Monday, May 2, 2016

Giant Blocks (of Kindness)


A few friends suggested I blog more about the hands-on learning I do with my kids at home, rather than just sharing it on Instagram. I'm a little hesitant--I know there are hundreds of professional "mommy bloggers" out there doing the same thing, only way better. Really, this is just something I do for fun (you know me, living on the edge), but I love when other moms share their ideas, so I'll give it a shot.

We made these giant blocks a few days ago, and not only have they have been tons of fun, they've been the perfect learning tool. We've had almost NO timeouts or do-overs in the last week. A couple weeks ago, I was exhausted from having to constantly stop and send my son to timeout for being way too rough with his little sister or friends. Many tears were shed all around, including mine, and he was getting as frustrated as I was. I knew I needed a different approach.

The truth is, he's a really good, sweet boy, but he's a boy--an active, spirited, and sometimes rowdy boy. The idea that his baby sister doesn't want to be tackled and some friends don't like being chased was inconceivable to him. We'd talked about being respectful and gentle many times, but he needed to learn how to put kindness into action. 

A stack of cardboard boxes, which had been cluttering our front room while functioning as a "construction site" for all of his trucks and tools, seemed to be begging for a higher purpose. First, we wrapped them in craft paper and colored on them. I let him help me decide how to illustrate each word, so he told me which friends to draw and what colors their clothes should be. We ended up with four steps of fun--wrapping (he liked taping best), coloring, stacking, and of course, unwrapping (Caleb: "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!"). Even Lydia had a blast, climbing on the boxes and crinkling the paper scraps.

We used WAY too much tape. 

For us, it was a way to learn about kindness, but you could make these blocks for any purpose. They could be about letters, numbers, family, superheroes--whatever sparks your kid's imagination. Or you could just wrap some cardboard boxes in paper and let your kid scribble whatever he or she wants to. For Caleb, wrapping the boxes was half the fun. Sure, they looked like a toddler wrapped them, but it kept him busy for a good hour, and it was a tactile, touchable, stackable lesson in kindness that stuck with him longer than any timeout. That's a win-win in my book.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Finishing the Race (aka: My First Triathlon)



(By the way, the background in this photo is a metaphor for my success.)

Isn’t it ironic that I last wrote about minimalism and then didn’t post anything for weeks? Well, at least I’m not a hypocrite. One thing I like about this blog though is that I can write whatever I want to write about, whenever I want to write. That’s the joy of it.

One thing that’s been taking up my attention lately (aside from two busy babies) is training for a triathlon, which was one of my 2016 resolutions. It was my first one, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was physically prepared, yes--I’d trained for months and I was in good shape, so I felt sure I’d be able to make it across that finish line at the very least, and I did. But I had no idea how unprepared I was until I was miles off course and completely lost.

The triathlon started with a 750 yard swim Friday night. I took my time, finished in 21 minutes (not excellent, but not terrible either), and a couple of race officials even acted shocked when I embraced my two little tots after getting out of the pool. They might have been faking it to make me feel better about my time, but regardless, being a mom to a nursing baby and busy toddler, I was completely satisfied with just finishing.

The next day, I was a little more nervous. I hadn’t trained much on a bike, and so even though I’d built up enough strength and stamina to go the distance, I wasn’t sure how good a biker I’d be in the actual race. It turned out that my worries were well-founded. My first hitch was finding my bike as I crossed the starting line--there were hundreds, and they all looked alike. Even though I knew the row my bike was on, I didn’t spot it right away, and so after walking back and forth a few times--as everyone else passed me on their bikes--I had to get some help from a friendly race official.

That was pretty embarrassing, but we quickly found it, so I hopped on, and off I went. And then he stopped me....because I wasn’t supposed to get on my bike until after I got past the bike racks. So I scrambled off my bike (easier said than done--it’s precarious up there), walked a few more feet, then I hopped on again and was finally off.

It took a couple miles to get the hang of shifting on the bike I’d rented. And I wasn’t used to riding alongside cars whizzing past me on the highway and crossing through busy intersections, so I was pretty tense and anxious as I tried to keep pace with the other bikers. Passing roadkill every few hundred yards, I became aware of how easily I could lose control of the bike and get flattened by a speeding pickup truck. I wished I had a sign on my bike that said, “SLOW DOWN! I’m not just a biker, I’m a mom!” What would my babies do without me if I didn’t make it back to them in one piece?  

I sent up a silent prayer (or two or twenty), and tried to stay calm. I looked around cautiously and took in the breathtaking view of the green hills and trees in blossom all around me. I started to notice bikers going the opposite direction on the other side of the road, so I knew I was nearing the turn-around point. What a relief that was--the way back would be easier, more familiar, and mostly downhill.

