Fall Fun + Mud Pie Market...

 
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October is such a fun month! I love the chilly Fall weather creeping in, pumpkin everything, hot chocolate, colorful leaves and layering up! Last week we took Lo to Wilson Farm in Lexington for a little fun in the corn maze and of course, to take some cute Fall pics :) We indulged in some apple crisp samples and mulled around the property because it's just so perfectly decorated for the season. Naturally we had to pick up some apple cider donuts to bring home because, what's more "fall" than that and we grabbed some "carving" tools! Now we just need to get the pumpkins ;)  

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I wanted to share 5 ways you can celebrate the season! Here they are...

1. Visit a pumpkin patch! Pick out the perfect one to carve; your kids will love to scoop out the pumpkin seeds/guts because...MESS!

2. Bake something homemade together! Apple crisp is always a must but you could also make pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies and decorate with frosting! 

3. Give your pumpkin a bath. We did this a few weeks ago with London and her friend and they absolutely loved it! We actually had them paint the pumpkin first with finger paints then do the bath - which worked well! 

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4. Make a pine cone bird feeder! I remember doing this in school when I was little and it was so much fun! I haven't done this with London yet but it's on our Fall "to-do" list.

5. Go on a "leaf hunt" for a fun project. Collect leaves then bring them home to paint! You could also make a "leaf wreath" by cutting the circle/middle out of a paper plate and glueing leaves around the outside!

 

Below you can see photos from our fun Friday at Wilson Farm!

Also, my entire outfit (except for the boots + purse) is from Mud Pie Market! I wanted to share it with you guys because it's super affordable and not only do they have really cute and fashionable choices for women - they also have adorable kids clothing! I snagged a few things for Lo! They have a whole "seasonal" section for each holiday which I really love. Definitely check out their home goods items - they have everything; decor, mugs, pillows, linens, frames and more! Let me just mention that the leggings I'm wearing are suede with an elastic waist (score) and super soft + comfy (under $20 on sale!) The tunic pictured, I highly recommend because the length is great for wearing with leggings also it's 60% off right now and just $14! Yes, $14 ... basically free :)

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My Outfit: Leggings / Tunic / Vest: Mud Pie Market | Boots: Hunter | Purse: The Initial Co.

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Thank you for stopping by! 

xx,  Ashley 

 

This post is brought to you by Mud Pie Market. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

potty training tips + tricks...

 
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Nothing like posting about Fall fashion trends one day and potty training the next :) I mean...quintessential #momlife situation right?! So glam! Anyway, I've had a few messages about sharing our tricks and tips on potty training, so I thought I'd post them here! I'll just add a little disclaimer that I have ONE child and this is my first time ever doing this so...I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I simply want to share what worked for us in hopes that it can help you if you're currently trying to potty train or plan to in the weeks/months to come! 

We are about 3 weeks in and, dare I say out loud, we have a potty trained 26 month old (during the day!) I'm one happy mama and I think Lo is pretty proud of herself too! When we were thinking of starting the process, our friends let us borrow the book "Oh Crap! Potty Training." If you haven't heard of it - I HIGHLY recommend grabbing a copy. You can find it on Amazon here. This was our go-to resource and we followed the "blocks" pretty closely. It's a lengthy book but I loved that because it's thorough. I NEED thorough. I also loved that the whole premise of this process is to speed it up ... I did NOT want to be potty training for months, and this book definitely helps you achieve this! 

Here are a few tips that I found worked for us in conjunction with the book!

1. Leading up to potty training, start having your kids help with the "getting dressed" process. This will help immensely when they have to manipulate their clothes on and off to use the potty on their own. 

2. Don't introduce the potty until the DAY you want to start potty training. If you leave it out, it becomes "just another toy" scattered around the room. If you take it out and make a big deal about it - chances are your kid will think it's pretty cool too. 

3. If timing works out, potty train in the warmer months to avoid layers. Since the book suggests (or really, requires) your child going commando, it's a lot easier for them to be commando in shorts or a dress, then thick pants. 

4. Speaking of shorts/pants...buy a few pair with elastic waistbands that are easy to pull up and down. 

5. Carve out a long weekend where you and your spouse can tackle the first few exhausting days together. Plan fun activities to do indoors and make it exciting! 

6. At the beginning, we put a potty in the living room, dining room (where Lo's toys also are) and in the bathroom upstairs. It sounds silly but I wanted to make sure that Lo had the opportunity to go ON HER OWN when the time came. We also keep a potty in the car ... which is a LIFESAVER.

7. On the travel potty subject, BUY A POTETTE. This is seriously the best $15 I've spent all year :) It fits in your diaper bag and you can take it with you EVERYWHERE. It gives you piece of mind when it comes time to leave the house! Here is a photo of us out on a walk and nature called...thank goodness for the potette ;) 

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When we started, Lo did AMAZING the first week. She was catching on so quickly and we had very few accidents. Then for a couple of days everything went to CRAP (literally). I was getting really frustrated, but the book warns you of a little regression/push back, so we powered through. Lo started self-initiating shortly after a.k.a. using the potty on her own and by two weeks she was consistently self-initiating at home. Now, by week three, she verbally tells me when she has to go or just goes on her own. She even tells me when we are out and about ... which is when I rush her to the bathroom and we either use the potette or the regular toilet of a public restroom. At first, it seems so stressful like "how am I ever going to leave the house again?!" but just like everything else, you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature. I remember reading in the book that potty training should feel like work for the parent, but not for the child. I tried to keep that in mind and make it a fun experience! We also weren't above using m&m's as a fun reward when she self initiated...and I think that helped too :)

Overall, we are SO happy to have a potty trained babe! Please comment below if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer with what little experience I have ;) 

xx, Ashley 

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Kokadjo, Maine Getaway...

