I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, not really. Anytime I’ve ever done them in the past, I’ve set goals that are too high and the minute I falter, I give up entirely. So in the last few years, I haven’t done resolutions at all. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done much of anything.
But this year, after hearing about it a few years in a row, I decided I would do a word of the year. After a little self-reflection and being totally honest with myself, I decided that my word for 2019 would be SIMPLIFY. In all ways. Once I decided a word of the year, I was able to set some attainable goals for 2019 that would help me achieve the simplicity I have been craving.
Over the last few years, I have felt bogged down. By compromisos, or things we feel we have to do, by stuff (SOOO MUCH STUFF with kids), by my wardrobe, and by the pressure to do it all. After a particularly busy holiday season, I decided that that was it. My primary “job” is supposed to be that of a stay-at-home mom. But my kids were not getting the best of me, at all.
And simplifying was the only way to get it done.
So for my photography business, simplifying means getting a client management software that will help me keep all my information and scheduling in one place.
For the blog, it means I will have a schedule for writing, and I will try not to stay up until the wee hours getting posts done.
For my home, it was to organize my closet and to organize the kids’ toys.
For my personal life, it’s to be present and to not say yes to every invite or event that comes our way. Will I take photos? Yes. But I may upload posts later. Will I reply to your comments and DMs? Yes - but I may not reply within minutes.
I feel like having a big word really helped me to narrow it down. Fitness is not at the top of my list this year. Neither is growing my business. There will be a time for both of those things, and 2019 is not the time. I recognize that. And while I did include a couple of goals like, “Move more,” and “Drink more water,” I know that those are completely attainable and within my reach.
So now that we are more than halfway through January, and I’m no longer on any vacation or planning for one, I’m putting this into practice. On Friday, I started thinking about Chloe’s birthday. At first, I said I would cut a cake with family at home. Then I started coming up with ideas, and pinning my life away on Pinterest. Within 15 minutes, it had gone from a small cake cutting at home with family, to a small-ish birthday party at a park with a bounce house and way too many details to oversee. I researched venues, made calls. And then I thought to myself, “How will this serve me or my family? How is this fitting into the theme of simplicity?” And the answer, before I had finished asking myself the question, was No. No it is not serving our purpose. No, it is not fitting into the theme of simplicity.
And as quickly as I scaled it up, I scaled it down.
And that’s what it’s about. It’s about knowing that you may get off course, but being able to bring yourself back. If you set resolutions and have veered off track a little, know that you can get back. Tomorrow is a new day.
Keep it simple, babe.
We have spent the last week in North Carolina, in an area just outside of Asheville (more on the area and things to do some other time). We left our house on the Friday right after Christmas and we will head back this Saturday. The entire trip is just about 12 hours one way, and we decided to drive for various reasons.
I was actually a little nervous about driving because Chloe doesn't always do so well in the car. As a matter of fact, we had a contingency plan - if she was a disaster on the way up, I would fly back with her on Saturday and Eddie and Caleb would drive down. But she actually did really well on the way up, so we'll all be driving back together again.
Caleb is a great traveler. Last winter we did a road trip and went up to South Carolina, stopping at a couple places along the way, and he was awesome. I wasn't worried about him at all. But there are things I do to make sure it goes more smoothly and that he is kept busy.
There you have it! It's not impossible to road trip with little kids - just takes some planning, preparation, and flexibility!
Hopefully you feel more prepared for your next road trip!
There's something about the ending of the year and ringing in of a new one that makes us pause and reflect. It's easy to just focus on a couple of moments, and we tend to focus on the really good or the really bad ones. But like they say in Rent - 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year?
We tend to focus on the really big moments, maybe 15 or 20 when we think back on a year, but there are so many little moments in between those big ones. And those tiny moments are what make up the fabric of our year. These are the ones we don't take pictures of - the silent exchanges, the belly laughs, the quiet kisses, the heads on shoulders, the beaming smiles, the kissing of booboos.
