live it up.”Mike's textAbove all, I was able to focus on myself, which is rare when you have four kids. I was able to dress up and feel pretty, have nerdy blogging conversations with like-minded people instead of boring my girlfriends at home once again and rediscover who I am in this stage in life.

I come home feeling full of confidence, direction, joy, patience, inspiration and… sparkle.Joanna Venditti Nesting Story

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The Most Flattering Jeans – By Natalie Borton

collage 1Why has it taken me this long to discover high rise jeans?  I’ve been a low-rise girl since the Britney Spears days, and it’s sort of comical that becoming a mother has turned me on to a high rise cut.  Cliche, really.  But now I totally understand where the phrase “mom jeans” comes from.

Mom or not, high rise jeans are where it’s at, ladies.

Regardless of your shape, this cut is for any body type.  If you have a booty (like myself!), it hugs around the bum and nips in at the waist, emphasizing the beauty of the feminine figure.  And if you have more of boyish shape, your legs will look miles long.

Now the inevitable questions is… which high rise jeans are the best?  There are two brands that really nail it for me – one budget friendly, and one worthy of an investment.

The Budget Buy  I’ve been a longtime fan of American Eagle Jeggings.  They’re affordable, stretchy, flattering and I’ve been a loyal customer since my high school days.  They really fit like a dream, and at less than $50, they’re easy to justify buying.  I recently purchased this pair and have been wearing them nonstop.

DSC_0028The Investment  I can honestly say I’ve never found a more flattering and comfortable pair of jeans.  A few weeks ago, I finally got around to trying on Madewell’s denim and I can’t believe it took me this long.  I went into the store with the intention of testing out the different fits, and I left with two perfect pairs of high waisted skinnies – one classic and one grey.  While American Eagle will always have a piece of my heart and sell my favourite budget-friendly jeans, Madewell takes the cake overall and is well worth the $120+ investment if you ask me.

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This article was originally published on Thoughts By Natalie

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You can follow Natalie’s blog on Thoughts By Natalie.  You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter!

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How To Wear Patterned Leggings And Style Your Mom Curves

collage 1A few months ago I was invited to a leggings party.  For those of you who have never been to one, it’s kind of like a tupperware party but for patterned leggings.  As I took in all of the fun and colourful patterns (while the artist/designer in me was bursting with joy) I looked around the room full of mommies going bananas over these pants.  I picked up a pair that caught my eye and went to go try them on.  As soon as I pulled them over my hips I realized that they were extremely comfortable, more fun than my yoga pants that I practically live in and they fit so well over my mommy curves… I can get used to this!  After posting this photo to my Instagram, my followers went nuts asking me to do a post on how to wear patterned leggings.  Thus, this project was born.  IMG_3049I immediately contacted the leggings manufacturer www.sweetlegs.ca and told them about my post idea.  They shipped me a few pairs and I had a blast putting together flattering and comfy outfits, that also work with us curvier mamas.  I called up my brilliant photographer friends and we went to town putting together this style piece.  This fun fashion item may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am hooked!  It takes my everyday mommy sweats to the next (fun) level!

Photography and Art Direction by Sarah Martin Photography and Ooh Ooh Darling Photography Styling, Hair and Makeup by Joanna Venditti, Nesting Story

Modern Edgyjoanna017joanna004joanna034joanna028joanna010Above Leggings: SweetLegs – Midnight Highway, Top: Joe Fresh, Jacket: Le Chateau, Shoes: Aldo, Jewlery: Forever 21

Bohemian Femininejoanna041joanna043joanna061joanna082joanna057Above  Leggings: SweetLegs – Gracie Rose, Top: American Eagle, Shoes: American Eagle for Payless, Necklace: Smart Set

Street Militaryjoanna105joanna100joanna101

Above  Leggings: SweetLegs – Sweet Camo, Top: Joe Fresh, Necklace: Forever 21, Boots: Winners

joanna110I love that leggings pull up nice and high.  Yes, I am showing my tummy, after having four kids (eight months postpartum with twins), scandal!  I love that these outfits hug in all the right places, and have a little more room where you need it.  Especially if you are healing from a C-Section.

Each of these looks can work during the day with less jewelry and flats.  So comfy!

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A special thanks to my friend Amanda with helping me brainstorm comfy and stylish outfit ideas.  You can follow her on @Instagram the_amandaheather

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What Having Four Kids (Including Twins) Has Done To My Body And My Confidence

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Isn’t it incredible what the human body can do?  Or better yet, what a woman’s body can do?  I have had four children, including twins, in the span of five years.  Yes, my body did that!  Today our youngest, Mia and Everly, are seven months old and I am trying to wake up every morning to work out before everyone else is up.  Most days I succeed and I am actually starting to see my body come back.  But it has been through a war.

Since I was young I struggled with my weight, always being a little on the heavy side.  I would tend to compensate with my bubbly personality and spend a lot of time on my hair and makeup.  Finally, while in college, I reached my goal weight by working out and dieting A LOT.  Back then my sole purpose was to turn heads.  I know, that’s pretty shallow, but it’s true.  I was already dating my now husband Mike, and knew that he would love me whatever size I was, but I still craved walking into a room and having all eyes on me.  collage 3

Although my weight fluctuated, I knew tricks on how to lose 10 pounds scarily fast, especially for our wedding and honeymoon.  I wouldn’t say I ever had an eating disorder, but I know that my weight control was coming from a place where I felt I had to punish my body. collage 4

Getting pregnant and watching my belly grow while expecting our first two kids was so exciting and I was able to drop almost every one of those 50 lbs I gained with each pregnancy… but again it was coming from this negative and frustrating place.collage 6

When I found out I was expecting twins I couldn’t wrap my mind around how enormous I was going to get.  I was already well known for having huge basketball size bellies whenever I was pregnant, but growing two babies at once???  To be honest, I was kind of freaking out about it.  collage 5I finally made the decision that I would disassociate my body from my mind during my twin pregnancy and think of my body as a vessel.  Guess what… that worked!  In-fact anytime I’d start panicking about my size I would say to myself “you are a vessel, you are a vessel”.  It became my mantra.

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I must thank Mike for taking these gems.

