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Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016

As we say goodbye to 2016, I have a lot to celebrate about the year. Our family grew by one, we moved across the country, sold 90 year old our fixer-upper, and we started a new chapter on the eastern plains of Colorado. We took our first road trip as a family of four and I was an adjunct instructor last fall.

Although, I wasn't very consistent at blogging this year, I'm glad I recorded a few stories along the way. It turns out teaching a college course for the first time is time consuming (!!!) and left me little time to write, among other things.

Looking forward to a new year, means new goals and fresh starts await. The week between Christmas and New Year's feels a little awkward to me. I want to dwell on the sparkling lights of Christmas, keep playing Christmas music and nibbling cookies.

BUT this year we took down the Christmas tree just days after Christmas. The house felt cluttered (mostly with new toys) and we had to make space. I felt sad to pack up or throw away so many fun things we'd done over the holiday season-- decorate gingerbread houses, DIY snow globes, "stained glass" trees, new Christmas books, and our "activity set" (read: Nativity). I will cherish the memories we made and saved a few things to pull out next year.

Despite my plan not always going the way I imagined, we had some fun starting traditions and making memories. As much as I'll miss the feeling of preparing for Christmas, I am looking forward to things returning to normalcy and starting new rhythms.

Next week, Maggie will return to preschool, but I will not be teaching in the spring semester. Bodie is crawling (A LOT) and there will be no shortage of things to keep us busy. My hope is to focus on our family more fully and be open to what 2017 has in store for us.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

As we celebrate the waiting

Motherhood has felt like failure in a lot of ways lately. I planned activities to do throughout December. While I told myself to hold them loosely (after all I have a three year old and 10 month old), I also hoped things would go a certain way. I found cute crafts on Pinterest that would surely turn out just like the photo!

But as soon as I saw my three year old place a cookie cutter in the center of the dough, the memories of how difficult making cookies with a child could be flooded my brain.

And the snow globes-- those were a disaster! Thankfully, my three year old wasn't too bothered by the water turning blue-ish green (from the evergreen tree) or the fact that the snowman didn't stay glued to the bottom and was floating the next day. ((Deep breaths))

Don't get me wrong, not everything has tanked. We've made some memories and I've taken some fun pictures, but I have also gotten so frustrated in the process. I don't call myself a failure, but I don't always get it right.

I try to take on too much. I let small things stop me from fully doing what is planned.

I am so grateful for Advent and its reminder to celebrate the waiting, to anticipate Jesus' birth. He doesn't want us to fill our plate so full that we're are unable to fit Him in. He came from all people-- the ones who succeed AND struggle. But the Bible tells us He has a special place for the downtrodden, the weak, the ones who screw up (Matthew 5). He meets them in their need and picks them up.

I am so grateful we serve a God who meets us where we are, no matter where that is. Whether we are over-planning our days or trying to fill them.

Despite having created some less than Pinterest-worthy projects this month, my three year old will excitedly rattle off all the character's names in the "activity." I don't say this to take any credit, she has some fantastic Sunday School teachers and other adults who talk about these things with her. We keep reminding her it's called a "nativity," but I guess we have some work still ahead.

May your Christmas be filled with reminders of Jesus drawing near. Emmanuel means "God with us." I hope you can feel His presence as you go about your celebrations!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our Advent Plans

It's December first and I'm full of expectation. I sit here listening to Austin Stone's A Day of Glory Christmas album and diffusing pine and blue spruce, as I think back to a year ago this month when I first came to Flagler with Brandon for his interview.

Here we are a year later, having put up our Christmas tree in the parsonage we now call home.

There is so much to look forward to, as with every start of the holiday season. I feel like this is the first year our three year old daughter will really "get it" in terms of retelling the story of Jesus' birth. It has been so fun to watch her excitement when the timer on the Christmas tree clicks on in the afternoons and when we do a craft (similar to this one).

I had fun planning our family Advent activities and was tempted to "do all the things." But who can? Even with a fairly open schedule (only one kid in (pre) school), I know it is best to keep it simple and have been cautioned against overdoing it by more than one mom who has already been there (via articles like this). We also live in a rural town, so there are not as many nearby options for some activities I would have planned a year ago when we lived in a city.

So here's what we are doing/planning on doing.

