Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer: A Love Affair

When I was a kid, I actually hated summer. I didn't like the heat and I didn't find much enjoyment from being outside. I preferred TV or playing make believe in an air conditioned home much more enjoyable.

Just out of high school, I took a job working with kids at a childcare center. The center turned into a summer day camp during the summer months. Which roughly translates into the best job I've ever had. I spent my summer riding in a hot bus full of elementary school kids in transit to some amazing adventures. We spent our days swimming, playing kick ball, and warming ourselves in the sun while playing game after game of Skip-Bo. It was truly the job dreams are made of.

I fell hard for summer over the course of my college life. It was a time for me to take better care of myself once away from hours upon hours in the classroom, long nights, and early mornings. Summers allowed me to play, to exercise, and to pack a healthy lunch every day. I spent my days in the sun, being a mentor to children, and loving every minute of it.

summer with toddler

For a long long time, I could tell you every place that I visited with the boy I first loved and every place that even hinted or reminded me of him. Most of those memories have faded, I don't recall many moments with him and I certainly don't ache over missing him anymore, but I do ache over those summer memories. I can tell you where I went with those kids and I can recall some of my fondest memories in great detail. Summer was my real first love.

Summers after college weren't quite the same. I don't have a whole lot of friends and my build in friends in those kids were gone. I was alone in my backyard tanning most summer days after I became a teacher. I taught summer school, took classes, and cleaned my house but I ached and longed for those lively summer feelings to come back. I had lost touch with summer. Sure, we were still good friends--after all, I need a tan! But our passion was gone.

Enter motherhood. Last summer was the hardest of them all. I was exhausted and couldn't find time to spend outside for as long as I would like. It was too hot for JaiseAnn and I still didn't have many friends to meet up with or do anything with. So we set up an umbrella in our backyard and I tried really hard to rekindle that love. But no! Last summer I was pale, tired, and most of all, out of touch. I had actually felt like summer and I had broken up, for good. And I mourned that loss.

summer with toddlers

This summer, though. This summer is already starting out to be the best of them all. Summer and I have found one another again--and this time JaiseAnn wants in on the fun. We spend so much of our day outside--we go on walks, play in the water, visit parks, and are about to start swimming lessons. I never could have guessed that I'd be having so much fun with my toddler each and every day, but I am. Summer and my daughter are a winning combination. Each day I hit the bed totally exhausted and utterly blessed.

Summer fills me with so much more than a bit of sunshine and play. It offers hope and energy in it's long, bright days filled with fun. It offers peace with time spent in nature and moving our bodies. It offers a break from the daily routine and it transforms the mundane into something exciting and new. Summer offers adventure every time you leave your house. 

motherhood summer

Summer is handfuls of fresh cherries, bare feet in the grass, and a water logged diapered bottom walking around the yard. It's wet faces, picnics finished with kisses, and nighttime strolls. It's the joys of summer seen through the eyes of my daughter for the first time and it's the most beautiful experience ever.  My love affair with summer is back and better than ever--and I couldn't be more grateful.

How do you feel about summer? How about summer as a mom?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Things My Daughter Teaches Me

There are a million reasons that Jesus tells us to be like little children. I am reminded of it daily as a mom. It is an honor to share my days and life with such a strong and sweet spirit. She teaches me so much: 

Don't Give Up
When JaiseAnn was around six months old, I hit one of the most trying times in my life. I was beyond sleep deprived which honestly made me feel like I was losing my mind. I had weight to loose, but wasn't doing anything about it. I didn't have anyone to talk to. My husband was working long days and my days felt long and my spurts of sleep too short. Don't get me wrong, thanks to some Heavenly influence, I'm sure, I made it through every day and I was still able to feel such deep love and gratitude for my daughter. I was thankful for her and I still enjoyed her. It was just a very hard time for me.

While I was going through a nightmarish time, I would hop onto Instagram and see moms running races, fitting back into their old jeans, reading books, having lunch dates, and more. I felt so alone and so very inadequate. I wondered why on earth I couldn't keep up. Why was I struggling so much? What was I missing? 

During that time, JaiseAnn was learning to crawl. All day long she'd make attempts to move. When she couldn't, she would occasionally get frustrated, but most of the time not. She is too innocent to know that some other babies could already do what she was attempting to do, but failing at time and time again. All she knew is that she wanted to move and move she would. She just kept going.

Watching her day in and day out was honestly poetic for me. I finally realized that I needed to pretend I didn't know what other moms were or weren't doing every day. (Plus, nobody has the exact same circumstances, nobody.) I knew that I wanted to be the very best version of me and the very best mom for my daughter. And while many days I did (and still do) feel like a failure, I keep trying. Each day I wake up and remind myself that I was chosen to be her mom for a reason and I am going to keep trying until I get it right. (And if I never do? Well, that's okay, too. But I won't give up).

Don't Hold Grudges
My daughter is a pretty happy child. A bit moody, a lot stubborn-- she can definitely let you know when she's not happy.  For the most part, though, she's genuinely pretty happy. Zach and I have come to describe her as joyful. I know there are some babies that are truly not happy, but most are. JaiseAnn honestly spends most of her day smiling. I often wonder if it's because she doesn't hold grudges.

