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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thankful Heart

 "Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love."

This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence. “Live in thanksgiving daily,” said Amulek, “for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you."

-Bonnie D. Parkin (Read the complete talk here)

What are you grateful for?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do You Miss Teaching?

"Do you miss teaching?" It's something I get asked quite often ever since deciding to quit my job to stay home with my daughter. This is one of the most loaded questions of all times. Yes, there are parts of teaching I miss and there are parts that I am so happy to be done with--even if it is only temporary.

What I Miss About Teaching

ROUTINE/PREDICTABILITY: I could also title this: What I Miss About Working. I had a system down--get up, get dressed, breakfast on the go (except for Fridays--on Fridays I would stop and treat myself to hot chocolate and maybe a muffin), listen to my favorite morning show in the car and for the first hour of work, teach, organize/grade/lesson plan, come home, dinner, cuddle, bed. Some days my life felt like it wasn't really being lived. I felt like I was going through the same motions every day, but often I thrived on knowing what to expect. If I was having trouble getting out of bed, the promise of an uninterrupted hour in my classroom while listening to Mike and Kate in the morning often motivated me.

AMBITION--I admit that there are days that I miss joining committees and trying to work hard to make a name for myself. I miss continuing my education (I plan to return to school in the summer, but we'll see). Some days I miss the education I received both during work, on committees, and outside of work. I miss reading, researching, and reporting different things. I miss finding ways to improve my classroom and my teaching. 

THE STAFF--This is a hard one for me. When I was working I was working and I really didn't make a lot of time for friendships. Teaching, for me, took a lot of extra work. I liked my mornings uninterrupted and I often stayed two-three hours after school each got out to get everything done as I refused to take work home. I often ate lunch in my classroom and did work during that time as well. I did however, have a best teaching friend and second mom next door. I did waste a few mornings, afternoons, and work days talking with her. I had different friendships throughout the building. I didn't realize how much I missed those faces, small conversations, and little inside jokes until they weren't around any more. I went from thinking I didn't have many friends to realizing I had a lot of them and I miss them terribly. 

TEACHING--The actual act of teaching is probably one of the things I miss the most. Due to changes in education, we were at a point where we were given a little more leniency with our curriculum and I was eating that up. I loved finding/creating and executing a good lesson. I love asking questions, helping students find answers, and pushing students. I love and miss knowing how far I could push each student. There is a hidden gift in teaching and that's understanding each student and his/her personality, learning style, and abilities. You know which kid will shut down if you push too hard and which student won't get it unless you do push him/her. I miss tapping into that gift and feeling good at the end of the day. 

THE KIDS--The kids are the part I miss the most. I miss knowing them, laughing with them, hearing their stories and teaching them. I miss them so much. I miss seeing their pride, I miss hearing what they liked about a certain lesson, and I miss that relationship. We had a family in my classroom and it was a welcoming and happy place. My students helped one another and knew how to ask for help. I miss feeling that family each and every day. There is such an energy in a happy classroom. 

