Thursday, December 5, 2013

Family Photos- Fall 2013

Apparently, since I can't do anything legitimate to keep my children small, I've decided to quell my urge to stop time by taking a rather unnecessary and grossly inappropriate number of photos of them. 

Enter our Fall 2013 photo shoot with my wonderful long-time friend, Michelle from Michelle C Photography
Michelle and I went to high school and college together and were even in the same sorority. She is an absolute gem and we loved the time we got to spend with her in this beautiful Florida park over Thanksgiving.

No, I cannot believe how big my crazies look in these pictures. But I love them. I especially love that she so accurately captured who they are right now. 

This smirk is so Davis. Always giving us a little attitude but in the most adorable way. 

And I cannot even take Madelyn in those boots.

This is what they are like 1/3 of the time- loving and sweet. But the rest of the time they're more like this- perfecting the fine art of snuggle wrestling...

I'm so grateful for this little reminder of where we are right now and I cannot wait to fill our house with these beautiful images!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

And then they grow...

Life has been so good and so sweet lately.

I am just loving the kid's ages- they are becoming best buds and it is the most precious thing to watch. I love to spy on them and catch little bits of their conversations. Sometimes I hear Madelyn tell Davis something like "Davis, we need to be kind to each other" and I really feel like I'm killing this parenting thing. The next sentence she yells something like "holy smokes!" and I humbly step down off my pedestal.

I don't know if I'm just more conscious of it now because I see how fast they're growing  or if I just have more time to reflect as they become increasingly independent, but it is so so bittersweet this parenting thing.

I absolutely crave the smell of their sweet baby heads. I want to rock them to sleep. I want to kiss baby rolls and put them in footed jammies forever.

I want to rub their tiny toes while I feed them and then hold them curled up on my chest, marveling over their perfect little features.

They are definitely not my babies anymore. They are rowdy, hilarious, loving, little crazies. And as quickly as my heart starts to break at the loss of what was, it swells with the goodness of where we are now.

There are so many wonderful things about this season, so many reasons I love where we are and the adventure of our every day together.

Life truly is so so good.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The freedom to say no

As you can tell from my last few posts, I've kind of been going through some stuff lately. Mucking through the everyday rigor of being a working mom. Finally winning the battle of feeling content and settled in our current home instead of incessantly wanting to be somewhere else. Constantly trying to suppress my type-A personality that is at this point doing more harm than good. 

A few weeks ago I had a little moment. A bit of a pity party about being a working mother. I guess I hit my breaking point and just got plain overwhelmed. It happens. I declared there would be no more intricate meals, just heated convenience foods. That we'd have house cleaners every two weeks like clock work. That I was taking a major break.

But something funny happened when I said those things out loud.

Somehow, giving myself the freedom not to do them, made them seem less daunting. Once I gave myself permission not to clean, I actually felt myself having the urge to do it myself. After taking a full 7-10 days off of cooking, I wanted nothing more than to get into my kitchen and whip up a good meal. 

I suppose sometimes we just need to feel like we don't have to do these things. Once it becomes our choice, it's somehow less overwhelming. 

The same thing happened a few weeks ago when Matt and I were discussing Christmas. For a year now I've wanted a new fridge. Ours is really old, it's not well organized, and the freezer just doesn't have enough capacity for us at this point in our Costco-shopping lives. We've had a less than ideal year financially, with a lot of house issues needing attention, and I decided with complete certainty that we were going to make this one completely unnecessary and over the top purchase for ourselves. We earned it, after all. We work hard. We rarely splurge on anything. We were going for it.

And in the past few weeks, something changed. The thought of spending that money when we could use it to replenish our savings started to seem ridiculous. There are things that need financial attention now--like our vehicles --that are much better suited for those funds. It was like I'd only wanted the fridge so badly because it had been an impossibility for so long.  Once I gave us permission to buy it, I realized we didn't need it. I cleaned our current fridge from top to bottom and now it sparkles like new. And to take care of the needed freezer space, we're getting a small chest freezer for the garage. That will cost a whopping $150. 

Maybe I'm the last person to learn this lesson, but it's been a valuable and humbling one for me personally. As someone who strives to practice gratitude daily, and who is truly living the life they always dreamed of, I sure do carry around a long list of "wants". I want more time with my kids/I want a bigger kitchen/I want new boots for Fall/etc etc etc.  It's not pretty, but it's honest, I'm working on it. 

I'm looking forward to a holiday season of LESS. Small, thoughtful gifts. Big time spent together doing fun things. Less wanting, more gratitude for what we have, and doing as much as we can to help others. I think it will be good for all of us. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Heart Change

A few years ago, one year ago even, I would have sworn all I wanted was to move to a new house. I (we) really needed more space, a bigger kitchen, the better school, something newer than this 1982 house that was merely a place I was stuck in as a side effect of the housing market crisis.

