5 Things I Can’t Live Without

I would love to claim to be a low-maintenance kind of girl, but I think anyone that knows me well would dispute that claim pretty quickly. I feel like children have taken me down a few notches on the high-maintenance scale, but still – I need what I need. But if you were to strip it down to the basics, there are just a few things that I probably couldn’t live without – at least, not very happily.

Small disclaimer here – I’m not adding my husband and kids to the list, because they aren’t “things”. Just in case you were to read this list and be like “dang, that girl is so self-absorbed!” – I’m not, promise.

5 Things I Can't Live Without | Haven Gray {The Blog}

  • My Phone

I mean, how cliche is this, right? I wanted to leave it off the list, but I would be lying to you. I can’t live without this thing. It’s my lifeline. Obviously it’s important to have in case of emergency, but it’s my lifeline in so many other ways. Texting is my #1 form of communication. I really hate talking on the phone. That is reserved for my parents, my husband when he’s traveling (barely), and friends that live far away – and even that rarely happens. Just text me.

And since I’m a “blogger” or “digital influencer” or whatever the cool term is these days as well as a small business owner, I use my phone a lot for social media and business related things. I’ve got Instagram/Facebook accounts for this blog as well as for Haven Gray Kids, I have all 72 of my email accounts on my phone (slight exaggeration), I can run our Shopify site from an app on my phone, check in on our booth sales, edit photos – seriously, this little iPhone is magical. I resisted the draw of the iPhone for as long as I could, but I caved several years ago and never looked back.

  • Caffeine

Y’all. I’ve always been a caffeine addict, literally for as long as I can remember. I used to drink several Cokes a day, and when I was in school and working in an office before having kids, I lived on those 5 Hour Energy drinks in addition to the Cokes. Now I’m more drinking more Spark (an Advocare drink), iced coffee, and maybe one Coke a day – although I promise I’m trying to cut back here. I honestly don’t think I would survive without caffeine. My children are not great sleepers, aside from the handful of nights I’ve stayed away from home, I haven’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in basically four years. I NEED caffeine.

  • Yoga Pants

I’m sitting here trying to think of a better feeling than getting home at the end of the day and taking off my jeans and slipping into a pair of yoga pants, and I literally cannot think of one. Stretchy pants just make me happy. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right, because they are heavenly. I have maybe 20 pairs of “athletic” pants (not sure what technically classifies as yoga pants) and I 100% could not live without them. Nope.

  • DVR

So, I don’t get much downtime to sit around and watch TV, despite what you may have heard about stay at home moms and their screen time. If the TV is on during the day, it’s Disney Junior. The only time I actually sit down to watch something is at night after the boys have gone to bed, and this is only a couple times a week. So needless to say, my DVR is very important to me and it is FULL of goodness. And the benefit of not getting to watch TV often is that when you do, you get a good binge session in. The husband and I have probably five episodes each (at least) of Scandal, Blacklist, and New Girl waiting on us. And I personally have probably 10 episodes of Fixer Upper I need to get to. Just waiting on that downtime to show up….

  • Books

Oh man, do I love to read. But similar to the whole “no time to watch TV” thing, I also don’t have much time to read. But I have started making a point to cram it in where I can. Some night instead of getting online to work I hop in bed with a book. And since it takes me like half an hour to blow dry my hair, I’ve started reading as I do that. Other than that, I don’t get much reading in at this stage in my life, but my goodness do I have a HUGE stack of books to get through when I do get the time. If you’re curious, I’m working on Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist right now, and it is speaking to my SOUL. This would be a sad, sad world without books in it, in my humble opinion.

OK, so I’m curious to hear from you – what items can you seriously not live without? Are they as shallow as mine? Share!

Staying Organized With Small Children

Organization is an area I’ve always struggled with. I have A LOT of stuff – my husband thinks I’m a hoarder, although I think I’m pretty good about tossing stuff I don’t need anymore – so I always feel like my house is cluttered, no matter how “picked up” it may be. I feel like I spend 90% of my time cleaning and straightening up, but somehow things always feel a little out of order. It’s like I just can’t get organized enough.

