Moms And Babies - Nicole

This week I'm featuring my blog friend Nicole from Table For Four! Nicole is so sweet, and I've really been enjoying getting to know her better through blogging. She also has two very cute little boys . . . read on to learn more!

I've been following Callie's blog and story for some time now, and I have always loved it.  It's one of my daily reads.  Callie often convicts me and always offers me encouragement.  I was so excited to be invited to be featured on Moms and Babies!  Thanks!

Tell us a little about yourself:

I'm Nicole from Table For Four.  I'm a former music teacher, turned Stay-at-home mom.  I have two boys that have made me into a pile of mush.  I have a sexy husband who works hard to provide for our family. I currently live with my in-laws (it's interesting).  I love Jesus more and more every day.  Hello!

What are your babies names and how old are they?

Marco is 2... will be 3 in June.

Jonas is 17 months (or 18 depending on when this is posted) and he'll turn 2 in September.

Yes, they're only 15 months apart.

Yes, it was insane.

A typical day:

Basically we wake up close to 8am and immediately get ready and eat breakfast.  We have something to do every morning, be it Bible Study, MOPS or just a play date at the park.  I like to keep busy.  We're usually home by noon for lunch and naps.  On a good day, they'll nap till about 3, at which point we'll have free play, coloring and movies with a snack.  Then it's the night-time routine of dinner, bath, Bible story and bed.  Only that takes a looooong time, so they're usually not in bed til 9.

Then the battle really begins.  Usually takes at least an hour.  We're working on it.

Three words that describe their personalities?

Marco- Fun loving, energetic, busy

Jonas- Sweet, Sensitive, Sneeky

My Favorite Part about being a Mom:

Watching them grow, learn and develop and knowing that I did this.  And knowing that I'm doing a GOOD job!

Tips on Losing the Baby Weight:

It's been said before, but I've gotta say it again.  Breastfeed.  If only for the weight benefits, do it!

What have you and your husband done since babies arrival to keep the relationship strong?

A lot of people talk about the importance of "date nights", and while I'm sure it's great, it just doesn't work for us.  Date night just puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on my husband and quite frankly, we're both too exhausted to enjoy it.

We do little things.  I sit next to him and read a book while he watches a basketball game.  We hold hands.  We text each other throughout the day. We take an afternoon "nap" while the boys are taking theirs.  We're a team.

Any must-have products I would recommend to other moms?

That totally depends on the age of the baby.  My favorite baby gear was the Moby Wrap, hands down.

 But for kids my age, I'd definitely say a double dvd player for the car (long trips only), a subscription to Netflix, and Cars paraphernalia... bed sheets encourages bed time,  underwear encourages potty training, toothbrush encourages dental hygiene, etc...

What has been your favorite moment or outing as a family so far?

Too many moments to count... most of them relate to Marco being a sweet big-brother to Jonas... wiping his nose, hugging him, helping him reach something.

But by far the best moment I can recall would be the day we brought Jonas home from the hospital after him being in the NICU for 28 days.  Marco had heard about a baby, but was not able to see him until that day.  And watching the confusion, realization, and adoration on his face as he finally understood who this baby was... that moment is forever engraved in my mind.  We were finally complete.

Any advice for First time moms?

Don't worry.  Too many moms are concerned with benchmarks and milestones and they worry for nothing.

If your baby doesn't smile by 4 weeks... it's ok, he'll smile eventually.  I've never heard of a healthy baby that doesn't smile.

If your baby doesn't roll by 3 months... it's ok, he'll roll eventually.  I've never heard of a healthy baby that doesn't roll.

If your baby doesn't sit by 5 months... it's ok... do I have to go on?

If you're happy, your baby will be happy.  If you're confident, your baby will be confident.

Take it easy, enjoy each stage, don't be in a rush, don't fret and don't worry!

Great advice, thanks Nicole! Check out Nicole's blog to read more!

Easter 2012


We had a lovely Easter together as a family yesterday!  We went to our church service, which was wonderful and joyful, just like I would expect it to be on Easter Sunday.  I wanted to go to the sunrise service that we normally attend, but I figured being wakened early and going out into the dark and cold might be a little much for Wyatt this year.  We might try it next year.

