How To: Organize Art Supplies & Our Art Favorites

Children come with SO MANY THINGS.

Toys…clothes…shoes…

Lord. Have. Mercy

Then you add the arts and craft “stuff” and it’s madness.

Side Note: That tongue and brother about to steal his activity!

Paper, stickers crayons, markers, paints.

It’s insanity.

You all know I love me some organization, so of course this spilled over into all of the our art supplies!

I pretty much followed those same tips: purge, group, separate, display teach.

If none of that makes sense…go read this blog post where I show you how to organize all of your toys!

This is our art closet. It’s in our kitchen right by our back door. It was kind of an awkward cabinet in our kitchen layout, so it was the perfect spot to dedicate to all of our art things.

I got the brown boxes from Michaels, the white magazine boxes from Ikea and the clear and green boxes from Target.

The top shelf is a laminator. I know….random but I was an education major and we had to laminate things all the time. You’d be surprised how much I actually use that sucker!

The next shelf down is paint and paint brushes.

The next shelf is paper and coloring books and free printable worksheets from Pinterest…AKA my secret weapon on hard days.

Then the bottom shelf are my bins with all of the our favorite art supples: dotters, crayons, stamps, chunkies {they’re amazing guys}, wikki sticks, and stickers.

I’ve linked ALL of our favorite art supplies in this Amazon list.

I also have this carousel from Michaels that holds pins, sharpies, scissors, chalk markers, etc.

I’m kind of a art supply junkie.

The bottom cabinet holds a few hands on activities and boxes for organizing thank you cards, tape/washi tape/ yarn/ string.

I also have this binder with things I’ve printed off for Austen to do. Simple free printables for Pinterest like this or this.

And that’s about it friends! We have so much fun pulling these out quickly to kill time, or if it’s a rainy day.

We’ve really had to work on Austen’s attention span when it comes to working on art activities…and I’ve got a post coming on exactly how we’ve done that!

I’d love to know what your favorite art supplies are! Maybe you’ll introduce us to a new favorite!

Happy Monday friends!

All pictures by the talented Tasha Pinelo

Holiday Loving: St. Patrick’s Day

Since I was sick and couldn’t get this post together for Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought I would save it for next year.

Then I realized…grace not perfection Lelia…share the dang post!

So here I am providing you with all kinds of Saint Patrick’s Day inspiration…a month!

I already shared my simple tips for holiday planning…so make sure to check out that post.

Honestly…just switch the colors and this goes for any holiday!

But don’t worry…I’ll be sharing all kinds of Easter inspiration…in plenty of time for Easter.

Unless another stomach bug hits us…but not today Satan…not today.

To me, holidays are just a fun opportunity to show my family and friends some love. I adore ALL holidays, and we have so much fun making even the smallest holiday into a fun tradition!

I also just really love to be creative, so this allows me to use some of my God given talents. It brings me so much joy, and I hope that me sharing some of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day activities will spark joy in you and inspire you to make some memories!

I always love creating some kind of snack board for the boys during a holiday. Muffin tins are a great way to make a festive snack. And you don’t even need a holiday themed one! Just use a regular old muffin tin from your collection. Fill that baby with some themed snacks, and enjoy the memories!

For Saint Patrick’s Day we did some green apples, green grapes, cheddar cheese clovers, edamame crisps, pistachios, broccoli, Lucky Charms, and green M&Ms {duh}.

Printables are my favorite way to include free, simple, holiday activities into our day! Just Pinterest “free Saint Patrick’s Day printable activities” and print those babies off! We love dotting sheets, color by number sheets, and this year Austen got really into these tracing sheets.

This cute I Spy sheet was a hit! I had Austen use stickers to cover up the items. I would say “put a yellow sticker on a clover” and he would search and find! So stinking cute!

Don’t forget to get your kids involved! Children love purpose, so Austen helped me fill the muffin tin. He’s also been given the job of pulling the grapes off of the step which is a HUGE help!

ALWAYS grab the dollar spot holiday glasses…because festive things are FUN!

We always bring out the play dough for holidays! Even Hudson is learning how to roll out the dough. I wish I had some of those plastic gold coins that he could press into the play dough! I’ll have to remember that for next year!

For these two faces…I would literally do anything to make a fun memory.

Collecting some themed food and crafts…pretty dang easy friends!

And make sure you check out my post all about holiday planning!

Happy Weekend Friends!

All photos by the talented Tasha Pinelo



Planning For Holidays

If you’ve followed me on social media, you know that I LOVE me a holiday. And I like to suck as much out of a holiday as humanly possible.

I know a lot of people think I’m a little over the top with my holiday craziness. But to be honest, you’ve giving me way more credit than I deserve.

Here’s what I do differently than a lot of people:

I find things on Pinterest…I pick two or three things to do…and then I DO THEM.

Wait…you get on Pinterest…and then you do them?

Yup…the secret’s out.

Here’s the key though…I pick TWO or THREE things.

I don’t aim to do every single thing off of my Pinterest board.

This was not always the case. I had this HUGE revelation in 2017 that I’m horrific with follow through. I would always have amazing and grand ideas to do fun things…and then never do them. I would always say…”it’s the thought that counts right?” But I’m here to let you in on the a little secret…

The thought isn’t enough friends!

It’s the freaking follow through that counts!

So I started setting standards for myself. If I was going to start something…I was going to follow through with it. If I was going to get a grand idea…I was going to act.

