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Holiday Gift Guide – For the Babes

something about our first christmas season as a family of three (or four, if you count lucy the vizsla…) is feeling pretty magical!  i can see us being much more intentional about making this year special – reading an advent story each night before bedtime, singing along to our favorite chirstmas songs while we get ready in the morning, and making plans to enjoy traditions with family and friends.  we just hung our first real stockings – names embroidered on them and everything.  and if you could see how this baby’s eyes light up when he looks at the christmas tree, it would melt your heart!  we are so blessed.

needless to say, i’ve had a lot of fun shopping for james’ first christmas.  we decided on a budget for our shopping early on & knew we wanted to be very intentional about chosing a handful of quality items for each other.  my hope is that, though there won’t be a mountain of presents under our tree, we will give very thoughtfully, and in turn, have grateful hearts for the gifts that we recieve.

with those things in mind, i put together a little gift guide of some of my favorite things for the babies (they are just really the most fun to shop for, aren’t they?!).  many of these are tried & true over here, and some are wrapped up under the tree for our boy!  hope this helps you out, mama-friends (and aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas, too).  happy shopping!

i’d love to hear what you’re getting your littles for the holidays – let me know in the comments!  <3

baby boy

1: DockATot Deluxe // 2: Winter Water Factory Romper // 3: Hanna Andersson Baby Long Johns
4: Sloomb Knit Blankie // 5: The Bear’s Song // 6: Grovia AIO // 7: Natursutten Pacifier
8: Moover Dump Truck // 9: Plan Toy Hammer Balls // 10: Grimms Nesting Bowls

baby neutral

1: Solvej Indoor/Outdoor Swing  // 2: Artful Skwish // 3: Nui Organics Kina Booties
4: Mabo Kids Long John // 5: Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Blocks
6: Natursutten Pacifier // 7: The Snowy Day // 8: Nui Organics Pilot Cap
9: MULA Toddle Wagon // 10: Hanna Anderson Baby Long Johns // 11: Sloomb Velour HLC // 12: Bajo Sorting Snail

baby girl

1: ezpz Happy Mat // 2: Catalina Mouse // 3: Technicolor Treasure Hunt  // 4: Nostalgic Cord Pinnie
5: Lace Stitch Tights // 6: Natursutten Pacifier // 7: The Swing // 8: Baby Crossover One Piece
9: Baby Wiggle Pants // 10: Sarah’s Silks // 11: Sloomb Wonderland Fitted Diaper
12: Pastel Wooden Rainbow

back at it & baby james’ nursery

this dreary winter day, when the babe is taking an extra long afternoon nap – seemed just the perfect time to get back to writing – something i’ve certainly missed since he came on the scene.  where to start, though?  life has changed so much since my last post.  i’m glad to be able to say that i have learned a lot about simplifying (my one word for 2016).  before i was a mom, i might have been under the delusion that i could “do it all”, but now, i am certainly not.

time has become the hottest commodity around here – and maybe it always was – but we’ve felt that more lately.  what might have seemed like a calm schedule before, feels full with a baby in tow – in a good way.  james has filled in the gaps where we felt empty before.  so we’re still finding ways to pare down: our schedule & our stresses, our purchases & our belongings.  i’m learning that leaving margin in our life allows for creativity and growth and rest – things that can get buried by our business.

i thought i’d start back with a few photos of the little guy’s nursery from our maternity photos (by our close friend, sarah wingo; she’s amazing!).  we had so much fun putting together this space for him.  it’s simple & airy, with just a touch of outdoorsy, boyishness.  i’m very sentimental, and wanted to include lots of pieces that are special to us.  the white bassinet was ryan’s grandma’s as a baby – and a fresh coat of paint made it a perfect home for stuffies (which all belonged to us as children).  the geometric quilt was a (very long!) sewing project, but i really wanted him to have something handmade by me; a few of the pieces were taken from the blankie i treasured as a little girl.  the children’s book of virtues was given to me by my grandfather; the little yellow bookmarks he tore from a legal pad to mark our favorite stories are still there.


wooden ‘J’ // sheepskin rug (similar)


crib // children’s book of virtues

JamesNursery  grey recliner // adventure print // white curtains 

…and then a few iPhone pictures to fill in the gaps.  i had fun sewing a handful of changing pad covers and crib sheets and making the pillow cover.  i have a tiny obsession with the swiss cross if that wasn’t obvious.

nurserywhite dresser // national park prints // cast iron chandelier (similar)

not pictured, but possibly my favorite piece is a cross stitch by my grandmother that hangs outside the nursery door.  it hung outside my room growing up and i remember my dad reading it aloud every now and then – especially on big days – when i woke up a year older, graduated, on my wedding day.