You all know (at length now) that JaiseAnn was/is a poor sleeper. I have had many times that her sleep troubles have pushed me to my limit and I have lost patience with her. Maybe I yelled at her to "go to sleep!" (And maybe I threw in a few curse words in the process) She wakes up, though, every morning, with a smile on her face for her mom. It honestly humbles  me that she loves me so much despite my many flaws and my daily missteps. She shows me that happiness comes from loving others without condition.

Tomorrow is a New Day
We have days where we are just pals. We hang out and run errands and play at the park. I am available to her whenever she needs me and those days feel so good. We also have days where I'm overwhelmed, tired, distracted, working too much, or we are just busy. We don't have time to connect as much as either of us would like some days and at the end of the evening I feel a little sad. I know I can't get the day back and I will mourn the parts of the day I did wrong or lost. But then, she smiles at me in the morning and I realize I get a chance today to do better! Each day is new and my daughter has helped me embrace that. That simple fact allows me to let go of guilt and embrace the fact that tomorrow I get to try harder to be better...and she has also taught me that that is enough.

A Lot Changes in a Month
I can get discouraged with trying to see improvements in myself when I make a change. I start to feel like it's taking too long or I'll never see a big enough difference to make the effort worth it. But I look at my daughter--she's talking, communicating, walking/running/climbing, exploring, and eating a ton. She was barely walking a few months ago. What a difference a month or two can make. She is persistent and determined and it pays off. She learns and grows every day and seeing that happen reminds me that I am, too (if I'm trying to). 

All of these things are things I get to practice daily by being JaiseAnn's mom, all while being reminded by watching her. I learn from her so much and I hope some day that the things I've learned will allow me to be an example to her as well. 

What do you learn from children?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How We Wore It--Keepin' It Casual

Every month, Brooke at Silver Lining does this fun collaboration post. She shares one fashion idea with several different bloggers and each blogger shares their take on the outfit. You don't have to match it and you aren't supposed to buy anything new. I've been wanting to take part for a while and I was thrilled when I saw the email in my inbox for this month's post. 

mother daughter pictures at park

And then I saw the outfit and my heart sunk a little. I typically don't wear hats, I don't have any jeans that fit right now, I don't wear camo, and I don't have a single pair of tennis shoes. This look is just not something I would ever sport.

Via Robyn Vilate
So instead I went with the mood of the photo. A casual outfit for me, is something I'd wear any day. I decided to stick with the muted color tones as well, to keep the mood of the outfit the same, even though they are very different. 

Shirt: Thrifted
Skirt: Gifted
Shoes: Sketchers
I kinda felt like this was a relaxed Saturday look. So I decided to share an outfit that I've been known to wear to hang out at the park with my family. I actually used to own a pair of white Keds and I actually searched all over for them because I thought they might be a great addition to my outfit, but sadly, they are gone. I might want to buy a new pair someday.

For other looks inspired by this keepin' it casual look check out the following blogs:

Brooke at Silver Lining

Deidre at Deidre Emme
Sierra at Sierra's View
Sharlee at My New Lines

Laura at Sincerely, Laura
Aubrey at Aubrey Zaruba

Kaycie at Redhead Memories 

Kyla at FordOlogy
Danica at Danakin Skywalker 
Tayler at The Morrell Tale

Emma at Ever Emma
Kalyn at Geez Louise
Bonnie at Life of Bon

Rachel at Rachel Sayumi

Where do you get your outfit inspiration?

Monday, June 22, 2015

When the Truth Hurts

There are times when we fight and Zach will say something that stings. And I react--strongly and with force. From the beginning Zach has always responded with this annoying, but very accurate, statement: Hit pigeons flutter.
hit a nerve

When I start fluttering it means Zach hit a nerve. He must have covered some truth to some level and when I'm not in a place to deal with it, I react poorly.

Being married to Zach for so long now, I actually can tell when I'm "fluttering." I know when I've been hit and I can see myself reacting. This has become very handy as I now know that instead of saying more hurtful things to mask my own feelings, I need to check myself. I need to ask why whatever was said is bothering me so much and what I can do to change that.

Likely, the problem lies more within me than within my marriage. As I've been better able to recognize that through our marriage, I'm able to recognize that in my life. 

During my teaching years, I always got "hit" when parents questioned my teaching practices. There were a lot of times they were out of line, but there was no need to flutter--except that maybe I always knew I could improve and do better and being called into question stung.

You see, things that I know about myself and that I don't really care to change a whole lot--aren't hard to hear. 

"You can't carry a tune to save your life!" Got that right.

"You're always late." Yep, that is true. Feel free to plan about fifteen minutes later for anything scheduled with me--just don't tell me or I'll be even later than that!

"You're awfully opinionated." That I am. I am proud of that and if you don't have many opinions or aren't able to share them, I will have a hard time relating to you. I don't make apologies for that. It's one of the things I love most about myself. 

"Sharlee loves to eat!" Yes, Sharlee does. I love food. I will always love food. 

When I know things about myself and I'm okay with them, I don't feel "hit" when someone makes a comment about them. But if someone hits me where I'm weak, where I am already aware that I need to change, it's a different story. 