Although I coped with my size and weight gain really well during my twin pregnancy, after having my girls was a different story.  My postpartum body was literally bruised and battered.  My distracting enormous but adorable baby bump had been deflated and I was left with mush, bruising, swollen ankles and healing from a c-section.  I had this sadness for my body.  I felt so badly for it with the state it was in and at the same time was so grateful for what it had done.  It had safely created two humans and carried them for 37 weeks and 4 days.  It had been touch and go at times but my body did it!collage 7

I made the decision to be kind to my body from now on.  Eat healthy foods, indulge here and there and not beat myself up about it.  I also wanted to get in shape again, especially knowing I was finished having children.  I would take my time.  But this time is different.  I have simple goals that are for me and no one else.  I want to be strong.  I am over hurting my back when I pick up a baby.  I want to be flexible.  No more pulling my neck while reaching for a pacifier that has fallen under a crib.  I want to go to my closet and feel good in whatever I put on.  No more pulling at waistlines and being limited to leggings (although I will never entirely give up my leggings).  collage 10I get it, I am the thirty-something mom now with four kids and I am really proud of that.  I am so much more confident with my body than I ever have been before.  Anytime I start doubting my new curves or war wounds I look around the room and ask myself, how many other people in this room grew two people inside their body at once?collage 9

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11 Moms You MUST Befriend

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We all know them and we have seen many types of moms portrayed on TV and in clever ad campaigns. I thought I’d take it a step further. Do you know these mamas? If you can try to snag some mommy friends with these methods, beliefs, situations, thought processes and personalities I can assure you, you will be a better mom for for befriending them!

1.  The Veteran Mama.  This is probably a family member or an old friend that you may have drifted away from when she started having kids while you were still enjoying the freedom of a kidless life.  You probably rolled your eyes at some of her parenting methods while promising yourself you’d do things differently when you have your own kids.  The Veteran mama quickly becomes your hero, lifeline and role model when you have kids of your own.  You admire her clever little tricks to help make everyday life easier and you don’t know where she gets her energy and how she does it all!  Keep this mama close and let her know what a great job she is doing!

2.  The Vegan Mama.  For us carnivores, being vegan is ludicrous.  Why pass up on that juicy steak?  But reality is, there is this whole plant based smorgishborg of deliciousness out there that you don’t even know about.  Vegan mamas are typically creative wizards in the kitchen and can teach you a thing or two about creating some healthier meals for your family.

3. The Dictionary Mama. You want to know something about anything?  She’s your mama.  She’s constantly researching and up to date on new trends whether they are parenting methods or how each school rates in your area.  She probably already knows more about something specific to what you are going through than you do because she has googled it as soon as you have vented or confided in her.  This is because she’s not only there for you, but she can truly understand exactly what you are going through.

4.  The Hippy Mama.  While you are sweating under your nursing cover she’s enjoying the breeze because she wouldn’t dare cover up while nursing.  You look at her confidence and freedom with envy.  The hippy mama is incredibly patient as she wears her baby, cloth diapers, co-sleeps and wouldn’t dare sleep train.  She exudes freedom and while you may not be ready to jump on the crunchy train just yet you may find yourself taking a deep breath and whipping out a boob to nurse in a crowded room on occasion.

5. The New(er) Mama. This is a special friendship. Not only are you paying it forward by answering her texts at 3am with questions about teething but you are also reminding yourself how far you have come, how much you know and how awesome a mama you truly are! Even on those days when you feel you have failed because your kids had crackers and cheese for dinner, you couldn’t possibly face baths and you might have used T.V. to get a few minutes of peace, the guidance you are giving her is a constant reminder that you are doing a damn good job!

6. The Cool Mama. Why bother buying fashion or celebrity gossip magazines when you know the cool mama? She is always sporting the newest trend and is the one who settles the who’s dating who in hollywood debate. She has fantastic fashion advice and is your first choice when you are in the mood to walk the mall while pushing your strollers having a much needed gab!

7. The Holistic Mama. She loves her essential oils and she is a huge natural birth advocate. She can soothe pain, boost an immune system and create cleaning products all from her essential oils and her vast knowledge of natural remedies. This is a very smart and adventurous mama. Even if you may not be a fan of these natural methods, her vast knowledge may come in handy when you least expect it.

8. The Education Guru Mama.  This mama has an incredible relationship with her kid’s teachers, she probably has her kids in some extra tutoring and has set up a semi classroom in her kitchen. This involvement in her children’s education may have stemmed from her child’s previous struggle with learning. But not only did this mama meet this challenge head on, she has made it a priority to help her child not only catchup but enjoy learning. This mama is determined and can be a fantastic resource and example when you encounter your own educational road block.

9. The Laid Back Mama. This is the mama that leads by example. You want to have playdates with her because although she is strict with her kids when necessary, she chooses her battles and there tends to be this non-competative vibe when she’s around. Being around her is like taking a trip to the spa. You leave re-energized and refreshed… if that is even possible after a playdate! Not only is she great for your blood pressure but you will find she’s rubbing off on you when you realize you didn’t get mad when your little one threw the whole roll of toilet paper into the toilet.

10. The Out-going Mama. She’s up for anything, whether it’s a night out for drinks or organizing a Bachelorette betting pool. The out-going mama is typically the glue to your group and is great at forcing you to get out of those sweats, slap on some makeup and break out of your little nest you have created at home. Just when you are on the verge of becoming an agoraphobic she comes to the rescue with a bottle of wine in hand!

11. The Warrior Mama. This mama is incredibly strong, patient, loving, brave and genuine. She has multiple children and one of them has special needs. Although she rarely complains or asks for help she incredibly thankful when she gets a helping hand. This is the mama you want to aspire to be like. If you can have a shred of the patience she has each day, you are doing a great job!

Don’t forget to LIKE Nesting Story on Facebook and FOLLOW Nesting Story on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter!

 

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5 Things To Stop Doing To A Woman Pregnant With Multiples And 5 Things To Start Doing For Her

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5 Things To Stop Doing To A Woman Pregnant With Multiples:

1. Stop acting like you are the expert on a multiples pregnancy because you have googled it.  Until you have grown a basketball team inside your body, carried them around for months and experienced all of the pain that goes along with carrying multiples you don’t know what you are talking about.

2. Stop telling her she’s going to have her hands full.  Do you think she was planning on having one baby raise the other(s)?  Of course she knows it’s going to be busy.

3. Stop telling her that your cousin’s friend’s mother knows someone who had multiples.  Just stop, she doesn’t care.

4. Stop asking her how much weight she has gained and if she has any stretch marks yet.  Just because you know her body is being pushed to the limit doesn’t mean every war wound should be public knowledge.  Let the woman keep some shred of dignity.