What I Don't Miss About Teaching

Everything Else-There is so much that goes on behind the scenes with teaching. You might think I covered it all with the things I mentioned above: 
     Predictability and Routine? But there was always something. A last minute presentation to interrupt my lesson plans, rainy day schedules with no recess, a fundraising assembly, etc, etc, etc. There was always an interruption. Those interruptions messed with my carefully written and scheduled lesson plans more often than not and were so incredibly stressful. 
      Ambition? It had is consequences. I was always seeking improvement which always meant less time for actually teaching. If I was on a committee, it cut into prep time. If I took a class, I couldn't stay late. If I was improving one lesson I had to lose time to something else. There's a lot of craziness in teaching. There is never enough time and there are never enough resources. When you are learning and tyring to be better but there's no time to plan better lessons or money or help--it can be very discouraging. In fact, discouragement is putting it lightly.
      The staff? For as many friendships that I had, I also had enemies. I am opinionated--especially when it comes to education and education reform. I stand by my opinions and I am not quiet about them. I was definitely a minority in my building and that made me less than popular with some people. Some of those people were more powerful than me--the politics in teaching--I could (and perhaps will) cover the ins and outs of this in meeting. When people talk about the politics they are not usually just naming the administration. There are building bullies that are just teachers like everyone else.  I have never seen adults be so mean and cruel as I have within the building of my school. I had some very bad days. 
     Teaching? Like I said. There's never enough time. As much fun as teaching is--all of the behind the scenes stuff is time consuming and stressful. In the building I taught, the majority of the students came to me below grade level. I had to work in specified interventions for certain kids, enrichment for the students at or above grade level, and grade them all. I had to plan 6 hours worth of lessons every day that covered reading, math, writing/language, and history and/or science without a curriculum and with little more than pencils and paper. Some days the very task of teaching felt like a mountain I would never get over. That feeling of being overwhelmed is not foreign in most jobs but the killer about teaching is that you have 30 kids that you want to succeed who are dependent upon your making each day happen and be as successful as possible. Oh and forget about calling in sick. You will always work twice as much when you are absent as you are when you are present. Each time I got sick I had to weigh writing and delivering/preparing sub plans, making up for the lessons that I wouldn't trust a sub to teach, and getting the grading done when I would be a day behind.
     The kids? Well behind every kid is a parent (or two or three) and my goodness. Parents can be your greatest asset or your greatest hindrance. I always had at least one totally crazy and out of control parent. The year I had JaiseAnn, I had three. That might not seem like much but oh my goodness, it nearly sent me over the edge. I remember waddling my very pregnant, tired, and aching self into my Principal's office last year and the second I shut the door I started bawling. I sobbed and explained that I really felt like a certain parent was going to give me a nervous break down. What she was upset at me for and causing a stink about I truly could DO NOTHING about. I struggled a lot with parents that wanted their kid to get a grade for the sake of the grade and didn't care whether or not their child understood the concept, got angry if their child was struggling because they assumed it was poor teaching and not that their child was having difficulty despite good teaching, and parents who wanted to make every excuse in the world for their kids. If there is one thing I don't tolerate, it's an excuse. Parents are the hardest part about teaching in my opinion. I do not miss the stresses of a crazy parent. 

All in all. I do miss parts of teaching. I wonder what I'll do. If I can continue to stay home when JaiseAnn (and any future kids) are in school, will I? Are there other opportunities for me that will allow me some of the good parts of teaching without the drama and added stress. When it comes down to it, I am not sure. I love being a mom so much and while I'm not learning new teaching strategies and how to create successful interventions, I'm learning about patience, homemaking, and budgeting. I'm still learning. I don't want to bring the unwarranted stresses of teaching home with me. Many women (myself included at one time) think that working would make them a better mom. I do not think it least not teaching. I explore my other options almost daily. Ultimately, though, I love being home more than I miss being away from the classroom. Times infinity.  
If you are/were a stay at home mom, what do/would you miss about work life?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Contentment vs. Complacency

I used to pride myself on the fact that I was never content. I didn't use that word in my vocabulary and I was quick to defend my reasoning. I saw it as settling--as never wanting more. It is in my very nature to want more. I personally believe it in everyone's nature to want more, I think some people have suffocated their ambition with vices of all kinds, but that is another post for another day.

I always wanted more: to learn more and do more at work, therefore improving my resume, improve our financial situation, improve my body, improve my home, improve my marriage...improve, improve, improve.

Everyday I send my parents, Zach's parents, my aunts, and Zach's grandma a text with a picture of JaiseAnn. I usually include something fun that we've done that day, something new JaiseAnn is learning, etc. The other day I sent a picture of JaiseAnn and me and I wrote,

"I weigh more than I've ever weighed. I am poorer than I've ever been. I am more tired than I've ever been. I am happier than I've ever been."

I have been reflecting on that a lot lately and I've learned in the past ten months that it's entirely possible to seek improvement while finding happiness right where you are. It's just a simple matter of combining gratitude with  improvement.I wouldn't say I wasn't happy  before, but I was always chasing more happiness. I always felt that if I had clearer skin or weighed a little less I'd be more happy. If we were more secure financially and I didn't have to worry, I'd be more happy. If I were more successful at work, I would eventually not have to put up with so much drama and I'd be that much more happy. And so on.