"You're awfully judgmental." It comes so naturally at this point, that I often feel it's a pointless battle. But I am still trying. I still have repentant moments about the judgement I pass. 

"You need to exercise some discipline." I pray for this daily. I know I have some discipline, but I've pushed it away for so long that it's taking me time, and lots of failures to rebuild it. 

"You need to have more faith." I have faith--so much faith. I just don't understand faith always. And I'm good at "getting what I want." It scares me. I'm trying though. Please don't discount my faith because I am trying so hard at it.

"You're quite the ungrateful one." I actually am not. I am very grateful for all of my blessings and I say thanks for them a lot of the time. Sometimes I don't understand the situations I'm in or my expectations cause me to feel disappointment, but you couldn't be more wrong and it makes me sad that you think that.

When I hear something and my knee-jerk reaction is: anger, judgement, or a snap defense of myself--I know I've been hit. And when I'm hit, I know I need to take some time and evaluate what's really bothering me about what was said. I ask myself the following questions:

1. Where is the truth in what was said?

2. What small change am I capable of making today to start changing that truth?

When I do those things, I am able to feel peace. I don't tackle the whole idea of getting rid of judgement, instead I make sure to try to do something kind for someone or pray for an enemy--something small, but something that I can do at that moment to help me turn a new leaf. And just like that, anger dispels, hurts are forgotten, and peace is able to fill my heart.

Do you ever "flutter?"

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Watching My Husband Become a Dad

I always knew that Zach would make an incredibly good father. He's a kid at heart, incredibly patient, and he can do the voice of just about any cartoon character you ask him to. I knew our kids would eat him up! I knew he'd be the fun one and that there would be times I'd pale in comparison. 

Prior to having kids with Zach, I always focused on how much our kids would enjoy him. My thoughts were focused on how he'd make such a good dad because our kids would like him. Watching my husband become a dad has been nothing short of amazing. Yes (oh, yes) JaiseAnn loves her "da-ee," but what's even better is how much Zach loves and likes her.

This guy handles baths almost every night and I love to hear the two of them giggling in there. He frequently sends me texts that say, "How's little girl doing?" He never wants a break of a minute to cool down when he gets home. Instead, his arms open up for his little girl! Every night after I put her to sleep, I join Zach in the living room and he says, "That little girl!" 

Zach is typically a pretty unattached guy. He recovered from his first marriage ending in a miraculously short amount of time. He's away from all of his siblings and his parents and he's fine--he rarely calls to check in. I once asked Zach's mom if he was a mama's boy or a daddy's boy and she said, "He's just always kind of been on his own." He doesn't attach to people. It's been hard for me to relate to at times because I am so very attached to people in my life. 

Watching the love and enjoyment he gets from being a father is really the best surprise. It's allowed me to discover a whole new part of my husband. A part of him that is vulnerable, that loves without restraint, and that cries at the sound of that little girl's laugh or the acknowledgement of her growing too quickly. It has truly been the greatest thing to see. I couldn't have anticipated this when I was dating him, but I am more and more convinced every day that I got one of the very best. 

The other night JaiseAnn was calling her, "Da-ee" and Zach said, "It will never get old." He then proceeded to tell me that he understands why God--who could be called by so many different title, chooses the title of Father. Zach proceeded to explain that it is because that is his most important work, most gratifying work, and most joyful work. 

And that's what's been so incredible about watching my husband become a dad. I've watched him step up his responsibilities as he works hard for our dreams to come true. I've watched him take the task of being a father as the most important work he'll ever do. I've listened to him pray with true and honest gratitude every night for JaiseAnn and I've watched him experience a joy unlike every other. 

Parenting with Zach is truly one of the best things about being married to him. It is an absolute honor to watch him become a father and to parent right beside him.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

3 Easy Methods for Meal Prepping Chicken

I'm not much of a meal prep person, but sometimes I know that if I have some options on hand without having to put too much effort forth, I'll make healthier choices. I am not about to cook up chicken in the middle of the day with a toddler running around. JaiseAnn and I usually enjoy leftovers together or I usually stir fry some veggies and we eat those with a side of cottage cheese (true, my toddler loves cottage cheese). If I make large batches of chicken, though, I know that I'll be prone to healthy and delicious lunches all week long. Meal prepping just got a whole lot easier--

clean eating chicken recipes

Apple Juice Chicken

I found this Paleo easy chicken recipe on Pinterest. While the recipe is time consuming, most of the time you let the chicken sit and simmer. The prep couldn't be easier and you can clean your kitchen or chop up veggies for the week while the chicken cooks. The recipe calls for skinless chicken thighs, but I used chicken breast and it worked just fine as well--just adapt your cooking time (especially at the end) so it doesn't dry out. 

This chicken would be great on:
-almost any kind of salad, but especially one with a fruity vinigarette
-with rice and veggies 
-in a wrap 

Fajita Chicken Bake
I absolutely love this method for cooking up chicken breast because you get some veggies cooked in there, too. The flavor and texture is so yummy. We don't have a microwave, but this heats up easily and nicely on the stove top for a quick lunch. See the chicken fajita bake recipe here

This chicken would be great on:
-fajitas, tacos, or a chicken taco salad
-as a stir fry (we sometimes add some black beans and cheese)
-added to rice
-make skinny chicken nachos by making your own chips with corn tortillas (we do this often). It's so good. 