After church we went out to lunch with Derek’s side of the family.  I was going to take pictures of Wyatt with his cousins, but we only got a family picture and picture of Derek and Wyatt before my camera battery died.  Now I think I need a spare for just such occasions.



After lunch we went home, put Wyatt down for a nap, and then Derek and I spent the afternoon reading, watching a couple episodes of Monk, and I took a nap.  It was very low-key and perfect for this year.

After Wyatt woke up from his nap I gave him his Easter basket!





In his Easter basket I put “The Sunflower Parable” by Liz Curtis Higgs, Lady and the Tramp, bendable Easter bunny toys, a bunny stuffed animal, and balls.  And plastic eggs which I filled with yogurt melts.  Wyatt hasn’t had yogurt melts before, and I thought he’d like them, but he proved me wrong.




We might try them again today, when he’s more hungry.


Overall it was a lovely, relaxed Easter Sunday, and it was perfect to slow down and remember our Jesus is Risen!  I hope each of you had just as good a time celebrating our Savior!

His Glorious Light


Easter has snuck up on me this year.

In a normal year I’d have eggs decorated, items bought for Wyatt’s Easter basket, and plans already in place for Easter Sunday.  But this year I have been very unprepared.

I was laying in bed on Tuesday night of this past week, thinking about how un-festive this Easter season has been at our house.  But more than that, I was frustrated because I felt like my heart has been so unprepared to celebrate my Savior’s resurrection this year. 

Normally I have more opportunities to ponder about what Jesus went through as He rode into Jerusalem before His betrayal and crucifixion, what agony He must have experienced as He died for my sins, how thrilling it must have been for Mary Magdalene and the disciples on that day when they realized He was alive! 

But we missed church last Sunday because Derek and Wyatt were sick, and I  had no other teaching or devotions (as it seems I normally encounter this time of year) to focus my heart on Him this week. 

And if that weren’t enough, over and over again this week I was being stricken with the realization of what a dark world this really is.  It settled over me like a fog, and I was having a hard time focusing on the goodness and beauty and light that Resurrection week should bring, feeling oppressed by the darkness of this world that is not my home.

But as I was laying in bed in the middle of the night, thinking all of this over, I let my mind wander over the story of Jesus’ resurrection one more time.  And I thought how appropriate it was that Jesus rose from the dead early in the morning, as the sun was rising.


Every day, since God established time, the sun rises.  Every day, it peeks up over the horizon and without even trying it has victory over the night.  The dark has no defense against such radiant light, and it disappears without any trace.

Nothing must have been so dark as the Son of God dying on that cross.  Dying because of our sin.

  But then . . . Jesus rose and defeated sin and death, just as the sun was rising on that Easter morning so long ago.  Death has no more victory – darkness cannot stand against His glorious light.

Even though those of us who believe in Him still have to live here in this dark world, we have the victory over death and sin and darkness, because we have Him.  Jesus, the ultimate victor, the One who saves us, has the victory! 

He died and rose to save me, I belong to Him.  And now, though I may be grieved by the spiritual darkness around me, I am reminded that this world is not my home.  The darkness will not overcome me because Jesus already overcame the darkness for me!  He has filled my heart with His light from the moment He washed my sins away.

Someday He will come back and take the darkness away from us forever – and there will be nothing left but His light, and His love, and His grace.  If we believe in Him we will get to enjoy that for eternity.

Until then, I’ll let the sunrise remind me that the victory has already been won – our Jesus has the victory!  And nothing can change that, no spiritual darkness can snuff out that Light.

Because He is Lord, and He is risen!


I wish you a Happy Resurrection Day, my friends!  I pray you each know Jesus, and may you be overwhelmed with His light and His grace this Easter.


P.S. I have to admit that I didn’t take that picture in the morning, but the light was so pretty shining through those blossoms that I thought it seemed an appropriate picture for this post!

Dream Jobs, Exercise, Etc. . .More Questions

Wow, I sort of fell off the badnwagon when it comes to those 66 questions I was supposed to answer (now up to 77 - I got tagged again), so here is the next set from my blog friend Natalie at Extraordinary Love!

What is something you are only mediocre at that you would like to become great at?

