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Amari’s Birth Story

Where do I even begin?!

First off, I hope everyone is enjoying 2020 so far! We are definitely loving it now that baby boy is here to share in everything! We couldn’t be happier to have welcomed our son Amari Thomas Evans on 12/28/19… just in time to ring in the New Year!

Officially born December 28th, 2019 at 4:58 AM at 7lbs 14oz and 19in long.

My Labor Experience…

My due date was actually 1/1/2020 so we had been anticipating his arrival for weeks and all throughout the holidays! At 38 weeks I was really starting to feel like any day was the day!

I was slowing down a lot and it was getting harder to stand up for long periods of time. I began getting cramps and could tell he was definitely getting lower. At that week’s appointment I was between 3-4cm dilated!!

When I went back a week later after Christmas I was still 4cm a long so they decided to strip my membrane. After that I was having consistent contractions that evening for about three hours. They were between 4-5 minutes apart and occasionally between 2-3 minutes apart, so I knew we were getting close! I kept counting and timing my contractions and even though they weren’t painful, they were consistent, so I decided it was time to go to the hospital.

After monitoring me—and making me walk the halls for almost two hours—I was 6cm and it was time for me to be checked into labor and delivery!! At this point I was pretty calm for a couple of hours and then all of a sudden the contractions just starting hitting me like crazy!!

I didn’t even want them to check to see how far along I was, I just knew I was ready for the epidural—no if’s, and’s or but’s about it!!!

I was in so much pain—way worse than what I remember with Ariah.

After the epidural, I was already at 9-10cm but my water hadn’t broken yet so I was laying on each side for a little while at a time and then my water finally broke.

It was time to have a baby!!

The doctor arrived and it was time to start pushing. This part is when it gets kind of blurry and you’re just ready for everything to be over!! I don’t remember exactly how long I pushed but it wasn’t that long. It got scary though because his vitals were getting really low. It turns out the cord was wrapped around his neck so they had to take extra precautions.

As a mother, all you want is to have a safe delivery for your baby, so this was really upsetting! Finally he was out but his face was completely blue from the cord and everything he had just been through.

And then I heard it… his first cry. As soon as I heard him cry I started bawling. He was completely fine and it was such a relief to have it all over with and to finally bring him into the world!!!

It’s literally the craziest thing ever in life but once your baby is born, it’s so worth everything you’ve been through and nothing else in the world matters! It’s truly a beautiful thing.

Out of the Hospital…

It was the sweetest thing ever when each of the girls got to meet their baby brother for the first time. They couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear—and I think Ariah was genuinely shocked to see him actually here and not in my belly anymore!! HA!

I am currently breastfeeding and it is going great so far!! He eats basically every hour at the moment unless he’s sleeping. If he’s sound asleep, he can go about 2-3 hours max between feedings. I was not this lucky with Ariah since she had such a hard time latching. But not this little guy. He latched right away in the hospital and we haven’t had any issues since so it’s going well so far! 

Sleeping isn’t so bad right now, either. I’ll admit, sometimes he’s spoiled and just wants to be held… but I don’t mind. He also loves to sleep in his DockATot since it’s so comfortable.

I am so grateful to have the help of our family all around us. It has been a great couple of weeks at home relaxing with loved ones and spending quality time together, soaking up all the new moments as they come! Now we are looking forward to packing up and heading to Texas for the off-season—and I can’t wait for the rest of our friends and family to meet our little guy!!! 

As for what we’re using these days, I did a post a while back on my newborn essentials with Ariah, and truthfully, not much has changed. 

These are some of my go-to’s for life with a newborn… or if you’re looking for a gift to give a new mom. I highly suggest any of these!

NEWBORN ESSENTIALS

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Countdown to Baby: Q + A, Tips For Getting Ready and Pregnancy Must-Have’s

A gorgeous black and white maternity photoshoot.

Today I am 36 weeks pregnant which means I’m finally in the home stretch of this pregnancy! I’m so ready at this point for him to be here that I’m not even that nervous like I remember being with Ariah. We’re just excited to meet him and bring him home to our family!

I asked everyone that follows me on Instagram to send me all their pregnancy and parenting questions, so today’s posts will focus on some of those! Thanks so much to everyone that reached out!

Pregnancy Q+A

Q: Did You—And Will You—Get an Epidural?
I did with Ariah when I was about 6cm because that’s when the pain was starting to become unbearable for me. I’ve never been against it and definitely plan on getting one this time around, too.