Crockpot Shredded Chicken
This is the easiest method by far. We put 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot and add a bit of broth--usually about 1/2 cup and any additional seasonings you might like. Cook on low for about 6 hours. Chicken will fall apart with a fork. You can use a hand mixer to shred quickly, but I usually make sure I remove the liquid first and only shred for a very short time. (If there's too much liquid in the slow cooker and you shred too long, the chicken looses it's texture.)

This chicken would be great on:
-chicken salad wraps (for a healthier spin see here)
-tacos or nachos
-in soups 

Do you meal prep or do you avoid it because it's too time consuming? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Avoiding the Eating Entitlement Trap

When I was working outside of the home before motherhood, the teachers' lounge was the place you could almost always find a treat. Doughnuts, cupcakes, leftover pizza, cookies, and more. I would sometimes take a detour through the lounge just to check and see if any new treats had arrived--just being honest. It got to the point that I would have a treat whenever I felt like it because everyone else was. I would be missing out if I didn't eat that doughnut or cupcake. The year before I got pregnant I set a rule for myself that I could not eat anything from the teachers' lounge. The idea of everyone enjoying a treat with out me started to sabotage my healthy eating goals. 

June 3rd is National Donut Day! And you most likely are more than aware of that if you participate in any form of social media. That Friday my Instagram was filled with the most ridiculously beautiful shots of donuts. Kids eating donuts, donuts with sprinkles on white tables, donuts sitting next to a flower, doughnut frosting on a perfectly manicured finger, and the list goes on (and on and on and on).

I've been trying to make some healthier choices these days and didn't feel like a doughnut was a step in the right direction for me, but as I scrolled my Instagram feed I couldn't help but feel like I deserved a doughnut. If I didn't have a doughnut on National Doughnut Day, I was missing out on the fun--and that isn't fair. And that's where it hit me. My problem with eating comes from a sense of entitlement. I should  be able to eat whatever I want and if I can't it's not fair. I shouldn't be left out. 

There are so many women who are healthy and weigh a healthy amount on my social media outlets and they seem to be eating ALL DAY LONG! The burgers, the fries, the mac and cheese, the cookie dough, the ice cream cones, and then the alcohol.

It's not fair! I think to myself.

And then I allow that sense of injustice to prompt poor eating habits from me, yet again.

I can't believe that I'm the only woman struggling with this sense of entitlement or lack of fairness when it comes to eating. I have had to learn how to deal with this silly problem that keeps getting in the way of me meeting my goals. Here are three things I do to help me get through the feeling of entitlement:

Focus on Health:
For me, I must focus on my health when trying to make a change, not on my looks. When I focus on changing the size or shape of my body I get angry at my body and don't feel positively about it or I decide to embrace my body and decide that it's "perfectly fine" instead of focusing on my goals. For me, wanting a "bikini body" doesn't work--maybe it does for you. Find your main--deep down motivation--and find ways to keep your focus on it.

Cheat Meals:
When I feel like I can't have something, I feel resentful. I also know that when I see all the treats on my social media feeds, it can lead to some serious cravings. Choose your "cheat." It may not be a cheat at all, it may be a big one, or a little one. I try to maintain a balance and when I see all of those treats on my screen, I remind myself of the treat I am going to enjoy with Zach after JaiseAnn goes to bed that night. It really helps keep me in check. 

Reality Check with Social Media:
Beautiful pictures of food are very appealing. Pinterest is practically devoted to beautiful pictures of food. We love food. For some reason we are also drawn to beautiful women who love food and eat it while wearing bikinis. It's really difficult for us to really get a perception of reality on social media (this we all know). It's important to remind yourself that the foodie in her short shorts probably isn't eating spoonfuls of cookie dough every time she shares it on Instagram. It's popular, it makes her relatable, and we like it, but the reality is she probably has a small bite and calls it good. Likewise, that fitness blogger that you follow probably does enjoy a cookie or brownie now and then. People brand themselves on social media and their relationship with food is often a big way they connect with their readers, it's important to keep that in mind.

If there is a particular blog/account that bothers me or gets under my skin, I know it's not that person's fault or problem, it's mine, but I still delete their account and stop following if I can't seem to stop feeling entitled to all the treats because someone else is having them, too. 

Redefine Fun:
This one is huge for me. When I see people eating delicious food it feels like they're having all the fun without me. I feel like I'm missing out if I don't go out and get something horribly greasy that I enjoy, too. When I have those feelings of "I'm missing out," I have to redefine fun for myself. Instead I might ask Zach to kiss me for a minute or rub my shoulders. I might take a bath with a good book or turn on the radio and dance with my daughter. 

I'm sharing some more tips for staying on track with your health goals over at Making Mrs. M with the lovely Jaelan--come visit! 

Do you ever fall prey to the eating entitlement trap? How do you get out of it?