A few weeks ago we snuck away to spend time at my parents camp in Kokadjo, Maine. It's such a peaceful setting and since there isn't any cell service where we are, we have no choice but to unplug and just enjoy each other's company :) As soon as we start the drive, it's like I instantly relax and take a breath. I love going through each sleepy town on our way there, sometimes stopping at our favorite spot in Monson, Spring Creek BBQ. Passing through Greenville my anticipation begins to mount as I know it's not long until we are to our destination. "Camp" (which is more like a house now since my parents have expanded it and added electricity, running water, etc) instantly makes me want to change into sweats, put on a trucker hat and "rough it" without a care in the world. We love to pile into the back of my dad's pick up and ride around to see if we can spot a moose. Of course, we're guaranteed to see lots of wildlife, but catching a moose is the real treat :) My sweet mother always has LOTS of candy and treats waiting, plus everything needed to make s'mores (which we always do). This time, we brought the Sound of Music by London's request so we could have a movie night. So fun! Now that she's getting older, she loves to explore all that nature has to offer - and there's  A LOT up there! My parents also had a swing built for her with the best view of the lake and the mountains. She's the luckiest girl in the world - so spoiled! 

I took a few photos and wanted to share them with you all! Thanks for stopping by! 

xx, Ashley 

Cape Elizabeth, Maine...

 
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My family and I decided to spend our vacation in the place we love so much...MAINE. Chris and I have vacationed in Maine the past 7 years (could be more? Too lazy to do the math) ...but the moral of the story is, we just can't get enough of it. We typically go to Kennebunkport and stay at a hotel or bed & breakfast, but we decided to rent a house this year!

We have never used Airbnb but have always heard great things about it from friends and family who have! I started sifting through properties throughout Southern Maine everywhere from Kennebunkport to Ogunquit to York, Wells, etc. I happened upon a Cape Elizabeth beach house and immediately fell in love. The reviews showed that guests absolutely loved the home (which has been recently renovated) and that it was a perfect location in reference to the beach. It was also 3-bedrooms which was the perfect size for our little family! We were so excited it was available to book! 

When we arrived there were fresh flowers on the table, a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge and ground coffee from C Salt ready to be brewed. Such a warm welcome! The decor was very "beachy" and modern, with a big farmhouse-style sink, floating shelves, and the prettiest shade of green cabinets in the kitchen that caught my eye! We simply loved every little touch! Of course, London immediately wanted to check out the beach - which was just a short walk. Thankfully, the home owners provided us with the cutest wagon to cart everything down! It was really such a perfect set-up. I had never been to Crescent Beach so I was excited to check it out! It's pretty perfect for little ones because it's so calm, being that it's a cove. There are tons of rocks, which could have kept Lo busy for hours - she loved to throw them and also collect them in her bucket. Kettle Cove is another small beach area where we took Lo to search the seaweed for crabs! 

Not only was the location of the home so close to the beach, but it was also close to Portland, where we had planned to take the 15-minute ferry ride to Peaks Island. We rented a golf cart and were able to get around the whole island in just an hour - even making a few stops to see where my husband attended elementary school and the home that he grew up in! It was so much fun to share it with London, and she absolutely loved bombing around on the golf cart! 

We were able to have a few friends and family members over to check out our little beach home and spend quality time with us which was really special. It's definitely a place we can't wait to return to and build more memories together! I wanted to share some photos with you - and if you're interested in checking out the home further, you can click here!

Thanks for stopping by!

The home...


The beach...


Peaks Island...

xx, Ashley 

This Is Two...

 

I've been meaning to give you guys an update on Lolo - but LIFE happened, or better yet the Nordstrom Sale happened...and that threw me for a loop! After doing lots of monthly updates on London - I cannot believe I'm finally typing her 2-year update! Eeek! Exciting and SURREAL that we have entered the "terrific two's" :) 

I'll just start by saying that two is FUN. Challenging of course, but isn't every stage in its own way? I have days when I'm exhausted, mentally because it's so NON-STOP but I will say, the number of amazing days totally outnumber the days when I feel drained. We have so much fun exploring and discovering together and I'm cherishing this time when it's just the two of us because I know one day it will come to an end (no, I'm not pregnant...just thinking ahead!)

So, let's talk about London currently, two years and (almost) 2 months old... 

Favorite Food: SNACKS. Kidding (kind of). Let me explain...Lo has always been a great eater, and she still is; loves salmon, haddock, salad (what 2 year old likes salad?), asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, all fruit, etc. She just requests snacks from the moment she wakes up (literally, when I go in to get her in the morning she says "I need a snack") to the time she goes to bed. This kid will ask for a snack AS I'm putting her in her crib for the night. I swear, I feed her ;) But man, it's exhausting. I don't want to give her food ALL the time and also don't want it to effect how she's eating at meal times so I have to distract and re-direct many times throughout the day. When we do have snacks - our favorites are: grapes, graham crackers, apple sauce, gold fish, raisins, yogurt, and pretzel thins. Any other snack ideas I can add to the mix? 

Favorite Things To Do: Being outside is totally her jam! She loves to push her baby doll down the sidewalk in the play stroller and take her bucket to collect leaves or sticks. Lolo also loves to EAT and get a "treat." Ice cream, popsicles, and frozen yogurt sticks are some of our "go-to's" :) ...It is summer after all! Lately she's been into her basketball hoop - which obviously makes us very excited! 

Favorite Toys: She loves to play with her kitchen and "cook dinner" for us. She also got crafts like colored popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and finger paints for her birthday so she loves all of that too! The pom-poms are a great way to learn colors - we do a game where we separate them by colors and she's super into it. Another toy she really enjoys is her shopping cart! She likes to pretend that she's doing groceries like mommy...also goes really well with the kitchen :) 

Most Exciting Thing She's Doing: I've been showing her the letter "L" for a week now, and she finally identified it two days ago! I am super excited. I also tried an "A" to which she replied "house" and a "T" which she confidently said was a "cross" ... I mean, she's not wrong! :) She has mastered her colors so I'm moving on to letters ... just a few at a time! 

Biggest Challenges: There are a lot of things to navigate when you enter the two's. The tantrums get a bit more intense, their emotions are so erratic, and they have LOTS of opinions. Thank goodness, I am able to reason with London (to an extent) and her tantrums don't last longer than a minute or so, but they're still exhausting. I'm trying my best to remain patient.

What I've Learned / What I'm Learning: I think consistency has been something that I've always tried to maintain - which is super difficult at times, especially when you ARE tired and just want to let something go - don't. I think the reason why Lo can be talked off a ledge (a.k.a. we avoid a tantrum) is because I'm consistent with my expectations of her. I also try to think a few steps ahead. If she's tired or hungry, I won't put her in situations that may set her off. 

