Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Girl Talk--Body Image

I've been excited about this Girl Talk topic since the beginning. Body image is a powerful thing. It can really get a hold of me. Working on the way I view myself and my body is something I am always working on and striving to improve. I have to amazing ladies here today to share their thoughts on the struggles they have experienced with body image and their tips for overcoming those struggles. I hope you love these ladies as much as I do.

Meet Lauren

The Best F Words

 What things do you think our society and we as individuals do to perpetuate negative feelings about our bodies/looks?

 I think advertising plays a huge role in how we feel about our bodies. When we are bombarded with images of "perfect" women and they don't look a thing like the average woman, our ideas of beauty can become really skewed. But I also think that women have a tendency to compare themselves to every other woman on the face of the planet and not just the ones in advertisements. We may want that girl's hair but she wants another girl's complexion but she wants another woman's height and so on and so on. We are so focused on what other beautiful people look like that we forget to look at our own beauty.

How do you combat (or how do you suggest women combat) these and develop confidence?
 I try to remember what a miracle my body is - no matter what form or shape it is in. I focus on the fact that my body is a gift from God and that I should nurture it and be grateful for this gift. 

 When/how do you feel most confident?
 I know this may seem shallow but I feel most confident when I take care of my body. Whether that be working out or eating right or taking a nice long shower or putting effort into my outfit for the day - if I focus on myself, spend time to nurture my gift from God (my body), and show appreciation for it, I benefit by feeling taken care of and therefore confident.

When do you feel most vulnerable to feeling negatively about your looks?
 My response to this can be linked to my response above about when I feel most confident... I feel most vulnerable when I compare myself to others, when I don't nurture my body by refusing to be active or eating a ton of junk food, and when I beat myself up about the small imperfections that make me unique. When I'm down on myself, it is easy to feel like others are looking down on me too.

If you want to connect with Lauren: Bloglovin~Facebook~Instagram~Pinterest~Twitter

Related Posts from Lauren:
Featured:Unlost Photography
Family: Nine Months In, Nine Months Out

 Meet Jacy

Can you share some experiences you've had either personally or knowing someone else with negative body image?

Over the holiday, my husband asked my son what he wanted to get me for Christmas. This was his reply: "Well..." as he tapped his index finger on his cheek "what doesn't mom like about her body?" He stood there for a minute, thinking. "Let's see.... she doesn't like her hair and she doesn't really like her stomach either! Maybe we should buy her a wig? What do you think, Seth? Oh! I know! How about a new stomach? What else doesn't she like about herself?" Obviously, and thankfully, my husband diverted his attention from all the negative body image talk and they opted for a massage gift card instead. However, later, when my husband told me of this little encounter, I may have let out a forced light chuckle because it seemed sort of cute, but in all reality, my heart just sank. This is not okay. My 5 year old son thinks that I don't like myself! So much so that regardless if I expressed distaste for my hair or stomach (or whatever else) just one time, or a million times, made no difference; he wanted to help me fix the things I didn't like about myself for Christmas. That's what he wanted to gift me. BIG FAIL ON MY PART.

What things do you think our society and we as individuals do to perpetuate negative feelings about our bodies/looks?
 There's this silent, but deadly, pressure to be put-together and perfect all the time. I feel like there's this overload lately... this constant OVERLOAD of perfection everywhere I look (Pinterest, magazines, blogs, television, etc.)! I'm swamped with thousands of images of hairstyles that no one can figure out how to do, make-up tricks that are just too time consuming, and apparel portraits that are way out of the normal persons budget. Sometimes it feels like we're all in some sort of competition with each other.... everyone... all women.... everywhere... Sometimes it feels like it's all about who can look the best... all the time... every minute of every single day. It's all about who's dressed in the most expensive and coordinating outfit... who can keep up with the most eyelashes, tans, extensions... who can be the most daring and bold. It's all about who has the hottest body.... and who can rock a bikini the best... It's all about who's got this... who's got that... and it's all so in your face... all the time. And then I think to myself.... "WHY DOES IT BOTHER ME?" I know exactly why.... because I start to get down on myself... and I think (even as I type) of all the things I should be doing to make me look better, you know... so I can keep up with the image of what everyone else around me is doing. Disservice to myself. A terrible, terrible disservice. So why do I do it? Even when I know I shouldn't.... why do I let myself get sucked in like that? Maybe it's insecurity... maybe it's because it's just plain everywhere... I really don't know… What I do know is that it is real and I am victim to negative self image and esteem.

 How do you combat (or how do you suggest women combat) these and develop confidence?
Here is a list I have come up with that helps me SO much! How to Reclaim Your Self-Love: 

#1) Make a CONSCIOUS DECISION. Before you start on this monumental quest, you must first CHOOSE to do it. You've got to wake up in the morning, stare at your reflection in the mirror and say "It's time I start loving you darn-it!" Believing in yourself is the first and most important ingredient if you want to progress... and even if it's the tiniest little bit of belief... you must believe.

 #2) STOP comparing yourself to others. I know it's hard (I do it ALL the darn time, still) but you've got to learn to stop- someway, somehow. Comparison is dangerous... it's poisonous.... and it kills. When you compare, you criticize yourself and then negative energy oozes from your pours. It is impossible to love yourself if you're constantly focusing on everything you can't do/ or don't have. Figure out how to control yourself from comparing. For me, I've learned that I feel so much better if I avoid certain blogs, magazines, and T.V. shows. It sounds quite silly but it's helping me in enormous ways! 

 #3) Focus on all the wonderful things that make you, YOU. Remind yourself of your positive qualities and all the things you have to offer. If you must, make a list and post it on your bathroom mirror! Everyone has AMAZING qualities... and you do too... so put your pride and/or embarrassment aside and write down some of the things you love most about you. Once you've done that read them everyday until you can honestly recognize their truth. Learn to love and appreciate your physical reflection, as well. Study your femininity. Study the brightness of your eyes and their meaning. Study your uniqueness and those features that make you stand out. Declare with confidence what makes you, YOU. And don't forget to graciously accept compliments given to you! 

#4) Indulge yourself in doing things that you love to do. Make time for interests/hobbies that make you feel happy. When we excel at our talents (no matter what the talent(s) may be) and see progress with our own eyes, our confidence blossoms. 

#5) Accept your flaws. We ALL have them! But instead of dwelling on them, accept the ones you cannot control and look for ways to improve the ones you can.

 #6) Think of yourself less and others more. When we become so incredibly consumed with our own issues, it's almost like we completely forget that others are struggling too. We bury our heads in the sand and we sulk. No good ever comes from this (and trust me, I know because I've had my head in that deep grainy sand before). But if you come up for air and take notice to those around you, you'll quickly realize that you ARE NOT the only one dealing with insecurity, sadness, or difficulties. This will help you to see things in a different light than before.

 #7) Serve. When you serve, you feel better about yourself. Period. I don't care what it is that you do... if you are being kind and thoughtful in some way or another (to someone else), you will feel better. A phenomenal love will engross you, your heart will feel warm and you'll love yourself even more. The power of giving is fascinating. 

 #8) Acknowledge your feelings. It's okay to have setbacks. It's okay to cry. It's okay to grieve. It's ALSO okay to find humor in things. It's okay to get excited about things. It's okay to enjoy the good around you. Embrace your feelings.

