Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends! I hope your week has been a good one. It's been another busy one for us over here and I'm looking forward to things slowing down a bit after the new year. I'm giving myself a big pat on the back this week because this is my third post. Say what? I know, I'm still wondering how I was able to pull that one off. Don't get too used to it though, I can't guarantee how long that will last. 

Here's a look at some of my favorites from the week...

1. Snuggles with my boys: 

With everything we have going on I haven't had a chance to get a picture with all three of them. Thankfully our Sunday was a little more laid back and I got to enjoy some snuggles. They may have only lasted for 5 minutes until the boys thought it was better to flop on me and little C started getting fussy. These days though, I will take my snuggles any way I can get them.

He's back: 

You might remember I mentioned last week that our elf Alvin made his return. I shared more about our welcome back breakfast here. I know a big topic has been if someone is a Christian (I don't really like to give labels so let's just say believer) should they be participating in Santa related things. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I also think it's about the delivery. We always make Jesus the focus of the holiday and have explained that Santa is His helper. Just like how he gives to others we should also give back. I'm curious to know how you explain Santa to your little ones?

3. Gingerbread Houses:

I'm happy to say that our gingerbread houses did not topple down this year! Last year our house was a bit of a disaster and I ended up hot gluing that thing together. Hey, whatever works. When I came across these mini houses this year I knew we needed to give them a try. They were so much easier than doing one big one. We all got to decorate our own and make it special.

4. We're moving: 

In case you missed it I shared some big news this week. It's been a long process with a lot of patience being tested, but we are so thankful for this amazing blessing and can't wait to raise our family here. The big move happens next week and we are so excited. While the house won't be completely done, we're used to living through renovations and getting things to how we would like it. I'm determined to have a tree up and some decorations out to make this Christmas special for the boys.

5. Favorite finds:

I love coming across a good sale especially when it's something I need or could use. I couldn't pass up this frost-free jacket and I love the heather gray color.  Did anyone catch Old Navy's $5 velvet top sale yesterday? I took a quick look in the morning but then the baby started fussing, so of course priorities. When I remembered later on, and took a look at night, they were sold out in my size. Speaking of velvet, I came across these velvet pants and decided to order them and give them a try. I'm still loving my maternity jeans but I think these could work for Christmas with a sweater. Now, whether they fit or not is a whole other thing. A lot of you commented on the boys PJs from our elf breakfast so I linked them here. They're currently buy on get one 50% off.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Here's where you can find me linking for all of the linkup fun. Don't forget that Thursday is our next girl chat where we'll be sharing more about our favorite ornaments.

When God's Timing Is Everything-A House To Call Home

If you've been a long time reader of mine (always a huge thank you to those that are) then you know I mentioned a few times that I had a post sitting in draft for over a year now. Well my friends, the time has finally come to be able to hit publish. Fast forward to it now being over two years later since this was first started, you can probably guess that a lot of editing and adding to the story has taken place. In fact, this story has completely changed from the original way it started.

Sometimes I wonder if God has a sense of humor or really tests us on the areas that we need some improvements on. You see, patience has never been a strong point of mine and it's still something I continually work on. I like to have an idea of what's going on, think about the plans ahead (yet I'm also very spontaneous, go figure), and if I'm being completely honest with myself, I also like to be in control.

Let's rewind a bit to 2016. Gosh, that sounds so long ago when I type it out. You might see a little rewinding and fast forwarding all throughout this post, so bear with me. Some of you might remember when I shared that our little family sold our first house and moved into one of our rental properties. A little back story, Eric and I decided to dip our toes into real estate investment back in 2012. We are so thankful for the opportunities it's opened up for us and for where it's brought us to today. With that has come five houses, some great tenants, and a love for renovating and making things our own. Our original plan was to stay in our rental for maybe 6 months until we found our dream home. Ha! 6 months. Here we are two plus years later and I'm just packing my boxes. 

The thing is, what we were looking for was a bit unconventional. We always knew that we wanted to be back in a neighborhood setting but not on top of our neighbors. We love having space and ultimately wanted land, and a decent amount of it.