Really, it's different from day to day so I'm learning as I go! I don't know if it will get even more intense the older she gets...it might -but I KNOW it will keep getting better because watching her learn and discover is the best thing ever! 

I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for stopping by!

xx, Ashley 

 

 

Easing Into The Morning...

 

(My top is from Tobi and under $30... shop it here)

I'm just gonna be honest, mornings aren't my favorite but London has made it clear that she LOVES them. In fact, she miraculously has the most energy in (what seems like) the wee hours of the morning. Funny how that works, huh?! :) Thankfully, I've got the world's sweetest husband (and smartest) because he usually gets Lo up and brings her downstairs to start breakfast a.k.a. allows me time to wake up and slowly start my day.

I would say the past month I've developed a morning routine that has helped me wake up a little easier! I thought I'd share it with you in case, like me, you need an extra nudge in the AM! 

1. Wash your face. I am consistent about washing my face and applying moisturizer every morning, but I recently have added a serum and eye cream to the mix because my wrinkles are just getting a little crazy. The Puristry products that I use are organic, loaded with antioxidants, and hydrating oils. (You can find the Vine Therapy Serum here, and this is the brightening and de-puffing eye cream that I use currently) I love them both! If you want to shop the entire line, the products can be found at Anthropologie

2. Grab a coffee. Set the timer on your coffee machine so it's ready to pour OR (this is what I've been doing lately) brew a cup the night before and put it in the fridge so all you have to do is add ice! I look forward to this every morning - especially an iced coffee on a warm summer day! 

(My top is from Tobi and under $30... shop it here)

3. Don't skip breakfast. I need all the energy I can get so I usually start my day with a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit. I feel like it fills me up and keeps my hunger at bay so I can get through our morning activities! I always bring a snack with me on the go like a banana or a granola bar! 

3. Get outside. Trust me, it helps. I always have a morning activity or play date planned because it gets us out of the house! Sometimes, that's half the battle and if we are stuck inside I tend to have less energy and be less motivated. Getting out and about instantly gives me an energy boost - plus we love to explore together! 

How do you start your morning?! 

xx, Ashley 

10 Mom Truths...

 

Who knows "Cat and Nat?" They're an amazing mommy duo - and if you don't know them, you need too, STAT! They do a little special called "Mom Truth Fridays" so it inspired me to write out my own list of truths because it's always more fun to laugh at yourself than cry - which I'm sure a lot of us could do on some occasions, #amiright? Needless to say, I hope you chuckle at a few of these and maybe even relate to some of them too! Let me know your faves below! :) 

 

1. When another mom, say at the playground, tries to "mom date" me ... I feel like just saying "I'm taken." I'm already balancing three mom-friend relationships and that's enough for me! (P.S. They're my actual friends now, not just my "mom friends" ...but you get what I'm saying!)

2. When London throws herself on the ground because I put peanut butter on her toast instead of butter I have to try REALLY hard not to laugh out loud. I cannot handle the absurdity of these meltdowns. Here's another one: I wouldn't let her stick her hands in the toilet bowl and swirl the water around. I know, I'm such a bad mom. 

3. I LOVE SCREEN TIME. There, I said it! Can't we both just sit in one spot and zone out for 20(ish) minutes? What is so wrong with that? I even got the 'ok' from my pediatrician so THERE to any of you judge-y moms reading this and thinking badly of me! ;)  

4. Coffee is LIFE. There were many times in my life when I spoke the words "I will never drink coffee regularly" ... BLASPHEMY! WHAT in the WORLD was I thinking? Oh - that's right...I was making crazy statements like that pre-baby, as you do! What I MEANT to say was "I will definitely drink coffee every day, sometimes two and three times a day, when I have a kid." Boom!

5. You wanna know another thing I said pre-Lolo? "I will never have a schedule. I'm gonna take my baby everywhere with me - they'll just sleep when they're tired!" Fast Forward to present day....I'm a schedule F-R-E-A-K. My life revolves around my 2-year old's nap time and bed time and I'm not even upset about it. This may not work for some people (which is totally cool), but knowing that I get 2+ solid hours of "me" time every day is enough to make me want to stick to this schedule like flies on .... you catch my drift. 

6. Nope. No way. I've never farted in front of my husband and blamed it on my daughter! (I have) Did he call me on it? He sure did. Sad to say I was only a little bit embarrassed. And here lies my dignity. 

7. I would rather pick London's nose for her and wipe it on my own shirtsleeve, then let her walk around being THAT kid with the booger hanging out and visible to the public. 

8. No matter how much time I spend with Lo (which is all day every day because, STAY AT HOME MOM) I never ACTUALLY feel like it's enough. Translation: Mom guilt always, forever, and no matter what. 

9. I'm not above a good bribe. Target almost always = a scone from Starbucks, grocery shopping = a cookie from the bakery and potty training will = M&M's. (Sorry, not sorry)

10. Here's a final "mom truth" for you...When I say "I'm tired" to a mom that has multiple kids and she looks at me like I have three heads and says "wait until you have two" I want to give major eye roll. I GET IT...I have one kid. Yes, my kid sleeps through the night but does that mean that I am not allowed to be tired? I am dealing with 2-year-old tantrums, nights when my baby is up sick all night, a husband who travels a lot and works long hours, etc. I'm sure when I have another I'll be a whole new level of tired than I am now - but THIS is my reality today...so let me just be + say I'm tired too, ok? Phew. I'm glad that's out :) 

Ok ... what are some of your "truths?!" I need to laugh some more today ... leave them below!

xx, Ashley 

Our Weekend...

 

My Outfit: Dress: Tobi (Under $100 and SO comfortable!)| Sandals: Nine West, similar here

London's Outfit: Top: Gap, similar here | Shorts: Gap, similar here | Sandals: Target (Cat & Jacket)

We had Chris home with us for a full weekend so we took advantage and did more "touristy" things in our city! 