 #9) Take good physical care of yourself. Get out, go for a walk, get some sun, breathe the fresh air, enjoy the beauty that exists all around you. Respect your body by eating healthier foods and drinking ample amounts of water. Exercise more (I'm totally slacking at this). Your body is your vessel- take pride in it. Ensure that you are getting proper sleep and find the time to relax every now and then, too. 

#10) Celebrate your existence. Life is short. Life is a miraculous gift we are given. Tightly grasp the tender moments you have. Ponder your presence here. Dig in spiritually (whatever that means to you). Love those around a little bit more by giving tighter hugs, lots of kisses and more of your attention. Express gratitude for all of your blessings: your beating heart, your health, your abilities, your talents, your family, your friends, your home, your job, your goodness, your entire being, etc. Live your life. Love your life.

 #11) Smile. Smiling is the beginning to laughter. Laughter is contagious and when it is shared, it can help lighten burdens by increasing happiness, enhancing relationships, and even improving your physical and emotional health (I'll be posting on this another time :). Make it a point to surround yourself with happy, positive people.

 When/how do you feel most confident?
I feel most confident when I am doing the things that matter the most to me. I feel most confident when I am not obsessing on what I look like, but rather what I am doing to become a better person, as well as when I am serving others. I feel most confident when I can look in the mirror and *see* me, the real me, and acknowledge my worth and value-- regardless of what my outward appearance is or what is happening around me. I think it may be maturity, or maybe it's because I have experienced a very intense journey of finding myself (through plastic surgery and every extension possible)…. but I think confidence is really about believing in yourself, recognizing all that you ARE, rather than everything you don't think you are, and trusting yourself. Trusting yourself to be the best person you possibly can… trusting yourself to be true and honest and real… trusting yourself that regardless of all of this mumbo jumbo that is shoved down our throats all the time, we are beautiful and capable and intelligent human beings. Our presence here is miraculous and I am so much MORE than just how I appear. It is so much deeper than that. I feel most confident when I trust me, Jacy, and all that I have learned, all that I have become, and all that hope to be.

When do you feel most vulnerable to feeling negatively about your looks?
 When I get sucked in to what everyone else is doing, I get jealous and incredibly self conscious. It's not a fun place to be and I tend to linger in it for a while. And then I horribilize everything and become absolute. But this is when I force myself to EXIT from that mentality and move onto things that matter to me, personally. I don't need to be doing what everyone else is doing. I don't need to get my panties in a wad about what some woman blogger (whom I'm never even met before) is wearing at some gala. I don't need to emulate Charlize Theron or J. Lo every time I leave the house (or ever). I don't need to compare myself to anyone because all it is is one big, fat, self-destructive time waster. I haven't shaved my legs in 5 days... my toenails haven't been painted in over a year... I shop at Ross Dress for Less... I got acne medicine from the Dermatologist today... and I can't button up any of my jeans so I'm using hair-ties... How's that for perfection? lol... But you know what? It's OKAY because I'm cool with me! I've got a life to live dangit! I've got the things I'm working on and there's no sense screwing it up all for the sake of a few photos I saw on Pinterest, right? 

Want to connect with Jacy?

Related Posts by Jacy:
Reflection and Self Worth Part 1
Reflection and Self Worth Part 2
Reflection and Self Worth: Plastic
Q&A: I've Thought About the Breast Augmentation Thing

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Letter to an Expectant Mother, What You've Gotten Yourself Into

Dear Mom to Be,

Your mind is probably going non-stop. That little baby of yours is occupying all of your thoughts. You spend a good deal of time daydreaming about how s/he will look, what the moment you meet will be like, and how it will feel to do all of the things you look forward to like rocking, dressing, and playing with your new little one. Oh, there is so much you look forward to.

You spend a significant amount of time worrying, too. Most likely you've researched the heck out of all of your birthing options, baby products, and breastfeeding. You've probably second-guessed some of the purchases you've made and some of the purchases you've passed up. You've probably had more serious days of worry, too. Maybe you read a story or someone decided it was a good idea to share a tragic tale with you and now you worry about the outcome at the end of all of this.
When you're not consumed with that worry, there's another worry that sneaks in. It feels like a selfish worry. You feel guilty even THINKING it, but still you wonder.  What have I gotten myself into? Sometimes in those moments you doubt your potential as a mother. You start to ask yourself: What if I'm too selfish? What if I'm too tired? What if I never have time alone again? What if I never get to go on another date again?  What if I never get to do x,y, or z again? And the list of these types of questions goes on and on.

Allow me (and my brand new mom with lots to still learn self) to answer one of those those questions for you.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

You've gotten yourself into a lifetime of change...
You're in for the ride of your life. I wish I could fully captivate what it will feel like when you begin this ride, but I can promise you this--you will never want it to end.  This ride includes a lot of exhaustion, questions that nobody can really answer for you, unsolicited advice, and big changes. Your schedule will change, time to yourself will change, and time with your husband will change.

Everyone tries to tell you, warn you, or convince you that these changes are a bad thing. I argue (wholeheartedly) that they are not. These changes are a good thing. They are new and different, but they are so good. They help you stretch, grow, and become a better person. They teach you what it means to love and they help you understand what really matters. Adjustments are always challenging and this is a big adjustment, all this change, but embracing it rather than fighting it help.

Yes, sometimes I may have a small thought like, "Oh my goodness. I will never sit on the couch while watching Frasier and stuffing my face with ice cream all alone ever again!" And while it's not really a sad feeling, I kinda mourn for a moment. It's probably true. Or maybe it's not and I just don't know yet, but the second I have that thought I have to remind myself of the things I was missing when I had all of that time to myself.

I was missing so much more than a television show and some ice cream.I was missing a smile that ignites my heart and brings a gush of tears in an instant. I was missing hearing someone's first ever cry, laugh, and sounds. It is a privlige unlike any other to witness firsthand all of these first moments and any moment that follows. They may not all be beautiful but they are so special and they go by so very quickly.

You've gotten yourself into immense responsibility...
You take yourself away from the old and are immersed into a whole new world. In this world, you are your baby's everything. You've never been that for anyone before. No, not even your spouse.

The second they handed me my crying daughter, she stopped crying when placed on my chest and hearing my voice. That moment was both one of the most incredible and powerful moments and the most humbling.

Me? This amazing little person just entered this world with no context for what it's like and I get to be the one to show her? What an incredible responsibility. What an opportunity.

One day while showering, I put my daughter in her Bumbo chair right outside the shower. While washing my hair, I kept opening my eyes to check on her and smile at her. It hit me again just then. She's waiting for me because I am her whole world. When I'm busy, she's only got herself. I'm what she knows--and right now I am ALL she knows. I provide comfort, food, security, entertainment, and everything else to her. 
 Yes, the weight is heavy at times.  I worry about something happening to me. I am her whole world. I worry about making mistakes because I am really the biggest influence. I worry about right/wrong because...what if I mess up? But here's the thing, I've been given this opportunity and while it's a heavy responsibility--it's an honor. And that responsibility is a God-given one. He made me for her.  I feel that nobility every single time she smiles at me or places her hand on my chest while nursing. I feel it when she laughs while we dance in the living room and when she touches my face while we're playing.

You've gotten yourself into a love you've never known...
It's cliche and everyone says it, but it's true. When someone tells me they are expecting I am more excited for them now that I'm a mom.  Before it was all about a cute baby and I though she'd make a good mom. Now I am so excited for someone to get to experience that moment they first lay eyes on their son/daughter. There are no words for it, but I assure you you'll ask yourself again, "What have I gotten myself into?!" But it will mean something completely different.

