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Sharing Your Pregnancy News: How We Included The Boys

27 April 2017

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of e.p.t.. All opinions are 100% mine.
Oh hey, we're pregnant! But by now you've likely already figured that out with the countless baby bump outfit posts, insta-stories filled with baby gear, and random daily cravings (Thai food and carrot cake for the forever win). Now, as I near the end of my pregnancy I'm teaming up with e.p.t. to talk about how we shared the news with our little guys and how we've kept them involved throughout the entire process over these last several months. Since we've done this a time or two already, David and I knew that we wanted the boys to feel involved with the process from the start. Thankfully, tools on the E.P.T family website have been super helpful when it came to including the boys. I actually used the Pregnancy Calculator the moment I realized I was pregnant; and sure enough, that due date calculator has been on point thus far. They get to see the due date, and count down how many days are left until they meet their new BFF. The site also has pregnancy education, including what to expect, how your baby is growing, coupons, and more about the brand. It also lets you know where to buy a test: Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Kroger, just to name a few. 

We planned to make a huge to-do when it came to sharing our excitement with the boys and we ended up telling them over pizza and I couldn't imagine them having a better response. Sure, pizza might seem anti-climatic but it couldn't have been a more natural experience. It did, however, take them a moment to truly understand what we meant by saying that they're getting a little brother or sister, but after the confusion that comes naturally to a 5 and 7 year-old wore off, the pure excitement kicked in and they immediately started making plans for how they are going to take care of their new sibling. Basically, before we could hit the 2nd trimester they had already planned out their sibling's early life, including sleeping arrangements and who would like who more. The jury is still out on the last one, but I'm fairly certain it's going to be toss up.  Both of the boys have been awesome and have lended a pretty big hand when it comes to expecting the new baby. They even created inside jokes with David about my morning sickness and even mimicked the sounds for their enjoyment (they're gems, they really are). They tagged along to my 'gender reveal' appointment and were the first to know they were getting another brother. They were extremely excited to get the task of revealing it to their grandparents and showed it by yelling over one another on the phone.  Both boys picked out the outfits for our very plaid announcement to the world and they've even helped up with deciding on their brother's name. Though, if it were really 100% up to them, he probably would be named something along the lines of Captain America Spiderman Michael Jackson. So, I'm grateful they kept it somewhat conservative. At this point there's no doubt in my mind that they're going to be the best big brothers and that the next several years will be anything but boring between the three of them.  (our announcement)

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Off The Shoulder Swing Dress and Over The Knee Boots

26 April 2017

Yep, that's definitely snow you're seeing in the background. I have to be honest these were taken on late last month when we had our final 'epic' snowstorm that took forever to melt. It was definitely 60˚ when we shot these but the snow apparently just wasn't ready to go. Thus, a little white in the background. Either way it doesn't make this dress and boot pairing any less perfect for each other.  I mean, look at these colors. I'm really having a hard time staying off the Brigitte Bailey page on Zappos. Everything is so good and under $100. It doesn't hurt that all of my recent picks also will be perfect for post baby, which is so flipping close. We're talking a week guys, a week! I'd be lying if I said I was completely ready around the house and elsewhere but I'm totally not. Thankfully my mom is coming next Tuesday and can help with loose ends while I focus on getting this little man out. I definitely don't want another 42 week, 10 pounder on my hands. 

Dress Brigitte Bailey (also in NAVY), Sunnies Quay, Boots Report, Bag T.JMaxx

Shopping Assistant: eBay ShopBot

25 April 2017

My blog post was written as part of my collaboration with eBay.
You may find this hard to believe, but for me, shopping isn't always so easy. You see a piece you love and for some reason it feels like it's impossible to find- especially if it's a coveted piece for the season. I know we've all been there and it's frustrating. Thankfully eBay's new virtual shopping assistant, ShopBot is here to help. It's basically your own personal shopping assistant without the fuss of having to pay them or interact more than you have to. It's free, easy to maneuver and works like a charm.

Oh, and you don't have to download another app to your phone to take up space. If you have the Facebook Messenger app, which I'm sure you already do, you just search eBay ShopBot in the search bar and voila it's there to help you find whatever you need. Two in one, win. Also, free shipping is involved, which makes me more likely to use it on regular basis. Like just about everyone else, I hate finding something I love only to find that I'm being charged $11 for shipping, for a shirt or something. Pass. Free shipping is always a win.