Saturday morning we were out of the house early to catch the train to the North End. London constantly asks to go on the bus, train, trolley, airplane, tractor, and any other form of transportation you can think of - so we just had to do at least one of those! (Trolley is next!) We went to the Public Market for coffee + breakfast. Outside they've got loads of fresh produce but inside is where it's really at ;) ...You can find a few of my favorite places in one spot - Union Square Donuts, George Howell coffee, Levend Bagels, and sooo much more! I feel like George Howell coffee is liquid gold ... it gave me energy for the WHOLE day haha! Maybe it's a mental thing, but seriously, you have to try it. 

There's a beautiful green space that separates the Faneuil Hall area and the North End called Rose Kennedy Greenway. So adorable. There are rose gardens, fountains, usually food trucks, and always really fun events going on! We didn't plan on walking from the North End all the way to the Prudential Center, but we did! We went through the Public Garden to show London the little duck statues in honor of "Make Way For Ducklings," one of her favorite books! She loved it!

I'm so happy to have Chris home for a few weeks - it makes SUCH a difference! Sunday we took the bus to Cambridge and strolled around Harvard Square! I didn't take many photos (I try to be "phone-free" on Sundays) but we had so much fun. You can see photos from our morning adventure below. 

Best Playgrounds In The Boston Area For Toddlers...

Hey Boston Mamas! 

I recently wrote an article for Mommy Nearest about the best playgrounds to take your littles too! We live in Watertown, so I included some in the city but also in the Greater Boston area as well :) Enjoy! 

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The playground is the perfect place to let your child burn off some energy, explore, meet up for play dates and get some fresh air. As a new mom, I was so excited when my daughter learned to sit up so she could finally enjoy the bucket swings. And once she started walking I couldn’t wait to watch her toddle around and play on the equipment. I quickly realized that those once relaxing trips to the playground were becoming stressful. I turned into my daughters shadow, trying desperately to keep her away from the dangerous climbing structures and giant slides!

Thankfully, I've been able to find the spaces meant just for little ones who are learning to walk. Think soft surfaces, bucket swings, small slides, tunnels to crawl through and lots more. Here are eight of the city's best playgrounds perfect for your toddler! 

1. Alexander W. Kemp Playground, Cambridge

Why it’s good for toddlers: I’ve nicknamed this one “natures playground” thanks to the design landscape of hills, sand, wooden structures and water features. There’s something for everyone here, including a water table which is always a crowd favorite. Little ones can't get enough of the sand (there’s A LOT of it) and the adults will enjoy that the playground is mostly shaded. It’s the perfect place to let your kids explore their surroundings safely.

Insider tip: There isn’t a parking lot, just metered street parking so make sure to bring some quarters!

2. Victory Field Playground, Watertown

Why it’s good for toddlers: I absolutely love this playground for its soft rubber surface, tunnels to crawl through, and the mini playhouses where little ones can sit and eat their snacks. There are also bucket swings and small slides for even the smallest babes. Not to mention, it’s all fenced in! If you go on a hot day, half of the playground is shaded by trees, which is nice.

Insider tip: Although this is about 15 minutes outside of the city, it's worth the drive. Make a morning of it by hitting the Starbucks just down the road or grabbing breakfast at North 11 Beacon—our favorite diner!

3. Winthrop Square/Minot Playground, Brookline

Why it’s good for toddlers: This park is fully fenced in and offers a large play area for kids, plus a splash pad. There is grass for your little ones to explore and “no dogs allowed” so you won’t have to worry about any unpleasant surprises (if you know what I mean!). There's lots of shade to be found, provided by the surrounding maples, and plenty of benches to catch a break if needed while still keeping a watchful eye on your little one(s).

Insider tip: Pack a picnic or enjoy a snack near the beautiful rose gardens at this park.

4. Ringgold Park, South End

Why it’s good for toddlers: The main attraction of this playground is the park fountain, which cascades water from top to bottom for one hour, three times a day (9-10am, noon-1pm and 6-7pm). Another “perk” of this playground are the walkers and “ride-on” toys that local families have dropped off for other kids to enjoy. Your little one will enjoy pushing or riding them around the fenced in rubber surface and/or the basketball courts next door.

Insider tip: There are always events going on at this park, so check the website for more info! Just recently they hosted a “garden tour” and a musical event for kids.

5. Billy Ward Playground, Brookline

Why it’s good for toddlers: This playground has been recently renovated and now includes a splash pad and sand box area. A wooden toy train structure will be a favorite with your little one, and they’ll love watching the older kids climb up the rock wall! I love that the “tot lot” is separated and on a lower level than the “big kids” area; it lessens the chance of any accidental run-ins.

Insider tip: There are picnic tables on site so pack a meal and enjoy a whole morning or afternoon outdoors.

6. LoPresti Park, East Boston

Why it’s good for toddlers: Let your little ones play while you take in the incredible views and the epic Boston skyline! The playground has the basic equipment (swings, slides, climbing structures, etc.), but the real win is the four acres of green space for kids to run through. It’s such a hidden gem!

Insider tip: The park offers “Family Zumba” every Wednesday at 6pm during the summer months.

7. Charlesbank Esplanade Playground

Why it’s good for toddlers: Located right off Storrow Drive, this playground is large and fenced in which makes it an extra safe place for your little one. The soft rubber surface helps, too! There are two short slides and six infant bucket swings, so it’s likely your kiddo will never have to wait on one. On hot summer days, you’ll be happy to hear there is a splash pad as well.

Insider tip: Parking can be a bit tough due to the location of the playground, so plan ahead time wise (the walk is worth it!).

8. Peters Park, South End

Why it’s good for toddlers: Most playgrounds cater to certain age groups but neglect others—not Peter’s Park! Not only is it great for toddlers with the infant swings and low-to-the-ground structures, but if you’re a parent of multiples, there are larger structures for kids’ ages 5-12 here too. The rubber surface will limit the inevitable bumps and scrapes that come when you’ve got a curious toddler in tow.

Insider tip: Limited shade on hot sunny days so bring sunscreen! Also got a puppy? There’s a dog park right next door!

Do you have a favorite playground that didn't make the list? Please share! We are always looking to try new ones :) 

xx, Ashley 

London Turns Two...

