maternity striped shirt and neck scarf

Remember me? I was a little worried you’d forgotten about me. I kept meaning to write, just as earnestly as I intended to get to the gym. You know how it goes…. Oh, this week is a little busy, but next week I’ll get to the gym and bust my butt on the treadmill to make up for it. But next week is also busy. And so is the next week. And before you know it, it’s been months before you’ve been to the gym, and it seems easier to just give it up all together.

But I’m here to tell you, even though I’ve finally become honest with myself and cancelled my gym membership, I haven’t fallen off the blogging wagon completely! I just had become burned out, and I can’t even blame it on the baby. Blame it on the baby?! you say? That’s right, as you can see in the large and in charge version of myself depicted above, I’m growing another little girl with just as much hair as Lucy Jo— if my heartburn is any indication, that is. But really, as exhausting and sickening as this pregnancy has been (I’ll get to that later), the real reason I stayed away from this ol’ blog is because I just really loved not blogging. It’s been wonderful! I’ve loved having extra time to read, to act like a real suburban mommy and arrange playdates for my kid in between days spent in the kitchen making organic, sugar-free, chocolate spinach doughnuts (surprisingly not a fail!). You know, the kind of stuff you either have the energy to do or the energy write about doing, but usually not both. Oh, sure, I could’ve made time to pop in here from time to time and say stuff like, “Hey, guys, I’m 25 weeks pregnant and we decided to postpone our bedroom project in lieu of putting together Lucy’s big girl room.” But I just didn’t feel like it. So I didn’t. And it was wonderful.

But I’m back.

ultrasound photo baby girl

So what have I been doing while I was gone, besides making a baby? Well, I’ve still been contributing to A Beautiful Mess (see my projects here), though not as much as I had been, which you’d think would leave me more time to blog here…. But instead I purposefully decided to invest that time and energy into people and community, and it’s been great and so fulfilling.

I’ve stepped back from wedding photography for a while, mostly because all of my gear is in good shape and I’m not itching too badly for anything new, so there’s no immediate pressure to get gigs, and the lack of pressure involved with weddings has been wonderful, quite frankly. The income is missed, but we’ve adjusted and I’m happy with my decision to take a year off for my health and to settle into being a mother of two.

I’ve also been dealing with a lot of physical issues, and trying not to complain about them on social media. I had a heck of a first trimester with this pregnancy, feeling extremely tired and lethargic as well as the usual all-day morning sickness routine of weeks 5-12  of pregnancy. I had some scary bleeding episodes which turned out to be “normal,” though nonetheless very scary. There were a couple of good weeks at the beginning of my second trimester until I fell ill with the flu. Just when I thought I was over it, I became even sicker, only to wake up at 5am with the most excruciating pain of my life. I dramatically entered the emergency room bent over and screaming bloody murder, causing quite a stir at the nurses’ station (mission accomplished, I guess). They soon discovered that my appendix was extremely inflamed and that I needed surgery immediately. I was 18 weeks pregnant at the time, and didn’t have much time to worry about what would happen to the baby, though I did cry before surgery, wondering if I would soon be saying goodbye to that precious baby. “We can’t do anything about the baby— it’s your life we have to worry about now,” they said to me. I was warned that I could very well go into early labor because of the trauma of surgery so close to my uterus, but thank God— after a week in the hospital I was in the clear and sent home to finish recovering. Who knew recovery from such a simple surgery would be so difficult? I graciously did no bodily harm to the well-meaning people who assured me that recovery from an appendectomy is so easy. Ha! Well, I’ve finally recovered and the baby is in wonderful health at 25 weeks along, though I haven’t been sure if I keep getting the flu or just have really bad morning sickness most days. Needless to say, I’ll be glad when this pregnancy is over, but I really am trying to enjoy it and will be sharing bits of it with you before it’s over.