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”

i can’t leave out his beautiful bassinet, where he actually slept for at least the first six months in our room.  this was a gift from my sweet cousins & it was just perfect in this little nook.

bassinet // ‘i love you so’ print

this nursery has been a cozy place to snuggle and play with our little guy and we hope it will be a fun space for him as he grows!

my one word for 2016

NurseryIt’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since I wrote a post about my one word for 2015!  And although I still have so much room to grow, I do think that God has done serious work on my heart to make me more able to meet my goal of being ‘present’.

While it may sound ironic with a new baby on the way, my one word for 2016 is simplify.

simplify, verb: to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier

Over the last few months, I have uncovered a strong desire for simplicity in our life.  More just isn’t always better.  I long for a slower pace.  To be fair, we’ve gotten a bit of a head start of a few of these things, but here are some areas where I’ll be focusing in 2016:

Simplifying our Finances

We’ve been using Dave Ramsey‘s cash envelope system for a couple of years now.  His Financial Peace class (which we’ve now gone through twice!) has taught us SO much about how to deal with money and I can completely say that money arguments really don’t happen here anymore.  I’m so thankful that Ryan and I can be on the same page about our finances.  There were complications with the cash system, though, and we’d been running into issues lately.  Between not always getting our cash out of the bank on time each month and doing a lot of shopping online recently, things were getting confusing.

We decided that we wanted to look into an app that would allow us to simply use the debit card for all purchases and track them there, syncing the information so we both could see it.  What we ended up with was even better.  Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar app for the Web & the iPhone allows us to create our monthly budget, track transactions, and handle our debt snowball all in one place.  We got everything set up before the first of the year, and we’re really excited about this better fit for our lifestyle.

Simplifying our Schedule

All of our activities have seemed to pause over the holiday season, and it’s honestly been so refreshing.  We feel passionate about so many things and love so many people, but this has come as a reminder to me of how important it is to leave space to rest and breathe.  When the dishes and laundry and errands are done, and we get to sit down at the table for home-cooked meals together on more than just a rare occasion, life is just better and really – we have more to give.

Today we had our New Year’s Day date (one day late, but oh well…) and we decided on what our commitments should be in the coming year.

Simplifying our Wardrobes

This has been a work in progress for a while now, but it will be ongoing.  I’ve really seen a turn in our purchases – reflecting a desire for quality over quantity.  I think that stemmed from what was, initially, a frustration with our home: a lack of storage.  This old house may have a lot of charm, but the closets are tiny and minimal.  Even our shared closet in our 800 square foot St. Louis apartment was at least double the size of the one we share now.

When we first moved in here about two years ago, we used separate closets, but they were each stuffed to the brim.  After many rounds of cleaning out, selling on eBay, and donating, I began to be interested in the idea of a capsule wardrobe.  This summer, we each chose 40 pieces to put into our shared bedroom closet, and the rest stayed in the guest room closet.  And it was love at first try, for me.  I had chosen pieces that mixed and matched well, so picking clothes in the morning was a breeze – and I was wearing something nicer than gym shorts and t-shirts – bonus!

Our attitude towards shopping changed, too.  With many fewer pieces in our shared closet, it is much easier to see the ‘holes’ in our wardrobe.  I started a little list of things I was looking for – a leather tote, a white v-neck tee, a pair of rain/snow boots.  The list was actually pretty short and very specific.  That helped me realize that 1) I don’t need to buy things just because they are on sale, and 2) since I needed very few pieces & they would be worn often, I should be shopping for higher quality things and taking better care of my clothes.

Building a maternity wardrobe has thrown me for a bit of a loop because selection is so limited and my body is constantly changing, but I’ve attempted to hold to the same principles, and I’m fairly happy with what I have at this point.  I’m sure the coming year will continue to be challenging in this department, but here’s to minimalism, organization, and loving what we wear!

Simplifying our Home

Gahhh…keeping this house clean is a constant battle.  Between the on-going home improvement projects and having a dog, it seems like it’s a losing battle at that, but I think we’ve learned a lot in the past year.  Here are some things I’m excited about doing in 2016:

  • A fresh coat of white paint on the entire interior.  We had the exterior walls insulated this past Fall, and so far we’ve been much warmer and have spent much less on heating than last year at this time, so that’s great!  But we were also left with 2-inch holes all along every exterior wall.  Our goal is to have them all filled and the rooms repainted before baby arrives in March.  Daunting, I know, but we are excited about this opportunity to give the house a fresh, simpler look that is more our style.
  • A place for everything, and everything in its place.  I’ve talked at length about our lack-of-storage situation.  This basically translates to mean that everything we have (except clothes and dishes) is on display for the world to see.  And we still have too much.  After hearing the recommendation seemingly everywhere, I read (skimmed…) The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Good method, I think: Do you love it?  No?  Then let it go.  Yes?  Then it needs a place.  We still have many categories to address in this way, but we’re getting there.  And I’m finding that having less has an amazing calming effect, as does loving what you have.
  • Gradually moving to homemade cleaners and personal care products.  Have you guys heard of The Hands-On Home?  I got it as a gift from my parents for Christmas and I’ve already read it cover to cover.  It’s pretty and just my style – crunchy, with a hint of nerdiness.  I love how Erica explains the science behind why her homemade remedies work, discusses the cost savings, and keeps the ingredient lists so common & limited.  And I’m excited that she includes suggestions about incorporating essential oils.  As our Mrs. Meyers products run out, I’m going to be giving these recipes a try!
  • The garden.  Last year was fun, but we were a bit over-zealous.  This year, we’ll focus on growing the things we actually use, period.  And we’ll buy the things we don’t grow at the farmer’s market!

Simplifying our Diet

We’re doing another Real Food challenge for the month of January.  You may remember that we’ve done this before – just a great exercise in discipline and a good reminder of how important it is to be conscious of what we’re fueling our bodies with.

This year, I want to be intentional about cooking at home and eating out/ordering in much less.  I’m planning to be more consistent about meal planning and grocery shopping over the weekend so that we’ll be prepared for the coming week, because when we plan ahead, we make much better choices.

What is your one word for 2016?  I’d love to hear what you decide!

January 3, 2016 - 7:29 am

Amy - I can help once you are ready to incorporate essential oils! Just let me know!

January 3, 2016 - 11:25 am

Hayley - Thanks Amy. I’m already with Young Living and have quite a collection! 🙂


I’m currently…

reading:  HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method.  We’ve heard great success stories from friends who used this method and we’re really hopeful.  Lots more practicing to do before baby comes, though.

I’ve also been using a guide from the Knowing the Bible series to study the book of James with a friend.  I’ve been SO impressed with the content and depth of this study that I’ve ordered the one on Galatians for Ryan and myself to go through as a couple.

playing:  Christmas music!  Especially while we work around the house; it makes everything feel cheery!


watching:  Not much, actually.  We were just talking last night about how we haven’t turned on the TV in quite a while & I’m very okay with that.  We’ve been working hard each night on house projects and spending more time having nice, slow dinners together.

During a trip out to Boston for work meetings, we were treated to dinner at La Voile, a lovely French restaurant.  The experience really made an impression on us (and brought back a lot of what I’d gleaned from the book French Kids Eat Everything earlier in the year).  We were reminded of how nice it is to spend an evening at the table with good company, enjoying simple, but delicious food.  And also notable was the order of the four courses – first, a vegetable or soup; second, the main course; third, cheese; and fourth, dessert.  Eating in this order, we made much different choices than we might have if all of the food had been sent out at once (ahem…I would have filled up on cheese and chocolate mousse and called it a day!).  So we’ve been trying this out at home now.  And it has actually made meal planning and cooking much simpler.  A couple favorite recipes have been discovered since then:

trying:  To pull the nursery together.  After lots of patch work on the plaster (it was in fairly rough shape), we’re finally painting.  A couple more nights and we should be finished!  Then we can put together the furniture and I can start nesting.  I can’t wait!

Nursery1  Nursery2  Nursery3

cooking:  Well, I kind of covered this already.  But let’s be real.  I also made Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownies from a box this week.  They were divine.

eating:  Oh, we’re still on this topic?  Well, too many doughnuts.  But we’re working on that.

drinking:  Perrier sparkling water out of a wine glass.  Makes a pregnant lady feel fancy.

calling:  No one.  Does anyone even use that feature anymore?

texting:  My girls!  I’m so thankful that in this season, I’ve been blessed with close friendships like I’ve never had before.

pinning:  Projects for baby!

tweeting:  Nothing.  Still don’t have Twitter.  But I am looking into a research project for work that involves gleaning data from Twitter, so that’s cool.  

crafting:  Quite a bit, all of a sudden!  Mostly for baby.  Crib sheets, a quilt, a changing pad cover, and a little pilot cap so far.  I need to put the finishing touches on some knitting projects that have been sitting around for quite a while, too.

currently6   currently5

doing:  A bit better with time management stuff.  Which is always a struggle for me, working from home.  Keeping a more consistent work schedule has been a big part of that.  This has meant missing some things that I would’ve loved to do between the hours of 8am and 4pm.  But being completely finished with work by 4pm has given me a lot of freedom, too, and a lot less guilt (which used to come from being short on hours or working evenings/weekends when I could have been spending time with Ryan).