There are three ways to use ShopBot. First, you can chat, which you type what you're looking for and ShopBot gives you a bunch of examples to choose from. For instance, say you're looking for a pair of pom sandals for the spring season. You can type in off-the-shoulder dress and search or you can narrow it down with your specific price range, like dresses under $50. It will ask about specifics, like color and size before giving you a handful of options.
Second, there is image search: you snap a picture of the item you want and it gives you buying options. Flipping through a magazine and spot something you love? Just snap a picture.  For best results, the app suggests you avoid busy backgrounds and show the whole item. Sometimes it can't find the exact item but it finds the next best thing. Which sometimes is even better and cheaper.
Finally, and third, there's browsing. You can browse collections from eBay curators. For instance my matches came up as vintage moroccan rugs, women's style, home essentials and healthy & beauty. Click *shop* and then browse until your little heart is content.
Want to make shopping the app easier? You can set up your size profile for better matches, just in case you find that dress you've been looking for only to find it only comes in large. It basically takes all of your sizes from tops to pants to dresses and shoes. The sizing guide also has plus and petite sizing to help narrow down the search. Need to update your sizes after submitting? Just type "my sizes"  to update.
Find something you love but you're not ready to buy? Favorite it by clicking the heart or simply type "favorites" and it will be saved to your list for later shopping.

4 steps to using ShopBot from your phone:
(it's best used from your mobile device)

1. Get the Facebook Messenger app for iOS or Android

2. Add "eBay Shop Bot" as a Friend

3. Click "Start Shopping" above to get a message from ShopBot

4. In Facebook Messenger, take a picture of a fashion item or type in a word to get started.

Happy shopping!

Business Of Blogging: QuickBooks Self-Employed

24 April 2017

Tax season may officially be over for most of us, but like clockwork it will be back at the start of the new year. We basically have a whole year to get organized and QuickBooks Self-Employed is here to help.
It might be a weird thing to say, but, I love doing my taxes. I grew up with two self-employed parents and learned how to do taxes and loved helping them with theirs early on. I still remember the late 90's/early 2000's version of Quickbooks on my mom's computer. I LOVED adding all the checks and deductibles into the little boxes. Obviously, Quickbooks Self-Employed and TurboTax Self-Employed have come a long way since then, and I'm proud to say that I use them both when it comes to tax time each year. Real talk: juggling a business, life and motherhood is no easy task, so both programs make life a lot easier when it comes to crunching numbers and deciding whether or not that blogger dinner is a write-off or not.

As a blogger, I am very much self-employed. I rely heavily on staying organized and keeping records of all of my expenses for when tax season rolls around. It's not always easy and I personally hate the clutter from all the paper receipts because they add up fast, organized or not. Then you sometimes find that certain expenses aren't even deductible. But this year when I filed with Turbotax Self-Employed they gave me a subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed. Holy moly, taxes just got dare I say, effortless. It can be used via desktop or you can download the app for finance tracking. Plus, if you bundle you can directly import everything to TurboTax self-employed when tax season rolls around, making doing your taxes a minutes-long process instead of countless hours over weeks.

QuickBooks Self-Employed helps find tax deductions, organize expenses by capturing receipts, and automatically tracks mileage and categorizes all of your business expenses! It even keeps track of all of your 1099's. It is so flipping easy to use and you can stay on track all year long without having to wait until January to start to get your life in order. You can even link it up to your bank and credit card accounts so it can better categorize expenses and earnings (also giving estimates on quarterly taxes). You can even create invoices and bill clients, all from the app.

So, if you're self-employed and need an extra hand with juggling it all and that never ending to-do list, I highly recommend you add QuickBooks Self-Employed to your life. Psst. It's tax deductible, just saying.
*QuickBooks Self-Employed users find an average of $4,340 in potential tax savings per year and more than $18,000 in deductions.
This post is sponsored by QuickBooks Self-Employed.

Two Tone Walls Paint Project with Lowe's

21 April 2017

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Lowe’s.
It might be just me but I'm constantly thinking of ways to making our cozy abode feel more updated and colorful. I'm on Pinterest 90% of the time pinning bright and colorful bohemian spaces that give me inspiration. So, while laying in bed one afternoon and feeling less than inspired by our white walls and ceiling a thought crossed my mind. Why not paint the ceiling and the molding a brilliant pop of color to make the space feel less blah? I mean, after all, I'm going to be spending a heck of a lot more time in the room once the new baby arrives and I want to feel as comfortable and inspired as I do while in the living room. I mean, I love that room - those walls alone brighten my day. So, with that spark of interest I took straight to Pinterest to see if it had been done and how the results looked. I was worried that my bright idea was lost but as it would turn out it's extremely popular these days, only giving me further validation that it needed to be done. Then Lowe's came in to collaborate and it started to fall in to place.