Monday, June 15, 2015

What We Hope Our Daughter Learns from Our Date Nights

JaiseAnn is at an age right now where she is learning so much. Most of what she's learning is coming straight from watching me. She "cooks," "cleans," and loves on her baby doll. Her most recent development is folding her arms for the prayer. We pray over every meal and I usually hold JaiseAnn in my lap and fold my arms around her and bow my head. The other night, we were getting dinner on the table and as we were getting ready to scoop JaiseAnn up to put her in her chair, we noticed she was already folding her arms. She knew it was time to pray. What a humbling experience for Zach and I. She truly is watching everything we do and soaking it all in. 

It has made me think a lot about some of the things Zach and I do and the lessons that she might take away from them. Date nights are one of our regular priorities and I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'd like JaiseAnn to learn as she watches her parents date each other.

date night for parents

Marriage is Fun
It's not hard to imagine why some kids would grow up thinking marriage isn't fun. I want JaiseAnn to see that Zach and I plan fun activities and enjoy each other's company. I want her to know that we are best friends and that while marriage involves parenting, running a household, and being responsible--it is also fun. By taking the time to enjoy one another I hope that she will see that.

How She Should Expect to be Treated
Chivalry isn't lost on anyone in this house. It's important to Zach and it's important to me and we hope it will be important to our daughter. Zach opens the door for me, takes good care of me, and treats me with such respect. While we hope JaiseAnn picks up on this all of the time, we hope that when she sees her dad open the door for me when we're on a date, she'll learn that she should always expect to be treated with the utmost respect. We also hope that she'll expect to marry someone who will continue to date her and respect her. 

Your Spouse Deserves Your Effort
I hope that JaiseAnn will see that I make plans for date night often and I get dressed up. I make an effort for date night. We make time for each other and we try to make that time count. I hope that my daughter will see the importance of time and effort when it comes to showing your spouse that you care. 

Her Parents Love Each Other
This lesson is the one I hope she walks away with more than anything. I can't imagine anything more secure for a child than to know and understand that her parents love each other. I hope that the feeling in our home continues to be peaceful as Zach and I show her that we are important to one another. Making this time for each other helps maintain our friendship and partnership in adult responsibilities throughout the week, which continues to keep our home our little refuge. Ultimately that's what I want most for JaiseAnn, Zach, and myself. 

What do you hope your children might learn from watching you? 

Friday, June 12, 2015

United in Financial Goals

One thing that people comment on about our marriage is the way we handle money and our financial goals. (By people I mean my mom and two friends.) Our financial situation has been easy to handle for us--they say that money is one of the top causes of contention in a marriage. Money has most definitely stressed us out, but we have never had a fight about money in five years of marriage. Never. 

I think a huge part of that is due to the fact that we don't have a lot of money.  When you don't have a lot of money, it goes to the necessities and there's not much to talk about. But I also think that Zach and I have put a few practices in order that allow us to communicate and work on our financial goals together without stress or disagreements. 

money and marriage

Agree on Top Priorities
Set aside some time to really discuss your long-term goals. Knowing your long-term finanacial goals will really help you to determine what your short-term financial needs are. As yourselves: Where do we want to be in five or ten years? Look at what you'll need to get there. Will you need to purchase a home? Be a one car family? Work an extra job or two for a few years? 

From the time we met we've agreed on these five priorities:
1. Tithing 10% of our income
2. Me being able to be home with our kids
3. Becoming debt free
4. Using money to make memories not buy things
5. Being able to comfortably retire

Not all of these things can happen at once, which is why it's important to prioritize them. We are currently focused on the top three things. At one point in our marriage, we focused on all five. All of our financial decisions-since even before we were married--have centered around these shared goals. 

Budget Together

Working together to look at the money coming in and going out is important. If you do have money leftover after necessities, it is nice to have to sets of eyes with two different perspectives looking at the money and discussing what the best route to take to get to your financial goals might be. Zach and I always know how much comes in and where it all goes. When we did have disposable income, we didn't make purchases larger than $50 without consulting the other person first.

If you agree on your top priorities and they've been discussed, then it's crucial to discuss how to meet those goals together and how to work with what you have.

Handle the Money

I'm terrible with money. I really am. I pay bills late and I often spend any leftover money if I know it's in the bank. Zach has always handled the majority of the bills. When I was working I had certain bills that I paid and those bills were covered completely by my paycheck (I didn't have anything leftover). Zach paid fewer bills and handled the leftover money. He used the leftover money to add to savings or to pay off debt. While I fully understand that I need to be more responsible, it helps that Zach is my partner. This is a strength of his and so I gladly allow him to handle the finances. My strength is working numbers and getting creative. I have written our budget dozens of times--and I've run it through how things would look if we eliminated this or did that instead. It helps give us options and I share those options with Zach so that we can discuss them.

 I know how much every bill is and I know how much is in the bank, but I don't pay the bills right now. Whatever your goals and needs are, decide which of you is the best person to handle certain parts of your goal. Utilize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses so that you can start putting your plan into action and see results.

How do you work with financial goals in your marriage?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mommy and Me Activity Tree

I've been wanting to make the most of my time with JaiseAnn lately. It's amazing how much of the day passes with my exercise, shower, meal making, cleaning up after meals, cleaning, naps, etc. It's easy to get caught up in all the stuff every day only to look back and have my house still be messy and I still don't have make up on--but what did we do?

