Mommy, AF.

I love the fall season. It’s the coziest season of all where temps are low, but not uncomfortable, trees are changing colors, fun smells come back out of hiding, and there’s a slew of fun things to do with family. Similarly, I love the nesting/maternal feel that kicks in during pregnancy. Truth be told, it’s always there, but pregnancy hormones put me on a whole other level of mommy. This second pregnancy has elevated me to a new level of mommy that I love.

For starters, I’m taking better care of our home. I’ve never been a poor housekeeper, but I’ve also never really had much of a knack for decorating, sprucing up, or building environments. In my first home, I was just so focused on having a place to drink and play video games that I owned that I didn’t put much thought into choosing accent furniture or wall art. The rugs and few wall pieces we had were out of necessity. They were cute, but nothing was deliberately put together to create a full ambiance. I was too much of a rookie to do that.

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Comfy selfie in my cozy living room. I would’ve posted a room pic, but I blogged this at night and the room photographs better in the daytime.

I also only had a child for the last year that I lived in that house, and regardless of what any home stylist might say, having a family that includes small children adds to your sense of urgency for making your home comfortable. Growing up, my mom always dressed the walls in family portraits. Yes, some were cringe-worthy photos of the Olan Mills variety, but regardless of whether they were from Sears, a cheap Polaroid, or done at a professional studio, they were our faces and faces of people close to us, related to us, whom we loved. I grew up with a strong sense of family identity because of that. As I got older, my mom took to adding family achievements to her walls, such as copies of my diplomas, her diplomas, my dad’s diplomas, and my grandfather’s flag, folded into a triangle as it was presented at his funeral. It’s important to me that Kennedy and her baby brother grow up with the same sense of feeling like they’re loved and part of a family that cares.

I used to always think that well decorated environments required lots of money – not true! In fact, you can improve the look of a room with a few simple changes, I’ve learned (thanks, Pinterest, and overall general Internet). I am not Mrs. Moneybucks. I’m in frugal, stash money in the savings account mode right now, so I’m definitely not picking furniture off the showroom floor for delivery. But for just a little over $100, I gave my couches a facelift, decorated my walls, and added pops of color to my living room with accent pillows. A living room that my family used to hate to sit in has been transformed into our favorite place to hang out on Sundays.

Similarly, Kennedy’s room has been an anomaly since we moved in. She’ll go to sleep there, but won’t always stay in there. She hardly went in there to play on her own. I wanted her room to become her sanctuary, but I knew I’d have to create a cozy environment for such. She’s a girly girl, so dialing up the pinks and frillies was a must, but with a toddler, that’s easy to do with inexpensive florals, fun wall decals, and more affirming wall art. My plan is to add a few family photos to her walls too, after I find frames. With the new facelift, Kennedy loves her room again. I’m over the moon to do the same for our son before he arrives.

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The dragonflies were in our living room at the old house. Now they fly among flowers on Kennedy’s wall.

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Not the best photo, but you get the idea. Thank heaven for little girls.

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Grey, white, and pink with toys about.

Aside from decorating, I’ve also been taking to the kitchen more, cooking up family favorites and trying new recipes. Having a bun in the oven makes me happy to stand by the stove, I guess. I’ve also been playing with essential oils to create allergy-fighting blends for Kennedy and Fabian to stop all the sneezies and sniffles around my house. I’m not a medicine woman. I’m not even an essential oil expert (I just read). But keeping our home as close to chem free is a priority for me and has been since I entered motherhood. Together we’ve chosen cleaning solutions, shampoos, shower gels, detergents, and everyday health remedies that are paraben, hormone, and animal cruelty free. Note: This isn’t a smug nose upturn to folks who choose to clean or bathe with commercial products. Like everything else in life, it’s a choice. But in my own house, I like to stay as natural as possible because it makes me feel better, and my family agrees.

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Seventh Generation, Trader Joe’s laundry detergent, Method all purpose, and The Honest Company bathroom cleaner. All are our favorites.

Decorating, cooking, keeping the family well, and of course, baking this baby bean are all making me feel like mommy to the max. I used to fear that being this into motherhood meant sacrificing who I am as a professional and as an individual. I’ve had over three years to learn that this isn’t true. I’ll clock in tomorrow and contribute to building new curriculum for the university I’m employed with, and then clock out and be Antoinette out of the office again. I must say, the more 2016 wears on, the more I love who I am.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Me and Allison, circa 2009. We've been friends since high school.

Me and my bestie, Allison. We’ve been friends since high school.

On a warm, summer day back in July 2013, I sat in my living room sorting through boxes of baby items that had been given to me by friends and family. I was 37 weeks pregnant, meaning I could pop at any time, and my newly engaged friend Allison came over to keep me company as I prepped for my baby’s arrival.

We sat on the couch fawning over tiny onesies and tiny baby socks, and we talked of her impending wedding date. She described a slightly rustic scene at one of her favorite places, Big Bear Lake, and then told me that she wanted be to be a part of the team who would help bring this day together in her mind. I sat across from her exhausted from pregnancy and hormones unsure of just how I’d ever be able to do anything else besides pee constantly and straighten up a nursery, but I gladly agreed to lend a hand and ear to my friend who had done the same many times before for me.

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My wedding day, 04/04/09

 

Life began moving really fast after that. I had my daughter not long after that day, and she almost became an honorary member of the bridal party, attending bridesmaid meetings, showers, and building herself into the itinerary of the big day. Meanwhile, Allison juggled the woes of adulthood while also wrestling with the woes of being a bride. We spent many nights hashing out details, ironing out emotions, and happily anticipating what was to come. In those days, I learned a lot about the meaning of true support that friends give. Through holidays, birthdays, bad days, and great ones, true friends always carve out space for one another, even if just to send a quick “I love you” text.

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Team Bride for Allison’s Bachelorette Party

The culmination of all of the planning and anticipation happened yesterday through Allison and Brian’s glorious and lawful union. It was an interfaith ceremony, honoring Brian’s predominately Catholic roots, and Allison’s Jewish ones. With the fresh wooded scenery of Big Bear Lake as a backdrop, they exchanged vows and rings, and made promises to treasure the covenant of their marriage through patience, kindness, and love. I couldn’t help but feel emotional at watching one of my best friends join her life with someone equally as sincere and kind hearted as she is. The icing on the cake was getting to stand with other good friends as she did so.

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Team Bride in Big Bear for the Big Day!

Overall, it was a gorgeous wedding, featuring gorgeous people, and filled with gorgeous emotion. As I jumped around the dance floor, exhausted but still lively, with my baby in one arm and a cup of water in my other hand, it dawned on me that all people should get to witness goodness of emotion as we did. Though life is grand with expensive dinners, fine wines, and fancy vacations, it’s also pretty grand when your heart melts at watching two other people joyfully and willingly link their lives together, or when you can plop your 10-month old baby into a Bjorn and take her out onto the dance floor to cut a rug to Super Freak.

 

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Candid bride.

 

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Allison + Brian Photo credit: Candice Benjamin of Candice Benjamin Photography, http://www.candicebenjamin.com