Arkansas Strong

It's been quite a week in Arkansas, which isn't news to anyone. The tornadoes that hit Central AR on Sunday night completely devastated cities like Vilonia and Mayflower, taking with them homes, belongings and, tragically, lives.

Graphic by Josh Phillips 

My parents were actually on the way back to their hometown in Heber Springs, which is also located in the central part of the state. Thankfully, they beat the storms by the skin of their teeth and were off of I-40 (the interstate that runs to the central part of Arkansas) right before they swept through.

Others were not so lucky.

The Smith family of Vilonia lost their two children, sons ages 7 and 8. Go here to read their story. (Warning: you'll need tissue. Or a towel.)

I cannot imagine what those parents must be going through right now. It isn't fair. It makes me sad. It also makes me mad. It makes me question why God allows some things to happen.

I'm human. I'm imperfect. And, sometimes, His plans don't make sense to me.

They aren't meant to, I suppose.

I ask you today to please pray for the Smith family, as well as others who were affected by Sunday's storms. Pray that the victims will somehow find a sense of peace during this chaotic aftermath.

Also, count your blessings. The dirty clothes, the dishes piled high in the sink, the crying baby, the snoring husband, the car that makes funny noises. For it is during times like this that these "annoyances" become the biggest gifts imaginable.

See you back here tomorrow, friends.


A Blend, A Baptism

I'm bummed that this pic is a little blurry and dark, but love that we captured our family of three on such a special day!

I don't touch on religion or faith very often on here, but I did want to share about a very special weekend for our family.

Caroline Rose was baptized at our church, Central United Methodist, yesterday and it was such a special occasion. Our pastor, the same pastor that married us in 2011, performed the ceremony and it was so beautiful. It was touching to see the entire congregation come together to welcome Caroline into the Methodist church family.

Back when we were married, we decided to join the Methodist Church because it was the perfect blend of Stephen's upbringing (Catholic) and mine (Baptist). We loved to imagine the day that we'd have a baby and be able to baptize her in the church, then one day tell her the story of how her mommy and daddy chose a faith that blended their backgrounds. She is the first of our little family of three to be baptized into the UMC and so it was really special for us and the culmination of our faith journey as a married couple.

So, to any young couples out there who may be from different faith backgrounds, know that it can be done - pretty easily, in fact! Whether you find a middle ground like we did, or if one of you converts to join the other, it can absolutely work. I'm a big believer in the adage that we all serve the same God, and He will show up no matter what the church looks like : )

Yesterday, both of our families joined us for the ceremony and it was such a beautiful thing. We are lucky to be surrounded by such supportive parents, siblings and grandparents. And little Caroline will always be surrounded by the same.

Here are a few photos from after the service with family.


Confessional Friday: {Link-Up}

Lots of randomness going on for Confessional Friday, so read up and play along, friends!

1) I confess that I cheated on the Mystic Tan with Versa...and I'm not even sorry. I'm a fan of spray tanning. If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know this. Back in October, I tried the Versa spray booth for the first time and fell in brown, misty love. It created a much smoother looking tan than the Mystic, plus it was a more pleasant experience. The color, for me anyway, was closer to the color achieved through natural sunlight, (read: no orange.) Anywho, I did it again right before Easter last weekend to combat my pastiness and loved the color again. So, if you enjoy a good spray tan, I'd suggest using this over the Mystic any day of the week.

2) I confess that I devoured (partially) a cinnamon roll the size of my head for lunch yesterday. I'm not sorry about that either.

3) I confess that I have absolutely not one thing accomplished for Caroline's baptism/dedication party on Sunday. Not one single thing. Oh, except she has an outfit for the service and another for her party! And Stephen and I have our clothes picked out. So if nothing else, we shall be well-dressed. Our poor party attendees may end up eating PB&Js if I don't get some things accomplished today. Whoops!

4) I confess that I believe I may have gone the better part of yesterday morning with my pants unzipped. This is true. I have this pair of white jeans that I LOVE, but the zipper is crap. Around 10:00 a.m.-ish yesterday morning, I went to the restroom at work and noticed that the fly had come undone. This was after I'd gone to a strategy meeting to discuss a big project. Gotta love walking around looking like a Kindergarten boy.

5) I confess that Stephen took off work today to be home with the baby and me, and I am PUMPED. Is it wrong that I selfishly love the prospect of doing the grocery shopping sans kiddo today? Well, if it is, then I don't want to be right.

Your turn, fair maids and maidens. Tell me what's been on your mind this week!