5. Stop comparing your singleton pregnancy to her multiples pregnancy.  It’s not the same and she may stab you.

 

5 Things To Start Doing For A Woman Pregnant With Multiples:

1. Start taking her out to restaurants.  She has probably been instructed to pack on the pounds.  She might as well be doing it with good company.

2. Start offering to drive her to her millions of doctor appointments, non-stress-tests and ultrasounds.  Chances are she is finding it hard fitting behind the wheel, getting light headed while driving and let’s face it, a little lonely at all of those appointments.

3. Start cooking meals for her.  Between the smells of cooking putting her nausea into overdrive and standing on her feet cranking up her braxton hicks contractions, the last thing a soon-to-be mama of multiples wants to do is spend any time in a kitchen.

4. Start taking her older children off her hands for a while.  They are probably so bored of watching T.V. while mommy lays on the couch multiplying like gremlins.

5. Start telling her “she’s got this”. Remind her how strong and brave she is and that you know she can rock this mom of multiples role! 

To all of the well meaning friends, family and in-laws in my life! 

You might also like What It Is Like To Be Pregnant With Twins – My Personal Journey.  Don’t forget to follow Nesting Story on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter!  Happy multiplying!

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Giving Birth To Twins And What A C-Section Is REALLY Like

collage final fixThroughout my twin pregnancy I was very hopeful that I would be able to have a vaginal delivery like I had with my two previous children.  My OB said she would give me the green light as long as baby A was head down.  Because I had a “proven pelvis” it didn’t matter what position baby B was.  Going to my ultrasounds week after week both girls were doing a lot of gymnastics.  In fact almost every one of my ultrasound technicians commented on how unusually active they were especially when they each moved from head down to up to down again all during one ultrasound.  In the end Baby A decided to plug the exit with her bum and their fate was sealed… a c-section it was.

Although I always knew that I had a much higher chance of having a c-section with twins, to actually wrap my head around it was a different story.  I had seen many shows on TV where they show a birth via c-section but to keep it entertaining they always skipped the mundane and icky details building up to the doctor holding this pink baby in the air like Simba from The Lion King announcing their arrival.  That’s when a million questions about logistics, timing and surroundings started swirling around in my head.  I went to two of my best friends who had had c-sections and asked them to walk me through every tiny detail even having them back up when I felt they missed a part.  Knowing all of these intricate details helped me immensely but to actually deliver two babies instead of one like each of my friends had put a slightly more dramatic twist on the big event.

The date was set and despite me constantly thinking I must be dialating from all of the intense pain I was experiencing my cervix was like fort knox.  Finally 37 weeks rolled around and it was time to evict these darling tenants of mine.  The night before my c-section I was filled with nervous excitement and despite my best efforts I only slept for thirty minutes.  The alarm clock finally went off at 4 AM and it was time to start getting ready to roll.  I wasn’t able to have any food, coffee (my lifeline), or water after 12 AM so I was glad that I was only having to wait until 8 AM for my c-section.  I took one last belly pic; goodbye belly!  My mom arrived to take over watching the older kids and my husband Mike and I were off to the hospital.morningAfter arriving at 5AM as requested by my OB, we registered and were sent over to the pre-op area.  I changed into the hospital gown I was given and Mike had a seat beside me.  The nurses then began prepping me for surgery: inserted my IV (ouch, it took a few tries because I have rolling veins) and prepped the area where the incision would be made.  In case you were wondering, the incision is made below the bikini line, in the pubic area.  So yes, two piece bathing suits can be worn after a c-section… something I didn’t realize before mine.  Here is where things started to differ from what my mommy friends were able to prepare me for.  Nurse after nurse and doctor after doctor came in to introduce themselves.   All of them were on their way into the operating room dressed head to toe for the occasion.  It felt like a scene out of E.T.  These very friendly nurses and doctors (including the anesthesiologist and the male doctor my friends and I call the “the man” who pushes the abdomen to guide the baby toward the incision) began to tell me what team they were on: baby A or baby B and what their role would be.  This team consisted of approximately 10 people.  At this point my heart rate started to pick up a little and I began to think “holy crap, this is really happening!”

collage-3-v2Then the OB doing the c-section entered the room to discuss the day’s events.  Due to some last minute scheduling changes I had to switch from my regular OB to another (both of whom are rockstars).  Following a little small-talk she started to explain that after taking a closer look at my ultrasounds she was a little concerned about how she was going to get baby B out.  You see, baby B had been pushed way up out to the side past my ribs by baby A who decided to get very cozy and take up all of the real-estate.  My OB continued to explain that if the they have exhausted all of the tricks to help get baby B out including using gravity by rotating the hydraulic table to an angle (another thing I had no idea they do) she would have to make an additional vertical incision.  I was also warned that there may be a twenty minute difference between when baby A and baby B came out.  At this point I decided not to freak out and know that the name of the game is about getting both girls out safely.  Any idealistic thoughts I had of delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin did not take precedence anymore.twin's positionOur girl’s positions in the womb, the shape my belly took, ultrasound showing their heads together

At this point I was to temporarily say goodbye to Mike and walk into the operating room pushing my IV along the way.  I have had surgery before and my friends described the operating room to me but I really was not quite prepared for what I walked into.  Massive bright lights, tools layed out covered with small sheets and the biggest thing that took my breath away… an entire area designated for the babies including two warming beds.  Anyone who has ever given birth before can probably relate to that moment when you see the warming bed ready and waiting for your little one while they are still in your belly.  It’s surreal!  To see two warming beds with additional equipment on standby, unlike when I had delivered my older two, shot a rush of adrenaline and put me into this speechless-shocked state.  You know the kind; where you are literally having to remind yourself to breath in and out?  The nurses helped my big belly and I up onto the table and into a sitting position to receive my spinal epidural.  As they curved my spine over and held my shoulders down the nurse in front of me began asking me completely irrelevant questions obviously trying to distract me from the intense situation.  I could barely string together a sentence as my body started shivering.

While all of this preparation was going on, Mike was given his own daddy operating room garb to wear and waiting on pins and needles.  Excitedly he waited for ten minutes before he was ushered into the room by a nurse.

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Mike sporting his very fashionable operating room garb and looking super pleased about it!