It will mean that you would give your life in an instant, but at the same time don't want to miss a minute of motherhood. You will love so much that every step of independence, while relieving you a tiny bit of responsibility, will make your insides hurt. You will love in such a way that every smile, cuddle, kiss--every moment will result in an utter prayer of thanks. You will love so much that you will change. You will feel it instantly. This love--a mother's love--it is powerful and it is transforming.

You will love so much that even though you can't wait to hit the mattress and fall into a deep sleep at night, you will miss your baby as soon as s/he goes to bed. As much as you worry about alone time, you won't want to leave. This love-it's a whole new ball game.

You have every right to worry about time to yourself and time with your husband. You have every right to worry about sleep and all of the other things in your mind--you are human. All I can say is just remember--YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS! You were made to adapt and change for this specific purpose. ENJOY the changes. This is your new life and it's such a good one.

You've gotten yourself into motherhood.
Welcome! I can't wait to share the ride with you!


Friday, July 25, 2014

High Fives

Just handing out some "High Fives"--you need to check out the following:

*A lot is misunderstood in the LDS (Mormon) faith. Grace is one of the things at the top of that list. This talk by Brad Wilcox is a favorite! It really explains how grace works and clears up some misconceptions that those inside and out of the church may have.  I discovered it years ago and still listen to it. It's that good.

*And in case you missed Tanika's post from our Girl Talk series, check it out. I loved it so much, I'm linking it here again.

* Since finding out I was going to be a mom/becoming a mom something I've really worried about is the world's acceptance of pornography. Aside from my religion's viewpoint on pornography, I have always (since a very young age) have felt that pornography was wrong. With growing access and acceptance to videos and pictures I worry about raising a child in this world sometimes. Fight the New Drug is one of my new favorite causes. They don't talk moral right/wrongness about pornography, they just state the facts. Pornography works like a drug and there are many many reasons not to use it. I love that they are turning their cause into something fun/cool/something to be proud of.

*I've been planning more specific date nights at home (as per my July marriage and relationship goals). This weekend we are going to do some stargazing in our own backyard. I am adding a little addition to our plans. We're also going to complete a everse burcket list together. I love this idea and think it would be really good right now when we're going through so many changes and it feels like we're not accomplishing much every day aside from taking care of JaiseAnn and paying bills.

*Don't forget to enter the giveaway from, stop by and tell me whether or not you'd have a camera in the delivery room. 

If you have or know of products/posts/etc. that deserve a "High Five" I'd love to hear about it/ them!  Send me an email at mynewlinesblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Camera in the Delivery Room + Giveaway

Before I ever even got pregnant, I was completely and totally adamant that I would never photograph or video tape the birth of any of my children. No thank you, that's gross and nobody needs to see that.

Between some beautiful photography on blogs and a story shared by one of the expectant moms in our birthing class, I started to entertain the idea pretty seriously. (Motherhood lesson #1: Never Say Never)

While I never followed through with a photographer, the birth of my daughter was captured on camera (video and photographs) by our Douala. She happened to offer at the very last minute and at that moment I happily agreed to have pictures taken.

A camera in the delivery room is not for everyone. I actually never thought it would be for me, but I'm so glad I did it. If you're wondering whether or not it's for you I have just a few thoughts for you. 

5 Reasons I'm Glad I Had a Camera in the Delivery Room

1.You Just Have No Idea

You have no idea how incredible the whole experience will be until it's happened and it's over. I honestly had no idea how incredible it would be. The moment my daughter was born is one that I still relive several times a day. I find myself incredibly grateful that I can still go back and watch her take her first breath. I can hear her first cries. I can watch them place her on my many times as I want. There are no words for those moments, no way to truly record them, but pictures come close. 

2. The Little Things
There are little moments from her birth that I may not have remembered or that I'm just glad were caught. Little side conversations were captured as well as the way the resident that delivered JaiseAnn encouraged me.  When she was born, Zach was the one to tell me she was a girl. The joy in his voice was something that I will never forget...and we were lucky enough to catch that. You can't hear it as well as I would hope because of the hustle and bustle of the delivery room, plus the wails of our little girl, but it's there. We also got my mom coming over to look at her, touch her head, and remark that she's cute while crying. She later calls my dad on the phone and while JaiseAnn is crying she says, "Say "Hi" Grandpa!" Those are the little things that I'm so glad we captured.

3. My Body is Amazing
We only have footage of delivering JaiseAnn (none of me laboring, though in hindsight I wish I had that, too) but I am so proud every time I watch that. You can hear a pin drop while I'm pushing, quite literally. The only sound is the encouragement of the resident and maybe a few other people, at other moments it is dead silent. When I noticed that at first I thought it was cool that I was so quiet in the midst of such great pain. But watching it again and again has made it so much more clear to me that my body was a vessel to get JaiseAnn from heaven to earth. The room is filled with such a quiet peace and my body was doing such an incredible thing. I've honestly come to appreciate my body even more from watching that experience.

4. My Daughter Can See It
I will never make my daughter watch her birth, but if she's curious someday and asks, I will absolutely let her watch it. I think it would be neat for her to see the experience and watch the reactions of her dad, mom, and grandmother the day she was born. She can watch me say, "Hi JaiseAnn" to her almost immediately. She can witness herself how she calmed at my touch. She can see the tears pouring out of her dad's eyes while he wipes them away and cuts the chord. If she wants to, she can see all of it. 

5.  Pictures can be Deleted
Right after JaiseAnn was born, I looked at those pictures and was a bit taken aback at how graphic they were. I was surprised that the Douala had taken them as it's not what I was wanting exactly. I didn't need to actually watch her enter the world, but the pictures were of just that. I was recovering, a bit traumatized from some of the events surrounding her birth, and those pictures weren't exactly what I wanted to see. I could have deleted them. Today, though, I'm glad she took them. They could always be deleted later, but I wouldn't have the opportunity to take them again. If you're wondering whether or not I deleted them, the answer is no. I have come accept and love those photos and videos. They are so much more than just graphic birthing images-they are powerful moments captured as Zach and I welcomed our little girl into the world. 

I'm so glad that in those moments before our daughter was born, our Douala asked if we wanted pictures and I'm even more grateful that I agreed. I didn't have time to over-think 0r  over-analyze. I'm also glad that Zach and I had invested in a DSLR camera after we found out we were pregnant. The pictures that were captured are clear, pristine even, and they capture the moment far better than a point and click camera would have.

Lucky for you these bloggers and I are giving away a DSLR (a Canon Rebel T3i to be exact) to one of you!
Win a brand new Canon Rebel T3i!
Life Could Be a Dream // Dearest Love // Simply Clarke // Rachel Rewritten Casual Claire // My New Lines // Happily Ever After // The Wetherills Say I Do Wearable. // Two Places at Once // Believe in the Sparks // Just a Trace He and I // Chez•Nemmar // Oh Simple Thoughts // Elizabeth Loves Rad Maverix // A Faithful Passion // Health, Love & Fire // The Ashley Maria Blog Lot48 // Homegrown State of Mind // So Fill Your Heart
The giveaway will run from 12:00 am EST on July 24th until 11:59 pm EST on July 30th. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only–sorry international friends! Please be honest with your entries because no one likes a cheater. Good luck, and be sure to visit the other bloggers who helped bring you this opportunity and give them a big "THANKS!" :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Thought I'd Know by Now

In about two months I will be thirty. I'm giving you (and me) some time to allow that to sink in...thirty. How can that be?!?! I just graduated from high school. I just graduated from college. I just met Zach. How can I go from 17 to 30 in what feels like the blink of an eye?

