On Maternity Leave

I thought I’d accomplish more on maternity leave these past 10 weeks. I had high hopes of reading the books I’ve had on my list for months. I wanted to brush up on Greek and Roman mythology, a topic I haven’t delved into since high school Latin, but know would definitely come in handy during Jeopardy. I wanted to finally master calligraphy, which can be really tough and requires extra practice for a lefty like me. I wanted to learn about art history, specifically architectural and the building of Grand Rapids. I thought I’d cook more, and would have time to put together cute outfits. I thought I’d finally put pen to paper on no less than 25 blogs I’ve been meaning to write, and maybe even finally catalog all of our photos.

In reality, I kept renewing the same titles from the library until I ran out of renewals and had to return them.
I never practiced calligraphy or learned more about art and architectural history.
When we watch Jeopardy, I’m still just guessing.
We had take out often and most days my leggings and sweaters were covered in spit.
Those 25 blogs are still sitting in the draft folder.

And none of it matters. I wouldn’t trade the days of can’t-put-him-down cuddles, cluster feeds, and sleepless nights for any of the things on my wish list. I’ve learned to slow down my life these past few months and really truly cherish being in the moment. On the hard days, I’d remind myself: he’ll never be this little again, and I’ll never have this time again. I know the time, attention, affection, and love I’ve given my son are exactly what we both needed.

Today is my last day home with Leo. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to work full-time and Leo will go to daycare full-time. This is our new normal. We feel good great about the in-home daycare where he’ll be spending his days while we’re working. But transition doesn’t come without its challenges.

I’m excited to work, I love my job, and it’s the best decision for our family at this point in time. But leaving him will be hard and guilt comes easily.

We’ll walk into the house, go over the routine, meet his new friends and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to the highway before tearing up in my car. It’s hard to imagine not spending my days with him and missing out on some of his first moments. I’m anxious about how he’ll behave for others, if he’ll take the bottle from someone he’s just met, if he’ll get enough attention along with the other children, if he’ll get sick or hurt, and the list goes on. Even when you know you’re making the best decision for your family, it isn’t always easy.

When I was pregnant, someone voiced their opinion that “it would be hard to be a good mom and not stay at home.” Although I still can’t comprehend why some people feel their choice of lifestyle is the only option, I do know this: I am a damn good mom. And that’s not going to change whether I’m working or not.

There are undeniably awesome things that can come out of working. He’ll be immersed in another culture through daycare, and will hear other languages. He will meet friends and learn to play. He’ll be on a routine and know what to expect in his day. There are many things he’ll learn by seeing his mom work as well: a strong role model for work ethic, providing for a family, and the importance of education, commitment, and hard work. By working now, Cody and I hope to achieve flexibility in the future.

Family schedules and work commitments can vary widely from part time or full time work, one parent staying home exclusively, one or both parents working from home, etc. I’m sure there are pros and cons to each option, even when you know you’re making the best decision for your family.

So tomorrow it is.
And every day after that, at least for now.
Cheers to the moms that make it look easy, who manage and balance and shuffle and compromise.

And in case you need to hear it today too, whether you stay at home or work part-time or full time:

You’re a damn good mom.
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Mexico

Cody, Leo, and I just got back from our first international family trip! I’m still on maternity leave and we decided to make the best use of the time and take a trip now during the cold winter months. Leo absolutely loved being outside and was such a great traveler.

One of the visions for our family is to travel as much as possible and we want to share those experiences and sense of adventure with Leo, even at two months old.

We expedited a passport for him and booked a long weekend to Puerto Vallarta for an all-inclusive. (I promised Cody a relaxing, all-inclusive vacation after traipsing all over Europe for a few weeks last year.) It was great to sit in the sun, swim up to the bar, get massages on the beach, and not have to make any decisions. This was an easy first vacation with an infant as well because we had everything we needed at the family-friendly resort.

We were a little nervous about his first flight, but he was amazing! Leo fed at take-off and landing to help his ears adjust to the pressure, and during flight, slept in his carseat.

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2017

A year ago, I wrote a reflection on 2015, the year of becoming. It was a transitional year in my life, pivotal in laying the foundation for my life today: who I am, where I am, where I’m going. It was an incredible year, the best I had yet known.

In 2015:
The chapter of a decade long relationship closed, and I found peace despite the pain.
I started my blog, a goal I’d had for years, and was able to connect with others traveling through similar seasons of life, opening the conversation in so many directions.
I bought my first house, and shortly after, my boyfriend moved in with me to create the home together.
I fell in love: hard, fast, and completely.
I traveled to familiar and new places around the US: Orlando, Atlanta, Vegas, South Dakota, Chicago, Rhode Island, Boston, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Philadelphia, and all around Michigan’s beach towns.

