(Almost) At Home with Christiana: An exercise in Gratitude

As many of you may or may not know, I have been absent from the blog for the past couple of weeks while my family relocated up the coast. It was a typical military move with more paperwork than there is time, and plenty of bumps in the road.

And I’ll be honest, when driving up the eastern seaboard on little to no sleep with all of your children and your dog and half of your household belongings shoved into very close quarters in one vehicle, gratitude is NOT the first word that comes to mind.  Especially when your kids get food poisoning halfway through. (Yes, really.)

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Not that I have (BY FAR) the hardest life, or that I am (BY FAR) as zen as the Dalai Lama, but I have been asked more than once how exactly I cope with the frequent and potentially stressful disruptions of our gypsy-esque military family lifestyle. And in that case, the first word that comes to mind actually is gratitude.

Charles Dickens may have said it best:

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

In almost any situation, I have learned (and am definitely STILL learning) to temper my feelings of stress or frustration by exercising conscious gratitude. Every day, there are SO many things that all of us have to be grateful for, but unless we stop and really think about them, it’s easy to lose sight of them among a busy day’s hectic or potentially stressful events. But making the effort is worth it. The rewards are big. Like UNIVERSALLY big.  I have found it easier not only to deal with my somewhat un-hinged, out-of-school, mid-move, energetic children in a way that I can be proud of, but to be a whole PERSON I am more proud of. In fact, an active practice in gratitude, I think, is an incredibly simple but profoundly effective way for all of us to be people that we are more proud of. 

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There are several ways to incorporate more gratitude into your life. And there are literally no rules. Whatever makes you feel it. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a yogi, you just have to be you. For me personally, I have found meditating to be a wonderful way to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, and if you’re able to, you can find a fantastic led meditation on gratitude from UC Berkeley here.

If meditation is not for you, or, if you’re in a time or place where meditation is not an option (like driving on I-95 with two vomiting children, in my case) you can actively walk your mind through some major gratitude points like those listed below.

And don’t overlook the basics in your life. Know that if you are expressing these conscious thoughts, you already have several marvelous gifts:

  • The gift of life itself, the most precious gift. Your life. The lives of your dearest, the lives of those who love and support you.light sunset people water
  • The countless conveniences that are available to us today that many of our ancestors did not have, and that people in many parts of our world still do not have. Air conditioning, clean drinking water, vehicles and safe passage, ample food. Machines, schools, libraries, electricity.person washing his hand
  • The work put in by thousands of people you’ve never met to create life as you know it. From ancestors that fought for freedoms we enjoy today, to those who grow and deliver our food, those who maintain our roads, vehicles, pipes, roofs and infrastructure, to innovators and inventors, to deployed and fallen military members and first responders.soldier-military-uniform-american.jpg
  • The particular things you enjoy in your daily life. The gift of a warm cup of coffee  in the morning, or the gift of your comfortable bed at night. A conversation with a friend. A treasured heirloom. A warm snuggle with a beloved pet, or a bedtime story with your child. bonding cold cozy dog

When we actively appreciate the things we already have, we are able to see the richness surrounding us, and inconveniences or problems seem smaller in the balance of our rich, grateful lives.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

At Home With Christiana: Moving with Littles Part I, Ease the Transition

This post began largely in response to a reader’s request for tips on moving with young children, and grew out of the fact that I am on the verge of a move with our three kids, aged 6 and under.  Moving with three kids 6 and under?!   Me:  Ha, Ha, Ha. Easy.  I’m fine, everything’s fine … (sob, sob, sob).

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Annie and I have both lead a rather nomadic lifestyle – with a combined 10 moves between us – since having kids. Along the way, we’ve learned a few helpful pointers. As the military spouse/gypsy mom here, I’m spearheading this topic, but Annie will chime in with some tips as well.

