A five month catch up












I’ve started writing this post about a dozen times in the last four months, but saying yes to blogging means saying no to something else, and the yes never outweighed the no to a whole host of things that, until now, have taken priority. But the husband is away, the baby is napping, the laundry has 40 minutes left in the wash, dinner is taken care of for tonight, so I am finally saying yes to this little corner of the Internet that until this moment has been neglected.

Let’s see, where were we when I last wrote? Oh yes, a lovely little bundle of joy entered the world. Yes, yes. She is just as delightful as I imagined and I am loving motherhood so far. It is not without its challenges, as every good thing in life has, but it is still just that — a very good thing. 

I will share her birth story another time, but she came a week early and I was very surprised. Aren’t all first babies late? J had two more weeks of school before graduating, which were the two most intense weeks of the program, so it wasn’t the best timing.

But they say it takes a village, and mine showed up big. I have so much gratitude for all of the people who helped me in the first few weeks. Goodness! All of the food, errands, snacks, laughs, tears, cleaning, and snuggles were a testimony to how loved this baby girl is.

The first two weeks were hard. I was still recovering physically, and emotionally I was a mess. I had some serious baby blues that would start at 2pm and last until it got dark. I was overtired, sore, and would cry uncontrollably at the silliest things! I dreaded being alone and felt so… vulnerable. Like my heart was outside of my body.

I knew it was just hormones being all crazy, but I didn’t know how long it would last and that was scary. Thankfully when she was exactly two weeks old the blues just went away and I was back to normal.

J finished his program and joined L and me at home during the days. We didn’t know how long he would be with us while he looked for a new job, but thankfully he got offered a job and started when L was five weeks old. The three weeks he was home with us are some of my favorite memories. It was a very quiet little life — we would take turns napping, snuggling the little babe, and sometimes the only times we would leave the house were to take walks in the neighborhood. We re-watched Parks and Recreation on Netflix, and that show now has even more special memories for me.

When J started his new job, L and I found our groove. I was getting a little stir crazy after being cooped up at home for five weeks and needed a routine. Every morning we went for a long walk, ran an errand and then spent the rest of the day napping, reading or rocking on the front porch. The weather in May and June was lovely. It was so nice having a baby in the spring to enjoy such great weather before the heat of the summer began.

As magical and serene as all of this may sound (sans the emotional mess in the beginning), it was not all roses and butterflies. L was a very fussy baby. Maybe she had colic? All I know is she cried and wanted to be held all the time. The only thing we could do to calm her down was to swaddle her tightly, sway her and put a pacifier in her mouth (the video Happiest Baby on the Block really helped teach us how to comfort her). I remember one time she was awake and not crying and both J and I were dumbfounded because she was never awake and not crying.

Everyone said after six weeks it would get easier, but six weeks came and gone and she was still the same. Then people said eight weeks was the magic age, but eight weeks came and gone. I was starting to think maybe she would never get over it, which sounds dramatic now, but when you have a baby screaming in your ear most of the day, it feels never ending. She was nine weeks old when we went to my parents for the weekend with the rest of my siblings. I broke down crying while she cried, feeling so tired and helpless about how to comfort her and not knowing when there was an end in sight.

She turned ten weeks after we got home from that weekend and it’s like a flip switched and she was a different baby. She was alert, smiling, looking around, not crying when she was awake! I could finally see what outfits I dressed her in because we didn’t have to swaddle her the whole time. Since then she’s only gotten easier and more fun as the weeks go on. She still has her little quirks and I would definitely not call her an easy baby by any means, but she is so much better than the first few weeks! I am praying that we can help parent her in a way to channel this spirited personality for good.

Surprisingly (and I’m afraid to jinx it), she’s always been a fairly good sleeper. Not a great napper, but a great sleeper at night. We put her in her crib at two weeks old and I’m glad we started that routine early. At around four months we started a routined bedtime (bath, books, feeding, sleep), and she’s now a champ at bedtime and normally goes down at 7pm and sleeps for 12 hours with a few nights a week that she wakes up once or twice in the middle of the night.