maternity striped shirt and neck scarf

During the time I’ve been away from this blog, I’ve had a lot of epiphanies about why I hadn’t been blogging, and the conclusion I’ve come to is this: My life and subsequently my blogging style has changed, but I’ve still felt bound to my old regimen and routine of blogging, because that’s what I’d worked for so long to build and that’s what you all had come to expect. But during this time off, I gradually grew to realize that while I enjoyed a reprieve, I did still have plenty of things I wanted to share through photos and words. So much of it was about motherhood (Ahhh! Mommy blogging has come for me!), and some of it was about icky feelings I have about the materialistic nature of blogging these days. I’ve enjoyed freeing up my life, getting rid of a good amount of possessions, and reevaluating our spending habits and lifestyle. I’m looking forward to sharing that with you, though I’ve also been considering ways to do this that won’t be demeaning towards others who aren’t choosing to live their lives similarly. (I still love stuff, don’t get me wrong. I just want to love stuff less and have less stuff.)

And speaking of materialism, here are my outfit details! No too shabby, I’d say.

maternity top: ASOS / scarf: vintage / pants: thrifted

Decorating the Master Bedroom

green paint colors

For the past four years, sleeping in our bedroom has been a bit like camping out in the dusty storage room of a department store. Or maybe living in an episode of Hoarders. I’ve covered the walls with clothing racks and shelves, because our closet situation has been always less than ideal. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about the last time we’d had a decorated bedroom to speak of (when we live with my brother— see pics of our bedroom here), but finally the time has come that I’ve thrown up my arms and cried ENOUGH! I’ve got to figure this out.

Part of the issue is that I have way too much clothes. I’d thought about selling some online because I know some gals who probably would’ve loved to have some, but just the thought of photographing, packaging, shipping, etc, really stressed me out. So I packaged up most of my clothes and sent them off to the thrift stores. I think I’m in for some good thrifty karma, though the goal is not to keep perpetuating the problem of too much stuff. It felt good to finally let go and simplify my wardrobe.

But still, our bedroom is disjointed, cluttered, and feels like a junky space. Certainly not a place to go to escape stress. But now that I’ve begun to declutter my possessions and let go of things that were only causing stress in my life, I’m ready to get ahold of the situation. My parents have given us their old bed (finally— a headboard!), and I have plans to build out a couple of wardrobes on one wall, or at least to buy something from Ikea, so my clothing storage can finally be behind doors.

I also want to repaint (we never did after buying our house) and finally put up curtains. I ordered these teal curtains but I’m stuck on a paint color. Should I go with something that contrasts the teal curtains— something more green than blue? Or do I pick something with more of a blue tone to coordinate nicely with the curtains. I can’t decide! Should we get sample cans and try them all out on the wall? I have no idea how expensive something like that even is to do.

So, I thought I’d ask you all what you thought! That’s what blogs are for, right? And since I’ve been trying to keep things more personal and true-to-life around these parts, I thought I’d let you in on my decision making process. I’m leaning towards the top color pictured above:  Old Money. What do you think?

Redeeming the Time

redeeming the time famil 

Two years ago I was a struggling blogger who wore many hats. Yes, I had a bit of an obsession with collecting vintage hats, but in a figurative sense, I was pulling myself in too many directions with lots of responsibilities and stress. I wanted to successfully monetize this blog, which meant planning and executing lots of projects and posts here; I was busy enough as a wedding photographer; I burned the midnight oil as a freelance graphic designer; I spent too much time sourcing, photographing, and selling vintage clothes; I started regularly contributing to a website called Babble— and doing it all with a brand new baby and a cancer diagnosis. People would ask me, “How do you do it all?” Or conversely, they would mention how great it must be to be a work-at-home-mom. My social life was plummeting and overall I was dealing with anxiety and the sense that each week was this unconquerable mountain that I would find myself at the top of every Sunday, only to begin climbing from the bottom again on Monday.

redeeming the time 

My friends looked forward to the weekend as a time to cut loose, while I looked forward to it at it as an extra time to get more work done. I hesitated to make any personal or social commitments, because I might need that time to finish a project or get some extra stuff done at home. But I did ease up on the pressure to blog as frequently here, since I finally had other steady work that provided the income we needed to stay afloat financially and consider sending Phil back to school to get his masters. Yes, I felt less pressure, but that pressure was still there. 

