Amazing Avocado Chicken Salad

Hey, reader! It’s Tera here this week on the blog. I was inspired recently by one of my favorite go-to recipe sites (Six Sister’s Stuff) when they shared their avocado chicken salad. Being a devoted lover of all things avocado, I of course had to try this recipe for myself…immediately. I’m all about delicious and healthy food that is simple to make, that my family loves to eat, and that I can feel good before and after eating it. Oh, and everything avocado. I’m all about that, too. I tried out the recipe, and with some of my own tweaks to it, I wanted to share my rendition of the avocado chicken salad because it’s so delicious and seriously takes about 5 minutes to whip up!

If you keep up with our page, you may have seen the news that I am expecting our second baby in September! For a little lifestyle update, baby and I are doing well, and I am already nearly halfway through my pregnancy! Aside from some mild discomfort, I have my energy back since my first trimester, and I’m feelin’ good! We recently found out that we are having another GIRL, and we are so excited! Little Norah is especially excited for baby sister to get here, and she’s been telling us from the beginning that it was indeed a sister.

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We’re pretty eager to meet her! Much like my first pregnancy, my appetite has increased a bunch these last couple of weeks, and I’ve been trying to keep healthy snacks around the house, along with some meals that are healthy and easy to prepare. Fortunately for me, my daughter (and husband) both love avocado, so anytime I make a batch of this stuff up, it’s gone in no time. What’s that you say? A healthy meal that my finicky toddler LOVES to eat? Obviously, you can count me in every time!

Let’s eat, shall we?

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I made this avocado chicken salad today for lunch–and seriously, I can’t get over how easy this is to prepare. The avocado is used in lieu of mayonnaise, so it makes for a super healthy and guilt free meal! (I apologize in advance for my poor photo quality; I used my iPhone to take these pictures)! Here’s what I did to tweak this original recipe to make it my own, and I think it turned out yummy!

Here’s what you need: *This makes about 4 servings

-2 cups of (cooked) shredded chicken (I usually use rotisserie because I love the flavor)*

-1 avocado, rinsed, pitted and scoop out the pulp

-3/4 cup diced up apple

-1/2 cup chopped walnuts

-1-1 1/2 tablespoon(s) of lime juice

-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

-salt and pepper, to taste

ps. Here’s a crazy fact about me: I do not like cilantro. I know. Crazy. The original recipe (linked above) has cilantro, and if you love it, it would be a great addition!

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Feta makes it betta! (And, croissants of course).

In a medium sized bowl, add the chicken, apples, walnuts and avocado, and using a fork, mash the ingredients all together until the avocado totally coats them. Then, add the garlic powder, salt and pepper, and lime juice and blend all of these into the salad. It tastes the best when you can refrigerate it for a while after making it, but if you’re ready to eat it right away, like for me today, it tastes yummy at room temperature too!

Would you believe me if I told you that was it?! Because, it is! So fresh, and delicious! My family loves eating this salad on a croissant bun, but you could also add a scoop of it to your favorite spring salad and get some extra fruits and greens in your meal! It tastes great either way. The salad should keep for a day or two in the fridge if you seal it air tight, and the added lime juice is meant for both flavor, and also to help the avocado keep its color for a while longer.

Voila! I will be making this chicken salad all spring/summer long. And in case you are doubting the toddler approval of this meal, here is proof that my 2 year old picky pants loves to eat it as much as I do!

What are some of your favorite avocado recipes? I am always looking for fun ways to incorporate even more avocado into my life, because you know, avocado. Happy weekend wishes to our readers! Follow our social media pages to get updates and stay in the loop with our blog happenings!

Peace, love, and avocado,

-Tera, xo

 

Chasing Our Purpose

 

 

For me, and I feel for many of you who might be reading this, knowing our purpose and feeling like we are fulfilling that purpose can be something of a struggle. There are many days when I am sitting at home with my daughter, that I let my mind wander to all of the things I think God may have for my future: my purpose. My dream of running a children’s bookstore (I blame Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks for this), my passion for women’s ministry, my love for writing…I wonder if someday, one of these dreams will be where my purpose is fulfilled. I wonder if the plan God had made for me even before I was born will come to be in another 10 years from now, 15 years, 5?

I believe that while these may all be great things, there is a danger in waiting around for our moment. It is a skewed perspective and mind set to think that the purpose God has called us to is something that we work toward, and then one day we’ve arrived. I’m not saying that God doesn’t want or allow our dreams to come to fruition, or that if we work hard at something, we won’t be blessed with the fruits of our harvest! What I feel the danger is, is going about our day to day feeling as if there is no real purpose if it isn’t our ultimate purpose, and consequently, often times finding a lack of joy in our lives–especially when we are in a season that is less than joyful.

It’s easy to get in this rut! I’ve been there, many times, and I have to remind myself that there is such a meaningful purpose in every season I go through. As a stay at home mom, the schedule can feel a bit mundane at times, the days can feel doubly long at times, and it can be totally exhausting. Though Norah brings my heart so much joy and I truly love being able to stay home with her, these are the times when it is easy to feel like I am not doing enough; that maybe God has another hat for me to add to my collection (as if I’d really have the time). I lose sight of the great importance my purpose today holds with being a mother, even and especially in the mundane.

Sometimes, if we haven’t landed our dream job, or we’re working our way through college and are unsure about our major, or we haven’t met the one, or we’re a stay at home parent, we can get caught up in this rut. We compare our lives to a standard in our own heads, and when it doesn’t measure up, we start to wonder what our purpose really is. “What am I really supposed to be doing? When will I feel unstuck?”

Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.” Psalm 139:16 (NET)

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When my flesh is tempted to feel this way, this verse reminds me that not one of my days here on earth is unknown to the Lord. That God created every hour of my life with a purpose. I may never have a distinct moment of arrival for my purpose, because my purpose is stitched into each new day, and in every season of life I am in. Sometimes His purpose for me may be a waiting period, so He can stretch my faith and grow me before He unveils a plan with greater responsibility. Sometimes it’s to teach me, sometimes it is to let my heart heal, sometimes it’s to take me out of my comfort zone, sometimes it’s a time of preparation of my mind and spirit- (the list could go on).

I truly believe that God’s purpose for us today (yes, even in that place we feel is a rut) is just as important and imperative as His purpose for us tomorrow and the next day. There is purpose and reason for every circumstance! Whether we are waiting for a new job opportunity, or whether we are discovering our passions and chucking our way through school (one all-nighter at a time), or whether we’re at home with our little ones, where the days can seem so long at times–there is purpose. Shifting our focus from “chasing our purpose” to making God our purpose and our center, wherever we are at, allows us to see how He’s using each season to teach us and prepare us for the next season. Waiting for our “arrival” to our life’s purpose is a never-ending road; you’ve arrived already! Live out each day knowing that God has distinct purpose and importance within it!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31 (ESV)

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Peace and Love!

