Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginnings

I originally planned to write goals for the new year under the main topics of this blog (motherhood, marriage, faith, body image, homemaking, and femininity). Those are the main focuses of my life and I wanted to target each area. But just before Christmas I finished Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny on Excess. It was the perfect book for me to read just before setting goals for the new year.

I read that book and I experienced so many moments of clarity. In short, the  author decides to rid her life of excess one area at a time, and her approach is pretty extreme. I have often been told I have a "guilty concience." I've been told I need to change that and I need to approach life differently by some that are close to me. "Just let go and let God". But I've never been able to do that and I realized why as I was reading this book.

My guilty concsious was less about consuming myself with guilt and more about needing to change. I feel conviction not guilt most of the time. I have a sensitive spirit, I've always known this and I have always felt that I have a great understanding of what will bring peace to my life (and the lives of those around me).

I have areas of my life that are all too consuming. I don't thrive in over consumption. I cower. I hide. I feel sorry for myself. When my life is more simple, I do thrive. For my spirit, less really is more. Which is why I feel like excess is a temptation for me. Not much else is, so drowning in everything is the only way to take my focus away from the things that matter. I can't "Let go and let God" if I am not letting go of the material (and even abstract) things that suck the life right out of me. I have finally come to the realization that my spirit and body are very connected and they are both incredibly sensitive to the choices I make and the way that I live.

Realizing this and acknowledging this means that I am really excited about this year's goals. Possibly more than any other year. I KNOW without a doubt that they will bring me peace, they will settle my soul, and they will allow me to thrive .I have decided that by simplifying my life and getting rid of excess, I will come more alive as a wife, mother, and woman. I will be able to feed creativity and ambition. I am excited about these goals.

setting goals

I will simplify my life in the following five ways:

(January/February)After JaiseAnn's first birthday, I am going to start a Whole 30 diet. For thirty days I will not partake of sugars, legumes, wheat, soy, or dairy. 

Less processed foods and overeating should lend itself to more clarity, energy, and more confidence. 

(March/April) I will uninstall my Pinterest and Instagram app from my phone for 30 days. I will keep my phone in another room during the day and focus on my daughter and my home. I will choose to spend one night per week reading a book or playing a game with Zach INSTEAD of watching a television show. 

Less screen time should lend itself to more quality time with my husband and daughter and more productive and invigorating time for myself. 

(May/June) I very specifically chose money for this time of year as it is going to be a tighter time for us for a few different reasons. For 30 days I will not ask Zach to pick anything up from the grocery store, I will shop for groceries once a week, with cash in hand--no card! We will not spend any money on extra food, treats, blog sponsorships,or anything extra. For thirty days money only goes to necessities. We are implementing a new budget in January so it will be interesting to see how things look after 30 days of no extra spending after we've been tracking our spending for a few months. 

Less spending should lend itself to more money or a more clear understanding of our budget and what we can do. 

(July/August) This is the month that we cut out the clutter. I am a clutter hater by nature. I do not like to have things that I don't really love or need or use. However, I'm married to a hoarder extraordinaire (he gets it from both parents, so I have no hope that it will ever change). He keeps every single National Geographic, coin, video game, board game, etc. We have too much stuff in our little house and WAY too much stuff in our garage. In July we will reduce our garage by 100 items. In August we will rid our home of 50 items. I will donate most of these items in a personal way and I will sell others.

Less clutter should lend itself to more order in our home. 

(September/October) I will implement a plan for our family and home for recycling. For thirty days we will recycle all that we can under this plan. I will also freeze items from my garden in abundance, not letting a single thing go to waste. I will research simple ways to reduce water usage and I will reduce the use of water in our home for the thirty days following at least one of the ways I find. 

Less waste should lend itself to more creativity and intentional purchases and actions in our home. 

What about November and December?
In November I will complete my Christmas shopping with the exception of stocking stuffers. I want December to be a month of service and reflection. I want to get myself in the habit of being done with ALL Christmas purchases by December 1st. 2015 will be the beginning of that practice. 

Each month I will check in before beginning and check out after I've completed my goal. I will record my thoughts and feelings after completing each goal and I will set sub goals in those areas to take me through the rest of the year. 

I have always been labeled "guilty." I feel guilty for having too much, I feel guilty for wasting so much, I feel guilty for wasting time, I feel guilty for treating my body so poorly, and on and on.  But the fact is, I have plenty. I have more than I need and it's time to cut back on that. I think my guilt came not from a need to feel guilty, but rather that was my spirit letting me know that I needed to make changes. 2015 will be the year that I listen.

What are your goals for the new year?

Monday, December 29, 2014

This Year

Dear 2014,

First and foremost, 2014, I love you! You have been, undeniably, the best year of my life. Before that there were a lot of favorite years. 2004 when I was skinny, tan, and fell in love for the first time. 2007  when I graduated college and became a bit more grown up. 2008 when I met the love of my life and spent very late nights curled up with him while watching nerdy television.  2009 when I bought a home with that guy, married him, and started a life with him. And then you come in, 2014, and steal the show. Why are you my favorite you might ask. To put it simply, I've had the most fun, learned the most, and grown the most during my relationship with you. You were the year that I became a mom. And nothing (NOTHING) can trump that.