When my epidural was in place they had me lay down on the table and buckled me in across the thighs, calves, chest and arms (so they could tilt the table).  Then they pinned a sheet up right near my face so I couldn’t see what was about to unfold.  I settled in with my head turned to my right to face where those two empty warming beds sat so ominously while the anesthesiologist sat to my left.  Although I was quite numb at this point I could still feel a little bit which they had told me is normal.  I could feel them rubbing the iodine all over my belly and then I could feel what felt like tiny pokes.  I spoke up letting my OB know that if that was them testing if I was numb enough to start then no, I could still feel a tiny bit.  My OB filled me in that they were already under way, the incision had been made and they were starting to make their way to baby A!!!  This was the point that Mike was ushered in through the back door behind my head to avoid the gore and because he wasn’t sterile.  He was instructed to sit on a stool to the right of my head, near the warming beds. My OB was making small talk and again trying to distract me by asking random questions and after attempting to make small talk back I gave up and zoned out.  I vaguely remember her mentioning that I wasn’t listening anymore and she then switched her attention to Mike and they continued the chit chat.

Suddenly I found myself in agonizing pain in my right shoulder, which couldn’t move because my arms were restrained.  A slight bit of panic began to set in and this was the first time I took my concentration off of those warming beds.  I told the anesthesiologist and he reassured me that “gas pockets” are normal which was the cause of my shoulder pain.  He immediately injected a analgesic (pain killer) into my IV.  That’s when I couldn’t breathe!  It was like whatever he gave me froze my lungs for a moment.  Apparently that is also normal.  That passed quickly and by that point the OB was telling us that baby A was about to make her exit.  At 8:08AM she held up this adorable screaming squishy little baby we proudly named Mia.

MiaMia was passed off to a nurse and unlike my previous deliveries, we were still waiting for another baby!  Mike tried to stand up to catch some of the action and the anesthesiologist firmly put a hand on his shoulder and told him to sit down because if he fainted they would just leave him.  He was the fourth most important person in the room after all!  He quickly complied.  I could feel pushing, pulling and tilting and without making that second incision the OB reached her entire arm up into my abdomen, right up to her shoulder and scooped baby B out of my ribs.  At 8:09AM a squished and screaming sweet little baby was held up and we named her Everly.  As the OB began to close me up I could see some commotion coming from the warming beds and noticed that all of the nurses had left Mia and were gathering around Everly.  I immediately knew something was wrong.  I could hear Mike asking questions and the nurses calmly telling him that she was in-drawing which means she was having trouble breathing and that she would need to head to the NICU.  They then turned to me to fill me in and I quickly stopped them explaining that I heard everything and without hesitation instructed Mike to follow Everly to the NICU.

Mia and EverlyEverly IndrawingWhile Mike was with Everly in the NICU the doctor and nurses finished closing me up, cleaning me up and moved me back to the pre-op room.  About closing me up; there had been a debate with my doctors deciding between staples or stitches.  I had preferred stitches because I had previously had a bad experience with scaring from staples but my OB reassured me that she thought staples were the best route.  In the end I decided to go with what she recommended and I am glad I did.  My incision healed really well and it is just a thin line today.
IMG_0932While shivering and in a bit of a daze a nurse brought Mia over to me to have skin to skin time.  We settled into a wonderful cuddle and she started nursing right away.  During this time Mike came back to tell me that Everly was breathing well on her own and was now just being monitored for a little bit before being brought back to me.  What a relief!  My shivering intensified and it started to become almost impossible to take my blood pressure which ended up delaying my move to the maternity ward by over an hour.
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Everly was eventually brought to me and although I was over the moon holding my precious daughters I was still finding it difficult to recover from the shock and shivering.  I couldn’t stop starting at their tiny faces studying their perfect but very different features.  Although Everly came out very squished looking (which is VERY common with twins) she was quickly rounding out into this adorable little baby!  I was eventually wheeled in my hospital bed to the maternity ward holding my two new bundles proudly attempting a smile through shivers as people ohhh’d and awww’d over our twins.
IMG_0943Thanks to the most incredible nurse ever I was quickly warmed up by her enveloping me in a pile of warm blankets and because our girls were having a hard time regulating their body temperature we were instructed to have skin to skin time… for the most perfect cozy three hours of my life!IMG_5398As a parade of visitors flowed into the room to meet the two new additions of our family my very protective nurse made sure that my girls stayed put on me much to my delight and the disappointment of their grandparents!  During that three hours this incredible bond formed between the three of us as my girls cuddled and hugged themselves into my body.  This was it, the result of those agonizing eight and a half months of hard work and determination.  The prize could not have been sweeter!  skin to skinIt was so important for me to write this blog post with as much detail as possible. When I knew that I was going to be having a c-section I looked high and low for as much information I could find on what to expect.  Although this story is specific to our experience I hope that my journey with our girls can help other mamas to prepare for what’s ahead. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comments section below and I would love to hear YOUR birth stories!  I will be blogging soon about the days following the birth of our twins and all about the recovery of a c-section so please don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story and follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you don’t miss it!

 


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What It Is Like Being Pregnant With Twins – My Personal Journey

collageThere is a curiosity about a pregnancy with multiples.  It’s understandable.  A body is creating more than one person at once.  Not only is there the mind blowing fact that (in my case) multiple eggs have been fertilized, your body then knows to create two placentas, two amniotic sacs, more blood, more amniotic fluid and your skin and muscles can stretch and stretch!  It truly is amazing. I have read that people who’s bodies produce multiples are more evolved than others.   I am not sure if I buy that.  I personally think that God has a hand in every pregnancy, one baby or more.

When I was told that not only was I finally pregnant after a year of struggling with secondary infertility but there were in fact two little people growing inside of me, fear didn’t set in.  At least not until later in my pregnancy when I could barely move without fainting and I knew that I had two older children depending on me.  But the idea of twins joining our family only brought myself and my husband Mike feelings of joy and excitement.  For the first couple weeks I assumed I was in shock and that the fear would come… it never did.

Before knowing I was pregnant I had suffered from a bout of stomach flu.  I thought it had passed and then come back again.  Then the nausea wasn’t lifting.  When the pregnancy test came back positive it explained the nausea.  Only this was very different from my two previous singleton pregnancies (that’s lingo for carrying one baby – you become fluent with these terms when pregnant with multiples).  When pregnant with my older two the nausea would come in waves.  Often triggered by smells; meat, perfume and cigarettes. But this time the nausea was unrelenting.  It was also getting worse every day and contrary to the term “morning sickness” it would go into overdrive starting at 4pm and by the time 9pm rolled around I was having my daily vomit session before bed which would bring just enough relief to get through the night.  I remember calling my mom crying saying this was nothing like my previous pregnancies which I had enjoyed.  We chalked it up to me now being in my thirties this time around.