-Tera, xo

 

Easy Lower Body Workout Routine for Pregnancy

If you missed my last post, I shared exciting news that I am expecting our second baby in September! We were so thrilled and a little surprised when we discovered the news back in January when I thought I had come down with a stomach bug and ended up with a positive stick!

Though my husband and I had been talking about getting pregnant in the near future, one of my goals for myself beforehand was to get my body back in shape! Having had a busy summer and fall with moving and then settling in, and then moving again, and settling in, my workout routine had fallen by the wayside. We got pregnant sooner than expected (funny how that happens), and though I didn’t hit my main goal of running another half marathon before pregnancy, I was able to start back up a good routine to get my body feeling good and enjoying the sweat and burn! Fitness is something that I am passionate about and something I plan to incorporate into my pregnancy now, but preparing your body before getting pregnant will help you maintain a good routine after becoming pregnant!

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While I enjoy fitness, this pregnancy has really kicked my booty harder than my workouts have been lately! I feel like I may be turning a corner, but the exhaustion and the nausea have been real. It could be partly that it comes with the territory of having a toddler in full toddler-mode, and also growing a human being inside of me, but my lack of energy as of late speaks for the lack of motivation to hit the gym regularly! Sometimes Mama just wants to stay home and eat a s’mores pop tart. I’ll admit, one pop tart was consumed during the making of this post.

All this leads to my main point. Though I haven’t had as much energy these last few weeks to hit the gym more than a couple times a week, I can be motivated with a short, easy workout in my own home! I mean, come on. Bra, no bra? Real workout pants, pajama pants? No one knows! You’re able to burn some calories and feel great afterward regardless of what you’re wearing or how dirty your hair may be, and for me, that’s for many days the more realistic alternative!

I decided to pull some of my favorite exercises for my butt and legs (and core!) and create a short, 10 minute workout that is safe (in most cases) for all trimesters during pregnancy, and also, I believe, a great workout for moms to get back in the groove post-pregnancy! Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but trust me…I’ve done this routine myself, and you definitely feel a good burn! The other great thing about this simple workout is that you don’t need much more space than the size of your own home! Scoot a couch back a few inches, crank some music, and you’re good to go!  If you’re feeling ambitious, repeat the steps one or two more times and make a 10 minute workout a good 30 minute one! Ready?!

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Cardio

Start your workout with some cardio to get your heart pumping and start burning those calories! You’ll continue burning calories throughout the workout once you stimulate your body and get it pumping!

  1. Butt Kicks- 45 seconds   This is a really simple step and if you haven’t done them before, it’s basically like jogging in place, only make sure to bring your foot all the way up to your butt. Go at a steady pace, but always listen to your body!
  2. Knee Highs- 45 seconds   This is another simple exercise to get your blood pumping. Holding your hands out, lift one knee and bring it up to your parallel hand, then switch and bring your other knee up to its parallel hand. Again, keep a steady pace with this to get your heartrate going!
  3. Lateral Shuffle-45 seconds   With this exercise, bend your knees and keep your core balanced and upright. Shuffle a few steps to your right, then shuffle a few steps to the left, and repeat for the 45 seconds. The more swiftly you do this move, the more you will feel it!
*Stay in tune with your body and never push yourself farther than what you are comfortable with!*
–water break–

Standing Exercises

These exercises will focus on your butt and thighs and most can be done *optional with weights! It’s a great way to add an extra challenge and also throw some arm muscle toning in too.
  1. Standing Lunges- 1 minute (weights optional)   For this exercise, you should be very careful to keep good form to avoid injury. The bigger the belly, the more you need to make sure your body is in good balance! Keeping your spine straight throughout the duration, step back with your right foot about 2-3 feet. You can keep your hands down to your sides, or hold some 2 or 5lb. weights like I did above. Lift your back foot so that your toe makes contact with the floor and your heel is off the floor. Then, bend both knees (the goal is for both knees to hit a 90 degree angle). Make sure your right knee doesn’t bend over the right toe line. Hold for about 5 seconds, and then repeat the steps with the other side.
  2. Squats- 1 minute (weights optional)   I LOVE doing squats! It’s an exercise you’ll feel today and tomorrow. The best way I can describe doing a squat is to first set your feet about shoulder width apart. You can hold your belly to help you balance, or hold onto some weights like I’ve shown above. Keeping your core centered, spine straight, and butt back as you go down, squat down and act as if you are going to sit in a chair, and slowly come back up. Keep your butt tight as you do these for best results. If you choose to use the weights, a great way to incorporate them as you squat is to do a punching movement each time you are squatted down (squat, right punch, left punch, back up). You can sort of see the movements I used in the above picture!
  3. Plie Squats- 1 minute/ Pulse- 30 seconds   This is an alternate style of squat that is very effective and again, gives you a burn right away that lingers a day or two! Set your feet about a shoulder’s width apart, this time with your feet pointed out (think of a ballerina). Hold on to your belly if it helps you stay balanced, and keeping your thighs and butt tight and core centered, squat down and slowly come back up. After your minute is up, go into your squatted position and slightly bounce up and down in a “pulsing” motion. Don’t come all the way back up when doing this; the goal is to stay squatted and lightly bounce, keeping thighs and butt tight. Feel the burn!
  4. Wall Sit- 45 seconds   For this, find a flat wall (easy enough to do!) and stand with your back against the wall and your feet about shoulder’s width apart. then, keeping your back straight, go into a sitting position (really just like you are sitting in a chair). Make sure your knees do not go over your toes. You can hold the baby belly, or keep your hands in your lap as you “sit.”

–water break–

Sitting Exercises

For these, it’s helpful to have a mat for some cushion, though not necessary! They will also focus on core strength, which is so beneficial during and after pregnancy when our muscles are totally shot!

  1. Arm and Leg Raises- 1 1/2 minutes   Start on all fours, and slowly lift one leg, and the opposite arm (like in one of the pics above). Make sure to keep your butt tight as you lift your leg back. Then, slowly come back down and repeat the opposite arm and leg. Keep your butt tight while you do these, but this will also help your core and arms! As you get further into your pregnancy, it may not be safe to raise your arm while doing this exercise. If it is uncomfortable for you, keep both arms down and use the same lift and tuck movements with your legs like normal. You’ll still get the burn in your glutes and core strengthening without the risk of losing your balance.
  2. Side Leg Lifts- 1 minute + 20 second circular movements per leg   Lay on your side and stabilize yourself with your arm (like shown in above pic). If your belly is bigger, make sure your whole side is flat on your mat. Slowly raise one leg up as high as you can, and bring it back down. After about 30 or so seconds on one side, add in 10 seconds of small forward circular movements, and 10 seconds of small backward circular movements. To do this, raise your leg just about 6 inches, and with your foot, make forward (or backward) circular movements. Repeat with your other leg.

–water break–

*Try repeating the whole work out for double or triple the muscle and calorie burn if you’re body is feeling good!