Happiness is not quantified, though. We don't measure it out in and compare it to the happiness before. Instead, if we are grateful and stop, we realize that it just is. As a new mom, I had to kind of accept where I was in all aspects of my life and just be in the moment--otherwise I wasn't being the best mom I could be and there wasn't any reason for me to be home with JaiseAnn. I learned that I was still happy and the world did not end even though I can't shop or plan a vacation as freely as I used to be able to. Even though I can't schedule in classes and I am not working. Even though I can only do so much to improve my health---one day at a time. It's all just one day at a time. And the day doesn't care how you feel, look, or what mood you're in. Each day is ours to do with what we will. Will we spend it regretting our situation, enjoying our situation, or improving our situation?

Each day I wake up and I know that I my future as a stay at home mom is not solidified, my jeans still won't fit, and I am very tired. But I realize that that's not changing right this minute. I can't do anything to suddenly secure my financial future, make me loose forty pounds, or suddenly get JaiseAnn to sleep better. All I can do is take care of myself and enjoy myself today. I can play with JaiseAnn and work hard and do all the things that will improve my future all the while realizing that if this were it, if today were the last day, it was a good one. It was a fulfilling one. It was a worthwhile one.

And that's the beauty of contentment. I can proudly say that I'm content. I am very happy with a lot less in general. I am happy. My happiness comes from a place of gratitude and being in the moment, but I also feel my happiness is  found in the goals I still set for myself. I am able to feel happiness as I find joy in the present--just as it is, and look for a little more from myself and my situation in the days ahead. 

What are your thoughts on contentment? What do you feel happiness is ultimately about?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5 Favorite Christmas Traditions {+Giveaway}

I don't know if it's because I'm home all day, JaiseAnn's wearing warmer jammies, or because it snowed but I have been really embracing the holiday spirit. I am so excited about wearing sweaters, drinking hot drinks, and spending time with family. The holidays seem to have a sense of surprise and excitement, but also a sense of dependability. Traditions are so common during the holidays.

Even though it's not quite Thanksgiving yet, I thought I would share my five of my favorite holiday season traditions with you---and I'd love to hear yours. So stick around, there's a giveaway at the end of all of this!

1.One Thing We're Thankful For
My family doesn't have a lot of Thanksgiving traditions...we eat, there's usually football (ugh), and we eat some more. Usually during the meal my mom will have us stop to name one thing we are thankful for. It's one of my favorite parts of the meal and I always look forward to it.

2. Decorating for Christmas
I have always loved putting on Christmas music and decorating for Christmas. Now that Zach's part of the picture, we've melded our traditions. I decorate the house to my Christmas music (usually the Country Christmas station on Pandora). We then decorate the tree together and follow that up with watching A Muppet Christmas Carol--like Zach did every year growing up. It's one of his treasured traditions and I am so excited to include JaiseAnn in it. She won't really understand this year, but she'll love it in the coming years.

3. Pajamas on Christmas Eve
My mom always gives us pajamas on Christmas Eve. I love having one present to open the night before and I love wearing my new pajamas on Christmas morning. It's a tradition I will be passing down to JaiseAnn and any future children as well.

4.  Santa
Santa still stops at our house...and my mom's house. I love Santa! I love everything about the idea, concept, magic of Santa. I can't get enough Santa movies at Christmastime and I love having Santa visit our home. (I remember my first Christmas with Zach's family, I was a little sad to be leaving the way I knew things at Christmas behind. I asked him, "Does Santa still stop at your house?" He told me that he did--so you can imagine my sadness when he did not actually stop by. It's not about the gifts, it's about the concept of Santa that I really love. When I told Zach that he lied he was like, "Well no, he doesn't come by, not any more. Not that we're grown!") Well, Santa will be a staple in our house for the remainder of my life at least.

5. Christmas Shopping
 I know that seems silly, but I love buying gifts for other people. With a tighter budget, I've had to get creative, but I love figuring out a list of gifts and crossing them off my list. I used to go Black Friday shopping with my mom. I was more motivated by the idea of food at some point during our excursions than the shopping part. I will not be participating in the sales this year--as most of them are the night of Thanksgiving and I just will not do that.  My mom and I also hit up a Christmas bazaar every year and we pick up a few gifts while we're out (and then go out to dinner after). It's one of my favorite ways to get my Christmas shopping done.  (For more about how we give gifts at Christmastime in our home see here).