A sampling of the scenery

 “This is my last turn, I thought. The turn-around point must be straight ahead from here.” I couldn't see any bikers ahead of me, but I took a left as the race official motioned, and was pleased to find myself biking through a beautiful neighborhood with tree-lined streets, ponds full of baby ducklings, and parks shaded by weeping willows. I was so busy enjoying the scenery that it wasn’t until after a couple miles that I realized I hadn’t seen any bikers coming back on the other side of the road. I should’ve reached the turn-around point already. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was starting to look like I was off-course.

When it finally hit me that I was really lost, I broke down. I had no idea how to get back on course. (I should have, but I’m getting to that.) Even more, I was terrified at the thought of having to find my way back without the race officials to help me cross all those busy intersections. I knew they’d be gone if I went back--I’d biked too far off course and all the other bikers would’ve reached the turn-around point already. And without the race officials to direct me, how would I even know where to go?

I kept biking (and sobbing, simultaneously), trying to decide what to do, and when I paused at an intersection, I happened to meet a family on their bikes. I asked if they had a phone I could borrow, thinking I would call Ben to come pick me up. When I told them I was in a triathlon and had gotten lost, they looked up the race course online (thank you, smart phones!) and helped me figure out where I’d taken a wrong turn and how to get to the turn-around point from there. I climbed on my bike and started back, but I still wasn’t sure about finishing--part of me wanted to give up and wait for Ben or a search party to come looking for me. I even considered biking another three miles to my house, which would've been a lot quicker, and then I wouldn’t have had to bear the shame (I thought) of showing up after everyone else had finished.

“If I knew I'd make it back, I'd keep going,” I thought. I still felt panicked at the idea of being alone on that busy highway, so I just kept praying for God’s help, and the more I prayed, the more I felt I should finish the race I'd started. And I’m so glad that I did. As I got closer to the turn-around point and started to recognize the course again, I got a little more confident. “All along, I just wanted to finish,” I thought. “All I have to do is finish. It doesn’t matter if everyone else's packed up and gone home and I come in dead last, so long as I'm not dead. God, my family needs me. Please bring me back to them safely.”

After a few miles, I passed another biker, who was walking her bike along the highway, so I stopped to see if she was okay. She'd gotten a flat tire, so she was finishing the bike course on foot. I was shocked at how cheerful she was. "These things just happen," she said to me with a great big grin. "You're just a couple miles away. Go for it!" That encounter totally changed my attitude and perspective. She could've easily been frustrated and discouraged, like I was, but she was making the best of it, even if that meant walking the rest of the way. I sped away with a little more pep and little less caution (but still enough to stop at a major intersection and wait several turns for a crossing signal). By this time, I'd made up my mind that I'd finish, no matter how long it took.

Once I made it to the transition point, they were already announcing the race winners over the loud speaker. I hung my bike on the rack and started my 5K run, hoping no one but Ben had noticed. "Just finish," I kept telling myself. My backside was sore from the bike ride, and at times I wanted to slow down and walk, but I distracted myself by admiring the beautiful homes and hills and streams as I jogged past.

The race officials, who were still stationed along the 5K course, were cheering me on, too. At first I felt guilty and apologized for making them stay so late, but they assured me that they were there to support me and keep me safe. And as it turned out, I wasn't the last runner they were waiting on after all. Along with the biker on foot I'd passed earlier, I passed a couple of incredible elderly ladies (that's right, elderly), who were also racing just to finish, and we cheered each other on as I passed them.

The arrows on the road were difficult to follow, and I almost got lost once or twice again, but as I finally saw the finish line ahead, I picked up my pace almost to a sprint and crossed with a huge wave of relief and satisfaction. I could see the relief on Ben's face, too--he hadn't seen me in the transition as I'd hoped, and he'd been worried about me. And as I'd feared, almost everyone had packed up and gone home, but with my little family and a few race officials cheering for me at the finish, it just didn't matter anymore. I FINISHED!

With all of the emotions I felt that day, at one point I reasoned that it was the race official's fault that I got lost--that he misdirected me--but by the time I finished, I knew everything came down to me. I was the one who hadn't studied the course, who got lost, and who found my way back to finish the race. I definitely had help--I couldn't have raced at all without Ben taking care of our kids or all the volunteers who made the race happen, and heaven knows I'd be dead without God's grace and protection that day--but whether or not I got lost, and whether or not I finished was my choice. Lesson learned. And at the risk of sounding like a complete sap, I believe it's a lesson for life, too.