I was so excited to formulate this routine and share with you all, as a way to encourage you to keep you feeling and looking great during your pregnancy, and also to hold me accountable to keep at it throughout my own pregnancy! Obviously, our goal during pregnancy should never be “weight loss,” or doing some major body sculpting; rather, it’s to maintain a healthy weight, keep those muscles toned, and feel amazing during these 9 months. It’s so beneficial for mom and baby to exercise and keep moving! Whether you’re in tip-top shape, or a very early beginner, you can do these simple workouts at your own pace and time! Only have energy for half the time? Cut it down in half and start there! Any effort is a great start, and your body will thank you for it!

*I do want to state that it is always safe and a good idea to check with your doctor before any type of exercise during pregnancy. In most cases, you’ll get the okay, but for some with complications there may be restrictions and limits to what you should and shouldn’t do!*

I hope I gave you a great lower body workout that will keep your butt and thighs feeling tight and looking hot during and after your pregnancy! What are some of your favorite workouts that are safe for pregnancy?! I would love to hear what you all do to stay moving! If you don’t follow Oak and Earth on Instagram yet, we have created a new page (@OakandEarth) that you can follow! I also have my personal Instagram @terapianalto that you can follow and stay up to date on blog happenings. Plus, now you can find us on our Facebook page (Oak and Earth)!

Can’t wait to see how you all enjoy the workout! Here are the steps, without the how-to’s:

butt kicks (45 seconds)

knee highs (45 seconds)

lateral shuffle (45 seconds)

standing lunges (1 minute)

squats (1 minute)

plie squats (1 minute)/pulse (30 seconds)

wall sits (45 seconds)

arm and leg raises (1 1/2 minutes)

side leg lifts (1 minute per side with 20 second circular movements per side)

*Repeat if you want a good sweat!!

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Peace-

Tera, xo

A Celebration-Norah is TWO

I just had to share a little life update this week, as we have had a lot going on this past weekend! Norah turned TWO  years old Saturday (HOW can this be?!). We gathered around our sweet girl and she was celebrated–and she could feel the love. She felt so special! I was visiting with a close friend yesterday about how our girls (only one month apart) both had a very good grasp of their birthdays this year. They both realized we were celebrating them, and they just loved having everyone they love surround them on their special day. This could not be more true for Norah! She soaked up the whole afternoon of family and friends!! We are so blessed to have so many who love our family and share our celebrations with us.

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If you have been reading along with us for a while, you may recall my last birthday post, here-. I shared a few things I learned over the course of Norah’s first year of life; the ups and downs for me as a mom, and how each stage brings a new season of parenthood. I have to say though, that this second year has probably been my favorite stage so far! I treasure every baby stage and share some sweet memories of Norah’s baby innocence, but man this past year has been a blast! Just like that, she turned into a little girl right before our eyes. It is bittersweet, but it has been a blessing for my husband and I to watch what a sweet, sassy, hilarious, beautiful, little girl Norah has blossomed into.

Though she has become quite the independent little girl–we hear “Norah ‘dood’ it” an awful lot–there is still such a precious innocence about her. Still marveling over the things that we adults would rarely think twice over, causing Jeremy and I to pause and acknowledge these little things every now and again that in her world are new and amazing (like the sound of a “choo choo,” or a little anthill in the yard). She keeps our imaginations running, and I hope that never ends! There is so much about her life that we treasure. We could not be more grateful to God for another year of life with our girl!

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One of the things Norah loves right now is ice cream (i-keem), so naturally, we decided to have an ice cream sundae themed party for her! We supplied the ice cream and a plethora of toppings, and let everyone create their own sundaes; it was a huge hit! She loved helping me prep for the party and only tried to smuggle the M&M’s under the table a few times (ok, ok…if Norah’s honest, it’s really the only thing she was concerned about regarding the party prep). Note to self: next year, hide all party food until the day of party to avoid stolen bags of candy around every corner turned.

She truly loved having all of our friends and family come over and celebrate together, and the ice cream sundaes weren’t a bad way to do that! Though it will likely never happen again, the weather on Norah’s (winter) birthday reached about 73 degrees! We lived it to the fullest with a bounce house, courtesy of a family member, and trampoline for the kiddos, and they hardly stepped foot inside from start to finish! We kept it simple with the food and decorations for her birthday, and made the focus more on who we spent the day with. We loved how it turned out, and Norah adored every minute of her special day.

 

Year two had some exciting and some challenging stages surface. The beginnings of potty training, the development of a very stubborn independence that begins to battle with you over things from which socks to wear, to bedtime, to what foods she’ll eat (today). Learning colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and songs. Building strong bonds with loved ones that are treasured. A quizzical nature that tends to get into mischief, daily. On the go bright and early, and no stopping until we crawl into bed that night. So many days can feel so draining and even mundane at times, though it will always be worth every long day. I am so grateful for a God that allows new mercies in the morning to start each day with renewed energy and grace (He knows I need it)!

A letter to Norah Grace:

Sweet Norah,

How fast your second year flew by, but oh how I treasured every bit of it. Our selfie queen, ice cream lover, little ham. You give us sunshine every day, and I could not be more proud and humbled to be called ‘mom’ by you! I love your gentle, caring spirit, your one of a kind facial expressions, your love of donuts, and your obsession with all things pink and all things princess. My heart swells with joy when you talk to us about how you love Jesus, and how excited you are to go to church every week. I love listening to your sweet singing voice as you perch on a cinder block outside and belt “Let it Go.” I love that you call me ‘mom’ on occasion to get my attention (“Mom. Hey mom. Here you go, mom. Mom, look”). I love that you love to read and be read to! I may be tired more days than not, but I still love that you still need your mama for an occasional extra cuddle, to kiss your booboos, to feed you, and tuck you in at night. I love how you are learning new things every day, and I love the way you pronounce some of your words (to-mah-loo “tomorrow,” oo-ah gace “Norah Grace,” and so on). I love that you ask me to play pretend in your kitchen, and with your million and one baby dolls. I love that you already possess a nurturing spirit, and I pray I can be an example to learn after. And I love that your favorite thing to do is play chase and be tickled! God created a most beautiful “you,” and I pray that you will grow up living and knowing the fullness of Christ’s goodness and love, and that you would chase after His will for you. I am so incredibly thankful for another year God has blessed us with “you”, and I pray He blesses us for many, many more years to come. I love you most forever.

-Your Mama 

 

Someday, there will be a last time Norah plays with her baby dolls. She’ll wake up one morning and “Oo-ah” will be “Norah.” She’ll outgrow her need for cuddles, and one day she won’t need me to prepare her food or tuck her in at night. And someday, she’ll use her cinder block in the yard as her performing stage one last time. As I type these thoughts out, my heart already weeps preparing for this day. No, it won’t all happen at once, and for that I am thankful. It will be gradual, over the course of time, but in my heart I know it is all too fast approaching. Seeing how fast the first two years have flown by, I am saddened at the thought of waking up one morning and being a mom to a teenager, just like that. I pray that in the long days where I am so exhausted and just want a shower or to eat my meal that was overlooked in the busyness of my day, the Lord will slow me down and let me cherish all of these little things about Norah that won’t last forever. That He’ll prompt me to cuddle her a little bit longer before bed time (even though she may be stalling), and to not be frustrated after preparing four different foods before finding one she will eat. This is such a precious time of our life. So challenging, but even more so rewarding. Lord, help me to slow down and live in each day, to soak it all in. Amen.