Yes, you were filled with so much goodness (and many challenges as well) and lots of learning. I learned that I have fears I didn't know existed and I learned that my faith was a little less steady than I had once thought. I learned that my body does amazing things even if it didn't "bounce back" right away. I've learned to appreciate it anyway and treat it well. As Zach and I have cut back our budget for me to stay home, I've learned what really matters and what is most important. I've learned the value of gratitude. 

I've learned what marriage really is. This year was the hardest year of my life. I had some life-changing events, some scary events, and some tough days--all while caring for a tiny human that has no way of caring for herself. That meant that our marriage was less like date night every night and more like a game of survivor most days. I learned how to rely and my husband and more importantly I learned how much I could. While it was hard, I learned so much. We are a stronger couple, despite a rough year. 

I learned that babies are the best addition to a home and family.  That there are hard days and rough moments, but our house has been filled with smiles, laughter, and countless kisses. There is a feeling in our home that wasn't there until this year.

I learned that my love has no limits. I started to understand that I was made to be a mother, it is my divine purpose. This year, I've learned who I was meant to be and why I am here. I have also learned what I want to change and how I want to better myself. While I've always looked for ways to improve, this time I really think I know what I need.  It took me finding myself torn apart, but I think I've figured it out.

Honestly, 2014 I am sad to leave you behind. Very sad. As many blessings as the coming years might hold, I met my daughter during my time with you. And I hate to leave you behind. I hate for time to pass from that incredible memory. 

I'm also a little scared to leave you behind. You were my first year of motherhood. I have taken it easy on myself. I haven't beaten myself up over too many things. As we venture into my second year of motherhood, I feel like I have to really get it together and figure some things out. I'm not sure I can call myself a "new mom" forever. 

As we bid farewell I can only hope that I captured enough of my time with you in words and pictures. I sure tried. Thank you so much for everything, 2014. You will never be forgotten. 


**I'm linking up today with Brooke. She and I have had similar years this year--check her out!**

Friday, December 26, 2014

Is Motherhood Hard?

 I've noticed a trend among new moms lately. It seems that more and more lately, in social media, many new moms are declaring their joy and astonishment at how much they like (gasp!) motherhood. I am among them. It's why I started this blog, I wanted to share the joys of motherhood along with the many other joys I get to experience through life as a woman.

As awesome as it is that we've been pleasantly surprised by motherhood, I've noticed a few new moms (with babies younger than JaiseAnn) recently writing blog posts stating how easy motherhood is. That it's so much easier than working outside of the home. It's not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. And this has really caused me to pause and reflect. Motherhood is one of the most grossly misrepresented responsibilities--from just about every angle. 

I am just starting this journey through motherhood. I'm just barely getting my feet wet. I have learned so much and I have so much more to still learn. I do not feel as though I'll ever define motherhood with a word like easy. It just doesn't fit. For so many reasons. But I also agree that there are too many complaints about motherhood as well. So much so that many of us have been pleasantly surprised because all we hear is the "bad."

Easy is not synonymous with fun, enjoyable, or rewarding--in fact, the things that require the most effort usually result in the most valuable rewards. 

I heard (and dwelled on) the warnings about how difficult motherhood was before JaiseAnn.  I heard how it would drain you of everything and leave you with only parts of who you once were. It's true. Motherhood does rip you apart in the most amazing and sometimes painful ways. Only to piece you back together a better woman. Motherhood is the ultimate refiner's fire.

 I've met my fair share of women who genuinely seemed to dislike their own children. They loved them, yes, of course. But they didn't seem to like them. They wanted to send them to daycare even when they had days off of work, church camp was considered a vacation, and overall they just seemed unhappy with motherhood.

So when people would warn me it was hard. I thought it would be the "I hate this" kind of hard. The weeding my garden, or doing 100 squats (who are we kidding, ten squats--I loathe squats), or dealing with mean co workers kind of hard. The kind of hard that you have to do but don't want to do. 

For me motherhood does not qualify as that kind of hard. Motherhood has moments of difficulty that I can't compare to anything else...there should be another word for what motherhood is and what it takes.

 It takes work and dedication.

It takes time.

It requires patience.

It can be exhausting.

Yes, it takes your heart. 

It is so much more than whether or not you have an "easy" baby or you're going through an easy stage. Motherhood itself simply cannot be defined as easy. There is nothing easy about loving someone the way you love your child. It takes your breath away. 

I'm a very sensitive and fairly anxious person as it is. Meeting my daughter introduced me to a whole new world of worry. The kind of worry that kept me from getting much needed rest at first. I have often asked Zach, 'How do our moms not call us every day to make sure we are home safe?" I don't even know how they function with us just out in the world living lives, driving cars, selling things on Craigslist. This world is big and scary. There are dangers and heartbreak in abundance.  As a mom, you are too aware of all of it. I pray constantly for my daughter's health,  safety, and lifelong happiness. But I also know that it guarantees me nothing. That is terrifying. There is nothing easy about that.

There is nothing easy about knowing that I am the main teacher. I am responsible for teaching her to love herself and care for herself. I'm responsible for teaching her to love and care for others. I have to teach her to be herself and to others. I have to teach her who she is, why she's here and where she is going. That is a heavy responsibility. Even though she's small, I still feel that weight. It is not easy. 