Here’s the trick though guys. I didn’t lower my standards…I modified them so I could intentionally and lovingly make memories for my family!

So here are my tips and tricks to being super festive for holidays…without stressing you the heck out:

Pinterest

Earth shaddering right? No. But how I use Pinterest is what’s unique. I search the given holiday on Pinterest, and then I SCREENSHOT two…maybe three things I’d like to do. Pinning does nothing really guys. How many things have you actually completed on your Pinterest boards. Maybe 1% I’m guessing. But when it’s in your phone’s camera roll..you’ll see it and access it quickly.

Get Your Items ASAP

This goes along with follow through…but when you have festive ideas, you need to get the items. So look at the festive things you want to do, pull out the items you have on hand and then make a list of the things you need.

It might be making green jello to make jello jigglers {one of my favorite easy festive things to include kids} and you need green jello and a shamrock cookie cutter.

So head to Michaels {or Amazon} to get your cookie cutter and add green jello to your grocery list.

It might be making a pizza in the shape of a shamrock. So buy your pizza dough and pizza ingredients and have them on hand for when it’s time. Then you have zero excuses not to follow through!

Schedule It

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my things on hand, and then life gets busy, and I forget to do the things I’ve planned for.

No joke…I’ve done so many Christmas things…after Christmas.

This past Christmas, I put all of festive things in my calendar {the one Alex and I share so he can see too} AND added reminders.

Seriously life changing.

So I have everything on hand because I planned, and I have it scheduled.

Boom. Action. Follow Through

Document It

That doesn’t mean you have to share it on social media {but if you do, tag me because I LOVE seeing what you’re doing with your families} but take a picture to remember it by!

We are so hard on ourselves as women, parents, people in general, and sometimes I feel like I have done nothing.

And then I look on my camera…and I can look back on all of the little memories we’re making!

So friends…take some action!

Get on Pinterest, screen shot a few things, and comment below on the thing you’re most excited to do this spring.

Hint: if you want to make the most memories…be cool and pick something messy.

Kids always remember the messy things {insert eye roll and Lelia covered in green jello}

All pictures by the talented Tasha Pinelo.

The Hill That I Die On

Please read this entire post…this is important.

We all have the thing…the hill that you will die on.

My hill is protecting children.

After Alex’s birthday dinner, we went to the park to play with my nieces.

It was a sunny day so there were a ton of people there!

We were playing and having fun and I noticed Alex watching something happen.

I looked to where his eyes were glaring and immediately noticed a man berating his {probably} eight year old child.

I’m not afraid of confrontation.

No joke…when I was going into 7th grade I went and confronted a HUGE man who pushed a child down to the ground when leaving the fireworks at Disney World.

So I started to walk over to him and as I was walking over, he slapped his child across the face.

I immediately started yelling ‘Sir…Sir!’

He turned to me and with pure instincts I puffed my chest up to be as big as him and said ‘you will never lay a hand on your child again…and if you continue speaking to him that way I will call the police’

He was drinking (I could smell it on his breath) but the look on his poor child’s you guys…he was humiliated.

We went back and fourth a bit.

He actually was able to have a semi-real conversation with me.

He said “I’m allowed to spank my child.”

I said “you did not spank your child…you slapped him. And studies are showing that physical punishment is not effective.”

He said ‘he’s a hard child…we do what we have to do.”

I said ‘all of our children are hard at times…but they all deserve to be spoken to and treated with respect’

Alex walked over at this point and said ‘Sir…the fact of the matter is that you are scaring the other children and you are going to need to leave.’

The guy calmed down and they left.

HERE’S THE SHOCKING PART TO ME.

There was a big group of middle schoolers watching this go down.

One boy said ‘why did he slap his child?’

I said ‘some parents just don’t take the time to talk to their children. It is never okay to lay your hands on your child’

That boy then said ‘thank you for standing up for that little boy.’

Alex and I took deep breaths, talked about it with Austen and my nieces {who saw the entire thing} and continued playing.

About 30 minutes later those boys came up and said ‘I’m sorry are you the mom who stood up for that boy?

I said yes.

One boy handed me this dollar and said ‘Thank you for not being afraid to step in and protect that child.’

I tried to not take the dollar but they were INSISTENT.

Here’s the take away folks:

EVERY SINGLE CHILD DESERVES TO BE PROTECTED.

THIS IS THE HILL I DIE ON.

I am a wife, mother, aunt, friend…but I AM A PROTECTOR.

It is in my DNA and I want every child to know that even if their parents don’t respect them…that crazy women stood up for them.

I really wish I would have first went right up to the child and said:

“I am so sorry you dad is talking to you that way. You are smart and strong and amazing. It’s not okay for an adult to speak to a child that way.”

I really pray that man didn’t feel completely judged…but convicted.

I pray that man didn’t take it out on his child more when they left.

Here’s the other sad part to me.

When I saw that man berating his child, I saw that adult man as a child.

No joke..it flashed in front of my eyes.

I saw that man, as a child, being humiliated by HIS father.

Poor parenting is generational.

But somewhere…that has to shift.

Someone has to decide that it’s not working.

Parenting will ALWAYS be something I’m passionate about.

I rave about Ralphie from Simply On Purpose…she’s incredible.

But my BIGGEST take away has been a phrase she uses all the time.

A phrase I repeat to myself multiple times daily.