Twins had never crossed my mind in my previous pregnancies.  Most of my friends had commented about the thought of twins before heading in for an ultrasound, but I never did. But this pregnancy there were a couple of times I commented to Mike in passing, “maybe it’s twins”.  Then we would quickly dismiss that thought because when I had my multiple pregnancy blood tests week 4 there were no unusual levels with my HCG levels (we had started to explore my infertility before getting pregnant hence the extra tests).  Even the morning before my 7 week ultrasound I commented again about the possibility of twins because of my nausea.  Mike nicely said to put that thought out of my head.  But after peeking at my ultrasound after my tight lipped technician left the room and saw what looked like owl eyes (two sacs) staring back at me my heart started to race.  Once taken into a private room and an exceedingly kind nurse explained that I was pregnant with di-di twins (dichorinic/diamniotic which means separate sacs, separate placentas and they don’t share blood vessels, again more twin lingo).  I was reassured that this was the safest type of twins to carry and that most likely they would be fraternal but because they were spontaneous that there was a very small chance that a fertilized egg has split really early creating identical twins… something that we wouldn’t be able to confirm until they were born.

One of the first things I did after finding out we were expecting twins was search the internet for pregnancy belly photos with twins.  I wanted to see what a freak show I would become.  While scouring Pinterest and other websites I came across a variety of belly shapes.  Pointy, wide, low… it truly became an obsession of mine.  I had been through two singleton pregnancies and I thought I was huge then.  I just couldn’t fathom that my body could possibly carry two babies!

collage 7By 15 weeks my nausea finally subsided (It popped up again from 35 weeks on).  I had a brief few weeks of feeling somewhat normal before my next biggest symptom set in: braxton hicks contractions.  Mike and I had the opportunity to head to Las Vegas when I was 18 weeks and my braxton hicks contractions were brutal!  Las Vegas is a walking place.  Even in the Bellagio where we were staying it takes about 10 hours to get from the lobby to where our room was.  The braxton hicks contractions would start up and feel like a vice on my tummy.  I had always read that braxton hicks contractions would only last for a moment but I found that mine would set in as soon as I was on my feet and not relax until I sat down.  I was very careful to rest a lot.

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My version of a maternity vegas outfit complete with sparkly bling!

Although we thought I had to wait until my 18 week ultrasound what our babies’ sex were (I was convinced it was one boy and one girl) we got a huge surprise at my 16 week ultrasound… both were girls!!!  twins

Once I got past 20 weeks the weight of my belly was incredible.  This was the point that I was connecting with other twin mamas online and the most common horrible symptom we were all experiencing was excruciating hip pain.  I used a super sexy support belt which helped take the weight off of my hips but near the end of my pregnancy I had to stop using it because it was making my wicked heartburn ten times worse.

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My bump would take many shapes. But the biggest difference between carrying twins vs singletons was I always felt “high” and “low” at the same time. I was rocking an egg shape. For the last six weeks of my pregnancy baby A (Mia) was taking up all of the real estate pushing baby B (Everly) up and to the left, past my ribs. Poor thing!IMG_0780

There were days of my pregnancy that I was fighting depression.  Between the crippling nausea in my first trimester to the chronic pain I experienced the rest of my pregnancy there truly were some dark days.  It didn’t help that the first half of my pregnancy I was very isolated inside with bored children trying to survive one of the most brutal winters Canada has seen in years.  I tried to pamper myself as much as possible and emerged myself in TV series after TV series.  Later in my pregnancy I started feeling like my entire day consisted of moving from bed to sofa to bath to bed to bath to sofa and so on.  The two things that got me through those last weeks were getting outside in the sunshine (even if it was just lounging by a pool while eating and watching everyone else have fun) and my weekly ultrasounds and non-stress-tests reminding me that all of this suffering was for a very good reason.IMG_0793

Oh and pedicures… lots and lots of pedicures!IMG_0894

I started to get creative with my parenting.  Although I was getting a lot of help from family when Holden wasn’t at school and Beau wasn’t at nursery school there would still be a few hours a day while Mike was at work that I had to parent on my own.  I would make everyone snacks and the kids beds on the floor while we would enjoy a movie together.  That way I could rest with a pillow between my knees to get a bit of relief.IMG_0455

Walking up the stairs would put my heart into overdrive and I came very close to fainting multiple times a day.  I was experiencing pre-syncope (almost fainting) and feeling like my heart was going to explode brought me into the hospital a few times around 33 weeks and I was subjected to a battery of tests.  In the end it showed that my heart was having runs (racing) at times but the babies were thriving so I had to keep on trucking.  The weight of my belly forced me to stay off my feet almost all the time… even in the shower I had to sit on the floor.  It was very hard!photo-9

 This is my attempt at a selfie facelift

By 35 weeks I had a couple of really scary episodes of pre-syncope while driving complete with tunnel vision.  I decided that I couldn’t drive any more during my pregnancy and relied on my husband, family and friends to drive me to my remainder of ultrasounds and doctor’s appointments.

During my last week of pregnancy we went out for dinner with friends and headed to an upscale restaurant. After moving us twice because my belly wouldn’t fit into their booths we scored free dessert.  But watching those little feet and fists poke out and react when I poked back made it all worth it.

I finally made it full term.  I truly believe that if I hadn’t had all of that pain that forced me to be off my feet almost all of the time I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did.  It was nature’s way of saying SLOW DOWN!  The relief that I had after my girls arrived via scheduled c section at 37 weeks 4 days was incredible!  As soon as the doctor pulled each baby out and held them up we could see that they were so different from each other and we knew that they were fraternal.  Today I am grateful that I suffered so much during my pregnancy because even on the days when our twin baby girls are fussy and don’t want to sleep, it feels easy compared to when I was pregnant with them!

