Saturday, December 30, 2017

My New Year's Resolution | 2018

My New Year’s Resolution

2017 has been a pretty incredible year. It’s been filled with love, challenges, adventure, family, and lots of “firsts”! This time last year we were cheering on Emmajean as she learned to crawl, and it wasn’t long before she stood up, leaned forward, and took her first running steps… landing in her first face plant! She learned her first words, had her first birthday, and we took her on her first family beach trip. We’ve also learned a lot about ourselves and parenting.  We’ve learned just how sensitive her skin is, how well she can climb, how to kiss boo-boos, and how strong her determination is. Most recently, we’ve learned how to get her to sleep through the night!

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching our baby blossom and grow into toddlerhood.  We’ve felt our hearts grow bigger every day and understand the significance of all of those parenting clichés we’ve heard forever. Life will never be the same. Time flies in the blink of an eye. Sleep when baby sleeps. The days can be long, but the years are short. Baby brain is real. There’s nothing as strong as a mother’s love. Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but definitely the most rewarding! It’s been funny to hear this stuff over and over and then actually live it. I see it all with new understanding and appreciation.

You’d think hearing the clichés and experiences from friends and loved ones would have helped prepare me for motherhood, but each day has been a learning experience.  Every child is different and you really cannot plan for everything and certainly can’t control life. I think I was probably least prepared for the fatigue, additional worry, and mental overload that comes with motherhood.

My mind is so quick to wander… did Emmajean eat enough, is she going to nap, is she climbing on her toy kitchen, am I a bad mom for letting her watch TV before she’s two? Did I e-mail my client back? I need to get to the grocery; what do I need from the grocery?  I need to clean the house and organize my desktop. Et cetera, et cetera! Random stuff leaps into my mind and takes no mercy on the person trying to converse with me. This is something I’ve always struggled with and it’s just heightened in the past year and a half. I literally inhale my food, run from errand to errand, and have trouble quieting my mind. Part of my struggle has been rushing everything to keep up, and when Emmajean’s with me, I’m always splitting my focus between the conversation at hand and her.

This year my New Year’s resolution is to slow down and focus on listening.

I know I’ll still be busy and some days I’ll be in a rush, but I’m going to consciously make an effort to slow down and listen. Now that Emmajean can listen and entertain herself better, I hope it will be easier for me to focus when I’m listening to someone when she’s with me, too. I know the loved ones in my life deserve a good listener and that’s what I really hope I can work on in 2018.  

To those of you who’ve experienced this with me first-hand, thanks for sticking with me and I hope to make it up to you in future conversations! (Starting with my husband! Thanks for being a good listener even when I’ve not been the best!)

What did you learn about yourself in 2017? 
Do you have a new year’s resolution? 
I’ll also be working on the typical resolution to eat better and exercise more, too. 

Happy New Year!!
We're looking forward to all of the fun and memories made in 2018! 

Here are some of my favorite images to look back on from 2017. #emmajean #timeflies #shesnotababyanymore! 


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Nostalgia washes over me at Christmastime. I absolutely love carrying on (and creating) family traditions. I smile at the memory of my grandmother singing happy birthday to Jesus as the blessing before our Christmas dinner, at the thought of my dad eagerly taking us last minute shopping for a Christmas gift he would let us have early, at singing carols, at waking up at 5 am to run see what Santa left unwrapped by our beautiful tree. I'm smiling extra this year reliving this magical time with our little one. 

It's truly a wonderful time of year! 

We're enjoying spending extra time with our family and taking a break from our typical routine. We're looking forward to opening presents with Emmajean, church services filled with song, baking, Christmas dinner, and admiring all of the sparkles and lights. 

With all of the excitement, it's important to remember the real reason for celebration. It's not just a time for cookies and Santa hats...Christmas is a time for gathering, for reflection, for giving, for prayer and for thanksgiving. I'll be saying an extra prayer for health, peace, prosperity, and love for my friends and family who may be struggling this holiday season. Today and everyday, no matter the struggle, I pray for hope and courage, for faith and relief. 