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Here was our big surprise for everyone at the party!! We feel blessed to be adding a little one in September. Norah is so excited to be a BIG sister!

 

Keep up with Oak and Earth on my Instagram handle (@terapianalto)! We love your feedback and love hearing your stories and getting to build a network with you all. We are so thankful for our readers!!

Love and Peace,

-Tera, xo

Make Christmas Memorable for Your Family While Keeping it Simple

Merry Christmas season, readers! It’s Tera here on Oak and Earth today. This time of year is by far my favorite, for so many reasons! It is a time for family, a time of giving, a whole season of yummy foods, a time for Christmas lights and hot chocolate, and most of all a time to celebrate and remember the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord and Savior! I have the most special memories of the holidays from my childhood years, and the excitement and fun my family had during the Christmas season has most certainly carried on in me into adulthood!

 I was reflecting recently on Christmas time and my own little family, and I tried to think of ways to make this a memorable time of year for Norah (and us), while keeping our main focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting wrapped up in the common mindset of, “more is more.” I want to instill meaningful and treasured memories into Norah’s core for Christmas time that teach her what principles are important to have and to pass down, and that will tug her heart strings (in a good way) for years to come. Simple moments that create a lifelong impact. So, I have created a list of some simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, give quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. I’m sharing my list below, and I hope you can be inspired for your family by some of these ideas! ‘Tis the season!

1.   Christmas Lights Outing  

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Downtown Siloam Springs, AR

This is an easy way for you and yours to have some fun during the Christmas season! My family would do this every year after our Christmas Eve service, but this is something you could do any time during December! Many of your local neighborhoods will have some fun light displays, or your downtown square (for us NWA folk, the Fayetteville square, for example). Some houses even connect their light displays with one of your local radio stations, and it’s really fun to see the lights flickering to the rhythm of the music! Your kids would love it if you all dressed in your comfy, festive Christmas pj’s, whipped up some hot chocolate, and hopped in your car together for a ride around town to see the pretty lights! It’s a nearly free activity (minus a little gas), and the kids will love starting this tradition with you!

 2.  Trim the Tree as a Family 

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My Christmas mantle in my pretty new house!!

Another fun memory I have from my childhood is helping my mom and siblings decorate our Christmas tree together each year! We would all get a new hallmark ornament every year to add to the collection. My own Christmas tree now is full of all of these ornaments (plus Jeremy’s and now Norah’s). There is something super special about those homemade ornaments and little hallmark collectibles that make a Christmas tree so sentimental and nostalgic! Pick a day where the whole family can be a part of this; and if you want to make a whole afternoon of it, visit a local tree nursery and choose a real tree to take home and decorate! The prices are usually very reasonable and it’s a fun and neat experience for the family. Set your tree up, stick some cookies in the oven, and choose a favorite Christmas movie to watch while you all have fun decorating (our tradition is The Polar Express). Let your little ones have a role in making the tree pretty! You can “touch up” some bare spots after they go to bed and disperse the ornaments that are stringing around the bottom half of your tree up and throughout (they’ll never know the difference), but, in the meantime, let them feel special and like they have an important part of this Christmas tradition! They’ll grow to love it, and their decorating skills should improve over the years ;). For the teeny tots who are still trying to grasp what a Christmas tree is, and from whom you’d like to spare some of your favorite glass ornaments from the game, “throw it on the floor,” try purchasing a mini tree and some plastic ornaments and set it up next to the big tree. We did this for Norah and let her decorate her special tree while we did the big tree and she loved it, (and we purchased her tree for $8)! Until they can better understand the concept of the ornaments and the tree, this is another way to get the littlest tots involved, and they’ll have their own special tree to decorate!

3.  Do an Advent Series Together 

Make some time during the month of December  for everyone to reflect on the ‘reason for the season’ by doing an advent series together. There is nothing more important that you can instill into your children’s hearts (or your own for that matter) than the love of Christ. Make sure in the hustle and bustle that your family stays grounded and that you make some quality time for this! I realize we are already part way through December, but this is something so important that I am adding it anyway to encourage you to do! You can play a little catch up, or just pick up where you are! It will help your whole family remember what matters most during Christmas, and you will instill this most important thing into your kids’ lives–and this is something you can’t put a price tag on! I am linking a great advent series for the whole family to partake in HERE. If you want to save money for budget purposes, there are some great online resources to pull verses and stories from to read each night as a family. Try doing this at a time where everyone is always together, like at the dinner table either before or after a meal (while everyone is still gathered). Making a routine like this is a good way to keep from having to try and squeeze it in at the end of the night while kids are dispersing to bed, or forgetting to do it altogether! After a long day at work or school, this is a great way to end each evening this month and will be so impactive on your kids’ hearts!

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My sweet little family at our church; New Life Church, Fayetteville

Free online resources:

4.  Christmas Cookie Decorating 

You can’t go wrong with a fun day of baking and decorating (and eating)! Tune in on your favorite Christmas pandora station, and you have a festive party right in your own kitchen! Google or Pinterest some easy sugar cookie recipes, pull the sprinkles from your pantry, and check Target’s Christmas aisles for some adorable (and cheap) Christmas cookie cutters! This is something you can do whether you have two or twelve people, and have fun doing it without breaking the bank! Take it to the next level on your baking day by trying a salt dough recipe and making some homemade ornaments that the kids can decorate and hang on the tree! This is a low stress, low cost way to get festive and celebrate the holidays, and will be a fun tradition the whole bunch can look forward to each year.

Fun cookie cutter set HERE ; Delicious sugar cookie recipe found HERE ; adorable and easy salt dough ornament recipe HERE !

5.  Christmas Caroling            

This is an outing to get your extended family and friends involved in! Take a big group around the neighborhood and sing some popular and well-known Christmas songs together! My family has not ever done this, but I think it sounds like a super fun way to spend an afternoon, and would love incorporating this into our yearly festivities! The more the merrier for this activity, so a little planning may be required to get the group together, but it would be well worth the effort, and would create fun memories for the whole family! End the night with some hot chocolate and a nice fire (because you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate)! This is a free way to lift people’s spirits and put a smile on their faces. If you want to go the extra mile this season, look into caroling at your local nursing home and share some love and Christmas cheer with our beloved elders…no one would love and appreciate it more! This is a totally free and fun way to get the whole family involved in some fun times together, and share some great memories!

6.   Gingerbread House Contest

  Nothing like some friendly competition to make for a fun night! You can purchase gingerbread house kits for fairly cheap at the store; why not buy two and make a friendly contest of boys vs. girls and have some fun?! You can have as small or as big of teams as you want, and that makes this activity super universal and accommodating to any family size! Spend the evening dressing your gingerbread houses up, and have some friends be the judge (without them knowing whose is whose). Let the winners choose the next Christmas movie for movie night, or spice it up with a bigger incentive for the winners! This is a tradition that your kids will want to repeat next year, and they’ll cherish their memories!

