Nora: 17 months

Nora is 17 months!

Language: Language development is the biggest change again this month. Her vocabulary is expanding daily, and she knows a ton of animal sounds (cat, dog, cow, sheep, goat, horse, bunny (hop), bird, duck, elephant). She can also identify most objects in her books even if she can't yet say the word. Her newest thing is singing. She sings parts of the alphabet song and Jesus Loves Me. Her voice is seriously the sweetest :).

Personality: It is more and more evident that Nora is very independent and loves to explore. She isn't afraid to wander away from me. I, on the other hand, am terrified when she leaves the children's section at the library and wanders into the adult section in literally 5 seconds! We've started being a little more intentional and consistent with discipline and have been trying to teach what we call "independence with boundaries" (i.e. stay close to your parents in public, sweet girl!!). I was never one to stray far from the familiar so this is completely new to me. Of course, when we're in a safe place like our backyard or the park she is free to roam around and explore her little heart out! Our bonus room is gated off completely since there is a split staircase there. We've been leaving the gate open and trying to teach that just because it's open doesn't automatically mean there is freedom to run off. Having the room closed off for safety has been very convenient in our home, but I sometimes wonder if it's made her want to run when there is a chance too!

Play: Her babies are probably still her favorite toy. She's been tucking them in bed in her soon-to-be new big girl bedroom, which we hope will get her excited for the transition. Reading is her absolute favorite activity. We probably read 15-20 books a day! She loves doing little activities with her hands, like stickers and coloring now too. On nice days we've been playing outside, even if it's just going for a walk or playing in the backyard. She loooves going down slides all by herself now when we go to the park.

Sleep: Nothing has really changed here. She sleeps consistently from 7pm - 6:30 or 7am and naps 12:30-2:30. Teeth brushing is going much smoother this month. A friend suggested we let her brush our teeth while we are brushing hers. This has worked wonders!! Not only is she busy with something while we're trying to get her teeth clean, but she also gets to help brush ours until it's time for her to brush her own. If you're toddler is resistant, you should definitely try this trick.

Food: On occasion Nora will refuse to eat what we're eating, but typically she eats the same meals that we do. Tonight she had homemade tomato basil soup, grilled cheese, and pickles. She has been better at eating veggies this month. I made a crustless quiche with mushrooms and spinach, which she gobbled up! And roasted veggie burrito filling was a hit too. We've decided to switch from whole milk to almond milk since it has twice the amount of calcium. She loves eating cheese, greek yogurt, and avocados, so she's still getting plenty of healthy fats.

This second year is going by so much faster than the first. It truly is hard to believe she'll be a year and a half in less than a month! We'll have some growth stats to share next month from her 18 month well check!

+, Lauren Aiken


22 Weeks

top (swap party) \\ cardi (similar) \\ leggings

How far along: 22 weeks, 4 days
Size: 1 pound and 11 inches (spaghetti squash)
Gender: Girl
Total weight gain: I think somewhere between 10-11 pounds.
Maternity clothes: I'm loving the new maternity leggings I got last week!
Stretch marks: I still haven't used up my belly butter. I'm using it a lot less frequently than with Nora. And I'm leaning toward using the coconut oil + lavender EO "lotion" I made this week instead of the belly balm recipe I've been talking about.
Sleep: The weird and vivid dreams have begun!! Does this happen to anyone else during pregnancy? This week I went to a crazy dermatologist and was chased by a wolf (in two separate dreams).
Movement: Her tiny kicks are getting stronger, and we can see movement from the outside now too!
Queasy or sick: Over the weekend I finally started feeling better! I went to the doctor last Tuesday and had some tests run since I had been having stomach issues since getting sick two Saturdays ago. My results aren't in yet, but I'm thankful to be feeling better.
Labor Signs: --
Symptoms: I feel much less "pregnant" this week so maybe all the pressure and heaviness had something to do with my illness too. Let's hope so because it's too early to be feeling like I just have a few weeks left!
Belly button in or out: In
Wedding rings on or off: On
Recap of the week: Nora had a cough/cold so we laid low most of the week. Pizza and bonfire at the Howerton's Friday (Nora took her first shower afterward and loved it), Uncle Clen was in town and came over with Adam and Kenzie for dinner on Saturday, and went for a couple nice long walks as a family.
Looking forward to: Finally going to bible study this week (missed the first two since I was sick) and doing a couple DIYs for a friend's baby shower. Hopefully getting started on the girls' rooms soon... :).

Here's my 22 week recap with Nora for comparison.