I bought the Kids Read Truth table cards and we started using those on the first Sunday of Advent since there are 29. They are designed for kids of various ages with a question for 2-5 year olds, 6-11 year olds and 12-1 year olds. I thought they would be useful for years to come and they are so cute! Maggie has loved them so far and each night during dinner ask "when do we get to read the card?" There's also an answer key (which I wish I could have realized last night while Brandon was away at Bible study and I was trying to explain what it means to "act justly, love mercy and walk humbly" to our three year old).

We're also using a paper chain count down from Color + Kindness' Advent and Christmas Countdown Calendar and Activity Kit (download). The bundle has a number of ways to "count down" and pieces to color. I've been loving her shop for downloadable PDF Bible-focused files for my preschooler (and some have memory verse cards for mamas!). 

I also bought five children's books to celebrate the season. I wanted to give them to the kids in a (somewhat) meaningful way, so I decided to wrap them up and have them open one every 4 days so we can enjoy the books before Christmas. My three year old loves reading so I think this will be right up her alley. I labeled each book with a number on the tag to correspond with certain days (1, 5, 10, 15, 20) and also wrote the numbers on the paper chain I previously mentioned. 

I also purchased Amen Paper Company's Adevent Bundle, something I've wanted to do for years (you can still  download the PDF devotional here for $12). I have the calendar hung up in our dining room, which is where we spend the majority of our time as a family. On the back of the cards I wrote an activity for each day. Some are simple like watch a Christmas movie and drink hot cocoa while others are baking cookies one day and taking them to neighbors the next. I also included things we already have on the calendar like attending and participating in the Living Nativity in town.

How are you celebrating the coming of Christ Jesus? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

A new season awaits

I kind of can't believe the last week of summer is upon us. While part of me is sad to say goodbye to the concept of summer, I am mostly happy to be welcoming a new season.

For one, fall is my favorite season. I've always loved back to school shopping. This is my 14th year of not being enrolled in a class, but I am still connected to the world of back to school and am embarking on my first year solo teaching. While it's a part-time gig, I am looking forward to trying something new and staying connected to higher education.

I look forward to the return of wearing jeans and boots and jackets. I love wearing layers! I am excited to spend more time outside, since it won't be so hot during the day and I really need to get back into my walking routine to get some regular exercise.

Truth be told, I am eagerly awaiting the new season with a lot of hope and expectation. I am anxious to get into a rhythm. I am hopeful we will feel like part of the community in some small way.

While we were in California and attended the annual gathering with our church, I got to hear Dr. Bob Logan speak. He had some really great things to say about doing ministry that really encouraged and challenged my heart. One of the things he encouraged us to consider was what he called "drop two, add one" when you are thinking about taking on something new. While I haven't had a lot of commitments since moving, the idea resonated with me in the culture of busy that so often exists.

I can't say enough about Jess Connolly's Fall into Freedom worksheets (probably because she's a girls after my own heart in the need for structure department). Doing the worksheets got me so excited for establishing some routines, but also being intentional about what I am saying YES to.

Since I am teaching, I expect there will be some structure to my days (at least three days per week when the class meets). The kids and I will attend MOPS every other week. And I am exploring some options for our preschooler to get into, but I am being intentional about what I commit to. I am hopeful the season ahead will be structured, but not overly busy.

What are you looking forward to as the school year begins?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Our Summer Road Trip

Two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to travel to Southern California for a conference with our church. We chose to drive, so we could see more of the western US. None of us had ever driven from Colorado to California so it was sure to be an adventure.

Highlights of the trip included:

  • Driving across Utah. I really had no idea just how beautiful and varied the landscape would be. I am already trying to figure out when we can go back!
  • Seeing friends we knew in our dating/early married life. Two couples we shared a lot of time with in Boston were on the visit list and catching up in person, introducing them to our kids was pure joy.
  • The Grand Canyon. Need I say more?
  • Visiting my second cousin and her family and dinner with my great aunt and uncle.
  • Taking the kids to the ocean and just hearing the waves crash along the beach.
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice. I'm talking made just a few minutes ago, fresh. I may have had it in a restaurant once or twice, but when you can watch it made in my cousin's kitchen, it is just so good (and I don't even drink OJ on the regular).
All in all, it was a grand adventure. Sure we camped in the pouring rain, but saw the Grand Canyon the next morning!  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Maggie says (part 3)...