7.  Downtown Parade (or your town’s Christmas festivities)             

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Aren’t my besties totally adorable holding children?? 😉 We were able to enjoy the downtown parade together this year!

Going to our annual downtown Christmas parade is a tradition my family has held for years. It’s always a fun night of warm bundles, a hot drink in hand, and lots of pretty Christmas floats! Check your calendars for your town’s holiday festivities and make it a family affair! Bundle up, grab some extra blankets and a warm beverage (you know what would be great for this? Hot chocolate), and share some laughs together. If you missed this year’s, make it a goal to try it next year and start a new tradition together!

8.  “Christmas” Game Night

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“Louie” themed socks and hot cocoa are my secret to winning 😉

Here’s another fun idea for the entire family and even some of your friends to join in on! For the last few years, my husband’s side has done a fun game night together for our Christmas tradition, and it has been a huge hit! You can find some Christmas themed minute -to -win it games for your inspiration on Pinterest, or even google, and most of them look super fun! Get the group together, share some yummy snacks (and maybe some hot chocolate), split into teams, and let the laughs begin! What’s nice about these games, is that any supplies you may need can most always be found at the dollar store, so you can stretch your dollar and enjoy lots of games. Make your prizes as big or small as you want, or nix them all together and play just for the fun of it. There will be guaranteed a ton of laughs, and with or without the prizes, everyone will look forward to next year’s annual game night! Here are a few links to some very fun minute to win it ideas you can try:  Here , here , and here !

9.  Christmas Angels

Teach your kids the importance of giving during this holiday season. Magnify this and make it a higher priority than being on the receiving end. If we are honest, most of our kiddos who live in a warm and safe home do not really need much for Christmas! I’m not saying our kids don’t deserve gifts, or that we shouldn’t let them receive any. It’s so fun to watch Norah open her gifts and seeing her face light up! But, the more important thing we can give them is to teach them selfless love and share what we have with those who go without. Go to your nearest Christmas Angel tree and choose a couple angels to give a nice Christmas. Let your kids have a big part in choosing the Angels and the gifts. It’s important to show our kids that there are some big needs in our communities, and that they can have a part in making Christmas special for someone who otherwise wouldn’t have the same experience. Partake as a family in spreading love this season, and make it a tradition to give to others in a very tangible way every Christmas! If you don’t have Christmas Angel trees in your area, research some places that you can donate items and help make Christmas special for someone else!

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Here is our littlest angel, to give you all the feels!! *sigh*

10.  Wise Men Gifts

One principle we really want to keep incorporated into our Christmas as a family is simplicity. The excessiveness that is so common during this time of year we believe takes away from the specialness and “sacredness” that simplicity holds. Keep your gift giving simple with your kiddos this year by trying the Wise Men Gift method. This is a concept I first heard from Oak and Earth’s Bethany, whose family started doing this several years ago. Whether your budget is $3,000 or $300, this is a concept that you can easily incorporate into your family’s traditions. It’s very simple: each kid (and/or spouse) would receive just three gifts, and their stockings. You can arrange them however you choose; two smaller gifts and one big gift, three small gifts, one “Santa” gift, and two from you–there’s no method to it other than keeping the number simple with 3. We loved the idea and decided to start this tradition with Norah! It’s an awesome way to keep the sweetness of Christmas time by not drowning our kids (and our finances) in “more.” Our little ones will expect only what they are used to when it comes to gifts, so why not start this tradition now and keep your gift giving sweet and simple. 

If you want more ideas for gift giving methods, here are a few others you can try:

  • Do the “4 gifts” (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)
  • For older kids (this is what we do for my husband’s side), draw names and each person gets one person a gift or two.
  • Sock exchange (buy your kids some christmas socks and fill them up with goodies, much like a stocking), or just their stockings!
  • Encourage your kids to read and grow their imaginations by giving books for gifts!
  • If you are opting for “no gifts” this year, try donating to a charity in honor of each of your children. It’s a great way to give back and will be a special way to honor your kids.

I absolutely love getting to start new traditions with Norah, and I’m excited to start with some of these ideas together as a family! Keeping our holidays sweet and simple by focusing more on the memories and fun, and less on the “things” will hopefully create a special place in Norah’s heart for this time of year, much like it did for me! I hope I have given you some ideas that you can start incorporating into your family festivities each year too! No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to do some fun things as a family that will make it memorable for everyone!  If you want some fun and creative date ideas to do with your special someone, make sure to check back in a couple days for Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post coming soon! Also be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth this month, as we have several holiday inspired posts that we can’t wait to show you!! Follow me on Instagram @terapianalto if you don’t already, so you can stay informed on all of our blog happenings, and make sure to hashtag any Oak and Earth experiences you have with #OakandEarthBlog. We love your feedback and would love to know what you would like to see us write about on here! We’ll do our best to try out your ideas! Wishing you the sweetest and merriest Christmas yet!


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Happy Month of December, and Holiday’s best,

Tera (with Jeremy and Norah, and Louie)   -xo

Homemade Baby Food Pouches

Hello, reader! It’s Tera again. This week, I thought I would share with you my experience with dabbling into the world of homemade baby food (in squeeze pouch form). The idea for this post was sparked by my sister in law, and fellow baby mama of a tot, as we visited about how we want to learn some good ways to incorporate healthy foods into our children’s diets, without having to pay Gerber (and other brands) the big bucks. Initially, $1.72 doesn’t sound too bad, but when I total up the cost of weekly pouches devoured, it nears the $30 mark…that’s a week’s worth! If I totaled that number for a whole month, it puts a dent into the grocery bill. But of course, toddlers tend to be a bit finicky, and this is no exception at our household. So getting them to try carrots, broccoli, spinach etcetera, is not an easy task. Having these pouches is so convenient for this very reason, and for many of you moms out there, it’s justifiable to spend the money to get your tots to eat veggies and love them (without them even realizing it)!

For me and anyone else out there who is on a budget, or who likes to find easy ways to save back some money each month, recreating these pouches at home was worth the try. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating and seemed like it would take forever and be more difficult than what it’s worth. And honestly, it was a bit of trial and error with a few of them. But, I am here to tell you what I did right (and wrong), and to tell you that it is actually quite easy!

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So first in my process, I needed pouches to store the food in. I went with this brand from WalMart:

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For the general process of filling and storing the food, this system works just fine, and for this starter kit, it was only $10. However, these pouches are not reusable, and a pack of 50 pouches is $15. Depending on how many pouches you go through a month, it may or may not be monetarily beneficial for you. They do make reusable pouches like these that I would probably choose to use for my future endeavors, just to be the most efficient.

For this post today, I’ll share with you four recipes that I tried and liked. The really nice thing about doing these at home, is you can be as creative as you want to with mixing different veggies and fruits. Most of the combos I did were some that I have bought before and knew Norah would like. But there are really endless possibilities of different combos!