“IT IS THEIR JOB TO BE A CHILD…IT IS OUR JOB TO STAY CALM.

Friends…they are learning to react to situations BY WATCHING YOU!

How do you want you children to react?

Our of anger…or out of respect?

With words…or with their fists?

Ralphie has created a FREE ecourse called Staying Safe.

The tag line is: why we yell, why it doesn’t work, and what to do instead.

Please go and download this free ecourse!

Please open your mind to a different way of parenting.

Please respect your children.

I’d love to know what hill you would die on.

Is it equality? Justice? Freedom? Safety?

I’m so thankful we all have different hills to die on…so we can work together to make the world a better place!

{Giveaway Closed} Belle Bucket

We are so excited to do our first giveaway on the new blog!

I’ve mentioned Belle Bucket a few times on Instastories and quite a few of you have sent us pictures of your adorable bucket lists in your home!

I NEVER share a product unless I love it, and working with Bell Bucket on these customizable bucket lists has been so much fun!

Sure, you can print off a free printable from Pinterest, but I love that you can fully customize these bucket lists!

Especially to add Austen and Mommy/ Austen and Daddy dates!

He loves seeing his name on the bucket list!

We’ve been trying hard to take time out of our months to spend quality time with just him.

Soon we’ll add Hudson dates too!

The space we put the bucket list is actually super intentional.

We pass this spot 20 plus times a day. So it’s a reminder for us to stop and do something to make incredible memories as a family.

It’s also an awkward wall too, that has our thermostat to the right. Not even in the middle!

So Alex made this amazing frame that we can pop on and off if we need to get to the thermostat.

If you don’t have a handy husband, here’s a super easy wooden magnet poster frame you could use!

Belle Bucket has seasonal bucket lists, yearly bucket lists, a seasonal subscription {which is what we did and paid our own money for}, date night lists, and deployment lists {which I LOVE}

She even gives suggestions for each season, because thinking of 30+ items is kind of hard! She’s already done the work for you!

Belle Bucket has been gracious enough to giveaway one free bucket list to a lucky winner!

All you have to go is go and follow me on Instagram and Belle Bucket on Instagram and comment on this post to be entered!

Giveaway will end on March 29th at midnight!

I will announce on Instagram the winner on March 30th!

So excited for you to experience this fun family tradition, and make some memories!

Pictures by Tasha Pinelo Photography

The House That Almost Wasn’t

Let me tell you a story…the story of our house.

Alex and I knew we wanted to buy an old home and rehab it. Mainly because, in our city, it is HARD to find land to build. And we really wanted to be in the center of town…even harder.

So we were constantly on the hunt for an older home. Maybe one an elderly person wanted to be finished with. We wrote letters, asked around, and dang it…it was harder than we thought!

There was a house we LOVED…and guys…squatters were living in it. There were syringes and diapers and it was choas. But we {okay I} could see the beauty behind the mess. We put an offer in, wrote a letter, and prayed.

And an investor/rehabber won that house.

We were DEVASTATED.

May 2016…The Day I Found Out We Lost Out On The West Villa House

Let’s talk financials here. Rehabbing an old home takes a TON of money. You’re buying the house, and then doing all of the extensive work to bring the house up to code much less up to modern standards.

It’s crazy expensive.

So when an investor buys that house. They are doing EXACTLY what we would be doing {buying the home, spending money to rehab it} and then they want to sell it for profit. Which makes the end cost SO high.

Especially with the size and age homes we were looking into. These investors were wanting $750,000-$850,000.

Nope. Not for the Wendels.

We couldn’t do that. We needed to buy the house first, and rehab it on our own.

We even went to the lengths to let the rehabber start, and then try to negotiate with him. And he wanted much more than we could afford.

So we walked away. And I was devastated! I had pictured picnics under this huge tree. Like had these picnics PLANNED.

Then our current home went up for sale. THE WEEK AFTER I had written a letter to the owner and threw away because I got cold feet.

Alex sent me the listing {here’s the link to the listing with pictures from before our rehab} and my heart sunk. I knew we wouldn’t get it.

They were doing a ONE weekend open house, would take offers only on Sunday and then make a decision that day.

We toured {along with over 500 other people} the house and knew it needed a ton of work.

They listed it well, so we knew there would be a lot of offers.

We made an offer, wrote a letter, and prayed a miracle would happen.

And we lost it.

DEVASTATION again.

A month later we found out ANOTHER investor/rehabber had won.

So…I made the call. And we set up an appointment with him.

Here we are before the appointment…so flipping nervous.

November 2017

And you all…he was so sweet!

He really talked us through the possibilities and options.

We knew this was going to be another money pit, but we bought our old house under foreclosure and had a decent amount of equity in the house.

This is when we started to PRAY and dream, and Alex was so hesitant! We would drive and sit next to the house and dream. We were so hopeful, but terrified.

November 2017

This is where it’s going to get confusing, but I want to share this information because it was so helpful to us, and it may be helpful for some of you!

{And y’all…don’t ask for the numbers…just to save my husbands sanity}

We knew we couldn’t buy the house up front because the house wouldn’t appraise currently where we needed it in order to get a traditional loan for the house and we didn’t want to get into a construction loan.

So, we negotiated that we would sell our home, pay for the renovations as we went along, and then buy the house when it was finished.

This was a HUGE risk for our builder. He had to trust that we would pay for things along the way.

But this man took pity on us, I think, and jumped into this with us.