Not only am I almost thirty, but I am also a mom.

30 and a mom. 

 What used to almost sound "gross" to me now seems to fit. I will welcome thirty with pride and great anticipation. I welcome motherhood the same way.

Still, though, I'm almost a 30 Year Old Mom and there are just some things that I always imagined that once I had earned one of those titles I'd have figured out. Yet here I am and I still don't. I still very much don't have some of these things figured out:

Waking Up
 I don't know what I thought, but I guess I assumed at a certain age you started to wake up more easily. To this day, I need something to wake me up before 8 a.m. It used to be my alarm clock, now it's my daughter. Naturally waking up is not something I do, but isn't that what moms do? Don't moms wake up and make breakfast before everyone else? How will I get there, will I have to set an alarm? Will I still hit snooze?

Time Management
I still struggle with making time for some really important things like exercise. Some days the day is gone before I even got started. I struggle with balancing my home, my health, my family, my spiritual life, and my hobbies (like reading and blogging). I swear, I pictured all people that were 30 and moms as having routines and schedules that included cleaning house, running/gym time, cooking a homemade meal, playing with their kids, and date night every Saturday. (I blame those I babysat for growing up for this one). 

Budgeting/Paying Bills
All I have to say is thank goodness Zach is a patient and forgiving man. The amount of times I've had to come to him and say, "_____ bill needs to be paid and now it has a late fee because I forgot to pay it on time because_________ (insert excuse here--laziness, forgotten password, honestly forgot, didn't hit submit, etc..) The ridiculous thing is the money is there, I just forget to pay things. Zach is making the main income right now and so he just pays most of the bills. But late fees are for twenty-somethings and college kids. Late fees are not for grown ups with a mortgage and a family. Yet here I am, still asking to have late fees waived. 

Being on Time 
I'm late. Always. I try most of the time and other times I don't. I do not like being early and so I always push it to the last minute. In high school I got a Saturday school detention for "excessive tardiness." In one of my zero hour classes, my teacher went to mark a girl tardy and she honestly stated out loud, "I will not accept being marked tardy today until you give Sharlee a detention. She is late every single day." We are late to church every.single.Sunday for the past almost five years. I used to be habitually late to work. My boss just came to expect it and knew that I more than made up for the hours by staying late. I'm late to parties, get togethers, and more. When I was in college, I honestly kind of liked it about myself. I guess I felt like a little irresponsibility never hurt anyone and I had years to be on time. I guess the thing is, you have to make a habit of being on time and when you've been practicing tardiness for 2 decades, it's not going to magically change for me. Darn! 

Knowing Things
My mom knows things. I consider her my "Google." Any question, I ask my mom. She knows things about cleaning, gardening, and yard work. She knows how to get stains out of laundry and how to clean a crock pot fast and easy. She knows how 401Ks work (I still don't) and what refinancing a house means. She knows things about insurance policies, checking accounts, and so much more. I seriously call her with questions constantly. I always have. When does that happen? When do I get to know things? If I keep asking my mom, will I ever learn my own things?

Folding a Fitted Sheet
Trust me, I've tried. I tend to have a lazy side. Some things just aren't worth my effort. I may even post about the extremes that I've gone to with my lack of patience/laziness. Folding a fitted sheet has yet to happen in this house.

In this new stage in life I really want to either improve these things (minus the fitted sheet) or truly accept that I will never do so. I don't want to hit 40 and still be wondering why I don't know how to manage my time or why I continue to forget to make payments.

Expect a plan of action some kind before thirty hits to help me work on these, but first I need two things: 1. Advice, tips, tricks from any of you. Do you have some of these things figured out? How do you do it? 2. I need my daughter to sleep a little better and I need a bit more of an established routine. Give me a few months to come to terms with where we are and I will start working hard on a plan.

I guess this post could go right along with my post on insecurities.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Faith is Fragile {Part 1}

This post was originally written May 22, 2013--Right after finding out that I was pregnant with JaiseAnn. I never published it. This is part 1 of a two part series on the fragility of my faith. I hope you'll follow along and even share your trials/experiences.

"Confidence in the Lord's promises"

Zach gave me a blessing in tonight during an unsettling time and that's the phrase that I have held onto.

What promises? What am I supposed to have confidence in?

Men are that they might have joy?

The peaceful feeling that I had when I first found out I was pregnant?

The promises made to me in my Patriarchal blessing?

I don't know which promises and I've decided it doesn't matter.

Allow me to backtrack.

You've probably caught on that I am pregnant. I  just saw the positive test about 9 days ago...a very faint positive. Followed by a very faint positive. Followed by a very faint positive. Followed by a "PREGNANT" on a digital test.

I hadn't been tracking things very well so I estimated a few dates and called the office. They said they could see me and give me a due date via ultrasound.

At first I was so excited. It was the most quick and painless scheduling I've EVER had for anything like this and I got off the phone and said to Zach, "We get to see our baby!" I was so excited.

And then the nerves set in. What if there is no baby? What if there's no heartbeat? What if something is wrong? (After a pregnancy loss, it's hard to be optimistic about these things, at least for me).

We got there and got situated. The ultrasound tech started the ultrasound and immediately things got quiet. She starts asking me those questions. Prodding me to find out how much of anything she should be seeing.

As bravely as I can, I say, "You don't see anything, do you?"

She reminds me that it could be too early.

We keep going and she finally finds a sac. I take a deep breath. Then she says, "I don't see a yolk sac. Typically we'd see the sac, the yolk sac, and the fetal pole. I don't see those last two things."

I lay there, still. Tears seep out of the corners of my eyes and wet the paper I'm laying on. I keep wishing, praying, and holding onto the slightest bit of hope and preparing myself for the words I desperately don't want to hear.

"I may see a tiny yolk sac."

More minutes pass.

"I definitely see a yolk sac, but no fetal pole. It could be too early. You're only measuring at 5 weeks 5 days."

This is when my wonderful husband takes over and starts asking questions and talking to her while I take a moment to breathe and compile my thoughts. A little more hope.

Then she points out an "anamoly" with my insides. Something that's a little different than the norm.  She says it may have an increased rate of miscarriage, but we don't know for sure how major it is (if at all).

We decide that I will return in exactly one week and many of our questions will be answered. If the baby is progressing, then we know that the dates provided by the ultrasound are accurate and that I really was out in left field for the month of April. If the baby is not progressing, well...then, you know.

I know how real this possibility is. I was there almost exactly one year ago. And now I have not 1 but 2 pretty substantial worries. A). Is the baby okay and progressing? B). If so, will this "anamoly" prevent me from carrying to full term?

 I got in the car and cried. I cried intermittently throughout the day. I had to return to work and on my way there in the car, I said to myself, "You really have no control over this, Sharlee. If you're going to have this baby, you will have this baby. If not, you won't. You can't do anything about it." And as much as I believe that...and I DO. I still struggle sometimes. I still want to think I can plan. I can prevent. I forget that I am not the one in control.