First, I needed a color. Since we started transitioning blues into the room for the little one, so I thought a deep navy or indigo would be the best fit. It's calm, a little bit moody and will pop perfectly against the teal and navy accents throughout the room. Also, I can't help but love the thought of a sliver of blue poking out from our room as we sit in our living room with the berry walls. Hello, color! At first, I was a little worried going so dark in such a small space but after consulting Shavonda, my decor muse, she assured me it would be amazing. And like always she was spot on.

So, to Lowe's we went to start our adventure in painting. First off, they have A TON of paint options so if you're looking to start a paint project, I highly suggest heading to Lowe's. After about 20 minutes of looking at paint swatches, I finally decided on Victory Blue in satin finish from Olympic One. We grabbed a few essentials for the process, an adjustable paint pole to paint those hard to reach areas on the ceiling, drop cloth, a pan, some brushes and rollers. I also snagged a can of Metallic Rustoleom (Gold) in hopes of updating our hideous 'boob light' while we look for a more suitable flush mount option for the newly updated space. After spending just under $100, we headed home to prep.

After a full day of painting, edging and touching up I'm thrilled with the end result. It adds the needed pop of color and I can finally start moving forward with bringing in nursery items to make things feel finished. Now, to find the perfect flush mount fixture for our ceiling.

Check out the before and after:

The process: 


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Lowe’s.
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The Dad's Guide To Baby Essentials

20 April 2017

 The following is a guest post by my husband, David, in partnership with buybuy BABY.
In terms of my newborn or young infant, when I'm looking at whether something might be considered "essential" or not, I'm really only asking a couple of general questions. First, is it going to contribute to my little guy's health or safety? And second, does it sacrifice or enable mobility? 

When I'm thinking about health and safety, I'm including basic cleanliness, exercise and development, protection from the elements, and general comfort and happiness.

Air is the first and most basic necessity for life, so it's the first thing on my mind when I'm considering my baby's health and well-being. This is one of the reasons I've always been big on plants in the house. They clean the air in so many different ways and continually pump out oxygen to enrich the space. They really make a difference when you go out of town for a little while and come back. They make the air fresh, and clean-smelling instead of stale- especially in older apartments. The only thing they can't do that well is filter out dust, and other particulates, like maybe pet hair. So a high efficiency table top air purifier like this one can come in very handy. 

Next up is food. This is mostly mommy's job, but sometimes she either can't be there, or just needs a break. In that case, a good set of wide neck slow-flow bottles that are easy to clean and sterilize should be on hand and ready to use.

After food comes shelter and clothing. His little hands and feet need special covering, especially in the first weeks, when his nails are inexplicably sharp- must be a sort of survival feature or something. Unfortunately. nowadays, they only end up slicing themselves. Aside from that, anything that covers quickly and easily, like hooded towels, onesies and receiving blankets are a must. With our first two boys, we could never have enough receiving blankets or swaddles. Those things are absolute gold.

Then of course, you have to keep everything clean. Babies are very sensitive right out of the gate, so you have to have something that is hypoallergenic, dye and fragrance free. 

Mobility is up next. You obviously need something to carry it all around in, and it has to be something that is light, easy to use, and makes everything easily accessible. If it's just a little bit stylish, that's cool too. Personally, I'm usually only focused on utility and sometimes style doesn't even come into play. But that's what I have my lovely lady for: she helps keep me from looking like a total slob.

At this point, you're probably really in need of some exploring, or at least a walk. In that case, There are a couple of choices. The Baby Bjorn is a really fantastic option, because it's hands-free and your little one gets to be right up there, face in the action. A lot of babies love to be floating up there in space, going through the world like it's their own little virtual reality game. The only thing with this option is that they can only use it for so long because they get too big. After that, you have to graduate to the stroller. Even before the baby's size plays a factor, though, sometimes it's actually more convenient to use the stroller. Anytime you might need to do some recent lifting or bending over, times like that. One more consideration: if you're going to use the stroller and the weather isn't terribly friendly, the addition of a stroller muff for your comfort, and a weather shield for the baby will make a huge difference.

Lastly, mobility is not just about you moving the baby around, it's also about helping to create an environment where they can learn to move themselves around. They need the right support to feel comfortable lifting and moving their heads, space to learn to roll around, and opportunities to learn hand eye coordination. 
That's it in a nutshell, and hopefully this is was helpful. Are there any items you would put on the list I might have missed?
This post is sponsored by buybuy BABY. As always all opinions are my own.