Oh my, um . . . I really am not sure. I guess at this point I'd say either painting (I'd really like to be able to paint better, but I feel like I have no time to practice) or public speaking. I'd love to be great at public speaking, but I'm just okay. I express myself better in writing.

What is your favorite exercise, or way to exercise?

I do workout videos at home for my exercise. I just don't really enjoy working out where other people can see me - I feel ridiculous. That said, I do wish I had an exercise bike - whenever we stay at hotels I love to go work out on the bike while we are there (and let's face it, there aren't many other people in hotel gyms). I think I'd use it often if I had one! But I would hate biking outside on a real bike. Basically, I like to work out alone, and not in public.

My favorite workout DVD.

What is your most hated chore?

Oh, folding laundry. It just piles up because I hate to fold it! And I'm not sure why, because I usually do it while I watch TV so it's not a big deal. I think more than folding I hate putting the laundry away - I think I might be slightly OCD, and we have small closets in this house. I hate having to shove everything into our too-small closets and drawers. It's just so messy and not-organized.

Who is the person you trust most in the world... besides your spouse (if you are married).

Probably my mom. I can always count on her for good advice, and she'll set me straight when I need it too. I don't know too many other people who are willing to lovingly offer me correction when I need it. My mom and Derek are those people for me, and their opinions count most to me on any given subject.

What is your favorite time of the day?

I think the afternoon is my favorite time of day right now. It's always warmest and most cheerful in the afternoon. If Wyatt's awake it's the best time of day to play, but I also usually get at least an hour to myself in the afternoon while he naps too. The only thing that would make the afternoons more perfect would be if I got to spend time with Derek every afternoon as well - then I could have the best of everything all packed into my afternoons. Which I usually do on the weekends, so weekend afternoons are even better!

How do you spend majority of your time? (I mean what takes up most of your time in your day, a baby, job, spouse, etc. or you can be more specific...nursing, writing papers, whatever.)

Well, taking care of Wyatt/taking care of the house/running errands takes up most of my day, and I wouldn't have it any other way! But when Wyatt is napping? Blogging. Blogging is my main hobby, but if it's not blogging it's reading. I usually take nap time and just do things that I want to do during that time (I probably should spend it being more productive, but hey - I'm just being honest here). Then when Derek is home we all three just spend time together and I don't do any blogging or chores.

That's during the week on a non-work day. On work days, my job takes up most of my day, and on weekends I spend almost all of my time just hanging out with Derek and Wyatt!

Wyatt loves being hung upside down like that! By the way, that is also a sneak peek of Wyatt's one year pictures - which I'll hopefully have up sometime next week!

What is your favorite date activity BESIDES the most common ones such as movie, dinner, etc.

Lately I've been loving just going on a walk somewhere together, as a family, especially when the weather is nice. We went on a walk the other day along a river, and the trees were blooming, and the air smelled sweet, the sun was setting - it was perfect. But if we are talking an entire date, going to museums or the zoo is my favorite date!

How do you most show people you love them?

I tell them I love them, and I try to give them a little extra attention or do something thoughtful. I'm not always good at doing the last two consistently, but I love surprising people with something in the mail, or (in the case of Derek) making them something good to eat, etc. But my main way of letting people know I love them or care about them is just to verbally tell them so.

Which website do you spend the most time on?

Probably Google Reader. Keeping up on reading all your blogs takes up a lot of time! Hence why I don't comment nearly as much as I'd like, and hence why I'm always behind on blog reading . . . there just aren't enough hours in the day.

What is your favorite color or theme for decorating?

I think I'm a little schizophrenic on the decorating front - I like so many different things - especially fresh color schemes, and rustic-country-mountain type decor. Which are a little conflicting sometimes. So maybe fresh rustic schemes? I'm coming up with my own style as I tweak things here and there in my house, but here are a couple schemes I love:





If I had enough time and money I'd find a way to put all of that together into my new living room, and I'd deem it fresh-rustic. For now, I work with what I have (and what I can afford).

What is your dream job?

Stay-at-home wife and mom is what I want most to do! And I mainly get to do that right now. But if we're talking a paying job (you know, in actual money) . . . microbiologist or travel journalist. Both of those sound fun to me!

