Cozy Family Room Favorites

This time of year there is nothing better than cozying up with the family to watch a movie. Our playroom doubles as our family room, so we injected some beautiful elements in there to make it the perfect blend of adult and kid. A couch that you sink in, a kid sized table, and lots of color make this room my favorite in the house.

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How I Set Up My Home for a Newborn

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It’s so funny to think back to when my husband and I brought our first son home. We literally had no idea what to do with him.

Do we try to put him in his crib?

Does he just sleep all the time?

Can I walk away from him for two seconds to grab an 8 hour energy?

Literally, no clue.

After having brought two babies home, I have a much better idea of how to efficiently set up your house to welcome a newborn seamlessly into your lifestyle. Follow the steps below while you’re still cooking the bambino, and check ‘prep the house’ off your lengthy soon-to-be momma to do list.

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  1. Think About Your Current Routines

    For example, I usually do the following first thing in the morning.

    Wake up

    Hit the bathroom

    Start a load of laundry

    Prep breakfast

  2. Plan Where You Will Put the Baby for Each of These Steps

    Wake up - I know that the babe will sleep in a bassinet next to our bed for at least the first few months.

    Hit the bathroom - The bathroom is attached to the bedroom. I can easily pop back and forth to check on the little gentleman while he’s resting in the bassinet.

    Start a load of laundry - The hamper is in the bathroom, so I can easily grab that. But the laundry room is clear on the other side of the house. Carrying a laundry basket and a newborn terrifies me, so I will move the baby into the kitchen/living area before taking the laundry to the laundry room. I literally walk right through the living area to get there, so I can have eyes on him nearly the whole time. Then I will haul ass so that he’s only out of my sight less than a minute because he’s so cute and so terrifying.

    Prep breakfast - Done throughout the kitchen and living area. My toddler and I will have to eat, so I should probably set him on the countertop in his Dock a tot (in the center and only while I am in an arm’s shot) or near the table so that I can see him.

  3. Think About What Your Baby Will Be Doing at Those Times

    Of course, this will change as your baby grows and his needs change.

    Wake up - He should be fine to just hang in the bassinet even if he is awake.

    Hit the bathroom - Once I’ve taken care of my business, I know that the little guy will likely need a new diaper and a new outfit at minimum.

    Start a load of laundry - He’ll have a fresh look, so he should be good to hang for the minute that I am gone.

    Prep breakfast - This step will take some time, he will likely have another dirty diaper that will need changing and need some sort of entertainment while all this is going on.

  4. Make a List of What You Will Need in Each Location

    Wake up - I know that I will need a bassinet and sheets.

    Hit the bathroom - I plan on changing his diaper and outfit. I’ll need a surface to change on, baby wipes, diapers, clothes, and whatever else you plan on lathering on that baby butt.

    Start a load of laundry - I need somewhere to put him!

    Prep breakfast - I need something to entertain him!

  5. Outfit Your House

    Wake up - Buy a bassinet and back up sheets - you’re changing those a lot. If you have a fancy bassinet that plays music, rocks, and does your taxes you might need batteries or to place it strategically by an outlet. Many mothers also choose to straight up have a crib in their room. It takes up a lot of room, but it might get the baby used to the crib quicker which could mean an easier transition to sleeping in their room.

    Hit the bathroom - I put a pack and play with a changer attachment in the bedroom. When the baby is very young, you can store extra clothes, bassinet sheets, wipes, diapers, etc. in the actual play pen part of it, and use the changing table part as it’s intended. However, as the baby grows, you can start laying him in there to hang out as well. Once that becomes the case, I highly recommend a cart on wheels to store extra clothes, bassinet sheets, wipes, diapers, etc. You’ll see why in the next steps.

    Start a load of laundry - Assuming that the pack and play and cart are on wheels, you can just roll them out into the next location. That way you don’t have to run to the nursery every time you have to change a diaper. This is extremely helpful if you have older children who you need to keep an eye on all the time.

    If you want to get your child into another position, consider a Dock a Tot or Rock N Play or MammaRoo in the main living areas. Here’s how we used each:

    Dock a Tot - This bad boy went on the coffee table when the rest of the family was in the living room. It was great because our 18 month old could see the baby and ‘play’ with him easily. It would also stay on the kitchen island (again only in the center and where I could reach him at all times), and on the ground in the bathroom when our toddler needed a bath.

    Rock N Play - Always get one that you plug in! You don’t want to be trapped rocking that thing yourself. You’re a mom now - you got a lot of shit to do! Keep extension cords close by in case you want to keep the Rock N Play somewhere that isn’t near a wall. I’ve plopped babies in the middle of the house in their Rock N Plays so that I can move all around and still have them in eyeshot. The best thing about the one that I have is that it is so light. If you have a one story house, it is incredibly easy to move around to suite your schedule.