My jobs shifted some as I stopped selling vintage, designing, and writing for Babble, but started writing for A Beautiful Mess and working at Starbucks. For the first time in our married life, we could afford to go out to eat guilt-free, be generous gift-givers, and make some needed updates to our home. It felt freeing in one way, but in another, I felt like our lives were turning into mostly work and very little play. Something had to give.

One day, as I sat at the computer obsessively editing photos and trying to write interesting, concise, and ultra informative copy for a DIY at A Beautiful Mess, Lucy stood at my feet, reaching her arms up at me, practically begging me to give her attention. I said, “Hold on, honey, mommy has to do some work.” Not even TV would distract her— she kept begging for me to pick her up, so I did, but I felt incredibly frustrated with her, because she was completely ruining my plans for productivity. I looked forward to the next day when she would be at my mom’s house while I could work all day, uninterrupted. And then it hit me— the mom guilt. The kind unique to moms who work at home, and perhaps are so obsessed with their work, that they find very little balance in their family and personal life. I realized I had been looking at my friendships and family life as a sort of obstacle to overcome so I could finish my work, put forth stupendous projects, and stay on schedule. Yes, I felt so happy to have a job I enjoyed, but I was allowing it to take a huge focus of my life, in the process putting the most important things in the back burner.

redeeming the time

How did I get there? Why was I doing this to myself? I put so much of myself into my work that it was beginning to encompass all that I am— which I realized when I began discovering how much my emotional healthy was tied to how well my projects turned out or how well they were received. Not to mention if I really kept track of how I spent each hour of my day, most of them would revolve around work-related tasks or sleeping. I think I had the mentality that it would get better— that next month would be easier, that next season I could travel or do some fun things. But every month I would say the same thing. I realized it wouldn’t get any better unless I made a change.

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to be all of the things I want to be or do all of the things I want to do. There are not enough days in the week, and there are not enough weeks in the month. Everything is a give and take— and I need to decide what I want to give and what I want to take. If I don’t purposefully reorder my life, my life will keep reordering me. If I don’t put work in its place, anything that has a deadline will become the most important thing in my life, and I will wake up one day as an empty nester with nothing to show but an archive of blog posts.

While I don’t believe children should be the center of one’s life, I do think that they are pretty darn important. Children need time, love, affection, and we need it too! I love being with Lucy, and she loves being with me. We enrich each other’s lives immensely when we spend time together. I have this little girl who won’t be little for too much longer, and I think I’ve squandered a lot of my time with her because of the stress I put on myself to get things done, to be a better blogger, to be more physically fit, to make fine meals, to be the best at everything.

What have I learned? I’ve learned that I’m way too hard on myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to rest, because I always had something else on my to-do list that needed done at some point. (And it will always be that way.) I always had a project that could be improved in one way or another— a photo that might need reshot, lighting that wasn’t perfect, writing that could always be edited another time. I want to create the best work that I can and be the best I can be, in part to honor God, to be a reliable asset to any team I’m a part of, and to just feel good about myself. That sense of accomplishment and self-validation. But I can’t fire on all cylinders all of the time and still maintain a healthy life.

This fall I began to feel convicted about how I spent my time, but then one week it hit me hard. Every time I got in my car, I heard radio programs about redeeming the time. My usual podcasts talked about how important it is to enjoy life and not let work too big of a place in your life. Every time I met with a friend, they brought up time management. In one week I was completely barraged with messages about making the most of the time and relationships we’re given. It was a week that confirmed what I had been thinking and the changes I have been slowly making towards refocusing my life and redeeming the time.

redeeming the time

I’m still in the midst of figuring out what this means for my life, but I’ve already begun to decline photography gigs, and as you may have noticed, I’ve been spending way less time on this blog. I just can’t justify lifestyle blogging when I’m too busy actually living my life or keeping up with commitments that pay the bills. And let’s be real— sometimes finding time to blog means getting less sleep, ignoring my family, getting behind on work, saying no to meeting up with a friend… or maybe just not watching another episode of Gilmore Girls. And right now, I need all of those other things more than I need to blog. Yes— I need a little Gilmore Girls in my life. Don’t we all?