I went back to work when she was 12 weeks old. I have a lot of things I can say about juggling working full time and motherhood, so I may wait and share all of my thoughts in another post. But it’s going well and I’m so thankful for the sweet teachers who love and care for her on a daily basis.

So that’s a very short recap from what I’ve been up to in the last five months. :) I am hoping to blog again on a semi-regular basis, but we will see. There are like a dozen or so posts in my drafts folder and I’m hoping to share those soon. Finding the time for fun creative pursuits is hard these days.

Speaking of time, mine is up! Thanks to all who still reads this little blog — sending you all lots of love through the screen!

She’s here!


Our sweet baby girl made her early debut this week! Lenora Crowe Neel was born April 11, 2016 at 2:20am, weighing 7lbs, 1oz and 19.25 inches in length. We are all doing great and so in love! xoxo

The Eve of Motherhood

Maybe it’s the hormones, but I find myself incredibly nostalgic for the present. I want to savor every single moment — this season of preparation and waiting. The slow walks, the sleepless nights, the lists, the thoughts. It was summer when I found about this baby and each sign of nature’s change since has been like a little check mark until this sweet season of new life arrived.

spring 2016

I am filled with so many thoughts: I think of the baby books we are reading, preparing as best we can for life with a newborn. I think of what the seasons will be like when she wears this dress or those socks. I think of things that will be so fascinating to her, like the ceiling fan. I think of the pockets in her clothes as I fold them and wonder if she will fill them with yarn pieces or rocks. I think of the stories in her growing library — will she love the same characters I did as a child, or will we discover new friends that I have never met before? I think of tiny toes. I think of her name, and find myself doodling it in my journal like I’m a silly schoolgirl. I think of how much more enjoyable sleepless nights would be to have a baby to rock. I think about cousins and holidays and traditions. I think about the view from her crib and wonder if she will notice the birds that fly by. I think of new routines, new sounds, new smells. I think of the naïveté of all of these thoughts and chuckle at how romantic these visions are, but how delightful the preparation is.

spring 2016

I think about what this little girl is going to be like. If her personality outside of the womb is anything like she is on the inside, she’s going to be very active! God already knows exactly what she will be come, and there is so much comfort in that. No amount of parenting or training on my part can form her personality — that gives me so much peace.

spring 2016

I think of the ways I will no doubt fail her, and fight hard for peace within my soul as the lies and insecurities in motherhood are strong, even before it begins. I will be going back to work full time and it is very likely our girl will grow up in daycare for part or all of her early childhood. This is what is best for our family at this point, but I feel edgy and defensive even typing that last sentence.

I constantly have to remind myself that while God has chosen me as the perfect person to mother this child, it is arrogant of me to think that I am the perfect person to be with her at all times. God has gifted so many men and women to help mold her character, and I need to be okay to let others take care of her. My calling is to nurture and protect and love and make wise decisions as best I can.

spring 2016

I think of little fears, like the mundane monotony of motherhood. Feeding, diapering, changing, bathing, discipling, cleaning, repeating — motherhood is a life calling of constant servanthood and sacrifice. I was recently listening to an interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones, the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, on the Jamie Ivey Happy Hour podcast, and she talked about the importance of bringing excellence to children. She shared that the same level of preparation and attentiveness we give to adults should be given to children, even in the daily-ness of our lives with them. That was convicting to hear, and gave me some perspective as I anticipate the monotony that is to come.


I find myself thinking about this baby girl’s siblings, too. I think about their little personalities and how many we will have and when they will join our family and how this baby girl will be as an older sister. Friends and family have thrown me two showers, and I am so humbled by all of the love we have received. It’s a little unfair that all of the attention is poured out on the first born isn’t it? (Spoken like a true middle child.) But I understand it — the celebration given for us now is as much part for our family beginning as it is for this specific baby. The gifts and advice I have been given are going to hopefully be used two or threefold. I am so looking forward to the ways God will overflow the love we have to more children in the future.

dogwood flowers

What a privilege it is to be a mother. What a joy it has been to carry this child for the past nine months.

My heartbeat has been the soundtrack for her life thus far, and mine is the voice she will know best. I am so intimately involved in her growth — she grows simply because I live, and yet I have so little control over that growth. The whole thing is so miraculous and I stand in humility and awe that I am able to be apart of this whole life.