I'll try to not slack off so badly and get the next set of questions up quicker next time!

Simple Secrets To A Happy Life Review

I recently agreed to review "Simple Secrets To A Happy Life" by Luci Swindoll, mostly because the title drew me in. Who doesn't want to have a happy life? And simple, practical tips are always my favorite.

I loved this book. It contains fifty chapters each on a different "simple secret", which include everything from thoughts on friendship, taking care of your health, and helping others to fun suggestions like setting up a home library or cooking a special meal just for yourself. The chapters are brief and read almost like blog posts, which is right up my ally. But even though each chapter isn't very long there is a ton of wisdom packed into each one, gleaned from Luci's 80 years of life experience.

I love Luci's writing style, and her personality shines through each chapter. In the process of reading this book I think I've also found another favorite author, and I'll be looking for other books by Luci Swindoll after reading this one.

I definitely would recommend this book for anyone and everyone. It was sometimes helpful, sometimes thought-provoking, and overall an encouraging and inspiring read!

Note: I received a copy this book from Book Sneeze, a review program run by Thomas Nelson publishing group, in exchange for this review - this is my honest opinion of the book.

Moms And Babies–Ashlee


This week I’m featuring Ashlee from Beauty She Finds!  Ashlee and I found each other’s blog through the Top Baby Blogs website (click here to vote for me, and here to vote for Ashlee, if you are so inclined), and I’ve really enjoyed reading about her pregnancy and her sweet baby girl!  Read on to learn more about her!

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ashlee and I am 23 years old. My husband, Chris, and I have been married for 2 1/2 years! I am currently a stay-at-home mom and I love it! It's what I've always wanted to be, although I am a licensed cosmetologist.

What's your baby's name and how old is she?

My daughter's name is Hazel Charlene and she is 3 months old!

 moms and babies 1

Give us an idea of what a typical day looks like for you.

No two days are alike for us. We don't have an actual "schedule" per say, we just play ever day by hear. Typically we wake up and feed. Then we hang out for about two hours until she wants to eat again. After that she will take a nap for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Then she will eat again and we play. She'll take another nap and have another feeding before her daddy gets home. Then those two talk and play. We all watch a movie and have one more feeding before bed.
She's too young, yet, to actually play during the day, but we spend all day listening to music and having "conversations" with each other. She will usually spend some time in her swing with the mobile and rain forest noises going.

moms and babies 2

If you had to choose three words to describe your baby's personality, what would they be?

Happy. Stubborn. Sweet.
This baby has been so happy lately. It melts my heart. We wake up in the morning to lots and lots of cooing and "laughing". She likes to tell us stories and she parties. All the time.
She is so stubborn. It may be too early for this to be a real personality trait. But her name "Hazel" comes from my great-grandmother who was a real fire-cracker and one of the most stubborn women ever. My mom always tell me Little Hazel is definitely living up to her namesake!
She is such a sweetheart. Aside from partying, her favorite thing is snuggles with mommy. It is just the sweetest thing!

moms and babies 5

What's your favorite part about being a mom?

So far, my favorite part of being a mommy is just watching her grow and learn and figure out new things. She is growing so quickly, so I'm really trying to soak in each of these moments while I can. It seems every day she does something new and different and it's so fun to watch as her personality develops.

moms and babies 4

Do you have any tips on losing the baby weight?

I have never been very fond of exercising. And before becoming pregnant, while I should have for the health aspect of it, I never had to work out. I gained 50 pounds during pregnancy and have since lost almost half of it, but I believe that is due to nursing.
I just recently (like over the past few days) have begun exercising, so while I wish I could offer advice here, I don't really have much to offer...

What have you and your husband done since your baby's arrival to keep your relationship strong?

Communication is key. We are both still adjusting to this whole parenting thing. And we don't have any family near where we live, nor do we really know anybody here, so finding a sitter so we can have just "us" time is difficult if not impossible. So, as an alternative, we have just made it a point to really communicate with each other. If he is feeling neglected he tells me and  I make it a point to make him feel appreciated. If I feel I need more help with the house or baby, I let him know, and he works on it. Like I said, communication is key.

 moms and babies 6

Are there any must-have products that you would recommend to other moms?

