About Sara

Sara works in higher education, but she's most proud of her role as a Mama to two precocious boys, Lionel Conner, age 4, and Quincy August, age 2. In honor of turning 30 in 2016, she pierced her nose to "keep her young." She loves watching guilty-pleasure television, writing about motherhood, decorating her first home, sipping red wine with her husband Jordan, and chasing after her sons.

Author Archive | Sara

weaning Q: photos to treasure.

as i mentioned in my post last week about our decision to move L into his own big-boy bedroom downstairs, part of the decision was impacted by my nursing relationship with Q. as i did with his big brother before him, i nursed Q for a total of 15 months, and despite some hiccups with my supply when i returned to work, our breastfeeding relationship was wonderful and fulfilling.

when reflecting back on the two growing boys that i nursed, is that in the early weeks of motherhood and breastfeeding L, i felt so, for lack of a better word, confined and tied down to my “job” as his sole food provider. now, i know that the biggest culprit behind those feelings was the fact that i was a brand-new mama who was doing all of this for the first time, but what’s interesting to me is that i never, ever felt this way when nursing Q. perhaps it has something to do with the fact that i was still reeling from his unexpected early birth and subsequent time in the NICU, or maybe it was simply the blessing of my status as Mom 2.0 to two children, but it was so, so different. while i certainly treasured my nursing relationship with L, as i reflected here, it was more of a battle to appreciate, at least at first, the ability to meet his needs in such a meaningful and intense way. but with Q, i was likely more prepared for that responsibility, and instead of battling against it or feeling emotionally drained by it, i soaked it up – i relished it.

when it came time to wean Q, as i mentioned in my post last week, we did it in stages; we day-weaned Q in December 2015, and a few weeks later, we then weaned him to only nurse one time per day, right before bed. in mid-February, i would be traveling away for a few nights for a work conference, so i felt strongly that a few nights before i left marked a good time to “make the break,” so to speak.

on Monday, February 15, i contacted my sister-in-law, Larissa, and i asked her if she’d be interested in snapping a few photos later that evening of me nursing Q for the very last time. she was kind enough to take photos of me nursing baby L, and i am so appreciative of those photos.

here’s me and L in the midst of our nursing relationship:

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thankfully, Larissa agreed to stop by, and what follows in this post are photos that i so treasure, for they capture this special time in my life, and in Q’s life, when we were bonded so inextricably close together. many, many thanks to Larissa for taking these special photos!

here’s me and my sweet Q:

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a bedroom decision: a big-boy room for our big boy.

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since completing the space before Q’s arrival in November 2014, our boys’ shared bedroom has been one of my favorite spaces in our home. the paint color {Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue} is a calming almost-neutral blue that changes from day to evening. the vinyl triangles on the wall have such an impact, especially for so little money. but most of all, the idea of my two boys dreaming away in the same space delighted me.

however, when it came to actually living out the reality of this idea, we hit a few snags.

first, a note on breastfeeding Q, since this definitely impacted our choice to move L into his own room. in December 2015, while i was on holiday break from my full-time job in higher education, i worked hard to wean Q during the day, so that he was only nursing in the evening and during the night. this helped immensely with my supply issues that i had shared before, as instead of pumping at work to try and provide bottles of breast milk for daycare the next day, i was only nursing in the evening and 1-2 times during the night.

after a few weeks of that routine, i weaned Q a bit more, so that he was only nursing before he went to sleep {between 7-8 p.m.} each night. i would nurse him to sleep, and then, once he was settled and sleeping soundly in my arms, i would transfer him to his crib, where he would sleep the duration of the night. this continued until mid-February, when we officially ended our breastfeeding relationship after 15 {mostly successful} months; since i nursed L for 15 months, i wanted to hit that same mark with Q.