I came home and Zach curled up with me and we talked. I told him how I was trying to approach this situation. How I planned to make it through the next seven days of waiting for more news. He offered me a blessing I had mentioned a few days prior (when I couldn't calm down worrying something would go wrong with this pregnancy).

I said yes and he gave me a very good blessing. It wasn't long and lengthy. It wasn't particularly wordy. But that line, "Confidence in the Lord's promises" stood out to me and I made a mental note to hold onto that with all of my heart.
Today,  I'm believing.

I'm not believing I'll have this baby--though I so so badly want to, I'm believing in someone higher than me with a greater purpose that I can lean on. That will guide me through this whatever it may be.

I am believing that it is more than okay to hope. To hope that there is a life growing right this very minute as I speak. It's okay to keep pinning things onto my secret pin board and to keep adding to my Amazon wishlist that I've set to private until I announce the pregnancy. I am holding onto the best hope that I will have this baby.

I am believing that no matter what, though, I will get through this. That I will, once again, learn something from this, and that I will be a better person for it. I believe that the Lord has a plan for me. He loves me. He will not leave me alone.

Ultimately, the Lord has promised me some great things. I don't know what kind of promise He will keep through this experience, but I believe those words I heard tonight with that blessing with all of my heart.  I don't know what will happen., but I am going to learn something that I need to learn. I am going to learn to be confident in His promises.

I believe.

"He is always with me, though I do not see Him there. And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care."

-If the Savior Stood Beside Me

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Girl Talk--Making New Friends

I won't lie, I picked this topic because making friends is a newer challenge in my life and I wanted the advice. I'm so glad that these three ladies were willing to share because I have really walked away with some good advice and encouragement. I can't wait for you to read on about making new friends--maybe you'll even make some new blogging friends in the process. After all, that's what my hope for this series is!

Meet Tanika

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What are some challenges that interfere with making new friends especially for women?

 I think a big portion of it is the fear of rejection. What if they don't want to be friends with you? What if they don't like you? What if? It takes you right back to high school and the cliquey people and you are the loner who just wanted to fit in. I know that is still a big fear for me every time we move. We all just want to have friends, and we all just want to be liked. The fear of that being rejected is scary and is scary enough to convince you that you are better staying at home.

 Can you explain some situations you've been in where you had to make new friends?

 My husband is in the military so we have moved a few times (and I am sure will move a few times more). That definitely puts us in a strange place to make friends, it's not exactly easy.

 What are some suggestions/tips you have for making new friends?

 It is hard to make friends, but the first way I go about it? Church. We go to church every Sunday and EVERYONE wants friends. There are very few people in this world who don't want a friend! So I just talk to EVERYONE, invite people to dinner, invite over for play dates for Gracie, go to every church function and activity. That's how I get socially integrated quickly. I am already really good friends with the Primary President in our ward!! You gotta be active and it will be a lot easier. This time, we bought a house instead of renting, so these neighbors are gonna be our neighbors for awhile, knowing that--I made everyone cookies and attached tags with our names, house number and pictures. That way they knew where to find us! I am SO glad I did! One neighbor already brought me a HUGE slice of cake and we have pending dinner plans with two other families. The point of all of this have to make the effort. You have to nurture the friendships, you have to take a chance that you might get rejected. But with the chance of rejection also comes the chance of finding a best friend that will stay with you for life! You won't remember the friends you didn't make, but you will remember the friends you did!

What are some advantages/blessings that have come from putting yourself out there and making friendships?

 You get to meet people you never would have normally and those people can change your life!!!

 Anything you'd like to add about making friends?

 Just take a chance! You never know where a best friend could be! But you gotta take that chance! IT'S WORTH IT. 

Check out this post on Tanika's blog about making new friends... I am IN LOVE with it!

Meet Sarah 

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 What are some challenges that interfere with making new friends especially for women? 

 BABIES! Oh man. It can be really easy to make friends with other new moms thinking there must be so many things you have in common - but i have found it to be the total OPPOSITE! There is so much competition and snark, that is really has been harder than i ever imagined! Age can be hard too. Some of my best friends in college were younger than me, and it's been really easy to lose that as i got older. Now I'm married with a baby, and they're still going downtown every weekend with little to no clothes on to see who can drink the most and end up anywhere but home. It can be hard to relate when you're on such different levels!

Can you explain some situations you've been in where you had to make new friends?

 Marriage. Combining my life with my husbands life has definitely meant needing to make new friends. It happened again when he switched to a new job company which requires many company parties and fancy dinners. And again with the babies thing. If were trying out a new parenting class, a new music session or a swimming lessons - mom's all around! Do you feel awkward for 10 seconds as you introduce yourself to a stranger in hopes of making a new friend, or do you feel awkward every hour for the next 10 weeks because you have no friends?! 

What are some suggestions/tips you have for making new friends?

  Approach Approach Approach! Don't wait for someone to approach you, because everyone is waiting for that! Be bold and be brave! If i don't know how to start, i always try to think of a compliment. "Oh hey, i love your dress! Where did you get it?!" or something as simple as that can strike a conversation! 

What are some advantages/blessings that have come from putting yourself out there and making friendships?

You really have nothing to lose, you never know what you could be gaining! I found my husband because I put myself out there and that is the best thing yet! 

  Meet Susannah

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What are some challenges that interfere with making new friends especially for women? 

I hate generalizing a gender and saying ALL women struggle with something or benefit from something else. I would say, though, that the majority of us women keep ourselves far too busy and friendships don't thrive that way. Whether we're working women, stay-at-home-moms, housewives, or anything in between we tend to keep our schedules filled and our spontaneity lacking. If we can't call up a friend and grab coffee but, instead, have to schedule a coffee date out weeks in advance, friendship suffers and new friends are nearly impossible to make.

Can you explain some situations you've been in where you had to make new friends?

  After graduating college and getting married I was pretty much completely surrounded by people I didn't know. Sure, I could call a friend from college on the phone but that's not the same as sharing my heart over dinner. I had to buck up and put myself out there in order to gain friendships. I'm happy to say I have some amazing girlfriends now! :-)

What are some suggestions/tips you have for making new friends?

  One of the best ways to make friends is to get involved in things that spark your interest! The best friends I have were made through church, the student wives group at my husbands' school, and even blogging! You have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable - asking others to get together and not relying on them to make the first move. It's hard but it's totally worth it!

What are some advantages/blessings that have come from putting yourself out there and making friendships?

  I would be SO lonely without my girlfriends. Sure, I have my husband but (SHOCKER!) he doesn't completely satisfy my need for friendship. I have friends I can turn to in every situation in life and feel so fortunate to have them!

Now it's your turn! We want to hear from you...what are your thoughts on the challenges and benefits of making new friends? Do you have any suggestions or similar situations to any of these ladies?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why My Marriage Doesn't Come First

Before I had JaiseAnn, I always knew that I wanted my husband and I to keep our marriage strong after we became parents. I have a firm belief that a happy marriage will lead to happy children and a happy home. I wanted desperately to set a good example of marriage to my kids and hoped that they would walk away expecting romance, selflessness, forgiveness, and respect from their future spouses. Date nights, yes? Trips away? Of course! My marriage will absolutely come first.

After my daughter was born, during those first few weeks, we had no schedule. There was no time to spend watching our favorite Netflix show or eat dinner together. The time we did have together was honestly spent with me in tears as I battled the baby blues for the first 3 weeks.  As a creature of habit and routine, I was really bothered with not knowing what to expect every day. I became envious of couples with kids who seemed to have it figured out. Dinner times, date nights, and bedtimes were all established and routines were in place. They were able to take that advice I’d read so much about and put their marriage first.