No, it is not  easy, but saying it's worth it doesn't even do it justice. 

But I don't know if hard does it justice either. It's just so much more

I don't wake up each day wanting to do hard things like weed the garden or do squats. I don't look forward to them. Sure I look forward to the sense of accomplishment, but I don't look forward to the act of doing those kinds of hard things. I do, however,  look forward to each day with JaiseAnn. I look forward to the whole day. I cannot wait to kiss her face,  to hold her when she's upset, to make her laugh, to see her smile, to share a meal together, to try to teach her something new...all of it. If motherhood is "hard," it's the only hard thing I've ever looked forward to, day in and day out. I'm crazy in love with my daughter. I'm crazy in love with motherhood.  Even when the day is hard and I look for repreive at the end  (even if it's just a thirty minute bath), I'm ready (and excited) to do it all again.
Motherhood has required a lot of me. It has even flat out taken some things for me. But what it has given me cannot be captured with words. Motherhood has given me the world. To say it is "easy" honestly doesn't do justice to the immense responsibility and gift that it is. 

What do you think about motherhood? Is calling it "easy" any worse than calling it "hard"? What is your outlook on motherhood? For yourself and given by those around you?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Thomas S Monson quote

“With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment—a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to become the King of kings and Lord of lords, the promised Messiah—Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nice Work, Pinterest. Just a few More Requests

I cross my heart, pinky promise, would not lie to you--I had this post in the works ALREADY and had to edit it because Pinterest has already granted one of my wishes. This was going to be my Pinterest Wishlist for the holidays. A Dear Pinterest, Please make the following changes...kind of post But then on Tuesday I found out that they had already made the first change I was looking for! 

a Pinterest wish list

1. Allow me to select and move multitple pins at once. Done. We can do that now. So, for example, your food/meals board has main entrees, sides, desserts, drinks, etc. You can move all the drinks at once to a new board! 

2. Allow me to have boards within boards. I would love an option to have a meal board (clearly I love food) and then within that meal board have a board for breakfast, dinner, etc...

3. Allow me to search for pins narrowed by other people. Sticking to the topic of food, you know when someone makes an awesome meal or dessert and you compliment them or ask for the recipe and they tell you they found it on Pinterest? Well, when I go to look for said recipe I can search for items on all of Pinterest (which yields A LOOOOOOT of results) and I can search for items from ONLY my pins, but I can't narrow a search to that person who made that awesome dessert. I wish I could narrow my search to one of the people I was following. 

What about you? Do you ever play around on social media and wish for things to be even more efficient than they already are? What changes would you like to see?

Friday, December 19, 2014

What if she Hates her Name?

When people first hear our daughter's name it always gets some remark, 

"Isn't that a boy's name?"

"You know she's going to have to spell that for people her entire life."

"That's interesting..."

"That's different..."

And my personal favorite was Zach's brother refusing to call her by her name because it wasn't spelled right. 

There are a few people who tell us they like it or that it's unique. What I really love, though, is when someone asks if there's a story behind her name. And yes there is. It's not a great story, but there's a reason for it and someday she'll know the reason and while I hope her name isn't something she hates for a number of reasons, I hope this story will be enough to maker her appreciate it and love it. 

Back when Zach and I first discussed names (before we were even engaged) I explained that names have to hold meaning and have to be unique. My name is Sharlee Rose. My first name was originally supposed to be Charlie (which I also love for a girl and would not have minded at all) either name is unique and I've always loved that. I never shared a name with anyone in my class and while I always have to spell it for people, it has never really bothered me. My middle name, Rose was my mom's grandma's  name. Carrying her name as my middle name always meant a lot to me as I always knew how much my mom loved her grandma. I thought it was special to share that. 

I had two girl names picked out for a long time: Jaysan (not sure on the spelling, but a female version of Jason) Maie (A unique first name--boy's name for a girl--and my dad's mom's middle name) that would be the name of my first daughter. My second daughter would be JilliAnn Elise (I like the name and my mom's mom's middle name was Ann and my mom's name is Elise). 

Jaysan and JilliAnn were my two girl names and I held onto them for dear life.

But then Zach and I had a somewhat hard time getting pregnant. And then I experienced a pregnancy loss followed six months later by a chemical pregnancy. When I finally became pregnant with JaiseAnn I was nearly thirty and I realized that maybe my plan to have four kids wouldn't happen. I was older and who knew how long it would take to get pregnant or if I would be able to at all. 

Not long after I discovered I was pregnant, I told Zach that I thought I wanted to spell Jaysan differently if it was a girl. I wanted to give both of my grandma's names to my daughter in the case that we weren't able to have more kids. I wanted to pass on more than one family name.

 I wanted to add a second "n" to the end and I wanted to capitalize the "a" so that my grandma's middle name would stand out. I knew that it would be pronounced by strangers as Jaise Ann (two separate names) but I also felt okay with that. If you say it fast enough it sounds like Jaysan anyway.

Zach was of course supportive. Over time we played around with the spelling. Ultimately I decided to spell the long "a" sound with an ai_e because it matched the spelling of the long "a" sound in Maie. (I know, I'm a nerd). And thus, JaiseAnn Maie was created. 

unique names

When she was born we hadn't discussed names for ages and while I was still dealing with some pretty awesome post birth stuff, I heard them ask Zach, "Do you guys have a name?" (I think to put on the card on her bassinet at the hospital). Without a thought Zach replied, "Yes. It's JaiseAnn Maie..." and he proceeded to spell it for them. Just like that. 