Major props to all the badass moms out there that go natural—my mom included, both times!! You are the strongest women but for me, I’m all for it… anything to ease the pain!

Q: What Is Your Favorite Christmas Tradition As a Kid That You’ll Continue With Your Kids?

My favorite tradition as a kid was my brother and I waking up super early in the morning to go see the living room completely transformed. It would go from a couple of gifts under the tree the night before to ALL the gifts that Santa brought while we were sleeping!

Seeing his cookies eaten on the table and the red water from Rudolph dipping his nose in it overnight. I know it sounds so cheesy but I want my kids to believe in Santa for as long as possible. I think it’s so cute and really makes Christmas that much more fun when you have kids!

Q: How Many Kids Do You Want?

I’ve always said I want two kids, a boy and a girl just like my mom. Lucky me, I have a bonus daughter, so I think our family will feel complete when baby boy arrives! If it happens later on and we decide for another we will… but for now, we are done and totally happy with it!

Q: What Helps You When You’re Tired But Still Have So Much to Get Done?

This has been a big struggle lately because I feel like I’m barely hanging on by a thread by 3-4 PM—and could honestly go to bed for the whole night! But, of course, I know I still have to get up and get through the evening.

I find that exercising… or should I say walking in the mornings… has really helped me stay energized and productive throughout the day. I also think that sitting down when I need to, eating the right foods, and drinking tons of water are really the only things getting me through. It truly is a struggle but some things just have to be done, right?

Q: How Did You Adjust to Being a Stepmom? Was It Hard?

Becoming a stepmom just became a natural part of my life. I knew Mike had a daughter before we ever started dating so I knew what I was getting myself into from the beginning. That said, I didn’t know the first thing about having a child, that’s for sure. I feel like it came naturally and I’ve been a part of her life since she was one-year-old so she’s pretty much grown up knowing me her whole life… and I love it!

Q: Could You Tell the Gender of the Baby Based On What Your Body Was Telling You?

They say you’re soooo sick with girls… which I was sick with Ariah… but omg, this time around with a boy I was even sicker!! It was awful. I couldn’t even go out to eat anywhere because I couldn’t stand the smell of food or see other people eating. It was crazy! So I just came to the conclusion that my body, no matter if it’s a boy or a girl, is going to be sick and nauseous.

I also feel like I’m carrying baby boy the same way as I did with Ariah. So if you ask me, it’s not about the gender of the baby that decides if you’ll be sick or not… just the woman’s body.

Q: How Are You Feeling? Any Different From Your First Pregnancy?

I’m actually feeling great right now! Now that I’m over the nausea I feel like my pregnancies are very similar: major heartburn, at the point of getting uncomfortable and I’ve gained about the same amount of weight. Well, maybe a little more this time around so we will see how they compare in size when he’s born.

Q: Do You Have Stretch Marks?

I do not have any stretch marks… YET, at least. As of right now with about four weeks left I don’t have any. I try to stay moisturized at all times and really think this helps. Some women don’t get them until like the last week—or even during labor—so who knows.

Hopefully I don’t get any but if I do I’ll be ok with that as long as my baby is happy and healthy.

Tips For Getting Ready For Baby!

Whether you’re getting ready for a new baby like me… or just getting ready to welcome a new year (Hello, 2020!)… here are some helpful tips to consider:

  1. Get all the random tasks accomplished that have been bothering you or you’ve been putting off—especially if it involves leaving the house!
  2. Get your sleep now!
  3. Get carpets and sofas cleaned.
  4. Declutter your space (especially before all the new baby gifts arrive!)
  5. Take some time for yourself.
  6. Spend as much time with your other kids as possible.
  7. Get your baby sleeping area/ room set up.
  8. Arrange for any help you’re going to need (and you will!)
  9. Wash newborn clothes/swaddles/blankets.
  10. Install car seat.
  11. And don’t forget to pack your hospital bag.

Pregnancy Must-Haves!

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Ariah Turns 2!!!

Somehow… and I can barely believe itour little Ariah turned 2 today!!! It’s been the most amazing whirlwind time of my life and every day it feels like I can love her even more. Now, we’re entering the “Terrible Two’s” so I’m preparing myself but for now we’re soaking up every minute of this cuddly, adorable little lady we love so much!

