Lost Things Found

Hello, again. 

:: dust, dust, dust ::
:: sweep, sweep, sweep ::

Picture me swaying sentimentally to the “Welcome Back” song of the ’70s as I write this to you.

Somehow nearly three years have passed since I’ve entered this space. I hardly remembered how to log in and navigate the interface, fumbling around like a grandma with the latest iPhone. Bless my heart.

Life has not slowed down since my last published post here – in fact, the opposite is true. My family and I moved, I quit my job in healthcare, began writing more freelance, and had another baby – a girl – who is well on her way to her first birthday! 

Well, I say life has not slowed down, but in recent weeks it actually has. And drastically so. Our whole world came to screeching halt in the wake of a global pandemic that we’re still in the messy middle of. Does it seem like a dream to anyone else? It just doesn’t seem real. 

And maybe it’s not quite fair to say life came to a halt – certainly some things did, most things, but not everything. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that our pace is what has slowed so dramatically. Nowhere to rush to. No bustling social life. No complicated calendars. 

I can say that even as a mom with a house full of loud little kids, things are eerily quiet. Things are still. Slow. 

Slow enough to reclaim some things that have been lost.

Like, say, a blog perhaps? 

I think when this is over everyone will have a different story of the beautiful thing they reclaimed in the midst of crisis. What will yours be?

Talk soon, friends!

Savoring December

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It’s getting close now. Christmas is coming – quickly. Every so often I’ll spot a countdown – “6 shopping days until Christmas!” – and I think I should probably feel rushed by it, but I find myself wondering why I don’t.

Maybe this year it’s the impending arrival of a newborn, but I’m in a savor kind of heart-space lately.

I think ahead to next year and things will be so wonderfully different. We will have a 10 month old baby boy, and an almost F O U R year old daughter. I don’t want to rush any seasons. Ever. 

We didn’t even get our Christmas tree until last weekend, simply due to the way our schedules lined up, and letsbehonest…some procrastination, too. We drove out to a local tree farm, and wandered around assessing the trees that were left to choose from. (When December is already 1/3 over, you don’t get much say in how pretty your tree is. You just pick one that’s the right size and doesn’t lean too far to the right or left. Also, when you only bring a small amount of cash with you, you find that your choices are even narrower.)

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Just like last year, Aven brought along her beloved Minnie ornament to “try on” the tree. Once Minnie approved, Brandon fired up the chainsaw and down it came. The sweet old man who owned the farm offered up s’mores, and we happily obliged. We sat around his big fire pit, eating s’mores for lunch and chatting.

It was perfect. In a very unperfect, ordinary way. 

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A couple of nights later, we strung white lights on our little “Charlie Brown” tree, as Brandon calls it. After a friendly debate regarding whether to start from the top versus the bottom of the tree (bottom – duh!), it was shimmering sweetly in the corner of our living room. Then, just before bedtime, my two-year-old asked me to dance with her in the light of the tree. Dressed in our pj’s, we swayed, twirled, and giggled as the Christmas music played. It’s a little early to say for sure, but so far that moment is the front runner in my favorite memories this season. 

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We bank on the big holiday moments – Santa’s lap, the perfect gift, Christmas morning – that’s what we’re focused on. We chase those moments with anticipation, and we rush around, checking every box on our Tradition To Do List. But the truth is, the spark of the Christmas spirit starts small and is much, much quieter. Just like His birth all those years ago. Simple. Modest. Almost unnoticed. And yet? Special. So immensely special and undeniably significant. 

If our hustle and bustle gets too loud, chaotic, or restless, we may just miss the simple sweetness of this season altogether. So pay attention to the small moments. Intentionally look for them. (And when you find them, don’t feel like you have to document them with a photo or an Instagram story — #preachingtomyself — because some of my most unforgettable moments are stored up only in my heart, just like the dance with my little girl that I mentioned earlier.)

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I realize there is a certain busy associated with the holidays that we can’t exactly avoid, but we can choose to not let it overtake us and distract us. Always be on the lookout for the pause button and don’t be afraid to press it. I know there’s not much left of December, but there’s always, always room to savor the significant.