 
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Over the weekend we celebrated London's 2nd birthday with a flamingo-themed party! She LOVES flamingos and since they're so popular right now - it seemed like the perfect thing to play up! Of course, it helps that they're pink and we added little pops of golds and some tropical colors which made for a cute combo! Target has such adorable decorations and I was able to get a little bit at a time, since we are there at least once a week :) 

I found London's romper at Baby Gap - and of course I can't find it ANYWHERE - but I linked her "runner-up" outfit choice below, which was only $7.99 and equally as adorable! The first outfit just matched her crown better :) We celebrated with a BBQ and had hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, watermelon and lemonade! I made chocolate and vanilla cupcakes - chocolate with green frosting for the flamingo toppers and vanilla with yellow frosting for the pineapple toppers! (I suppose blue frosting would be cute on the flamingo ones to simulate water, but I went with green ;) The toddler table is from KidKraft and was actually one of London's gifts. The past week we've been using it inside to do arts + crafts, but it can easily be taken outside for use there as well! 

Yesterday we continued London's birthday by going on a duck boat tour around Boston (thanks to Chris's boss, who rented one for the whole Northeastern Basketball team, and for letting us tag along :) Lo was so happy and absolutely loved it...so did I! I've been wanting to do one since we moved here three years ago and I'm already planning the next time we can go again!

Anyway, I've linked some of the things below like decorations, Lo's table, etc...so you can shop those there! Thanks for stopping by! 

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London's Romper: Gap (I couldn't find it, but we also bought her this one as another option!)

London's "2" crown: Similar here (I literally bought this last year at Marshall's - so I can't find the exact one!) 

Tables & Chairs: KidKraft

London's Red Car: Step2 Easy Steer Sportster

Flamingo cupcake toppers: Etsy

Pineapple cupcake toppers: Etsy

Flamingo inflatable drink holder: Target, also here

Pineapple inflatable drink holder: Target, also here

Hanging paper lanterns: Target

Tablecloth: Target

Desserts: Me :) 

xx, Ashley

On Your 2nd Birthday...

 

My beautiful, sweet London girl...

You have graced this Earth with your presence for two amazing years today. I am so full of love for you and all that you bring to our lives. You are kind, caring, sensitive, loving, curious, just a tad sassy (which I secretly love), and a ball full of energy! You have SO much personality, which has completely blossomed this past year. I absolutely LOVE having conversations with you...the meaningful ones (which you probably can't quite grasp just yet) and the silly ones - especially the silly ones :)

I fact that I get to spend every day with you is an absolute honor and privilege that I will never take for granted. I will always be thankful that your Daddy supports this whole stay-at-home-Mom gig, because these are the absolute best days of my life.

Here are a few things you do that make me smile and that I never want to forget...

When we "pretend sleep" + you wake us up by kissing our noses

When you say "can we go outside or somethin', maybe?" (I just think it's the cutest!)

How obsessed you are with your "blankie" ..and how even though you have two of the exact same, you prefer one over the other

How before nap/bedtime you ask, "Can you rock me, mumma?"

How excited you get when you ask to watch one of your favorite shows or movies, and we ACTUALLY say yes :)

That you love to play hide + seek...which means mostly just telling us where you're hiding and saying "Have you seen London?

When you have memorized a book and recite the whole thing back to us

Anytime you're singing and dancing (which is basically all of the time), it makes my heart so happy!

When you say your own prayers ... which usually means thanking God for the playground and for pizza ;) 

When you ask for heart or triangle-shaped toast in the morning

I love how excited you get to see your little buddies ... you want to give them all the hugs and kisses

You LOVE to eat ... and always want either Mommy or Daddy sitting with you at the table

How you pretend to rock your baby doll, change her diaper, and push her in the stroller...you're going to be the best big sister one day!

How helpful you are! You love to help me with the laundry, putting the dishes away, and sweeping the floor; Mummy's big helper!

 

I love all of these things and so much more! You're incredible in every way and I'm so honored to be your Mom!

I love you to the moon & back baby,

Mumma xo

What To Pack for an overnight Trip with Your Toddler...

 

Honestly, going anywhere with your toddler in tow can seem like a daunting task...but somewhere overnight? Yikes! It can be enough to deter you from wanting to go at all! Given the nature of my husband's job, he travels quite a bit and since most of our family and friends live in Maine, London and I head North as much as possible. She is a little road warrior and I've got packing her overnight bag down to a science! Here are a few tips to help make the whole process easier :)

Designate a separate bag for your kiddo.

When Lo was born I thought I would just pack her things in my suitcase with my own stuff but I quickly realized that wouldn't work. I needed to have a bag specifically for Lo, and thankfully I found Wildkin, which has the most perfect travel duffles and matching backpacks by Olive Kids! They're the perfect size for an overnight trip or weekend away - and the best part, they won't break your bank! (You can snag a matching duffle + backpack for just $60!) They even monogram and personalize them for your kiddos! The print we chose is a mermaid print because she's so obsessed with The Little Mermaid! 

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Make a list.

I'm a lady that needs a list because it keeps me on task and organized; not to mention, it keeps me from forgetting any of the "essentials." A few days before any trip, I make sure I do two things: 1. Check the weather forecast and lay out London's outfits on her floor ready to be packed and, 2. Make a list of all the things I need the remember like her video monitors, sound spa, toothbrush, inhaler, pack n' play, etc. (We use the 4Moms pack n'play and it takes under 5 seconds to open and close! So clutch!)

Actually packing.

Here's what you'll find in London's duffle...

1. Clothes/Shoes already separated into outfits

2. Pajamas with overnight diapers (plus a few extra in case of emergencies)

3. Sound Machine (This is a must! We love this one which is just $20)

4. Music/Lullaby (Another must! It's the same lullaby we have played at bedtime every night since Lo was a newborn)

5. London's "blankie" ... she sleeps with it every night!

6. Other Necessities: children's Ibuprofen/Tylenol (just in case), baby thermometer, body wash/lotion, diaper cream, regular diapers, wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush.

Here's what you'll find in her backpack...

1. A few of her favorite books

2. Snacks/water (The Olive Kids backpack has a little side holder for the water bottle/sippy cup!)

3. Some favorite "stuffies" and other small toys

4. Diaper, travel wipes, an extra onesie and pair of socks

I think the more you travel, the less intimidating it becomes! You kind of get into the habit of packing the same things, the same way -and it totally helps when your kids have their own bags so you know where everything is! London loves to experience new places, and I never wanted the overwhelming feeling of traveling or packing to take away from any memories we could be making! I hope this little guide gives you new ideas or insights into how to make it easier :)

Have a great day and thank you for stopping by!

xx, Ashley

Three Years...