I doubt he’ll ever do it again…because it was stressful at times…but I’m so thankful he did!

When a builder does a home like this, he makes decisions so quickly. We took more time deciding things, which pushed the timeline. He bought this house with a group of investors…and they wanted their money back. So he was being patient with us, while also dealing with the other investors.

He extended so much grace to us!

So, we put our house on the market, and ended up getting $100,000 more than we anticipated.

Which was a HUGE blessing because we spent a little over $100,000 more than we originally budgeted.

I know that’s shocking to a lot of you, but we ended up doing more than we had planned in the beginning.

We moved in with Alex’s SAINTLY parents for six months while we rehabbed.

I was PREGNANT and hormonal and man it was a wild ride.

Austen was two and potty training and trying to figure out what the heck was going on with his life.

But living with Alex’s parents was the greatest blessing.

I know not everyone could live with their in-laws…but my in-laws aren’t normal. They’re helpful and fun and supportive.

It was such an incredible relief to have that community while we were in such a crazy stage of life.

We did new HVAC, new electric, new plumbing, new insulation, new drywall on all exterior walls, we had to put tons of headers in to support us removing some walls, we did two and a half new bathrooms {as well as roughing in another bathroom on our top floor} all new flooring, new tile, new kitchen, we painted the exterior of our house, we removed an exterior door and window, we added new trim details inside that required a TON of craftmanship, and Lord only knows what else. It was a huge renovation.

And we did it in about 6 months. Which is QUICK for this big of a job!

By the end of the renovation, it appraised higher than we needed, and we bought the house!

We signed the papers TWO days after we had Hudson.

All of this to say this house did NOT fall in our laps. We fought hard for it. We prayed, we discussed, we crunched, we cried, we did all of the things.

And we’re BOTH so thankful!

Marriage…Our Tips and Tricks

There are very few things I’m super confident in saying. But one thing I am 100% certain of is that we have a rockin’ marriage.

This is not by default. We have worked and continue to work HARD for our marriage. We fight for it daily. Sometimes hourly. It is not easy. But we are so proud of what we have created.

Our first year of marriage, we were hit with something we were completely surprised by. I know your wheels are spinning now…but what we were hit with was everyone else’s view on marriage.

We were told on MULTIPLE occasions to “enjoy the newlywed phase while it lasts…” or “just give it a few years and tell me how much you love each other.”

And to be honest, we were’t all that surprised. We’ve watched our fair share of marriages struggle, but we were SO blessed to have Alex’s parents as a role model. They are more in love than most marriages combined. So we knew that kind of love could last.

So we searched to find out how. How to cultivate a passionate, exciting, confident marriage. We got super involved in our church’s premarital counseling…and the rest is history. What we have learned through that class is how we have built the foundation for our marriage.

We helped with administrative aspects for years, and then started facilitating tables of couples who were engaged. And during that time…our marriage has been built into by the mentors in the group. It’s been the biggest blessing.

It has not always been easy, especially when kids were thrown in the mix. But we have fought hard for it.

So with over seven years of marriage under our belts…here are our three main tips for cultivating a marriage you can be proud of.

Make Your Marriage The Foundation Of Your Family

We feel so very strongly that a strong, healthy marriage will produce a strong and healthy family. But a struggling marriage will boil over into your family life. If you are feeling frustrated with how your family unit is working, take a good look at your marriage. It will be humbling. But use this as motivation to strengthen your bond. This will require sacrifice. Time: you will need to make a commitment to spend the time it takes to work on your marriage. Going on a marriage retreat, doing couples counseling, making date nights a priority. All will require time. Money: dates and retreats and counseling all require a financial commitment. I promise all of that combined will be cheaper than a divorce. Promise. Emotional: It will be emotionally exhausting to work through pain and frustration. Our hearts get so hardened, and they are hard to soften. However, it will be worth it. But friends…having a strong marital foundation for your family will create a lasting unit that is more beautiful than you can imagine.

Be A Student of Your Spouse’s Love Language

When we talk with friends who are struggling in their marriage, 9/10 times we boil the issue down to one person not feeling loved. And 9/10 times it’s because one or both spouses doesn’t know how to love their spouse well. If you have not done the Love Language Test you need to as quickly as humanly possible. Love languages also play out with coworkers, siblings, parents, children, etc. I’m constantly thinking “what is their love language and how can I love them well” If you want, I can do an entire post about love languages, but friends…learn your spouse’s love language…and LOVE THEM THAT WAY! Alex’s love language’s are physical touch and words of affirmation. So the first thing I try to do when he comes in the door after work is hug him. Really freaking tight. So he knows he is loved. I try to write him notes and encourage him, but words of affirmation is also so important because I am a quick processor and can say harsh things that will tear him down quickly. I’m learning to be slow to speak and choose my words wisely. My love languages are gifts and quality time. So Alex bringing be home a new nail polish means he’s thought of me and went out of his way to find me something I would love. Love languages are so so important friends! Take them seriously!

Make Intimacy A Priority

You knew I would have to talk about sex, right? I really don’t even think sex is the most important form of intimacy. Yes…sex rocks…but intimacy is more than just sex. Intimacy actually just means closeness. After Austen, when we were so tired, we instituted Make Out Monday. Every Monday…after Austen was asleep…we made it a priority to make out. The goal was not for it to end in sex, just to be close. To have a glass of wine, turn off the TV, and be close. To intentionally make time for intimacy.