When I told Maggie she's a city girl turned country girl, she laughed and asked what kind of girl I am. I told her I was more of a suburban girl and she laughed calling me a "bourbon girl."

"I think I need some oil," referring to essential oils when her tummy was upset.

While showing me a picture of Snow White she drew I asked her if she looked at her Snow White figurine. Closing her eyes, she said "no, I just remembered she has a yellow and blue dress."

"Can I giggle him?" when asking if she can make her brother laugh too.

We pulled up outside of a McDonald's that was attached to a gas station and when I said the name, she asked "is it like Old MacDonald?"

Referring to a movie, "The Fox and the Town"

"That was some serious thunder" upon hearing a loud thunder clap.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday finds: June edition

Photo from Wildly Co.

Capsule wardrobes for kids? Check out Wildly Co's summer capsules for girls and boys and use code BETH20 for 20% off your order through June 30.

You can help refugee moms, here are five ways.

All this hot weather, makes me want popsicles and this list has me anxious to try a few recipes.

Traveling this summer? We are next month and I will certainly be trying a few of these suggestions for saving money.

Also, on the subject of travel, hacks for parents.

We've all heard about the gorilla and alligator, but did you hear about the mountain lion a mother fought off?

Some solid suggestions on how to talk to your kids after the gorilla incident.

Have you noticed how NPR reporters always have great names? Here's how you can determine your own NPR name.

If 70s moms had blogs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

One last goodbye

This week we said a final goodbye to a piece of our heart in Massachusetts. We closed on our house. We bought the 90+ year old 3-bed colonial 11 months into married life. It needed a lot of work and took a lot of my husband's attention over the five years we lived there.

I blogged and Instagrammed some of the renovations we made over the years we lived there, but I wanted to share the final pictures here now that it has been sold as a final tribute.

We called it home for five whole years. That is a long time by our standards. Having both been quite transient in the years before we were married, it was the address that we both lived at for the longest period of time in our adult lives.

I loved the kitchen. It was by far the most lived-in part of the house. It was the first part of the house we changed. I remember washing dishes in the bathroom sink while we gutted it and using a headlamp to cook dinner on the gas stove because the electricity was off for something else my husband was doing in the house. My most vivid memory was when we replaced its windows hoping my husband really knew what he was doing while I stared at the gaping hole where windows should go.

The upstairs bathroom was the first project that we finished and brought joy to my life. The changes from a weekend of painting and installing a new sink, were so drastic I claimed the paint color, warm caramel, changed my life. I may have been a bit dramatic, but it was such an improvement from the lavender walls and ugly pedestal sink that used to live there.

We also made some major improvements in the layout of one half of the house. The master bedroom and living room were both fairly awkward because each space was so long and narrow.

On the main floor, Brandon built a wall to divide it, which made the living area more live-able. He also re-painted and re-tiled the mantle, making it a beautiful focal point of the room. Finally, he added doors to the space, making the room feel cozy when we used the fireplace. I will really miss that fire place next winter.

In the master bedroom, it was the closet that needed the most work. When we bought the house, the closet was along the back wall, covering a full-size window. It was quite awkward (and a little weird) to have a window IN the closet. Brandon dismantled the closet and then installed his and hers closets from Ikea (we were spoiled to live just 20 minutes from Ikea). He also built a window seat between the closets adding to the cozy feel. 

I remember when he painted the walls grey. It was less than two months before Maggie was born, and I almost immediately felt it made the space more calm. It was a vast improvement over the army green that had previously been on the walls.

The dining room didn't see any drastic changes, but we did live without a finished ceiling for a number of months due to water damage from the upstairs bath tub. I remember the night a group of men from our church came to put up the new ceiling. I was so grateful to finally have that space finished and then we used oops paint (found on a must sell rack at Home Depot). I don't think I would have thought of painting the walls mustard, but we loved how it turned out.

It was a good house. There were times I thought we were in over our heads and times it was a haven, especially during the hard New England winters. We saw record snow outside its windows in 2015. 

It was the home where we brought our babies home from the hospital. 

Goodbye, red house. We affectionately refer to it as "the red house" when talking to our two year old daughter who remembers it. Brandon painted the exterior red last fall and it's the way I want to remember it. 