*Write this at the top of your to do list today: Savor > Hustle. And if that’s the only box that’s been checked at the end of the day, just consider yourself ahead of the game.

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Thankful.

Writing has had to take a bit of a backseat lately, for various reasons, but today it feels so good to get my hands on this keyboard of mine because I have something sweet and special to share.

 

I cannot believe I get to do this again.

This….

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Carry a baby. Assist in another miracle. And become a mama all over again. 

Thankful.

It feels too special. Too heavy and light all at the same time. Too full and too happy and too much. 

Entering motherhood two and a half years ago thrust me into the wildest adventure of my life. It also plunged me into conversations, experiences, relationships, and issues I never even knew existed before. My eyes have been opened to so much, and among that, especially a greater understanding and gratitude surrounding this space of bringing babies into the world. I know it doesn’t always come easy, or when or how we hope it will. Have I mentioned how thankful I am? 

I notice I’m worrying less this go-around, and praying more. Praying over absolutely everything – mostly my heart, my attitude, my spirit…but also things like who will be clocked in at the hospital when it’s delivery time. 

I find myself craving less control, more surrender. And what I really want is for that essence to diffuse beyond these next six or seven months, beyond the day this baby enters the world, and settle deep into my everyday life as I walk through motherhood. Another prayer to add to the list. 

So here I sit, smiling from the inside out, gratefully surrendered to whatever He has in store. Thank you, thank you, Lord.  

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Music to a Mama’s Ears

I’m a word person, no surprise there. But even if affirming words aren’t your “love language,” everyone can use an uplifting word now and then. And I’ve found that sometimes all it takes is a small piece of encouragement to refocus my perspective on how this whole motherhood thing is going.

So many times I feel ill-equipped for this huge task of raising a daughter, but thankfully this truth never changes: when I am weak, HE is strong in me. 

That’s some good news. 

So we can rest in the fact that we were perfectly chosen and have been perfectly positioned to raise our babies. Enough of this doubting and guilt and worrying. 

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So, two things I’d like for you to do:

  1. Find the phrase below that means the most to you. Write it somewhere you’ll see it today – your hand, your phone, your kid’s chalkboard…whatever works.
  2. Find a mom to pass them on to. Send out a quick text, comment on an Instagram photo, or tell them to your friend at the playdate today. Be the one singing the praises of moms in your circle, or the moms you pass in the grocery store. 

“You’re a good mom.”

“You are doing immeasurably better than you give yourself credit for.”

“You’re not in this alone.” (*Catch – you have to help them not be in this alone.)

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

“You were made to mother.”

“You inspire me.”

“You’re doing a great job.”

“Wanna make a Target run?…By yourself?” (*Must be prepared to catch baby mid air as mom makes a mad dash for the car)

“Hey, I could use some parenting advice… “

“Your babies are blessed to have you.”

“Tomorrow’s a new day!”

“___ year old’s are hard. But you’ve got this.”

“You are SUPERMOM.”

I sincerely pray some of these words put a smile on your face, hope in your heart, and buoy you up today as you walk confidently in your ability to mother well.

Moms: you are needed, cherished, loved, seen, and so so appreciated. Parenting is challenging, but no doubt – you can handle it.

So let this music of encouragement play in your ears over and over, until it sinks deep into your heart like a song you can’t stop singing. ❤

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S.

 

Dear Mama in the Making

Hi!

I just wanted to let you know I have a short piece published over on the Good Mother Project today! I love the encouraging and honest community they’ve built over there.

I would be honored for you to take a minute to read about a few things I’d like all soon-to-be and new moms to know:

“Dear Mama in the Making,

I want you to know that you’re my person. You’re my person, and I’m going to tell you why.”

….{ click here to keep reading }….

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Talk soon!
S

What’s new?

Hey friends!

Over the last week I’ve been working hard to get my new site up and running! My sweet techie husband migrated my blog to WordPress (if I could insert the praise hands emoji here, I would), which doesn’t mean anything for you except that my url has changed to shannaleighwrites.com instead of belovednest.blogspot.com.