I created a summer bucket list combined with some ideas from my Toddler Bucket List to help us have some fun together this summer. My hope is that this activity tree will help motivate us to an even better schedule and help me make some memories and teach JaiseAnn at the same time. 

toddler play

I designed the tree on white construction paper and used green marker to jot down the activities I hope to complete this summer. When we complete an activity, we will color over the activity with marker or paint. By the end of the summer we should have a very green tree.

What are some activities you hope to complete this summer?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pants Shopping Just Got SO Much Easier!

I almost never punctuate the end of a title, but I just had to for this one. Pants shopping is the worst. It can be time consuming, frustrating, disappointing, and expensive. I know very few women who enjoy pants shopping--no matter what their relationship with their body is.

I have a hard time pants shopping because my legs and hips are thick. My favorite jeans (I'm still on my way to fitting in them) are a fairly expensive brand. It's interesting that there are some fits that fit me like a glove (those made for wider hips/thighs) but other pairs--same brand/size--won't even go up past my calf.

Pants shopping=world's biggest mind games.

Until now that is. You already know of my love for eShakti. The clothes you buy through their online store allow for custom sizing. You enter your measurements and eShakti sends you the clothing item in a fit made for your body. No sorting through sizes. No disappointing dressing room moments. No more mind games!

That's right! eShakti now sells pants, shorts. and more styles are available than ever before.

Right now I've got my eye on these pants and these shorts (oh--and you can have the shorts made to any length you'd like!)

From now until June 21st, eShakti is offering all readers a $35 gift code for credit toward a purchase.  Just use the code below to redeem and then go visit eShakti's site today and decide how you'll spend your $35!

Valid till 06/21/2015
Enter this code in the 'Gift Coupon / Referral Code' box at checkout
Only one gift coupon can be used in an order
Not valid on previous purchases / purchase of gift cards.
This gift coupon cannot be transferred, re-issued or exchanged for cash.

This post is sponsored by eShakti but all opinions are my own. I do receive a small comission for every purchase made with your $35 coupon. Thank you for supporting the companies that support My New Lines. 

How do you feel about pants shopping? 

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Don't Parent by a Label

Before our little trip out of town for my summer job, I posted a question on Instagram because I was concerned about leaving JaiseAnn. I mentioned that I was still nursing her and then made sure to include that I was more of a "crunchy-ish /attachment type parent." This wasn't to promote a specific style of parenting, but more of a way for me to justify my decision to continue nursing JaiseAnn and my hesitancy in leaving her. If other moms (groups of moms, moms they have websites devoted to) do it, then it's okay that I do it, too. My way of signaling that I'm not alone.

But I am alone. I am not a crunchy mom, or an attachment parent, I'm JaiseAnn's mom. There's only one of me. And I was chosen to be her mom for a reason. My parenting choices have very little to do with adhering to a group philosophy-even if parts of that philosophy do resonate with me as a mother-- and more (much more) to do with following my own heart and my own beliefs. I do what I feel is best for JaiseAnn. Those ideas my contradict with many groups of people and many different parenting labels, but they are the decisions that I feel are right through the only real lens that matters--the label of JaiseAnn's mom.

newborn photos

My faith teaches this idea of a veil that puts our memories of life before life on earth on hold and keeps the Spirit world--those who have passed that are now on the other side of the veil, out of sight. (You can read more about that here). There are many people who have experiences where they describe the veil as being thin-meaning they could feel things, understand things, and even see things they normally could not see. I had such an experience after JaiseAnn was born, but wasn't really aware that was what happened until only a few months ago.

After JaiseAnn was placed in my arms--everything just fit. I've described that experience in her birth story and I've described how it strengthened my faith as it was evident she had a spirit. She depended fully on me, but I could just tell her spirit was good. It was like holding heaven in my arms. I was overcome with so many emotions and feelings. My outlook on the world changed, my religious beliefs were strengthened, my political beliefs were strengthened, and my resolve to live a gospel-centered life became non-negotioable in a way that it had never been before. I couldn't watch our regular television shows.I couldn't read or watch anything with any hint of darkness. I could not put JaiseAnn down, I knew she was a gift and I knew this was the greatest work I'd ever have to do. When I tell people I didn't go back to work because I couldn't leave her, I mean that with all of my heart. I truly could not leave her--it wasn't a preference it was a necessity.

As hormones have leveled out, sleep has become more consistent (still not through the night--hopefully soon, though), and I've adapted to motherhood, I'm able to reflect on that time more clearly. I was discussing this with Zach the other day and I basically said, "It was the most spiritual experience of my life, but it was excruciating. It was so intense that it actually hurt." My husband is very insightful and said that that actually made sense. He mentioned that "No man can see God and live." He said that it's probably part of it, any prophets who saw parts of God experienced physical pain. I am not a prophet, but I am a mother and that role is a divine role and when I received it, I received a painfully strong impression that it was my most important role.

That spiritual experience combined with a little girl who was a momma's girl from birth--they say they don't form attachments, but she would cry if anyone but me held her. She wanted to be held in the hospital all night long by her mom. And I needed that experience. I needed to know she needed me. I needed to feel that. That knowledge has been the foundation of every decision I've made as JaiseAnn's mom.

