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Family Holiday Home Design + Decor kids

Thanksgiving Kids’ Table & Tips for Entertaining Kids During the Holidays

November 10, 2017

I just love the holiday season, and Thanksgiving might be one of my favorite holidays because it’s a great time to get together to see family and friends. Because of the season of life we’re in, it means we are often accommodating to feeding and entertaining children who come over for these family and friendsgiving get-togethers. Eating is still hit or miss for us with a toddler, so keeping him occupied while food prep is happening is key. I love putting crayons and stickers out for the kids to get a little crafty with before they eat dinner!

In my head I’d like to think I can create amazing Pinterest-inspired tablescapes, but in reality, I’m barely getting by, so this Thanksgiving kids’ table setting is very accessible for anyone using some basic festive items you can get at Target or Amazon. Some of my decor like the chair backers and plates I picked up on sale from Pottery Barn Kids in previous years, but you can find pretty similar pieces out now like these backers and plates that are adorable. I found some other kids’ table decor items that are on sale like these platesbowlsplacemats and napkins.

I’ve included a few tips below for keeping the kiddos happy and occupied while the adults are mingling or doing food prep.

Tips for Keeping Kids Entertained during Thanksgiving

  • Crayons with built-in coloring placements are perfect for the kids’ table, and it also gives you the opportunity to talk to your kids about what they’re thankful for this season so you can write down those memories. I’m a sucker for my my kid’s homemade art, so having him color a place setting every year and seeing how they progress over the years is something I plan to do for the next few years. We are having our second annual Friendsgiving ( pot luck get-together with all my yummy holiday favorites) so I’ll probably use this tablecloth for a larger kids’ table.
  • These cute pumpkins are festive and are great way to bribe the kids to eat some veggies. These little jelly pumpkins are delicious, too.
  • Give them some things to keep them entertained after dinner, too. I’ve filled the chair backers with fall stickers, playdoh and bubbles, which are all some of Braden’s favorite things right now.
  • Make things personalized. I love the little place card settings, as it makes each child feel special and causes them to know they have specific spot claimed at the table which, in turn, might make them stay put for a little longer than usual. 🙂

I feel like I’m learning new tips all the time about being a mom and dealing with toddlers. If you have any secrets for making the holidays fun and stress-free for the whole family, I’d love to hear them!

thanksgiving kids table

 

pumpkin candy, thanksgiving kids table

thanksgiving kids table

chair backer, kids thanksgiving table, thanksgiving decorThis table and chairs are my husband’s from his childhood. He can remember eating at this table with his siblings during the holidays, and I just love that we have it now and Braden is using it everyday. I have dreams of B and his cousins eating together at this little table! We did repaint it to make it feel a little more modern.

thanksgiving decor, thanksgiving kids table

thanksgiving decor, thanksgiving kids table

 

 

 

Family Fashion + Style

Plaid for Mom and the Mini-me

October 23, 2017
mom and mini matching, mommy and me, navy plaid button up jcrew,

I never thought I’d be one who would play matchy matchy with her kid. Honestly, I found it a little obnoxious when moms did this, but then I realized that I sort of love it when I see families do it…in small doses. Tell me I’m not the only one!?  Honestly, there is so much I didn’t think I would do until I became a mom to a sassy little boy. Monster Jam – check. Learn all the names of construction equipment – check. I’m currently re-learning the different types of dinosaurs. #boymom

There’s only a short window when you can be twins with your mini,  so I’m going to take advantage while I can! I think it would be 10x worse if I had a girl. This is the first time I’ve really done this with Braden, and it wasn’t even my intention at first. I received this plaid shirt in the mail and went into the store to make some other returns, and I spotted this little mini version of it and immediately scooped it up! I think little boys in button down shirts are just the cutest.

