Browsing Category:


    Le Tote Maternity: Is it worth it? (An honest, unsponsored review)

    Over the past few months, I’ve been packing up maternity clothes and all those silly newborn items you use for just a few weeks but store in your garage for years. I’m looking at you – nursing tanks, boppy pillow, tiny swaddles, and burp cloths.

    Le Tote Maternity

    I’m starting to feel like my non-pregnant self again, mostly sleeping at night and simply needing to lose 15 pounds (easy, right?). I recently reactivated my subscription to Le Tote, where I rent my clothes instead of buying them (see my past review here). During the final trimester of pregnancy, I used Le Tote’s maternity subscription to keep the bump looking cute without buying even more maternity clothes I would later have to stash in a storage bin or pawn off on a pregnant friend. Before I wipe all the maternity items from my closet on Le Tote, I thought I would share a quick review of their maternity subscription. This is NOT sponsored by Le Tote. I just want to fill you in on how you can feel cute during week 39 of pregnancy without spending all your money in the Target maternity section.

    When I was pregnant with Zianne, I had fun buying some cute maternity dresses and tank tops to get my large body through the brutal Phoenix summer. I also had a friend loan me all her maternity clothes. I thought she was being generous, but it turns out she was just being crafty. She was in the middle of moving and lending her maternity clothes meant one less box to pack up and store. After I had Zianne, I realized it’s actually not that fun to own maternity clothes, because you only wear them for three to six months, and then you have to figure out where to keep them. They are necessary, but highly impractical.

    Side note: I know some women solve this problem by wearing flowy, non-maternity items throughout pregnancy that can still be worn after the baby arrives. While I like the idea, I often notice that non-maternity clothes make pregnant women look frumpy and extra large, especially in photographs. I prefer to wear real maternity clothes, at least in the final months of pregnancy. They are more comfortable, since they are designed for the uniquely-shaped body of a pregnant woman, and they extenuate the bump, while allowing the thinner parts of my body to still be seen.

    Even though I’ve only had spring and summer babies, I have found that even the difference of a few months between my due dates has meant fairly different wardrobe needs during pregnancy. Zianne was born on the last day of a typical 110+ degree Phoenix summer. I was not teaching and could float in my pool in a bikini every afternoon. Eisley, however, was born in April in California, which means my bump was significantly popping by Christmastime. I was teaching full-time, so I needed professional, yet comfortable clothing for mildly cold weather. My Old Navy maternity tanks that I lived in with Zianne would not suffice.

    Enter Le Tote. I switched over to their maternity package when I was around 30 weeks, and I lived in their gorgeous dresses for the rest of my pregnancy. I had pretty bad varicose veins with Eisley, so I was desperate to keep my legs covered, but didn’t want to buy more maxi dresses. Instead, I borrowed Le Tote’s dresses and kept my legs hidden in style.


    Le Tote Maxi Dress

    Le Tote Maxi Dress

    Le Tote Maternity

    Le Tote Tunic Top

    I loved this dress so much, I added it to two separate totes! (I also loved this black mermaid dress, this striped midi dress, and this striped maxi dress.)

    If I were pregnant right now, these would be my favorite pieces for fall:

    Tops: Ruffle sleeve / High-low textured / Embroidered yoke

    Bell sleeve dress / High shine leggings / Cross front sweater

    To sum it up: I loved using Le Tote Maternity during my 3rd trimester. I own a solid foundation of maternity pieces, but it was great to use Le Tote to fill in some gaps as far as professional clothing, spring styles, and long items to keep my legs covered. I also rented a few nursing items after Eisley was born, but then I put my account on hold for the summer while I was fluctuating sizes and off work for a few months. I love that you can freeze your Le Tote account at any time for as long as you want. I actually extended my freeze for an extra month or two, when I realized I didn’t really have a need for Le Tote until school started up again. But now that fall has arrived, I am using my Le Tote subscription again and I love it. The downside is that the maternity option is expensive. It costs about $10 more per month than the regular subscription. I thought it was worth it, especially since I only used it for about ten weeks and then paused my account for a number of months, but cost may be a hinderance to some people. I truly wish Le Tote would drop their prices a little bit…

    If you are interested in signing up for Le Tote, you can use this referral link for one free tote. This post is NOT at all sponsored by Le Tote; I just really love their service and wanted to highlight their maternity option.



    Zianne’s Ballet Birthday Party

    The other day I was interviewing the girls – where I just informally ask them a series of questions and listen to their answers… “What’s your favorite movie?” “What’s your favorite food?” “What’s your favorite thing to do with grandma?” And so on…

    Then I asked Zianne, “What is something mommy is good at?”

    And she replied, “Celebrating birthdays!”

    It made my heart so glad. There are many things I don’t excel at as a mom. I don’t like playing silly games. I don’t like messes. I will probably never homeschool my girls, because I don’t have the patience.

    But when my kids think back on their childhood, I hope they recall: The house was clean and orderly. Dinner was almost always homemade. And my mom sure made our birthdays special.

    Because if there is one thing I’m good at it – it’s birthdays. I think I get it from my own mom.  I remember all our birthday traditions growing up. Donuts for breakfast, lasagna and homemade chocolate cake for dinner, no chores for the day, and getting to ride shotgun in the car all week. There were also presents and birthday parties… the big and the small acts together reminded us that we were loved and cherished. Our lives were special and worth celebrating.