    Mammaroo - These are less portable. I kept a Mammaroo in the living room. I didn’t have to worry about moving the Rock N Play into the living room that way. If you have stairs, keep the Mammaroo on one level (likely the level where you won’t need to be moving the baby a lot), and move your Rock N Play as needed.

    Prep breakfast - Entertainment varies depending on the age. If your little one is only going to be awake for a bit, have a portable sound machine that can go with the babe if you need to move while he’s resting. If you want his little mind to be stimulated, but he can’t yet grasp and hold toys, get a bar that attaches to the bassinet with hanging toys. The motion of the toys will entertain him. If he’s ready for toys, have small baskets around the house wherever you all will be spending your time so that one is never far away. I round up a few options in this post.

Whew! That is a lot of thinking to do. But my advice is to do that thinking before you’re recovering from childbirth, trying to figure out feedings, and getting to know your new best friend.

A Few Notes

You will develop a schedule for when your baby eats that will be injected into your routine every 3 hours or so. If you plan to nurse, have a nursing pillow nearby. Also, while it can be uncomfortable, try nursing in different locations of the home. That way you will get a change of scenery and not be trapped in one room for what seems like ever. If you plan to bottle feed, that comes with A LOT of dishes. I recommend a bottle station in the kitchen. That includes the following: a bottle warmer, a bottle sterilizer, a drying rack, soap, and a bottle brush (seems silly but so helpful).

Throughout this post I have linked to products that I used and liked. Of course, every baby and family is different. Keep in mind not every baby will like everything you put them in. If you have mom friends, see if they will loan you their Mammaroo for the first few days to see if the baby takes to it. That’s a large purchase to just sit in the corner of your house. My first son wasn’t a big Mammaroo fan, but loved the Rock N Play. My second son was the opposite - go figure.

I am in no way a medical professional giving you advice on taking care of your child. I am just a seasoned mom who has made if through the newborn stage twice with my marriage in tact. I hope my tips help you do the same! And congrats on your new addition!

Fall Decor that the Kids Can't Break

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After the recent destruction of one of my favorite decor pumpkins by an unnamed toddler, I decided never again! For the foreseeable future I am only investing in decor that little hands ( and feet and mouths and trucks) can’t destroy.

 The suspected culprit

The suspected culprit

This came with the added bonus that typically this sort of decor is more affordable. Some of these items I even had around the house and just had to repurpose. After that, I headed to the Target dollar bins (of course) and Joann Fabrics.

I emerged with a few new categories of decor that still make my home feel festive, but I don’t have to hover when my littles get too close.

Pillows and Blankets

Amazon has a shockingly good variety of affordable pillows and covers. Check out this post by Sarah at Little Vintage Nest. Pretty much sums that up.

I had a textured blanket around the house, I just put it on display a bit more and badda bing - decor!

Baskets

Metal, woven, knit - all baskets can look like decor if you fill them with the right stuff. I fill my metal hanging baskets with real mini gourds that I use to teach Brooks about pumpkins. They don’t last forever, but that’s part of the lesson.

Signs

Choose any sign that you want! Just hang it high enough that the kids can’t reach it. Or put it in a location where the kids don’t play (i.e. front door).

Faux pumpkins

They make pumpkins out of everything these days. I’m seen velvet, knit, plastic. It just depends on your aesthetic.

Stuffed critters

Brooks is really into small stuffed animals that he can easily hug. He’s a big hugger. Target particularly has a large selection of well dressed birds and foxes.

Placemats

I lump placemats and fabric in the same category. I like to use one themed runner on credenzas throughout the house. This year, we found 15 ft. of fabric for $4.99 at Joann Fabrics. Just make sure that if it’s going on the table, it’s got to be machine washable!

Faux cutlery

I don’t often get to whip out the fine china with a grabby 10 month old at the table. Target has metallic forks that are really beautiful close up. And less deadly.

Cobwebs

The boys get a kick out of them. They’re as spooky as we are getting for our 2 year old.

Candy Buckets

I hang these on the doorknobs throughout the house. They’re festive and easy decor. Obviously, if the kids pull them down I’m not concerned since they belong to them.

Dreaming of Easy Cleanup - Kitchen Island Backsplash

So much of our day revolves around the kitchen. Bake, meal plan, prep, clean, repeat. I’m grateful to have an oversized island right in the center so that I have an area to work and area where the kids can “help” (read: make a complete mess) and an area that is just a drop zone for miscellaneous things - my husband loves that part.

I also like to pull up the little guy’s high chair right next to the island so that I can sit on a bar stool while I monitor his chewing (Hi, I’m super anxious about choking). Unfortunately, this puts the island in the splash zone. The underside of the island is a total mess. Stains, caked on food, you name it.