I’m also a big fan of this classic shirt style. I have quite the collection, and I wear them weekly for work and casual wear. While I’m no stranger to  button downs, this one is on serious rotation partially because of the mom and mini aspect of it, but also because plaid just screams fall to me. For reference, I order a tall in most shirts from here, and they fit me so much better. (I am wearing a 6 T to avoid button-gaping.) I love this shirt because it instantly makes you look fall-ready and would look perfect with a black or navy skirt for church, too.

jcrew plaid, mom and mini, mom and toddler

matching mom and mini, jcrew plaid

toddler fashion, mom and me, jcrew plaid

We’re all about the fist bumps.

plaid button down, mom and mini, plaid jcrew shirt

mom and me, toddler fashion, mom and toddler fashion, jcrew plaid shirt

Of all the things I’ve had a chance to do in this life, I’m most proud of just being this kid’s mom.  (Sappy,  I know, but so, so true!)

Mom: Plaid button down shirt | jeans | Booties  – Sole Society (old) but similar here | Necklace

Mini: Plaid oxford shirt | Shorts – Baby Zara (old) | Shoes – Baby Gap but similar here

Family Thoughts Working Mom

Thriving vs. Surviving

October 12, 2017

I’ve taken an unintentional hiatus from blogging and frankly a few other things in life because of my schedule the past few months. For the first time in probably 15 years, my workout routine has been relegated to twice a month spin or yoga classes, and I’ve definitely suffered from it since exercise is such a huge stress reliever for me.

I’ve felt a shift the past few months that has led to some big life changes, most notably me quitting my full time public relations job that I’ve had for nearly ten years. I’m currently working on a contract basis through October to finish out some projects and help my team transition then I’ll be closing the door to that chapter of my life.  What got me here? Well, I can attribute this decision to a couple of things that have happened over the past few months or longer.

New job for Ben = single mom half the month. In May, right after we got back from Maui, Ben started a new role (same company) which meant he was heading to Midland, TX for two weeks out of each month. This was a huge shift for our family, one that I knew would be hard for me and even harder for Braden, but I just didn’t realize how challenging it would really be. I am so, so thankful that Ben is a hands-on dad. We are both in the thick of it every day, tag teaming childcare, bedtime routines, pediatrician appointments, dinner – really everything. To have your other half taken out of the mix half the month is a shock to the system. For me, as a working mom it has been extremely hard to balance school pick-up and drop-off every day, dinner, bedtime with a toddler who recently made the shift to a big kid bed, etc. I’m sure this sounds like everyday life for many so you might be thinking I just can’t hang. But, I have self awareness to know that I was just getting more and more overwhelmed and was reaching my breaking point.

Braden just adores Ben too, so it was tough trying to explain to him on a daily basis that daddy wasn’t coming home for a while. We got him an airplane to show him that dad flies out, and we facetimed at least once a day. While those things helped, Braden still wanted his dad’s presence and that was something I could not give him, which left me stressed, frustrated and emotional, which then led me to be short on patience with him. This became a vicious cycle where I was becoming a stressed out mom that wasn’t being there for my family in the way I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be counting down the minutes until bedtime every night so I could have a mere 30-45 minutes of personal time a day. I started to feel really guilty that I was feeling this way and the guilt just started eating away at me.

I went to the lake in South Carolina last month, and I finally finished The Magnolia Story, the book by Chip and Joanna Gaines I started reading several months ago, but never quite got into it enough to finish it. I can read multiple books when I travel, especially on the plane so vacations are always great for me to catch up on books that have been on my reading list and I do recommend reading this one! One thing Joanna did talk about in the book was getting to a point of thriving versus just surviving. I was definitely surviving as a mom, and that was just not good enough and knew I needed to change something. My job is pretty demanding. I lead a team of great people, but I get pulled into a lot of different directions and usually work more than 40 hours a week, often bringing my laptop home to answer/catch up on emails or edit/review work people have sent me that I couldn’t get to during normal business hours since I’m in a ton of meetings. Jumping online after Braden went to sleep most nights left me mentally and physically exhausted. I realized work was the one thing I could control in my life so I decided leaving my job was the best thing for me and my family. I know I wanted to continue working, but I wanted something that gave me the flexibility I needed and realized that was working for myself. I have been approached for consulting or freelance work quite a bit over the years but never felt like I had the time to pursue it. It’s pretty common in my industry of PR and marketing to work independently. I think I was scared to take this on, but honestly, I know I am great at what I do, and I just sort of needed to take a leap of faith. So, I’m branching out on my own, offering PR and marketing services to brands and companies. I’m excited to start this new career adventure and am using the next month to try to get organized and learn as much as I can about starting a business.