Now that we’ve got two little guys running around the place, staying clean and organized has become a much bigger challenge. Especially now that Gavin is mobile – his speciality is taking items from one room and moving them to a drawer, cabinet, or hidden corner in another room. I found Grayson’s shoe that had been missing for a week in Gavin’s blanket drawer yesterday, so needless to say, there’s only so much that can be done. All this to say – mamas, I understand the struggle. So today I’m sharing my favorite ways to stay organized – or as close to organized as we can manage – with small kids.

Staying Organized With Small Children | Haven Gray {The Blog}

  • Establish Routines

The older Grayson gets, the more I implement this one family-wide. I’ve done this a bit for myself, obviously – we have a morning “routine” on preschool days or any other time we need to be up and out of the house quickly that we pretty much always stick with, and if we stray too far from this routine, things get a little chaotic.

I’ve also started working on an after school routine with Grayson – take off your shoes and take them to your shoe basket in your room, take out lunch from backpack and empty the container, hang your backpack on the hook in your room. It takes a lot of prodding and reminding, but I’m hoping the more “routine” it becomes, the better things will go.

We also do a nightly clean up of the living room (most nights). We have the boys gather allllll the toys that have been strung out from the kitchen to the back door and put them all in the basket. If there are things that obviously go in the playroom or in their bedrooms, then I make a pile and make it a game “I bet you can’t take five things to your bedroom all at once!” or “I bet I get the laundry folded before you can get all these toys to the playroom!”. Grayson is HIGHLY motivated by any type of competition, so he will do anything if he thinks he can win.

  • Everything Has a Place

Literally everything in our house has a place that it belongs (although some days I’m convinced I’m the only one who knows this). Now, I mentioned Gavin’s new favorite game of “take this thing and put it in the LAST place it should go”, so not much is actually in its place these days, but in theory this works. We have a million books, and they go one of three places: the bookshelf in either the playroom, Grayson’s room, or Gavin’s room. We have one small basket for toys in the living room. Aside from that, toys need to be in the playroom or in the toy box in either boys room. Even in the playroom I have a system for how I like things to be organized, but that happens typically about once a week when I go in and spend about half an hour putting everything back in its place, and the rest of the time it’s mass chaos in there.

  • Baskets Baskets Baskets! 

You probably noticed above that I mentioned a shoe basket and a toy basket – we have so many baskets in our house you guys. In the front room there’s a basket where I collect all things husband related – his mail, his random things that he leaves around the house, etc. In the kitchen, each boy has their own snack basket that I keep in the pantry stocked with their favorite snacks. In the living room we have the toy basket and a little basket-like container for the 500 remotes. In their bedrooms, shoe baskets, book baskets, toy baskets, etc. In my bedroom, I’ve got a basket for magazines and a random catch-all for my stuff like I have for the husband. In our bathroom, a basket for all the lotions and potions that we had to move up and out of Gavin’s reach. In our closet, I have a basket for clutches, our medicine is in two baskets, there’s a basket for my sandals – seriously, I could go on. And don’t EVEN get me started on the playroom.

This should give you an idea of just how highly I value a good basket. If all else fails, buy a basket and give that thing you can’t find a place for its very own place! And a major plus is that they’re a cute way to stay organized. Win-win!

  • Plan Ahead

I already went into more detail about this in my post 5 Things That Make My Days Less Stressful, but planning ahead is huge for staying on top of things when you’re responsible for not only yourself but little ones as well. One of the most important things I do (when I’m being a good organized responsible mommy) is get ready for the next day the night before. Plan outfits, pack lunch, stock the diaper bag (and the snack bags inside) – basically ensure that all we have to do is get up and get ourselves ready and we can head out the door.

Another huge thing for our family is our family calendar. I bought this big dry erase calendar at Target, and the husband hung it on the inside of our pantry door. Every month I fill out my personal planner and then put all of the important activities on this calendar where he and I can both see it. This helps SO MUCH when it comes to he or I planning date nights, meeting up with our friends, his work dinners, weekend activities – before we plan anything, we know we can see our entire schedule here at a glance so we don’t double-book ourselves.