    I want my own daughters to feel the same way. They pick breakfast, lunch, and dinner on their birthdays. I take them on fun outings. I put together gifts they will adore. This year Zianne woke up to a big basket of new art supplies waiting for her on the kitchen table. She chose Chick-fil-a for lunch and also requested chicken nuggets for dinner. I acquiesced to redundancy of nuggets to make her day special.

    And whether we gather a few friends or a big crowd, I always throw my kids a party. They pick the theme, with little influence from me. It’s not always Pinterest-worthy, but it’s special for them. So far our parties include: Rockin’ Robin, ABC, Jelly Bean, Beach Party, Gold Bug, and now…


    Zianne requested a ballet birthday for months. A friend from church is a ballet instructor, and I thought it would be so fun if she could come give the girls a little lesson. I was able to rent a studio and the whole outdoor play area at our neighborhood YMCA, and it out worked perfectly.

    The party started with ten tutu-clad girls in their ballet lesson. They hopped and twirled around the studio for 30 minutes or so and ended their lesson with ribbon dancing to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” before taking a bow. Valerie was amazing. She wore a huge tutu and got into character. I’m pretty sure the girls thought she was a Disney princess, because they bashfully hugged her before the lesson started and requested individual pictures with her at the end.

    After the dance portion of the party, the kids ran around on the field outside and we served treats. Zianne requested a rainbow cake, which I whipped up the night before, and a friend of ours made adorable tutu-shaped cookies. After we filled up on sugar, the kids attempted to demolish a giant piñata. It’s a good thing a few big brothers came to the party, because it turns out preschool-age ballerinas don’t excel at piñata-hitting, and the baseball skills of the older brothers were put to good use.

    I love that Zianne is getting old enough to recognize the love and care that goes into celebrating birthdays. It’s not about the decorations or the presents, but I hope the time and effort put into the festivities always assure my children that they are adored by their parents and by the Father above.



    Tutu napkins and ballet banner

    Talitha’s white tutu (we’ve had this for over a year and it’s holding up so well)

    If you’re local to Southern California:

    Amazing cookies by Twinfully Sweet

    Piñatas Villafan (custom-made, huge piñatas for $18)




    My Little Garden

    My office has no windows.

    When I go into my classroom to teach and find it flooded with natural light from real windows, I breathe a sigh of relief.

    Windowless rooms are seriously the worst. My main career goal right now is to eventually move my office to the other side of the hallway where the rooms have huge windows and are drenched in sunlight.

    But that is probably a few years out…

    Until then, I have a lovely spacious office with no natural light and TONS of shelves. When I first moved in, there were FIVE full-size bookshelves in my office. I actually had the facilities team remove two of them, because I found them daunting. The empty shelves were making me anxious.

    So now I am down to three huge bookshelves. For most professors, especially an English professor, it would be easy to fill these shelves with books, books, and more books, but I am not your average professor. I am a minimalist professor who sells books every chance I get. I only keep textbooks for classes currently in my teaching rotation. I only keep scholarly books I will likely consult in the future. I only keep fiction or non-fiction books if I actually plan to read them with the next year. When I finish a book for fun, I instantly sell it on Amazon, unless I honestly think I will re-read it in the future. There are so many books in the world I want to read, I only keep a tiny collection of texts to read twice.

    So that makes filling three huge bookshelves a daunting task. I probably have 50-ish books in my office and at least ten of them are posted for sale on Amazon and could be shipped off any day now.

    So what does one use to fill those looming shelves?

    Plants, of course.

    I see all you ladies on Instagram, filling your houses with fiddle fig trees and ferns and ivy and succulents and air plants. They look clean and healthy and beautiful.

    But remember my crucial problem… no natural light in my office. And even if I had one of the sunlight-drenched rooms across the corridor, I would probably still kill any real plants in my care, because I have the blackest thumb in the universe. I have killed more succulents than you can imagine. Yes, those hearty plants that need little water or care. I can decimate them in just a few weeks. The only plant I have ever kept alive is a Christmas Cactus from my second grade science project. That thing lasted for over 20 years, but a room full of Christmas cacti is not the aesthetic I’m going for.

    A botanist told me I might be able to get a snake plant to survive in my window-less office, but that still wouldn’t be enough to fill my looming, empty shelves. By the end of fall semester, I was getting slightly embarrassed about the state of my office. I had a few meetings with other staff and faculty there, and they would eye my mostly empty shelves skeptically. Who was this professor with a few measly books, a pile of papers, and a cardboard box sitting on her gorgeous mahogany shelves? One day the dean walked in and exclaimed, “Wow! You really are a minimalist!”

    At that point, I quickly added “decorate office shelves” to my list of goals for 2017. I got started right away in January, because I wanted my office, windows or no windows, to be a pleasant place for students or faculty who visit it.

    I saw this Instagram picture, which led me to this blog post, and I decided I could use these three steps to make my office shelves look good, despite not wanting to keep tons of books on them.

    Plants were essential for the look I was going for, so I started scouring the internet for the most attractive faux plants I could find. I bought a few sets and figured I would divide them up, putting some of them in the equally dark and minimalist writing center.

    Here’s what I found and loved…

    White ceramic potted succulents (very small, but super cute)…

    Succulents in round glass vases (these ones are slightly bigger and I really like them)

    Amazing faux succulents from Nordstrom (these are even bigger)

    Another set in cement pots (I haven’t see them in person yet, but they look awesome!)

    And of course, Ikea plants for good measure…

    With all my fake foliage, my office is no longer an utter embarrassment. I still have a few shelves to fill though, so my next step is to buy some fun new artwork.