Here’s what Ariah’s life looks like these days…

Her schedule:

8:30 AM Wake Up

8:45 Cup of Milk

9:30 Breakfast

10 Brush Teeth + Get Dressed

10:30- 12:30 PM Playtime

1 Lunch

1:30 Nap

3:30 – 6:30 Play + Snack Time

7 Dinner

8 Bath

8:30-9:30 Play + Read

Milk

9:30 Bedtime

What She’s Up To:

She is now forward facing in the car seat…

Ariah really loves her all of “her babies” right now + loves to play “mommy and baby”…

She’ll pretend to cook in her little kitchen + as she says, she’s always “cooking mama”…

She’s starting to piece together the words of her favorite nursery rhymes + can finish sentences…

She’s also singing her alphabet clearer every day + counting to 10…

Our Struggles :

Pacifier

She’s still wanting her “wubba” as she calls it to sooth her but I try really hard to only give it to her when she’s getting sleepy and going to bed, so she doesn’t have it too much throughout the day.

Eating

She is beyond picky and really sticks to just a few of her favorite things. Some days she doesn’t want to eat anything at all and is just fine to drink her milk (which is not good AT ALL, so any tips on how to get your toddler to eat, PLEASE drop them in the comments below!)

Potty Training…

She is not interested at all!!! Any tips on potty training girls? Help a mama out!

I love being able to document all of these moments + milestones of our baby girl. I’m so blessed to be her mom and I can’t wait to continue sharing these moments with you all!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARIAH, WE LOVE YOU!

TODDLER GIFT GUIDE:

 

Stay tuned for my new blog posts coming soon!!

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WAG Life: 10 Things I’ve Learned Over Time

Whew… where do I start, right?

Not only has this been a post I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but it’s something many people have asked me about in the past. “What’s it like being the wife of a professional athlete?” “Is it as amazing as it seems?”

The short answer: Yes… and no.

With football season just around the corner again- see how fast that was?– I decided NOW was the time to dish the details. For anyone new here… or just for those that want to learn more about what it’s ACTUALLY like be married to a professional athlete… this is the post to read!

Now, remember, everything I’m going to say is all my opinion and based on MY experience as a WAG. Others may have had other experiences- both good and bad- but I feel like a lot of us out there can relate, so I want to spread the word to help people understand this crazy life we live!

Mike got drafted back in 2014 to the Tampa Bay Bucs and we have been with them ever since. I say WE because we are a family- and the Bucs are our family, as well. He willl be going on his 5th season this year and I still can’t believe how fast time has flown by! Every time we talk about it I swear it feels like just yesterday we started this journey because every day, every season, every off-season seems to fly by! Maybe that’s just how it feels being an adult, right? HA!

Well here goes…

10 Things I’ve learned From Being a WAG:

God is EVERYTHING!

FIRST AND FOREMOST- AND WITHOUT HESITATION! To be honest, we already knew this but as the years have gone by and the more I go through life’s ups and downs, I’m continuously reminded that God is everything. Everything we’ve been so blessed to have- beautiful children, a beautiful home, our health, everything– is all thanks to HIM. And I always keep that in mind.

He brings good people into your life for a reason and brings others in as life lessons, too (which we all need if you ask me). I really do believe that having a relationship with God will get you through anything.

How to Become an Expert Packer

Being a part of the NFL you know one thing for sure: you’re never in one place for very long. Whether you’re being traded, moving away for the off-season, headed to training, hitting the road for away games or enjoying the occasional vacation, you quickly learn to master the art of packing.

So far, we’ve lived in three different places just in Tampa and thankfully, we just bought our first home in Texas during the off-season. When it comes to moving know-how, I’m your girl because I’ve got it down pretty good at this point. That’s not to say I do it stress free, of course, but I do know how to get the job done right at this point!

You Have to Be (+ Stay) Strong Because YOU Are the One Keeping Everyone- And Everything- Together!

In the “WAG” world you have to stay strong through it all- especially through training camp and the season when you start to feel lonely (and it’s extra hard if you’re a new WAG or going to a new team!)

Being strong for your family is so important because it’s a stressful time for everyone and I’ve learned that during this time I have to be the support system so Mike can focus on his job: training, putting his body on the line, and grinding it out for us each and every day(especially in the FL heat) for us to have this blessed life.  If he can do that for us, then the least I can do is make the most of it, be strong, take care of our family, and embrace the craziness that is a football life.

You Need Other WAG Friends

No one understands this life more than other ladies going through the same thing, right? It’s so nice to relate to other women that understand that there’s more to this life than meets the eye and I think it’s good to build those relationships up… especially when you don’t see your other friends and family throughout the season. No matter what you do in life, find your group of friends that “get it”… and hold on tight!