I am a firm believer in the Moby Wrap! She likes to be held so much, so it makes it easy to have her attached to me while I can still get some things done. It's really nice! Also her Fisher Price swing! I would be so lost without this! Hazel fights sleep, a lot! So if she's in the swing she falls asleep almost instantly!

 moms and babies 3

What has been your favorite moment or outing as a family so far?

This has been an oddly mild winter for us, so last month it was nice enough that we could go for a walk. Such a simple thing, but having us all together outdoors and enjoying the weather was lovely!
Also, just every evening is nice for us. My husband is a full time grad student and he works part time so that I can stay home. He is super busy and not home a lot, so the evenings are so nice just hanging out together.

Any advice for first-time mothers?

I'm still pretty new to all this, but the best advice I can give so far is just soak in every moment. It's almost ridiculous how quickly these little loves grow! Soak in and enjoy every single moment you have with your precious baby!


Thanks Ashlee!  Head over to Ashlee’s blog to read more!

Basic Blog Designing–Templates and Backgrounds


After re-doing my blog design last week I got a lot of requests to do a post on how to design your own blog.  So I decided to do a little mini-series on blog design!  There is so much to say on the subject that if I said it all in one post it would be way too long.  Who am I kidding, even with splitting the posts up they are still going to be way too long, but I know if you really want to know how I do my blog designs you’ll stick with me.


Untitled-2 copycrop

Create A Test Blog

Before I start getting into the nitty-gritty of Blog Designing 101, I want to say that I am a huge proponent of having a test blog.  Back when I was still pretty new at doing my own blog designs I read “Blogging In Pink” by Michelle Mitchell (I recommend this book – very informative), and she suggested having a test blog when you mess with your template, because that way if you seriously mess something up it’s just on the test blog, not your real one. 

This was more important back in the day (I feel old saying that) when to adjust colors and widths you had to go into the actual html code of your blog and adjust it there – because if you mess up the html code, it’s really hard to figure out where the error is, and you could just crash your whole blog.  Thankfully Blogger came up with their “Template Designer”, so all of those adjustments can be made without going into the html code now.  Thus making it a lot less scary and more accessible! 

However, I still love having my test blog, because I can do all the final adjustments to details on there – that way my real blog isn’t in shambles for a day or two while I figure out exactly how I want it to look.  So yes, create a test blog.  My test blog is here, if you want to check it out.  It looks pretty similar to my real blog, you’ll notice, because I do all my adjustments on that blog before they go on my real blog.  Trust me, it’s handy.

On to what you really want to read about.

I’ve been doing my own blog designs for about three (?) years, and generally there are only three things you need to make your blog design – a layout you like, a background, and a header.  You can also do other details like buttons.  In this post I’m going to talk about templates/layouts and background images.

Choose A Layout

Before you even start thinking about colors and fonts and buttons, you have to decide generally how you want the layout of your blog to be.  Do you want it wide or narrow?  Do you want a three-column or two-column layout?

You can adjust all that in the Template Designer.

(Note: Click on any of the images in this post to make them bigger)


Choose a template first – I have mine set to Simple, because I think I have more room in that template to make it exactly what I want, and I like everything laying flat against the background of my blog – but you can also work with any of the other templates the same way.


Next, choose a layout (three-column, two-column, etc.)

Blogdesignpost2 copy

Then you can adjust the widths of your different columns.  You can see in the photo what the widths of my blog are.


Note:  I have my blog set to be so wide because I don’t have a background with this design – if you want your background to show you’ll have to make your blog narrower than 1250 pixels.

Once you have that set how you want it you can start to work on the fun stuff!


Like I said, for my current blog design I don’t have a background, but I have had backgrounds in most of my templates over the years.  There are a few ways to obtain a background image for your blog – (1) use pre-set backgrounds from blog design websites (I used Cutest Blog On The Block and Smitten Blog Design backgrounds in the early years of this blog), (2) make a background image from an image you get somewhere on the web, or (3) make your own.

Like I said, I used to stick with pre-made backgrounds from blog designing websites (there are a lot of websites that have freebies like that), but I got tired after a while of being confined to specific backgrounds and having the little tags on my backgrounds saying where they were made – so I looked into making my own.