  • Let It Go

This may be the most important thing on the list, and the one I have the hardest time with. When you’ve done all you can do and things are still a hot mess around your house, it’s time to let it go. Just for awhile – maybe just until bedtime or until the next day. But sometimes I will do all I can to keep the house picked up and organized, literally all day long, and still by the time Daddy walks in the door it looks like a bomb went off. All you mamas know that by dinner time you are usually DONE, so the last thing I want to do is clean up another mess. Like I mentioned above, we usually have them pick up the main areas before bed, but some nights that is just a dent in the chaos. So sometimes I really just have to let it go and say I’ll tackle it in the morning. As long as I know the basic organization is taken care of – hence everything having a place and all my many baskets – I know the actual cleaning up won’t be that big of a deal once I’ve gotten a fresh start the next day.

If you’re someone who thrives on staying organized and in control (I can maybe relate), having children can be a super frustrating challenge sometimes – I mean, why do they LOVE to cause so much destruction? Can’t they see how much nicer life would be if everything were just neat and tidy all the time?!? But, we know that the odds of them coming around to our way of thinking are not likely to happen anytime before their 18th birthday, so we can only do so much. Take care of the basic organization around your house, and let the rest go. I promise this is the healthiest approach for maintaining your sanity.

The 10 Greatest Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

For the most part, my twenties were pretty great. Of course I had my share of ups and downs – I feel like that’s what that decade of life is for, really. I struggled through bad relationships and lost friendships and my parents divorce and confusion over what I wanted to do with my life. But at the same time, I learned so much about who I am, the values that are important to me, the people I love and trust. Now that I’m a couple of years on the other side of my twenties, I can look back and reflect on the lessons learned with the distance that it sometimes takes to see something clearly. 10 Greatest Lessons Learned in My Twenties | Haven Gray {the blog}

  • A Relationship Will Never Complete You

This was a hard lesson to learn, but maybe one of the most important ones of my life. I was blessed to meet my husband at a young age – about a month before my 24th birthday – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my fair share of heartbreak before he arrived on the scene. For a long time I was searching for someone to make my life better in some way – cure my boredom, make me happy, be my best friend, make me feel secure, the list goes on. What I finally learned is that until you are truly, deeply secure and happy within your own self, no relationship will change your circumstances all that much.

  • It’s OK to Have a Different Point of View From Those You Love

My dad and I are similar in a few notable ways – we like to have a good time, we have quick tempers, when we believe in something we believe in it STRONGLY. But when it comes to almost every major topic in life, we have polar opposite beliefs. Since I can remember he and I have gotten in heated arguments over every little thing – although we have gotten much better about this as we have both matured over time. But what I’ve learned through this relationship is that even though we will never, ever agree on so many things that mean so much to each of us, we can still get along and respect each other. I still struggle with this from time to time with several important people in my life, because of my strong beliefs on so many issues, but at the end of the day it’s important to just embrace the differences and focus on the love.

  • Good Friends Are Essential

There are so many circumstances I can think of in my twenties where my friends stepped in and filled in the gap when my family wasn’t (or couldn’t be) there. Going through my parents divorce was incredibly tough, and a few close friends of mine really helped me cope. Dealing with a broken heart in my early twenties nearly killed me (or so I thought) and the friends I had at that time saved me from wallowing in misery – too much. The hardest times of my life and the best times of my life were spent with a handful of girls that mean the absolute world to me and have been amazing substitute sisters for this only child. I cherish these friendships more than nearly anything else in life.

  • Parents Are Only Human

When you’re young, your parents are the authority on everything, and somehow they seem invincible. And if they’re good ones, they make you feel safe, secure, and like nothing truly terrible will happen with them around. But the older you get the more you realize that they are just regular flawed human beings, just like you. In my twenties the relationship that I have with each of my parents went through a major transition, and today I view each of them much more as a friend than as a parent. I see them for who they really are, and I think I can love and appreciate them in a much different, but just as meaningful, way.

  • Your Metabolism Won’t Always Be That Awesome

This revelation probably sucks more than all the others. The closer I crept to 30, the harder it seemed to be to shed the pounds. In my early twenties I could eat fast food for every meal, drink sugary alcoholic beverages all night, then cap my evening off with a full meal at IHOP at 3 AM – and repeat the process the next day, and the next. And somehow I never gained an ounce, and I woke up every morning feeling pretty dang wonderful. That is sooooo not the case these days, and I cannot believe how good I had it and that I had no clue. Tragic.