 

Today marks 3 years that Chris and I have been husband and wife. It's so easy to love someone that's patient, compassionate, kind, humble, and steadfast...not to mention, easy on the eyes! I'm really proud of how much we have grown in the past three years and I feel an ever deeper love for him than I did on our wedding day (which I didn't think was possible!) Nothing makes me more excited than growing old together and getting to spend my whole life loving him. I'm so lucky!

Our photographer Patti Takacs (Kivalo Photography), who I still collaborate with 3 years later for my blog, captured our day so perfectly. I wanted to share some of my favorite photos that she took that day and a few days later in on our mini-moon :)

xx, Ashley 

Our Engagement Story + How Chris Chose My ring...

 

Chris and I will be celebrating our third wedding anniversary tomorrow! Since I started Style Grace + Lace just over a year ago, I never had a chance to share any details about our wedding, so I thought it might be fun to give you a closer look into us as a couple! I've teamed up with Boston jewelry company, E.B. Horn to bring you our engagement story and how Chris chose the perfect ring for me! 

We had been dating for about five years and were both living in Burlington, Vermont at the time. Chris was entering his third year as an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Vermont and I was working as a nurse at the campus health clinic. It was set to be a beautiful October weekend in New England and I probably had plans for us to apple pick, visit a pumpkin patch, or do some fall related activity. Chris told me that he had a little something planned for Sunday, so to keep that day free. I didn't think much of it because it wasn't out of the ordinary for him to plan a surprise...he did ask me to pack a bag though, which got my mind wandering a bit ;) We got up early Sunday morning, grabbed coffees and hit the road to an undisclosed location! I remember we had the BEST drive; we listened to some favorite old school R&B songs and I tried to guess where we were heading (obviously). I was SO excited when we got off the highway exit in Kennebunkport...one of our favorite locations in Maine and a place that is so special to us. We are both originally from Maine, but since work had taken us out of state, we had always planned our vacation there for four straight summers. It's just heavenly and if you haven't been, you definitely need to plan a trip! 

It was early afternoon when we arrived, so we stopped for something to eat at Federal Jacks and since it was NFL season, the Patriots were playing and we got to catch the game. After lunch, Chris took me to a little inn on the ocean called The Beach House and told me that we were staying there that night. He had dinner planned but asked if I wanted to go for a drive beforehand to look at the beach houses (as we often do when we visit Kennebunkport). We had been driving for about 15 minutes when he pulled over at our favorite spot; this rocky cliff that overlooks the ocean. (The photo above is the exact spot that Chris proposed) There's a small bench there, so we sat down together to take in the view. After a few minutes, he stood up and then got down on one knee saying, "Ashley, I love everything about you...everything about you. I would be the happiest man alive if you would be my wife...Will you marry me?" I'm pretty sure I screamed...actually I'm absolutely sure I screamed and I was definitely shaking with excitement! I was so happy and surprised!

                                 Right after Chris proposed ... excuse the grainy iPhone photo! 

                                 Right after Chris proposed ... excuse the grainy iPhone photo! 

We drove to dinner where our families were waiting for us along with my best friend. We enjoyed a celebratory dinner together and then he whisked me off for "dessert" which was actually yet another surprise at David's, a restaurant in the center of town and right on the water. When we arrived, some of our closest friends were waiting for us to have another round of celebration! It was such a perfectly planned evening, filled with surprises and I just remember feeling like the luckiest girl in the world (I still do!) that he chose me to be his wife.

How Chris Chose My Ring...

Below is a photo of my beautiful ring; I love the simplicity of the overall look, but the diamonds going down the band give it some extra glam :) Chris, from what he tells me, did do a bit of research online to get a sense of what he liked or didn't like. Since we were living in Burlington, Vermont at the time, he worked with a local jeweler there. I didn't give him ANY idea of what I wanted for a ring. He did consult with my sister who tried to sneak some info out of me, but I remember my response being "whatever Chris chooses, I know I'll love it," and I genuinely meant that. I wanted to allow Chris the opportunity to enjoy the process of finding a ring that represented our story and one that he also loved. He has always had amazing taste. I love my ring first because of it's simple, yet elegant look and also because of its amazing quality. Everyone also comments on how it glistens...even when it's due for a cleaning :) Also...the only thing I wish I could change...the fact that my nails weren't painted for the big day! Oops!

In keeping with the "choosing of the perfect ring" theme, I had the opportunity to check out the selection at E.B. Horn, and it's amazing! There is truly something for everyone; so many different styles and settings. Plus, everyone that works there was super gracious when I brought London into their beautiful store with me...and she was less than well-behaved! (#momlife) Anyway, the rings were so stunning that I took photos of my five favorites to share with you all!

1. The Double Halo

I love love love this Veraggio engagement ring. It's rose gold (another favorite of mine) and the double halo gives it a really unique look while still feeling classic at the same time. Also, the band has some beautiful detailing as well!

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2. The Cushion Halo

Another one of my favorites was this cushion halo, also by Veraggio. Like the double halo above, this ring has a really "vintage" vibe, which I love. There were so many ornate details on this band!

 

3. The Solitaire

You'll never go out of style with the timeless look of a solitaire. You can let your diamond be the star of the show and choose an ornate wedding band to complement this simple, yet elegant ring!

 

4. The Pear-Shaped Diamond

Pear-shaped diamonds are not typically my favorite, but I was so drawn to this one! The center stone is gorgeous with the halo of diamonds surrounding it, but I think the band is what really caught my eye. It's yellow gold, and it's a feature that really sets this ring apart from the others; isn't it so romantic? 

 

5. The Oval Halo

The oval shape gives an innovative twist on a classic style; this ring had a shine to it like no other. The thin band gives it a feminine look and allows the center stone to stand out. Love!

Which one is your favorite?

xx, Ashley 

Monthly Motherhood Update: 22 Months...