And y’all…science backs me up. Intimacy, closeness, even as simple as hugging makes you happier. Read the study, but a 10 second hug a day {you guys…10 seconds isn’t even that long} can reduce stress, lower your risk of heart disease, boost your immune system, fight infection, ease depression. Sign me the frick up!

So there we are friends!

Three of our tips. We have SO many more….SO many! If you’re local…take Building Blocks for Marriage at Crossroads! It’s worth your time! Promise!

I’m curious…if you could give one big tip for creating a strong marriage…what would it be?

These pictures were taken by my amazing neighbor, Leda with Lightstyle Photography If you’re local, check her out!

How To: Build A Mom Tribe

I’d like to introduce you to my mom tribe. The ladies who keep me going. The ladies who remind me that I will, in fact, sleep again. The ladies who encourage me to be myself. The ladies who will step in at a moments notice. The ladies who love my children like their own. The ladies who have supported each other in some of the hardest and scariest of moments.

Here’s the deal though…we fought for this tribe of ours. It was not instant. We have invested a lot of time and energy into the bond we have. We’ve cried. We’ve prayed. We’ve encouraged. We’ve spoken hard truths.

We need community. We need encouragement.

I think one of the biggest struggles we have in our society is the amount of people who isolate themselves from the world around them.

A lot of times, out of fear.

If that’s a truth that you face…smash those fears to pieces.

Embrace that on the other side of awkward can be lasting, lifelong relationships.

Finding encouragement in the season you are currently in is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental health.

Let me take you back a few years to when Alex and I first were married. We had ZERO newlywed friends in the area. And it was tough. Finding people who were excited about marriage was hard. So we sought it out. We actually created a group called M2 with a group of friends we met at premarital counseling. We surrounded ourselves with people who were in a similar stage of life. So we could encourage and do life with them. And it was incredible. We learned so much!

Then we started trying for a baby, and that journey of infertility was SO incredibly isolating. At that time, people weren’t talking openly about their infertility, and we felt very alone. That’s when I started blogging openly about our infertility journey. And the community I found in that season was what got us through! Honestly.

Then we got pregnant, had Austen, and I was yet again in an isolating stage. The mamas I did know weren’t close. But I knew there were moms in our city who were in a similar stage!

When I share anything about my “mom tribe” I get DMs like crazy of people wanting to know how I found that. So I chatted with my mamas and here’s what we came up with. These are my tips for finding YOUR tribe.

Find A Group

Whether it’s a moms group, or a singles group, or a group of working moms…find a group. Do a google search. Do the research. These people probably aren’t just going to land in your lap. 3/4 of these ladies I met through our local MOMS Club and at our local library time. One of them is married to Alex’s cousin…so I knew her and drug her along whether she wanted to or not. All of this to say, you’re probably going to have to put yourself out there. But even if you’re an introvert…you probably desire friendship. So you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone. Do it friends!

Get Involved

Do NOT just sit on the sidelines and wait for the people you will click with to land in your lap. You’re going to have to get involved and meet people. The first FIVE moms meetups I went to, I was the only one there! No joke! But I kept going. I offered to host a play date. I went to the meetings. I went to the moms night outs…even if I didn’t know anyone going. And slowly, but surely, I met these mamas. And I’m SO thankful I did.

Be a Positive Light

I guess it depends on the type of people you want to surround yourself with, but I know I personally want to be around uplifting and positive people. To draw those people in…you in fact need to be a positive light. We all know the phrase “misery loves company” and DANG IT ya’ll…it’s the truest statement ever. Have standards. Like high standards. On one of the very first wine nights I had with these mamas, I told them I wanted nothing to do with husband bashing. That was something Alex and I were really passionate about, and I wanted to be upfront about that. I wanted their husbands to know that when they were with Lelia, we wouldn’t have been bashing them behind their backs. Be encouraging of one another. Support each other’s passions.

Meet Regularly

You cannot build strong relationships if you don’t see each other often. So get into monthly, if not weekly, rhythms. We have two main rhythms as a group. The majority of us meet weekly, on Thursdays, for lunch once we pick up the kids from schools. We meet at my house and put in frozen pizzas {no joke…every week someone brings a frozen pizza} and cut up fruit and the kids play or watch a show. This gives us the opportunity to sit and chat while trying to keep all of the children alive. We also meet once a month while the kids are in school for brunch. There are three new babies now, but the big kids are in school and we can talk without the distraction of kids. We can get dressed up, have a warm cup of coffee, sip mimosas, and TALK. Without the distraction of tattling, and breaking up fights, and opening juice boxes. This is where the strong community is built. We’ve already chatted about getting a babysitter for all of the big kids this summer so we can still make this rhythm happen. Then we usually get together in the evenings once a month for wine. Sometimes at someone’s house, sometimes at a restaurant. Put it on the calendar…and do it friends!