Make the Most of the Off-Season Together

Ahhhh, off season! When it’s finally time to pack up and go back home for a few months to spend time with friends and family make sure you make the most of it! Get that quality time with your man… go on vacations… eat delicious food together… enjoy a night of “doing nothing!”

And the best part if you ask me, is they get to help out with the kiddos instead of it all falling on your shoulders. This is the time to enjoy life because it’s such a short amount of time until it’s right back to work!!

You Have To Be Thinking of “What’s Next?” After Football

We all know football doesn’t last forever, right? In fact, it’s such a short amount of time in our lives… and it could be over tomorrow. It’s always best to start making plans for when football is over because you just never know when, so we’re constantly coming up with ideas and plans for the future that we can hopefully pass down to our kids one day.

But like I said, when we believe in God and HIS plans for us, we gain the strength to grow and learn like we need to.

Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

To be honest, I’m still getting used to this but I have pretty much embraced it at this point… NOTHING ever goes as planned.

I LOVE a good routine… I live for structure… and planning out my days to know exactly what I need to do is my jam BUT things come up unexpectedly alllll the time so you just learn to deal. Even when you’re doing it all with a toddler- who thrives off a routine, too- you still just have to roll with the punches and go with it. This is our reality and it’s best to make the most of all the craziness!

Take Care of Yourself

This is important for everyone but especially to all the moms out there that never get a break, it’s sooo important to take some time for yourself every now and then. Whether it’s once a month or a couple times a week, in my opinion, I know I’m at my best when I have a little time for me.

This can mean taking a hot bubble bath, using a mask, reading after putting the baby down or a day at the spa pampering yourself. It’s so important to make sure you feel good because in the end you being happy will set the tone for everyone else in the family, too.

Seriously, #SelfCareit’s a real thing!

Make Your Relationship a Priority

Now that you’re on board for taking care of yourself, it’s time to focus on another important person: YOUR SPOUSE… or more accurately, your relationship.

Mike and I have learned how to make time for each other outside of football, kids and “life” so that we maintain our healthy relationship, love and friendship despite his schedule. Remember, you fell in love for a reason… but it absolutely takes work to keep that connection strong!

Take Injuries Seriously

Like I said earlier, you never know when a football career can be over- and nothing cuts it short quicker than a terrible injury. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always have to be an obvious break or tear for it to make a lasting impact. Strains and sprains can be serious too and ignoring them can lead to trouble down the road. That’s why Mike takes his training, strengthening, stretching and practicing so seriously so that he can ensure he’s taking every precaution to keep his body safe.

So there you have the glamorous… and not-so-glamorous… side of being a WAG. I hope this gives you a better look at our lives and that we’re all just normal people trying to make a life for our families, too!

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My Favorite Graphic Tees + Denim

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite graphic tees… and one of many ways you can style them with the cutest pair of denim jeans.

I’m constantly grabbing these to wear with everything right now because I think they’re perfect for spring- but can definitely be worn any time of the year… and in so many different ways (So if you’re following my social, I’m sure you’ll be seeing me in these a whole lot more!)

Jeans can be a real pain when shopping. It’s so hard to find the right fit, wash, and cut with the right amount of distressing… but I promise these are those jeans!!

Shop This Outfit 👆🏽

So below I’ve linked some really cute graphic tees (all under $50) and some of my favorite denim jeans (all under $100) <— I know you’ll find something you love!

My Favorite Graphic Tees 👇🏽

 

My Favorite Denim 👇🏽

 

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Q + A… What You All Wanted to Know!

Hey everyone! I’ve been getting lots of great questions from you- and I’m so happy you want to know more! Today, I’m answering some of the most frequently asked questions below- but if you have others, drop them in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!

Let’s get started…

HOW DID MIKE AND I MEET?

Mike and I met back in 2013 while we were both going to school in College Station, Texas. We met through our roommates who knew each other and soon introduced us… and we hit it off right away! You can read more about our love story —> HERE!


HOW WAS IT MOVING FROM TEXAS TO FLORIDA? DO YOU EVER MISS TX? WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT FL?

Moving from Texas to Florida has been quite an adventure, that’s for sure.

After Mike got drafted, our initial move to Tampa was quick and we didn’t really have time to look around for a place to live. I basically found the closest, most decent apartment I could find near the facility and shortly after we moved in.

I brought everything I could from my college apartment to help us get started and since then (in 2014) we have lived in three different places. And who knows, we may eventually buy a home there since we will be continuing our time in Tampa- which I’m so proud of my husband for! For those of you that don’t know, Mike has recently agreed to an extended 5-year contract, so we are very excited to be staying in Tampa!