Our red house, the sweet little piece of MA we had our names on it for five years. So long, old friend. Thanks for the memories. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Bodie: 4 months

This kid is growing like a weed! He is 90-95th percentile for length and weight. He's been such a good eater-- I guess it's no surprise. I love his little thigh rolls and showing them off in shorts and onesies.

He continues to be a happy kiddo and seems to be more and more entertained by Maggie. He recognizes her voice and looks for her when he hears it (he has a similar reaction to mom and dad's voices too).

We are pretty sure he's cutting his first teeth already. He is drooling a lot. Thank goodness for bibs! He also chews his fingers and thumb frequently.

Recent likes:
  • watching Maggie
  • his bouncy seat
  • kicking his legs when he's on the changing table
Recent dislikes:
  • Mommy talking to someone else while he eats
  • loud noises

One thing I want to remember from Bodie's fourth month is that he started cooing when he's done eating. It's become the sign that he's done. He just stares up at me while cooing and smiling at me almost every time he's finished eating.

A look back: 1 month // 2 months // 3 months

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Forgiveness: Lessons from my two year old

The other day, I was fighting the almost daily naptime battle. My almost-three-year-old is only consistent about a few things and trying to get out a nap is one of them.

Her brother was already sleeping in his room, so I was even more determined to win this round. I was tired and we had gone back and forth. She didn't want the sheets on her, she wanted a stuffed animal, she through the stuffed fox when I gave it to her, she wanted the sheet over her when I got up to walk to the door. It was miserable and my patience was getting very thin.

I snapped at her and stormed out of the room.

As I huffed up the stairs, I could hear her wailing. "Mommy, mommy please...I just need..."

I took a few minutes to myself in the kitchen. I may or may not have reached for the chocolate chips out of desperation. Okay, I ate a handful.

I sat there replaying the situation and telling myself it was typical toddler behavior, but then I started thinking about how I did overreact. Would I have done that if my husband was standing there? Maybe. Would I have reacted if we were in public?

I knew what I had to do. I walked back to her room and apologized.

She was so quick to forgive me. I barely had the words out of my mouth and she was smiling and reaching for a hug.

Why can't I be so quick to forgive when someone offends? Why do I have to give myself a pep talk to go apologize, even when I know she will be quick to forgive? 

Toddlers are amazing. She dispensed grace with love and didn't question me one bit. Once I apologized, she snuggled up to me and asked me to lay down on the bed with her while she fell asleep.

Despite my ugly actions, it was a beautiful reminder of God's grace. I love how even mundane moments of parenthood can be reminders of the free gift we were given through Jesus death on the cross. It only took a few minutes to step back from the situation and look for grace.

Where are you finding and giving grace lately?

Monday, June 6, 2016

June goals

Looking back quickly at my May goals, I did not accomplish what I had hoped to. But I am excited for a new month with some new (+ old) goals to help me stay motivated.

1- Go on a date to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary.  We went out for Mexican food, but brought the kids. So this is still on the to do list!

2- Walk a minimum of three times per week (at least 30 minutes). I was not able to keep up with this. First, the stroller had a flat tire that took some time to repair and then I was just out of the rhythm. These are terrible excuses, but I am being honest.

3- Go to the zoo. We actually made it to the zoo twice in the month of May. Maggie has such a short attention span, I am excited we have the zoo pass because we have only spent 2-3 hours each time.

4- Keep up with my online Bible study.  I was able to keep up! The sad news is that the study is being postponed until the fall, but I may just keep going because I'm really enjoying Seamless by Angie Smith.

5- Get my desk setup in the office.  I had it setup and then a bunch of stuff ended up piled on top of it, so it is now unusable. 

As for the month of June, I'll need to keep some of these on my list because they are too important to just skip!

As an aside, this is my 6th month of goal-setting this year and most of that time has been as a stay-at-home mom. I find that these monthly goals help me to focus on a smaller period of time. While I may not always accomplish my goals, I have something to reach for and I do my best to revisit them throughout the month. I have note posted a visual reminder, but I think that would help me. This month, I will write them on my kitchen chalkboard.

1- Organize my desk space in the home office. I really want this space to be functional and reflect my personality. I have a bunch of things from my old office, so there is no shortage of things to make it look like my space. But I need to make time to actually get it set up.