This is by no means an inclusive list of everything you have to do in order to move. In fact, there are A LOT of little administrative items you’ll need to take care of that aren’t included here. Think: change of address, homeowners/renters insurance, utility shut-off/on, updating information with your financial institutions, researching schools, etc. We’ll tackle all of this stuff and more in a later post. Today is all about perhaps the most critical factor for our families each time we find ourselves on the verge of another relocation: easing the transition for the kids.

First, Communication

Talk the talk

Start the conversation about moving with your kids early. And don’t be discouraged if the first conversation doesn’t go so well. Even us adults are typically pretty stressed about the idea of so much change, but the more you talk about it, the more you comfortable you become. And no matter what, sometimes we just feel like this:

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… And that’s okay too. Let your kids know that it’s not only okay, but totally normal to feel nervous, or even a little scared about moving. If you’ve moved before, it can be helpful to share happy or silly stories from previous moves. And even more importantly, listen to their concerns. It is much easier to address a specific fear than fear in general! If you can identify something in particular that your child is nervous about, then you may be able to fix it pretty easily.

For example, after talking with our 5-year-old about our upcoming move, we discovered he was mainly upset about moving because he thought WE were leaving, but all of our stuff was staying put. Once we explained that everything (including most importantly his bed and his toys) is coming with us, he was on board! Of course, not all fears will be this easy to dispel, but you never know when a simple conversation might save the day.

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…and walk the walk

Kids are also really perceptive, so if you and your partner are stressed and anxious about your upcoming move, your kids will be too. Likewise, if you can be (or at least pretend really well to be) calm, positive, or even excited about your move, the feelings will be contagious. Emphasize out loud all the things you are looking forward to with this move.

Your kids are watching, listening, understanding and learning more than you suspect, from a younger age than you would imagine. Use this to your advantage.

Second, Organization

Declutter

Annie chiming in here. If at all humanly possible, at least 1 month in advance of moving, make a decluttering plan. There are several options for strategizing this. What has been most effective in our household might not be the best for you – bottom line is you do YOU! Be ruthless in getting rid of things. Saving an old coffee mug because you *might* glue the handle back on at some point? Nope, you’re moving, ain’t nobody got time for that sh*t when you’re moving a family. TOSS IT.  Kids’ organic wooden blocks that are cute but they never ever play with? NOPE. Donate to another family’s cute nursery.

Our family has been most successful with the Konmari method. Basically in this one you take on one category  of household item at a time rather than a room. For example, you start with clothes. Allllllll the clothes – get out those winter clothes you packed away, your box of skinny pants you’re waiting to get back into, those old dresses you’re saving and go through them ALL together. Then, you pick up each item and decide if it “sparks joy”. Do you really love it? Do you want to wear it right now? Or are you keeping it for some other reason. If you love it, keep it. If you don’t – toss/sell/donate! On to the next category.

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We are a spare, organized household to begin with and got rid of 3 TRUCKLOADS of stuff this way. There’s a great free printable at Making Lemonade Blog that I’ve posted up when we are in this stage. If you have a little time ahead, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo herself is amazing motivation to get going.

STORAGE BINS: Kids have a lot of STUFF. Stock up on these essentials to get it under wraps!

ALL the storage bins. Whether you are moving yourself, or you have a professional moving company, putting as much as you can into labeled storage bins pre-emptively can save boatloads of unpacking time at your destination.

When you find some bins that work for you, buy more than you think you need. Maybe I am still holding onto a vision of my young backpacking self, but I ALWAYS grossly underestimate the amount of stuff we have. There’s no such thing as too many. I know, for some reason these plastic storage bins are so dang expensive. I have no answers on why. However if you find some you like, or are lucky enough to find some on sale (this is something of a unicorn event, they’re never on sale) BUY them. And BUY MORE than you think you need. You want as many of the same size as possible so they stack well (both full and empty) in storage.  A clutter of bins that won’t stack wastes a ton of attic/garage space. Annie says her go to are these Ikea Samla boxes which are relatively cheap. 