  • You Will Never Truly Understand The Male Brain

I had a little bit of a grip on this by the time high school graduation rolled around, but my twenties totally solidified things. I’ve been with my husband for almost nine years now, and I honestly don’t think I understand him any better today than I did a year or so into our relationship. I quickly figured out that even though I totally believe he and I are meant to be together, we are complete and total opposites and I will never completely understand the majority of what he enjoys and what motivates him in life. Men are just really, really weird, I’m telling you.

  • Experiences Are Worth Far More Than Possessions

When I look back on my decade as a twenty-something, I can tell you 100% that the things that stand out to me are experiences that I had. Places that I traveled, concerts that I attended, nights out with friends, new foods that I tried, new friends that I met – these are the things that will be with me for life. A shopping spree or a fancy new car may be super nice to have, but in 20 years it will mean nothing. Put your effort into making new experiences happen rather than racking up material possessions.

  • Literally Nothing Compares To Motherhood

I have really, really enjoyed my life. I’ve had a number of less than ideal issues to deal with, but I have had the good fortune to have a lot of really great experiences over the years. But without a doubt, not one single thing in life can ever even scratch the surface of the amazing experience of motherhood. The love that I have for my boys is unlike anything I ever knew was possible – and it literally began the second I laid eyes on them. I went 28 years having no clue what that was like, and I am so beyond thankful that I have been blessed with the gift of motherhood – as challenging as it may be.

  • Attitude is Everything

I was trying to explain this saying to Grayson yesterday, because I 100% believe it to be true. In that instance I was telling him he should turn picking up his toys into a fun game, because even though he didn’t want to have to do the job, he could make it fun since it’s something he has to do – all he needed to do was change his attitude. He wasn’t totally sold on the idea, but I hope it’s something I can continue to teach him over the years. I truly believe that having a good attitude about your circumstances can make all the difference, and this is something that I didn’t fully understand until I had been with my husband for several years. His confidence in himself and attitude that any situation can be made better has had a huge impact on me, since I tend to skew a little toward the negative. This is something I’m still trying to improve upon daily in my own life.

  • True Love Doesn’t Mean Everything Is Perfect

I am convinced that my husband is the love of my life, that we were destined to be together, and that if there is such a thing as soulmates, then he is mine. I love him more than anything out there, and I absolutely consider him to be my best friend. But that doesn’t mean that things are perfect. In fact, they’re far from it. He doesn’t share his feelings well and tends to hold everything in, where I’m an open book and want to talk about every single thing that I’m feeling – this isn’t ideal. He has a job where he works all the time and travels pretty frequently, and I’m home with two kids under the age of four by myself a lot – this causes some tension at times. Even though we love each other madly, we drive each other crazy. While I used to panic every time we would have an argument or have a few weeks where things felt “off”, after a few years I began to realize that just because things aren’t “perfect”, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t perfect for each other.

Although these ten things may be the most important lessons that I learned in my twenties, they certainly aren’t the only ones. I loved that decade of my life so much, and I am so thankful for all of the experiences that I had. I’m one of those people who doesn’t mind getting older, because I’ve already seen that things truly do just get better as time goes on. While I may not look as great as I did ten years ago, and I may be way more tired and have way less “fun”, I wouldn’t trade my life as it is right now for all the youthful beauty or wild and crazy fun in the world.

10 Things

You guys. My brain is fried. Like, I’m not totally confident that I can form enough competent sentences to actually complete a blog post, if I’m being honest. So you know what I decided to do? The easiest blog post ever known to man. A “random facts about me” post. Is it unique? No. Is it original in any way? No. Is it pretty basic and a little uninspired? Why yes, yes it is. But I’m honestly just a little too tired to care, so here we go….hope you’ll hang with me anyway!

Celeste Aslanyants | Haven Gray {the blog}That’s me up there, with all my fellas 

  • I’m an only child

I’m pretty confident that this is why I want three kids. Being an only has its perks for sure, but I always wanted siblings and I want that so badly for my boys. I just feel like three babies would feel complete, know what I mean? (Husband, are you reading this?!)