Blueberry Banana Oatmeal

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For this breakfast recipe, there are a few simple steps before pureeing. Here are the ingredients I used (roughly measured out for you):

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

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You’ll want to cook your oatmeal first so that it is tender. I also steamed the blueberries for about 1 minute in the microwave to make them extra soft. Once these steps are done, add ingredients to a food processor or blender. If you steam blueberries, add some of the liquid steamed from them. Otherwise, you may need to add some water until you get your desired texture. When all the ingredients are blended and smooth, store fresh in these pouches, or freeze and use throughout the week/month! That’s the best part about making these yourself. I found it easiest to store in an ice cube tray, for what it’s worth, but find what works best for you! This recipe makes a yummy breakfast for your tots! Super easy, and toddler approved. You could also sneak some spinach in this recipe to add some healthy greens. Just make sure to steam the spinach beforehand!

Broccoli, Peas and Pear

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This next recipe is also fairly easy. My tip for this (and any recipes with leafy greens, or harder veggies), would be that if you find you can’t get a smooth pureed texture from a food processor, to stick with a blender. Sometimes the blades blend this stuff up better. I have also heard that the Ninja, Nutribullet, and Baby Bullet work wonders for this kind of stuff…next investment?

Ingredients for this:

  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 3/4 cup broccoli (or spinach)
  • 1 whole pear

The most time consuming part about this process is steaming the fruits and veggies. Though it only takes a matter of minutes, the more ripe you can get your produce, the faster. Make sure you steam all of these ingredients to make them soft. If you’re making a few different recipes like I did, steaming a lot of your ingredients together saves time and saves you a step for each one.

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After you steam the pears, broccoli and peas, and they are tender and soft, they are ready to be blended. If you have a food processor with a grater, it might be helpful to grate them before pureeing them, but it’s not necessary. This combo needed some added water to make it thinner. If you have water from steaming, try adding some of it! The steaming process brings a lot of vitamins and nutrients into the water, and adding that to your recipe gives your baby the most nutrients possible! When you have a smooth puree, store fresh in the pouches or freeze and save for later! Getting the system down? For this recipe you could also try spinach instead of broccoli, apple in place of a pear, or try adding a big spoonful of plain greek yogurt for added protein!

Avocado Banana

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This one is by far the easiest. There is no steaming involved, and takes no time to blend up!

You’ll just need:

  • 2 avocadoes
  • 2 bananas

Slice both and add the “meat” to your blender. You may need to add a little bit of water to thin it out. Once it’s done, store fresh or freeze for later. Since avocadoes brown quickly once they’ve been sliced, make sure you freeze if your little hasn’t eaten within 24 hours. Also try adding a pear or some greek yogurt for added protein and flavor!

Pumpkin Apple

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This recipe is also very easy. I didn’t have a sweet potato for this combo, so I used some canned pumpkin!

You just need:

  • 1 can of pumpkin ( or a steamed sweet potato)
  • 2 apples
  • (optional) 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Steam your apples beforehand until they are tender. And if you use sweet potato, it will need to be peeled and steamed too. Once this is done, add all of it to a food processor or blender and mix up! Also add some of the steam water until you get desired texture. Make sure it is well blended. Store fresh in pouches or freeze! This combo is great because you could easily mix it up. Use sweet potato or carrots (steam first) instead of pumpkin, or add some cooked oatmeal and cinnamon to make a healthy breakfast pouch! Just make sure if you use tougher veggies, that you blend them until smooth and a soft puree.

The process of making baby food seems much more intimidating than it really is! It was fun taste testing and mixing different combos. If you can dedicate 1-1.5 hours a week making and storing, your tot will have tons of fresh, healthy snacks that won’t break the bank! Try choosing a few ingredients to mix and match each week, and switch up ingredients the next. If you freeze and store, you’ll have all varieties to choose from. It also gives you a chance to ad-match and get weekly deals on different produce items so you can be cost efficient!

Here are a few more combos I’ll be trying next:

  • raspberry, banana, brown rice (greek yogurt)
  • blueberry, sweet potato, oats
  • avocado, fig, mango
  • green bean, pears, greek yogurt

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What are some of your combos and tips from your experience?! Keep up with Oak and Earth through my instagram handle @terapianalto for weekly updates and posts, and hashtag your Oak and Earth experiences #OakandEarthBlog !

xo-

Tera

Mama’s Mocktail Party

Hello, it’s Tera again! This week I thought I would create a post that used more of my creative side. The girls and I brainstormed together, and we came up with the idea for me to create a few “mocktail” recipes, and I am really excited to share them with you!

This was inspired by remembering back to my pregnant days. The girls and I would go out to dinner, and they would order their cocktails, and I, my water. They would give me free smells of their fruity concoctions and some extra pretzel bread, but really, I just wanted someone to bring me a drink that tasted as good as a mojito or margarita without the alcohol in it! Thus, the idea was spurred.

Being a mom to a young one, this post is written especially with the mama’s (and mama’s to be) in mind, but don’t worry, you don’t have to be a mom to enjoy these tasty treats. Sometimes we just need a ‘lil pick me up during the day, ya know? These drinks are perfect for summertime, and are surely as good as the real deal!

Let’s get to the fun part, shall we?

Naptime Blues Colada (for when you are berry ready for nap time, but baby is not.)

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First up, is my spin off a colada! I decided to forego the usual pineapple flavor, and created a combo of fruity and “coconutty” that I think is super refreshing and perfect for a late morning brunch with some friends! This drink is so yummy, you and your friends won’t miss the alcohol at all, not to mention the fact that it is super fast and easy to whip up!

To make this drink, you’ll need: (this makes about 2 servings, perfect for you and a friend, or multiply for larger groups, or seconds, or thirds, or…so on)

  • 1 Cup of blueberry pomegranate juice (I used Tropicana)
  • 1 lime, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • (about) ½ Cup of Cream of Coconut (sidenote: this is sweet, but you can add more or less depending on how coconutty you want it!)
  • 2 sliced strawberries
  • 2 drops of coconut extract

Start by mixing all ingredients into a blender, and add about a cup of ice (you can add more ice like we did to get a frozen drink). When you have mixed your desired texture, pour into some cute serving glasses, and garnish with a lime wedge! If you want to take it to the next level, sprinkle some local bee pollen on top as a pretty garnish and also fight those stubborn allergies at the same time! Refer back to Christiana’s post on bee pollen and all its perks here: Don’t BEE miserable during spring

We love how this “colada mocktail” turned out, and we hope you do too! If you wanted to add something to enjoy a real cocktail drink, we think some rum (to taste) would be a good addition!

Mama’s Front Porch Mojito

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This drink has got to be my new go-to summer refresher. It’s my take on a mojito, and I think it tastes just as good, or better! I was extra picky on this one, because mojitos are my favorite, and I really wanted the taste to remind me of one! I think we nailed it and it’s just the perfect summertime drink for parties, family picnics, or just sittin’ and sippin’ on the front porch.