I was about to get out the soap and paint when I thought, “You’re just going to have to do this again in a few days woman. What else could you do?".

Tile! Tile the underside of the island! I had seen this done a few times so I took to Pinterest.

The island faces the main living area so it would be a great accent without being too overwhelming. I’m still trying to figure out the correct product and the style I’m going to go with, but in the meantime let’s drool over these inspiration pics together!

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Containing the Chaos - Home Organization Tips

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Kids have so much stuff. You don’t really understand just how much until you have a day when you didn’t get any dishes done or straighten up the toys at all. Then once the kids are in bed, the kitchen sink is piled sky high with dishes and you can’t see your floor through the sea of toys.

In the last few years, I have found several strategies and products that help me through the mess so that I can be more present and less worried about cleaning.

TOYS

I am lucky in that we have have a bonus room upstairs. It is the only thing up there and not visible to the rest of the house, so oftentimes I leave it a disaster zone. But I still try to keep things a little bit sane with furniture that holds all the toys and still looks good.

I think its required of every millennial parent, but if you don’t have the Ikea Kallax (formerly Expedit), do yourself a solid and get that. We’ve got the old version that has 8 spots for baskets, but the version with four spots is still available. It’s sturdy and versatile enough to suit most design styles. One simple search on Pinterest will show you all the hacks to make it even more design savy.

Here are some of my favorite hacks from around Pinterest. Click each image for source and more pics!

If you’re looking for a quicker, smaller scale improvement, I recommend baskets. Of course, we aren’t always upstairs in the playroom. We have toys in nearly every room of the house so that if we need to be in the kitchen, the kids have some toys nearby. The easiest way to make the home look neat is to contain that chaos.

Now, let’s talk Legos. A recent study (done by me) has shown that stepping on Legos is the number one way that children learn curse words. So, how do you keep all those small pieces contained? The Poppin Box Seat from the Container Store is the answer.

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This little box is the most multifunctional piece in our playroom. We use the base as storage for all things Legos. I stopped trying to color coordinate or keep like with like a long time ago - all Legos are just dumped in. The top is the perfect size to fit this piece - a Lego baseplate. When the lid is closed, it is an ottoman to sit on. By far my favorite hack to date. And when they are big enough, I’m sure they will use the lid with the baseplate on their laps to play.

DRAWERS

It is remarkably easy for every drawer to become a junk drawer. The only way for me to keep my drawers feeling fresh is with clear acrylic organizers and liners. I use muted liners and acrylic organizers so that the actual items in the drawer are easily seen. I don’t want the liner to compete with my toothbrush at 6am.

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PANTRY/CLOSETS

It is so easy to create a mess in the pantry or closet and close the door. I have realized that knowing the mess that lies beyond the door stresses me out. The feeling I have when I open an organized closet by far outweighs the time spent to organize.

I start as I do all things, with Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life tips for purging. Closets are where I store things that don’t have a real place, which usually means they don’t have a real purpose. I go through each closet and toss the items that we haven’t used in months and expired things. In doing this, I usually find some baskets and containers that I will use to contain the items that remain. As Emily says, DON’T BUY ANYTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE PURGED THE ENTIRE HOUSE!

Next I categorize things in a way that makes sense for how I use the space. Typically, items that aren’t used as frequently are on the top and bottom shelves along with anything that has height limitations. The middle shelves are reserved for the baskets and containers that I have found or bought.

I place the containers in a way that is visually appealing, and then I fill them. For example, in the pantry one bin has baby snacks, one has toddler snacks, one has canned goods, etc. When I am filling the baskets, I take all items out of the boxes or plastic wrap that they come in. It’s far easier to store items and cuts clutter way down.

I try to find containers with a higher edge so that the items that are stored are not seen from head on. I also highly recommend keeping the color scheme relatively monochromatic and adding a little texture. I use these plastic bins (easy to wipe clean if items spill or leak) along with baskets (this one for my breads). Its crisp.

And that’s how it’s done. You’ve got the dedicate time and maybe a bit of your resources to it, but once you are able to clean the house in minutes by knowing where everything goes and having a container for it, you’ll be glad you did!

Happy organizing!

5 Kid Friendly Coffee Tables

"Oh, that looks nice and its on sale!" That's how my decision making used to work.  Now that I have a toddler and a very mobile 8 month old, choosing a coffee table has become more complicated. 

I refuse to sacrifice style.  I love function AND fashion.  Having a home that is beautiful gives me great pride even when Paw Patrol is blasting on the TV and there are fish sticks pounded into every crevice of the floor.  Below I outline my preferences nowadays when choosing a table that is gorg and will [hopefully] stand the test of time. 