So here's some advice for other first-time triathletes, along with a few life lessons for all of us trying to "run with patience the race set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)

Advice for first-time triathletes:
  • First, watch someone else compete in a triathlon. If you don't know someone, watch a YouTube video.
  • Find an experienced triathlete to talk to and get their advice.
  • Study the course ahead of time and know it by heart. Go and drive it or ride it so you know exactly where to go on the day of the race.
  • Keep a map of the course with you, folded up and tucked into your waistband. It wouldn't hurt to carry a waist pack with your phone in it either, in case you or someone else is in trouble.
  •  Don't think you can follow the other athletes and stay on course.
  • Also, don't think you can rely on the race officials or arrows to keep you on course. They are extremely helpful, and you should pay close attention to them, but they can be confusing sometimes.
  • The race officials aren't perfect--they're just volunteers and they don't know everything--but they're there to keep you safe and support you, so don't hesitate to ask for their help. They'll do anything they can for you, whether it's helping you find your bike or the bathroom, giving you snacks and water, or just cheering you on, even if you're dead last. Remember, they've given up their whole day to help you, so don't forget to thank them!
  • If you get off-course or get a flat tire, just keep going. It's worth finishing.
  • It's your first time, so pace yourself. Don't worry if people are passing you. You can worry about improving your times later.
  • Find a friend to compete with, and stick together! The race will be easier and more fun when you can help and cheer each other on.
  • Enjoy the scenery, but don’t get so distracted by it that you lose your way or lose control of your bike.
  • Wear sunscreen, and trade your helmet for a hat when you start your run (or you WILL get sunburned).
  • It’s hard work, but have fun, keep on praying, and keep on smiling!

Life lessons for running the race with patience:
  • Watch and learn from others who are achieving the same things you hope to.
  • When you're planning for the future, find someone to talk to who's been there before and get their advice.
  • Trust that God has a course for your life and ask Him to guide you.
  • Study His words and know them by heart.
  • Decide now what choices you will make and which way you will follow.
  • Keep a copy of your favorite verses so you can refer to them often.
  • Don't think you can follow the crowd and find your way.
  • Also, don't think you can rely only on God's leaders without knowing the way for yourself.
  • His leaders aren't perfect. Teachers, ministers, bishops, church leaders--they're just doing their best to serve God and they don't know everything, but they're there to support you and help you find your way, so don't hesitate to ask for their help. They'll do anything they can for you, whether you need a listening ear or advice or just someone to cheer you on. Remember, they're sacrificing a good deal of their own time, so don't forget to thank them!
  • If you lose your way or hard times slow you down, don't give up. Even if you've made a huge mistake, it's worth finding your way back, no matter how afraid or embarrassed you are or how impossible it seems. And just like the biker with the flat tire, when the unexpected happens--whether it's a health problem or divorce or financial crisis--just keep going. It may slow you down for a while, but it doesn't have to keep you from finishing the race, or from enjoying it. You can do this, and God will help you every step of the way.
  • This is your one chance to live your life, so pace yourself. Don't worry about trying to keep up with anyone. Have patience with yourself and others. "Life is a marathon (...or triathlon...), not a sprint."
  • Find a companion to spend your life with, and stick together! Life will be easier and more fun with your spouse when you help and cheer each other on.
  • Enjoy life, but don’t get so caught up in pleasure that you lose your way or lose control.
  • Wear the protection of God's armor every day (Ephesians 6:10-17).
  • It’s hard work, but have fun, keep on praying, and keep on smiling!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Minimalism



I’m not a minimalist. I’m not a hoarder, either (except possibly when it comes to books, little bits of flora and fauna, and throw pillows...it’s getting a little embarrassing.)

I don’t necessarily want to be a minimalist. However, like many people, I do look for ways to simplify and organize my life, and lately I’ve been taking lessons from the minimalists. When it comes to putting first things first, I think they’re really on to something. My personal motto of sorts is, “Make room for what matters most,” and I believe that what minimalists inherently know--and what some of us aren’t always as conscious of--is that to be able to give your time and attention to what really matters, sometimes you have to let go of what doesn’t.

Minimalists minimize, of course. To do that, they have to prioritize--they focus first on what enhances their lives and then reduce the rest. I can’t say whether minimalists are happier than the rest of the population, but I do think that by letting go of some things, all of us can make more room for what brings us joy.