2- Walk three times per week. My stroller is fixed (and I now know how to fix any more flat tires that may occur)! Also, I recently got a FitBit so that should help to motivate me (I love that it vibrates to remind me to move hourly).

3- Plan Maggie's 3rd birthday party. I can't believe it's already time to start thinking about and planning for her third birthday (in early July). I keep asking her what kind of theme she'd like and we can't seem to land on anything consistently.

4- Go on a real date! We have been terrible at planning ahead, but we must plan ahead to get a baby-sitter and where to go since there are few places nearby.

5- Help Maggie to memorize a Bible verse. She has been interested in learning hymns and praise songs lately, so I think she may be ready to memorize her first bit of Scripture. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Small Town Living: Library Edition

Two weeks ago I started reading Party Girl (it's not what you might think, the main character is an event planner hence the party part). I shared this story briefly on Instagram, but I think it's worth repeating here because it is such a great illustration of things I am learning to LOVE about small town life.

There is so much I appreciate about this new season of slowing down lately. We have fewer commitments in some ways and the pace of life is different.

I have been following Rachel Hollis online for about six months and have been wanting to read her non-fiction books, so a few weeks ago while I was at the town library with the kids I decided to stop and look for a book for me after we picked out some kids books. I knew they wouldn't have the books (it's a rather small library), so I asked at the desk if they could order it from another library.

A week later I got a phone call telling me my book was in. When I went to pick it up, the librarian remarked, "it looks like a fun read. Would you believe no library in the state had it?"

At that point, I was holding the book in my hand so I wondered aloud where it came from. "Oh, I ordered the whole series on Amazon," and she held up the other two books, Sweet Girl and Smart Girl.

I thanked her and was a little embarrassed. I was not expecting her to BUY the books for me, but I am hopeful someone else in town (or maybe the whole state) will enjoy them! I finished Party Girl in a week and truly enjoyed it (this is my PSA for a fun summer read...and if you're local, then you know where to find them)!

This is not to say I don't miss the city most days, but as the days and weeks pass, I am discovering things to love about small town life!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday finds: May edition

Even thought I'm a loyal Trader Joe's shopper, I haven't tried most of their best beauty products.

Some inspiration to create some organized habits.

new small biz you should check out. Get free shipping on your order through today ( by using code: SHIPFREE at checkout)!

I've been hearing a lot about drinking lemon water, but agree it's not a cure all.

Some good travel tips for families with small kids.

As someone who is currently on a career break Apres seems like a helpful resource.

We may have only lived here for two months, but I recognize the truth in this post about the Other Colorado.

This recently saved my sanity while shopping with two kids.

As a city girl, I'm loving this podcast lately.

You may be sick of hearing about the Chewbacca Mom, but I loved hearing more about her story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chocolate + Banana Popsicles

My daughter has been asking for popsicles as the weather gets warmer. After a brief search on Pinterest and not having the right combination of ingredients on hand, I decided to try putting something together with what we did have.

I got out the blender and popsicle mold then pulled a few things from the cupboard and fridge.

I ended up using the following ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut milk (I use this brand)
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 over-ripe bananas, sliced

Combine all ingredients in the blender and mix thoroughly.
Pour into popsicle tray and insert popsicle sticks/handles
Freeze overnight

She was so proud of her creation (in case you can't tell) from the photo above. It was hard to wait for them to freeze, but there were a few sips left in the blender, so I poured it into a cup and assured her it would be like a smoothie.

The next day, it was a welcome surprise (she'd forgotten about them) to finally eat her own popsicle!

This post is not sponsored by Thrive Market, but I do want to recommend the company. I've been using them for the past two months. They have a great selection of health foods, personal products and more. Use my referral link for 15% off your first order (new customers only).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday Afternoons

Sunday afternoons are becoming my favorite time of the week. Sometimes my dad is in town for the day and we get to catch up while the kids nap. Other weeks it's just me the baby hanging out. Sometimes I take a nap or I brew myself a cup of coffee and write (or read).

Since moving to the country two months ago, things have been slower in general but Sunday afternoons are consistently the slowest time in our week and I love it. When  I was working, I dreaded Sunday afternoons because I usually ended up doing all the things I had put off or couldn't get done on Saturday.

I have been intentional about not cleaning on Sunday afternoons (another habit I got into when I was working). I don't allow myself to stress over dishes that pile up or toys that get dispersed everywhere. I need a day of being home and not worrying about getting things in order with two little ones.