Another huge reason I left my job was because it was adding to my stress level in a way that just wasn’t healthy for me. I became very anxious and really had trouble sleeping. It just kept getting worse and worse which impacted other aspects of my life. I didn’t have the energy or patience to be a mom to a sassy little toddler, and I became a wife that complained so much to my husband. I started to really hate that about myself. This wasn’t all work related – it was just one of the many layers that was causing me to NOT thrive.

People say it all the time, but the time when your kids are young really passes by quickly. I can’t believe I have a three-year-old. I want to be a present, happy mom that enjoys every day, and I need to be present more than ever since Braden is totally going through the threenager stage, testing us all the time lately. I have certainly had happy moments the past few months, but the stress was taking over, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I wanted to stop keeping my head above water. I want to thrive again so I can expand my family one day and be the best mom and wife possible.

People who know me in my day-to-day life know that I lost a baby last December pretty late in my pregnancy at 22 weeks. I mentioned it here, but didn’t talk much about it on my blog or social media. It was so devastating for me, and it really changed me. It’s hard to articulate just how much. I find myself looking at the piece of paper I have with her small little handprints and footprints and the jar with her little ashes, and it just hurts my heart to think about what life could have been with that baby. I try not to dwell on this too much because it’s obviously not productive or healthy, but I do often think about her and our little family of four I could have right now. It makes me realize how much I do want another baby, and I hope that happens for my family again one day.

This is getting really quite long so I appreciate you reading if you’ve gotten this far! Bottom line: I am making life changes that put me in a place to be thriving not just surviving. We only get one life and I want to live it fully and authentically.

So, what’s next for me? I’m focusing on myself a little. I am hitting the reset button so I get to a space where I feel inspired again. I’m not rushing every day to get some place when really the only place I truly want to be is at home with Braden. I’ve enjoyed leisurely mornings, making breakfast and not fighting traffic. I’ve only been doing this for a week, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it.  I’m learning how to navigate life as a small business owner with a flexible schedule working from home. I want to blog more as it’s been a fun creative outlet for me. I’m focusing on getting back into a workout routine again, so I feel good and less stressed. I know there are certain things I’ll miss about my job. I have a great team, clients I really love and get to interact with some smart marketers that have taught me so, so much the last ten years. Most people at work have been overwhelmingly supportive of this step I’m taking, and I’m so grateful for that and those people in my life. But, I know it’s time to do my own thing.

I’m not sure how it’ll all pan out, but I’m excited for this new adventure.

More soon,

LL

Family Thoughts

An unexpected family update

December 5, 2016

I’m sharing a message below from my personal Facebook page. I wasn’t sure how to share this info. as it was something that caught me totally off guard.

I wish I wasn’t writing this right now but I felt like it’s needed not only for me, but also for all the people who have always been there supporting our family. Ben and I are heartbroken right now, as we’ve lost the baby girl we were expecting. While we didn’t know her, we felt like we did & we were so excited to find out we’d be giving Braden a sister. It has been an unexpected, devastating experience to be in this situation after being more than halfway along in my pregnancy. It may seem odd to some that I’m sharing this on social media but both for Ben and me, it’s emotionally exhausting repeating this news over and over again so sending an email or via SM is just the easiest thing for us right now.