Some of our family members accepted it immediately. Others were more slow to warm up, asking if we would be calling her by a more feminine nickname. Nope, she's JaiseAnn. Though I never planned to, we do call her by her first and middle name about 40% of the time. It just fits. 

Sure it'll be a pain for her to spell it and explain it often. But hopefully she'll understand and appreciate her name the way I appreciate mine. It meant the world for me to give my first daughter both my grandma's names. 

And if nothing else, when you have an interesting name you always have an ice breaker. Right? 

What are your thoughts on names? Do you prefer traditional or more unique? Are family names important to you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It Starts with Me..And You

I was talking to my mom the other day about body image and how focused woman are on the wrong things. Sizes and weight--numbers rather than health--are a major focus among women. There are many ideal numbers thrown at us through a number of sources, but of course we choose our own numbers, too. When I'm this size, I will be okay with myself. When I am back to this weight, I will do something special for myself. Etc. Etc.

I was expressing that the focus is on the wrong place and it needs to change. My mom told me that it never would. I could maybe change it for myself, but I could never do anything about it for the world at large.

I've been thinking about that and while I think my mom is a little right, I also think she's a little wrong. (Sorry Mom!) I don't think there's enough propaganda in the world that could convince women to change their minds and accept themselves. You can't preach it enough to hit everyone. That part is true. But I do feel there is a way to start making a change.

Living in confidence. I wonder how much more comfortable I would be in my own skin if the women around me (even the ones I know now) were more comfortable in their own skin.
I remember saying to Zach once, "So and so is curvy, but I really like her body."
 Zach replied, "Yeah? Well then you should like yours, too. You have curves like that."
And I had the biggest "aha" moment, "I think I would if I knew she was okay with hers. I know for a fact that she's currently trying to lose weight and that makes me feel like I should be, too." (This conversation took place prior to my pregnancy weight gain.)

 I've shared this quote from Marianne Williamson so many times, but contains so much truth. I'll just share this line today, "And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

let your light shine

Have you ever seen a woman with a body that didn't fit the normal social standards for beautiful or sexy (perhaps she's curvy or very thin) who had a whole lot of confidence? I have met those women in my life and every time I am around them I feel inspired. I feel drawn to their confidence. I want to get some of that for myself.

I suppose I've been waiting for other women to take the lead. Other women to tell me that it's okay to love myself no matter what. That I can feel good about myself no matter what. But they're not. And I don't have time to wait for the change, I want to make the change.

I make a commitment today to work on developing confidence. For myself, for my daughter, and for every woman I come in contact with.

Do you agree? Have you ever met a woman with confidence that is contagious? Do you think if the world were full of more confident women, it would create a wave of confidence?

(I will be starting a Confessions of a Confident Woman series on my blog in January. Keep an eye out for those posts and more information on how you can be involved.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Think I've Figured it Out---Mommy Wars

Any mom of the Google era is familiar with this scenario:

 Your baby is/isn't doing something you're worried about. You turn to your friend, Google, and search away. You inevitably land on a discussion forum. Some other poor mom has already posted a similar question describing your situation. She's looking for feedback, help, advice, etc. Let's say, she's searching for information regarding sleep. Yes, that sounds familiar.

"Blah, blah, blah, doesn't sleep, blah, blah, blah, any help is appreciated!"

And here is where the responses flood in. You get three kinds of responses.

parenting opinions

Response A Moms:

"You need to make that baby cry. It's not the end of the world. Of course it's heartbreaking, but if you don't s/he will NEVER sleep on his own."

"You should look into the Ferber method. Babies need to learn to self soothe. It's skill just like any other that they NEED to learn and YOU NEED to be the one to teach him/her."

"I just let them cry it out. They're changed, fed, burped, too bad son. Off to bed."

"They're testing boundaries. If you don't leave them to cry they will always think they run the show."

Response B Moms:

"Do NOT let that baby cry. Babies need their moms. Our society is too caught up on baby sleep. You need to listen to your instincts. Babies cry for a reason--because they need something. If you ignore their cries you will scar them for life."

"You should co-sleep. It will help you and the baby get more rest. There are tons of benefits to co sleeping. They include..."

"It is TOO early to sleep train. You will permanently  damage your child. There are studies out there that show that sleep training puts babies in distress. They don't owe you anything. Do not sleep train."

"Babies in orphanages are silent because nobody comes to their aide when they cry. After I witnessed that first hand, I vowed never to sleep train my child."

Inevitably Mom's with A responses and mom's with B responses will turn on each other. They will say horrible things and work hard to "prove their point." Meanwhile,

Response C Moms:

"I'm really sorry that you're going through this. This too shall pass, just do what you feel is right."

"I read this book _______. I didn't follow it exactly, but I took the things that worked for me and my parenting style and it really helped."

"I'm in the same boat, it's so hard to know what to do. Just follow your gut. They won't wake up all night forever."