It’s easy to love Florida! It’s so beautiful and you can go to the beach or be outside in the sun pretty much year round-and especially with kids, I love that. I also love the friends that we have made there and all the experiences we’ve had so far.

Florida will always have a place in our hearts… BUT TEXAS IS HOME.

We love Texas and try to shoot home whenever we get the chance. We live in Texas the entire off-season in our first home we recently purchased, so no matter where we play, we will always end up back here… and this will always be our home.


ANY GOOD SKINCARE TIPS?

I will say that I’ve been learning so much about skincare lately and have had fun trying different products and techniques. But, one of my best tips is to make sure you’re definitely drinking lots of water and watching what you’re putting into your body as far as your diet. It’s a bigger deal than most people think it is- plus, it helps to keep your stress levels down!

Another tip is to make sure you’re taking off your makeup before going to bed and exfoliating at least two times a week for fresh, glowing skin!

PS: I did give more of my favorite tips + tricks that you can read —> HERE!


TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE AND WHAT YOU MAJORED IN?

I went to Blinn Junior College for almost two years. It was the best two years of my life and I met some amazing people that are still lifelong friends to this day.

I initially majored in psychology and wanted to be a counselor because I love giving advice and helping others!

Eventually, I decided to take a break to really figure out what it is that I wanted to do and with all the transitions going on in my life- from being a wife and now a mom (and constantly being in between states)- I’m still trying to figure it all out.

I have many interests though, such as: real estate, interior design, fashion design, etc.- so we’ll have to see where that all takes me!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MOM? HOW DO YOU BALANCE FAMILY LIFE AND NFL LIFE?

My favorite thing about being a mom is having a bundle of joy that makes me so excited to get up every day… even if it is super early and I need all the coffee I can get to function!

I love teaching her new things + watching her explore the world as she grows up right before our eyes! It’s literally the best feeling in the world!

Luckily, in the NFL we get an off-season where we get all the free time we want for a few months to spend our time with family. Mike gets to be home and enjoy that with us, which is great because during training camp and football season it gets a little harder to get that time together.

I do most things on my own on a daily basis, like chasing around a toddler all day and getting done the many things on our to-do list. When Mike comes home, he’s clearly tired after a long day, so I have to be that supportive mom and wife throughout that time! It’s all a balancing act, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world!

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A WIFE TO AN NFL PLAYER?

So this was the number one question I received from you guys when I asked for your questions! I would really love to do a whole separate post on what it’s like to be married to a professional athlete… and all the different things that go on that no one sees.

It’s more than just football games, cool events, big houses, and fancy cars…trust me!

I won’t lie… it definitely takes a strong-minded woman to be married to someone who puts their life on the line for our entertainment or to someone who people call “famous” all the time… it’s still a crazy thing for me!

Of course, his job and our life is a blessing, but what you see on WAGS is so far from Mike & I’s lifestyle that we’re ALWAYS laughing when we watch those shows!  Seriously, it’s such a joke… but totally not hating on anyone, that’s on them!

Anyway, I would love to save this for a more in-depth post later, so stay tuned for that!

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START YOUR OWN BLOG?

I started my blog in hopes to get my voice across and talk about things that I love… like this outfit above!!  It’s a great way to document the cool things that happen in my life, plus it’s a place to watch myself grow as a wife, mama, and woman in general!

I have wanted to start one for over a year and finally decided, why not? JUST DO IT!

That was the hardest part.. getting started and putting myself out there for the world to see… because believe it or not, I AM SUCH AN INTROVERT.

BUT, now that I have… I love it and I hope it will grow into something you guys love to read as much as I love making the content for you all!

So, with that said, always leave me comments and let me know what you would love to see as well! Always ask questions… I promise I will answer 🙂

WHAT IS YOUR ETHNICITY?

I am bi-racial… my Mom is white and my Dad is black.

Crazy enough, Mike and I are actually the same ethnicities and both of our moms are white and dads are black, so of course, that was something we immediately found interesting about each other, as well!

Did I answer your Q’s? I hope so! If not, like I said earlier, please always feel free to drop a comment or question below… I’d love to hear from you! 

 

PS: Shop my black, off-the-shoulder top and skirt here:

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25 Things I’ve Learned By 25

As some of you know, I recently turned 25… a whole quarter into life… and it feels so great!
I feel so blessed to see another day and to be happy, healthy and loving life! 