While I may not be able to respond to every call, text or message from everyone, please know both Ben and I appreciate your kind words, prayers and support. 

I’ve had so many people tell me they follow along on my blog, so I feel that I would be inauthentic by not being honest about something that has impacted my life so greatly. When I shared the news that  I was expecting, never did I imagine I would be in this position now. It pretty much knocks the wind out of you and it’s hard to articulate right now because it still feels like I might wake up one day to find out this isn’t actually happening since it’s still so fresh.

Thanks so much for your support. I’ll be back soon.

-LL

Family Local

National Pumpkin Day + Pumpkin Patch Pics

October 26, 2016

pumpkin-patch-17

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pumpkin-patch-16

pumpkin-patch-27Well, I’m finally getting around to sharing our pumpkin patch pictures  we took over 3 weeks ago. I guess it kind of works out because today is National Pumpkin Day. Who doesn’t love a good made-up food holiday?! This month has been a doozy. With a wedding and/or out of town travel nearly every weekend, plus getting the sinus infection from hell that has lasted 2+ weeks, I’ve been a walking zombie. And, you pretty much can’t take any good meds when you’re pregnant. I finally got on antibiotics yesterday so I’m hopeful I’ll feel like a human again.

We visited Blessington Farms the first weekend in Oct. It’s open through the end of the month, so there’s still a chance to go if you’re around the Houston area. There are a ton of games for kids and plenty of picture opportunities. It definitely wore us all out. It was still pretty hot when we went, but I’m sure it will be nice the next few days.

Braden loved it, and we used it as an opportunity to take some pics announcing our family update. On that front, I am 16 weeks pregnant, so sort of in that beer gut stage. With my food aversions and intermittent nausea I lost weight in the first trimester, which happened to me with B, too. I’m trying to eat more, but with the sinus infection, I’ve had so much pain and pressure in my face, I haven’t wanted to eat much because it hurt to chew for awhile. I actually thought I had a cavity and went to the dentist last week. Nope, my sinuses are just so inflamed that my top teeth feel like they’re falling out because the roots of my teeth are pressing against my sinus cavity. Fun times, y’all.

Fall is my favorite season, and I’m looking forward to actually enjoying it a little more once I get better. Hopefully, in a few days I’ll feel like new!

 

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Family Local

Family Update

October 7, 2016
Blessington Farms petting zoo

pumpkin-patch-25I’m excited to share that we’re adding one more little pumpkin to our patch! Braden is just the best thing that ever happened to us, so why not add one more to the mix? We’ll welcome another mini-me next spring. We took these pics at Blessington Farms last weekend. It’s our second time visiting this place, and I would highly recommend it for those who live in the Houston area.

We’re in small town outside of Fort Worth this weekend visiting with family and the internet is a little spotty, so uploading pics is not going so well today. So, I’ll be back early next week with a recap on Blessington Farms and more on the family front!

 

More soon,

LL

Family Thoughts Working Mom

August Rush

August 31, 2016

Not sure what happened to this month. It’s definitely been a whirlwind. There isn’t much of a point to this post, but I felt compelled to write it.

Why did I even start a blog to begin with? Because I really like to write. I have a lot of respect for bloggers because it takes a lot more time than I think people realize to plan and write a post and develop or shoot photos to accompany that post. Right now, I just haven’t been able to carve out the time to do that. I want to make time.  I know the blogs that I like following the most are ones that have more writing vs. images. That’s just me, though. I’ll get it together soon. Promise.

So, all I have for you today are words. Mostly jumbled up thoughts really. A lot has been on my mind.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of guilt lately. Mom guilt, that is,  because my work schedule has been insane the past couple of weeks, and I’ve missed more moments at home than I care to admit. The time I have  before work or after work is precious. I don’t work out as much as I used to because I spend that time playing, reading and smothering Braden.  But the leaving early and getting home very late and eating three meals a day outside of my home has really started to get to me. The guilt has been getting to me. I’m hoping to balance that out and get back into a better routine. This week has been better, but I feel like I’m recovering.