She needs me. I was chosen for this. Sometimes I'll never understand why--I surely don't deserve her, but she is by far the greatest work I've ever done or ever will do. She is my contribution to the world and she's an amazing one.

I'm grateful for parenting groups that do adhere to some of the things that just felt right to me. They helped me through the hardest days--"No your daughter isn't abnormal." "Yes, she will sleep eventually." "Just keep doing what you're doing and it will be okay in time." There's nothing inherently wrong with these parenting groups, but I don't need them to defend my decisions or to back my choices. Being JaiseAnn's mom is a God-given calling. He chose me knowing very well how I would handle her--and I can't believe that is coincidence. In fact I know it's not. The label of "JaiseAnn's mom" was one given to me by a loving father. That label is all the reasoning behind every choice I've made as her mother.

Do you feel you adhere to one specific type of parenting group?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Finding Common Interests as a Couple

Zach and I met at a game night with mutual friends. (Read his version of our story here.) We knew right away that we both had an intense love of board/card games. We also knew we shared a fiercely competetive nature. Things seemed perfect on paper--similar life goals, same religious background, similar values, mutual friends, and a shared interest--it's perfect, right?

Yes, it was perfect. Zach and I found that we just worked and we fell hard and fast for each other. For quite a while we shared one similar interest: making out. All kidding aside, we just really enjoyed being together and we didn't think much beyond that moment. 

After we were married and things settled down, it became a bit more obvious that we were two very different people with very different interests. Our schedules were opposite and so it became a priority for us to maximize our time together. Over the years, we've really grown to share some interests. Some are awesome and some not so much--our shared love of late night snacking has not been good for either one of us. 

How We've Discovered Common Interests:

Conversation is really important to me--I like to know what is on Zach's mind. Zach will listen to me talk all day, seriously-he has unending patience with me, but he's not much for sharing. I've found that when Zach is reading a book--especially if it's non-fiction, he will talk to me. He will start by talking about the book (sometimes I have to ask and sometimes I don't) and it will turn into other topics that resonate on a more personal level. I recently gave Zach American Sniper as a gift and I loved hearing about the book from his perspective and seeing what he took away from the story. It made for some car rides where Zach talked most of the time--a rare treat for me!

I have found that when either one of us is reading a book, it gives us a great conversation starter. We become interested in the other person's book and we relate parts/pieces/thoughts to our own lives and values. We don't read the same books--not even the same kinds of books, but we really do enjoy sharing about our books with each other. 

Take Turns Sharing a Hobby
When I met Zach I had shot a gun one time at Girl's Camp and I hated it. Zach loves shooting and I decided to plan a date at the shooting range when we were married early on. It was/still is fun to have Zach help teach me something that he knows about and is good at. I've grown to enjoy shooting. 

I don't have a lot of hobbies that I can really teach Zach, but I often bring him math problems or teaching situations and have him work through them with me. It's fun to share that part of my world with him and it's really nice to have that feedback.

Surely if you start sharing hobbies with your spouse, you won't share the same love of everything, but you're bound to find something you both enjoy. And if nothing else, you both will walk away with a greater understanding of the other person's hobby and find more common ground. 

Television Shows
It might seem silly, but "our shows" are definitely a way we've found common interests. Not only do we enjoy watching a show together, but we enjoy discussing it. It makes for fun conversation and we've had so much fun making predictions and drawing comparisons to our own life/situations/beliefs to those portrayed in the shows we've watched. To find a show you both like, consider this Couch Potato Date Night

Set Goals Together
A while back we completed a Whole30 together. That made for some dinner preparations and family outings that we both enjoyed as we worked toward a common goal. Whether we are working toward better health, increasing our spirituality, or doing more service--when we set a goal to make an improvement somewhere it naturally lends itself to us finding something to enjoy together. 

How do you find common interests with your spouse?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

So You Want to Be a Work from Home Mom?

"That's so cool you can stay home with your daughter, I wish I could stay home!" "I wish I could work from home!" Those are two things I hear on a weekly basis and while I understand where those people are coming from--I once said those things to others before having JaiseAnn as I truly believed it wasn't in the cards for me to be home--I wish I had known then what I know now.

Being home has come at a high price--a worthy price, no doubt, but high. We've made sacrifices, worked extra, and gone without--without new clothes that fit, without date nights that cost money, without time as I work in the evenings and Zach works during the day. So it's not some magical hand I got dealt. I believe that God helped us secure this lifestyle, but we have had to play a major role in making it happen. (You can read more about our decision for me to stay home here and here.) I don't say this to brag about how hard we have worked, but instead to help you realize that you can, too! 

Working from home is more of an option than I ever believed before. I heard of people working from home and often thought, "I wish someone would offer me a job from home." And then I realized that it's not like me to wait around for an offer---I had to make it happen. Has it happened yet? Yes and no. I have been home for sixteen months now--a year of that has been working odd jobs from home. Freelance writing and contract work, nothing permanent. I'm not giving up, though. We've made it this far. 