My daughter is now nearing six months old--routines are a little more predictable than those early weeks and yet I’m learning to resent the phrase, put your marriage first.  Here’s why:

What does that look like?
I’m the type of person who likes lists and checking off accomplishments and goals. Labeling something “first” tells me that this is something that is measurable and therefore I feel like it’s something I should be able to do, but I don’t know what that looks like. What does a marriage first home look like? How do they act? What actions demonstrate that your marriage comes first?  I don’t know how to measure where something is ranking in my life. And if it’s not “first” I don’t know how to take specific steps to put it at the top.  Marriage isn’t a place in a race against parenting and it’s not something that you can put a number on. 

It’s Not Possible
My daughter is an infant and right now, there’s just no other way to put it, she is my first priority. I am fully responsible for her—she needs every bit of me and she gets it. She has all of me right now. Date nights are few if any outside of the home. My nights cuddling with my husband are broken up with middle of the night feedings, and me passing out on my side of the bed where I can still look over and check on her. If she’s still awake during dinner, she’s the star of the show during our meals. She needs both of us and all of us and we’re glad to give it.  We both recognize how quickly the time is flying and we are aware that she won't need us this much forever, so we want to be as there for her as we possibly can while she does.

It's Not Necessary
I don’t feel that marriage and parenting are always separate entities that need to be addressed separately. While someday my daughter will leave us (oh my goodness, how my heart breaks just thinking about that) and set out to live her own life. She will still be our daughter and very much a part of our lives. We will never truly be just us again, we will always be parents.  My husband is now a dad. He has needs as a husband and a father now (and he always will). By taking care of his little girl and putting her first, I’m taking care of him and he of me. We will continue to work on learning to be parents and support each other that way. 

"But you need to remember who you were before you were parents!!!" Seems to be a message I read and hear just about everywhere. Remember? Yes. Return to? No. We will never be the same as we were before. For us, our date nights aren't meant to rekindle our old ways and bring back what once was. Our date nights are to date each other and get to know the ever-changing versions of ourselves. We changed a lot in an instant and continue to change little by little every day. Our priorities, needs, wants, feelings, observations, EVERYTHING changed in some way. I have loved getting to know the new parts of my husband and sharing my new ideas/thoughts with him. 

 I can’t measure putting our marriage first, but I can measure making it a priority. That means we have set nights that are “just us” after she goes to bed. I make an effort to do something nice or thoughtful for my husband every day. No matter how tired I am, I try to tickle his back at bedtime and I continue to pack his lunch every day. The very first thing he does when he walks in the door each day is kiss me, and then he goes on to catch up on all the kisses from our little one he missed during the day. The little things matter the most right now.  We are both overwhelmed in love and responsibility. Neither one of us come first right now, but we do little things to let the other one know, “I haven’t forgotten about you. I haven’t forgotten about us.”

What are your tricks/tips for prioritizing in your relationship?

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Insecurities

I had a friend once tell me, "It's better to know what you're NOT than to know what you are." I have thought about that a lot lately as I've entered a new world with a new body, that I hope to eventually transform. The things that I'm not are some of the things that I am the most insecure about. I figure if I maybe learn to accept these things, I'll eventually stop caring and embrace them.

*I am not concise. 
  As a reader of this blog, I'm sure you've realized that I like words. I have a hard time cutting things short, in writing or speech. Which means, I'm a talker. I talk a lot. In fact, I usually leave a party/gathering/event thinking that I talked too much. In high school, I thought it was sort of humorous. One of my teachers told my mom at parent/teacher conference that I had a "talking problem." She proceeded to tell my mom that she'd move me from a spot and I would just continue to make friends anywhere I sat. Now, I cringe when someone says something like, "I knew they were talking with you so they'd be a while." But honestly, is talking too much any worse than talking too little. I want to embrace the fact that I have a lot to say and I'm comfortable saying it. If I'm comfortable saying it in the first place, I should be comfortable about it later. I should be more proud of the fact that I can always find something to talk about with anyone at a party. Parties don't ever make me nervous because I am a talker. I'm working on being more proud of that fact.

*I am not confident in friendships. 

My two closest and best friends are both people I knew in high school and spent time with before I hit 20. Something happened to me in my twenties--I'm honestly not quite sure what it was. I started doubting that people genuinely wanted to be friends with me. Which means if you've met me in my twenties, I've probably felt more like you have been my friend to be nice rather than because you actually like me. Which usually means I am bad at friendships. I have probably hurt people's feelings without meaning to because of this. I'm working on treating every invitation like a sincere one and embracing the possibility of new friendships.

*I am not a morning person. 
 I'm not. I never have been. I like to stay up later and sleep a little longer in the mornings. I always feel guilty about this because so many "productive" people start their day early (and usually with exercise). But I start mine a bit later. I have never been tired early enough to get out of bed early and still get a healthy amount of sleep. Instead, Zach and I stay up watching our show, playing games, cuddling, and talking, all while those early birds are snoozing away. I should embrace the fact that I get a healthy amount of sleep and that I enjoy my evenings rather than forcing myself to go to bed when my body and mind are not ready.

*I am not glamorous.

I'm usually more comfortable with this when I'm healthier. When I'm healthier I look and feel better without makeup donning a hooded sweatshirt and jeans (my favorite outfit). I don't like glamorous makeup, I honestly don't even know how to really apply makeup. I have no desire to falsify my lashes or to do winged eye liner. I don't like trendy clothing. Sure, I love to dress up, put on a little makeup, and accessorize (!!!). I am never the person who will wear designer anything because it's just not in me. Sometimes I stand next to someone who is that way, though, and I allow myself to somehow feel less. It's not who I am. I should embrace my more natural approach. I'm comfortable enough in my skin to go without makeup and to throw on a hoodie and still feel cute. (At least pre baby weight I was). 

Do you agree with my friend? Do you think that knowing what you are NOT is just as important (or more) than knowing what you are? What are you NOT (for the record, my husband hates the contradictory message of that question)?

High Fives--The Non Clean Eating Edition

Today I'm handing out some high fives to some delicious looking treats! Lately I've been trying to clean up my diet. The hope is to start shedding some of the baby weight, but even if I don't, I'd love to feel better at least. While I've been cleaning up my eating, some treats are calling my name. I bring you today, 5 recipes that keep me from ever committing to a lifetime of clean eating.

*And yes, this means there is a clean eating version in the works as well...

 *My first recipe comes from my all-time favorite dessert blogger Kristan from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. Not only are her recipes mouth watering, but she is hilarious. As in, I've forwarded her posts to my mom several times because she makes me laugh. It's hard to make me laugh, so really you should probably check her out. She also blogs about makeup, reading, and her adorable kids. As a major Girl Scout Samoa fan, I definitely have to try these Samoa Brownies, after all...I didn't get any cookies this year.

*This Ultimate Gooey Caramel Brownie Mug Cake Sunday (whew, say that five times fast) will literally make your mouth water just looking at it. Click on over and see for yourself. I think this is probably one of the best looking desserts I have ever seen, I am dying to know if it tastes just as good. 

*It was love at first sight with these I Just Got Dumped Brownies. These brownies are the opposite of clean (and therefore to die for) with cookie dough, brownie, caramel, Oreos, and chocolate ganache. 