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends! 
Wishing you a joyful holiday weekend from Saint Olaf to NC and beyond! 

...Merry Christmas to all...

...and to all a good night!...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sailing into the New Year with a Sale

"Sunset Silhouette" 24"x36" original acrylic on canvas
I love the mood and movement in this
painting packed with contrast!
$600 -- Sale Price $400

For the last ten years I've shown paintings at various galleries, restaurants, offices, and other businesses throughout NC, and Iowa (and internationally with This week I visited one of my biggest supporters, a very special chiropractic office in NC. It's the last year I'll be showing my artwork at Dr. Herrmann's office in High Point, NC, because Grandpa Dave and Gima Dawn are moving to Iowa in the spring! With this exciting news, and Christmas around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time to sail into the new year with a sale! 

The paintings on this post are available for the SALE PRICE through Jan 1st, 2018.Shipping is available within the US and I'll include it in the sale price though Jan 1st! Please private message me at: for inquiries and feel free to comment below. 

"Sunset Silhouette" - Side View

"Love on the Horizon" 20"x16" original acrylic on canvas with frame.
Enjoy this highly textured vibrant
painting in your home or office.
Sale Price $200

Thanks for stopping in! Best wishes for smooth sailing and happy holidays ahead!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

TBT The Holiday Train

Our First Trip to See the Holiday Train  

Last Thursday we bundled up and took Emmajean to watch as the Holiday Train pulled into Marquette, IA. It was our first time to witness this brilliant event that helps raise money and TONS of food for the local food shelves across the country. It was so fun to watch the kids (and adults) line up with holiday spirit to watch the train pull into town. The train stops for awhile in each town and one of the cars opens up for a live performance. There was hot cocoa and Santa even made an appearance! I plan to turn the Holiday Train visit into a new family tradition!

If you are interested next year, just remember to bring your canned goods donation and find the route and schedule by visiting The Holiday Train's website

Here are a few photos we managed to snap...

It was pretty cold and pretty exciting! 

We were happy Gima could go with us, too. 

I think they look ready for an Iowan winter! 

What a cool stage and a fabulous performance! 

It was frigid out that night, but love and lights (and lots of layers) kept us warm! 

We sure have missed Emmajean's dad this week, but we look forward to all of the holiday things to come in NC! What are your favorite holiday traditions??

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Traveling with a Toddler | TIP THREE +

Traveling with a Toddler | TIP THREE +

Earlier this week, as I packed for our trip home for the holidays, I decided it would be nice to share some tips for traveling with a toddler that we've learned over the past 18 months. Today I'm sharing TIP THREE and more, but you can still check out TIP ONE  (snacks) & TIP TWO (my comfortable carrier) here on the blog

Did you guess TIP THREE?

TIP THREE - A Backpack Diaper Bag

With all of our traveling I decided to invest in a backpack diaper bag. I knew I wanted a bag that I could carry on my shoulders, that held everything comfortably, and was easy to keep organized. I needed something that I could access and easily manage when traveling alone. 

I'd been eyeing the Ju-Ju-Be diaper bags and researched several others, too. In the end I went with my instinct and purchased this Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back Backpack. Part of my decision to invest in this particular brand was based on my lunch bag that I shared in tip one. Since our Ju-Ju-Be insulated "fuel cell" has lasted so well over the past nine years, I felt justified in spending the extra money to purchase my Ju-Ju-Be backpack.

I love it. I use it as my everyday diaper bag and will do a more complete review of this bag soon. For this post though, my tip is simply to have a diaper bag that is easy to carry hands free for traveling!

Now that you have my top three tangible tips for traveling with a toddler, here are just a few more traveling tip basics from our own experiences...