August has had some great highs but also some extreme lows.

My beautiful baby boy turned TWO. I can’t believe it. I just love him more and more each day. I celebrated my 11 year anniversary. We didn’t do anything particularly amazing to celebrate, but I’m okay with that. With the house building and work, things have been pretty jam packed so moments when we’re just at home with Chinese food and a Redbox are pretty amazing. I’m thankful to be at this place in life with a true partner.

Speaking of…

I have major appreciation for my hands-on husband who has really picked up the slack at home while I’ve been working a ton, especially the past two weeks. He’s a gem, and I’m very glad to have him by my side to be my sounding board, secret keeper and pretty much everything that balances me out.

Part of the blur that is August is that we lost someone very important to us. A close friend lost his battle with cancer. It’s made me think a lot about things, and it has pretty much broken my heart for his wonderful family. Cancer really sucks. I don’t know what else to say about it, except that it just really sucks, and family and friends are precious.

Tomorrow is a new month. A fresh start. I’ll be back with more. I promise. Maybe it’ll be light-hearted, or maybe it’ll be random thoughts again. I hope you’ll come back to read more.

LL

 

 

 

Family Loving Lately...

Birthday #2

August 9, 2016

laureenloves.com, Braden tursn 2My sweet baby boy Braden turned two today. It’s hard to believe that I have a two-year-old. Sometimes  I feel a little unqualified to be a mom to a toddler who is learning and growing daily. He’s such a little sponge, constantly counting and pointing out the shapes, colors and objects in every room. It’s hard to put into words how much I adore this kid.

Braden turns 2 laureenloves.com

So, on his birthday, I thought I would share the things that I love about him:

I love how he dances up a storm in our living room.

I love how he sings, “Hammer, where are yoouuuu?”  when he’s searching for his favorite little accessory to his tool work bench.

I love how he crinkles his little nose and gets so excited when he sees cats on video.

I love how he kisses me everyday on the lips before he leaves to go to school.

I love how he gets a little jealous if he sees mom and dad kiss and then he wants kisses, too.

I love how he wants to wear shoes all the time. This is soooo much like Ben, who pretty much puts on shoes when he wakes in the morning and wears them all day long.

Sometimes I hate this, but deep down I kind of love it. When I’m putting him down for bed, he says, “Momma, lay down.” He wants me to crawl in his crib  next to him. ( I may or may not have done this on a few occasions…)

I love how he constantly requests to go downstairs when we’re upstairs.

I love it when he says “Ben!” when he’s looking for his dad and he’s having a tough time finding his favorite human.

Ben and Braden, laureenloves.com

Braden is very much his father’s son, carefully evaluating his surroundings and resourcefully looking for solutions if he gets hung up on something.  It’s so fun to see his little personality develop.

Now for the things he loves. At this point in his life, Braden definitely has likes and dislikes.

He likes to dip everything in ketchup. He loves marinara sauce, too.

He always gets really excited when he sees monkeys in books, on TV, etc.

He loves massages. After bath time when we’re changing him into PJs, he turns over on his stomach on the changing table and asks for a   ‘sage – the massage without the “ma” on the front end of the word. So, we oblige and rub lotion all over his little body.

He loves construction equipment and constantly points out backhoes when we’re driving around town. He enjoys going to the ” ‘struction site” – where we’re currently building our home.

We recently gave him a soft tape measure, and he loves it. He’s always measuring things around the house. It’s pretty hilarious actually, as he legitimately looks like he is measuring with a purpose to fix something.

I could go on and on, but I’m honestly getting a little teary-eyed writing this. Of all the things that I’ve done in my life, I can undoubtedly say that I’m most proud to be his mom.

Baby boy, I love you more than I can truly express. Thank you for joining our family two years ago. Happy 2nd birthday, Braden!