* What attracted me to this Death by Chocolate Brownie Cake was the fact that it's a cake made with both cake mix and brownie mix. I'm thinking that would taste just heavenly. 

*And since I have posted only chocolate desserts (because, hello!) I will include these Fresh Peach Dumpling Roll-Ups. They seem simple and delicious. I would like one (or two) served with a little ice cream! 

If you have or know of products/blog posts that deserve a "High Five" I would love to hear about it/them! Send me an email at mynewlinesblog {at}gmail {dot}com.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Marriage and Relationship Monthly Goal {Link Up}--July

I am so excited to be co-hosting the July Marriage and Relationship Monthly Goal Link Up with Amberly! This is something that I really think will help me focus on my marriage and make some needed improvements. 

Since having a baby a lot of areas in our marriage have improved and our love has definitely grown stronger (I definitely plan to include a post on that). There are also areas that could definitely use some improvement as we've adjusted to this change. I think that this month, setting some goals will really help me (us) make and see improvements. 

My goals for this month are:

1. Sacred Date Night

Our childbirth educator used the phrase "sacred date night" more times than I can count when talking about how a relationship changes after a baby. She really encouraged couples to make time for each other and to make that time count. Date night wasn't something that could be pushed aside or waited on. Zach and I would often talk about how we would make sure we had our "sacred date night." Now that we're parents, we do have certain days of the week that we've made sure are just us and we hold good on that. Usually, though, those special nights are spent curled up watching our favorite show on the couch. Sometimes we play a favorite card or board game. 

This month, I plan to really plan for 4 date nights (one per week). All will be  at home date nights. I've pinned a lot of at home ideas, but I've yet to use any. I haven't been willing to put the time or energy into making those plans. This month I will! I'm really excited about this goal and really can't wait to report back to you and hopefully pass some ideas along! 

2. The Little Things

From the time we were first married, Zach and I knew how important the little things were. I always packed his lunch, sent him texts, and made his favorite treats every so often. Zach would send me texts, bring me hot chocolate (my favorite) to work, and pick up my favorite treat at the store sometimes...all just because

Lately, I've been haphazard in remembering the little things. This month, I plan to diligently make time for the little things and really retrain myself to respect their importance. 

3. Worry About Myself

I'm going to be very honest here, neither Zach or I are in the best shape these days. Marriage (and baby for me mostly) has done a number on our diets and our bodies. I am not comfortable in my body right now. I'm not happy with it and I'm not happy with the way I've been treating it. I tend to take that unhappiness out on Zach as well. I pick at his diet, exercise, and problem areas. (I know! How awful. He would never do that to me). While I really do want Zach to be healthier for many reasons, I pick at him mostly because I'm unhappy with me. 

This month I am going to work on MY diet and exercise and keep my mouth shut. (This will be a challenge for me). Hopefully by working on myself, I won't be so unhappy and take it out on him. I'm also hoping that by keeping quiet for a while and working on me, Zach might find some motivation of his own. We'll see. This will be hard. I'm going to work on not slipping up with over indulgences--this time my motivation for not doing it will be my marriage not my body. I'm wondering if that will make a difference?

Marriage & Relationship Goals

New to the Marriage & Relationship Goals Link-up? Goals help our relationships grow stronger and get better with time as well as help us move forward and avoid the "ruts" of life. This link-up was created in hopes of inspiring your relationship with your significant other no matter your chapter in life and love. We would love for you to join us in making the things we do in our relationships intentional.  If you would like more information, click here. If you would like to sign up for the newsletter, click here. If you are interested in cohosting, click here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Girl Talk: Deciding to Start a Family

The decision to start a family is not usually a simple one. There are many things to consider and many different feelings and emotions that accompany it. Some people take a more relaxed, when it happens it happens approach, and some attempt (and sometimes succeed) with plotting and planning. Deciding to start a family is such a touchy subject which is why I'm so grateful I have three ladies who were willing to take on this topic.

Meet Amberly

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 What are some things that you and your husband are considering (or considered) before starting a family?

  It's different for every couple, but we talk about four main things any time the topic of when we want to have kids comes up. Money: Depending on who you talk to, money may or may not be a huge issue when deciding to start a family. We've looked at how much we have in emergency savings, what our budget would look like if I decided to stop working after a baby came, and if our lifestyle and necessities would fit within that budget. Work and School: I work full time and am currently pursuing my degree as well. These are both things that we've had to consider when discussing our timeline. What would my work schedule look like after we have a baby? Would I even work at all? Do I want to be finished with school first? How would a baby affect my graduation date and my class schedule? Would I just continue life as normal and leave my baby with a sitter? There are so many things we have to consider in these areas, and it's probably the thing that we talk about the most. Living Arrangements: This topic always seems silly and actually doesn't matter anymore because we've bought a house, but it's something we discussed a few times. We've been in a one bedroom apartment for our three years of marriage and we always think about how that limited space would work and for how long if we did decide to start our family. My Health: I'm not in as good of shape as I was when I met Joe three and a half years ago, before I was working full time, before I went back to school, etc. I'm prediabetic, and technically am "obese" (I hate that word). Health problems, birth control and my schedule/lifestyle have made it difficult for me to maintain a healthy weight over the past few years. I have a lot of bad habits that I need to get rid of and good habits that I need to bring back. I want to be the healthiest I can be when I have a baby and figuring out how to do that has been important to me.

Do you/Did you feel pressured or like you had a timeline to start a family? Explain. 

  I actually wrote a post on this about a week ago. We live in Utah, in a predominantly Mormon community, so I think sometimes the culture of our area magnifies these issues more than people might experience elsewhere. During our first year of marriage, I was surprised by how many people would ask us when we were going to have kids. I remember someone mentioning it after we'd been married nine months, "You've been married nine months, so where's the baby?!" and although most of the time they're joking, you have to think that there's probably a bit of truth to it. Now we get the question often, but it's not so forward or prying. People usually ask us if we're going to start a family any time soon or what our timeline is or something like that. And those questions are fine, but I think can also be too personal to ask depending on who you are. When my close friends and family ask me, I don't mind telling them, but when it's someone random or that I'm not as close to, I do feel a bit more pressured. Our families have been really good not to bug us about it too much. I know some people who are constantly hounded when they're with their family and the future grandmothers are extremely vocal about how badly they want grandchildren. Neither of our parents have ever done anything like that. We may get teased a little bit by siblings who want to be an aunt/uncle or hope more cousins will come along soon for their kids to play with, but for the most part, they let us be and wait patiently.

Talk about some fears/worries/etc... you have/had about starting a family.

 No matter how excited I am to start a family, I don't think I will ever feel ready and there will always be fears. My first thoughts always turn to pregnancy. What if my body isn't healthy enough and there are issues? I don't really want to be on bed rest and I would really love to be one of those women who feels better than ever through her entire pregnancy. But I know that none of that is predictable and everyone is different. I hate the unknown, and I hate not being able to plan any of that. And I worry that I might not be ready to be a mom. Do I have what it takes to get little to no sleep and care for a tiny human who will be completely dependent on me? Having a baby will change a lot of things in my life and my schedule will never be the same. There are a lot of times when I want to be able to be selfish, do what I want to do when I want to do it and not have to worry about anyone else. After we have kids, that's not going to happen. But the future is what scares me the most. I worry that I won't be the type of parent that I really want to be, or that despite all of my efforts, my kids will struggle to know who they really are and I'll have to watch them learn through their mistakes without really being able to help them because chances are, they won't want me to. It's scary to think that you can do everything in your power to put your kids on the right path and help them be the best they can be, but that they ultimately have control of their lives and can do whatever they want with it.