 

Favorite Food: Popsicles which London calls "possibles," watermelon, corn, salmon, haddock, and all kinds of fruit but particularly pineapple at the moment :) 

Favorite Things To Do: Go to the playground, sing, dance, EAT (she's always asking for treats!), and go to the farm (Drumlin Farm). She is kinda like her mama in the sense that she likes to stay busy! She gets a little bored just playing around the house so she is always asking to go to the playground or "go for a ride" which I think means to go somewhere in the car :) I love keeping us on the go by planning fun activities and little day trips. 

Most Aww-Worthy Moment: She sings some of the lyrics to the Hillsong United song "What A Beautiful Name" and it melts our hearts. If you haven't heard it you can listen to it here and then imagine a little girl singing it back to you...it's the sweetest :)

Most Exciting Thing She Did: She's eating exclusively with her spoon and/or fork, so that's fun! Makes meal times less messy and I think it's all part of the whole "independent toddler" thing! She likes to do everything herself nowadays!

Fun Things We Did This Month: The three of us enjoyed a Mother's Day staycation at the Colonnade in downtown Boston, which was so much fun! I did a full post on that here, so you can check it out :) We also took London to the zoo last week and she's STILL talking about it. She loves listing all of the animals she saw...her favorites being the "big ostrich" and the hippo! My sister is due with her first child in July, so my mother and I threw her a "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" baby shower! We had SO much fun planning it and then watching it all come together! I shared lots of photos from the day in a post here. We also purchased a membership to Drumlin Farm - which is just 15(ish) minutes from our house and super fun. They've got tractor rides, a huge garden with a farm stand, sheep, goats, cows, horses, chickens, pigs, and more! It's a really great place to visit or go for a picnic! It was a really busy and FULL month - as I feel all of the warmer summer(ish) months are, and I can't believe the next time I write this Lo will be 2!

Biggest Thing I've Learned: The past few weeks have been difficult as we are dealing with a death in the family. I guess the biggest thing both myself and my husband have learned this month is that children will keep you grounded and bring you back to earth! London is so young that she has no idea what is going on of course, so she's just as rambunctious as ever...which has been super helpful. She's kept us laughing and has been the most perfect distraction during a difficult time. We are even more thankful for her and the joy that she brings to our lives now more than ever!

xx, Ashley 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: My Sister's Baby Shower...

 

When I found out my sister Lindsey was pregnant with her first child, I was over the moon and couldn't help but begin to dream about throwing her a shower! She has always gone above and beyond for me and I wanted to do the same for her. Thankfully, the other lovely hostess, our mother, helped me bring the vision to life!

The shower took place at my sister's house and was centered around the age-old nursery rhyme "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Since the gender of the baby has not been revealed, we decided that "twinkle twinkle little star, how we wonder what you are" would coincide perfectly! The inspiration actually came from this Olive and Star invitation that I saw on Etsy, which we then ended up using as Lindsey's shower invites! We chose to stick to cream and gold as the general color scheme. Lindsey has designed the nursery to include some mint green, so we did incorporate that color just a bit throughout. 

The flower of choice was baby's breath. To me, it always give a simple, yet elegant feel to a space and we ordered a generous amount (15 bunches) to put in mason jars all over the house. A beverage station was set-up with vintage glass dispensers where we served strawberry lemonade, plain lemonade and water infused with lemons and limes. Guests munched on cheese + crackers, vegetables, crostini bread with french onion dip, and fruit while they mingled. There were cards custom designed by Mint Arrow Designs for guests to leave their love and well wishes for Baby M. Lindsey and Derek (my brother-in-law) both thought this was a really special touch and they loved reading them at the end of the day. 

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My mother and I came up with a custom dessert menu along with the help of Maine baker, Sue Warren (Sweets by Sue) Fun fact: Sue also worked with me for London's first birthday ("Splish Splash" theme) and you can see what she created here! We wanted her beautiful desserts to be the focal point of my sister's large dining room table. The chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting (mama-to-be's favorite) and custom "twinkle twinkle" topper served as the centerpiece while the other desserts (macarons, cake pops, sugar cookies, rice crispy treats, and cupcakes) were scattered around. We also bought a table easel from Michael's so we could showcase a framed print that tied in the whole theme. Each guest went home with gorgeous and yummy Lavender soy candles from The Favor Design Studio, which were a huge hit!

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Overall we had such a fantastic day! Everything came together beautifully and most importantly, Lindsey felt showered with love! I am so thankful to have worked with some incredible vendors and wanted to share their shops below, as well as more photos from the day. Take a peak :)

Floral: Whole Foods

Desserts: Sweets by Sue

Invitations: Olive and Star

Party Favors: The Favor Design Studio

Wish Cards: Mint Arrow Designs

Personalized Napkins: With Love and Ink

xx, Ashley

Sunday Funday: Franklin Park Zoo + Nature's Neighborhood...

The weather has been beyond amazing lately and we couldn't wait for a sunny weekend so that we could take our long awaited family visit to the Franklin Park Zoo! London and I took a zoo trip last summer but this time, Chris was able to join us, so we were extra excited! FPZ is a little oasis and escape that be found right in Boston. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the paved pathways are wide for exploration (and for strollers ;)

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

My suggestion would be to park at the Zebra Entrance of the zoo for direct access to "Nature's Neighborhood," the newly renovated Children's Zoo! Lo is almost two years old (as opposed to 14-months during our last visit) so she was much more engaged and interactive! We had anticipated that "Nature's Neighborhood" would be a crowd pleaser, and we were right! We spent about three hours total at the zoo and I think she could have stayed right there the entire time. It is designed beautifully, allowing children to explore and discover the different ecosystems or "neighborhoods," including Grasslands, Woodlands, Wetlands, and Thicket. We saw some "neighbors" roaming around their natural habitats like red pandas, muntjacs, prairie dogs, ducks, cranes, and other birds! 

More things around "the neighborhood" that London loved...

There's a giant eagle's nest built around an oak tree providing a "birds eye" view of the zoo and kids can also take the winding slide all the way down from inside the nest (London loved it!). There is a grass maze, bamboo climber, two turtle ponds, and caves to explore or sneak a closer look at the prairie dogs as they pop up out of their holes. London also enjoyed "hopping like a bunny" through the thicket and climbing on the rock structures near the oak tree. I love how interactive Nature's Neighborhood is! It's definitely a place that kids of all ages (and adults!) can have fun while learning about some of the cutest animals at the zoo!