Support and Encourage

This sweet group of mine has been through some TOUGH stuff together the past few years. And y’all…we didn’t awkwardly ignore the tough stuff. We fought it head on. We made meals, picked up kids, literally laid hands on bellies to get babies to flip, we’ve brought wine during HARD beyond measure times, Ubered meals to mamas in the hospital with sick babies, we’ve cried, we’ve laughed and we’ve supported the crap out of each other. Even during times when we didn’t know what to do…we’ve sent wine and ice cream to let each other know we have your back! We follow through on loving each other during amazing times {hello SO many babies} and during hard times {adoption loss, deaths, infertility, family trauma} and we freaking celebrate and drink lots of wine and champagne! These mamas know that in any instant they could drop their kids off. They could get a ride when their tire pops. They could borrow money when we forget our wallets. They can hand a baby over when another child needs attention. Without hesitation…they know we are here to pick up the pieces. ALL of this to say. Follow through on the things you want to do for your friends. Without thinking about how much money it would cost…go pick up the pint of ice cream. Go do a load of laundry. Do the hard things because they mean a LOT.

I really hope this sparks something for you. Gives you ideas on how to love the tribe you may already have. Excite you about the possibility of finding a group to get involved in.

If you already have an amazing group of mamas, tell me what you think is the most important thing about cultivating a group of encouraging and empowering ladies?

A Day In The Life of a Wendel: Winter Addition

I asked on Instastories what YOU wanted to read on this sweet little blog of ours, and quite a few of you asked for a day in the life. So thankful I asked because for some reason this one never popped into my head!

I think I’ll do these seasonally, because our schedule looks so different when the weather is warmer/when Austen is out of school. 

So here are are…the winter edition! 

6:00am Wake Up Call        

Hudson wakes up between 6:00 and 6:30. When he wakes up, Alex brings him into bed and I nurse him before heading downstairs for coffee. We got a new coffee pot for Christmas and it’s on a schedule. Waking up at 6:00 to a pot of coffee already made is like living in a dream. For a month or so I was getting up around 5:30 to do quiet time. I miss that. Then Hudson started teething and was waking up two-three times a night and I was exhausted. So I picked rest over quiet time. But now that Hudson’s sleeping until 6:00 most mornings, maybe I’ll try the 5:30 thing again. I’m a morning person, so I’m at my happiest early in the morning!

7:00am Austen Comes Down

Austen’s clock turns green {here’s the link to the clock we use} at 7:00. He usually wakes up earlier, but sits in his bed and reads books. When his clock turns green, without a doubt he comes to the top of the stairs and says SO excitedly “mom…my clock turned green…I slept for 10 minutes!” Every morning.

7:00-7:30 Chill Time

Austen will eat his “mins” {he gets one multivitamin, one elderberry vitamin, and two each of the Juice Plus green and fruit vitamins} while I drink coffee and relax. I’m not super strict about TV or playing or anything. Sometimes we watch a show, sometimes we listen to music and play, sometimes we read books. It just depends on how much sleep I got the night before. I’ve learned to give myself grace in this season.

7:30 Breakfast

Around this time we’ll do breakfast. Austen and Hudson usually have yogurt and fruit, a waffle, oatmeal or a granola bar. I’ll make a shake or make some eggs and then we eat and I’ll clean up and do dishes if I need to. On this particular day I actually made eggs for myself and Hudson. And because I know you’ll ask…yes…we put tiny pepperoni in our eggs sometimes…and it’s crazy delicious so try it! 

8:00 Get Ready For The Day

Austen will usually be playing at this point, so I take Hudson upstairs so I can get ready. Hudson plays in his room while I get ready, but when he was little, I would put him in his crib. And for 30 minutes he would on and off fuss and play. But I needed that time to myself. I love the routine of putting on makeup and getting ready. It makes me more awake, and a better mom to be honest. I usually take around 30 minutes {between makeup, hair, clothes} and he plays the entire time.

I get Austen and Hudson ready for the day after I get ready. Austen goes to school at 9:00 on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, so on those days we’re getting clothes on and brushing teeth to leave by 8:45.

Sweater / Jeans / Necklace / Glasses / Mirror 

9:00 Austen Drop Off

After we drop off Austen, Hudson and I have 2.5 hours to do whatever we need. My mom is retired, so on Tuesday and Thursday my mom will usually come and hang with Hudson so I can work or run errands.

 When summer hits, I’ll probably do some school/learning time for an hour or so in the mornings. Nothing too intense, but I want him to stay in the routine of learning and not lose what he’s gained in school. We’re really hoping to master all upper case letters this summer.

11:30 Pick Up Austen and Lunch

We pick up Austen from school and he is starving. This is what will change come spring time because in the spring we usually take our lunch to a park or we’ll walk home from school and stop at the sandwich shop! 

12:00 Hudson Nap

Hudson does down for a nap around this time and Austen will finish lunch and play while I get Hudson to sleep. We’re in the struggle bus time or moving from two-one naps a day. It’s just hit or miss honestly. He’s cutting his molars right now, so recently he’s been doing a nap while Austen’s in school and then taking a second nap around 2:00. But typically he does his one nap a day during this time. 

12:15-12:30 Austen and Mommy Special Time

Austen and I have special time. This is something we started after Hudson was born so that I have a time to interact with him just us two everyday. It’s a game changer! And we literally only do it for 15 minutes some days. Some days longer, but this is research based y’all…and research says that 15-20 minutes is all that is needed. We usually play a board game or do a craft of some sort. The real key to the research based part of this is that the child gets to decide what we do. So I ask him, and if he wants to snuggle and watch Mickey Mouse…we do that. If he wants to go outside and play, we grab the monitor and go outside. If you’re struggling with behavior issues…try special time! It was suggested by my behavioral therapist and it’s done wonders! 