  1. Nothing happens overnight—your dreams, your weight loss goals—everything takes time. Stick with it and with time, consistency and dedication it’s all possible. 
  2. Home Ownership Is a Full-Time Job
  3. It’s OK to Feel Like You’re Changing… It’s Called Evolving!!
  4. If you want to eat clean and stay on track, it helps to eat at home! Prepping and cooking your own meals makes all the difference. Even if life gets hectic—and I know it does—it’s worth it in the end to stay on track.
  5. Big or Small, ALWAYS Give Thanks to Those Around You
  6. Read/ watch/ listen to something that inspires you every.single.day. Take it upon yourself to surround yourself with as much positivity as possible.
  7. Live For YOU!
  8. We’re not getting any younger, so workout now! A daily sweat session will make you feel better.
  9. Listen More Than You Speak
  10. Communication Is the Key to Any Healthy Relationship
  11. Staying organized and having a calendar is a must to know exactly what you need to get done that day or week. It will help you stay on track and get things done way more efficiently. 
  12. NOW Is the Time to Travel
  13. Always be ready and willing to learn new things. I like to be open to learning different skill sets, workouts, things going on in the world, so I continue to broaden my horizons. 
  14. Sometimes You Just Have to Let Things Go
  15. Live in the moment. Put down your phone, laugh more, enjoy the people around you and simply, live for the moments right now! 
  16. Let Go of What You Can’t Control
  17. Plan For the Future
  18. Learn to Say NO—And Not Feel Bad About It
  19. In a social media focused world, it’s easy to compare yourself to others but you should be proud to be who you are. Start seeing the good in yourself, know your worth and stop comparing because there’s only one you… and that’s a GREAT thing!
  20. Believe That You Deserve The Best Out of Life
  21. Have Gratitude For Life
  22. You Can’t Please Everyone… So Prioritize Those In Your Life
  23. No One Understands the Love and the Stress of a Mother Until You Become One
  24. My Mom Was Right About EVERYTHING
  25. Trust Your Instincts EVERY Time
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The BEST Chili You’ll EVER Make!

On Tuesday, we were stuck in the house all day due to the terribly freezing weather and icy roads, so I decided it was the *perfect time* to make my favorite chili!

I’m always looking for a good excuse to stay home, cozy up on a cold day and make this delicious recipe!

For a while now I’ve gotten lots of questions from friends and family members about the recipe… because everyone LOVES IT!!!

I found this chili recipe over a year ago from another blogger that I love, Pink Peonies by Rachel Parcell and she swore by it so I knew I had to try it!

She actually found the recipe on Pinterest (of course… because it’s awesome) and I quickly searched for it and ran to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make it myself! Plus, it’s a crockpot recipe so I was all about it!!

Over time I’ve made my own tweaks and have switched it up to finally get it perfect! Now I’ve made it my own go-to recipe- perfect for these chilly cold months!!

The flavor is just amazing and I hope you all enjoy it just as much as we do!

Let me know in the comments below or on my Instagram what you think… and if you’ll be making this recipe for your friends and family soon- I would love to hear about it!

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Newborn Essentials

What an amazing learning experience it has been this past year. As we quickly approach the one year mark with our baby girl, I can still remember all the newborn moments and firsts we experienced- every time looking for advice from friends and family.

Every mama + baby is different, so this may not be a “one shoe fits all” approach, but these are some of the best products I found when Ariah was a newborn- and I hope they help you just as much as they helped me! And since my life is a constant go go go, I really wanted to make sure that the items I was using were practical for our fast-paced life!

 

Baby Bjorn Carrier/ Solly Wrap
What a lifesaver! If it’s any indication, Ariah’s first plane ride was at 2 months old, so we had to become instant pros at maneuvering an airport with a baby on board. I used the Solly Wrap a few times while she was smaller, switching to the Baby Bjorn when she was about 4-5 months and she could support her neck. It was amazing how I could carry my baby, keep my arms free and keep the weight off my back all at the same time.

Boppy
OMGOSH, we used the Boppy since DAY 1 and never looked back! Every day I found myself more in love with the Boppy, whether I was supporting her while breastfeeding or using it to keep her still in one place for a moment or two… of course, this was all before she learned to roll and crawl, then it was game over!

Diaper Genie
Who wants to smell the stinky diapers piling up in the trashcan, right? Having the Diaper Genie right next to her changing table kept everything clean and easy- without a single dirty diaper smell!