For this drink you will need: (again, this will make a couple of servings, so multiply for desired number of servings)

  • 2 Cups of lemonade- tip: if you make a whole batch of lemonade, you can multiply other ingredients to match and make several more mojitos! I used this lemonade recipe, on a smaller scale: Pioneer Woman’s Lemonade
  • 1 Cup club soda
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 6 lime wedges, squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons sweetened lime juice
  • 2-3 sliced strawberries

You’ll have to begin this drink by making your lemonade. I chose a homemade recipe because I wanted to use as many fresh ingredients as I could, and I think the taste is so much better! A little humor and helpful tip: When making your own lemonade, it’s best to make sure you’re using sugar instead of salt. It definitely does not taste the same, and is beyond repair once its done.

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See above pic ^^ that’s salt, folks. Try to avoid this misstep, otherwise you’ll be set back a bit like we were, and there will be laughing at your expense. [Okay, Beth and Chris, it’s funny now] REMEMBER: tiny grains= salt, small grains (but not tiny)= sugar. Another helpful tip: use your teething babies to help you peel some lemon zest! *wink wink*

Re-routing back to the drink now. After your lemonade is done, the rest is pretty easy. Measure out the lemonade (remember, 2 cups for this serving size), and add the club soda, squeezed lime wedges, sweetened lime juice and fresh mint leaves (ours came straight from the garden, courtesy of Christiana). Top the serving dispenser with strawberry slices, and it’s ready to be served! (tip: it is helpful to let the mint leaves seep into the drink before serving, but not required) Pour into a glass, add some ice and garnish with a pretty strawberry slice! I will be making this drink all summer long. I just wish I had this recipe handy when I was pregnant! Perfect mojito mocktail that all the mama’s (and even the not-a-mama’s) will love.

(If you do want to include a little alcohol for a party with friends, try adding a little rum or some amaretto and grenadine to taste!)

Lazy Lavender Bedtime Tea

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This last drink isn’t really a mocktail, but we thought it would be fun to include a recipe that is perfect for when the kids are in bed, and you’re ready to kick back and relax for some “me” time, or maybe even enjoy a bubble bath for yourself. This is probably the most no-brainer recipe and has very few steps, so it requires little brainwork after yours has been fried from a day of a thousand “what’s that?”, “are we there yet?”, “mama, can I have this?” questions and the constant errand runs, cleaning, cooking, and working you’ve been doing!

For the Lazy Lavender, you’ll simply need:

  • Lavender honey tea bag (I used Yogi brand)
  • About 2 tablespoons (give or take a little) of Silk Coconut Almond Milk [unsweetened]
  • 1 teaspoon of agave (or fresh honey)
  • ½ tsp lemon zest, a small basil leaf, and orange slice for garnishing

Boil some water either over the stove top or in a microwave, add the tea bag and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Once the tea bag’s flavor is rich, add the milk (you can steam the milk or add it cold), the agave, lemon zest and basil. Garnish with a pretty orange slice, and enjoy a few quiet hours to yourself! I am usually not a big fan of hot tea, but I really liked the taste of this one, and could see myself drinking this for a little relaxation time!

These mocktail recipes are sure to be a big hit with your friends and family this summer, and they’re great pick-me-ups that will refresh you, rejuvenate you, and give you the energy for all of the fun summertime projects you’ve been meaning tackle all year! We hope you enjoy making them, and enjoy drinking them even more! Be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth weekly, as we have some really fun posts planned for the summer! Also keep up to date with me through my instagram feed @terapianalto, and hashtag your Oak and Earth pics  #OakandEarthblog!

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Live healthy, love hard, root deep! Cheers!

xo- Tera

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#Momlife (Norah is ONE)

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A WHOLE year of baby goodness has flown by. That was so fast and so slow all at the same time! Is that even possible? Yes. The days are long but the years are short…I think every mom would agree with me on that one!

In light of this milestone, I thought I would attempt to list a few “then vs. now’s” in order to reminisce and share what I have experienced. I’m also hoping I’m not the only one who is at the “removing dog food from child’s mouth,” and the “nightly trash can rummage” to make sure there aren’t any magnets, books, or dad’s glasses somewhere amidst the coffee grounds phase. Otherwise.. [insert nervous laugh here]

Let’s share some of my motherhood snippets.

Then…

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1. Lots of sleeping 

Sweet, sweet newborn baby cuddles, all day long. Norah was my tiny 5lb. 10oz. baby orangutan (see above pic for comparison). I remember thinking how I never thought it possible to love such a tiny little thing with so much intensity. We moms have a capacity to love so extraordinarily! Norah may or may not have been a pretty typical newborn (I mean really, you have to take all the newborn facts with a grain of salt). But man, the sleeping part, Norah had down! Girl loved her naps. I would just love to watch her sleep (and make sure she took another breath) *paranoia*. Babies are just so darn sweet when they sleep! The way they move their hands and their little newborn grunts make me want to squeee! Norah slept through the night very early on, and napped many times a day, and now? We’ll get there in a bit. But then? We loved us a nice 3-4 oz. bottle followed by a luxurious nap.

2. I have no clue what I’m doing!

Though the newborn stage was sweet, and I cherish my sweet orangutan memories, I was a big hot mess most days. I think the newborn stage has probably been my least favorite of the baby stages thus far. And I don’t mean this in the way that it sounds..I was so terrified at the thought of doing anything wrong that I was stressed most of the time.

Even before she was born, I was so scared thinking “I have no clue how to be a mom. What if I am a bonafide bad mom?” And when she came, she was so tiny and fragile! I felt like a failure when breastfeeding didn’t ‘work’ (for either of us), I worried she didn’t gain enough weight at her monthly checkpoints, I was paranoid when she slept, I tried to follow the newborn rule book to the ‘t’. Remember when I mentioned taking those rules with a grain of salt? Well. I was the opposite for a long time. I thought that when Norah wouldn’t do what the books said she should, that I was not doing something I should be, and I was failing at the mom thing. *classic first time mom syndrome* It’s quite comical to me now, but then, it was so not!

3. Milk drunk for days

The days of six bottles a day are long gone, folks (and also the days of spending $150 a month in baby formula..hallelujah chorus). I always thought it was so strange that Norah, and every baby, was just so satisfied with a big, warm bottle of milk. All day, e’rday. I am not a milk fan myself, so this particularly grossed me out. And after about two months of painful, dreaded, and unsuccessful breastfeeding, I opted for baby formula. Baby formula is odd (though a life saver), and it has a funk to the smell. And a formula smelling baby burp is just so adorably disgusting. I’ll never forget the short, day, of trying out Nutramigen–a formula for babies with cow based milk allergies. Thank the good Lord she did not need it because that stuff smells like fish dipped in Dorito batter, and based off Norah’s reaction to the bottles, it tasted like it too. We soon after settled on Gerber good start and loved it hard for a whole year.