We ended 2015 and welcomed 2016 up north in a little town called Frankfort for a long weekend to rest, relax, and explore northern Michigan. We took walks into town for breakfast, watched the bowl games at the one screen movie theatre in town, and grabbed brews at Stormcloud. On New Year’s Eve, we stumbled upon a party in a local furniture store just down from the brewery and movie theatre, and enjoyed a few hours mingling among total strangers, perusing furniture, enjoying the band, and even a little dancing.

Little did I know that 2016 would top 2015 and every year before that.

In 2016:
I fell even more in love with Cody and the life we are creating together and happily accepted his marriage proposal in April under a glittering Eiffel Tower.
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We finished the remodel of our house: kitchen, dining room, office, guest room turned nursery, laundry room.

I became a mom to the most beautiful boy, Leo Emerson, on the last day in November.
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I traveled to familiar and new places around the world: Montreal, Chicago, Florida, Cape Cod, Boston, Oklahoma, Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, Barcelona, Venice, and Rome.

We ended 2016 similar to 2015, in the little beach town of Frankfort for a weekend to rest, relax, and explore. I love that this trip has become a tradition, the perfect bookend to the year, coming full circle. This time, we had our little Leo with us as we explored Traverse City and its wineries, grabbed brews at Stormcloud, and enjoyed a reflection on the incredible year its been.

I love the transition that the New Year brings, the soft close on one chapter of life that unfolds into a new one. There is something peaceful and promising in not knowing what lies before us in this year: the travels, the defining moments, the firsts for us and for our son, as well as the struggles, the disappointments, the failures. We have dreams for this year, and the years that come after it, both personally and as a family, and I’m so excited to see how those chapters unfold before us.

And I hope as I sit to write my reflection a year from now, I can say 2017 topped 2016, and 2015, and every year before that.

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Dock a Tot

dockatot6disclaimer: I was provided a Dockatot deluxe in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% my own.

For those who follow me on Instagram (@emeraldandoakblog), you’ve likely seen me posting photos of a very playful or peacefully sleeping Leo in his dockatot. This thing is a lifesaver!

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I first learned about the Dockatot on Instagram but was hesitant about its necessity while already owning a pack and play, rock and play, and boppy lounger. I figured we could easily make do with Leo napping in the pack and play and rock and play until he was ready for his crib. I was completely wrong in this assumption! Besides diapers and wipes, the Dockatot is our most used and beloved baby product! It is the perfect lounger, napper, and co-sleeper. The Dockatot was designed in Sweden and handmade in Europe, and is now becoming very popular in the States.

The Dockatot stays downstairs with me during the daytime and is the perfect place for Leo to lounge, play, and sleep while I’m doing other things. The fit makes him feel snug and comforted, and is much safer than having him sleep elsewhere. We bring the dockatot upstairs for bedtime, and if Leo is getting really fussy during the night in his rock and play or pack and play next to our bed, I’ll move him into the dockatot and into our bed between us. The shape and fit is perfect for co-sleeping and we can fall asleep knowing that he is safe.
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Even better, the dockatot is super lightweight, breathable, and easy to transport anywhere, much easier than hauling and setting up a pack and play. We put this to the test last weekend when we went up north for a weekend getaway as well as to a New Year’s Eve party. We are headed on our first international family vacation in January, and I know the dockatot is going to be coming with us. Plus, they have a stylish carrier for it that can be used as a carry-on!
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Besides the dreamweaver pattern I have, there are more patterns, covers, and a classic white available on the website. It is important to note, there are two sizes of the Dockatot available, the Deluxe pictured (best for newborns-8 months) and the Grand (up to 3 years!) You may be tempted to purchase the Grand so that your baby can grow into it and you can use it longer, but I would advise against it! The Grand is much too big for your newborn. Our plan is to invest in the Grand once Leo outgrows the Deluxe and then use our Deluxe for his baby sister or brother in the future. Plus, the Grand will be perfect for the transition from his crib to toddler bed.

The quality is fantastic-these will definitely last for years to come and be coming with us when we’re away from home!
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You can purchase the Dockatot here !

Do you own the Dockatot? I’d love to hear what you think! If there are other baby gear items you’d recommend for new parents, please let me know! I’d love to check them out.

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Best of: Grand Rapids Boutiques

I’m not a mall person. In fact, I probably go 1-2 times a year, only when I need something the same day and can’t find it at Target or TJ Maxx. I enjoy window shopping though,  and absolutely love well styled neighborhood boutiques. There’s something about well curated collections, rarely disorganized displays, and one of a kind finds that draws me.