In a day and age where everything is over documented, it's nice to think of the moments that are stored in our hearts, and not on our hard drives. If we pause and reflect on those moments, I guarantee there's a lot more good than bad.
2018 was a big year for us. We welcomed Chloe into our family, and we learned to function as a family of four. We found our groove with Eddie's new schedule and I had some really great milestones with my blog and with my photography business. I spoke on my first panel thanks to MamaBoss, scored an amazing partnership with JOHNSON's and was flown to New York City for an event. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that there were so many little moments - moments that aren't the first ones that come to mind when I think of the year - but moments that really define the everyday. Moments like Caleb first meeting Chloe, or Eddie telling me how beautiful he thinks I am. Moments when my clients get back to me telling me how much they adore the photos I captured of their families, or when you, my readers, reach out to me and tell me that something I wrote really resonated with you.
We've got about 960 minutes in a day (that's not counting 8 hours of sleep). Those are a lot of minutes, each one with an opportunity to create a moment or a memory. And while we don't take snapshots of each of those moments to store in our hard drives (can you imagine the size of the hard drive you'd need?!), we're constantly experiencing moments and creating memories.
So in 2019, I'm focusing more on storing memories - some on my hard drive, for sure - but more in my heart.
I'm storing the smiles.
I'm storing the smirks.
I'm storing the funny faces.
I'm storing every "I love you."
I'm storing Caleb's "Goodnight and goodbyes."
I'm storing Chloe's grin every time she sees Caleb, Eddie, or me.
I'm storing every squeeze Eddie gives me.
I'm storing every shared meal, every clinked glass, and every kind exchange.
I'm storing the cuddles along with the middle of the night wake ups.
I'm storing every grateful note or e-mail.
I'm storing every heartfelt thank you.
I'm storing it all.
I won't forget them, because even if I didn't take a photo of each of those 525,600 minutes, those are the moments that make up my life.
Cheers to 2019, and to storing all the moments.
From us to you, Happy New Year!
Christmas Day is just over a week away, which means all the festivities and activities are in full swing. This time of year, it’s so easy to get caught up in everything we should be doing and lose sight of what really matters. There are invitations to cookie exchanges, brunches and dinners and ugly sweater parties, and gifts to be bought and wrapped. And in the midst of all that, it’s easy to lose focus at Christmastime.
At the start of the season, I knew I was in for a busy busy couple of months - and by start of the season I mean October. As a photographer, I start booking up in late October and I’m typically booked up until mid-December. I was hosting Thanksgiving, and I also signed up to help out with a big fundraiser at Caleb’s school on December 1. Sprinkle in there my Christmas mini sessions, hubby's birthday, and various other compromises. So I knew that October through December was going to be hectic.
When I get busy with work and outside compromises, everything else suffers. Right now, my laundry is piled high on the sofa in our bedroom because I haven’t put it away in about two weeks. Before that? It had been about a month since I had actually put my laundry away. My house was a mess, and I hadn’t gotten a single Christmas gift. And while I’m okay with a little bit of a mess (like the laundry I mentioned earlier), it really starts to grate on me when my house is in a shambles. It heightens my anxiety and I have a hard time focusing on everything I need to do because my space is just so out of whack. My self-care suffers, I eat garbage, and I don’t drink enough water.
So when the invites started pouring in for events and activities, I thought really long and really hard about what all of these things would mean for me and for my family. More “hurry up we gotta go,” more leaving my kids, less time with my husband, and more stress because I had all this work to keep up with. So for every invitation that came in, I thought long and hard. And I only said yes to the ones that I thought would truly bring us joy while we were participating.
That has meant that we have spent more time together and less time running from one place to another. We have enjoyed each other’s company and sat down to meals together. We have spent time with family and we have been happier. I have had more patience, and when Chloe and Eddie both came down with nasty colds/viruses, I didn’t freak when I could barely get any work done for 3 days.