You’ll want a variety of sizes – some extra large for light things like extra blankets and pillows, some small ones for things like toiletries and medicines. But mostly, lots and lots and LOTS of medium ones (about 6 gallon size). These are not-too-heavy when packed with toys and clothes and not-too-small to be useful. Oh and … Clear!!! Only the clear ones! Otherwise someone will take a label off and you’ll have no clue what’s in that bin at the bottom of a stack. It seems obvious but…why do they even make any storage things that aren’t clear??

Labeling: Colored Tape

Color code your sh*%!!  Seriously.  I am not a hyper-organized-crazy-person, but this is worth it. Before boxes are removed, slap a piece of tape on it that corresponds with the room you’ll want it placed in when you arrive at your new home. You may not will not have time to write an informative description on your boxes and the moving company will inevitably label them incorrectly or vaguely (like the 500 boxes of ours labeled “decor” including our trash cans!). OR if you’re moving yourself tape just makes a much more time-efficient way of labeling than the old magic marker. We have found this simple trick reduces our “we-don’t-know-if this belongs in the attic or the living room” box pile immensely and makes for faster unloading. No need to stop and decipher the scribbled labels on the box!! Slap whatever color you choose on that box and get those babies delivered to the actual room they belong. The first time. BOOM!

 

Also, They make duct tape in a billion different designs  these days and there are some great ones for kids available through Amazon. Again – buy MORE than you think you need – leftover tape makes for great craft fun later. Let the kids have fun picking out the design or color they want to label their boxes and let them have at it. This allows kids to feel like they can help, have a job, and you might not be asked 800 times a day “is this my box?”. Win. The kiddos feel secure that all of their belongings will be in the right place, and have fun spotting their “Superman” boxes at you new house too. 😊

Looking ahead

As early as you can, start a DO NOT PACK list. These are the things you will bring with you directly. Keep the list taped up on the fridge or somewhere you can jot down items as they come to you. Here are a few of my basics to get you started:

  • Important documents: Passports, birth certs, social security cards, and other important travel documents
  • Pens/paper
  • First aid kit and Medicines – bandaids, allergy meds, kids tylenol to name a few.
  • Trip itinerary
  • Phones, Tablets, Laptops, and ALL the chargers
  • Kids’ favorite comfort object(s) such as blanket, stuffed animal, book, etc.
  • Tape, scissors, pocket knife
  • Wine corkscrew/bottle opener (you’re moving with kids. I’m not even going to
    explain further)

Make a second list of UNPACK FIRST items – the things you’ll want out of the moving truck and unpacked FIRST. Think: Sheets, pillows, blankets, paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, shower items, towels, coffee maker, laundry detergent… you know, the essentials. Again, post up so you can add as the days go by.

Finally, Moving Time

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Packing the truck

If at all possible, have a trusted babysitter or family member do something fun with the kids on the day you load the truck. It’s stressful enough to get the whole house fully packed up without worrying that your kiddo is going to find a stray box-cutter or be trampled under someone moving the couch. Make sure they’re there when the action gets started so they know what’s going on and then whisk them away to be distracted.

Set aside your DO NOT PACK items somewhere safe (where movers or anyone trying to be “helpful” will not accidentally pack them up). Also pack separately the things from the UNPACK FIRST list with very clear labels and set aside to be packed LAST into the truck so they come off first.

Plane relocation

If you’re headed to your new home by plane and your stuff won’t get there for a bit, you’ll need to plan your packing differently than if your car and moving truck are going with you. If you’re likely to beat your household stuff, you’ll want to pack a LOT of extra stuff to keep the kids feeling secure on the trip. This list will vary depending on where you’re staying when you arrive – your new empty home vs hotel vs family or friend’s home. Factor that in!

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CARRY-ON: Assume checked luggage will be lost and just be prepared to schlep an obscene amount of stuff through the airport.