STROLLERS/ CAR SEAT/ DIAPER BAG--As far as I'm aware, you can take a stroller, car seat, and a diaper bag with no extra charge on all flights. American Airlines is the only airline that I know of that makes you check a stroller over 20 lbs, which includes most all jogger strollers. Otherwise, you can take your stroller to the gate with you. Once we used the stroller to haul most of our stuff with us to the gate, while I carried Emmajean in her carrier. 

BABY FOOD/ BOTTLES --You can take baby food pouches and bottles through security, but they may make you step aside for extra testing. Usually, it doesn't take too much extra time, so I opt to take our own. Sometimes I empty her water and take the empty bottle, then fill it up with fresh water when we get through security. That just keeps them from messing with her sippy cup/bottle and speeds up the check. It was super easy to travel when she was tiny and only nursing-- I didn't have to take anything extra for food and she nursed on the flight and slept the whole way! 

PACK LIGHT -- I've always packed more than I've actually used at the airport. Your kids will be entertained by all of the different people to watch and the bustle of the airport. We only need a couple of books, a favorite stuffed animal, snacks, an extra outfit, diapers, wipes, and milk/water, teether, and a baby blanket. I have a "mommy pocket" on the front of my diaper bag that I pack with my wallet, cell, sunglasses, and a few cough drops or gum for me for the trip. Don't feel like you have to overload your diaper bag to travel. Your back will thank me!!  

CHECK A BAG -- I usually pack one large suitcase for me and Emmajean, and I check it, so I have the least possible things to keep up with. In my experience, it's worth the extra money to check our bag when traveling with our baby...especially if I'm traveling solo with her. I don't worry too much about paying extra to check a bag, since you don't have to buy a ticket for a child under two years of age who's traveling on your lap. It's no secret that being able to travel with Emmajean on my lap for free has meant more trips for me and E.

**KEEP CALM --- my most important tip ever. If your little one starts to get fussy, don't panic. If you remain calm, they will calm down too. Remember the basics, swaddle, diversion, check their diaper, and when they're old enough --have a lollipop on hand! ;)  Quick story: E's very first flight at three months old I was super nervous. As soon as we boarded and sat down on the plane, she started to scream like she had never screamed before. I had Gima Dawn with me and neither of us expected it or could do anything to calm her. I immediately tried to nurse her and it was a disaster. In the heat of the moment, I briefly panicked, then I took a breath, let myself know we were going to get through this, and I swaddled her. After swaddling, she calmed down, nursed, and slept the rest of the trip, including the layover. That first 5 minutes on the plane may have been the loudest she's ever been, but it gave me the confidence in future scenarios that if I remain calm she will calm down, too. 

So that's about all I can think of for now!  I'll let you know if anything else comes to mind and update you after our flight home in a few weeks! 

It's hard living a 1000 miles away from my family, but we've been fortunate to be able to spend lots of time in NC since we moved. It's been a blessing to travel with Emmajean over the last year and half and she's been one awesome little traveler! 

Thanks for checking in to see my top three tips for #travelingwithatoddler! We wish you all the best in your travels! 

Jillian (& Emmajean)

Have you flown with a lap child? What's your best flight tip for traveling with a toddler? Do you have a favorite diaper bag? 

PS I didn't receive any compensation for sharing my love for ju-ju-be with you!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Traveling with a Toddler | TIP TWO

Traveling with a Toddler | TIP TWO

The thought of flying with an infant/toddler can be terrifying! We've had to conquer this fear and managed to learn a few tricks along the way. I was 18 years old before I ever flew on a plane and yesterday Emmajean took her 15th flight in 18 months. Every kiddo is different, but we hope our experiences will help make traveling easier for you, too! 