If we go a ways back to when we bought our first house there was this overgrown Colorado Blue Spruce blocking the view of our front door. We decided to cut it down and use it as our first Christmas tree. This thing was huge. We took the first 9 feet off of it and brought it into the house. Aside from a spiders nest hatching in it while in the house, we loved it. That tree set the tone for our future together. We thought, how cool would it be to own a bunch of Christmas trees one day and be able to cut one down each year.

As time went on, we searched high and low for properties but nothing seemed to come close to what we had in mind. Since the winter is typically a slow time around here for the real estate market, we decided to wait until the spring. Eric came across a property that was in a back neighborhood that sat on 25 acres. It was a beautiful property, but there was one thing missing, there was no house. It was literally just 25 acres of corn. The idea of building our own home quickly became exciting and we decided to take a drive to look at it. After falling in love with it we put in an offer. There was a little back and forth with numbers and then after that things just fizzled out. The owners (that were a non-profit) decided to hold onto it. We were bummed out but it also felt like a long shot in the back of our minds. We continued our search with no real luck.

About 6 months later we went on a holiday train ride with our friends that was about 10 minutes from the property. After our time with them we decided to drive by to see if anything had been done with the land. We walked around a field of cut down corn and as we were there it started to snow flurry. It was a beautiful moment that brings me right back every time I think of it. We decided as a family to lay our hands on the ground and pray over it. While that might sound crazy to some, I think that sometimes it's an outward act of showing God you are trusting in Him that makes such a difference. All crazy thoughts aside, would you believe that next day we got an email from our realtor asking us if we were still interested in the property and that the owners had contacted her that morning to ask. Eric called me at work to tell me what happened and I nearly fell out of my chair. I know God hears our prayers and all, but that felt like it was super quick. We went to our church's Christmas Eve service that week and the children's story they read was about a Christmas tree farmer. Eric and I just looked at each other and felt like it was meant to be. Two weeks later A's preschool teacher stopped me in the hallway and told me that she felt led to tell me a story about what he said he wanted to be when he grew up. She told me that his answer was so different than any of the other children and that it was the way he said it. All I could think to myself was, what in the world did this boy say?!? She told me that he said he wanted to be a farmer when he grows up and to take care of animals. I explained to her that that's something we were actually working on and that we were looking for land. She said she felt like it was an affirmation and that she was sure it would eventually happen. I walked away from our conversation with chills and a great hope. That next day we got word from our real estate agent that the offer we put in back over the summer was accepted and they wanted to move forward with us buying the land. I'm not sure I can put into words the excitement we felt and how everything felt like it was coming together. But, as quickly as things seemed to come together they also started to fall apart.

Since we were buying land we needed to put in a septic system and have a well dug out to be able to put a house on it. That particular town was one of the only ones in the state where you had to do a perc test during a certain time of year. When we went to initiate the test we were past that deadline. We fought with the town to let us test outside the parameters, but they would not budge. This meant we had to wait a whole other year to get this test done before we could move forward with anything. At first we were really upset but then we thought about it and waiting another year, saving up, and taking our time didn't seem so bad. Fast forward that whole year and we were set and ready to go with getting the perc test under way. A perc test measures the water levels in the ground to see if you can even put a septic system in. This test was to be done during the town's wet season which was January-March. Well wouldn't you know, it happened to be one of the worst winters ever for us and we got slammed with snow storm after snow storm. Within that time period we failed two of the weeks because the water level was too high. We fought with the town again to allow us to retest and showed that others who also had this test done during that time also failed those same weeks. The long and short of it is, because of all of the delays and at this point still not being anywhere near building, we decided to walk away. It was a really hard decision. We were emotionally invested in this land and everything leading up to it felt so right. It's hard to explain how something that feels like it was meant to be just no longer is.

With no real plan in place, we knew that our search would continue. We even questioned a few times if we should just give up this dream of wanting land, having trees and animals and instead settle for a house that would still be great for us.