Consider:

Fewer clothes = less laundry, more room in closets, less time spent trying to find what to wear

Fewer dishes = less time spent washing and loading/unloading the dishwasher

Fewer toys = less picking up, more imagination and outside time

Less stuff around the house = less cleaning, less time spent putting things away, fewer items lost, less time and money spent maintaining all those belongings

Fewer hobbies and outside commitments = less money spent and more time saved for one or two favorite pursuits/causes

Fewer books = yeah, right...

I’m coming to understand better than ever now how “less is more.” Less stuff means more time, money, space, and energy for what really matters. Not that I’ve ever had an excessive amount of stuff, but we all know how quickly it can pile up, and in a world with so many wonderful objects and opportunities to choose from, it can be hard to discern what actually enhances our lives and what takes away from them. I think the key to simplifying is deciding what matters most, and then being willing to let go of what doesn’t.

And, with inspiration from minimalists, I’m in the process of doing that right now. Every year I declutter and organize (it helped that we moved every year for 6 years), but this has been the biggest purge yet. Our lives have changed drastically in just the last couple years, and many of the things that served us well when it was just the two of us in an apartment (was that really just 2 years and some months ago?...it feels like a lifetime) are now simply taking up space in closets and cabinets.

As I’m trying to organize this new life of ours, the question I’m asking myself is, “Does this make my life better?” ...Not, “Do I like it?”...“Is it useful?”...or “How much money did I spend on this?” (Does anyone else ALWAYS remember, even years later? Or am I just a little OC?) I’ve realized this: some things I like or that are useful or valuable--like the stack of adorable but empty baby books that were gifted to me, or one-too-many “special occasion” outfits I’ll likely never get to wear again--don’t really make my life better. And some things that do make my life better--oven mitts, diaper cream, filing cabinets, mismatched towels--are not things I necessarily like.

I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect everything in our homes to “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo so famously suggests in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I do think deciding what’s worth holding onto and what isn’t can make more room for joy in our lives. Sometimes the time, space and energy an object is taking up is actually more valuable than the object itself.

And if that’s true, then we can be sure that when we give that thing up, we’ll get something much better in return--maybe more time with those we love, more peace, or more energy. When you think of it that way, it doesn’t seem so hard anymore, does it?

One last thought: I hope this isn’t a stretch, but I can’t help thinking about the rich young ruler in the Bible, who asked Christ what he should do to inherit eternal life. Christ answered, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” Likewise, I wonder, is some of my stuff holding me back from the peace and joy He has to offer? What am I willing to let go of to embrace His plan for me?

Now, I’m not suggesting that having too much stuff is wrong or that we should get rid of everything we don’t need or that we should all be minimalists. My goodness, can you imagine how boring our world would be if everyone were minimalists? Like anyone, I’m just looking for ways to make life even better for my family and me. And minimalism is just one way of making room for what matters most.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Simple DIY Good Manners Banner


We’ve been learning about manners at our house this week, and so today I’m sharing this simple DIY good manners banner. And when I say DIY, I really mean do it yourself.  No printables here, people--I don’t get paid for this. I’m just here to share simple goodness.

A few thoughts on manners: it wasn’t a new concept for Caleb. He’s been learning manners since he started talking, and he’s pretty good about it, but a couple months ago, he started talking back more. We tried a lot of things--timeouts, cutting out TV, modeling good manners--but what worked best was teaching him to answer, “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” to us. 

I think he just needed to be taught the right way to act, versus the wrong way, and it’s really opened the door to teaching him how to use good manners in all situations. As a Southern girl, I was raised to say “ma’am” and “sir,” and while that's certainly not the only way to respond politely, I do believe that teaching children to use good manners is how they first learn to show respect for others.

This was a quick and easy project to do with my son (if you look closely, you can see a few scribbles--his contribution). I got the idea while I was browsing Pinterest for fun ways to teach manners--I saw a set of flashcards for older kids, but they were pretty generic and had no pictures. I decided to make my own, but hang them like a banner and make it into a game. It only took about twenty minutes, and we used what we already had on hand.

All you need is:
  • Index cards
  • Markers
  • Ribbon or yarn
  • Clothespins
  • Stickers (for rewarding good manners)

It’s been fun adding stickers to his banner through the week each time he remembers to use good manners. I wouldn’t say that it’s helped him remember more as much as it’s just made it more exciting for him (instead of feeling like I’m nagging him about it). Everyone loves a game, especially a toddler!