after weaning Q completely, we began laying Q down, awake, in his crib in order to establish a bedtime routine and to help him to grow comfortable falling asleep on his own. during the first week or so of this transition, we had L fall asleep in Mama and Daddy’s bed, so that Q could adjust {we did our own variation of the Ferber check-and-console method, which also helped baby L to learn to feel comfortable falling asleep on his own} to this new bedtime arrangement. Q adjusted within two weeks to this new routine, and he even seemed to relish being laid in his crib, snuggled up with a soft blanket and his beloved Mickey Mouse {he loves to suck on Mickey’s nose as he falls asleep!}.

so, after Q adjusted and would put himself to sleep consistently, night after night, we began conducting L’s bedtime routine {a few books, apple juice and prayers} in the living room before laying L down to sleep in the boys’ shared bedroom.

in short: this did NOT work.

both of our boys are snore-makers, and L is a rather restless sleeper, meaning that he often kicks off his covers, turns and rolls in his sleep, and even mumbles or talks from time to time. these factors compounded with both boys in the same bedroom, and L and Q would wake each other up numerous times throughout the night, which resulted, come morning, in not only two sleepy and cranky children, but also two exhausted parents.

in an effort to make this work, we tried multiple variations of this bedtime routine: we tried putting L down to sleep first. we tried putting both boys down to sleep at the same time. we tried snuggling with L in his bed {while Q was already asleep in his crib} to help our oldest to fall asleep quicker and more quietly. sadly, nothing worked.

so, out of desperation {and utter sleep deprivation}, we decided to move L into a “big-boy room” downstairs {what was formerly the guest room/third bedroom/Jord’s video game zone}. even though i had determined long ago that no child of mine would sleep an entire floor away from me, his Mama, until he was in elementary school at least {a vow that makes me laugh hysterically now}, we found ourselves, just three weeks ago, painting walls and moving furniture up and down the stairs, and planning decor.

L’s “big-boy room” is nearly completed now {and we can’t wait to show it to you…after we hang some curtains and a few more decor items}, but after living with this arrangement for just a couple of weeks, here’s how we know that this decision is working for all four of us:

  1. our littlest, Q, sleeps SO much more soundly – he’s sleeping up to 12 hours each night in his crib without a peep!
  2. L wants to show off his “big-boy room” to anyone and everyone that comes over to our house. in short, he’s so delighted to have his very own space.
  3. apart from a few exhausting nights when our dear L was feeling under the weather, he’s done remarkably well with adjusting to sleeping downstairs. the first few nights, he asked us to stay downstairs while he fell asleep, which we were happy to do – after all, our lower level makes us quite happy – but as soon as we heard him snoring away {or, more likely, as soon as we finished that night’s episode of House of Cards – NO SPOILERS – WE AREN’T DONE WITH SEASON 4 YET!}, we’d head upstairs to bed ourselves.?
  4. finally, apart from feeling sick ourselves these past few nights {go away, allergies!}, Jord and i feel like we are {finally!} sleeping soundly. while there are times when we wake up in the night to check on the kids, especially if we hear L stirring or calling out for us {and thankfully, we can hear this pretty well – our bedroom is located right above L’s}, we have our bed to ourselves again, and it’s such a blessing.

up next: the reveal of L’s big-boy room! until then, check out this mood board of sorts on Pinterest to get a design sneak-peek.

{photo by Creative Kindling}

DIY “fireplace.”

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i’m excited to share with you a project that my brother Brian + i completed together this fall: a DIY faux fireplace for our upstairs living room!

THE INSPIRATION

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{p.s. how cute is my niece?!}

after seeing my sister-in-law’s amazing faux fireplace {pictured above} + begging her to tell me how she did it – and where she got the rustic wood! – Brian and i tackled our own DIY interpretation in my home.

THE MATERIALS

to create our faux fireplace + mantle, which is approximately six feet wide and four feet tall, we used the materials listed below. i estimate that this project cost around $250 in materials; the reclaimed wood was free.

overall, i wanted to echo the dimensions of a real “fireplace” and mantle, which required us to build our structure out from the wall. my engineer brother drew up some plans {ahem, nerd}, based on where he found studs in the wall. we then used 2×4’s and 2×6’s to create a base surface to which we attached the reclaimed wood pieces and the wainscoting for visual appeal.