12:30-2:00 Austen Quiet Time

Austen isn’t napping anymore so we’re doing “quiet time” Sometimes I get quite time too. We are definitely not in a consistent routine with naps for Hudson. Sometimes he’ll nap for 30 minutes, sometimes for two hours! It just depends if he slept in the car at all while we were running errands. This will change BIG time come summer because we’ll be out doing things or at the pool until 12:30-1:00 so I’m hoping for longer naps come summer time! 

2:00-4:00 Play Time

We play until dada comes home. Alex goes to work at 7am and gets off at 3:30. It’s the BIGGEST blessing having him home so early! If it’s nice we’ll bundle up and take a walk or play scooters in the driveway! If it’s yucky out, we’ll play with play dough or play in the playroom or something. On this particular day we headed to the library to play. You all…use your libraries! They are amazing and a great way to kill some time! I try to change up what we do during this time or I go insane! 

4:00 Mama Works Out

Dada is home around 4:00 and I work out! Usually. Sometimes I get my workout in while Austen is at school. It just depends on the day. But usually Alex will play with the boys outside or in the living room and I will get my workout finished. Right now I’m using Beachbody On Demand and doing Lift 4. I’ve already done one round of it and LOVE it! I’m finally feeling like my arms are becoming toned. However, I broke my elbow in January, so I can only lift 5 pounds, which is annoying, but 5 pounds is better than nothing!

5:00 Dinner

Alex usually starts dinner while I workout and we eat right at 5:00 typically. Our kids really would like to eat at 4:30 if we had it ready! We try not to do a ton of snacks, so they are HUNGRY at dinner time. We sit down all together pretty much every single night. I cherish that because I know when life gets busy and the boys have sports that will become few and far between. But we really make sitting down at the table together as a family a big priority! Dinner is usually pretty simple and we don’t make a huge deal out of it. We’re not crazy about them trying new things. We try to always offer something we know they will like. Austen has never liked meat. Ever. So we don’t push it. He’s one of the healthiest children I know, and I don’t want to fight over food. He just knows that dinner is dinner and if he doesn’t eat it, he won’t get anything else until breakfast the next day. But food is not something we fight about in our home. 

5:30-6:30 Family Time

We typically play as a family, but sometimes Alex and I like to pair off and take one boy at a time. We’ve really learned to love having that quiet time with each boy. 

6:30-7:00 Wind Down Time

If we need baths, we do baths at this time. If not then we do something quiet and try to wind down for the day Alex will usually play a board game or something with Austen. Hudson usually goes to sleep between 6:45 and 7:00. And now that Austen isn’t napping…he’s getting in bed and falling asleep almost immediately at 7:00. I know that time probably seems early to a lot of families when dads don’t get home from work until 6:00. But remember, Alex is home at 4:00! And no matter what time we put Austen to sleep…he still wakes up around 6:30. So I’d rather get him to bed early so he gets more sleep. Since Hudson has been born, I’ve done Hudson and Alex has done Austen for bedtime. Alex will read a few books, do affirmations with Austen {any interest in a post on how and why we do this…let me know} and prayers. Austen does prayers at night now and they are hilarious! 

7:00 Mama and Dada Time

After we get the boys to sleep, I typically take a HOT bubble

bath {here are links to my favorite bubble bath and favorite body scrub} It’s my way to wind down. I will do a face mask and watch Netflix and just relax. Alex and my differing personalities really come into play after we get the kids to sleep. I am DONE by that point and exhausted, while Alex gets energy once the boys are down. So he usually takes a run or does projects. But before bed one or both of us ALWAYS picks up the kitchen and living room and gets coffee ready for the next day! It’s a nonnegotiable in our family! 

9:00 Bedtime

You read that right…I legit get in bed around 9:00 every night. I’m a morning person thru and thru! I’m actually TRYING to get into the habit of meditating at 9:00 using the Calm App {my favorite} to get ready for sleep. When my anxiety is high, I will stop and do a meditation. But I would love to get into the routine of taking 10 minutes to calm before bed. I’ll keep you posted! Hopefully when I do this during the spring I can say I’ve been doing that routinely!

And that’s what our days look like right now. Obviously the weekends are a little different. Weekends are hard around here. Having Alex home changes the routine, so the boys are off. Especially Austen. So we try to keep a similar routine and just replace school time with some kind of activity.

I’m so excited for the spring days to come of evening walks, and park picnics, and eating on the front porch, and playing on the play set, and sitting on the front swing. But honestly, I really try to embrace the winter season. The season of hibernating, and relaxing, and bubble baths, and watching movies.

So tell me…how is your day different? I’d love to hear! Maybe you’ll spark some ideas! Especially for that 2:00-4:00 time frame…that’s the time of day that I tent to go a little nuts!

How-To: Organize Toddler/Taby Toys

Friends! Thank you so much for your excitement about the blog launch! I’m incredibly humbled by your support and encouragement! Lots of fun content to come, but please let me know in the comments if you have any requests! I love getting your ideas!

I’m excited to start sharing how-to posts from frequently asked questions on Instagram.

I get a LOT of the same questions about how we do certain things in our home or in our family. So I’ll be sharing those frequent questions in “how-to” posts.

I’m a mama to young toddlers, so obviously…I have a lot of mama followers on Instagram. Austen will be 4 in May and Hudson turned 1 in November. So we have a toddler and what child development experts call a “taby” {toddler/baby}

Not only that, but I was a preschool teacher before staying home with Austen. So I have a passion for creating a fun, interactive, and educational home for our children to learn, play, and develop.

l also happen to be super type A and hyper organized. So when I’ve shared instastories of me playing with the kids, or if I’m sharing new toys or books we are loving, we obviously get tons of questions about how we organize all of our toys.