Fast forward (see I told you there would be some of that going on) several months later and Eric was contacted by a former boss about an opportunity at a different company. He wasn't in the job market or even looking at the time. This location was a lot farther from where we were but I told him it couldn't hurt for him to explore it more. Within a few days of all of this happening a house came on the market that ticked off a lot of what we were looking for. It didn't hurt that it was only 20 minutes away from this prospective job opportunity. There was an open house that weekend so we decided to go check it out. We ended up really liking it and realized that it might be a smart idea to stick to what we're good at. And that is, going into houses tearing down walls, reconfiguring things and making them our own. While the thought of building something from the ground up was super exciting, I'm not sure how good I would have been just going off of floor plans. I need to walk through a space, get a feel for what works and what doesn't. We spent well over an hour at the open house, walked the property, let the kids run around and really talked things through. We left there with the idea that Eric would go on his interview and we would take it from there. And that's exactly what we did. The day after his interview they called him with an offer (which is a rare turn around time in his industry) and we decided to put an offer in on the house. They accepted and we were amazed at how quickly things were falling into place.

When we stop trying to work with our own timelines and let God have control it's amazing what can happen. It isn't always easy because remember how I mentioned I like to be in control? Yeah, not easy at all. The hardest part is saying, ok God, it's your plan and not mine. I have to believe that He had something in the works for us well beyond what we even thought. The amazing part is, this property sits on 28 acres and already has about 100 Christmas trees on it. 25 acres might have fallen through, but He gave us even more, and even more of what our heart was desiring.

We've been busy doing a complete renovation, tearing out walls, reconfiguring things, and are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our plan is to plant even more trees and to have our friends and family over every year to cut one down. We'd also love to let one keep growing and maybe make it to Rockefeller Center one day. We probably wouldn't be around to see it because a Christmas tree only grows a foot every year. But maybe it could be something our grandkids could share. We'll eventually be building a barn and look forward to getting some animals. If you're a frequent reader around here then you know my son A has been asking for a hedgehog. That will be something he'll get one day. We have so many visions and dreams for this property. I would love to have a big garden (that hopefully doesn't flop) and maybe one day have enough fresh veggies to donate to a local shelter or food pantry.

I share this story not to brag about things but to encourage anyone that feels like they are in a season of waiting to keep trusting. It definitely isn't easy, believe me, I know that first hand. There were times I questioned things myself and had many doubts. Some of you may have read some of this and rolled your eyes, or even thought, Sierra, you sound crazy. And that's ok. If by me sharing this can even encourage just one person then it's all worth it.

I am so humbled and grateful for this experience and so excited to share more of this journey with all of you. I look forward to sharing more details about our renovation projects and turning our house into a home.

Elf On The Shelf North Pole Breakfast

Before I knew that a north pole breakfast was a thing, we always threw a welcome back breakfast for our dear friend, Alvin. If you've been following along for a while now then you know I have a lot of fun putting this breakfast together. It might be my favorite part of the whole elf on the shelf experience.

We usually have our elf come back the weekend of Thanksgiving but with baby boy being born right before we decided to hold off for another week. I have to say, it's not so bad having him come a little later because this whole elf thing is a big commitment, and mainly for the parents.

I know some people who wait and have their elf come back the week before Christmas. The more I think about it, they might be the smart ones. Regardless of when your elf comes, I think we can all agree it adds a little extra holiday cheer and it's so fun to see our kids reactions.

We first started this tradition when A was two years old, you can see our previous breakfast here, here, and here. We might have been a little anxious to get everything going because he didn't really get it at that point. I think three might be the magic age because we even see now that this year little nugget also really gets it. He's had some great questions and logical reasons to things about our elf.

Our elf usually leaves them a little message in the morning on a small chalkboard that I have. The one morning he addressed it to just A and little nugget. They both asked about why he didn't say anything their baby brother C. I had to come up with something really quick for that one. I went with the line that until he knows right from wrong Alvin will just be focusing on the two of them. Just like he didn't come to our house until A knew right from wrong. They bought it, or at least I think they did, because they haven't asked about it since.

Our poor elf has also fallen twice from the spots where we moved him, and coaty almost got him once. Crisis adverted with a magic spatula and a new dog toy.

Let's get back to the actual breakfast. We love us some pancakes around here and spending time in the kitchen on the weekends. Anything from keeping them simple to putting together some of our green pancakes. This year I went with classic pancakes, a little frosting, and some special candy cane shaped sprinkles. I picked up some powdered donuts and these fun candy cane lollipops. I always like to give our breakfasts a theme so this year it was the jingle jangle breakfast. Our elf brought them a few small gifts and also their advent calendars.