    An InLinkz Link-up


I'm a Mom. I Also Work Out.

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't exercise one lick when I was expecting Caroline. Between the hyperemesis, (read: constant puking), and the lethargy that came as a result of that, working out sounded about as appealing as a DIY root canal.

Doing our "Monday" workout yesterday.

After the little bambina arrived, I decided that I wanted to try to eat healthier and start exercising again. I really want to always set a good example for her. I want her to know that it's important to fuel your body with good food, (and the occasional Sonic Chili Cheese Coney), and to make health a top priority.

I'll be honest, I did purchase a few workout DVDs, but the weather has been so nice that I've found myself outside nearly every day cardio-ing it up with Caroline.

Here's a sample of what my weekly "workout" routine looks like right now:

I will say, I'm at home all day with the baby Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so we do a lot of our working out in the mornings around 10:00 a.m.

30 minutes of HIIT with the jogging stroller (breakdown is below)

-5 minute warm-up walk
-10 two-minute intervals of jogging, running and then fast paced walking while pushing the jogging stroller
-10 minute cool-down walk

20 minutes of mommy and me yoga
You can find some of the moves we do here.

30-35 minute incline walking with jogging stroller or baby carrier
(We walk in our subdivision since it's really hilly.)

20 minutes of mommy and me yoga
Moves are here.

Total body workout with baby. Here are the moves we do!

I'll be sharing a few of my meal plans next week, so stay tuned for that.


The Easter Song

I post this song every year on Good Friday because, for me at least, it tells the Greatest Story of Love and Sacrifice more beautifully and more simply than I've ever heard. It's called "The Garden" by NEEDTOBREATHE, one of my favorite bands.

I hope that wherever you are this upcoming Easter weekend, you realize that God loves you fully and unconditionally.


Can You Find Happiness for 100 Days Straight?

You've probably all seen the "100 Days of Happy" thing going around Facebook and Instagram lately. I know I have. And I absolutely love the thought behind this. (You can find the website here.)

Do something, anything, every single day that evokes a feeling of pure happiness and record it through a photo. Simple enough, right?

For most of us that are on Instagram, we post a picture darn near every day. Mine, admittedly, are almost exclusively photos of my kiddo, something for which I refuse to apologize. She is one of my greatest happinesses, as is my husband, (but I think it might be a big gag-inducing and slightly awkward to dedicate a photo a day to him), but I love the idea of challenging myself to look for happiness in less obvious places, too.

Anyway, I love the idea of starting this little project. Taking one photo of something that made me happy that day. It can be as simple as a perfect glass of Chianti or as emotionally charged as seeing my daughter hit a major milestone. It just has to be happy.

I've seen others using the hashtag #100happydays (fitting...ha!)

I plan to start tomorrow, so please let me know if you intend to play along. My username is ablondeambition and you can also find me here.

Anyone doing this currently? Anyone else want to take part in this with me?


Summer Hair-spiration + New Beauty Find!

Know what I love most about warmer weather? Fun and easy updo hairstyles that are perfect for the season. Like every other woman on the planet, I tend to revert back to the tried-and-true messy bun when the going gets...well, humid.

I'm hoping to step my game up a little bit this summer and try out some new 'do(s) when the heat hits. Here are a few that are on my "must learn to recreate this" list:

Inverted Bun Thingy

I love that this looks a little dressy, but could also be worn with a baseball tee and denim shorts. I looked high and low for a tutorial on this, so if anyone else can find it, I'll give you the Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory.

via Pinterest

Update: This tutorial looks like it would achieve the same look!

Update #2: And this tutorial shows how to get this style without the headband.

The Braid 'n Tuck

This one actually looks really easy. I couldn't find a tutorial for it, but it looks like the hairstylist did a normal braid on one side of the head, then pulled it across the back of the head, rolled it inward, then pulled a section of hair down over the top of it to give it the illusion that the hair section was holding it in place. (Let's pretend that wasn't the worst run-on sentence in the history of written word, shall we?)

Excessive verbiage aside, isn't it a beaute?

via Pinterest 

Not Your Momma's Side Pony

Or maybe it is. I don't know your mom. 

Tutorial here


For all you sulfate-free shampoo fans out there, I found another shampoo/conditioner duo that I really like AND it's by Redken. Still loving my Davines, too, so I'm just alternating the two.

Redken Color Extend Magnetics Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner


Caroline Rose: {Six Months}

Weight/Length: We don't go for her six-month check-up and shots until next week, but our scale at home indicated 13 pounds 13 oz. She's definitely getting longer, too! I think she's close to 24.5 inches now.