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It was so important for me to write this blog post with as much detail as possible.  When I was pregnant with our twins I searched high and low to find a complete twin pregnancy story from a personal perspective instead of snippets here and there.  I hope that this story of my journey with our girls can help other twin mamas to prepare for what’s ahead.  Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have about being pregnant with twins either in the comments section below or via email at info@nestingstory.ca and I would be happy to answer as best I can!   I have blogged about the birth of our girls you can find here.  Please don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story and follow on Facebook and Instagram!SMP017

I want to dedicate this post to our families.  You were just as dedicated to this challenge as we were and we could not have done it without your help!  Thank you for helping us bring Mia and Everly into this world!

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5 Ways to Child Proof Your Christmas Decorations

photo-71.  Make it interactive.  Now that we don’t currently have any kids in the toddler phase I am able to redirect our kids and enjoy putting decorations on the bottom half of our tree again.  We purchased a small artificial tree for the kids so they have a tree they can hang their colourful character ornaments on and rearrange as many times as they’d like while the big tree stays in tact and looking its best throughout the holidays.  I also added twine and clothes pins to our garland on our stairs to pin cards we receive from family and friends.  The cards that I don’t mind the kids taking down I hang lower on the string.stairs

2.  Go soft.  This one is a no brainer.  Find Christmas decor that is plush and soft to incorporate into your holiday theme.  Its also great to hand these pieces over to the kids and let them decide where they’d like them to go.soft

3. Put it behind glass.  Mike HATES sparkles.  It is actually a phobia of his.  I have learned over the years that instead of fighting him on it, to try to keep potential sparkle bombs from exploding in our house.  This being said, we have adorable and very sparkly snowmen that I keep safely enclosed behind a glass cupboard door.  This way we can still enjoy them but the sparkles stay put.  You can also take those beautiful glass ornaments that you used to be able to put on your tree pre-kid era and pile them in an apothecary jar placed on your counter or table.IMG_2542

4.  Swap it out.  When creating this birch tree bucket piece I used battery powered lights and skipped the plug ins.  I also used a white felt piece of fabric to act as snow, much tidier than if you were constantly cleaning up dirt from a poinsettia.bucket

5. Find Precious looking plastic.  Finally the retail stores seem to be getting the hint.  I am seeing more and more beautiful looking plastic ornaments that you would think are glass.  These are great substitutes for those beautiful vintage glass ornaments you had to pack away when junior started motoring.precious plastic

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How To Dress Your All Season Modern Decorations For The Holidays

decor editWhenever I am perusing the home accessory isle in a decor store I am always drawn to the crisp white items.  There is something very chic, clean and not fussy about white accessories that I love!

decor 3 editWhat do I love even more than modern and funky decor?  Mixing it up with natural elements!

Bowl editHere is a great example of how to take your all season modern decorations and dress them for the holidays.  Something very magical happens when you mix these slick and organic pieces together!

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Bowl, pears and pinecones from HomeSense

Bottle and can accessories from Urban Barn

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An Old School Desk is Given a Fresh Surf Look With a Hand Painted Touch

IMG_5171I think my designer eye is rubbing off on Mike because he recently waltzed into our house very proud of himself that he and Holden found a old school desk with a “free” sign on someone’s lawn.  I must say I was pretty impressed, the desk was perfect for Holden’s room.  It was time to get creative!

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First I gave this worn piece of furniture new life with a fresh coat of paint.  I used red spray paint and was pretty successful.

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In keeping with the surfer theme we have going in Holden’s room I decided to add a hand painted touch.  IMG_5169Here’s the finished product:

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Adding a hand painted accent to your furniture is a great way to customize a special piece on a budget.

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DIY Tutorial: Beech and Surf Inspired Yarn and Felt Flower Wreath, Kid’s and Teen’s Room Decor

IMG_4178This is a fresh tropical twist on one of my favourite crafty projects: yarn wreaths.  Yes, I know, I am constantly drawn to surf themed decor.  Maybe that is me escaping cold Canadian winters in my mind and my home!

These shell and felt tropical flowers give the wreath a youthful feel fit for a teen’s room.  You will need a wreath form, yarn, felt, shell beads, fishing line, thread, a needle and hot glue.  Start by wrapping your wreath form in yarn; this is an excellent evening activity after your kids are in bed, the T.V. is on and your brain is off!IMG_5088

Now you can make your flowers.  This is pretty simple but a bit fiddly.  First, cut your petals.  There really is no right or wrong way, I even skipped the paper stencil and used the first one I cut as a stencil.  Then you will string your petals together by threading them at two points on each petal.

4Once your petals are sewn together, thread your fishing line onto your needle and pierce through one side of the centre of the flower.  You will then thread your fishing line through the shell bead without a needle.  Then sew the fishing line to the other side of the centre of the flower.

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After you have finished creating your flowers you will hot glue them onto your wreath.  There you have it, a pretty wreath perfect for your home or a great gift idea!

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Cheat tip: I am by no means a seamstress so I may or may not have used a little hot glue when sewing my petals together… same outcome!  This is our little secret!

 

 

 

 

 

Can you ever prepare for a Twin birth?

Okay, so where we left off I was lamenting about the surprise news that I was expecting twins. I freaked out, panicked and then finally came around to the idea, (not that I had a choice in the matter ). So as much as the pregnancy was a lot to mentally process and physically handle, the birth was a whole new ballgame. While pregnant I read as many books as possible, scoured the internet for twin birth stories (thank you Nesting Story for sharing yours) and talked to several twin moms. What I came to realize is that everyone had different experiences, but a common thread was that multiples usually came before 38 weeks, a twin birth likely takes place in the operating room, with a team of people are present at the birth, and that I should expect the babies to spend some time in the nursery and potentially the NICU. This was a lot to process considering I had my first child two years prior in what I like to think of as a peaceful setting, still in the hospital, but with only my midwives present as the sun came up in the early morning hours.

First moments of skin to skin with my first born
First moments of skin to skin with my first born

Due to low water levels in one of the baby’s sac’s I was told that I would be induced at 36 weeks. The boys were measuring well, they were both head down and there seemed to be no other complications. I was extremely happy to have been given a date as I was physically tapped out. I was scheduled to be induced on a Sunday in January and thankfully we had arranged family members to come stay with our daughter. I also was very lucky as I was able to be followed by midwives, one of whom had been a part of my first pregnancy, and a doctor to do the actual delivery. So the idea of having a date and a plan gave me some relief.   