And there you have a short and not-so-sweet version of what usually lends itself to mommy wars. There are usually two sides (and a whole lotta gray) in all areas of parenting. One side feels they're right and the other feels they are absolutely right and they fight it out. Advice for new moms often feels like you've been caught in the middle of a political campaign.

And I think I've figured out why. In every side-there's a supposed potential  sacrifice made and a supposed potential benefit. And mom's want to feel like they are making the right sacrifice for the right benefit. Babies can't really talk and there is supposed scientific evidence in favor of both sides. So we're left to our own devices when it comes to figuring this out.

Using the example from above:

Response A mom's are potentially damaging their children by making their kids cry(=sacrifice) They are making a potential lifelong damaging sacrifice in the hopes of developing potentially lifelong habits of good, independent sleep (=benefit).

Response B mom's lose sleep at the moment and have the supposed possibility for their child to ever develop good solid sleep habits (=sacrifice) in the hopes that their children will benefit from a secure attachment and knowing that their cries are answered (=benefit).

For me, anyway, every choice I make, while directed by instinct, often feels like a gamble. You feel like you are taking a chance no matter what you do. And so our defenses are up and we are ready to fight. To argue. To defend our choice.

But the thing is, as moms, we are all making sacrifices each and every day. And if we would be a bit kinder and more quick to recognize that, we might now yell so loudly. And if we didn't yell so loudly, maybe these choices would seem less daunting. We're doing it to ourselves. We are the ones scaring ourselves. We're the ones making this a gamble.

While I've chosen to co-sleep and not make JaiseAnn cry, I don't think that parents that do are permanently damaging their child. If they feel their child is ready and they are following instincts, I fully support that. If we gave each other more permission to follow our instincts and fewer warnings, I think we'd be a much happier bunch.

Do you agree? Where do you think the mommy wars come from? What is a hot topic for you personally?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why I Still Pack My Husband's Lunch

Not all love notes are written. In fact, very few are. Little gestures and actions add up daily and show those around us how we feel about them. Some days I feel like I really nail showing my little family how much they mean to me and other times I fail. I fail miserably.

But there's one thing I do almost every single day that takes very little time and shows my husband that I care about him. My one way of telling Zach that I love him, that I appreciate him, that I still want to take care of him in spite of being an overly tired and overwhelmed new mom is by packing his lunch.

practices of happily married couples

For five years almost, I have packed Zach's lunch. He never once asked me to. I don't do it because I feel it is my "duty" as a wife. I don't do it because he won't do it for himself. I don't do it because I feel obligated in any way. I do it because I feel like sending a little bit of care and thought with him every day as he goes off to work. To me, a homemade lunch sends a bit of home with whoever is taking it.

But something I've found through this act is that often the little acts of service for your spouse are just as much for the person giving the service as for the one receiving. There are a few main benefits to packing my husband's lunch:

It's Hard to be Angry
There are days that I wake up and am still mad at Zach about something and I vow that I will not make his lunch today. That will really show him. But then I think about him heading to work without that little small token. And I think about myself cooling down in a few more hours and suddenly the day seems like a long time to go without that little act. So I make his lunch and while I'm doing that, I usually feel my heart soften. I think about him working hard for our family and the sacrifices that he makes and it really does help. 

Always on My Mind
The routine of packing my husband's lunch over the first few years of our marriage was beneficial when he started working the night shift. He would miss dinners so rather than packing sandwiches (which would have been easier), I stayed one dinner ahead of schedule so that he would always have dinner to take with him to work that night. Because I had to stay on my game and make his meals while he was asleep or already at work for the night. He was always on my mind and I had to make this little act a priority as it was one of the only things I could do for him on the days that he worked. 

There's a peace in consistency. I love that Zach knows he can expect a lunch from me every day and that he knows that I do it because I love him. (And he does know that. He thanks me every day for his lunches). The consistency keeps us thinking about each other and it keeps us grateful. Consistent acts of love do add up to a constant love note. 


I don't actually pack Zach's lunch in a paper bag. We're all about minimal waste and spending around here. Instead, he has a reusable lunch box that I pack every day. I use glass or plastic containers for some of his things, but I also have these reuseable lunch sacks from HustleMama.

 They are affordable and the perfect size for sandwiches or other similarly sized items. She makes snack bags as well. I suggest checking out her shop.

Do you pack lunches for your family? What little acts do you do (or do others do) to show daily love?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Thing

It's a cold winter night in 2009. I am curled up beside Zach in our favorite hangout of all places, the LoveSac. We are getting ready to settle in and watch a television show (or maybe a movie). We are far from engaged, yet I know I will marry him.

"Do you want kids someday?" I ask without reserve.

"Absolutely." Is his reply.

"How many?"

"I'm not sure, I guess we'll just have to play that by ear. Why? How many do you want?"

"Four, or five, or seven. I have always wanted at least four. Two boys and two girls." (How cliche) I tell him and go on to explain how my infatuation with having five or seven kids came from watching 7th Heaven. Awesome. 

I continue, "I have two girl names picked out. I used to have two boy names, but I really just don't like them anymore. I'm not sure."

"I have a boy name. I've had it picked out since high school." Zach readily admits.

I explain to him that I have a thing about names--they have to hold meaning and they have to be unique and I tell him that I really hope I like the name he shares with me. And sure enough, he shares it with me, and I love it. It is unique and it does have meaning and I love it. I proceed to share my names with him. After he agrees with those names, I insist that we come up with another boy name--you know for that 2nd boy. We do and life is good and we settle back in and focus on the television.