What are some of the things you are/were most excited about or looking forward to when deciding to start a family?

 I'm excited to see what our kids look like and what kind of personalities they have!! I can't wait to see Joe being a dad and I can't wait to be a mom. There are so many things I can't wait to experience with my children, vacations I want to take, traditions I want to start, memories I want to make. And everyone always tells me that you've never known love until you've had a child of your own. As much as I love my puppy child, apparently he doesn't count.

Do you have any advice for other women about making the decision to start a family?

 I think the biggest thing I've had to remind myself in the process of deciding is that we'll probably never feel "ready" but we need to wait until the time is right for us. I think too many people are influenced by the fact that their friends are all having kids, or their families are pressuring them into it. It's a big, life changing decision. I'd dare even say that it's a bigger decision than marriage, but almost in a completely different way. Once you have a kid, you have someone that is relying on you and that you are responsible for for the rest of your life. Even after they're grown and gone, they'll rely on you for support and advice. Choosing to start a family is not something that you should do lightly. It's hard work and it's a lot less fun than playing house when you were a kid. I've heard so many teenage girls say how fun they think it would be to have a baby. It's like a live doll that you can dress, show off to people and snuggle with, and I guess it's probably fun and exciting to have someone to take care of to an extent. But being a parent is so much more than just that and you have to be ready to take on a lot of responsibility and be completely selfless. That's something that I don't think a lot of people think about when they decide that they really want a snuggly baby in their lives.

Meet Madison

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 What are some things that you and your husband are considering (or considered) before starting a family?

One of the many things we love about getting married "young" is that we have plenty of time to be a couple before we start feeling pressured to have children. We have considered the normal things like careers, finances, stability, etc., while thinking of when we want to start a family.
Do you/Did you feel pressured or like you had a timeline to start a family? Explain. 

 In our own heads we have a timeline of when we want to start a family but for the most part, our families have been very gracious in understanding that we aren't yet ready to start a family. When we first got engaged, it did feel like everyone wanted to know when we would start having kids but now that we have been married for two years people have settled into the idea of us taking our time.

Talk about some fears/worries/etc... you have/had about starting a family.

I think a lot of women fear that if they wait too long they won't be able to have children. Or that if they wait, they might find out later on that they have infertility problems and it won't just be as easy as they thought it would be to get pregnant. I also worry about being ready financially, but I don't think you're ever really ready financially to start a family.

What are some of the things you are/were most excited about or looking forward to when deciding to start a family?

 It's such an unknown territory for me so it will be an exciting adventure to be on!

Do you have any advice for other women about making the decision to start a family?

Decide what is best for you and your family, not what everyone is telling you to do. It's easy to let people control your emotions and feelings about starting a family but at the end of the day it you and your husband/wife that have to make the decision for yourselves.

Meet Misty

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What are some things that you and your husband are considering (or considered) before starting a family?
Ken and I are probably unique in the sense that we already had a family before we had our first. When I married Ken seven years ago, his son Fenix (who was five at the time) lived with him 50% of the time. Ken and I dated for a while, and I had known Fenix since he was two, going on three. So, it was never really just the two of us. We always had to think in terms of our family of three. With our first baby, it was really just a waiting game. We knew we wanted kids, it was just a matter of when. I wanted to be done with school. I wanted a secure teaching job. We wanted to purchase a house first. There were a lot of small factors that we wanted to add up before we had a baby. My mom had me when she was 33, and my sister when she was 23. I always thought we'd wait until I was a bit older like my mother did with me, but when it came down to it, we were just ready. I felt like I had more love to give. I felt like I knew Grace before we had even conceived her, we were just waiting for her to arrive, and once she did, everything just clicked into place.

Do you/Did you feel pressured or like you had a timeline to start a family? Explain. 

Not at all. We always had our own timeline in mind for when it came to having our first. We knew the timing had to be right for us. I did feel a bit more pressure about having our second though; not from people around us, but from myself. I wanted Grace to have a sibling somewhat close in age, and I also knew that there would come a point when Ken and I would be done raising little babies and ready to move to that next stage in our life. I wasn't sure that I wanted to stretch that out too far.

Talk about some fears/worries/etc... you have/had about starting a family.

Money. Financials were definitely our biggest worry. How will we pay for daycare? What happens if we need a new car or car repairs? Will our savings account survive? (It has, but it's not nearly as healthy as it once was.) Will our children get to do all the fun things we want them to? Will we be able to afford soccer and swim lessons? How about dance class? In truth, we haven't been able to afford it all. We've waited to put Grace in extra activities until we've had extra money in the summer when we aren't paying daycare, and I know in the future those sorts of things will have to be carefully planned and budgeted, but we do other fun/family things that matter even more. We camp and we hike. We spend days at the park or playing in our back yard. We have family movie nights and we all crowd into Grace's bed for a book and prayer each night. We have dinner together at our kitchen table every night-which is a must for me, and we have dance parties in the car. Our kids may not be involved in every extra curricular activity under the sun, but they'll be happy and they'll be loved. They may not get Ipads for Christmas or water park birthday parties, but they have a family of best friends that love and support them, and I don't think they will feel like they're missing out, at least I hope not. Another big worry for us was couple time. Will we ever have a date night again, and if so, who will watch our kids? The first year was rough in terms of Ken and I having alone time, although we were so wrapped up in our daughter and being parents together, that we didn't notice as much as I thought we would. Once Grace was a bit older my niece started to watch her for us. Ken's family lives out of town, and we unfortunately don't have my mother with us, so Grace can't really spend the night at grandma's. We make do though. I think another big fear for us, was WHO was going to watch Grace once I went back to work? I teach and we're not in a position for me to stay home. I was pretty tough about this all throughout my pregnancy, but I remember setting her car seat down when we first came home from the hospital, panicking, and thinking, "How am I EVER going to leave her?" We got lucky though, and Sharlee's aunt watched Grace for us her first two years, and then as she moved into pre-school age we were able to find an in home pre-school that we really like and that's been great for Grace. I was a nervous mess leaving her, but in the end, it worked out in the best way possible.

What are some of the things you are/were most excited about or looking forward to when deciding to start a family?

 Holding our baby. Saying the words "my daughter" or "my son". Hearing the words "momma" and "I love you." Once I knew we were having a girl, I started to look forward to all the fun girly things we would get to do: pedicures, doing her hair, shopping, movie dates, dressing her up. I looked forward to taking her camping, watching her experience things for the first time, BEING A MOM:)

 Do you have any advice for other women about making the decision to start a family?
Having a child will consume you. For a while, it will take all your time and energy, but it will be worth it. And, when I say it will consume you, I mean that in the best possible way. I love my husband, my step-son, my mother with all of me, but I had no idea what it would feel like to love Grace; it's all encompassing. Words cannot describe it. There will be tough times and tough decisions to be made; spit-up, the stomach flu, potty training, there will be stories on the news that will make you paranoid, and books and movies that you'll never be able to read or watch the same way again, and you will feel worry like you have never felt before, but it will be all worth it. Every bit of it.

Can you relate to anything these ladies have to say? Do/did you have any of the same concerns or feelings of excitement? 

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