Can you ever prepare for a twin birth? - Fallon Melander for Nesting Story
35 weeks pregnant with the twins and ready to pop

That morning we went into the hospital very anxious and excited. I was planning on a vaginal delivery with both twins as they were in the perfect position. However, I knew that there was a chance that I would need a C-section if any complications arose. Luckily I had the full support of my midwives and doctor to try this route for a twin birth instead of just scheduling a C-section. After settling in I was hooked up to the monitors we were told that they were going to begin the inducement by administering oxytocin. Needless to say I was ready to evict these twins out of my broken body. About an hour later I was informed that the one anestheologist on duty was in a surgery and would not be able to give me an epidural until he was finished, which happened to take a couple hours.

Things progressed very slowly all day. I was only receiving a small amount of oxytocin as the delivery doctor and the anestheologist were both called into another emergency surgery. Being bed bound I began to get bored and frustrated. I could hear women in the rooms next to me bringing new life into the world, I was on my second shift of nurses, and the Women’s network movies were beginning to repeat themselves. After 12 hours of being bed bound I was just plain pissed. In my fit of anger I began to feel some discomfort down below – burning pain that I thought maybe was my catheter. After a few nurses came and left my husband turned to me and said are you ok? I started to say yes while spontaneously crying from searing pain. He ran to get the nurses and I struggled to keep myself from breaking the guard rail off of the bed.

I was rushed to the operating room and transferred to the cold table while also feeling every inch of pain – which is when I realized that the epidural was not working from my hips down. When everyone was in place, about 13 of us in total, I was told to push and after a few pushes Baby A was out and whisked away immediately to the warming table and a team of nurses to be inspected. I was worried about Baby A, but I also remembered that I had to still give birth to another baby. At this point all I could think was “I have to do that all over again!” This is when I really cursed the fact that the epidural was not working.

The next thing I knew an ultrasound machine was on my stomach to locate Baby B. Turns out he had flipped sideways when his brother left the womb and was no longer head down. Of course I did not know this at the time and with my mind still on Baby A and preparing myself for another birth. It felt like mere seconds had passed when the doctor told me to push gently (is there such a thing?) and the next thing I knew Baby B was out and also whisked away to the adjacent warmer. At this point I looked over to my husband who looked in shock and the doctor who still had not said a word but was covered in blood. My husband then told me that Baby B had come out feet first and our ever stoic doctor looked like he had been in a scene of the Walking Dead.

This is when I started to panic about the health of both babies, especially Baby B who had made his appearance into the world at 9:31pm, 9 minutes after his brother in an unforgettable way. Thankfully my midwives were there are kept us informed and told us that both babies were having difficulty breathing and needed to be taken to the NICU. All of a sudden we heard a long deep beeping noise and I looked at my husband wild eyed. It sounded like the unthinkable but my midwife ran over to me and told me that it was just the battery on one of the warmers that had been unplugged that was making the noise.

The boys were rushed out to the NICU and a very nice Resident doctor wearing a clear face shield (straight out of a SWAT movie) did the rest of the delivery – the placenta. I don’t know if she put it on as a precaution after she saw the doctor pull Baby B out and the aftermath that covered the doctor, or if that is standard practice. The whole time however my mind was on the babies and I had no idea what was happening to them. It was quite a whirlwind and once I was back in the delivery room my husband went with the nurse to see the babies. Meanwhile we had been getting updates from my midwife and she told us that they were stable but needed help breathing. I was being monitored and after I was cleared a few hours later I was able to go see the babies, who were still known as Baby A and B at this point.

Baby A was a vaginal twin birth
Baby A

Both babies were hooked up to the CPAP machine and other than difficulty breathing everything else seemed to be okay. One of the biggest surprises to me was how big they were, measuring at 6.4lbs and 6.1lbs. I couldn’t believe that I had been carrying over 12lbs of baby! To be honest at this point I was utterly exhausted and still was not processing everything that had happened – a faulty epidural, a breach baby birth, two babies on respiratory support, and a twin birth that did not require stitches! My midwife told me that I was a freaking unicorn, but I felt like I was in a foggy dream.

Baby B was a breach baby birth
Baby B

We still had a journey to overcome in the following days of our NICU stay and bringing home the twins but I think I will end the story here for now. Needless to say I am thankful that I have two healthy, strong twin toddlers who despite a rocky start are doing amazing.

Melander twins taking a sink bath at 1 year old

I hope this has helped some of you who may be expecting multiples to put your mind at ease and to know that there are some things you cannot control. I have talked to many twin moms about their pregnancy and birth journey and I have learned how unique each one is, and also how strong both babies and mothers truly are. This may seem like the ultimate test, but it’s the beginning of your story and what I hope is an amazing journey.

The Best Summer Strawberry and Cream Scones Recipe

The Best Summer Strawberry and Cream Scones Recipe - Lori for Nesting Story

There aren’t too many things better than a fresh, hot out of the oven scone. Sweet, savoury, buttered up….they’re pretty irresistible…amiright???  A family favourite in this house is strawberry and cream scones. The best part about them is they are not complicated to make, in fact they are quite simple and are quite impressive to others…just be sure not to let them know how easy they are to make.  Not only are they delicious to eat, they make such a beautiful hostess gift. My daughter Sophie and I are always looking for treats to bake and we always seem to come back to this simple scone recipe. I think she just likes to get her hands in the dough..so do I… it’s pretty therapeutic.  

Strawberry season is almost upon us (fingers crossed) and what better time to bake these treats.  The only thing that smells better than a fresh strawberry, is the smell of these scones in the oven… your house has never smelled so good.  Sophie and I whipped up a batch recently to deliver to grandma and grandpa and i snapped a few photos to share with you.

I used to shy away from recipes that required me to make my own homemade dough.  Flip the page to the next recipe please and thank you very much. The texture of the dough never seemed right, dry, crumbly…but finally, I learned that the crumbly texture is in fact the proper consistency. Seriously guys…Do it once and you will see how simple it is and the dough comes together so beautifully in the oven.

This recipe makes 8 triangular scones and you can easily double the recipe for a larger crowd if needed.  They warm up beautifully the following day and with a smear of butter… come on!

STRAWBERRY AND CREAM SCONES

2 cups of all purpose flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (i prefer salted organic butter but you can choose)

12 small organic strawberries, hulled and diced

1 tablespoon lemon zest

GLAZE (optional)

1 1/2 cup icing sugar

2 tablespoons  half and half cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

squeeze of lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

3.Combine sifted flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Stir until combined

4. Add butter (pre-cut and chilled) and incorporate using a pastry cutter or hands

*this will look like crumbs but its ok!!!!….. keep going

5. Gently fold in the strawberries and lemon zest and stir just until incorporated in  

6. Add the half and half cream and gently mix until it forms a soft dough

7. Place the dough on a floured surface and press gently until it is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick

8. Cut into 8 triangles

9. Using a spatula or pie server,  lift each triangle and place on the cookie sheet

10. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden on top

Let the scones rest on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.