Five years later, it's another cold winter night. Before settling in our our favorite spot, the couch, we must first put our little girl to bed. Zach sings her a bathtime song while getting her ready for her bath, we put her in the tub, and we laugh out loud at her squeals, her splashes, and her constant insistance on standing up.  We take her out, brush her teeth, dry her off, put her pajamas on, and say our prayers with her. In our prayers we always include gratitude for our blessings--and she is always at the top of that list. I complete the bedtime routine with a nursing session and then put her down to sleep. After that, Zach and I join each other on the couch to start our evening. But first, JaiseAnn. Even though we just spent the last couple of hours soaking up everything about her, we must talk about her. We must go over the pictures that I took of her that day. She is just the best and we love to talk about that each and every night.

Zach and I don't have much in common. Honestly, there were times when we were dating that I thought, "How is this ever going to work?" We are so very very different. And those differences have been easy to deal with at times in our marriage and they've been challenging at other times. But this parenting is our common ground.

Parenting is something we share a passion for, a love for, and it's something we do really well. together. Before we got married, we bought a house. We purchased our house on one income (mine) in the hopes that since our home was less expensive, maybe someday I would be able to stay home with our kids. (I'm already reaping the benefits of that decision and so grateful that Zach was on board from the beginning.)  When we first started living in our house and until JaiseAnn was born, we referred to our guest bedroom as the room of our future son. We used his name easily and often in our home. before our first child was even born, we were parents. I can see it now.

Zach assisted me during JaiseAnn's birth like a champ, and he helped me with breastfeeding and latching like it was nobody's business. When I wanted to stay home with JaiseAnn, Zach worked with me and we figured it out--or we're figuring it out as we go. I don't have to beg Zach to help out with the bedtime routine, he's as much a part of it as I am. She's our child and we adore her.

For as much as I sometimes wondered how we would ever make it work, I'm glad it does and it has. We have little things in common of course--our love for pizza, our religious beliefs, our favorite television shows, political and moral beliefs, and we share a few of the same opinions on things--but boy. Having a kid together? That's our thing. We were made for it--since the very beginning. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

High Fives--My Five Favorite Instagram Accounts to Follow

Today I'm sharing five of my favorite Instagram accounts. These are either accounts I follow to support their cause or to find inspiration/useful tips and tricks.

Healthy is the New Skinny (blog found here)
Katie runs this account. She is a model who was told she was too "big" to be a regular model and too small to be a plus-sized model--so she started her own company. She shares unedited photos along with inspirational thoughts about healthy body image. She even shares occasional examples of how the current modeling world and media send us messages that we are not enough. I can honestly see a change in how I view things. I hear things and see things now that I didn't before and it's become liberating.  

Ask the Mamas 
I found this account while browsing one day and I'm so happy that I did. This account allows for moms to message or email questions. Those questions (though not all of them, I've sent two and neither one was posted) are then posted to Instagram in the hopes of getting advice from other moms. There are all sorts of questions on there--about sleep, allergies, discipline, milestones, specific medical procedures, and more. I have found it to be a very helpful and (for the most part) positive community. 

Fight the New Drug (blog found here)
From the first time I saw pornography (which was at an entirely too young age) I knew it was wrong. I just inherently knew. As I grew older I began to understand why and I felt even more strongly about it. In college I often said that I would love to spend my life working to discourage the practice of pornography. I honestly and truly said that. There were many people who remarked that that would never happen. That it couldn't happen. That it was a lost cause. Well, FTND is doing just that. They are sharing the truth about pornography. They share blog posts, sell clothing with messages on it, present at local high schools, and build a community of fighters. They tell the truth about what pornography does to the brain, what it does to relationships, and what it does to society--it's not just opinion--they share facts. I support their messages so much and I cannot wait to get my hands on a t-shirt. I will not be ashamed to wear it.  You need to visit them!

Dave Ramsey
With me only working part-time (very part-time) from home, our budget is tight.  Even still, we have a goal to very slowly work ourselves out of debt. I love following Dave Ramsey on Instagram, he gives me a little hope and motivation each and every day. He shares couples that are debt free doing their "We're debt free!" shout--which is always inspiring. He also has daily motivational tips.

Thrifty Littles (blog found here)
This is another account for the moms. This site is run by another mom who finds daily deals (often multiple times a day) on baby/toddler gear and toys. She posts more deals on her blog, but she always shares a few finds on Instagram. Her acccount has not only helped me find a great deal on a water table for JaiseAnn, but it has introduced me to products I never knew about. Follow her and you might find yourself ready in advance for Christmas/birthdays next year!

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Do You Believe in Santa?

Santa is a big thing for me. I love the magic of Santa. I love the urge to believe in something miraculous and magical. I love the concept of a generous and cheery man leaving gifts and eating cookies. I love it. I love Santa.

prophets talk about santa

I met a woman last year. She was a devout Christian and only allowed her children to believe in Santa for a few years. They knew the "truth" about Santa by the time they were three. Her rationale was that she was raising children to believe in a God they had never seen and who much of the world questions...just like Santa. If she allowed them to believe in a fictional character and then they found out he wasn't real, what would they think of God?