For quite a while, I brought in a good chunk of change writing for Writer Access. I still work for them occasionally, but the work is not always available. Read a Writer Access review here. I've since signed on with a start-up company that I'm still unsure about so I won't link up to them. I also worked for 11 months as a Search Engine Evaluator for Zero Chaos. You can read more about them and find information about how to apply here. Now I am doing contract work as a content creator for education and as a content coach for a math curriculum. 

making money from home

Whether you'd love to work from home or you are already home and are looking for some extra income, I have some suggestions and resources to share with you today. 

Know Where to Look

I know of several people who took their current office job home with them. It doesn't ever hurt to ask your boss if that's a possibility or if there's a way to make it work. I would suggest approaching this topic with a game plan in hand. Be prepared for things like how you will handle work meetings, client meetings, phone calls, and your daily duties.

This work from home website is my favorite resource, and actually how I found two of my more recent jobs. It contains resources for many different jobs that can be done from home, including work from home job leads posted a few times per week. The jobs are scanned for scams and fit a variety of skill sets and resumes. Trust me, you'll want a few hours to browse this site and look at all of the resources available. 

Indeed is my favorite job search engine. I have saved a few different job titles with the area being "Remote" or "Work from Home" and Indeed emails me weekly with jobs that fit that criteria. Obviously, I haven't found anything permanent, but I continue applying because eventually I will. 

I know several people who work MLM and direct sales jobs that are able to stay home and generate a very decent income. (If you are interested in this route, please let me know-I'd be happy to get you in touch with any of them. See this post for more information about that). 

Gain Skills

Finding the right job that works for you and your family may take time, I'm still working on this. While I'm waiting, though, I'm working on gaining skills that will only help me find a job when the right opportunity arises. Whether that's taking an online or community course, gaining skills in a field (freelance writing, tutoring, etc.), or teaching yourself some skills--make sure that you are improving yourself and your resume. 


Let people around you know that you are interested in working from home. You never know who might be looking or who might have heard of someone looking for someone just like you. It never hurts to put yourself out there. Build a profile on Linked In and connect with other professionals, share your desires with your friends and family, be prepared to share your skills and a quick objective if the topic were to come up with a person looking for a solution that you might offer. 

Know How to Sell Yourself

Most jobs these days, especially jobs from home, have a strictly digital application process. This can make it very hard to sell yourself when you're competing with other applicants based solely on your digital application. There are some ways to give yourself a leg up:

*Resume Help
I am in a place where disposable income is not really even a part of our budget, so paying for expert resume help was not an option. I did the next best thing. I sent out an email to good friends of mine with expertise and experience in hiring others and asked them to look over my resume. One friend edited my resume for me at no cost and wrote a stellar cover letter for a job I was applying for. Those two things impacted my job search this last time around, I'm positive.

*Key Words
When looking through a job description and required skills, it's important to jot down some of the language used by the employer. You may feel that your resume reflects your skills and abilities to match what the company is looking for, but sometimes resumes are scanned by computers searching for specific terms. Make sure that you edit your resume to reflect every job you search for individually. I keep a "generic resume" that I copy, paste, and tweak every time I apply for a different job.

*Add Some Flare
Whether it's in a question box on on online form or part of your cover letter, be sure to include some of you. This is the opportunity to set yourself apart. Many people will be busy conveying professionalism, you want to do that, too. But be sure to showcase the other things you bring to the table as well.

Best of luck in your job search!

Do you work from home? Would you like to work from home?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Currently...June 2015

We are feeling and enjoying summer weather around here lately. JaiseAnn wants to be outside ALL.THE.TIME! It's fine with me. My house stays cleaner, I'm more likely to be active and get a tan, and I love that my little girl likes summertime outside. I'm looking to so many adventures with her this summer. 

I'm linking up with Jenna and Anne again today for currently. 

I'm Currently...

Lots and lots of hide and seek--regular and cardboard box style with JaiseAnn. We've also been playing in our garden and with her water table. Zach and I haven't been playing much of anything lately--we might need to bust out some Rummikub later this week. 

Nowhere in particular. We are going on lots of walks lately. JaiseAnn and I walk during the day and then we've been having family walks to the park in the evenings. 

Maxi skirts. I've never been much of a shorts wearer. Last summer I bought a pair of shorts for the first time since probably middle school. It is the only pair of shorts I own. I usually wear skirts all summer. Knee length denim skirts are my favorite summer staple. My skirts currently don't fit...yet. They also aren't practical for chasing around a toddler. For now, maxi skirts will do. I feel nice enough and they fit and flow--keeping me from getting too warm. 

Water. I've been sipping on tons of water lately...AAAAAND a few Sonic Drinks--our air conditioner went out, can you blame me? I'm hoping that next summer JaiseAnn will be weaned and I'll be sipping on the occasional Cherry Coke. 

I have hard time reading right now. I work any moment that JaiseAnn isn't awake, so I don't really have enough time to dedicate to a book. I read blogs first thing in the morning and in the bath tub, though. And I check job sites for work from home jobs daily (more on that tomorrow), and for work I read math lesson plan outlines...over and over and over again--it sounds awful but I actually love it. If I could do this job forever, I would in a heartbeat

What are you currently up to? 
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