A big goal of mine is to open my own Emerald & Oak brick and mortar one day and I love drawing inspiration from boutiques I shop in from lines they carry, display and decorations, and gift ideas.

In the past few years, the Grand Rapids scene has really popped with a great range of boutiques featuring baby gifts, luxe women’s wear, local artisan creations, home décor, and eclectic gifts.

Grab your girlfriends and make a day of exploring one or all of my favorite boutiques in the area!

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Located in a renovated garage on the corner of Wealthy and Eastern, this boutique carries high end denim, luxe dresses and gorgeous jewelry.
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blue door antiques header.png This boutique is excellent for one of a kind home décor finds for all price ranges. Last year, I scooped up a beautiful side table for $72, but they also have gorgeous pieces all the way up to $4995! This store is great for chandeliers, knobs, ornaments, fine china, and unique furniture pieces.
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This boutique is awesome for finding gifts and hostess presents, and you’ll be hard pressed not to laugh as you’re reading their selection of snarky cards! RR sells everything from Little Rebel baby gifts, blanket scarves, made in Michigan jewelry, and a great selection of gifts for Him (great stocking stuffers!)
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picture1These connected stores have a little bit of everything: upscale tableware, wedding gifts, plush linens, high end candles, and rugs. I purchased a rug for my laundry room from here that I absolutely love! The other side of the store is great for everyone else on your list, featuring children’s books, toys, and gifts, purses, planners, organizers, and desktop notepads, plus an entire section of Kate Spade tumblers/luggage tags/phone cases/and everything in between.
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pink lemonade header.pngThis has to be one of the most darling shops I’ve been in! This store really narrows in on gifts for her and gifts for baby. There’s a selection of great accessories and gifts for brides to be, as well as mom’s to be. You can even make a registry here! For moms to be, you’re sure to love the Petite Pehr line of luxe nursery items, as well as the selection of baby mocassins, onesies, and adorable outfits.
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This store is perfect for a great gift for your mom or mother in law. Carol’s magnets and home décor are beautiful and can change out for any season or celebration. I’ve featured her front door wreath here before, and absolutely love it!
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georgies-headerAgainst my better judgment, I’m sharing this gem with you. Georgie’s is THE consignment shop in Grand Rapids and the best place to discover name brands like Tory Burch, Prada, Pamella Roland, and more at a fraction of the cost. I’ve been able to pick up some great J.Crew and Banana Republic blazers here, as well as a few BCBG summer dresses.
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This boutique is all about trendy and carries woman’s fashions from brands like Free People, Roxy, Splendid, Hudson, and more. There’s also an extensive selection of apothecary items, shoes, jewelry, and accessories here.

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bailey-and-james-header Just down the street from Paperdoll and Jade, Bailey and James is an adorable home décor and gift boutique. I love the foliage bar in the back! This shop features great brands like Muse candles, Pehr Designs, Rifle Paper Co., and so many more. The selection of tea towels is so fun to look through, as are the recipe cards and boxes!
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jade-headerI love Jade for the affordability and diversity of styles they carry. They have great denim, but also a wide range of dresses, jackets, sweaters and tops, and amazing necklaces-most of which are under $34! Jade also offers private shopping events after hours, where you can host your girlfriends for a night of shopping while sipping on wine and hors d’eouvres. The best part is, everyone will get 15% off their purchase!
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Do you have a favorite Grand Rapids boutique not on this list? I’d love to hear what it is!

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Best of: What to Buy at Ikea

Decorating a home or apartment on a budget is not always an easy task! Before owning a home and dedicating time and energy to decorate and DIY it, I really had no idea how expensive it could be. I knew quality furniture would come at a price, but was surprised to also see how much items like rugs, lighting, and shelves could be too!

Some of the most functional and complimented items in my home actually come from Ikea! While finding your way through the Swedish superstore can be overwhelming, and putting together some of the pieces according to instructions can be confusing and time consuming, there are some excellent buys at Ikea that are definitely worth the trip!