Whether you plan to hit up the Black Friday sales or plan to stay home and shop from the comfort of your computer, I've got great news for you! These lovely ladies and I have teamed up to bring you SEVEN $25 gift cards from our favorite stores, just in time for some holiday shopping! Get everyone on your list their favorites from Target, Anthropologie, Etsy, Amazon, H&M, Sephora, and Gap. You can enter below. Giveaway ends on November 27th. All entries will be verified. Good luck!

Giveaway brought to you by:
Deidre Emme | Notes from Nessa | Life Through A Lens | My New Lines
So Festive | My Year in the Making | He & I

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I Didn't Share Our Family Vacation on Social Media

Our little family took our first vacation this past summer. We took JaiseAnn on her first flight, we spent time with my in-laws, and we experienced some long and tiring days with our then five month old little babe. I didn't share anything about this on social media or even on this blog for a few reasons. 

1. Safety
Ive never been one to share things like my daily schedule, Zach's work schedule, or anything like that on social media. You never know who is reading/watching and I don't want people to know when I'm home alone or anything. The same goes for vacations, I don't want people to know when our house will be empty for several days at a time. I also don't want people to know where I'm going. While I do blog and post to social media publicly, I try to be very careful about sharing too much. You will never see me post my flight itinerary before a trip or a picture of my whole family in our car with a  caption like, "And we're off!" I choose to keep our family comings and goings quite private in order to protect my little family and our little home. 

2. In the Moment

Uninterrupted family time is not something I take for granted. It's rare and it's special. In those moments where I'm making memories with my family, I want to be there in the moment. I don't want to be capturing a picture for the express purpose of sharing it on my blog or sharing it on social media. I want to take pictures because I want them for me and for my family. I want to be so caught up in a moment that I have to say, "Zach, will you get the camera and take a picture!" Or find myself running for the camera. The trip we took this summer was JaiseAnn's first time at the beach and I wanted to be there and in the moment for all of it. As you can tell, she was just thrilled! Even though she didn't love it like crazy, I still wanted to soak in that time with her. Time when I wasn't trying to make phone calls for my church calling, fix dinner, or finish up a load of laundry. I wanted to be there and be off my phone as much as possible. 

3. Reflection
I unfortunately am not immune to the feelings of comparison and competition that can often come with being active on social media. When I take a break from my real life, I like to take a break from media as well. (I still posted to social media just not sharing where I was or that I was  away and had scheduled posts on my blog because I think a sudden disappearance would be as much of a giveaway as announcing it would). When I take a break from the pictures of perfect homes, kitchen creations, and perfectly crafted outfits, hairstyles, and make up, it helps me to settle in and just enjoy all that I have. My best friend sent me a text  while I was on that trip and told me to enjoy my daughter at the beach--despite my feelings about my weight gain--she said she knew I would want to be self conscious but to fight it. Be there and enjoy--worry about the rest later. And that's exactly what I did. I love having a break from real life and virtual life. When both of those collide, it's so good for my soul. 

I know many people want to share their travels and adventures. Many bloggers write entirely about their travels and I enjoy reading travel posts. For me, though, I've decided that I will not be sharing any family trips on social media. I may share a thing about them here or there after they're done. What about you? What do you draw the line on when it comes to sharing on social media?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Baby Led Weaning--What Our Day/Week Looks Like

Before JaiseAnn was born, I had decided we would go the baby led weaning route. This method of introducing babies to solid foods allows them to wean at their own pace.

Just after JaiseAnn hit the "six month mark" we decided to introduce her to solids. She was at the right age, she seemed to be showing interest, and I was ready. We started and I realized that I felt a little lost. JaiseAnn had very little interest in solid foods, eating whole foods made me nervous that she would choke (even though I had read and read about that), and I just felt like we weren't moving along. I didn't feel like JaiseAnn was eating like a "normal" baby and our day didn't have a "normal" feel to it.

JaiseAnn loves solids now and has a few favorites. We are kind of in a routine and I feel like I can offer something to those of you just starting out or wanting to start out. 