Maternity Leave Goals

Baby Girl is due two weeks from today! I am so excited. I am very fortunate to have 12 weeks off for my maternity leave, and while right now that sounds like an enormous amount of time, I know it’s going to go by super fast. My plan is to work up until this baby is born so that I have as much time with her before I go back.

My one and only focus during this time will be learning to care for the baby, but I thought it would be helpful to break up the weeks into 4 parts to help create some boundaries and slowly work up to a routine once I do go back to work.

I have no idea what to expect from this time off. These all may be very lofty or I may end up getting more done than I think, but for now I’m trying to give myself very small goals and low expectations.

maternity leave goals

0-3 Weeks: 

  • Put an out of office on my emails (including personal) and don’t check any emails during this time.
  • Be okay with not answering the phone or responding to texts
  • Sleep as much as possible
  • Get used to nursing / feeding
  • Have my sister Lucy take newborn photos

3-6 Weeks: 

  • Start checking personal emails and responding to friends and family
  • Go strawberry picking!
  • Write any thank you notes from gifts received in the first few weeks
  • Start looking into eating plan to lose weight
  • Bake something, even if it’s from a box
  • Go for a walk in the neighborhood 5x a week

6-9 Weeks: 

  • Go to my 6-week post-partum doctor’s appointment
  • Check back into work and finalize the date I’m coming back
  • Start running again, even if it’s super slow, and aim to go for a run 1x a week (once cleared from doctor)
  • Have a play date with friends once a week
  • Cook dinner 2x a week
  • Start pumping and figure out a schedule that will work
  • Check back into daycare to finish enrolling her (assuming J finds a job by this point)
  • Start navigating a routine with sleep and feedings
  • Go for a walk in the neighborhood 5x a week

9-12 Weeks: 

  • Continue navigating a routine with sleep and feedings
  • Have a play date with friends once a week
  • Figure out what clothes I’m able to wear and buy any new outfits for work/life
  • Order and mail birth announcements
  • Go for a walk 5x a week
  • Go for a run 2x a week
  • Cook dinner 2x a week
  • Check and sort through work emails
  • Do a practice run of what a typical daycare / workday will look like

Okay mamas — what would you add to this list? Is this too unrealistic? Is there anything you did during this time you would recommend? Any experiences or stories would be helpful!

What we did in Paris

paris in four days

paris in four days

Paris is always a good idea.

Oh Paris. There’s a reason why there are so many delightful quotes about this city. It truly is a magical place! We took the train from London to Paris and arrived in the city around 4pm. We checked into our (amazing!) hotel near the Vendome and decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower and eat somewhere nearby. That first night walking two miles through the city was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. It was so pleasant out and was so exhilarating witnessing the City of Lights at twilight.

Another favorite moment was the night before we left. By this point we had been in Europe for a week and found ourselves pretty tired from very full days of walking and touring. We decided to relax before dinner and went to our favorite spot — the Luxor Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde. We sat at the base of the Luxor Obelisk and watched the sun set over the skyline where we could see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.

We brought the 2015 Paris tour book by Rick Steves, and used a lot of his recommendations on things to do and walks to take across the city. We spent a lot more time in museums in London than we did in Paris (mainly because the London ones were free), and spent most of our time in Paris walking the streets, visiting monuments, and eating in cafes (more on the food we ate in another post!).

Like my London recap, I’ll spare you long drawn out paragraphs of all that we did and share just the highlights and a bullet list of all we saw.

Tours and experiences

  • Eiffel tower tour – rode elevator to second observation deck
  • River cruise on the seine

eiffel tower


  • Louvre
  • Musee d’Orsay

muse d'orsay


  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Grand arch (we went there on accident!)
  • French statue of liberty
  • Sacré-Cœur
  • Sainte Chapelle
  • Notre Dame

arc de triomphe


  • Walked down Champs Elyesses
  • Walked across the Love Lock Bridge (we decided not to add one since the Parisians don’t like it)
  • Ate lunch on Rue Cler
  • Walked through Montmartre to Moulin Rouge
  • Walked around Ile de la City
  • Had a little picnic on a bench next to the Eiffel Tower
  • Walked the Left Bank to find Rue Clement (my maiden name)
  • Watched the sunset at the Place de la Concorde



  • Longchamp bag
  • Macarons and elcairs
  • Nearby the Sacré-Cœur
  • Along the Seine

longchamp bag

Have you been to Paris before? What is your favorite thing? What should we do on our next trip? :)

PS — See all of our European trip posts, including what we did in London and where we stayed (for free) in Paris.