Yesterday I shared TIP ONE (SNACKS) for traveling with a toddler and today I'll get to tip two, but first I'd like to update you on our flight home. We made it! It was the first time Emmajean has not slept a wink on the flight. I'm so glad I packed her snack bag full of things she enjoys. I'm also super glad I saved the M&Ms for last case/emergency. She munched the entire flight and at the very end, when she began to get slightly fussy, I pulled out the little Ziploc filled with M&Ms. They lifted her spirits as the plane landed. Whew.... it's always a relief when the plane lands and we've made it through another trip with no meltdowns!  

Just as important as snacks (maybe even more important) has been our carrier. 

TIP TWO - A Comfortable Carrier

You see in the picture that I brought along our small umbrella stroller for this trip. Emmajean rode in it a little bit, but we mostly used it for a diversion. She likes to play with it and push it around, which came in handy while we waited to board our flight. However, we could have done without the stroller, because she spends the majority of the trip in her carrier or walking around holding our hands.

There are a ton of carriers on the market and as Emmajean grew I started to do research to find a carrier that would best support my back while traveling (and shopping, and anything where I want to carry her around!). I had seen the Lillebaby, the Ergo carrier and other expensive carriers online, but hadn't justified spending that much money when I had a perfectly good hand-me-down baby bjorn and an infantino. That is until I booked a flight last May. I booked a solo flight for Emmajean's first birthday/and my first Mother's Day (which happened to fall on the same day), and slight panic set in at the thought of traveling alone with our feisty 12 month old. I knew I needed more back support and something that would make her feel strapped-in-place. 

I spent a week researching several carriers. 

Ultimately I purchased the Lillebaby All Seasons carrier and it has been a LIFESAVER! I was able to look at different buying options and found it slightly reduced on Ebay, but amazon has specials for this one too. A few great things about this carrier are that you can use it from newborn to toddler, it unzips to reveal a mesh layer for hot weather and zips up for a cooler weather, it has sturdy padded straps, excellent back support, and most's very comfortable

I digress.. any comfortable carrier you find is a must for traveling with a toddler! Emmajean spends 90% of the trip in the carrier and it keeps her calm during the flight. 

Additional Tip* All but twice, the flight attendants have asked us to unhook the child from the carrier during take off and landing. This sucks, because if she thinks she is "free" she immediately wants up to run around! So, I keep the Lillebaby attached around my waist and remove the shoulder straps. This way E isn't technically "attached" into the harness, but she's still sitting on the harness. So far she seems to think she's still strapped in, which makes it easier to keep her calm. Keeping her calm and in the carrier for the duration of the flight has been our traveling lifesaver and in the past she's slept the majority of the flight!

Here is an affiliate link to a Lillebaby carrier like the one I use with Emmajean. 


If you decide to purchase your own Lillebaby carrier and use this link, they'll send me a few pennies at no extra cost to you. Thanks for helping me maintain SunnyinSaintOlaf! :)

Do you fly with your little one(s)?
What's your favorite carrier..why?
Can you guess what tip three is going to be?

Check back soon for Travel Tip numero Three!

Cheers :)


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. All of the amazon linked products that I review are products that I have, love, and use within our own family. If you purchase from the affiliate link they'll send me a few pennies at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your help in supporting the maintenance of SunnyinSaintOlaf and my travels with Emmajean!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Traveling with a toddler | Tip One

Traveling with a Toddler | TIP ONE

I've done quite a bit of traveling with Emmajean. Since she's been born we've had six major trips to see our family, and today we are making our way to the Eastern Iowa Airport for her 7th round trip flight in 18 months! There's always slight anxiety, but I'll let you know some of the tips I've learned in our travel experience that has made it easier on us all!


We used to nurse when flying and she would sleep the entire flight! Those were the days.. ;) Now I just pack an arsenal of E's favorite snacks to get us through the trip.

My sister in law gave me this Ju-Ju-Be insulated lunch bag nine years ago and I've used it a TON. Currently it is my go-to for Emmajean when traveling, and I'll show you why....