  • I was a dancer for years

I started dancing (tap and ballet) in kindergarten, and danced consistently for the next 10 years. We drove over an hour each direction several nights a week to my dance studio, and I had competitions or shows most weekends. I did it all – tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, lyrical – even clogging. Still wish I wouldn’t have given it up.

  • I’m super short…with huge feet, apparently

I’m 5’2″, which I don’t think is too crazy short, but then again I always think people are the same height as me and then am told they’re like 5’7″, so my perception may be off a little. I also wear a size 8-8 1/2 shoe, which has been pointed out numerous times as being “huge” for someone my size. I know, I have clown feet!

  • I’m addicted to Coke (coca-cola that is, let’s be clear)

I honestly cannot stop drinking the stuff. I know it’s awful for you, I know it can like, remove toxic chemicals from things or something, I’ve seen the videos and read the articles but I just. can’t. stop. I try to limit it to one a day. Unless I’m eating out, then I can have another one. Or unless I get Mexican food, then I can have more. I have a lot of “unless” cases, let’s be real.

  • I’m a “baby” Christian

Up until just about a year ago if you would have asked me if I were a Christian I would have said no. Well, more accurately I would have probably shrugged and made a face and then said something like “Well, I mean, I guess? I used to consider myself a Christian…I mean, I probably believe in God, so I mean, maybe? Not really.” At that point, I basically hated Christians and anything they touched. The thought of church made me a little nauseous, and I wanted nothing to do with any of that “God stuff”. Well, needless to say something happened in my life – still not totally sure what – and God was like Oh hey girl, I’mma need you to change EVERYTHING about what you believe and dive on in and become ultra-Christian. It was shocking and completely and totally unexpected and the best thing that has ever happened to me. Life changing, no lie.

  • I had two weddings, both to the same guy

My husband is Armenian, and I’m not (can’t you tell by the photo up top?). His family wanted more of a traditional Armenian wedding, and I was pretty set on the wedding I’d been dreaming of. We tried to incorporate everything into one wedding, but it just got too complicated, so we ended up having an Armenian wedding at the Armenian church here in Dallas, and then two weeks later we had our American wedding at the venue that we chose. We celebrate our anniversary on the date of our American wedding, but both weddings were truly AMAZING.

  • I had a VBAC with my second baby

I had a c-section with my first son, something I swore up and down I would only do in an emergency situation. Somehow, I was convinced to be induced at 38 weeks, 6 days, then after 12 hours convinced that I needed a c-section because it just “wasn’t going to happen”. I had a LOT of remorse over that decision, so with my second son I was determined to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). My (new and truly amazing) doctor allowed me to go into labor naturally, so at 41 weeks, 2 days I went into labor – and Gavin was born 52 (!) short hours later. It was the hardest thing I’ve EVER done, but I’m so thankful I got the chance and would do it again in a heartbeat.

  • I lived in Los Angeles for a year

When I was 20 years old I somehow convinced my parents that allowing me to move to LA to pursue my dream of becoming an actress was a good idea. Not only did they allow it, but they funded it. I moved out there basically alone – I met a girl once through an introduction, we made a plan, and we moved into a one bedroom apartment in Studio City a couple months later. Obviously things didn’t go according to plan since I’m not a mega-famous actress, but I would say things definitely worked out for the best.

  • I’m from a super small town

Before I moved to one of the largest cities in America, I spent nearly 18 years of my life living in a town in Oklahoma with around 3,000 people. I graduated with 56 people, and I knew nearly everyone in my class, as well as the classes above and below me. My hometown doesn’t even have a stoplight, although I believe they do have a Sonic and a Subway now, which is huge.

  • I love food more than is acceptable. Or healthy. 

Just like my addiction to Coke, I’m pretty sure I have an addiction to food. And the bigger issue is that my husband does, too. We love to eat more than any humans should, and the awful thing is that he watches all those food channels and gets crazy ideas and then starts cooking things in my house that make me gain like 5 pounds. Like raclette. It’s some crazy cheese that you melt over a little grill thing then scrape onto potatoes, prosciutto, salami, peppers, whatever else – and it is amazing and like 7000 calories. And he cooks this for me regularly. We have no willpower, someone help us!

So there you have it. So much randomness I bet you don’t even know what to do with it. I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better….no? Yes? If you stuck through it, thank you – and let me hear some randomness about you in the comments!