I gave some thought to her reasons. I've pondered them occasionally off and on, though I've never questioned whether or not Santa would be a part of our Christmas celebrations for years to come--he will most definitely be there!

As a religious woman myself, I love this prophet's take on Santa, it's such a different way to view Santa from a Christian standpoint:

" It is a glorious thing to have old St. Nicholas in our hearts and in our homes today, whether he enters the latter through the open door or creeps down the chimney on Christmas Eve. To bring happiness to others without seeking personal honor or praise by publishing it is a most commendable virtue. . . .

Good old St. Nicholas has long since gone the way of all mortals, but the joy he experienced in doing kindly deeds is now shared by millions who are learning that true happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service."--David O. McKay

(Special thanks to Brooklyn for Tweeting this article.)

I couldn't agree more. The joy in the practice of Santa is finding joy in giving, surprising, and serving others. For young children, the joy is in receiving and there is nothing wrong with that. They will learn the true meaning of Christmas, they will learn gratitude, and they will even learn to continue believing in things that are not there if they are taught. Santa will remain in our home until JaiseAnn stops believing in him--and that might just be forever because I really hope she never stops believing and loving the spirit of Santa. Just like her mom...who is just like her mom.

What are your thoughts on Santa and believing in him? Do you or would you encourage your children to believe in Santa? Why/why not?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Slow Mornings

When JaiseAnn was a newborn and for the few months that followed, we had some very lazy mornings. At that point, she didn't sleep in our bed, but would usually stir around 5 a.m. If I pulled her into bed with me to nurse,  I could get a few more hours of sleep in along with some cuddles. So JaiseAnn and I would "sleep in" almost every morning cuddled up together.

But the scale wasn't budging and I needed to get my hours of work in and I felt like I most definitely shouldn't be in bed. I should have been up before her. Working out. Working. Taking a shower. Getting dressed for the day. I needed to be doing something.

For a few weeks this really started to bother me. I wanted the sleep and the cuddles. I felt like I needed to be more responsible. I needed to be a mom and do more grown up and responsible things.

One day I was crying about this with my mom on the phone and I was telling her how I knew all these women that worked out in the mornings and I was just barely rolling out of bed at that time. My mom choked on her own tears and said, "If I could go back in time and cuddle with you in bed for a few extra minutes or hours in the morning, I would do it in a heartbeat. This won't last forever."

I heard her message loud and clear--as I was already aware of how much I would miss this stage. I uttered small and simple, "Okay." And that was that. I would stay in bed with my daughter until there was an absolute reason I had to get out of bed, even if that reason was taking her to kindergarten five years down the road.

While I was very aware of how much I would miss that stage, I had no idea how short it would be. It's already gone. JaiseAnn wakes much earlier now--her wake up time is now between 6 and 7, usually closer to the 6 side of things. Our mornings are still slow, but are much busier than they once were. We wake up together and climb out of bed. I make both of us breakfast each morning, JaiseAnn empties the bookshelf a half a dozen times, pushes her toy around the living room, and makes a beeline for the dog food every morning.

My very favorite scripture is Ecclesiastes 3:1--To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

As a mom, I've found that to be so true. For me, there was a time for me to cuddle my baby, who wouldn't be a baby for long. We both needed that--for a number of different reasons. And when the time ended, it ended. I will never get those moments back. I am so grateful I didn't sacrifice them for some illusion of more adequately used time--more supposed productivity. 

I only get to do this mom thing once. JaiseAnn will only be at each new stage once. If that stage requires cuddles, then I will cuddle her. If that stage requires playing make believe, we will play make believe. If that stage requires independence? Well, then I guess I will need to give her some space--and while my heart may quietly break when that time comes--I know that I spent those fleeting moments with her.

And you know what? My work gets done every day. I work out every morning. And we alernate between playing, running errands, and trying to keep the house in some semblance of order. And when those moments of "Will I ever wake up to a completely clean house ever again?" "Will I ever get to take a nap?" And so on.  I remind myself that there is a time and a season to everything. Especially in motherhood.

How do you approach each new stage of your life? Do you fight the change or do you embrace it?

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Favorite "Go-To" Meals

I used to be in the camp that thought that surely moms that stayed home could get dinner on the table, right? It's not that hard. I can now tell you from a working and staying home  standpoint, that it has been even harder for me to get dinner on the table. I don't think it matters if you work or stay home, I think it matters that whether or not you have children at home. I think that's the deciding factor.

Since becoming a mother, I've had to fine tune my meal planning strategies and implement some different approaches to preparing meals so that we get wholesome food on our table each night.