+, Lauren Aiken


21 Weeks

Thank you all for the sweet congratulations on Baby Girl #2! I am so excited for Nora to have a little sister, especially since I have two of my own and couldn't picture it any other way :).

jeans \\ top (clothes swap party) \\ cardi (BR old, similar)

How far along: 21 weeks, 3 days
Size: About 10.5 inches and 12.7 oz (banana)
Gender: Girl :)
Total weight gain: 10 pounds
Maternity clothes: I had fallen into the trap of wearing solely maternity clothes because it's easier than trying to find what still fits and what doesn't, but I spent a little time organizing my closet for spring this week and separated things that fit and things that will have to wait until after baby. I'm going to try to get the most use out of my regular clothes as possible in these next few weeks!
Stretch marks: Looking forward to making this soon! Have you tried something similar?
Sleep: I've been sleeping okay this week - waking up frequently but comfortable for the most part.
Movement: Baby girl is kicking a lot, and I'm loving it every time!!
Queasy or sick: Just some lingering stomach issues from the bug I caught last weekend.
Labor Signs: --
Symptoms:  This pregnancy has gone by quickly so far, but I realized this week that I physically feel about 30 weeks pregnant. It's already hard to bed over at the waist, my stomach feels huge, and my uterus feels heavy this time around. I know I have a long way to go so I'm going to focus on stretching and relaxing as much as possible. I've been taking lavender EO baths almost every night :).
Belly button in or out: In
Wedding rings on or off: On
Recap of the week: Nora and I spent a long morning at the park with friends. Matt and I went out for a double date Friday night, shopped a little Saturday morning, and rested Sunday afternoon. Things have been pretty low key since I'm still not feeling 100%.
Looking forward to: Starting to nursery plan this week and Gramps Aiken comes to visit next weekend.

And for comparison, here's my 21 week post with Nora. We were staying in Iowa in the process of moving from Seattle to Nashville! It's hard to believe that was almost 2 years ago!

Happy Monday!
+, Lauren Aiken


Meal Ideas for a Large Group

It has been awhile since I've talked about care group. If you're new here, our church has a ministry called Care Groups (a lot of churches similarly have small groups, community groups, etc.). Matt and I love this ministry dearly and have hosted and led a group since we got married in 2011. Every week, our group meets in our home to share a meal together and talk about what Jesus is doing in our lives. It is a huge blessing and encouragement to us.

We currently host 12 adults (and 5 kids under three) in our home, which isn't a huge group of people, but it's quite different than just cooking for our little family :). Below is the list of meals that we've had so far. For the most part, they are gluten-free and dairy-free (excluding toppings, etc.). 


Meal Ideas for a Large Group

Chili and cornbread
Chicken Taco Bar
Turkey Dinner
Baked Potato Bar
Holiday Appetizers
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup (tried a new recipe that I didn't care for but this one is my favorite)
Breakfast for Dinner
Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes
Beef Tacos (homemade taco seasoning)
Smoked Sausage, Spinach, & White Bean Soup

Do you prepare food for large groups very often? 
What are your go-to meals for a crowd?
We've made our way through this entire list, and I'm ready for some fresh ideas from you all!!
+, Lauren Aiken


20 Weeks

We've been majorly slacking the past two weeks with bump photos. This is the only one I have!

How far along: 20 weeks, 4 days.
Size: 12 oz according to the ultrasound.
Gender: GIRL.
Total weight gain: 9 pounds.
Maternity clothes: I'm really looking forward to buying some new things for spring and am going to try to shop more non-maternity items than last time.
Stretch marks: I'm still using up the last of my Burt's Bees Belly Butter.
Sleep: Sleep has been okay, but I think it may be time to bring out the body pillow soon. I'm consistently waking up 1-2 times to go to the bathroom.
Movement: YES!!! 19 weeks was the first time I started to feel movement daily, and this week I am feeling gentle kicks, mostly very low. Matt is able to feel them now also :). Now, we just have to work on getting Nora to hold her hand on "bebe" for more than one second!
Queasy or sick: I had an upset stomach on Sunday. Otherwise feeling pretty good!
Labor Signs: --
Symptoms: A couple Braxton-Hicks each day and some mega leg cramps last weekend that left me with stiff, sore legs for 48+ hours (note: lavender essential oils + epsom salts in a hot bath helped a bit).
Belly button in or out: In.
Wedding rings on or off: On.
Recap of the week: Created a new cleaning plan and organized a few things around the house. We had our 20 week ultrasound Friday and found out baby is a girl at our gender reveal party on Saturday afternoon!
Looking forward to: This week should be a bit slower than the past few have been. I'm looking forward to getting back into our normal routine, and women's bible study (on Gideon) is starting back up on Tuesday.

Promising more photos for 21 weeks :).

+, Lauren Aiken