Our littlest elf made his debut but with milk being on his menu he was more occupied with that. It will be even more special next year when he'll already be a year and will hopefully be enjoying those pancakes just as much as we all do.

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, friends! I hope this has been a great week for everyone. I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things over here and adjust to our new routine. I think I under estimated how many additional doctors visits would take place with baby boy, but he is doing so well and we are trying to tackle this journey as best as we can. It seems like every day it's getting a little better. I wanted to jump on quick to share some of our favorites from the week and a little bit more about what we've been up too...

1. Special time with our big boys: 

the boys have all been great with each other and really stepped up to this big brother role so much better than I could have ever imagined. As soon as they come home from school all they want to do is hold him and help take care of him. My mom was able to help us out and watch baby boy (which I'll refer to as C on here) so Eric and I could both make it to see the boys in their Christmas play. They did so good! A had a speaking part this year where he recited Luke 2:11 and he could not have said it any better. He did so amazing and I couldn't help but have a big old smile on my face. Little nugget was a candy cane that didn't want to participate too much except for when they sang we wish you a merry Christmas. He was all into that. 

We picked the boys up early from school that day and surprised them with taking them to go see the Grinch. It made the day even more special but it was weird being away from C.  We knew that he was in good hands and tried to make our big boys feel special.

2. Elf on the shelf: 

my long time readers probably aren't surprised that I had to make our welcome back (north pole) breakfast special with our elf, Alvin. It's been a little different this year since a lot of our Christmas traditions are taking a backseat with C only being two weeks old. We would love to tackle all the things but it's too risky with the cold temps and so many germs this time of year.  I'm trying my best to make the things we are able to accomplish extra special. I'll be sharing more about our breakfast and hopefully doing a dedicated post next week.

3. Christmas card pictures: 

our cards are going out a little later this year but we couldn't send a card without baby boy being apart of it. My sister was able to take some pictures of us that I am so thankful for, and of course in love with. I'll be sharing more of them soon, too.

4. Our sweet love: 

in case you missed it, I was able to put a post together this week sharing more about baby boy and what life has looked like lately. I want to thank you all for your kind words and sweet messages. I will get around to respond back to everyone, eventually. Please know I am reading them and appreciate them so much. I'm also so appreciative of those of you who have reached out to share your personal stories or to let me know that you are pregnant with a little one that has a cleft. You come to realize that it's a lot more common than all of us think. At first I wasn't sure how comfortable I would be with sharing our journey or pictures of him, but what I've learned is, there is a lot more good in this world and the love and support has been so amazing. I've decided to approach this as more of an opportunity to educate people (as we are learning so much as we go through this) and my hope is to help others who might be going through something similar. If we don't put our feelings and experiences out there then it becomes harder to learn and connect with others. If you ever have any questions and don't want to leave something in my comments, please feel free to email me as well.

5. Recent finds: 

I quickly realized that my current handbag I was using was not going to cut it for carrying some additional baby things. I love a good backpack but sometimes I need things more accessible then having it on my back. I love them for the older boys though. I came across this canvas tote bag (currently on sale) and I love the wine color I went with. You can use it as a tote or it also has a shoulder strap that I love using while I need my hands free. I've also been trying to get things together for baby boy's room and I came across some woven storage baskets (similar here) that I think will work out really well. Sherpa jackets have been all the rage lately and I can see why. I came across this one and also love that it comes in several different colors and is really reasonable. 

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Here's where you can find me linking for all the link up fun. 

He's Here-Life Lately

Well hello my friends! It feels like it's been forever yet time hasn't passed at all. Isn't it funny how that happens? If you follow me on Instagram (@beautifully_candid) then you've probably heard the news that our sweet baby boy has made his arrival. I'll back up for a minute and pick up where I left off.

His due date was 11/23 but I've never really been one to get too hung up on due dates. Babies come when they want to and with both A and little nugget they wanted to sit snug and came after. This time around, since we knew baby boy has a cleft lip and palate it was suggested that if he didn't come that weekend before, then I did have the option to be induced on 11/20 so that all doctors could be prepared for us. I also think it was a convenient way for most of them to enjoy their Thanksgiving without chancing him arriving then. I can't blame them though. Because realistically, we wanted that, too.