If you make one, let me know how your little ones liked it. I mean, please let me know they liked it!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

5 Simple Ways to Be Kind


Kindness is a universal source of joy. But how often do we forget to think of others, or justify actions that tear others down? We have so much power to bring joy to others and strengthen the people in our lives, especially those who mean the most to us. I believe kindness is the key to that power, so here are 5 simple ways I’m learning to be more kind:

1. Learn people’s names and use them.

Obviously, you don’t need to learn the name of someone you’ve known for years, but you might be surprised how much power there is in using it. Ask, “Mike, how are you doing?” instead of just, “How are you?”, and suddenly that question feels much more personal and serious, instead of aloof and meaningless. You can even do this with someone you’ve just met a few seconds ago: “Karen, I’m so glad we met,” instead of, “Nice to meet you.”

My mom suggested I try this back when I was in middle school (worst awkward phase ever), and since then, I’ve been amazed over and over at the effect a simple hello, paired with a name, can have on a person. Remembering names isn’t always easy, but consciously using someone’s name is a simple and powerful form of kindness.

2. Ask questions and listen.

The truth about the aforementioned awkward phase is that, sometimes, I feel like I never really outgrew it. But I can’t be the only person in the world who feels rude when I can’t think of anything to say in a social setting. I’m learning that one of the best ways to show kindness, especially when your mind goes blank, is to ask questions. 

It takes some practice to learn how to ask good questions, but it’s also a great way to avoid talking about yourself, and it's helpful when you find yourself in a debate. Rather than trying to prove your point or getting defensive, start asking questions, and you'll likely get a different perspective.

Asking questions works wonderfully in families and all kinds of relationships, too. Ask your boss about her (or his) biggest challenges, your coworkers about their previous jobs, your siblings about their summer plans, your parents about their latest volunteer efforts, your kids about their friends, and, if you’re married, find out what’s on your spouse’s mind. Then listen with an open heart.

3. Smile.
There's not much to say here: a little smile goes a long way. I mean, don’t stare at people with a goofy grin on your face (I might be guilty of this at times), but do acknowledge them with a simple smile. What if every time you greeted your spouse, your coworker, your neighbor--or even complete strangers--you smiled? The simple habit of smiling could quite possibly change someone’s whole world--and your world, too.

4. Point out the positive.

So you don’t like how someone dresses, or talks, or votes, or eats, or worships, or doesn’t, or whatever... Maybe you just flat-out don’t like someone. Maybe someone--even someone close to you--has been unkind to you. There are a million reasons not to be kind, and it’s easy, but it takes real courage and strength to look for the best in others, and even more to point it out. To be willing to look beyond a person’s outward appearance and faults is the essence of kindness.

5. Remember details.

Have you ever felt like you’re having the same conversation with the same person over and over? Try this: the next time you talk to someone, take note of just one or two details and tuck those away in your brain. Then, the next time you see that person, go to that “mental file folder” and ask a question about something you remember from your last conversation. Again, this isn’t just for acquaintances--friends, siblings, parents, your spouse--everyone likes to be remembered. This is probably the hardest one for me on the list, since I can be a little scatter-brained sometimes, but the point is to think of others instead of myself, which is to put kindness into action.

Last Thoughts: Christ on Kindness

Most of the time, people will return kindness for kindness. However, there have been many times in my life (like yours, I’m sure) that, sadly, that's not been the case. I’ve even been taken advantage of before (again, like you I’m sure), and as Christ taught, that can happen when you’re trying to be kind. I’ve been comforted many times by His words here:

“But I say unto, That ye resist not evil (or, being treated badly); but whosoever shall smite thee on on they right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away...Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” And as He taught earlier in His Sermon, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice (!) and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” (KJV Matt 5:39-44, Matt 5:11-12).

In other words, true kindness is put to the test in the worst circumstances. “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans (tax-collectors for Herod or Rome, considered the lowest of the low in that day) the same?” (Matt 5:46) We can certainly stand up for ourselves, but at the same time, we can never err too far on the side of kindness, even if it means being bullied or taken advantage of from time to time, because the reward for kindness is greater than any harm others can bring to us.

Showing kindness can be simple, but it takes courage. There are many times in my life when I wish I'd been kinder and more considerate. But when it seems impossible, I go back to this list, and I always find some way to be kind. I’ve seen simple kindness work miracles (like that college roommate who tried to beat me up once...), and even when it doesn’t change my circumstances, it always changes me for the better. I hope, in the same way, this list helps you find ways to make your own world a little better and kinder.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The "hidden truth" you might not know about me

If you've been following my blog or Instagram (@jennyfromgeorgia), you've seen plenty of moments of simple joy in my life lately. This week, I decided to share something I wrote a few years ago at a time when my life was full of frustration and heartbreak. We’d been trying to start our family for a few years, trying all sorts of treatments and trying to find a doctor who could help us, and we’d also been through 2 miscarriages (I lost three babies before Caleb came along).