going:  To try to spend more intentional time at home in the coming year.  After a couple weeks off from many of our usual evening activities, I’ve realized how much it helps my heart to have time at home to get the household chores done without a big rush.  Because I don’t think I ever truly relax or get to reflect when my to-do list is miles long.  

loving:  All of the Christmasy stuff.  It just feels really cozy and meaningful this year.

hating:  That it gets dark before 5pm.  Boo.

discovering:  The magic that is waking up early.  I’ve always been a night owl, and I really still am, but this baby must suck up all my energy because by 10:30, I’m fading fast these days.  I’ve really enjoyed waking up naturally before the sun rises, tiptoeing down stairs, turning on the Christmas lights, and sipping tea in my jammies.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been reading Scripture consistently (check out She Reads Truth!), and while I’m sure I should be getting WAY more exercise, I’m at least taking our dog Lucy for a walk each morning.  

enjoying:  Instagram.  Sifting through the feed each morning has really been inspiring me lately.

hoping:  That we finish our house projects before baby gets here!  It’s a pretty long list, folks.  We recently had our home insulated and while we’re much warmer (and will surely be saving big $$ on our power bills this Winter), we’re also tasked with fixing the 2-inch holes that were drilled between every stud in the house.  And then repainting every room.  We’re hustling and learning to enjoy working together on these things…every single night!  My new motto: PAINT EVERYTHING WHITE.

celebrating:  Making it to the 27th week with this babe.  As smoothly as everything has gone with this pregnancy, I’m still so grateful for every little milestone that we reach, and the miracle of it all definitely isn’t lost on me.


smelling:  Everthing.  Intensely.  Don’t even get me started.  Haha.

thanking:  Ryan for loving me so well during this time.  There have been a lot of…emotions, calls begging for doughnuts, and maybe some whining.  He handles it all with grace, bless his heart.

considering:  Moving from a cash envelopes system to a debit card & iPhone app combo for tracking budgeting and such.  Shopping online has become more of a thing for us (God bless you, Amazon Prime.) which creates a bit of an issue using an all cash system.  We need a better plan…any suggestions?

finishing:  Putting together our cloth diaper stash for baby boy.  To be completely honest, we’re mostly in it for the cost savings, and so I feel really proud that I bought almost our entire stash with money from selling lots of our unused things on Ebay.  Woot!  I did tons of research and decided to try a few different styles of diapers to see what we like best.  For the newborn stage, we have prefolds and fitteds with both PUL and wool interlock covers.  For after that, we have a combination of fitteds and wool & a hybrid system.  I’m sure I’ll write more on this later when we have some experience!

starting:  To really fall in love with our house.  Every time we finish a project it starts to feel more like home.  We’ve been doing lots of cleaning out of our belongings and adapting to the limited storage space here, which was initially challenging.  And you know?  I’m becoming addicted to simplifying.  With every bin of donations carried to the car, I feel a bit more at peace.  Stuff takes up a lot of time and brain power, apparently.

 What are you up to these days? Any good books to recommend? Anything exciting going on in your life? I’d love to hear about it!

xoxo, Hayley

December 15, 2015 - 9:44 pm

Kathleen - Lots of great stuff going on!! So fun to see pictures of you and your projects. I never read hypnobirthing, but will for next time. What really works for us is a combo of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and Sweet Sleep. I still read them regularly!! What cloth system are you going with? We do Flip Hybrid and mostly like it!

January 1, 2016 - 12:35 pm

Hayley - Thanks for the reading recommendations, Kathleen! Really good to hear from you! We’re planning to use a combination of Grovia Hybrids and fitteds/wool. I’m excited about it; we’ll see how it goes!

Lucy has some news to share…


We’re expecting a baby in March!  We feel so excited and blessed.  This baby is truly our hearts’ desire and a gift from God.

In the praying and waiting, it seemed like forever.  But it’s not lost on us that our forever was much less than what others of you have experienced – and if that’s your situation right now, know that our hearts are with you & there is hope.

God has certainly surrounded us with a community that lifted us up when we were broken and prayed for us without ceasing.  To all of you: Thank you, dear friends.

Hayley (& Ryan)

Also, thank you to the amazing Jaime Arnold for the beautiful photos!

September 11, 2015 - 9:31 am

Kara - Praise God! We couldn’t be more excited for you guys!

September 11, 2015 - 12:26 pm

Amanda N. - Ahhhhh!!!!!!! That’s so exciting! I’ve been praying for you guys when I see you post things on facebook. Praying for a happy healthy pregnancy!! Now I’ll be praying that you have energy & no morning sickness.