Maxi Cost Car Seat (From Seedlings– A Tampa Baby Boutique)
Easily one of the toughest decisions to make, we researched nonstop about which car seat to get for our daughter. Safety was obviously our number one priority… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cute! We eventually found the perfect seat at our friend’s boutique in Tampa (Seedlings) and knew it was exactly what we were looking for. 10 months later and Ariah is still enjoying the safety and comfort of this seat, though it’s almost time to start looking for another… our baby girl is getting so big!

A major plus of the seat was that our favorite stroller, the Bugaboo Chameleon 3, had adapters to connect the two together, which made moving on the go a breeze! Snapping her in or taking her out was no problem, so whether we were doing it together or playing a little 1 on 1 with Ariah for the day, we were good to go.

Gucci Diaper Bag
While I was pregnant I was on the hunt for the perfect diaper bag. I knew it was something I felt comfortable splurging on since I would be using it ALL THE TIME- and yet it had to be practical for traveling as well.

From the start I knew an over the shoulder bag wouldn’t work well for me, so I had my eye on backpack diaper bags instead. When I found this Gucci bag, I was immediately obsessed! It is hands down one of the best investments I’ve ever made as a mom and I have no plans of putting it down anytime soon. With all of the different compartments and portable changing pad, it has everything we need when on the move.

Velcro Swaddles
Our little wiggle worm never liked to stay tucked in her swaddles, so when my mom found these Velcro swaddles, they were an absolute game changer! She stayed tucked and slept SO much better… and you know what that means, right? Yep… I slept better too!

Doc A Tot
I know that sometimes things don’t seem worth the money- and honestly, I went back and forth about buying this as well- but when I heard all of the moms raving about them, I knew it was worth a shot. I gave in and ordered the Doc A Tot bassinet dock and WOW, were they right… it was amazing! I used it everywhere: in our bed while we were watching TV, on the couch, traveling or staying at Grandma’s… you name it and we used it there. With so much added cushion and comfort, this is definitely a must-have!

4Moms Mamaroo
Knowing that I had been eyeing this for a while, my Nana and Pop gifted this to us at our baby shower. I loved all of the different settings, and obviously, it was adorable, so it was a must in our house! Ariah loved hanging out in it around the house, when I took a shower (can I get an AMEN for showering in peace mamas!?) and even napped in it during the day. Now that she’s a bit older, we still get use out of it, strapping her in for her morning bottle or to play and watch a few baby cartoons.

Babocush
I actually found out about this item from my wedding makeup artist and thought it was the coolest thing! You strap your baby in while they are laying on their bellies. Then you can turn it on to any of the different settings, add music or vibrations and just let them lay there… or even sleep for a few hours! Obviously, it has to be on a safe surface… it does vibrate after all… but it’s perfect for soothing them or relieving gas in their tiny, little, bellies.

Baby Tracker App
As first-time mamas we want to make sure we’re doing everything right, and the Baby Tracker App helped me to do just that. You can keep track of how much your baby is eating, ounces they are drinking, how long their naps are, when you changed their diaper, etc. Honestly, with everything going on… and hello, #MOMBRAIN is a real thing… it just helps to stay on top of all the things you need to do for your little one.

Wubbanub
At first as a newborn, I’ll admit, we were scared to give her a pacifier with a stuffed animal attached to the back of it for fear of it being a choking hazard. But we quickly fell in love with it and the Wubbanub has been her favorite comfort item ever since. Stay tuned because I think it may be a bit hard to wean her when the time comes!

Zip Up Onesies/ Gowns
Like a typical new mama, as soon as I found out I was having a girl I immediately thought about ALL of the adorable clothes I was going to dress her up in. And then I snapped out of it, haha! I HIGHLY recommend investing in long gown or zip up onesies ONLY and nothing with buttons if you ever want to get that squirmy wormy dressed!

Gripe Water
Where would we be without all of our mommy friends, right? Thankfully one of my friends recommended Gripe Water to me because though I had never heard of it before, I quickly found out that it’s basically magic for your baby’s tummy! It helps with hiccups and works to prevent colic or tummy discomfort so babies can pass all of the milk they’re drinking without getting fussy.

If Ariah was screaming her head off and I didn’t know what to do, I immediately went down the list: Sleep? Food? Diaper change? If nothing else worked I would give her some Gripe Water and the all-natural water would soothe her belly and change her mood within moments!

Dreft
Finally, I highly recommend this laundry detergent (or another baby safe brand) to keep your baby protected- especially for those with sensitive skin like Ariah. Remember, our clothes are always in constant contact with our little ones and even other people’s detergent would irritate her soft skin. Having natural and safe products to soothe our babies in should always be at the top of our list!