The purpose of this blog hasn’t changed: I hope you always leave here feeling encouraged, freed up, knowing you’re not alone, and with a new glimpse into God’s Glory through my story and hopefully, your own. And sometimes, we just need to laugh together at the crazy shenanigans life brings to our doorstep. Yes?

Whether you are someone who reads my words on a regular basis, sporadically, or if this is you’re first visit, I am truly SO glad you’re here. So grateful.

Please reach out anytime – if I can give you a pep talk or say a prayer, anything – it would be my honor.

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Talk soon, friends!

 

 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Finances


Carrying two mortgages will make you rethink your finances, mainly because you have no other choice. That’s the position we found ourselves in this past summer when we randomly (divinely?) found the “just right” house for us, before our old home was even listed on the market. It was a good practice for us to pay close attention to the money leaving our accounts every month. 


I am no expert in the realm of finances, but these are some personal goals and practices that I try to keep up as much as possible. 

1. Keep track of the outgoing. Online banking is helpful for me in this way since it’s always up to date and tracks all spending and bill pay in one place. 

2. No debt. Of course easier in word than practice, but less debt = less stress. We only have one credit card and use it sparingly + pay it off quickly. 

3. Charitable giving. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give that are meaningful to you/your family. One that is important to me is sponsoring a child in Thailand who I met when I was there in April. 

4. Where you spend is important. Whenever possible, buy from companies that provide safe environments and fair wages. Here’s one article that has influenced me on this topic. 

5. Accountability. My husband and I share accounts so everything is always visible to the other. Also – no large purchases without discussing first. 

6. Monthly/weekly allowance. Setting a certain amount of spending money for each week has helped us keep our small purchases like coffee in check. 

7. Make returns. If something doesn’t work or fit, or you just change your mind – take it back! Don’t just stick it away in a closet and forget about it. 

8. Online bill pay. Everything in one place keeps finances simple. 

9. Prayerful consideration over major changes or purchases. We did not decide rashly to buy a second home without lots of prayer and crunching numbers to make sure it was a smart decision. 

I don’t want to just streamline my finances for simplicity’s sake. I want to be a good steward of my blessings and resources, and make it a priority in life. 

I would love to hear any tips you guys may have! This is an area where I always have something to learn. Please leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂




nursing diaries. {what helped us succeed long-term}

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the writing here at Beloved Nest. 


Hey, expectant mama, this one’s for you. Or maybe you’re the mom who is in beginning stages of learning to breastfeed your new baby. If you’re like me, you just assumed you would breastfeed without too much thought or preparation in place to boost it’s potential for success. You have probably also heard all the horror stories. It seems like everyone has one, right?

Well. I’m here to tell you that it can work. It can work beautifully.

I know there are so many variables at play contributing to whether or not a mom will be able to breastfeed at all, much less long-term. Many of them are out of our control completely, so please don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out as easily (or at all) like you had hoped. I encourage you to be patient with yourself and your baby. Nursing is a lot of work and much more complicated (at first) than I had ever guessed. But after that initial learning period, it becomes your new normal. Not to mention – it costs zero dollars! One of my favorite things about nursing. FOR SURE. 

My ultimate goal was to make it one year. Shockingly, we did it! And even went past a year, right to the 13 month mark. I am just overwhelmingly grateful and thankful that it worked out for us. Toward the end I was ready to be done, I’ll admit, but still so appreciative that we got through it together. 



Here is an overview of what I feel contributed the most to our successful nursing journey, along with some things I would have done differently:




Preparation. I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital about a month prior to my delivery. It was simple – a lactation consultant spoke for a few minutes and we watched some of Dr. Jack Newman’s videos going over the basics of a good latch and tips for common problems. I also skimmed through the Nursing Mother’s Companion book and kept it close by for quick reference on schedules and techniques. Also, prepare yourself emotionally. Breastfeeding takes work. It may be painful or uncomfortable in the beginning. It’s time consuming. It’s a huge commitment, no doubt. But just like many other aspects of parenting, it is worth it. It’s an investment and a sacrifice. 