I won't get into the knitty gritty of Baby Led weaning. These two sites are so informative if you have questions about baby led weaning: Baby Led Weaning and Baby Led Weaning Ideas. I also found this post very helpful.

baby led weaning schedule

Please note that when JaiseAnn was first starting solids I fed her ONE thing per meal (to check for allergies and how she responded) and she honestly didn't really take to any of it. I would offer her an avacado for every meal and then make sure she didn't have an allergy. The next day I would offer her sweet potato. I offered carrots the next day, and so on. Eventually I got more and more comfortable with what I was offering JaiseAnn and she got more comfortable with solids. It did click eventually--so if you have a baby that just doesn't seem interested--there's hope. JaiseAnn just needed time and I'm glad we didn't force her. 

Today I'm going to share with you what our day looks like at 9 months for JaiseAnn (who breastfeeds on demand) as far as meals go:

*JaiseAnn wakes up and nurses (even though we co sleep and she JUST nursed before we got out of bed).
*JaiseAnn plays and eventually I head to the kitchen to make breakfast. We honestly have scrambled eggs just about every day. Usually I include spinach in the eggs and occassionally a little shredded cheese. I usually serve the eggs to JaiseAnn with a few pieces of fruit. She eats with her hands. Occasionally I make flourless pancakes during the week or sweet potato/apple hash. On the weekends I usually make french toast, waffles, or pancakes with turkey bacon or sausage. I feed those things to JaiseAnn as well--I just don't give her syrup on her pancake
*JaiseAnn will usually nurse again before her nap

*When JaiseAnn wakes up from her nap, I nurse her.
*We play and do household chores
*Lunch--This is the only time JaiseAnn and I don't eat the same things. I have a smoothie made with a protein mix for lunch and JaiseAnn has leftover dinner from the night before. I don't usually warm it up because she eats her food pretty cold as it is. 
*JaiseAnn will nurse another time before she takes her second nap. 

*JaiseAnn wakes up from her second nap and nurses
*We play and do household chores
*I offer JaiseAnn a snack--usually a few pieces of fruit or leftover vegetables from her lunch. (I recently bought a bag of cuties--they are perfect. I peel one and eat half while JaiseAnn munches on the other half. I just give her several sectionals. She doesn't eat it all but she nibbles and sucks on the juice. I usually prep dinner while she's in her high chair eating her snack
*She will nurse again usually sometime before dinner
*Dinnertime. This is JaiseAnn's favorite meal. We literally just give her whatever we're eating for dinner. I put some aside and let it cool before piling food on our plates. I am laying out an example of our dinner for one week and what JaiseAnn eats. 

Monday--Chicken stir fry--cooked in sesame oil and garlic with no sauce, brown rice, carrots, and broccoli. JaiseAnn will get a spoonful of rice, a few pieces of chicken, a few pieces of broccoli, and a few pices of carrot on her tray. She will eat just about everything here.

Tuesday-Turkey burgers--grilled on the George Foreman, served with roasted potato wedges (sometimes other veggies), and mushrooms. I usually make two or three tiny patties for JaiseAnn (one is for the next day's lunch) and serve her the patties with a few potato wedges and mushrooms.

Wednesday--Baked Chimichangas. I usually don't serve these with anything else. I give JaiseAnn a few spoonfuls of filling and a few pieces of whole wheat tortilla. 

Thursday--Skinny Chicken Parmesean--I usually serve this with this homemade spaghetti sauce (packed with mushrooms minus the meat) over zuchinni noodles. I serve JaiseAnn a few pieces of the chicken, some sauce (including mushrooms), and a few zuchinni noodles. She loves zuchinni and the sauce so this meal is a big hit at our house.

Friday--Beef Stew--I will strain a spoonful or two of the stew and rinse it off for JaiseAnn. She will eat pieces of meat, potato, pea, carrot, and celery.

Ssaturday--One Pan Chicken Dinner--I will rinse the seasoning off of the chicken, potatoes, and green beans that I give JaiseAnn to reduce the sodium in her meal. Green beans are her favorite, so she will likely eat a lot for this meal.

Sunday--Meatloaf--served with roasted veggies and baked apples. I will give JaiseAnn a few pieces of meatloaf (if there's a glaze on top, I usually remove that) and I serve her the roasted veggies and baked apples. 