 

Down below I linked a bunch of our newborn must haves that I hope helps all of you new mommies, mommies-to-be or for you to pass to your friends that are new expecting!

 

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Our Love Story: From the Beginning…

They say nothing really ever happens by chance.

That the way two people meet…
Or the circumstances that brought them together…
Or the instant connection they share…

It’s not by chance- but by f a t e – and I couldn’t agree more.

That destined day back in 2013, when Mike and I met seems like a million years ago some days, and yet I still remember it like it was yesterday.

At the time he was at Texas A&M and I was attending Blinn Junior College, still trying to figure this thing called life out. It could have been like any other normal college day: friends getting together, meeting new people, hanging out and having fun.

But it wasn’t any normal day… it was the day I would meet the love of my life.

Our connection was intense from the moment we met: I’m talking butterflies + fireworks— the real deal.

We quickly realized that we shared so many of the same interests, one of them being going to the movies, so obviously it was a no-brainer to make that our first date. From that point on we spent every minute we could together, hanging out with our friends, seeing movies and going to Northgate.

And then football season started.

Of course I had heard how amazing Mike was- I mean, people literally stopped and asked him for a picture everywhere we went– but it wasn’t until I saw him play with my own two eyes that I was truly blown away.

He had such natural skill at Wide Receiver that he made it look almost easy! The chemistry he had on the field with his quarterback and good friend Johnny Manziel, his talent, and obvious love for the game was so impressive to watch!

I loved going to every one of his games, cheering him on, being there to support him- but it was the game that I finally got to meet his daughter Mackenzie that will forever hold my heart. It was a game against Auburn and his mom brought Mackenzie to watch her Daddy play- and WOW, did he play for his little girl! As it turned out, that game would be one of his best college career games ever and she was there to watch it all.

Meeting his daughter, spending that time with her, and seeing who Mike was as a father brought this whole new kind of love for him that I never knew existed.

What I DIDN’T know was that Mike’s college career was about to be over! He entered the 2014 NFL Draft and was drafted the overall 7th pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

How incredibly crazy/beautiful it was to watch the moment he was drafted- I almost remember it like it was yesterday.

It was such an anxious moment for everyone… so many mixed emotions and so many nerves… yet a lot of excitement! I remember the moment Mike got the phone call sitting at the round table, it was such an emotional moment for him, + then they called his name and it became real! He was holding Mackenzie and just thinking about how blessed he was to be in that position. It was incredible.

And that was that: we packed up and moved to Tampa… new town, new home, new team.

That first year in the NFL was crazy! We learned so much about each other and ourselves… and HELLO, remember, we were only 20!

But you live and you learn and you love and you grow… that’s life, right?!

So there we were later in 2014, it’s almost my birthday and Christmas is (TOO QUICKLY) approaching. All I wanted to do was plan the P E R F E C T Christmas for Mackenzie and our families. It was so important to me to welcome them into our home and make this an unforgettable experience for everyone.

We celebrated Christmas a few days ahead because the truth is that life in the NFL doesn’t always mean being there for the holidays, but making the most of the time you do have.

Sooo… again, there we were enjoying everyone’s company, exchanging gifts and loving this time together. After everyone finished opening their gifts Mike hands me one more gift to open… in the shape of a shoe box.

If you know me at all, you know how excited I was… and if you know my husband at all, you know it “probably” wasn’t just any pair of shoes.

I unwrapped the box and immediately see it’s none other than a box from Christian Louboutin… eekkk! Inside was THE cutest pair of blue Pigalle’s.

But that wasn’t all…

My eye quickly saw a smaller blue box from Tiffanys inside- and at that point I’m ecstatic thinking that I’m about to get new earrings too- but everyone gets super quiet.

Like waiting to hear a pin drop kinda quiet.

I’m staring at the blue box, hardly realizing that Mike is getting down on one knee right.in.front.of.me.

He takes the box from me….
Opens it…
I’m shaking…
And he asks, “Ashli Nicole Dotson, I have one question, will you marry me?”

Half crying/ half screaming I say “YES!”… and then cry and cry and cry.

It was absolutely beautiful and perfect: surrounded by our family, everyone in the holiday spirit and me completely surprised. To this day Mike says it was one of the most nervous days of his life… but like always, he does an amazing job.

We immediately set the date and I got to planning the wedding of a lifetime.

On February 13th, 2016 we had the dream wedding I had always hoped for… but that’s a story for another time…