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  • 2×4’s and 2×6’s to create the base for the faux fireplace {pictured above}
  • heavy-duty and super-long screws {that’s as technical as i get, ha!}
  • plywood, trimmed to size, for the base of the fireplace
  • wainscoting, trimmed to size, to add aesthetic appeal to the faux fireplace insert and the base of the fireplace
  • a whole bunch of reclaimed rustic wood {the pieces that we used were from a local abandoned shed and fence near my sister-in-law’s home}

WHAT OUR “FIREPLACE” ADDS TO OUR HOME + STYLING TIPS

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{optional: cute baby who thinks the fireplace base is his own personal performance stage}

having this focal point in our upstairs living room has really changed the look and feel of the room. before we built this faux fireplace, we had a large Expedit bookshelf from IKEA in its place. while the storage capabilities of this bookshelf were top-notch, particularly for the kids’ toys and books, i was ready for a change.

instead of focusing on storage, i wanted to focus on creating a focal point in this room that 1) was pretty and, 2) frankly, that’s purpose was just to make me happy. {sidenote: i’m a firm believer that storage can – and should! – be pretty, which is why my home is full of woven or wicker baskets, large metal containers and colorful storage totes. but this girl wanted a happy place just for me, so we changed it up.}

in terms of styling {and i’m no Emily Henderson, but i love how i styled this part of my home, so i’m sharing!}, when the building phase was completed, i threw a bunch of my books in the middle of the “fireplace,” where the firebox would be if this were a real working fireplace. then, i roll-folded a bunch of neutral-colored blankets {some of which were made by hand by my grandmother!} and placed them in a felt basket with leather handles {a Target find}. then, i placed a taupe and black pouf on the other side of the fireplace. finally, i hung a garland of felt balls {thanks again, Target} on a few finishing nails that i pounded into the wood. so far, i’ve been changing this garland with the seasons, which has been quite fun; the photo above features an acorn garland for Thanksgiving. it was also quite charming to hang our boys’ stockings from the mantle in the Christmas season, as you can {partially} see below.

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because we mounted the television above the fireplace, i kept the styling of the mantle simple, with just a few items to the left and the right of the television to provide access for the remote control. i know that placing a television above a fireplace, real or not, is a widely debated topic in the design world, but i LOVE the way that this wall now commands attention with two “big items” – the fireplace and the television – working together. plus, the main critique that i found with this sort of arrangement involved the difficulty of seeing the television while seated, but our mount is adjustable, so we tip the television down slightly when we’re seated on the couch. and, since our upstairs living room is completely open to our kitchen, we can still play “Wheel of Fortune” {me and Jord’s guilty pleasure – we compete hardcore} while gearing up for dinner. in other words, this set-up works SO well for our family.

here’s how the fireplace currently looks:

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as you can see, the taupe and black pouf has been replaced by a basket, which holds Q’s musical instruments; the pouf now lives on the floor next to our armchair and is a rest for aching feet after a long day’s work. and though it’s not pictured now, more often than not, L’s Blaze and the Monster Machines playset is often atop the base of the fireplace, awaiting its next play session.

my kids love to use the fireplace as a performance stage and an obstacle course {never a dull moment}, but overall, the fireplace brings me so much joy that i could care less. many thanks to my brother Brian for the many, MANY hours that we spent on this project!

our boys’ journey with short stature.

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Our waters over here aren’t the most troubled in history. We are certainly blessed beyond measure in numerous ways. But lately, I’m feeling stuck in these can’t take a breath, life-jacket-breaking waters, and I need to come up for air in this space.

Our sons, while immeasurably bright, gracious, kind, and as silly as they come, are short. Our boys have never, not once, met even the bottom percentile of the growth chart when it comes to height, and since we were pregnant with Lionel, and then with Quincy, we’ve been prepared by doctors, genetic counselors and physicians for many outcomes, the majority of them terrifying.

Thanks be to God alone, our boys do not have concerns that align with the scariest of conditions, but they are remarkably behind where the doctors feel that they should be. For instance, in Lionel’s case, the age of his bones is one year behind what’s normal for his age. And in Quincy’s case, he’s shorter as a one-year-old than even his big brother was at age 1.