JaiseAnn is able to eat (and enjoy) all of the meals I've included at 9 months old without any teeth. It took us some time to get to this point, but having JaiseAnn be a part of our meals and developing a healthy relationship with food is so important to me. 

How do you feed your baby?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Old Lines: Being a Wife

This post is adapted from a post originally written on November 3, 2011. 

Five years ago, I took on a new role. I became a wife. More importantly, I became Zach's wife. The term "wife" was definitely not always appealing to me. It just sounded so mechanical. Like a business partnership. It sounded dry, stale, and even stuck to me. It didn't have the same appeal as girlfriend or seemed so permanent and in my mind, doomed. (I am a romantic at heart, but before Zach came along, my heart had been given a good beating and although I wanted to believe in the kind of love that I had with Zach, a part of me was scared to...I didn't want to get disappointed again.)

When Zach entered my life, he changed my perspective on so many things. He continues to change my perspective on many things, including being someone's wife.

Life as Zach's wife means:

-I always have a pair of big flannel pajama bottoms to wear to bed. Yes, Zach's t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, and pajama bottoms are found on my body at least four times a week. I love wearing his stuff. It's a natural comfort to me. It's one of those hidden thrills that comes along with "belonging to someone."

-I can get a shoulder massage any time I need one. He can get rid of any ache I ever have whether it's a headache, my hip, or an achy knee after running this summer.

-I am being taught patience. Zach literally has no sense of urgency. It's a love/hate characteristic for me. It's mildly amusing at times and infuriating at others. However, he is an extremely patient man because of that and I learn from his patience daily. (Clearly I'm a SLOW learner).

-I always have a partner for an adventure.

-I am privy to the best cuddling at any given time. Zach is the best cuddler (not that I have much experience) but I feel like he is. Even if we're facing opposite directions, he will tuck his feet around mine. I can wake him up at any time to cuddle me (usually after a bad dream or something) and he will.

-I always have help with the dishes, housework, cooking, etc.

-I always get a phone call asking if I need anything before he comes home from work or school, without fail, every night. I've taken him up on it a few times. The fact that he offers and then follows through at 11:00 at night when he left the house at 8 a.m. and he doesn't complain just goes to show you how easy life is as this guy's wife.

-I have a hand to hold for every prayer whether it's at dinner time at my parents' house, during sacrament meeting at church, or at home. He reaches for my hand every time and every time, my heart melts. Every time.

marriage quotes

-Someone has my back at all times. I'm sassy and opinionated and that has gotten me in trouble on more occasions than I can count in all aspects of my life. This is no exaggeration. He never faults me. Ever. He is behind me 100% In addition, I am an impatient woman with a horrid temper. Some days I lack motivation to do pretty much anything. All of these things can leave me feeling pretty bad about myself. Zach will come home and I'll explain how I either a). lost my temper that day b). was impatient that day c). Didn't cook, clean, read scriptures, exercise, etc.. or d). all of the above and he never...and I mean never lets me feel bad about myself for a second. His arms immediately wrap around me and he just lets me be. He just loves me. No strings attached. And boy, does that feel good! I know that there are times that he probably couldn't say the same for me which brings me to my next point.

-I have something to learn every single day. Zach's heart is in the right place all of the time. He's truly a special and unique person. He loves the way people are supposed to love. Before I met Zach, I thought I had the market cornered on loving people. Being married to Zach has taught me that I have the market on feeling love for people...actively loving them, I have a whole lot to learn.

-I am spoiled. I am blessed. I have more than I will ever be worthy of.

-I thank my Heavenly Father on a daily basis for sending me the most amazing man and making it possible for me to be with him for eternity.

Life as Zach's wife has been the most pleasant surprise I could imagine.

Now I associate the term "wife" with words like adored, loved, beautiful, important, appreciated, and friend.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Keeping Christmas Gifts Meaningful and Simple

Christmas is my very favorite holiday. I love the religious unity it brings, I love the music, I love the cards, and yes--even as a grown adult, I love the gifts. I always have. I love buying gifts, wrapping gifts, giving gifts, and I love receiving gifts.