I can fit a ton of stuff in it, it's lightweight, insulated, I love the little zipper pouch in the top, it's easy to clean, and the handle clips open and close. I clip this to my diaper bag so that I can easily access it while we're traveling. 

Have you ever tried to reach under the seat in front of you with an infant on your lap? It's darn near impossible. Having this little bag that I can unhook and sit up in the seat with while we are flying makes it easier on us all!

These are the goodies I'll be taking today as I travel south with Emmajean to visit our NC family.

Emmajean loves the Gerber Organic apple spinach blueberry pouch.. this particular veggie pouch had to make it in the bag. I always take the favorite veggie when traveling... not the best time to try something new unless it's a sure thing, like a lollipop! I also packed a bag of popcorn, which is her favorite snack this week, an apple, her sippy cup with water, and the ultimate bribery ... a handful of individually wrapped prunes. SHE LOVES THEM!   

Bonus Tip: I also have a bag of M&Ms to help get us both through the flight!

I'll share more travel secrets with you soon, so stay tuned!

**P.S. I love my Ju-Ju-Be and did not receive any compensation for sharing this with you, but if you purchase from one of my affiliate links they will send me a few pennies at no extra cost to you. 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. All of the amazon linked products that I review are products that I have, love, and use within our own family. If you purchase from the affiliate link they'll send me a few pennies at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your help in supporting the maintenance of SunnyinSaintOlaf and my travels with Emmajean!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Behind the Scenes with My Own Family Photo Session for 2017

Behind the Scenes with Our Own Family Photo Session for 2017

I am the photographer and owner of JWebb Fine Art & Photography here in northeast Iowa. Recently I was asked, "who takes the photographer's family photos?" I thought the answer would be a great one to share with you here on the blog! 

I highly encourage you to hire a professional photographer (me!) at least once a year to document your sweet family! I'm not opposed to hiring a photographer for my own family photos, but we often take our own photos with my handy tripod and remote. Although it's a lot easier to get everyone to look and smile if I'm behind the camera! 

I'm not opposed to bribes, hence Emmajean's lollipop, but prefer to call them "treats!"

This year I picked out our outfits, I planned for a day in the week that looked like pretty weather, and I scheduled time with myself for our own family session! LOL! Are you ever so busy that you have to schedule time with yourself?

I am usually taking other families' or seniors' photos on the pretty days in fall, but this year I made it a point to take care of my own family, too! Like any of my sessions, I planned out the location, knew the time for the best light, chose the lens, set the aperture and shutter speeds, and directed the poses. I had Zach press the remote (which you might even notice in some of the images) for our very own family photo session.

Between Buddy and Emmajean, it was hard to get a shot with everyone looking and smiling, but that's pretty typical when you're photographing multiple people and pets... especially with an 18-month-old!

I'm usually the one behind the camera, so it was fun to get dressed up, fix my hair, and take photos that I'd be excited to look back on over the years. 

I LOVE this photo of me holding our little cherub and will cherish it always. I know Emmajean isn't flashing her sassy wink or her huge smile, but I think she'll always look back at it fondly as well. She'll see a mom who adored her, who picked out a faux fur scarf to match her little fur collared shirt, who dressed her up like a baby doll and held her for photos in the front yard. She may even think her mom was "pulled together and well-rested," but I'll be sure she knows the truth!

I even had Zach take a quick photo of me with our first "kid" Buddy Long Nose! 

It's not always easy to capture the perfect smiles and sometimes you might have to offer a little bribe to get everyone on board, but it's real life and I LOVE how our little family session turned out... lollipop, remote, and all! ;)

There are things I love about all of the photos, especially the candid ones where we aren't even looking. I chose a handful to edit and print, and this one for us to share our wishes for the holiday season! 

Wishing you the happiest holidays 
filled with HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and AWE! 

Do you ever get so busy that you need to schedule yourself time, too? 
Scheduling your photo session takes time and money, but the end result is something that you'll cherish always... it's priceless!