It was unnerving. We had our house listed for two years with only a handful of showings. We knew where we wanted to move- we even had a floor plan picked out for our new build. I had a plan. 

I had a plan, and I could not understand why things weren't going my way.

Here we are now and I've spent the last year praying, really praying, about God's will for our family. And somehow, somewhere along the way, something changed. My heart changed.

We got more involved in our church and started to build a community. We put Madelyn in soccer and made new friends. We continued to work on the house with not one room left untouched. I started to notice the charm in this small town- the little farmer's market on the corner, the way they decorate the town square every holiday, the lake with the walking path and huge playground. The quiet. Our big yard with gorgeous old trees that literally rain leaves in the fall. And suddenly, I feel like this is exactly where we're supposed to be. Where we were supposed to be all along. And I'm grateful my plan didn't work out. 

I don't think it was financially the right time for us to move, but we would have done it anyway. I don't think the place we were moving to was right for us, but we would have built that new house with no hesitation. Because I was so convinced I knew what was right for our family.

I'm grateful for heart change. I'm grateful that I was wrong, and we were saved from a string of poor decisions. It's been humbling, for sure. But the way I feel content, settled, and happy here, is an incredible blessing that far outweighs the damage to my ego. 

This house is all we need. And honestly, the older I get, somehow the less I want. Would I like a larger kitchen? Absolutely. And seriously, I'd pay ten fold for an extra guest bedroom. But I know we'll have those things one day. When it's the right time, and we know it's the right thing for our family, we will.

And when we do, it will be all the much sweeter. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Lazy Mama's Guide to Couponing

My recipe binder, and where the week begins
Meal planning is one of those things that seems really overwhelming to a lot of people. For me, it's like a comfortable anchor in my week that I've come to look forward to. A few months ago I added some subtle couponing to the mix and have been really surprised at the difference it has made.

Once a week I put on my comfy pants, make a cup of coffee, and go to town. It makes the daily hustle a little less painful and avoids the 5 p.m. dance of screaming hungry children. (Note: it's less of a dance and more of an unbridled meltdown, just in the essence of full disclosure).

Here's my method.

1. First I go to this website and see what is on sale at Publix, our local grocery store, for that given week. We only shop at Publix and Costco. While I'd love (LOVE) to have a closer Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, it's just too difficult for me to get there right now. I base my list fully off of what's on sale that week. And here's the real shocker- I only do printable coupons. I don't get the newspaper and spend hours cutting and storing them. I print what I need for the week and that is it. This site makes it incredibly easy, and I always save at least $25.

2. After making a list of what's on sale that I'd like to buy, I take a look in my freezer/pantry and see what else we need to make meals for the week. I browse Pinterest, my cookbooks (favorites: 1,2,3,4), and a list I keep in my recipe binder of our favorite go-to meals. I try to cook really simple things with few ingredients and I always take our schedule into account. Wednesdays and Fridays are busy for us, so these days are always leftovers or a crock pot meal.

3. I try to buy the majority of our produce at the farmer's market either on Friday or Monday. I find the cost just slightly lower than at the store, but since we eat very few processed foods I like knowing the produce we consume isn't coated in waxes and nasty chemicals.

4. I also check these sites for coupons. One offers a good variety of natural and organic options and the other focuses on Amazon, which I love so much I would marry if given the chance.

5. I also check Costco's coupons. Our goal is to make one trip there a month and stock up on gluten-free granola, organic chicken, organic eggs, cheese, frozen organic berries, fish, and other dry goods (paper towels, Lara bars, stuff like that).

I then post our menu both in a weekly calendar on the fridge and in my planner.

For me, it's worth the hour of work in cost savings. But as you know, my time is incredibly important to me and if it took any more than that, I'd likely stop. I'm never going to be the person that can only spend $60 a week at the store. I have to growing children who both eat more than I do, and eating organic is extremely important to me. But, any little bit I can save is a win for us.

I am far from perfecting this process, but I've definitely found what works for us. We still eat out once a week, and there is always one night a month that gets too crazy and we wind up eating pizza, and that's ok. It's about Grace Not Perfection, ladies.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Thoughts on Children's Birthday Parties

I think it's time we address how completely out of control we've all gotten with children's birthday parties.

At what point did ordering pizza, having cake and celebrating with your immediate family become totally unacceptable? Here we are, us moms, complaining that we have too much on our plates, and all we do is continue to add to them.

I did not grow up having a big to do on my birthday, and thus, I am perfectly content with a very small acknowledgement and perhaps a solo trip to Target.

My husband on the other hand, comes from the land of big birthdays. His birthday is his personal equivalent to Hanukkah and requires a minimum of seven day of celebratory activities and fan fare.