It’s not simply that my boys are short. In these modern times, we are blessed – and challenged – by the question of what can, what should be done to augment their growth, and what, if anything, would be effective in doing so. It’s this question that has me grasping for oars to wade us out of these, our troubled waters.

Our boys have undergone extensive testing to rule out genetic abnormalities or deficiencies. We’ve had extensive discussions with our sons’ specialists about medical intervention to augment their growth. And these tests and these discussions continue, with little to no answers regarding where this height challenge came from, other than the determination that it’s a familial condition that’s been passed from Daddy to our boys. Yet, the time is quickly approaching to make determinations about whether or not to intervene medically, and, if we elect to do so, whether or not treatment would actually work to help our boys to grow.

In other words, given the lack of information regarding our boys’ short stature, the decision whether or not to pursue growth hormone therapy is a nuanced one, and one that is immeasurably difficult. Our doctors are unsure as to whether this treatment will help our boys to grow. To provide context: Jordan took growth hormone when he was a child, and following his treatment, he grew to 5’4″, but there’s no certainty that it was the growth hormone treatment and not a delayed growth pattern, for example, that played a role.

It’s always been in our medical plan to make a decision about growth hormone therapy for Lionel around ages 5 or 6, but his sluggish growth pattern has pushed up the timeline for treatment to ages 4 to 5. And last week, we were told that our Quincy may be in need of intervention sooner than his brother, around ages 2 1/2 to 3.

If you do the math, that means that both of our boys, our treasured, healthy boys who just happen to be short, may be receiving growth hormone treatment at the exact same time. And we, their parents, are left to grapple with not only the question of whether this treatment will be effective at all, but also the logistics of daily growth hormone injections for TWO wiggly toddlers, the financial burden of growth hormone therapy for not one but TWO boys, the pleas of “Why do I have to have shots?”, the recognition that our boys are different from their friends, their cousins, their peers.

Jordan keeps telling me, the Mama who has no experience with what it means to be below average height, that it’s important for our boys to be taller than the doctor’s projections, which, to be honest, will leave our boys near five-feet tall, if they are lucky.

But I won’t speak for him; my own fears speak loud enough.

I fear that if our boys are short, and not just short, but quite short, they may have to bear the taunts and the teases of bullies.

They may not be picked for the team at recess.

They may be made to feel inadequate, either consciously or subconsciously, by their peers, even well-intentioned ones.

They may not be asked to dance at prom, or they may be needlessly fearful to do the asking themselves.

They may arrive home from school in tears, wondering why the children tease them so mercilessly, why they are different from everyone else, why they are so short.

And it’s the hurt faces of my two boys that prevent rest from taking hold of my body, that pound my heart violently, that give way to tears more often than not.

No mother wants her child, her children, to bear the brunt of what cannot be helped.

But this. Can this be helped? Should we pursue help, even if it’s not guaranteed to work?

Though it’s felt at times during these past four years as though the rain is pouring down on us in immeasurable buckets, I haven’t said a word about this publicly, because I’ve long insisted that it’s not my story to tell: it’s our boys’ story.

But, I’m coming to realize that this, for now, at least, is my story, too – it’s the story of me, the Mama of these two bubbly, wonderfully exquisite boys, coming to grips with what God has handed us in this life.

I’m learning that I’m allowed, if I want, to throw a fit and say that life isn’t fair and ask for God to just help my boys to grow. And on better days, I take comfort in the the hope that God is using these troubled waters to cleanse me, to cleanse my boys, even when – especially when – I doubt the purpose of these trials.

Thank you, friends, for reading this muddled snapshot of my Mama heart. More to come soon. xo

Disney, christmas 2015 + a long overdue update on life.

in this {doozy!} of a post, you’ll find the following:

  • sharing our holiday – Christmas 2015
  • all about L: hockey skates, a few giggly Lionel-isms + a recent development that has me feeling all sorts of reminiscent
  • all about Q: a birthday trip to Disney + our babe’s one-year photos
  • all about us: buying in to Dave Ramsey {pun intended!} + the big nine
  • an investment that’s given me peace of mind about all of the photos that i take
  • a book that i’m enjoying + reading in a new way this year
  • a project that i do every year for each boy that brings me so much joy

let’s get started!