  • Clothes: An extra 2 outfits for each child and 1 for yourself. Diapers: enough for 2 days.
  • SNACKS. All the snacks. Hungry children are not happy children. Formula for 2 days if your baby is still taking it.
  • Entertainment: A handful of their favorite toys and books. Bonus points for getting a new book and toy as a ‘moving present’ to make it more exciting. Good time to ignore screen time limits 😀
  • The kid’s usual cups: especially if they’re little and have a favorite sippie cup.
  • Car seats and stroller if applicable (gate check).
  •  Toiletries: their usual bath soap, lotion, diaper cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, some baby tylenol and motrin and any other meds you use on a regular basis. Everything you can bring to avoid a late-night trip to the store. Make sure you include at least 2 days supply of any prescription medications YOU are taking.
  • Important documents (see above list)

CHECKED LUGGAGE:

  • More clothes than you think you need. Moving trucks are OFTEN late by a few days and access to laundry might be variable. I basically double the number of days I expect for this.
  • A whole bed set up – the child’s preferred blanket, pillow, stuffed animals, white noise maker, night light, etc… All the stuff that makes bedtime consistent.
  • More snacks!
  • Don’t bother with extra diapers – you can buy when you get there.
  • Your own toiletries and medications. ALL prescription medications. Whatever over-the-counters you take on a regular basis.

Car relocation

If you’re moving by car and the moving truck is going with you or will arrive at about the same time, strategy is a little different. You basically put all of the above (plus all the pet supplies – bed, food, bowls) jam-packed into your car.

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If you have the opportunity to make the trip to your new home into a fun outing it also gives the kids something to get excited about (Please, don’t overthink this or create more stress trying to orchestrate a highly scheduled vacation in concert with a move.). Depending on the kids’ ages, this can simply be a night at a hotel with a swimming pool and Oreo cookies. You want a little something to look forward to along the way, and it can distract from the stress of the ultimate relocation.

And no matter how you get there… bring the love.

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Talk to your loved ones about planning visits at your new home so your children are reminded that leaving heir house definitely does NOT mean leaving their loved ones, family and friends alike. Make lots of video, FaceTime and Skype calls if visits aren’t an option.

Other helpful resources

There are a lot of great books out there that can be reassuring for your little ones struggling to with the concept of moving, or the idea of leaving friends behind. A favorite of ours is A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. Also check out Sesame Street’s interactive The Big Moving Adventure App (geared specifically for military families, aimed at ages 2-5).

Change can be good

Moving your family, especially while your children are young, presents many challenges. But at the end of the day, a lot of good things can come from this kind of change. Your family often becomes even closer, and your kids grow more resilient. You are exposed to new places and adventures and learn how to support each other along the way.  So, communicate, organize, love each other, and enjoy the ride! (Or at least try to, if you can see over your luggage.) Cheers!

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

 

 

 

At Home with Christiana: Best Fitness Apps

Fitness is something that has always been a part of my life. From junior athletics to marathon running to postpartum recovery, fitness is a major source of stress relief, confidence, and balance in my life. So while a day in the life of home renovating and chasing little people is almost always a workout in some form, my personal fitness is something I work very hard to prioritize. For me.giphy4

We all know by now the countless benefits of exercise (if not, read up!) but sometimes LIFE HAPPENS and getting to the gym just doesn’t. Parent or not, sometimes just adulting feels like sabotage to your fitness routine. Then add the schedules of 1, 2, or 3 little people that have little no regard for your agenda, and well, you get the picture. Client meeting runs late and you miss your spin class. Baby changes her nap schedule and you miss yoga by 5 f&*ing minutes. Ugh. “Namaste!”  Luckily, for days like these, technology is here to literally save our asses. Praise to the Fitness Apps.