One of my biggest assets to  successfully getting us to eat well all week long is to meal plan. I used to have a fairly reliable system in place--now I've gotten an even more reliable system down.

easy healthy meals

I have 20 "Go-To" meals that I select from every month. I fill in the remaining days with new meals I want to try, more indulgent meals (or more time consuming meals), family Sunday dinners at my mom's house, and the occasional meal out.  Here are my top twenty quick, easy, wholesome meals that we prepare every month:

Spaghetti with whole wheat Noodles or zucchini noodles (Using this homemade sauce)

Meatloaf with Roasted Vegetables (I alternate between this more traditional recipe and this or this for a different twist)

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak (Also makes a great freezer meal--you don't have to cook the meat beforehand. I usually buy enough for two meals and prepare one for the crock pot and one for the freezer)

Hamburgers with or without the bun

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff (no cream of mushroom/anything soup) with Whole Wheat Noodles and Green Beans

Easy Salmon with Roasted Vegetables or Asparagus

Shrimp "Fried" Rice (We use Zach's mom's recipe, but here is a similar recipe)

One Pan Chicken Dinner

Terriyakki Chicken (I use boneless/skinless chicken breasts instead of thighs. This also makes an excellent freezer meal)

Turkey Burgers with Oven Roasted Potatoes (and additional vegetables as desired)

Skinny Chicken Parmesan served with Grilled Zucchini or Spaghetti Squash

Baked Chimichangas served with Salad (made with ground turkey)

Crock pot Chicken Fajitas

Baked Chicken Strips with Roasted Potatoes/Vegetables

Chicken Quesidillas (an assortment of variations found on Pinterest)

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (clean eating recipe and more delicious than any recipe we've ever tried)

Breakfast for Dinner

Homemade Pizza (with this whole wheat pizza dough)

Once a month (at least) in the cooler months we have stew/soup and in the warmer months salad.
Here are a few favorite stew/soup recipes 1, 2, 3 (and chili)
Here are a few favorite salad recipes 1, 2, 3

(To find more easy to make and wholesome meal ideas follow me on Pinterest!)

Additional Tips:
*The witching hour is a real thing and it happens like clockwork around 5 p.m. This means two things: I LOVE the crock pot and if I'm not making a meal in the crock pot, I prep all of the items for the meal before 5 p.m. I meal prep consistently throughout the day so that by 5, dinner is ready to put in the oven or cook on the stove. Most nights I wait until Zach's home if it requires my full attention, but if not, I stick it in the oven to try to have a consistent meal time.

*When I meal plan I pick ONE new meal that I want to try first and then try to find a meal from my "Go-To" list that shares similar ingredients. Then I pick a second new meal and try to match the ingredients to another "Go-To" list, and so on. It keeps the budget low, the weekly meals interesting, and cooking fun.

Do you meal plan? What's your meal planning secret to success?

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Dance with My Daughter

 This post originally appeared as a guest post on He and I the Blog

When my daughter was born I had expected to have this feeling of "I know you!" that so many moms describe. I didn't. I was shocked and overcome with the miracle of her and just so surprised with all of it--my love for her, her perfection, When they placed her on my chest and she immediately stopped crying I realized that she knew me.

As the minutes progressed to hours and then days, I did feel like I knew my daughter. I had very spiritual experiences where I realized that she had been with me throughout my pregnancy. I hadn't just carried her body around with me, but her spirit accompanied me as well--I just wasn't aware of her presence until after I'd met her. After I'd felt that spirit--then I knew.

I spent those newborn days soaking in all of her. She and I had a dance and it really wasn't too hard to figure out most of the time. We spoke to one another very clearly. Those are treasured days that were such an incredible blessing.

As she outgrew that sweet, sleepy newborn stage she started to develop more and more assertion and personality. Consequently, she stopped sleeping as well. In fact, she turned into an incredibly poor sleeper.

I couldn't put her down for naps. She didn't sleep well at night. Things were a chaotic mess and I was getting advice from everyone I could possibly ask. My own mom gave me a suggestion.

A few weeks into this terrible sleeping pattern,  I expressed my frustration to my mom and her response seemed as though  she was frustrated back at me. She mentioned that I was asking for all this advice but then not trying it. I was reading too much and filling my head. While I agree that I read entirely too much and none of it helped, I was still hurt and upset. "What do you mean?" I asked.

"Have you even tried what I suggested?"

"No." I quietly replied. Feeling bad that of all the advice I was seeking and trying, I didn't try my own mother's. The next day I followed my mother's advice. It didn't work. My daughter responded exactly as I had assumed she would. 

And that's when I realized. I didn't need to feel bad that I didn't take my mom's advice. It wasn't that I didn't respect her opinions or value her input, it was that I knew my daughter.

I have received countless suggestions, some I take--most I don't. There are just certain things I inherently know about my daughter even though we've been together such a short time (at least here on this earth). I know how she will respond to certain situations and so when I'm trying to teach her something, I do it a certain way. I am more gentle with her than some would agree with and that's okay--to each their own. Whether I'm getting her to sleep or trying to get her to calm down when she falls, I approach it in a way that is tailored to her needs. As her mother, I understand her--at least a little.

And so our dance changes...with every stage, we take turns leading, but I ultimately know I am her guide. This understanding about my dance with my daughter and motherhood has given me greater perspective of my Heavenly Father's role in my life. He knows me and my spirit. He knows how I will react to certain things and he has a specific way to approach teaching me things. He may teach someone else a bit (or a lot) differently than he teaches me. Understanding this has given me a chance to look at my struggles and understand that they are, in fact, specific to me and my needs. They are there to help me gain understanding and knowledge that I need. But how great it is to know and understand that as my father, he makes sure that my aide throughout my challenges is also specifically tailored to me.

How grateful I am to know that I am known by Him. I'm even more grateful that, through motherhood, I understand just a little about how it feels to know someone the way He knows me.

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