And to be honest, I don't feel like we have missed anything this Christmas season. On the contrary, we've enjoyed the things we have been able to do because we didn't feel stressed or overcommitted. One day, our kids will ask to participate in certain activities, and we'll let them choose the activities that bring them joy - but we will teach them to do things because they love them.
At the end of the day, resting and recharging and spending time together has been just what we have needed to get through this Christmas season feeling happy and content. And at the end of the day, that's what Christmas should be about - finding what brings you joy. If making gingerbread houses stresses you out, don't do it. If the thought of standing in line to visit Santa brings you to tears, then don't take them. And if what makes you happy is drinking hot chocolate on the sofa in your Christmas pajamas while watching Christmas movies with your kids, then DO THAT. You don't have to do things because everyone else is doing them. Choose your joy this season, and let your Christmas be yours.
Gift-buying can be stressful during the holidays, but it doesn't have to be. With so many gift guides and lists out there, you can find something for everyone on your list. I've gone ahead and put together a list of some of the things I love, along with a couple of discount codes I've gotten you hooked up for! Most of these are for adults, but some of them have kid options, too. If you want some ideas for kids, check out my Gift Guide for Kids. With just about two weeks left until Christmas, make sure you check these items out!
For the Hostess
Okay, so we watched this funny SNL skit the other day, and I am not telling you to re-gift a cheap peach candle! But in our house, there are candles going pretty often, and these SoyDelicious holiday collection candles are everything. The ladies behind SoyDelicious sent me their "oh xmas tree" and "frankincense" scents and can we just say, you'd never know there wasn't a real Christmas tree in my house! These candles have an 80-hour burn time and can also double as a moisturizer (that's what that little wooden spoon is for). Anyway, I always keep a couple extra candles so I never have to run out for last minute gifts - but I always make them really good candles that I would want to use, too. And these fit the bill perfectly!
For Your Favorite Lady
I don't think you could ever go wrong giving a woman the gift of some luxurious beauty products. Selah Skin Studio's holistic products are not only good, but they are good for you. They have everything from bundles to individual products, and even some products for the men in your life! I absolutely love their milk + honey cleanser and their radiance serum. And check out below for a 15% discount!
Use code momlife for 15% off your purchase until 12/31/18.
For the Chef in Your Life
We are huge fans of The Spice & Tea Exchange and their spice blends. They have some really great gift sets that are perfect for anyone on your list who loves to entertain or cook. They have blends for everything from grilling to baking, and in all kinds of price ranges!
I love being able to personalize gifts for people. I feel like personalization is not something most people spend extra on for themselves and it's a gift that shows a little extra thoughtfulness. This MOM Tee from The Enchanted Wire & Wardrobe is perfect.
Another really cute personalized option are these packing cubes from Shop Blop. I have one with all of Chloe's necessities that makes to really easy for me to switch bags if I need to, and they hold so much! They're a really practical, useful gift - and at this point in my life, I am all about practicality!
And for a huge selection of items that you can personalize, I have used PersonalizationMall in the past and have been so happy with nearly everything I have ordered from there - from dish towels to ornaments and everything else you can think of to personalize! As a matter of fact, I have a cart full of stuff I need to finalize!
I like subscriptions because they are the gift that keeps on giving! These are a monthly reminder of your thoughtfulness, and there are options out there for nearly everyone on your list! If you don't want to commit to a full year, consider a one-month or three-month gift subscription.
Know someone who loves to read or listen to audiobooks? Consider gifting them an Audible or Book of the Month subscription.
A new mom or expectant mother? Shipt, Instacart, or Amazon Fresh can help her get groceries without leaving the house!
A mom of multiples? How about a subscription to Blueberry Pediatrics? I know in our house it has saved us from having to head out the door to the pediatrician or urgent care on more than one occasion (including twice this past week alone!)
For men? The Dollar Shave Club has awesome products (we are obsessed with their toothpaste!).