A few more places to hit...

Franklin Farm is located adjacent to Nature's Neighborhood and that seems to be another crowd favorite for the little ones. There are donkeys, chickens, pigs, goats, and minature horses - all sure to make your kiddos squeal with delight! Kalahari Kingdom features the lions, in all their glory! Lo has a thing with beards (since her Daddy has one) so she thought the lion had a pretty cool "beard," a.k.a mane! Gorillas, hippos, lemurs, and anteaters are just a few of the animals you'll see in the Tropical Forest exhibit...another one of London's favorites! There are five glass viewing stations just to see the gorillas! You'll see dozens of birds swooping through and hear the swooshing sound of the waterfall as you make your way through the beautiful rainforest. (Don't forget to stop for a photo with the gorilla statue located outside!) If you can make it past the 10,000 square foot playground, you'll run into the Giraffe Savannah to sneak a peek at the giraffes and zebras roaming about. 

Each time we visit the zoo, we discover something new and get to watch Lo discover new things as well. It's the perfect place to let your children explore let their imaginations run wild! We had such an amazing time and can't wait to go back!

If you're planning a trip to the zoo with kiddos, here are a few tips to make life easier...

  • As I mentioned above, there are a few parking lots, but I HIGHLY recommend parking at the "Zebra Entrance" (between Franklin Park Rd. and Blue Hill Ave.) for easy access to the Children's Zoo, Franklin Farm + the playground
  • Grab a map! Trust me on this one ... you'll reference this MANY times
  • There are multiple restroom locations (four to be exact), ALL which have changing stations
  • Bring your own snacks, drinks, and/or lunch for a picnic on-site
  • Forget something? Hit the Gift Shop for sunscreen, first aid needs, umbrellas, etc.
  • HAVE FUN! :)

*Don't forget to check your local library for discounted passes*

xx,  Ashley 

On My Second Mother's Day...

 

I'm a big puddle of tears. 

Being a mother is a dream come true and has exceeded any expectation I ever had. It's the gift that keeps on giving because literally every day, when I look into London's big brown eyes or hear her sweet little giggle, I am reminded of God's grace. I'm reminded that God has entrusted her to me for this time on Earth...His precious jewel and treasure. What an overwhelmingly beautiful image that is. I say "overwhelmingly beautiful" because I often feel incapable and insufficient as a mom. How could I possibly be "enough" or have what it takes to be everything she deserves?

As I sit here with tears coming down my face, I think of my own mother and what she is to me. How she used to sit on the edge of my bed and sing to me in the dead of night because I was scared. Or when she would greet me after school with snacks and always with a smile. She would laugh with me, and she would cry with me too. She taught us about Jesus and that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, "God is bigger than all of it." Most importantly, she was PRESENT; for every event big or small...for every victory and every loss. When I think of her and how she epitomizes the word "mother," my heart can rest because I know that I have had the best teacher. 

Almost two years ago, I became a mommy for the first time; I love London desperately. The wild part about it all is that somehow, the depth of my love for her grows more and more each day. I pray that she will always know and feel the love of her parents, and most importantly, the love of our Savior. Even on days when I feel like I don't have what it takes, I am reminded that LOVE is enough.

Mamas - We are all in this together! Tackling this whole "motherhood" thing is the hardest job in the world and we are doing the best we can. Our children will always remember the way we made them feel so love them, cherish them, and tell them how special they are. 

I hope everyone has the most perfect Mother's Day...thank you for coming along on this journey with me!

xx, Ashley

5 Ways To Explain "Mom Life" + Cute Mama Gear for Mother's Day...

Happy Monday! 

Here's a fun little "mommy" post for you, with Mother's Day right around the corner :) There are so many things that I expected motherhood to be, and while it's exceeded my expectations in more ways than one ... there are definitely ups and downs. Today, I'm sharing a few ways to explain what "mom life" really means...plus below you can find some last minute gift ideas for the mama's in your life! The shirts are adorable, and the mugs ... come on, every mama needs a mug :) Enjoy loves!

1. Emotional. SO MANY EMOTIONS and feelings! Ha! I cried yesterday because London will be two in just a few months. I can't handle how fast the time goes by...and it makes my heart hurt. I want to bottle this age up and keep her here forever! It's also emotional because HELLO toddler :) She's discovering her independence and finding her voice which is exciting, but also an overwhelming time for her...trying to deal with all of the feelings that come with that! 

2. Rollercoaster. One second we're singing Disney songs together and the next she's rolling around on the ground because she decided she actually DOESN'T want me to sing with her. We're happy and we're sad. We're happy then we're mad. I mean....there really is NO consistency. Nowadays its difficult to determine what could set her off. Thankfully, these tantrum moments are just that ... moments. She is easily distracted (for now), however, I'm not sure how long the distraction technique will work. I know we've got a super determined and strong-willed little girl, which I love, it just makes it a little bit daunting to think about the "threenager" year that I hear so much about! Eeek! 

3. Melt downs. Still learning how to manage these as they come, but "mom life" nowadays definitely includes them! I absolutely LOVE being a stay at home mom...and being here for every moment (good or bad), but that doesn't mean it's not mentally exhausting or difficult. By the end of the day I try to reflect on how I can deal with certain situations better and it's a work in progress. Finding patience and understanding when my sweet baby is rolling on the floor screaming for no reason is definitely something I'm trying to improve on :)

4. Laughter. No matter how many melt downs or tough moments we have in a day, we are never short on laughs. She is a little rascal who will do anything to garner a laugh from me :) I love watching her personality come out - she's a little spitfire! 

5. JOY. There's literally NO ONE else I would rather hang out with than Lolo (and her daddy of course). She is so much fun to explore and learn with...and even though she has her moments, the laughter + love that she brings to my life is more than I could even imagine. She's articulate, curious, sassy, strong and gosh, she's funny. She's given life a deeper purpose, and I'm so happy I get to be her mom.

 

xx, Ashley 

 

 

Mother's Day Gift Guide...

 

Mother's Day is upon us and it's always been such a beautiful holiday because I think my mom is basically superwoman. I've been on the search for the perfect gift to give, and here are some of my favorites :) 

xx, Ashley