Here’s my top 10 List:

ONE// Ribba Frames  $2.99-$14.99
Picture frames aren’t necessarily an expensive buy on their own, but they can certainly add up once you’ve got a few in each room. I’ve purchased these frames in almost every size for every room. They make for great gallery walls.
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TWO// Mosslanda Picture Ledge $9.99-$14.99 (two sizes)
I love these picture ledges! They come in two different sizes and two different colors, and really add a lot to the space. I have them in my office, hallway to the laundry room, master bedroom, and even used three of the large ones to create a library in our nursery to feature all of the books.
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THREE// Hemnes Dresser (8-drawer) $249
I am completely obsessed with this dresser, although I must admit I am not the one who had to put it together, following 56 steps and working with very small pieces.
This dresser is a quality piece, has tons of storage with the eight drawers, and really looks nice. We started with one for our master room, but decided another would be great for the nursery, where we can have tons of storage  for onesies, hats/socks, pants, diapers, sheets/swaddles/burp cloths, and utilize the top for a changing table. An easy hack to make it look classier and put your own style to it is to replace the black pulls that come with it with some of your own (mine are gold and white from Hobby Lobby.)
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FOUR// Fixa 260 piece screw pack $7.99
This kit has become a staple in our house. And for $7.99?! No brainer.
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FIVE// Lack Coffee Table $7.99
I still can’t believe these tables are under ten dollars. They are great styled as end tables, but also make an amazing coffee table when putting two together side by side!
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top image via: http://theeverygirl.com/feature/how-to-style-a-coffee-table

SIX// Godis Glass (6 pk) $4.99
Save your money to invest in nice wine glasses and pick these tall and straight glasses up for every day use. They’re attractive, yet completely affordable at $4.99 for 6!

godis-glass__0372759_pe551981_s4SEVEN// Fargrik Dinner Bowl/Plate $2.49
These bowls are not great for soup, as they are large and shallow, but make for excellent single serve portions of salads, pastas, and stuffed peppers. When I’m cooking a large Sunday dinner, they are great for all my sides: potatoes, corn, salad, etc.

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EIGHT// Lappljung Ruta $79.99
Finding a rug for under $100 is a difficult task and finding one with a pattern is even more of a challenge! This black and white rug is modern but not overpowering, and looks great styled in both a living room and dining room.
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top image via: heissgeliebtes.blogspot.de
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top image via: http://www.decorationconcepts.com/best-living-room-ideas-2015.html

NINE// Kallax Shelf Unit  $65.99
This storage shelf can be set vertical or horizontal and could be used easily in any room. Use as a divider in a studio apartment, as a beverage station, decorative bookshelf, command center, etc!
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Add storage bins to hide toys, movies, or décor. Ikea sells bags, bins, and boxes separately, but you can also find ones that fit at stores like Target.

It even comes in a larger size, which is great for a large statement piece against the wall, for lots of storage, or a command center in the office.
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TEN// Hjalmaren Wall Shelf $89.99
I love this leaning wall shelf for so many areas of the house, but especially for a smaller bathroom with all the necessary storage. It would also be great in your entry way!
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Do you have any of these top 10 Ikea products in your house? I’d love to see how you styled them! Tag @emeraldandoakblog on instagram!

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The Honest Company

Bow Ties, Bourbon, and Betting: The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports

I absolutely love the Derby: the dresses, the hats (both intricate and outrageous), the mint juleps in souvenir glasses, the thrill of betting on horses all day, and ultimately, the preppy outfits. I love being part of the infield where vendor tents, chicken legs, and picnics rule all. The infield turns into a party, complete with DJ’s, dancing, and plenty of Vineyard Vines swag. Walking into the grandstands, you can feel the air and status change as you walk up the tunnel. You can see the horses parade around before entering the track and watch the elite walk the red carpet. Roses decorate pillars, wreaths, and fences.The entire day is truly a spectacle.

At the Derb, preppy southern boys are everywhere. Navy sport coats, bow ties, wayfarers, and colored pants (coral FTW.) Bourbon in one hand, cigar in the other.

I’ve been to the Kentucky Derby twice, and will be headed back for a third time this year. Here are some of my favorite options for dresses, hats, jewelry, and shoes for the day.

Kentucky Derby Lookbook:

Derby Lookbook

Derby Lookbook

1. Lilly Pulitzer Lace Shift Dress 
2.Loft Flare Dress
3. Target Ribbon Hat 
4.Kate Spade Necklace 
5. Diane Von Furstenberg Cork Envelope Clutch
This clutch is on my wish list. It is so versatile and pairs with everything!
6. DVF Wrap Dress 
7. Ted Baker Lace Dress
8. Target Striped Hat 
9. The Limited Gold Ring
10. Dress and Dwell Fascinator 
11. Alex and Ani Kentucky Derby Bangle Bracelet 
12. DVF Dress
I fell in love with this dress when I saw it on the runway last year and have been thinking about it since!
13. Tory Burch Wedge
Wedges are a must for the day. Heels make your legs look great in a dress and wedges are comfortable to wear all day long.
14. Giuseppe Zanotti Wedge
These are a total splurge and unfortunately won’t be in my closet any time soon, but they are incredible!

Are you going to the Kentucky Derby this year? I’d love to meet up with you!

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