Your crafty friend would appreciate Amazon's Adults & Crafts Subscription Box.
For the beauty lover in your life? Birchbox fits the bill.
So there you have it, some of my picks for 2018. Clearly this year I am all about practicality - I wonder if that has anything to do with being a mom of two? ;)
November has been non-stop. I feel like I have been treading water all month, and I'm finally just now starting to come up for air. Here's what I've been into this month!
Is it really the Christmas season if you haven't had your kids' photos taken with Santa? I like to think of photos with Santa as a way to kick off the Christmas season. This year, thanks to Dolphin Mall, we got our photos done really early!
Instead of going to see Santa and having to wait in a boring line while your kids ask, "Is it our turn to see Santa yet?" 75 times, head over to Santa's Flight Academy at Dolphin Mall and experience a fun, interactive setup. Kids get an official badge with their photo on it and get "fitted" for their virtual flight suit.
Caleb loved dancing in front of the "Flight Suit Visualizer," and we had a really great time watching him.
They also map out Santa's route and help collect cheer to power the sleigh. The sleigh is enormous and filled with all kinds of cool details.
And then they get to dance and play in the falling snow. Once they've done all of that, they get to see Santa and have their photo taken with him.
Santa's Flight Academy runs from noon through 10 pm daily until December 24th, on the Second Floor Ramblas, near the entrance of Cinebistro.
If you're looking for a fun way to kick off the Christmas season, look no further! Head over to Dolphin Mall and get your Santa photos done!
When it comes to buying kids presents, the easiest thing to do is run into a toy store or the toy section at Target and pick up whatever the hot toys are. But the truth is, while toys can entertain kids for a little while, they don't usually have longevity. And when kids are bombarded with toys all at once, they tend to play with them even less - at least, that's what I have found to be the case in our house. So I decided I would put together a post with some suggestions for you to get the kiddos in your life - suggestions that aren't toys - I even managed to score some discount codes for you!
But before we get to the list, a couple of other tips:
Also, in our house this year, we are asking family to follow this:
"One thing they want,
One thing they need,
One to wear,
And one to read."
When in doubt, stick to one of those categories - I promise you won't go wrong!
The Christmas Star from Afar
Kind of a take on a certain mischievous elf, The Christmas Star from Afar helps us to keep the focus on Christ during Christmas. You set up the wooden nativity set, and read the story. Each night, you hide the star, and in the morning, your children look for the star and put the wise men with the star. On Christmas morning, the star appears over baby Jesus, just as the star led the wise men to Jesus after his birth. I really love this idea and I'm definitely going to make this a tradition with my own children. But if you know that a family wants to keep the focus on Christ during Christmas, this is a great gift to give their children!
Black Friday Sale: 25% off with the code MERRY25 (11/23-11/26)
Use the code TOPKNOT for 10% off your set.
Book Subscription Box (Bookroo)
Bookroo is a monthly subscription for your kids that helps them fall in love with reading by combining the excitement of opening a gift with the discovery of a new, treasured book. Every month, kids get a package with new books that are individually wrapped. They have books for kids from ages 0-10 (board books ages 0-3, picture books ages 2-6, chapter books ages 7-10), and they have personal or gift subscriptions in varying lengths. Another thing that's great about this company is that it's run by three women who are sisters-in-law. I actually gift this for birthdays a lot - it's the gift that keeps on giving!
Black Friday Sale: 25% off with the code BF2018
For 15% off, use the code TOPKNOTHOLIDAY (Expires 12/31)
Lessons: Music, Swimming, Sports, Mommy & Me
Every parent wants to give their child lessons of some kind. For some kids it's swimming lessons, for others it's a sport, or even Mommy & Me Classes. But all of that can get really pricey. Why not give something that they will continue to use and cherish? Gift cards, or a certificate with a note are good ways to present this gift!