For our kids, we've had moderately-sized, casual, and fairly easy birthday parties. Family and closest friends, some coordinated decor and fun food, and always, always cupcakes.

But the more I put it all together, the more it stresses me out. I want our kids to feel special on that day, but they don't need a big party feel that. I want them to know that there are a lot of people who love and pray for them, and that their birthday is as much for us to celebrate as parents as it is for them as growing kids. They certainly do not need a buffet of fancy food made from scratch and 50 presents to open. That is so not the message I want to send.

Yesterday, we celebrated our little miracle boy turning two. We had a small group of people to the house, ate hot dogs and fruit skewers, and the only thing I did to decorate was put out some pretty fall flowers and nice ribbon on the utensils and vases. When anyone asked them what to bring him I said nothing, and I meant it. I wanted everyone to celebrate him, and what a blessing he is to us. And honestly, it was the best birthday yet.

We spent a whopping $30 on decor, we ate easy, simple food, and we spent the afternoon talking and visiting and it was wonderful.

And you know what I was doing two hours before everyone arrived?


I wasn't prepping food, or hand stamping thank you cards. I was smelling his sweet breath and rubbing his soft little head while he napped. It was my favorite memory of the day. I was relaxed, and had I been a manic party planning mess, I would have missed it.

I think going forward, and as they get older, I'd like to let our kids pick an activity to do as a family on their big day, and get back to the special family meal and small celebration. In my quest to simplify every other area of my life, this seems like an easy next step.

Here are a few pictures from our day. This first one makes me melt into a puddle on the floor.

Clearly, he enjoyed himself :)

He had his eye on cupcakes. I don't blame him. 

The lazy mom's decor. Take that, Pinterest. 

No Davis, you may not play football. But please pick any other non-combative sport you'd wish. Preferably, golf of swimming. Love, your mommy.

Moms- let's give ourselves a break here. If you want to do the big party, if you enjoy it, then by all means please take joy in that. But if you find it stressful, borderline excessive, and if you spend the day running around like a crazy person, take a step back. I've seen the other side, and it is nice :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Defeat and Margin

Girls, I am having a week

And it's Tuesday.


The good news is, I'm not a stress eater. The bad news is, I am a stress drinker, and three nights in the past week my dinner consisted of wine and chocolate chips. 

So, there's that. 

I am just feeling plain overwhelmed. A feeling not foreign to working moms, or probably any moms for that matter. But honestly, I just feel like working moms get the worst of it. 

The constant juggling. Constant feeling like you aren't doing enough at home/at work/with your kids/for yourself/for your husband/etc etc etc. Constant cleaning yet still never feeling like the house is clean. Never having enough time for anything (or so it feels). It feels like trying to squeeze 48 hours of activity into a 24 hour day 

And this week, I broke. I hit my threshold. It's mostly my own fault, and I realize that, so I've decided to make some changes. I'm simplifying. My kids are going to be this little for like six seconds in the scheme of our life, and I absolutely refuse to be stressed and stretched anymore. 

I'm creating some margin and taking some of the pressure off of myself. As a self-professed control freak, type A perfectionist, you can understand this does not come easy. But when mama's happy, everyone's happy, right? RIGHT?!

  • For starters, I'm giving myself a break from this self-imposed pressure to cook fresh, healthy, balanced, instagram-worth meals every single night of the week. I'm sick of rushing to get dinner ready, doing dishes every night, all of it. So, the two days of the week I'm in the office I'm going to pick up a ready-to-heat meal from Whole Foods on my way home. I'm also going to commit to one crock pot meal a week. The rest, I'll deal with as it comes. And ya'll, I'm buying paper plates (as the hippie in me shudders with disdain). 
  • And two, I'm re-instating the monthly house cleaner and strongly considering asking them to come every two weeks. I put them on "hold" this month knowing we had some extra expenses in the hopper (don't we always) but spent a good part of our home time this past weekend cleaning, which meant I wasn't playing with the kids, reading to them, practicing soccer with Madelyn, hanging with Matt, you get the picture. I'm over it. 

If the worst thing my kids eat all week is an organic rotisserie chicken or Applegate nuggets, and I have to shell out more money so I can have more time with them, so be it. I can't be freakin Ina Garten in the 20 minutes I have to get dinner ready each day. I just can't. 

Everything comes with a price, or a compromise rather. I love to work, but it does affect my ability to be the "homemaker" and mother I see myself as. It just does. I love my job and I think the benefits to our family outweigh the negative aspects, but I also have to admit I can't do it all. None of us can. 

And with that, I'm off to pour myself another glass of stress wine. Cheers, ladies. Here's to a new day and a fresh perspective. And maybe even a little more time and a little less crazy. 
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