Fitness apps have been a game changer for me because they allow me to get a serious workout in whenever and wherever I choose. No gym, no trainer, nobody else’s schedule but mine. Even multiple little people can’t sabotage these – there is a pause button for diaper changes, (because sh*t happens) and frankly, babies make great kettle bell substitutes for those walking lunges.  Also, no one is around to judge me for drinking coffee during my morning yoga session. #mommasrules

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In sum, fitness apps are totally awesome! With one caveat. Apps are definitely a realm where not all are created equal, but don’t despair if you’ve struck out in the past.  I have included my three favorite, time-tested apps below.  They won’t let you down.

Best Strength/Cross Training App: Nike Training Club

Nike Training Club (NTC) is my go-to app for at-home cross-training. NTC features a wide variety of workouts designed by pro athletes and celebrity trainers (oh heeeey Ronaldo, I see you). Ranging in intensity and activity level, these workouts can get straight up hardcore.  I love that this app allows you to select a workout based on a number of criteria. Only got 15 minutes? There are workouts for that. No equipment on hand? There are workouts for that, too. Want to target a certain stubborn body part or muscle group? There are PLENTY of workouts for that.

Another great feature is you can play your own music without interfering with the app’s audio cues. Because NO ONE likes doing burpees in silence. No one. New workouts are uploaded pretty regularly so I have yet to get bored. You can also set up 4-8 week personalized plans via the app that provide you with workouts in the order and frequency you should do them based on your personal inputs. This app really gives you everything you need to get a serious sweat on. So get after it!

Cost: Free

Great for: Strength training, beginners to serious athletes

Best Yoga App: Yoga Studio by Gaiam

Anyone who spends the majority of their week surrounded by little people who have yet to develop the concept of ‘personal space’ can use a little zen. But sometimes a lot of the time your yoga studio’s schedule won’t jive with yours, your kids stay home sick, or you just plain sleep in. Fear not. Gaiam’s Yoga Studio is a great app that can bring the Om at home, on vacation, in the backyard… anywhere. Time to get those yoga pants doing some actual yoga, y’all.

I will be the first to say that I am picky about yoga, and I think this app does a great job of channeling the calming vibe of a studio class via your wireless device.  You can download a wide variety of pre-made classes and meditations (more of our thoughts on meditation here if you missed it) ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour that target specific muscle groups or problem areas (such as lower back pain, yoga for runners),  or a particular mood (strength, Relaxation, AM/PM). Or you can create your own custom classes too. The one-hour Relaxation class is a personal favorite in our household. After the kids go to bed, light a candle, roll out your mat, (maybe pour that glass of wine, because why not? You’re at home!) Annnnd enjoy some well-earned savasana.  You won’t regret it.

Cost: $1.99/month or $19.99 annually

Great for: All levels of  yoga 

Best Running App: Map my Run by Under Armor

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Running for me currently goes one of two ways…  either the stars align and I get a glorious solo run while someone else watches the kiddos OR I’ve loaded up the jogging stroller with kids, snacks, blankets, water bottles and goodness knows what else. Either way, I just want to GO before something goes wrong. I don’t want to worry about creating a route, monitoring my pace or distance, or fidget with a bunch of settings on my devices.

Enter: Map my Run. I can load saved routes with a touch of one button or simply “start workout” and go. All while my distance and pace and calories are reliably monitored and saved to track progress. You can add notes to your run once it’s completed (like perhaps “double stroller into the wind” or “goldfish spilled”) so you can track your training performance without trying to remember why you had a couple really off pace days.

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You can also connect with your running buddies/family members that use the app to encourage each other along the way, which is especially fun if you’re training for an event together, even long distance, or just for added support.  That “NICE RUN, BUDDY!!!” text from your partner never, ever gets old.

Cost: Free

Great for: Running/walking/biking, tracking outdoor routes, race training

I hope these apps are as helpful for some of you to maintain or even begin your fitness regimen as they have been for me.  Shout out with your favorites if you have some to add!  Now go get you some Om. Cheers!

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Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Adventures of a Renaissance Mommy: Introducing Christiana!