I started making my own backgrounds and headers for my blog using digital scrapbooking websites.  But, as I learned after a while, when using other people’s graphics to design your blog you have to be aware of copyright laws.  It struck me one day that I wasn’t quite sure if using backgrounds from scrapbooking websites violated the Terms of Use.  I e-mailed the website I was using to try to find out, and they couldn’t really give me a straight answer, but this is what I gathered – if you purchase a digital scrapbooking kit, you most likely (they couldn’t tell me for sure) also purchased a license for private use that would allow you to use the graphics for your blog.  So basically, if you want to be safe, only use graphics that you purchased to create blog designs – then you are most likely fine.

Since I didn’t purchase anything from that website, I decided to stop using those free sites to design my blog and just invest in a digital scrapbooking software in the future.  Then I won a giveaway for My Memories scrapbooking software (it was very timely) and I started using that.

If you are going to use a digital scrapbooking software, I recommend using My Memories, because they straight-up say in their Terms of Use that it’s fine to use any digital scrapbooking kits for private blog designs as long as you give credit to the designer on your page – you can just add a text gadget on the footer of your blog to say what kit you used and who designed it, and you’re good to go.  Check my sidebar for a $10 off coupon. 

When you download the software I think they also give you a $10 coupon code to use toward scrapbooking kits, so you can buy one to use in designing your blog.  They also have a bunch of freebies.  Total, I think it comes out to about $30 for the software, including $10 worth of kits, which I think is worth it since it also gives you the freedom to change up your design in the future inexpensively.  I tend to change my design a lot, so for someone like me it’s a good investment.

Anyway, with the Blogger Template Designer, all you need to do to add a background to your blog is to have a JPEG image that you would like to use.

If you are using a background from a scrapbooking software and kit, just add the background of your choice to a new page, then save it as a JPEG.  In My Memories, this is what that looks like, and most scrapbooking programs should have a similar option:


Save the image to a JPEG.  Then add it to your blog in the template designer:


You’ll have to compress your image so that it’s no bigger than 300 KB.  I usually do this in Microsoft Picture Manager.   Note: Make sure to compress, not re-size – if you re-size it so that it’s only 300 KB it’ll be way too small!  You’ll also have to choose the option to tile your background image if it’s not the 1800 x 1600 pixels needed for a full background.

Making Your Own Background Image

You can also make your own background image for your blog, which I think is the most ideal option.  For one thing It will be exclusively yours – no other blog on the web will have that same background.  And when you make all your own graphics you don’t have to give credit to anyone else, which is always nice.  Plus there is the pride of a job well done!

There are many ways to make your own background image, but I’ll tell you a couple of methods I’ve used thus far. 

The first background image I made all by myself was by editing a photo of my own in Picnik (which is no longer available), but there are a lot of other photo-editing websites you can use, I’m sure. 

Note: I’ve heard (from Tami) that PicMonkey is a good replacement for Picnik.

Here is an example of a way I edited my own photo for a background  - I used the sketch filter on Picnik (along with a couple others I think) and adjusted the coloring to my liking.  Just be creative, combine filters, and see what you can come up with!

Picnik collage1

I used that background in my blog design last fall.

You can also create a simple background in Photoshop Elements, which I’ve done as well.  There are a lot of tutorials on how to do this, but I think the easiest way is to just create a blank file:


Fill in the blank file with the color of your choice using the paint can tool, then select the cookie cutter tool.  Click on the little arrows and select “All Element Shapes”.


Choose a shape you like and click and drag to create the shape over your color file.  Click on the checkmark if you like it. 


Then select your shape layer, right click, and duplicate it (many, many times).


Click and drag the duplicated shapes until they create a pattern.


I’m not going to fill the whole page for this tutorial, but you’ll want to fill the whole page.  Then save the file as a JPEG, and you have yourself a background image!

Okay, I think that’s about all I could possibly say about choosing a template and creating a background – if you have any questions about any of what I covered so far, send me an e-mail at or leave a comment.

In the next post I’m going to cover headers, social media buttons, and other details, so stay tuned!

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