1. NO CORNERS

Jess, you're crazy! How am I going to get a rectangular table with no edges? I give you the CB2 Peekabo Acrylic Coffee Table.  The edges are rounded giving it a seamless waterfall effect.  In addition, the material can just be wiped down with baby wipes, Windex, or whatever organic hypoallergenic blah blah blah you use.  

If it's too basic for you, place two poufs underneath it to add dimension and additional seating. 

 PHOTO BY CB2

PHOTO BY CB2

2. A SOFT PLACE TO LAND

Soon after kids learn how to climb things, they learn the pure joy of jumping off of things.  Right now, Brooks makes a pile of pillows on the floor and jumps onto those.  Obviously, I'm not sitting there with popcorn rooting him on but he does slip past me from time to time. 

A tufted cushion ottoman is just the right fit for the future MMA Fighter. Again, no true edges and a cushy place to bump up against.  

 PHOTO BY WAYFAIR

PHOTO BY WAYFAIR

3. STORAGE

The more stuff that is visible, the more stuff that your kid can throw a tantrum about.  I love hiding things from the boys, and then miraculously finding them.  They're excited and I get to be King of the Castle for a fleeting moment.  

Urban Outfitters Alina Storage Ottoman has a removable lid and adds texture to a room. The bumpy surface from the woven seagrass will add a little bump into a toy car's ride, but that's just another opportunity for your child to use their imagination.  Get out the toy animals and call it a treacherous safari in Africa!

WARNING: The only issue I take with woven/rattan options is the spill factor.  Brooks has spilled smoothies and Vance has spit up on our current rattan table.  There is no way to clean ours because there isn't a removable lid or access to the inside.  If you love this option, just make sure there is a way to clean both sides of a spill. 

 PHOTO BY URBAN OUTFITTERS

PHOTO BY URBAN OUTFITTERS

4. KEEP LEGS INSIDE THE VEHICLE AT ALL TIMES

Currently, running is Brooks's only mode of transportation.  He runs around everything.  If you've been chased around our kitchen island, then you know that Brooks likes you.  

So many beautiful tables have legs that align with the tabletop.  I prefer a tabletop that juts out a bit to cover the legs.  It seems to be harder for little toes to get stubbed when this is the case.  

 PHOTO BY TARGET

PHOTO BY TARGET

5. AVOID SHELVES + DRAWERS

This seems counter-intuitive since storage is of the utmost importance with children.  I have seen my kids bang their heads on the underside of tables enough to know that if there is a shelf in eyeshot, it will be climbed.  Similarly, unless you want to baby proof the drawers on your new table [if you have a stylish baby proof system, let me know!], I'd stay away from drawers too.  The little ones hold on when they're learning to pull up and the drawers roll out and there are tears.  Every. Time.  

Go for simple table + legs with this table from West Elm.  

 PHOTO BY WEST ELM

PHOTO BY WEST ELM

A Harry Potter Themed Nursery

Accio dream nursery! 

With both my pregnancies, I felt significant movement (and with Brooks, his first kick) while watching the Harry Potter movies.  I decided to call that a sign and design Vance's entire nursery with a Harry Potter/dreamland vibe in mind. 

I knew I wouldn't be able to use many of the items that we already had since Brooks was still a baby himself using his crib, changing table, etc.  So lucky me got to start from scratch! 

The real inspiration piece was this dresser from Birch Lane.  The gold/brass accent and dreamy navy were the perfect touch of magical without being over the top.  And the price tag was reasonable considering that I knew this would be my statement piece.  

Our first nursery had a Babyletto crib that we loved, so I knew that I would start the crib search there.  I also knew that I didn't want the exact same crib that we had, opting for something more masculine.  Babyletto's Hudson in Espresso (no longer available in this color) checked all the boxes. I also love that this crib will grow into a toddler bed.  

With the crib and dresser done, I moved on to the rocker.  I anticipated that I would be spending ample time in this chair since I planned to nurse as much as I could.  I wanted something firm but cushy in a neutral color.  I wasn't about to make a $300+ decision online for this one, so I hightailed it to Buy Buy Baby and was pleasantly surprised to find this rocker.  It glides so smoothly and swivels.  I've been able to wipe spit up off of it easily and without a big stain.  Two thumbs up! 

With all the big ticket items done, I started the Etsy and Ikea portion of the program.  I found both the wood sign, Dumbledore prints, and mobile from sellers all over the world, which is actually really cool.  The diaper cart (Raskog) is an IKEA staple that I think should be required for all new parents.  We wheeled that all over the house when the boys were newborns.  And now Brooks's old diaper cart is a side table in our guest room. Ba-da bing!

When I am in a bind for time to design, I use Powerpoint to quickly put pieces together.  Once I felt like there was a cohesion between the elements, I used Babylist as my registry so that I could easily link all the Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Etsy, and Ikea items in one place.  

Mischief Managed.