Yes, still a peanut, but her cheeks are so squishable and perfect! 

Hair and Eyes: Hair is still a pretty shade of brown. And her eyes are still the brightest of blue. 

Diapers: Size 2 Pampers Swaddlers diapers finally fit her booty.

Clothing: Believe it or not, she can finally wear her 3-6 month Carter's sleepers - woohoo! Most of her everyday clothing is 3 Mo., but at least we've moved out of Newborn sizes ; ) We also purchased some swimsuits last month and have been adding to our growing collection, all in preparation for the boat this summer. 

Favorite Things: Her Sophie the Giraffe toy, her Exersaucer, riding in her stroller, sitting in her Bumbo and watching me cook, having books read to her.

Wearing our "birthday" tiara!

Likes: Right now, our petite princess loves: Strangely, she loves thunder. It all started last week when it was stormy one day. There were several big claps of thunder and, to my amazement, she laughed so hard. Maybe she has a career as a storm chaser in her future?

She also loves looking at books, (thank the Lord this girl loves books like her momma!), listening to the Duke Ellington/Billy Holiday station on iRadio in the car, being outdoors in her stroller, watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad, stretching on the floor and her doggies, Ruby and Ari. 

Dislikes: People with super loud voices or a loud laugh (I think it startles her), the pipe organ at church (I can't blame her for that one...ick!), getting OUT of the bathtub. Girlfriend loves water.

Milestones: With rolling over from tummy-to-back and vice-versa out of the way, the next big milestone was sitting up. I thought sitting up might happen during her sixth month, but she surprised us and sat bolt upright this past month.

On April 7th at 5 mos., 3 wks., she sat up for the first time! She stayed that way for 23 seconds before tipping over. Ever since that day, she just...sits...and sits...and sits. She can go a half minute or so without assistance, which is really cool to watch. 

I don't know of anything quite as fun as watching your baby grow and develop. 

Eating: We began solids last night. I'm really glad we held off until she was six months old, just because I don't think her tiny tummy was ready until now. (Our pediatrician doesn't like to start sooner than that anyway, but I do know that every baby is different!) 

We don't plan to use the pre-packaged baby food, so I'll be buying her veggies/fruits and pureeing them. Definitely a cost-saver! We will try avocado next, probably Thursday, just to make sure her tummy tolerates solid food well. 

Other Changes: She loves to blow raspberries and will also imitate the long "oo" sound when we say, "boo", which is funny. She belly laughs multiple times per day, which we love. She will also randomly squeal and "sing" all the time. (Especially when mommy is on the phone, ha!)

Sleeping: She is a wonderful, wonderful sleeper. I realize this could all change on a dime, but from 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. or so, she sleeps. Sometimes (especially during growth spurts) she'll wake for a quick feeding, then it's back down to bed. 

She takes one long nap around 10:00 a.m. for two hours, then another nap around 1:30, then her final one around 4:30 p.m.

Mama Thoughts: 
Month five was a little more challenging for us, only because she's getting to the stage that she realizes when one of us has left a room. She's definitely quite attached to her mommy and daddy, so we have to remind her that when we walk away to do something (put laundry away, load the dishwasher, etc.), that we're still close by. This behavior also has its perks, though. For instance, she LOVES to be held super closely and rocked during her naps. 

Her demeanor reminds me a lot of her cousin Luke when he was a baby. She's very mellow and smiley, and will "talk" to anyone who's willing to listen. I'm glad she's a social baby. 

I'm still really, really enjoying my part-time work schedule. I love our Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at home together, but I also look forward to the adult interaction and challenging projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It really has been a good solution for our family and I don't imagine we'll change anything in the near future. 

We've been enjoying the awesome weather together daily with long stroller walks, which is great cardio for momma, too! It feels great to get moving again. I've also started trying to eat better and incorporate tons of veggies and fruits into my daily eating routine. I ate a lot of junk toward the end of the pregnancy, which I'm sure didn't help my sluggishness. So I'm working to change that. I want to set a good example for Caroline to enjoy healthy foods and always be open to trying new things. 

Until next month, friends. 


Confessional Friday: {Link Up}

Let's get right to it, shall we? It's been a crazy busy week here, so I'm chopping at the bits to have some fun today ; )

1) I confess that I cannot believe my baby will be SIX months old on Monday. Will someone please explain to me where the last half a year has gone?

2) I confess that I nearly lost my mind at the store last week when someone reached in the shopping cart to pull a teether toy out of Caroline's mouth. I was staring at them in disbelief and the lady goes, "I just wanted to see what that sweet little mouth looked like!" I pulled the rude mom card and said, "Don't touch my baby, please." And then booked it out of there. How random and weird, right?