Christmas 2015

we were so blessed this Christmas to have two growing littles to share in our joy of Christ’s birth.

evidence: our boys reading the Christmas story with me.

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new traditions this holiday season included:

1) the arrival {and Christmas Eve departure} of Clive the Elf {on the Shelf}, named and much-loved by L; he delighted in seeing where she ended up each morning {though she didn’t like to move every day…ahem};

2) a Christmas Eve Eve {aka December 23} gift-opening session for the Mama and the Daddy of the house;

3) a Christmas Eve morning gift-opening session with just our little family of 4;

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and 4) a Christmas Eve sleepover with Grandma Patty, Grandpa Joe and Uncle Brian at our house, complete with Christmas jammies.

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we also got this ADORABLE photo of all 5 Gillis cousins in their Christmas garb; i dare your heart not to melt:

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and, like the years before {2013, 2014}, here’s what our boys hauled in for gifts from Mama and Daddy this year:

Lionel, age 3.5:

want: Blaze + the Monster Machines Monster Dome Playset; need: Melissa + Doug Umbrella; wear: Seattle Mariners baseball hat; read: Ninja Turtles boxed set

Quincy, age 1:

want: Hape Scoot-Around Ride-on Bike; need: Minnetonka Moccasins {NOTE: size up – these were way too small!}; wear: St. Louis Cardinals baseball hat; read: The Going to Bed Book + 1, 2, At the Zoo

all about L

our biggest boy this year was elated to receive his very own pair of hockey skates {“blue, size 8,” per request in his letter to Santa Claus}.

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he couldn’t wait to try them out on ice, so our family went to the local ice rink a few days after Christmas to take L for a spin around the ice.

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at first, he was {adorably} discouraged, because “the ice was slippery, Mama,” but he slowly got the hang of it.

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in a call back to my younger days as a figure-skating-obsessed kiddo who wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi when i grew up, Mama tried to help him “march” on the ice to help him to grow comfortable with ice skating. it seemed to work well, even though he would much rather skate around the ice like this instead:

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it was a wonderful time, though, and he frequently asks when we can go back to “his ice” to skate again.

a few memorable Lionel-isms as of late:

  • “Holy boy!” {i frequently utter “holy moly!” and “oh boy!” so this mash-up is quite adorable}
  • “Cuz my bed is just a little bit too bigger than your bed, Mommy.”
  • “When i grow bigger like this *moves his hands up in the air* i take a shower like Daddy. Lionel doesn’t like showers, but i take a shower like Daddy when i eat chicken nuggets and grow big like Daddy.”

finally…guess who has made a valiant return to our biggest’s heart?

welcome back, Gus the monkey.

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our L grew quite attached to sweet Gus in his early years, but Gus has since fallen out of favor. while meltdowns would once ensue if Gus wasn’t in Lionel’s arms when he went, well, anywhere, Gus’s latest job has been to sit idly on L’s bed, like some stuffed animals eventually do.

but last night, when L and i were saying our prayers and thanking God for our family, for football players and hockey men and touchdowns {?!}, and for our teachers and friends, L dropped in Gus’s name and insisted on snuggling his green stuffed monkey as he slept.

and this morning, L insisted that Gus wanted to watch our boy go potty, wanted to share his pancakes {but that Gus didn’t need to be cleaned up, unlike my syrup-covered son}, and needed to go to school with Lionel.

i have to say, the return of Gus the monkey has this Mama feeling all sorts of nostalgic. i thought that he had moved beyond his love for pretend friends, in favor of his real friends at school, but just when i think that i have a grasp on who my boy is growing up to be, he surprises me. i just love being his Mama.

all about Q

while many people say that the second child is neglected a bit in comparison to the first, at least our sweet Q can say that his brother didn’t get to spend his first birthday at the most magical place on Earth – DISNEY WORLD.