Last but not least, I am Christiana, and I’ll be rounding out the DIY, home design, and real estate corner of this blog, which will be sprinkled (most likely erratically) with legal expertise, wanderlust, wellness, style, and my attempts at child-rearing philosophy (which mostly equates to embrace the crazy). A little bit of everything!  

I’m an attorney and a former Realtor, currently working as a full time at-home momma to three kids aged 5 and under, and wife to a Navy pilot. I love old houses and dirty jobs (no, not the diaper kind, but we have those here a lot right now too), and I spend my non-existent free time attempting DIY projects at the home we currently share with the tribe of monkeys we call our children. Think a slightly chaotic, less-than-polished HGTV show with naked toddlers and you’re just about there.

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Little Man Loves Demo Day!

I got here in kind of a roundabout way. I graduated from college and went straight to law school with a serious “Save the World” complex and a passion for Civil Rights. That’s all you need, right?! I focused on International Law and Human Rights and arranged to spend a year of my legal studies abroad in Japan, right around the same time my soon-to-be fiancé was stationed there flying for the Navy. I mean… fate, seriously? Gotchya.

I graduated from law school and joined a Big Four accounting firm in Tokyo. Fiancé became dear husband and we spent our dreamy newlywed years living in Japan and exploring Asia.  In short, I was living the life I had pretty much always envisioned for myself.

Graduate degree, check. Great job, check. Globetrotting, check. Fab husband, check. (Well, aside from saving the world. Which it turns out was not a paying job I was offered at graduation. Hmm. Still #lifegoals)

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And then don’t you know it, the universe threw change at me. My husband got orders back to the ol’ US of A and I was faced with the decision to either remain in Japan alone, or … go home. So, home we went. Because despite really enjoying our great ex-pat lifestyle, I had a sneaking suspicion that something was still missing. That something turned out to in fact be 3 little people, a fluffy dog, an old house or two, and complete madness. But more on that later. 

Back stateside, I seized the opportunity to try something new, and decided to try my hand at Real Estate. It involves a good deal of legal concepts and I’ve always not so-secretly loved architecture and design, so it clicked. At around the same time, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby and we threw ourselves headfirst into renovating our recently purchased 100+ year old home with literally NO experience. (You will see that a lack of sanity is a recurring theme here).  It was messy, hectic, and definitely not always pretty (a respirator with work gloves and maternity pants is oh so fetching).

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But it was through these experiences that I realized how much I really love to design, reinvent, and restore spaces.  And with a LOT of trial and error and research (and plenty of YouTube tutorials… woot!) we actually got kind of good at this DIY thing.

Fast forward through two more moves, two more beautiful babies, deployments and homecomings, and the dust is just beginning to settle on yet another home renovation. And… you guessed it, we are already planning our next move! Sigh. I can’t say that being a military spouse makes anything easy, but it does keep things exciting…

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Welcoming daddy home from deployment (Photo courtesy of Tara Liebeck Photography)

Right, so this leads me to… why this blog? I will be the first to admit that I am a technology hermit. An old soul. I like to write with a pen and paper, thankyouverymuch. So, blogging is not something I was naturally drawn to. However, I do love the idea of spreading the friendship and wisdom and hilarity I have been so privileged to enjoy with these three exceptional women.

And hey, with my gypsy lifestyle sometimes long-distance support is all you’ve got.  My hope is that in sharing this sometimes often utterly humiliating stage of our lives and mixing it all up with our diverse and ongoing passions in life, we just might bring a little bit of laughter, comfort, joy (or who knows, maybe even inspiration!) to another household.

When the universe, and maybe even more importantly, my best friends come knocking…  “I’m in.” So, here’s to finding the joy in the everyday, in postponed or reimagined careers, in wonky old house projects, in broken bones (more on that later), and in actual spilled milk. I hope you’ll join us in our journey of friendship and growth as we embrace the crazy and surrender to the chaos. Here we go! Cheers!

IMG_5058Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.