I felt strongly that one day I’d be a mother, which gave me hope, but I was grieving the loss of my babies, and I was struggling with the amount of effort required to keep trying and the toll it was taking on my body. I also came to realize that many (as in, most) people had no idea about the day-to-day struggles of infertility beyond the waiting and constant yearning for a child. Yes, I was yearning, and yes, I was trying to be patient, but there were also endless hours waiting on hold to speak to the insurance company (again) and medications that wreaked havoc on my hormones and expensive medical bills and countless blood draws and bad news (lots of bad news) and, well...I’ll just let you read it yourself.

Now my life is overflowing with joy even greater than my heartbreak, but I don’t ever want to forget the pain that has made motherhood so sweet, especially when I know that so many people are struggling with infertility now. Here’s the truth about their pain that you might not see.

The Hidden Truth

Get ready for an emotional post. What can I say? That's my life. Sometimes.

Sometimes, I physically ache for all the women facing infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, or the overwhelming obstacles of adoption.

Sometimes, I ache for myself...My first, my one-year-old. And my second, my little baby, due this fall. I think of them this way, maybe because I've had a while to think about them. It probably seems strange to other people, but it's natural for me. It brings me peace.

Sometimes it seems like everything I do every day reminds me that I've lost them. I can't help but think how different life would be if they were here now.

A stranger, Katie, who shared her story on www.facesofloss.com, wrote, "Miscarriage is death, yet there are no funerals, no sympathy cards, no bereavement time. Instead couples grieve in silence. You’ve just got to pick up the pieces, hold your head high, and go on with life as usual."

I’ve observed that some people believe that infertility or pregnancy loss is mostly longing for a baby, something like dreaming of a car or new furniture, only perhaps more intense.

They believe that you just have to be patient, because eventually you'll have a baby (when it's somehow magically "the right time"), and everything will be alright. And that you shouldn't worry so much, and try to be happy with what you already have. It's a matter of faith and patience.

This is true, because happiness is a choice, but it's only half of the truth, which makes it half a lie. The whole truth is that it's much more than waiting. It's more than what it seems.

To keep reading, click here to open the original blog post.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's time to get moving on one of my 2016 resolutions...

One of my 2016 resolutions is to finish a sprint triathlon this spring, so I only have a couple months to get in shape. Obviously, I'm going to be running, biking, and swimming the distance as part of my training, but I also needed a workout I could do at home to build strength.

The problem is, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I hate working out, and I have two little ones (and did I mention that I hate working out...?). Lucky for me, my sister-in-law suggested a mommy-and-me workout on YouTube, and I'm so glad she did! Not only does it keep my kids occupied while I work out--because they're actually part of the workout--but it makes working out fun, too. Well, at least it's more fun than working out by myself. I still get sweaty and out of breath (which I actually don't mind as long as I'm outside, but inside, it just feels gross).

So here's the video that inspired us to start working out together at home (even Ben's getting into it!). I'd never heard of Carlie before, but I think she has some great ideas to get everyone moving. And since I'm new to this, are there any videos or work outs you'd recommend?




Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Resolutions for 2016



After traveling this New Year’s and being sick last week, we’re already halfway through the month! I consider that a blessing, since January tends to drag on. But I do love looking forward to the new year, and the upside of being sick  (you know just how sick if you’ve been following us on Instagram) is that I had the perfect excuse to sit at home in my pajamas and just think about all the exciting things I’m planning to do, without having to actually get off the couch and do anything.

...Well, other than clean up puke, keep the washer and dryer going, suction out little noses, hold my baby at a perfect 45-degree angle all day long so she could keep something down, and provide as much cuddling and comfort as my sick family needed. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But now that we’re on the mend, it’s time to start tackling my resolutions, and so I decided to share my Personal and Family Resolutions for 2016 here on the blog. It makes it more official, don’t you think? It’s also a way for me to keep track of how I’m doing (to be honest, I can be a little scatterbrained), and hopefully, a year from now, I can say that I’ve had at least some success.

MY PERSONAL RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016

1. Make and use my own daily planner.
I already tackled this while I was glued to my couch, TV, and puke bowl this week (TMI, sorry). I’ve never been satisfied with any store-bought planners, and as much as I love my Evernote app for keeping track of lists and ideas, it just doesn’t work for me as a daily planner, so I decided to design and print my own. I’m pumped to try it out this year and maybe even improve on it next year.