Where we stayed in Paris (for free): The Park Hyatt Vendome

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris

When J and I were planning our European trip and turning over credit cards to pay for our flights and transportation, we to also look into a card that would allow us to stay somewhere SUPER nice for free, or at least at a discount. Hyatt had a pretty good deal, so we got two of their credit cards and after just a few months built up enough points to stay at a 5-star hotel — the Park Hyatt Vendome — for free.

Never in all my days would I imagine staying in a 5-star hotel in PARIS! It was a dream.

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris


We stayed at the Palace Park Hyatt Vendome. It is a block away from the Vendome monument. which was under construction (which was disappointing when we first arrived but the large box it was covered under was noticeable from every monument we climbed later so it worked out well).

I loved the location. It’s set in the middle of the high-end shopping district. Tiffany’s and Harry Winston were right across from the hotel, with Louis Voutton on the corner. We were just a few blocks from the metro at the Opera House Opera Metro, and walking distance to the Obilisque, Louvre and Seine River. We even walked to the Eiffel Tower the first night we were there, although that was pretty long.


At the time we went, the rate for March 2015 for four nights totaled $2,900 (gulp), but we only spent $36 on tax thanks to points using the Hyatt credit card. Cha-ching. 


Oh the room! It was HUGE compared to our tiny room in London. When we arrived they told us they were upgrading us for free to a top floor room that overlooks the courtyard as card members. There was a mini bar, king size bed, amazing shower, his and her’s dressing areas, heated bathroom floors, and a great view of the courtyard. We had a remote to control the blackout shades at night.

Overall thoughts:

Oh my stars. We felt like frauds walking through the fancy halls! There was a spa in the lowest level and a restaurant, bar and courtyard on the main level. We didn’t use any of that because it was way out of our price range. But we definitely took advantage of the great staff. Since we didn’t speak French, we asked the concierge for their opinions on good restaurants and they called and made reservations for us. That was so helpful and really made the Parisian dining experience a lot less stressful. The whole experience was perfect.

Here are some more pictures of the place…

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris

Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris

I can confidently say I will never stay in a hotel as nice as this one for the rest of my life; it is all down hill from here.

PS – See more posts from our European trip



ENJOYING the days getting brighter and brighter. Spring will be here soon!

WEARING  leggings, this tunic and my new glasses as soon as I get home from work. 

LISTENING to this album on repeat. I am always a little bummed after Christmas is over because my house isn’t filled with holly, jolly tunes. This album, however, is getting me excited for Easter with all of its joyful risen songs. Also it’s Irish, which is seasonal as well. 

CELEBRATING J’s new adventure! I shared a little about this in my last post, but quit his job at the company he’s been at for the last six years and is embarking in a 12-week computer programming bootcamp for the next few months. Follow along his journey if you’re interested! 

LOOKING forward to my two showers in the next few weeks. I am so humbled by all the baby love I can’t handle it!

EATING lots of soups and candy hearts.

SPENDING very little money. We are halfway through the first month living off my paycheck alone, and so far it’s going better than we expected. 

DRINKING pellegrino with lime, my cocktail of choice these days. 

DREAMING of maternity leave, with spring in bloom and a new baby in my arms. 

STRUGGLING to tie my shoes. 

INSPIRED to exercise, now that I have a temporary gym membership to the YMCA. I found a few classes I like — cycle, total body strength and barre — and have these classes scheduled into my calendar like an event I cannot miss. Here’s hoping all this exercise will help me prepare for labor and make recovery a little easier!

(re)WATCHING How I Met Your Mother again with J. 

READING so many books. I just finished Heidi (never before read it and it’s the sweetest little book!), and am in the middle of three books, including this one, this one, and this one. 

What are you currently up to? :)