Early on in our marriage Zach and I discussed keeping Christmas simple. As a teacher, I noticed so many kids caught up in having the latest this/that, writing out long and expensive Christmas lists, and competing with each other over who got the best things. We decided that no matter what our financial situation with children--we always wanted to keep Christmas simple and meaningful. We didn't feel that we needed to "shower" our child(ren) (or each other) in gifts. A few gifts would suffice. And that's how we spent our first Christmas.

Then we met some friends and church and they had/have a tradition in their family. Each person gets three gifts: a gift of love, a gift of want, and a gift of need.

simple Christmas ideas

Zach and I loved this tradition and adopted it as our own. It's perfect for adapting to any budget and it allows you to cover all the bases of gift giving.  Here is a breakdown of how we look at each gift category.

Gift of Love
This is a thoughtful gift that can be handmade. This gift is usually an act of love and is usually a surprise as you try to figure out how to bring a smile to the other person's face with a thoughtful gift.  This is by far my favorite gift to come up with every year.

Some gift ideas for a spouse: homemade jams/jellies/favorite treats, coupons for special outings, meals, or snacks, homemade foot/neck warmers, quilts, customized calendars, mugs, or apparel. The list is endless on that one. I've given Zach things he could take to work to remind him of me/JaiseAnn and he's usually given me dates or a gift card to my favorite book store that he promised to add money to after every use.

Some gift idea for kids: handmade memory games with pictures of family members, handmade books (similar to the one I made Zach for Father's Day), blankets, headbands, quilts, pillow cases, games, etc. The possibilities are endless. For an older child you could give him/her a coupon for their favorite treat every month or coupons for camp outs in the living room, etc.

Gift of Want
This is a gift that the receiver has been wanting. It can be practical or completely impractical--it doesn't matter, it's something that they want.

Gift of Need

This gift is usually of a practical nature. It's usually clothes or socks for us.

***In addition, Zach and I do plan to give our kids pjs on Christmas Eve (as per tradition), a gift (or two) from Santa, and stocking stuffers.

We hope that our children will love the concept of giving and receiving gifts without having a sense of entitlement. Three Christmas gifts will be the expectation in our home.

How do you give gifts at Christmastime?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tips for Giving Thoughtful Gifts

I have actually never taken the love languages test, but I'm pretty sure gifts are one of my love languages. (Although, I'm actually pretty sure all the languages are my love languages--which is why I refuse to take a test and discriminate). I really love giving good and meaningful gifts. I also love getting a gift that shows that the giver either gets me or was paying attention.

As I've gotten older, getting good gifts has gotten harder for me. I don't know whether it's the busy parts of life or what, but I know my gift giving abilities have taken a hit. I've been brainstorming for some ways to improve my gift giving skills and I'm sharing them with you today!

thoughtful gift ideas

Pinterest Boards
If the person you are buying a gift for is a Pinterest user, you have hit a gold mine in gift ideas. Many Pinterest users have boards titled "Wishlist" or something similar. If you browse the boards, you are bound to find one or two that will give you some good ideas.

One my students a few years back had a dad that got onto Pinterest and looked at all the yard/landscaping ideas his wife had pinned. While she was gone for  the weekend he gave their yard a makeover off of her Pinterest board. That's an amazing idea. There are so many ideas for home decor, home renovations, DIY projects, dates, and more. If you can't find a product on Pinterest, you can find something equally exciting, surprising, and thoughtful.

Amazon Wish Lists
This one is a bit tricky for just anybody, but I've specifically asked Zach to keep an Amazon wishlist and to share it with me so that I can keep an eye on the things he sees. W, we've also created a wishlist for JaiseAnn to potentially share with family--not sure whether or not that's appropriate, but we've started one and we'll see how it goes.

Keep a Running List on Your Phone and Listen
I love finding the perfect gift. One that I can give that shows I was listening and paying attention, but that the person never actually asked for. Those gifts are my favorite. When Zach and I were first married, I set out to do just that. I kept a "memo" on my phone for ideas for gifts for him. I kept that list running all year long. Anytime he'd mention something, I'd pull out my phone and jot it down. He never knew.