I know this is supposed to be a toy-free list, but anything that really gets kids to think scientifically and be interested in science, technology, engineering, or math is really great. STEAM is another option and incorporates art as well. If you feel like you MUST get them a toy, something that is educational and will get their brains working is always a great route to take. Caleb received these magnetic blocks last year and he really enjoys playing with them.
Subscription to a Learning App (ABC Mouse, ABCya.com, etc)
This is one of those where you have to check with parents and make sure that it would be an appropriate gift. Caleb very rarely gets to use a handheld device like a phone or an iPad, so this might not be a great fit for him, but once he is older, a subscription to a learning app would be an awesome gift.
Caleb is just getting to the age where his attention span allows him to sit down and play a board game with us. Board games like Connect Four, Perfection, and Hungry Hippos would all be great for kids his age! (Make sure you follow the age guides on the games.)
Dress Up Outfits
Over the years, Caleb has gotten a couple of dress up outfits - a doctor, a firefighter, a chef - and he uses them all regularly. There are definitely a couple more of these on his wish list this year!
Puzzles that help with letter, number, and shape recognition are always really helpful! The great thing about puzzles is that they are good for varying ages and they have everything from animals to a map of the United States. My favorites are from Melissa & Doug - they are durable and the pieces are sized appropriately for their ages.
One of my favorite things to give and get is anything with a personal touch. I really love Blop Shop's clear backpacks and travel cubes. You can get them personalized with the recipient's name and give them something that is uniquely theirs.
Tickets to a Local Attraction
Buy kids an experience and they will remember it forever. A day at the zoo or a local children's museum are really great options. Most of these places have gift options, or you could just buy passes. Bonus points if it's something you can take them to yourself and give mom & dad some time off!
Happy Shopping, friends!
The holidays always bring out the mega list-maker and crazy planner in me. Between buying gifts for everyone, the busiest time of year for me as a photographer, and typically planning vacations, birthdays, and hosting events, I’ve got lists coming out of my ears. It’s not wonder that I like to start checking things off as early as possible.
While most people don’t start thinking about Christmas photos until October or even November, the truth is that as a photographer, I typically start thinking about Christmas photos and cards well before the holiday season actually arrives.
I like to have my cards before Thanksgiving so I can send them out the following week. One great tip is that MANY cardmakers have sales going on before Thanksgiving. I don’t have to pay for faster shipping since I have time, and I can really take my time choosing my cards. This year, I’ve partnered with Minted to get the perfect Christmas cards for our family.
I’ve used Minted multiple times in the past, and I am always so happy with the quality of their cards. They have beautiful designs, ranging from minimalist to classic. You can check out some of this year’s trends in Christmas card designs here! I’m really digging the neutrals for this year, but I haven’t decided on my design just yet.
My favorite feature of theirs is that I can input all my contacts and they will address my envelopes for me! This is an enormous timesaver, and it’s probably the one part of this task that delays me immensely. But I really also love how easy their site is to use, and the fact that I can get a digital proof of my card before I order it helps me to not goof up my cards because I was trying to get them done quickly.
So if you're in need of checking something off your list, head to Minted to get your Christmas cards done. It will be one more thing off your list and one less thing to do once the season really starts to ramp up.
Here's the second look in my denim experiment. You can find the jeans and tee linked here. Since fall is in full swing everywhere but Miami, I'm going as fall as I can without sweating my butt off. A colorful plaid shirt in the thinnest flannel possible is a good way to bring in a classic fall look. The booties with a tiny heel are perfect for running errands, and the camel color is so classic that I can definitely see myself using these for years to come. And the tiny bag? Big enough to fit my phone, chapstick, my keys, my credit card, and a shopping list. The perfect bag for when my kids are not with me, ha! (Maybe for Thanksgiving errands or Black Friday shopping?)
The shirt, the shoes, and the bag are all from Gap. I've linked similar styles below. This is honestly a really comfy look and one that I can put on year after year and feel like I'm in the spirit of fall.
Photos by Sasha de Almagro
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About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.