2. Simplify by letting go of what we don’t need.
Now that we’re settled into a home for good (and for the first time in our marriage), I have a pretty clear idea of what we need and what we don’t. It’s time to let go of anything that we don’t use or love, and keep only what really matters and makes our lives better. This resolution extends even beyond our closets and cabinets--I plan to work on one area of our lives each month (January: holiday storage, February: email and online accounts, March: the kitchen, April: photos, May: clothes, and so on). We’ll also continue to declutter as we go, which we try to stay in the habit of doing, and we plan to have a garage sale this spring or summer.

3. Learn to use 3 new essential oils.
I doubt I’ll ever be a die-hard user (or seller) of essential oils--it’s just not me--but I do love using oils around the house for cleaning and deodorizing, and they’re amazing in baths and rubs when we’re sick. I own only a few oils, but since it’s not practical to buy all the different oils and combinations I’d like to try, I decided I would choose just 3 this year. I think I’d also like to try using a mist diffuser.

4. Train for and finish a sprint triathlon this April.
Ten years ago, I probably could’ve finished a sprint triathlon, maybe even a full triathlon, without training. You might be shocked, but I used to be pretty athletic--in high school, I was a top runner in my state; I even competed on a tumbling team (black flips, handsprings, the whole nine yards), and in college I killed it in competitive ultimate frisbee. Now I do yoga on YouTube and take my kids on walks at the park--fun, but not exactly competitive. The truth is, I hate working out (always have), but I miss being active and challenging myself. Now a triathlon--swimming, biking, running--that sounds like fun to me. But I’m going to have to train for it, and that means working out. At least it’s for something I can get excited about.

5. Post weekly on my blog.
I really enjoy blogging, and for years, I’ve wanted to do more with my blog. I feel like now is the time to start blogging seriously, not for anyone else or for money, but for me. Along with posting weekly, I plan to upgrade my blog to a better platform (i.e. not blogspot) and to use social media almost daily to share my blog and simple goodness from our lives.

6. Update the kitchen and family room.  
We’ve had plans to update the kitchen and family room since we moved in, and now that we’re finished with the bedrooms (as of 6 months ago, so we could relax and enjoy our new baby, which we have!), we’re ready to get started. The kitchen and family room are one room--like a great room--so we plan to paint the entire room, plus refinish the kitchen cabinets and counter-tops and build shelves in the family room. We started on the cabinets back in November, then decided to put our project on hold for the holidays. Progress is slow with two little ones, but it’s my first DIY project, so I’m just going to take my time and do my best.

OUR FAMILY RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016

Back in December, we made a few family resolutions together for one of our weekly family nights (a.k.a. Family Home Evening, #fhe). We each have a goal to work on this year, and we’ll all be working together to help each other.

Dad - Use woodworking skills to help improve our home. Some of my personal resolutions are actually shared resolutions with Ben, and that includes getting organized (= more shelving) and updating the kitchen and family room. I’m going to be relying heavily on him, especially in the “handyman” department.

Mom - Make a habit of going to bed early and waking up early. I’m up early anyway with the kids, but since October I’ve been trying to be more intentional about how I start my day. I just need to get to bed earlier, too. My goal is to head for bed by 10 every night.

Caleb - Learn to use the toilet without accidents. He’s already used the toilet a few times, and even though I wanted to shout it to the world on Facebook, I resisted (it’s one of my pet peeves). So you might not hear anything more on this resolution, but I’m hoping he’ll get excited about potty training soon so that he’ll be accident-free by the time he turns 3 in November.

Lydia - Learn to walk. Lydia will be 1 in July, so she’ll be learning to walk sometime this year, maybe in the next few months. Caleb was walking at 8 months (Lydia’s 6 months old now), and although I don’t think she’ll be walking that early, I can tell she’s anxious to get moving. And so am I! If she’s anything like her brother, she’ll be much happier (and that means Mom, too) when she can get around on her own two feet instead of being carried all the time.

As a Family - Go on a camping and fishing trip this summer. We love to be outdoors, and it’s high-time that little boy learned to fish. I was very pregnant/having a baby last summer, so we didn’t get to go camping or hiking or fishing like we usually do, but we want to make sure it happens this summer!

As a Couple - Finish paying off Ben’s student loan by December. This is another shared goal, and we’ve been punching the numbers and increasing our monthly payments so that our pharmacy school loan is 100% paid off by the end of the year (or earlier). Merry Christmas to us! This means more date nights in 2017, right, Honey?