Sometimes it was something like wandering through a book store and he'd say, "I'd really like to have a really nice hardback set of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy someday." (Lucky for me, my awesome gift giving aunt had his name for Christmas that year and I passed that idea on--wish granted!)

Other times it was something really small like his mention of a flavored gingerale he drank with his granddad. I have been on a mission for years to find that stuff and surprise him with something little.

They won't always say they want it, but if you listen all year long, you are bound to come up with quite a few gift ideas. It takes the stress away from trying to go back in your memory and find something that was mentioned at the last minute.

 Memberships can actually be some pretty amazing and perfectly thoughtful gifts. Think of the person and the stage they are at in life, would s/he benefit from a Costco membership, a zoo membership, a triple A membership, a gym membership, etc.. These gifts are so useful and usually unexpected as they are not typical gifts.

Break it Down
If it's gift-giving time and I'm still at a loss I ask myself these questions:
*Is there a service that they are in need of? --This could be anything from an oil change to a hair cut--try to find a gift certificate or gift card for the service or if it's a service you can do yourself, make up a coupon.
*What could I personally do?--Along with the coupon idea, I like to think through the talents I have. One year my mom was super busy and every time I talked to her on the phone she was still trying to figure out what to have for dinner. I made her several freezer meals to keep in her freezer so she would have a few nights of dinner when she came home. There have been a couple of times I've come home to a house cleaned by my mom as a gift.

Being thoughtful in gift giving makes the giving part that much more fun. If you're on the receiving end of a thoughtful gift it is so nice to feel special and noticed.

What are some thoughtful gifts you've received? What are some ways you come up with thoughtful gifts to give?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Five Years Later...

I'm a day early on this

Five years ago we knelt hand in hand in the temple and became husband and life. We began a life together with big smiles and full hearts.

1 house
1 dog
2 Graduations
15 Semesters with one of us in school
7 Different Schedules
Countless Pinterest recipes
A few Pinterest recipe fails
Pregnancy Losses
 1 BEAUTIFUL little girl
7 Vacations
4 Cars
1 Couch
Countless consumption of Idaho Pizza and frozen yogurt
10 Netflix Shows
Several Extra Pounds
and a Lot Less Sleep


My heart is overflowing and my smile is just as big-if not bigger.

Five years and counting...I have a feeling the best has just begun!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Lasts

During my pregnancy, I mentally noted the end of every era.

"This is my last birthday before I'm a mom."

"This is our last anniversary just the two of us."

"This is the last summer I'll have all to myself."

And the list literally goes on. Toward the end I wondered if every nap was the "last nap" or every morning was my "last chance" to sleep in.

I suppose this came from the knowledge that I am selfish and the moms out there who tell you to enjoy every last minute to yourself because you'll never have one again. Never ever ever again..

mommy warnings

It may be true that the time to myself has come to an end. Even if I spend a night away from my daughter, it won't be the same. When she is a grown woman, I still won't be the same. Someone else has my heart and she'll walk around blissfully unaware of how much of me is with her always-- until she has the wonderful opportunity to become a mother some day.

I have decided I'm against the mommy warnings. This need to strike fear into every mom-to-be.

We can't go back to who we were at any time in our lives. High school was supposed to be the best time, right? Well that would certainly be a disappointment to live out the rest of our lives subpar to who we were at fifteen. The same goes for parenthood. We can't spend our days as parents wishing for the freedom of the past. We have to embrace our new lives, and the limits that come with it. When we do that we create a new freedom within our hearts and homes. A freedom that allows us to bring our best selves to the table and embrace it.

If I could give one piece of advice to all the moms-to-be out there, I'd say with certainty enjoy your "lasts." Eat them up! Enjoy them, but do not mourn them as they come to a close. Do not feel sad about these endings, but look ahead to a brand new beginning. You literally get to experience life all over again. There's a whole lot of "firsts" to experience and look forward to.

The first breath. The first cry. The first cuddle. The first look. The first kiss. The first night home as a new family. The first smile. The first belly laugh...and the list goes on and on. It is one beautiful list..and every first is pure magic. I have never experienced a happiness like I have as I watch my daughter learn and grow.

I'm convinced that experiencing these "firsts" through my daughter's eyes will be the best years of my life.

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