Along with mental and emotional preparation, make sure you have the necessities on hand. A good pump, a cover that makes you feel comfortable (here’s the one I loved, or one similar here), a nursing pillow, a couple of nursing bras (I found some I loved at Target – shocker), and nursing-friendly tops are all ways to make breastfeeding more manageable in your daily life. 

Set realistic goals.  Although I had a long-term goal of one year in the back of my mind, I really took it day by day. When Aven was first born, I just wanted to nurse her in the hospital. Then when we got home I wanted to nurse for one week. Then we made it to one month and I knew we could keep going. That’s when I started focusing on longer goals like 6 months and one year.

Resources and support. While in the hospital, take advantage of the knowledgeable staff. Have a nurse or lactation consultant help you several times with correct positioning and latch. Once you’re home you won’t have their help! Ongoing support is also vital to successful breastfeeding. I was fortunate enough to have a lactation consultant on staff at my daughter’s pediatrician office. We saw her on our very first doctor’s visit and she sat through an entire nursing session with us to see what I was doing wrong (and right!) I cannot even tell you how helpful this was. I also called her any time I was having issues with supply, scheduling, or any question related to nursing. With more day to day questions, I had my cousin to call on who had nursed her babies successfully. This is crucial – have someone you can send a quick text to when you are having specific problems or need encouragement to keep going.

Take the time to write out your plans for when you return to work. Be specific. Think through what your typical day is like and set up a new routine for yourself. (This may have to happen once you are actually breastfeeding and understand the schedule). What times will you take breaks to pump? Where will you pump? Will you have to put all of the pump parts up each time or can you leave your it all plugged in and ready to go? Where will you store the milk? (Some pumps come with a cooler compartment which is ideal so you don’t accidentally leave any milk at work). It’s also a good idea to give your employer a quick rundown of how often you will need to pump during the work day. They are required to accommodate you. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or put pressure on you to the point that you are skipping pumping. You have to be consistent if you want your supply to be consistent.

Stay on top of potential problems before they overwhelm you. When I felt my supply dip slightly, I would make a batch of lactation cookies (there are one million recipes on Pinterest). When it dropped severely after I was sick once and again near the one-year mark, I took a supplement called More Milk Plus at my lactation consultant’s recommendation. Each time I was able to get back up to a normal supply without having to supplement with formula. Before serious pain sets in, or if you are having continuous discomfort, look into a breastfeeding aid and/or talk to a professional. Make it a priority to address issues right away so they won’t become too big to handle.

A way to keep track. In the beginning there are so.many.numbers. How many minutes on each side. How many hours since last feeding. How many ounces pumped. And then keeping up with which side your baby last fed on? Forget about it. There are tons of baby care apps out there to help you keep track. I used Total Baby which has a timer and marker for which side you’re on. (Ps. when nursing, the time starts from the beginning of the session. So if you begin at 7am and are on a 3 hour rotation, it will be time to nurse again at 10a. no matter how long the prior session lasted. I’m sure many of you know this, but I did not when I first started!)

Consistent pumping. (This falls into the something I would do differently category.)
I have to be up front and tell you I hated pumping. Hated. it. But since I work essentially a part time schedule that I can set for myself, pumping was not the primary way my daughter got milk. Most of the time it was straight from the source, so that was my saving grace. Because pumping was not my favorite, I was reluctant to do it on my days off. I should have started pumping sooner which would have helped with our bottle-feeding issue and my lack of back-up supply. In the beginning when your supply is overflowing (literally) go ahead and start pumping at least once a day to build your supply. This will cut way down on your stress level. Also, pumping extra allows dad to get in on the feeding times with a bottle. He deserves to be involved in this aspect as well. 

A large, large dose of grace (which is always my favorite parenting advice, no matter the topic!) Please don’t be hard on yourself. A low stress level is probably the most important factor in being able to nurse long-term. It affects you if you are constantly worried about feeding your baby. If it just isn’t working – you’ve reached out for help and done everything you know how to make it better – be comfortable to move on from breastfeeding when it’s necessary.

Pump in the background on my nightstand. And that rat tail she was still sporting – ha!