So there you go. Keeping all of our resolutions this year might be a challenge, but assuming we’re all in good health for the next 12 months, and barring any unforeseen crises, I think we’re up for it. What resolutions are you making this new year?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy 2016! (and 2015 Highlights)


In keeping with tradition, this New Year's post is late. This was the year I finally came to terms with the fact that I’m just not a Christmas card person. I guess I’m an email person (family and friends, be on the look out!). Or apparently, a week-after-New-Year’s blog post person.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting Christmas cards, but do you ever get an email from a friend around the holidays and think, “Sheesh, send me a REAL Christmas card, why don’t you?” Most likely not. In my view, electronic greetings can bring just as much holiday cheer to loved ones as Christmas cards.

And so I’m determined to embrace my reality and make the best of it. I’ll still keep my addresses updated (something I do every Christmas to stay organized), and who knows, maybe some years I’ll send a “real” card, but in keeping with what’s become a tradition, here’s our yearly New Year’s greeting and highlights.

Ben has been pretty busy this year, managing the pharmacy where he works since May. He loves what he does, which is making specialized IV treatments for patients at home, and we’ve been trying to find ways to grow the business and support the team he works with. It’s a lot of late nights and weekends on call (not to mention a crash course in management), but it’s an adventure, and one we’re very grateful for. He also works as Assistant Clerk in the office at our church (pro bono, so to speak, as clergy and personnel are unpaid). In his free time, whenever that is, he’s planning to take up woodworking and tackle some projects around the house.

Caleb is busy, busy, busy, too. At age 2, he loves all things construction, knows all of his letters, most of his numbers through 10, recognizes a handful of words by sight, talks nonstop, plays pretend on his own now, and explores constantly. I can barely keep up with him! (Read about Caleb turning 2 here.) He looks out for his little sister, and he can make her laugh like no one else can. By next year, I’m betting they’ll be best buds.

Lydia is growing fast! Has it really been 6 months? (...I guess I should stop telling people I just had a baby…Read about Lydia’s arrival here.) She’s sweet, sunny, and just slightly sensitive. She’s active like Caleb, too--she can roll across the room in a matter of seconds, loves sitting up to play, and she’s starting to scoot around on her tummy. Her favorite pastime--aside from talking--is grabbing anything within reach, including toys, people’s faces, and plates full of food. We really have to keep an eye on her now (she wants to put everything her mouth), but she’s so gorgeous, we can’t take our eyes off her anyway.

Jenny (that’s me)...I’ve had a busy year just trying to keep up with the rest of the family! Oh and you know, I had a baby in July. (Read about my pregnancy here.) I’m exhausted, but I’m having the time of my life. It's been a miraculous experience to become the mother of two, and I'm loving this time to teach and learn at home with them. And I have "my girls" at church, too, where I work as the Second Counselor in the Young Women's Presidency (i.e. youth leaders, also an unpaid ministry). Those girls never fail to brighten my week! Blogging continues to be a therapeutic hobby for me, and I hope to do more in the coming year.

As a family, it was a big year. In January, we visited my family in Georgia while Ben tested for his state license there, and for spring break in March, we spent a week with Ben’s family in Idaho Falls. After a couple trips to the hospital for false labor, followed by house rest (doctor's orders), we swore off traveling and settled down at home to get ready for our baby girl’s arrival.

Over the next few months, we finally got the rest of our boxes unpacked, painted and put up shelves in the front sitting room, moved Caleb into a new room with a toddler bed, refinished furniture and set up a guest room, painted and organized our master bedroom, and painted and put together Lydia’s nursery. We worked hard (actually, we overdid it), and by the end of it, I could barely move--not that I could move anyway, being 9 months pregnant.

In July, we welcomed Lydia Grace. My mom spent a few weeks with us (and my dad surprised me by flying in for my birthday, too!), and a few weeks later, both sides of our family came for her blessing day.






This fall, I helped start a preschool playgroup with a few friends in the neighborhood, and it’s always a highlight of Caleb’s week. A highlight of the year for all of us was hiking to Jump Creek Falls, and we can’t wait to explore more of Boise’s best hiking spots this summer.

We had a fun Halloween as the Flintstones and a wonderful Thanksgiving with Ben’s family in Idaho Falls (in spite of traveling in a deadly blizzard), but the most memorable part of the holidays was definitely my brother’s wedding. We love his beautiful new bride, Bailey, and we’re so happy for them!

We had a White Christmas at home with just our family, and my cousin Alan and his family joined us later that day for Christmas Dinner. We’ve been on the road this New Year visiting my family and Ben’s brother Adam and his family, and we’ve had the best time, but we’re also excited to get home and see what this new year brings. We hope it brings the very best of blessings to you and yours!