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in short {because our trip to Disney is deserving of its own post…hint, hint Jord}, we had a wonderful time in Florida. the boys were absolute gems from the moment that our plane left Sioux Falls, and their excitement made Jord and i feel like kids again. in other words, we can’t wait to go back.

a few photos, because you just can’t beat little boys in Mickey hats:

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{Q’s adorable Mickey outfit from here}

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when we returned from Disney, our sweet boys were sick for weeks {as i mentioned in this post}. but, after they returned to health, we scheduled a photo session with our favorite photographer, Kara of Creative Kindling, to snap one-year photos of this big guy:

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we feel so grateful that Kara’s witnessed all of our most major life events, from our engagement and wedding to our kiddos joining our circus. in other words, we absolutely treasure these photos.

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all about us

i mentioned this on Instagram last week:

Jordan and I started Financial Peace University last night + I can already tell that it will be life-changing and life-giving. We’ve had a budget since we were married, but we want to dropkick some student loans and save and spend more wisely, so it’s time to try something new.

we finished up our first week of homework over the weekend, and this adventure for us continues to be life-giving. it’s going to be hard, hard work the next few years of our lives as we try to dropkick our student loan debt and be more intelligent with our finances, but we are so excited to have a plan to guide our efforts, and to be taking this journey alongside other couples from our church. plus, Nancy + Will Ray are definitely helping me to catch a glimpse of what will be the fruits of our labor; i encourage you to follow along with them if you are either considering or currently enrolled in FPU, or even just want to be smarter about your money! Em for Marvelous is also a huge resource for this math-and-money-challenged girl; check her out!

in other news, on Wednesday, Jord and i will pause to mark nine years of life together. yes, it was just nine years ago on January 27, 2007, that i gave Jord permission to date me. and even though our lives have changed so, so much, and even though our lives probably look nothing like what we had planned when we first decided to do life together, i wouldn’t trade this life with him for anything. he’s who i will turn to, when we’re 80 years old, and say, “remember that?” he’s who i’ll share my greatest adventures in life with, and who i’ve had by my side for all of our adventures thus far. i’m so, so blessed to have a man like him.

iCloud storage

you guys, i used to wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat…all about my pictures – the ones of our wedding, the ones of our boys in their earliest days of life. i’d have nightmare after nightmare that the hard drive on our iMac would crash, and that our pictures would be irretrievable.

enter: iCloud storage.

in December, i took the plunge. for $0.99 per month, i’ve backed up all of my photos {and there are THOUSANDS, guys} to iCloud storage, and all of a sudden, i have peace of mind. in other words: it’s worth it, friends. you’re welcome.

what {and how!} i’m reading this year

Jord gifted me a subscription to Audible for Christmas this year, and i started listening to my first book last night. i’m currently “reading” When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, and it’s exquisite, guys. this man’s story is such a tragedy, yet he writes about it so eloquently and with such beauty that i literally caught myself forgetting to breathe as i listened to his words. i can’t wait to read more tonight. and if you haven’t already, read this – you MUST.

my favorite project for our boys

and lastly {if you’re still reading this, then you deserve an award or something for navigating the most rambling blog post ever}, i wanted to share a project that’s dear to my heart.

inspired by John and Sherry, each year, i create a photo yearbook for each of our sons. in these books i place photos and snippets of our family-related blog posts here. i use Blurb to create these photo books for my boys, and i’ve been so impressed with the ease of their desktop client, BookWright {formerly BookSmart}, and the quality of the books. Jord also used Blurb to create a book of my wedding blog as a birthday gift for me, and it’s one of my most treasured gifts. this isn’t a sponsored post or anything – i just wanted to share my love for Blurb with all of you!

and with that, i’m signing off for today – goodness knows that this post is long enough as it stands! but before i go, a short glimpse at what’s to come in this space:

  • reveal: our upstairs bathroom – phase I makeover!
  • reveal: a DIY “fireplace” in our upstairs living room!

{photos from Q’s one-year session above by Creative Kindling}