I put the cooling rack over the tray I used to bake the scones for an easy cleanup

While they are cooling, I prepare the glaze

GLAZE

1. Whisk the icing sugar, vanilla and half and half cream until blended together.  Give one or two squeezes of lemon into the mixture.

If the glaze is too thick you can add more cream or lemon juice…if its too thin..add a little more icing sugar

Drizzle the glaze over the scones, as much or as little as you prefer.  I don’t add too much glaze to mine because i like to put butter on mine…..its all about balance no?

These little gems are best served hot out of the oven.

They are scrumptious, flaky,  melt in your mouth perfection.

So simple to make for guests ..they will think you are the next Martha!

Serve them with ice cream, whip cream and a nice hot brewed cup of coffee…or with fruit and a mimosa!

Enjoy

Lori xo

Spring Cleaning My Home In 2019

It’s that time of year again… time to start spring cleaning my home. Actually, I did a poll on Instagram recently and am realizing that I am one of the minority of people who actually leave these “extra” cleaning chores until the spring. But, it works for our family.

Recently I started to tackle my spring cleaning and have documented the process on YouTube along the way. Watching someone else spring clean is soothing, motivational and helps remind you of areas in your home that need a little TLC. It’s still a work in progress and most likely will turn into “summer cleaning,” but I am feeling good about what I have tackled so far.

I washed all of our Ikea Ektorp sofa slipcovers in our new washing machine.

nesting story spring cleaning my home wash couch covers
nesting story garage clean up

I’ve replaced broken glasses, a broken utensil tray and chipped mugs in my kitchen.

nesting story declutter and organize kitchen

I also wiped down shelves as I went.

nesting story spring cleaning the kitchen cupboards

We replaced our impractical and gross garbage can with a much more functional one.

nesting story replacing broken items

I decluttered and organized our craft and puzzle cupboards.

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nesting story declutter kids stuff

Then we did a BIG garage cleanup.

nesting story spring cleaning the whole home

While spring cleaning my home I’m trying to concentrate on areas that might be otherwise missed.

Watch it all unfold…

Don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube so you don’t miss a video!

Updating Your Home? Get the Most Bang for Your Buck!

I love spring because it brings new life to my family and our home as I finally step outside after a Canadian winter hibernation. All of a sudden everywhere I look there are new home projects that I want to take on, but I have limited time and budget to do them all. The other problem is we are not certain that this is our forever home (we have some soul searching to do before the mortgage renewal is up). That doesn’t mean I don’t want to put any love into this space. I still want to be proud of my home and have confidence to entertain, but it does mean I need to be smart about our choices financially. Whatever we do to our home until we know our future plans must have a strong ROI (return on investment). 

So whether you are staying put for the foreseeable future or looking to list your house this spring, if you’re thinking about updating your home it doesn’t hurt to know where you will get a better bang for your buck.

Exterior

All too often the exterior of a house gets overlooked. But keep in mind this is the first thing anyone sees and makes a huge difference on the sale of a home. Start to boost a houses curb appeal by simply taking care of the landscape, reviewing the walkway patio stones and painting out the door (and brick if applicable). And don’t forget to include a nice seated area for yourself so you can enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice!

Home exterior - before
Exterior – before
when updating your home, don't forget the exterior - Lara Young for Nesting Story
Exterior – after

Flooring

Thinking of replacing your flooring with hardwood throughout sounds like a big expensive project, but it truly makes a world of a difference to the overall look of your home. Not only will you be able to reap the benefits of a beautiful new floor but your home listing reading “hardwood floors throughout” can make a big difference to the sale of a home. 

Don’t forget to consider the finish of the hardwood. If you have dogs, babies, kids (or all of the above), and you choose a flooring with a smooth finish you will see every scratch and crumb. Do yourself a favor and price out a hand scraped finish which will last a lifetime in your home. 

Dining Room
Dining Room

Kitchen and Bath

Surely you have heard many times that the kitchen and bathroom are the best places to put money into your house, but that’s because it hasn’t stopped being true. Of course you are looking for a beautiful kitchen or bathroom in a home, and so is any buyer. When updating your home putting money into these spaces (within reason) is a win win. No buyer wants to walk in and see a huge renovation project. So make those spaces appealing now, so you can really enjoy them. Then when you are looking to sell, that past renovation will be a major selling feature.

bathroom before
bathroom – before
bathroom inspiration for updating your home - Lara Young for nesting story
bathroom – after

Declutter

Purge, neutralize and Konmari your space!  Whatever you want to call it don’t wait till you list your home to stage it in a way that will make you happy to live in a clear space. Take a step back and look at your home and ask yourself, “if I was listing to sell, what clutter areas would I be clearing out first?” then make that your project! All too often people wait to list their home to purge, only to wish they had done it sooner. 

When updating your home, the same goes for paint and décor. Buy the throw pillows and the plants now so you can actually enjoy them. You can easily choose a paint color that will be appealing to the masses while still making your house feel homey now without having to repaint down the line.

family room declutter
Family room declutter

I don’t know what the next ten years holds, but I do hope to achieve a balance in my home that suite whatever path my family and I go down.

Lara Young is the Principal of Lara Young Design, and also a new mom. Like many of us Lara is trying to find that quintessential work/life balance. Being her own boss is bringing Lara one-step closer to her dream. You can read Lara’s full bio, or contact her to help with your next design project here.

A Day In The Life with Four Kids

It’s been a while since I shared a “day in the life” video with you, but I am so glad I took the time to film one this week. I began creating these types of videos way back when I first started dabbling in YouTube as a way to give you a fly-on-the-wall look into our busy life and how I do things with four kids, including twins.

Although our twins aren’t crawling around and in diapers like when I first began creating these day in the life videos, today with all four kids in school I face new challenges. So grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up, or… let’s be real, pop your AirPods in and watch while you do the dishes, or put it on for your kids too. Regardless of how you watch it, I hope you enjoy!

Don’t forget to subscribe to Nesting Story’s YouTube channel. I put new videos out every Monday and Wednesday!