That whole weekend before I was having contractions. In fact, I thought there was a possibility he was coming on that Friday night. I was having contractions for three hours and they got as close as two minutes apart. Then out of no where they just kind of fizzled out. I was so confused because that never happened before. Both A and little nugget came super quick so I wasn't sure what to think. I had contractions here and there throughout the weekend but nothing really substantial.

Fast forward to Monday and I went in for my regular Dr's appointment and to discuss our options. He told me there was definitely something going on and that if he didn't come that night he would see me in the more to be induced. Well that night the contractions started up again. They were more consistent but not as close together as before. We were supposed to be at the hospital at 6am but didn't make it there until around 7:30am because I had to keep stopping to breathe and get my act together since I was still having contractions. When I got to the hospital I was already 4cm dilated and they let me contract on my own. They did give me pitocin to help regulate things but I wasn't officially induced (I guess) because I was already in labor. I didn't plan on turning this into a birth story, but here we are. I eventually got the epidural and got a little rest.

As time went on, I started getting a little nervous just thinking about all the what ifs with him and if I could be the best mom that I could be for him. I started to tear up and ended up breaking down to Eric and my sister (who were both there for his birth) and reassured me that he was going to be perfect. I knew deep down that he would be fine and that God was carrying us through this. Spirit Break Out by Kim Walker-Smith was playing on my Pandora in the background and in that moment, I knew all would be ok. Shortly after, my doctor came in the room at 3:20pm and said, ok we're going to have a baby between 3:25pm and 3:27pm. We were all like, wait what? It's go time??? I started pushing and sure enough he was born on 11/20 at 3:27pm. When they placed him in my arms the only thing I could do was smile at him with tear filled eyes and say, hello handsome.

And that he was. Just tiny and perfect in every way. My heart filled with so much love and every doubt or idea of what I though things would be like seemed to melt away. It almost seems silly now looking back that I even had so much worry. I guess that's the fear of the unknown though. The doctors did take a quick look at him and let him stay with us for an hour or so before they needed to take him up to the NICU. That was hard for me, because here you just have a baby, but he can't stay with you. The only reason he was there was so that he could learn to feed. Which he took to like a champ. I started pumping for him and was running milk (well I wasn't, Eric was) back and forth to him. The next day I was up walking around and going up to visit and learn how to feed him. We had to scrub in every time and only the two of us were allowed in to see him. It was so eye opening seeing these teeny tiny babies in there fighting for their life. And let me tell you, almost every room and incubator was full. We felt incredibly blessed yet heartbroken at the same time for these other families going through so much.

We were so incredibly thankful that by the next night he was able to come down into our room with us, and that all of us could be discharged on Thanksgiving. We were so happy to be able to go home to introduce him to the boys and enjoy a turkey dinner. 

The boys were so amazing with him from the start and could not wait to meet him. When they first saw him all they could say was, he's so cute! A told us that he was a little nervous because he thought he was going to look scary, but what he told us was, he's not scary at all, he's the cutest thing he's ever seen. They've had a special relationship from the start and he's always asking to hold him, hug him, help and feed him. I truly could not be more proud of how both of them have been with him. They've also been very protective and will be sure to tell anyone not to cough near him or dare to come close to his soft spot.

Our days have been all over the place and before we know it we're looking at the clock realizing we have to go pick up A and little nugget from school. I seriously don't know where the time goes. You would think that being home you could do a lot more, but no way, not over here. I'm pumping every few hours, then feeding him a certain way with a special squeeze bottle, and if he want's to snuggle, well everything else stops. 

Our dinners lately have been eaten in the living room with baby gadgets all around us, and coaty has snuck one too many treats off of our plates. We've been back and forth to different doctors visits and meeting with his craniofacial team. This week he will have further hearing screenings and will be getting fitted for his NAM. This is all a learning process for Eric and I, but from what we understand, it's a device that will help shape and prepare his nose area for surgery. On top of all of this, we have some exciting news to share soon, and let's just say, it's never a dull moment around here. 

I can't believe that he's already going to be two weeks old. It's been two weeks of so much love, snuggles, joy, and just being in awe of our little man. He's such a little sweetheart and has captured all of our hearts in more ways than we ever imaged. We are so blessed and thankful to have him here. 
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