If you’re also struggling with redeeming the time and prioritizing your life, I’d really like to recommend a book called Free by Mark and Lisa Scandrette. I really cannot recommend it enough! It has been hugely helpful in stepping back to remember the big picture of life. Work more so I can spend more and meanwhile the important things in life suffer? No thanks. Of course, when you lay it out like that, it seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of dreams, plans, and all that comes with this modern life. I hope to find a place that feels more peaceful for me and my family, and I hope you can too!

WHAT WE WORE: A Mom’s Style Evolution

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

There were quite a few years in my life where I took great joy in carefully planning out my wardrobe to be as perfectly creative and cute as possible. Lots of thought went into each outfit, as I was always trying to add some element of interest to any outfit that seemed too simple. Then I became pregnant. And I thought, gee, I’m not going to be one of those moms who sacrifices her style just because she has a child. But when I gave birth, started breastfeeding, and became really frustrated with my weight, it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

Becoming a mom sort of threw me into a style evolution that made for some awkward times, sartorially speaking. For a while, I tried to wear the same kinds of clothes I would wear before pregnancy, but they just never felt right. Not completely because of my new body, but also because I was a new person. I needed to feed a tiny person with my breasts. I needed to bend over without mooning the world, and  I needed to have complete mobility of my arms without stressing (or straight-up ripping) the seams of my clothes. Fitted vintage dresses just weren’t cutting it any more, but I stubbornly refused to change my ways. My “mommy style” got to the point where I would wear sweats at home, and then get all gussied up every time I left the house, inevitably making myself very uncomfortable and not unlike I was wearing a costume instead of an outfit. I just felt awkward most of the time, which was strange because I had always felt confident in my style before motherhood.

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

It’s taken me about two years to get to the point where I’ve realized that not only has my lifestyle evolved, but my style has evolved too. I still love vintage styles, but my love manifests itself in looser shapes, comfortable materials, and simple outfits. The easier it is for me to get dressed each day, the better. I find myself gravitating towards more classic styles with modern accents, but usually a hint of the 1960s mixed in somewhere. I wear a lot of the same clothes every week, which doesn’t make for exciting fashion blogging, but let’s be real— that’s my life! And I’m proud that I’ve gotten better about simplifying my wardrobe and my spending habits.

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

So no, my style didn’t have to change just because I became a mother, but it did— and that’s okay! I still care about the clothes I wear, but I’m also more frequently found in jeans or simple Gap clothes than I never would’ve imagined would take over my wardrobe. I mean, two years ago most of the items in my wardrobe were at least 50 years old or plucked from a the scant racks of a cutesy boutique shop. Now they’re packed away in storage boxes, and I finally feel more like myself again— but not the self that you would’ve seen on my blog in the old days. Interested in where my personal style iss headed? You can check out all of my newest style inspiration here and my style wishlist here at Pinterest!

My wardrobe is just a small reflection of the changes I’ve been making in my life these days to move towards a more purposeful and pragmatic way of living that allows me to enjoy each day and each person in my life to the fullest. I’ll share more about other changes I’ve been making soon (hopefully)! As you can see, blogging less frequently is one of those changes, but as always, you can see my more frequent posts at A Beautiful Mess in the meantime.  Thank you for stopping by and checking in on me!  I do miss you all and enjoy keeping up with everyone on Twitter and Instagram.

Mandi of Making Nice in the Midwest

O U T F I T   D E T A I L S :

dress: Toast / shoes: Zappos / jacket: Marshalls / necklace: thrifted / tights: Hue

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