For a while, I really didn’t feel like I had a great grasp on how to organize our toys so that they were used effectively. But after Christmas, I decided to really purge and organize so that the boys were actually playing with toys in age appropriate ways.

I have three older siblings, and six nieces and nephews ranging in ages from 21-7 {I know…that’s another story for another day} so we have LOTS of amazing hand me downs. My sister is also a professor of special education, but spent many years teaching in the classroom. So I have her classroom manipulative and resources.

All of that to say…we have a LOT of incredible toys. But I noticed that the boys were not using and playing with our toys effectively. They were playing for a few minutes, and moving on quickly. I’ll actually be sharing how we are working on attention span with Austen in a post soon.

I won’t rattle off all of the research, but everyone knows that we {as adults} function more effectively in organized environments. Why would our children be any different?

When I say I want our kids to be playing effectively, I mean I want them to be playing with a toy for a longer period of time. I don’t mean they need to be playing with the toy exactly as it was designed. I actually think a lot of creativity and brain power is used when children find new ways to play with a toy. But I want our boys to play with a toy for longer than a few minutes. Which takes time, and learning, but the environment in which they play is so important.

Big glaring warning…I KNOW we have a lot of cabinet space. That was not by mistake. I like to be organized, but minimal…so we put cabinets pretty much anywhere we could fit them when we renovated. Do NOT let your lack of cabinet space be an excuse. Find an inexpensive bookshelf {hello Ikea}, store extra toys in a closet or storage space and rotate toys, really look into the cabinets you do have and make sure you’re using them effectively. Do you really need an entire cabinet of old books you’ll never read? Box those suckers up so you can organize a kid zone!

So…here are my tips when trying to purge/organize your toys to create an environment where your children can play and learn.

  1. Purge
  2. Group
  3. Separate
  4. Display
  5. Teach

Purge

As a society…we just have too many things! It’s not easy to go through and purge, but it’s so important! Use whatever method fits your personality! But take the time, and go through! Stay focused! Set a timer, and get it done! Here’s what I remind myself when I’m having a hard time letting go: someone else could use this more than we could. If I’m ever on the ledge of if I should keep something, I always think…another child could use this toy. We donate to a local charity, but that always gives me so much peace knowing that these toys will bless another child.

Also guys…go through your arts and craft things every now and then. Having a massive box of markers that don’t work it just pointless. I’ll be sharing my favorite arts and crafts storage and how we incorporate art into our home in another post to come!

Group

Next it’s time to group your items! Find like things {puzzles, books, blocks, arts/crafts} and bring them together so you can store them together. Sometimes it’s also helpful to group toys in age groups as well. We actually have one drawer that has all baby toys so we can grab them when little kiddos are over playing.

Separate

I am a big proponent of boxes…lots and lots of boxes to organize. Here’s why. In our house, when you want to play with a toy, you select a box, play with it, clean it up, and then choose something else. It’s not a situation where we bring out five different toys and it’s chaos. Now if Austen wants to use the megnatiles and the alphabots {both are linked in my Amazon list} to make a world for the alphabots…absolutely! I want him to be creative, but I don’t want him jumping from one toy to another out of boredom. Hudson {at 15 months} even understands this concept.

Now yes…organizing costs money. I bought our boxes at Target {they come in a lot of sizes} but I’m linking the same ones in my Amazon list. We invested about $100 in all of the boxes. It was money well spent in my books. Look for the sales! We bought them after Christmas when they were having an organizing sale. I bought ours in particular because they have a lid that has clasps to keep the lids on and secured. Dollar tree even has amazing bin options. Find what fits your aesthetic and budget.

Display

This is where your bookcases or cabinets come in handy. Make them look aesthetically pleasing. Why? Because you’re more likely to keep it looking nice if you enjoy the way it looks. Sounds stupid right…but it’s just true. And your children will notice!

A lot of people asked why I didn’t label my boxes. I was going to. And then Alex made fun of me. Not really…well kind of. I was about to label them with a friend’s circuit and Alex was like “Lelia…they are clear…we can see what they are…they don’t need to be labeled” Duh Lelia. Now…would it be more pretty…yes. Would I like Austen learn to read and recognize those letters…yes? Would it make it even easier for friends to help put away toys after a play date…yes. But I’m working on making my list easier…so that was a task that I put off. Maybe one day I’ll get around to it!

Teach

This is probably the step most parents skip. But we have to teach and model how we want our children to play. When I organized everything, Hudson immediately went and opened EVERY box and poured everything out. I cried. He cried. It was fun. But I had not modeled what I was expecting. It took about a week for them to figure out what I had envisioned. Now it’s very simple. And even better…anyone who comes to our house knows how to put our toys back. Find like toys…but put in a box.

So there you have it! That’s how WE have organized our toys. Is this the best way? Who the heck knows! Will it look different in a year? Maybe. But for this season, it works great!

I’d love to know…how do you organize your toys? How do you utilize your space to make your playing environment work?

Oh and don’t worry…Austen does in fact play with these toys too…he was just at school while we were taking the majority of these pictures! Gotta use those school times wisely…you hear me mamas?

Pictures by the incredibly talented and patient Tasha Pinelo

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