My hope is that this helps you feel more prepared for your own breastfeeding journey! I wish I had taken more steps to prepare, especially emotionally and mentally, for the road I would be on for 13 months. Those first few weeks with your newborn will feel overwhelming, but they won’t be eating every two hours for the rest of their lives. It gets better and easier and becomes such a part of your life that you may just miss it when it’s over. Or you may do a little happy dance on your way to a girls night out that is waywayway overdue. Either way, I know you’ll be grateful that you did it. 

If you have any questions or concerns I would love to try to help. 
Just let me know in the comment section or send me an email.
Or, if you are a mom with any wisdom to share from your 
own nursing diaries, please do so! 

5 month update

My baby girl is 5 months old.  As in almost half a year old. Sadface. 
But also happyface because it just gets more and more fun. She’s so interactive 
and observant now, and just makes me laugh all day long.



Stats
Nicknames: Baby girl, Avenator (thanks, Mimi), Boo Boo, Avie
Eye Color: still a blueish gray color
Hair: the top is getting longer, and so is the rat tail…I refuse to cut it despite pressures 
from certain grandparents who shall remain nameless.
Who does she look like? Mostly Brandon I think, but when she smiles she looks like my baby pictures.
Weight: my guess is 16 lbs but we won’t have an exact weight until her check up next month.
Height: no idea. But girlfriend has some loooong legs
Clothing: some 3 months, but mostly 6 month sizes
Favorite toys: Sofie the Giraffe teethers, Taggies blanket, mostly anything 
she can chew on…including her hands and feet.
Love or Hate Baths: Love
Crib or Parents’ Room: Crib
Pacifier?: She chews on her WubbaNub paci, but still doesn’t suck on it.
Routine: eating every 3 hours during the day. down to 2 long naps and 1 short 
nap a day for the most part. 
Food: still only breastmilk 
Nighttime sleep: 10pm-ish to 7am
Teething?: I actually just caught a glimpse of a tooth still under her gums!
Rolling over?: Only onto her side.
Sleeps: on her side with her hands up by her face.
New discoveries/ Milestones: starting to grasp onto bottle, playful shrieking, still sticking her tongue out all the time, copying sounds, sucking on toes 🙂






Monthly Recap..


This past month included Father’s Day….and she’s got a good one. Seriously, the way this girl looks at her dad when he so much as enters the room – it’s ridiculous. He can make her smile when no one else can, and he can rock her to sleep when she fights me. Clearly, we have a daddy’s girl on our hands.

{her adorable dress was made by a friend of mine. Thanks, Savannah!}


This cute little floral romper is special because it was mine when I was a baby, and was the first outfit my mom ever bought for me. I alllmost waited too long to try it on Aven, but it fit long enough for this photo! {P.S., the fact that we can prop her up on the couch without her plopping over is crazy to me! She’s not a tiny baby anymore.}




This month also included her first 4th of July. We had the most perfect 4th of July weather I can ever remember having. Not too hot, breezy, and blue skies! 

This romper is the first outfit I bought for Aven when I was pregnant. It was in Old Navy on clearance and I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad, because it was perfect for the 4th!

She even loved the pool this time around! She did a lot better with us holding her rather than putting her in the baby float…I think she’s still too small for it so she probably doesn’t feel super secure. {Sorry if our extremely pale skin hurts your eyes! Just keep scrolling!}



I have to take a minute to document this child’s hair because it’s hilarious.
Spiky on the top…just like mine was. (Sorry, Aven.)


 And then this….
The rat tail, as I affectionately call it. All the boys had them when I was little…I think Aven is trying to bring it back! My mom even made it into a ponytail when she was babysitting recently.  Ha!




Even though I do get sad that she’s growing so quickly, I can’t wait to see who she’ll be. It’s so much fun watching her little personality emerge and change. Every month that ticks by is bittersweet for me. I just want to soak it all up.

And since you can never have too many photos of this girl, here are my 
favorite random pictures from this past month to finish this update off:


Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the pictures now. Until next month. 🙂

For Aven’s 4 month update, click here.