Those were the days. Many different brands and trial runs of formulas (because they make approximately 1 billion types). Alas, a day I will not long miss, EXCEPT for the cute, adorable, milk drunk expressions we saw on an almost daily basis. Full tummy, happy heart, happier baby.

4. Sweet innocence

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I thought it was a good time to add another sweet, sugary baby picture. Givin’ me all the feels. Sigh.

Babies have a precious innocence to them. Everything is so beautiful and so new to them. The first time they discover their hands, the first time they roll over, the first time they discover their own voice (that may be when things start to change)..all of these milestones they hit are so precious and shows such a pure innocence about their nature. When they poop, it doesn’t smell, even if it does. Why? Because it’s coming from your sweet bitty baby’s bottom and it’s too cute to be gross. When they spit up on you? Adorable. They didn’t mean to spit that entire bottle on your shirt, they couldn’t help it. Baby toots are hilarious, not repulsive. ‘Oops,’ you tell them, ‘someone’s a little gassy today’. Everything they do is so precious. I mean it, too. I was just like this; Norah could not have been any cuter!

It is bitter sweet as they leave this stage of innocence as they grow and develop. It’s so fun to see them learn new things and develop their personalities, and sad at the same time to leave their newborn snuggly stage. Always precious, not always so innocent.

5. Let’s just hang out

And just like all the other newborn stages are over, so the stage of immobility has also come to an end.

Babies are so easy to entertain when they are still young. Stick them in the baby swing for a while, then tummy time on the floor, then perhaps the baby bouncer, then the cute playmat (with a lot of milk breaks and naps in between). The land of many baby stations is what we referred our home to for the first several months. Lots of rotating to keep them entertained? Sure. But still, much easier to keep an eye on them, and to always assure that they are in the same spot you saw them, oh, 20 seconds ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt tired and busy. They do consume a lot of your day no matter what age! But as soon as Norah started crawling, we knew we seriously had no idea how busy and exhausting life with a baby really was. Though we’ve always been the type to like having an agenda of some sort, Norah really just rolled with it and sort of just “hung out” with us wherever we were. No opinions or defiance, just a ‘sure mom, I’ll be good in my carseat while we drive.’ Oh, the days.

Now…

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1. But first, coffee.

I’ve found that the older Norah has gotten, strangely enough, the more tired I am on a pretty normal day-to-day basis!

Coffee in the mornings has become a morning ritual for us, and let’s be honest, sometimes in the evenings. There is just something about a baby with a new spurt of energy and activeness that takes tired to a whole new level. I think it must accompany the constant redirecting, constant feeding (ms. cookie monster), constant going, going, going. I truly love this stage of life with her, but girl is cray cray. Sometimes I would like to say, “okay, you’re fighting your nap today? I’ll just crawl in your bed and take one in your place.” So. Much. Energy.

Short pause

Sorry. I was just reminiscing on the days where naps for me were a reality. Time for another cup of coffee.

2.  I got this…never mind, no clue what I’m doing

Now don’t get me wrong, I have become a much more confident mom and woman over the course of a year. But let’s get real. By the time you get used to a baby stage, they change it up on you! Feelin’ good about your baby’s sleep schedule? Well unfortunately, they just hit their 4 month sleep regression. Got her feedings down? Bam. She just decided she would rather have more bottles later in the day instead of earlier. Think your baby’s tummy hurts because she’s been super fussy, so you try and figure out how to fix it, or if you are feeding her something that is causing it, and a week later she’s got two teeth popping through. *lightbulb*

One thing I have been able to do over the course of this year, is relax and be totally confident in my cluelessness. Every stage has presented its challenges, and always rewards that far outweigh them. I’ll never know what’s next for us, because I’ve never been through it! Maybe by baby #2, I’ll have some of these things down, but even still, each baby is different and picky in his or her own ways. It’s a constant learning thing for us. My name is Tera and I am clueless!

3. Eat all the things

We have moved out of the milk drunk phase, and moved into the clearing our pantry out phase in full swing.

It amazes me how much this child can put away at meal time, not to mention the constant snacking throughout the day (despite her most recent take to pickiness). It’s a great sign of growth, so I am grateful. But Norah is a disposal when it comes to food. So much so, that she’s even taken a liking to her favorite puppy’s food (don’t worry, we’re working on it). The girl is ravenous and will sometimes eat a majority of what is on my plate, even after having her own!

I understand now why the kitchen is just such a key space in your home. It’s because that is where your children corral all day long! I am constantly preparing snacks and meals for my daughter who is always wanting food for on the go. So cute. So ravenous.

4. GUILTY as charged

Remember that sweet innocence we discussed and reminisced? Those days are long gone. There comes a time when babies go from their sweet stage, and transform into these little heathens who are ALWAYS into something!

Tell me this is not just me. I love my daughter more than the world, but she is such a…well, we’ll call her an adventurous spirit. ‘I wonder what would happen if I turned this knob’; ‘I wonder what would happen if I put all my belongings in the trash’; ‘I wonder if my book would look good in the toilet’; ‘I wonder if I should wash my hands in the dog’s water bowl, and then proceed to turn it over onto the carpet…yeah, I probably should.’ These are all thoughts that I’m assuming have to go through my daughter’s brain on a daily basis. She knows that these things are not allowed, yet I still find myself redirecting her from these very things. A lot. The biting, pinching, hissy-fit throwing, stanky poop diapers…no longer as innocent.

Norah tests her boundaries with me. “Hot” she says, as she points to the fireplace. “Yes, very hot, do not touch it,” I reply. Slowly a tiny, guilt ridden finger gets closer and closer to said fireplace. I tell her no 100 more times, and the finger is ever slowly but surely moving closer and closer. Did I mention she’s staring at me with her “adventurous” eyes the whole time? Yeah. First they’re sweet, then they’re sour.

5. Let us explore the world

This is the most fun part of Norah’s stage of life, in all seriousness. She is so intrigued by life, and loves exploring! She loves animals, other babies, and she loves being outside. It’s truly a blessing to watch her bloom and beam with so much joy when she gets to have fun exploring.

Now, the house is constantly a mess from her indoor explorations, and I usually have 3-4 times a day where I am cleaning up the same piles of toys and messes. Exploring every single toy in our home, exploring on our book shelf and dvd collection, exploring her closet, exploring her bathtub…we do a lot of indoor exploring. I’m all about that exploring! I’m already tired; why not?! She has become quite the explorer throughout her first year. Very curious, and very experimental.

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I love this about Norah. It’s part of what makes up her beautiful being. It keeps us on our toes, for sure, but it keeps life interesting, entertaining and fun!

Norah’s first year has been the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. She has learned so much, but she has also taught me so many things! The greatest and hardest job on earth that one can have, I believe, is being a parent. It is also the most rewarding and fun! You learn to toss the rules aside (using them more as a guideline), and learn by experience. You learn patience on a whole new level. You learn how to be a teacher, and you learn discipline. You learn to change poopy diapers really fast and effectively. And you learn how to love well. #fellowmomsunite

Happy Earth Day, live healthy, love hard.

Xo- Tera