Even weirder, is that this happened in the same store, but with a pacifier when she was about two months old.

3) I confess that I've done some major damage at Loft lately because their spring sweaters are bliss. I mean, they have so many styles and just about everything was marked waaaaay down.
Okay, sorry to keep this short, but I have a baby that majorly needs a nap : )



Instagram "Don'ts"

Now, let's talk about Instagram. Lately, it has become my favorite, FAVORITE social channel. I love peeking at the daily goings-on of my friends and the brands I like. But.


There are a few things that make me hit the unfollow button quicker than you can say "cheese". Now, I'm sure I'm guilty of a few of these myself from time-to-time, but for some, it's an everyday occurrence. In no particular order, here are some of the things that irk me to no end:

1. A paragraph of hashtags. When you have to take out an entirely separate comment from the caption and designate it for a blooming paragraph of hashtags, you need to stop. Seriously. I find myself scrolling down through 85 hashtags with ANY and EVERY possible word that might have something (and that's a giant "might"), just to leave a comment. 

Example: Someone posts a photo of a burrito with the caption "YUM!" 

Below it:
#burrito #mexifood #yum #yummy #yummyyummy #cheese #beans #glutenfree #paleo #ilovepaleo #myfavoritecolorisblue #theplateisblue #dogs #rocketscience #love #ChuckNorris #iforgotwhatImtalkingabout

Get my drift?

One or two, maybe even three hashtags? Okay. More than that? Quit. 

2. Tap my pic and I might tell you where I got my shirt. I'm fine and great with the Like to Know It thing. Pretty handy, in fact. I've even used it myself a few times to track down pieces I like. But there are bloggers who will flat out refuse to tell you where they got a piece of clothing unless you tap their photo. What happened to the olden days where we all just interacted with each other without trying to send someone over to an affiliate site? Just tell me where I can get pants like yours. Or don't. I'll track them down myself, thanks.

3. My coffee is better than yours. And so is my handwriting. And I'm going to show you. The whole trend of taking a photo of your coffee, posed next to your open journal with calligraphy scrawled on its pages, posed next to a vase of hydrangeas, posed next to a bunch of pointless knick-knacks in the background, like a J.Crew scarf, (because I love to keep my scarves at the ready when I journal and drink coffee...???) 

And the caption usually reads a little something like, "Brainstorming a few ideas this morning. So blessed." Huh?

I beg of you, WHO has time for this in the mornings???? Do these people have jobs?? Children?? Bills to pay?? Places to be??

So strange and so, so redundant.

4. Videos taken while driving down the road.  I saw a while-driving Instagram video recently where the girl talked about getting a speeding/hazardous driving ticket just two nights before. Yes, you read that correctly. She was taking an Instagram video while she was driving, simultaneously telling us about her bad driving.

For the sake of the rest of us on the road, please stop. 


Alright, I'm dying to hear yours. What bugs the mess out of you in Instagram world lately? Any of yours similar to mine?


Confessional Friday: {Link Up}

Another week has come and gone, ladies. You know what that means, don't you? Why, yes! It means it's time to confess.

Get to it, shall we?

1) I confess that I'm having Stephen put together a meal plan for me this weekend because I'm determined to get rid of this stupid C-section tummy pouch. Guh. I have eaten nothing but junk since Caroline was born because, um, who has time to cook with an infant? That's about to change.

I'm also going to order some workout dvds this weekend, too. I'll let you know which ones I purchase. Again, not trying to lose weight, but rather tone up and feel better. Anyone want to join me in this endeavor?? I would totally be willing to share my meal plans that he creates. (Stephen has his training certification, but he's also the Director of Sales for a nutrition company who sells to stores like Walmart. The man lives and breathes health and fitness. His wife does not ; )

2) I confess that I'm actually eating a Nestle ice cream drumstick while I'm typing this. Oops.


4) I confess that this bra is the best ever for lazy days at home. Obviously you couldn't wear it with blouses, but under T-shirts, it's exquisite.

Your turn!


Lion King Flash Mob

You've probably seen this flying around everywhere today, (no pun intended), but just in case you haven't, I wanted to share. If you're as big a fan of The Lion King as I am, you'll appreciate this.

Apparently, the Aussie castmates of the famed Broadway show boarded a plane yesterday and gave passengers the impromptu performance of a lifetime.

So beautiful and powerful and joyful that it gave me goosebumps.