XO,

Momma

Braden laureenloves.com 6

Braden tree climb laureenloves.com

Laureenloves.com, swinging B

Braden 3 laureenloves.com

laureenloves family photo, Braden turns 2

Photos by Ailee of Snapshots by Ailee Petrovic

 

 

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Family Gifts Holiday

For the Dads

June 11, 2016

We’re nearly a week away from Father’s Day so I’ve been searching online for the best gift Amazon Prime has to offer. I kid (sort of) but most of these gifts are available on Amazon or online retailers that will ship to you in time for you to give to your dad or husband. I am SO thankful for my hubby and appreciate all he does for us. So, in honor of him I’ve rounded up some gifts that are right up his alley.  Many of these he already has (it’s a little insane how many Yeti products are in our home),  but I know a few are on his wish list, too. My husband has a lot of outdoorsy hobbies and likes to make an old-fashioned almost daily. So, I give you the best gifts for  the dad who likes to hunt, shoot guns and keep his drinks cool all while practicing these hobbies.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Family Food

Stuffed Shells

May 11, 2016

I’m a fan of Italian food, but it’s a little heavy to eat more than once or twice a week in my opinion. I tend to cook a little lighter. Sorry, Giada. I do get in the mood for the cheesy goodness that many pasta dishes offer and this recipe for Stuffed Shells never disappoints.  My 21-month-old loves it, and so does my 416-month-old, making this recipe a family-friendly winner. 🙂

I really have been just trying to survive lately, prepping more food on the weekends to avoid making choices I know I’ll regret on weeknights. Or,   I often make super simple non-recipe meals on weeknights  –  i.e. salmon, sweet potato + salad – since I get home after work and I want to spend as much time with the kiddo versus getting stuck in the kitchen. That’s why recipes like this that can carry over for more than one weeknight meal are perfect for me. I usually pair it with a salad or another veggie I already have in my fridge. And, this since they are individual shells, it’s built-in portion control.

before

Before going into the oven

B loves to hang out in the kitchen while I cook.

B loves to hang out in the kitchen while I cook.

I think pasta often gets a bad wrap for the carbs, but when you eat it in moderation and you serve with something green, it can be a healthy meal. My motto is to live a little or you’ll end up binge eating later. I eat pretty healthy 80% of the time, but sometimes I just need something a little more hearty like this!

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Serves 6 to 8 (This is a perfect meal to give to friends, a new mom or for a potluck. You can freeze it, too!)

1 (12 ounce) box jumbo pasta shells

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 pound ground turkey ( I used 93 % lean)

1 ( 8- to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes (I used a whole 12-ounce package I found at Kroger)

1 (15-ounce) whole milk ricotta cheese ( I used part-skim ricotta)

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (I used 1 tbsp dried)

2 jars marinara sauce ( I used approx. 1.5 jars of organic marinara I had in my pantry. I opted for this since I wanted to make it toddler-friendly. The original recipe calls for Arriabiata and although it’s delish, it can be a little spicy.)

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 5 ounces; I just eyeball this and probably use less)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion is soft and starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is lightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir to combine.

Cover the bottom of the a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish (I used 3 different baking dishes so I could give one to a friend) with 1 cup of marinara sauce. Hold a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full; you should have about 36 shells. Drizzle the remaining marinara sauce over the shells and top with the grated mozzarella. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

After

After

Plated

TIPS: I have adapted this recipe to make it easier on me, using some store bought items like jarred marinara, which I always have handy. I’ve made notes in the ingredient list. Do NOT use canned artichokes. I personally don’t like the taste of them, and I once used and it did not taste right. Lots of places sell frozen artichokes such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Kroger. I think I have used hot Italian turkey sausage before. You can  swap out the protein for others like sirloin, ground chicken, etc. and I’m sure it’ll turn out just as well.

IF FREEZING: Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Original recipe by Giada De Laurentis can be found here.

Enjoy!