But in this new season of life, I look forward to a time in my week to truly rest and I appreciate that rest looks different from week to week.

On Sunday afternoons, I breathe a sigh of relief. We've made it through another week.

Another week in church where I held my breath hoping my daughter wouldn't say or do something utterly embarrassing (for me or her). Lately, she just loves to push the limits and try to sing in church (when no one else is singing) or this past weekend she decided to sit with another family following the children's sermon. The whole sitting through the church service is fairly new to her; our last church had a toddler room where she spent the service playing with other kids her age.

On Sunday afternoons, a clean slate awaits us. I look forward to Monday, a day we usually spend together as a family.

What's your favorite time of the week?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Oils I use Everyday

I've been learning about essential oils for over a year now, but I decided to take the plunge and really educate myself, while making a commitment to using them regularly at the beginning of the month.

Before I jump into all the ways I've been using EOs daily, I think it's really important to use them responsibly. There is a lot of stuff out there (on Pinterest, etc.) and I am not an aromatherapist so please do your research and get information from reliable sources. EOs can be harmful when used incorrectly. My recommendations come from Young Living and its reference guide.

So far, I really love using Young Living Essential Oils. In an effort to eliminate some of the nasty chemicals in our home, I have been incorporating essential oil use into some of the most simple things.

On a daily basis, I use:
  • Thieves in the bathroom sink soap. I make my own foaming soap with distilled water, castile soap and 1-2 drops of either lavender or thieves EO.
  • Diffusing stress away or thieves in our home diffuser (I only diffuse 1-2 drops at a time and am very careful about the diffuser's proximity to our infant).
  • Lavender in my mascara -I added one drop to my mascara bottle. It not only smells great, but promotes lash growth and makes mascara last longer.
  • Lemon, lavender and peppermint (combined with a carrier oil) in a roller bottle on my toddler's feet for seasonal allergies.
  • On my Madre Beads necklace (similar) as another form of diffusing. 

I use EOs in many other ways from tackling colds to cleaning and will be sharing more about that around here soon.

Curious to learn more about essential oils? I'm co-hosting a Facebook party on Thursday, May 19. Let me know and I can send you an invite (comment below, message me on FB, etc.). I'd love to share more info with you there!

Disclosure: affiliate links used

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bodie: 3 months

He's already one quarter of a year old! We love how much more animated he is becoming. His coos and raspberries are so sweet. Bodie loves to get our attention by making noises.

What you might not be able to tell from the photos: Bodie likes to coo and watch his big sister. He recently discovered his thumb (not surprising since Maggie is a thumb sucker). He continues to be a very easy-going baby.

Bodie's likes:
  • Smiling and cooing
  • His thumb
  • The crib mobile
  • Smacking his lips/tongue

Bodie's dislikes:
  • Being hungry
  • Maggie's hair on his face (which often happens when she leans in close to him)
  • The sun in his face

One thing I want to remember about the past month of Bodie's life is that he continues to be adaptable and generally very happy. His smiles melt me and I seem to be a frequent recipient of them!

A look back: 1 month // 2 months

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Trip to the Zoo

Earlier this week, we had the chance to go to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It was such a special thing to do as a family. I have been going to this zoo since I was five years old, but it was so fun to experience it through my two and half year old daughter's eyes for the first time.

I realize she's probably too young to truly appreciate the zoo. But I do think she enjoyed what she saw. She was very anxious to "see the next animal" throughout the trip and had a hard time being present with the animal(s) we were currently looking at. That's just life with a two year old, right?

Some of my favorite highlights of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are:
  • The giraffes. They have well over one dozen giraffes and and built this great platform that gets you closer to them. You can feed them and look some of them in the eye. It has come a long way since I remember feeding them over the fence 20+ years ago!
  • Rocky Mountain Wild. I love that you can see so many animals in their "natural habitat" of the Rockies. The moose is my favorite, but they also have mountain lions, bears and bald eagles (and more).
  • Wallabies. This was the most surprising part of the visit to my husband and I. They had wallabies just walking hopping around in one area. They were so friendly and we even had the chance to pet one. 

We didn't get to see everything and we plan to go back soon. With a toddler and infant, I think experiencing the zoo in smaller periods of time will be most beneficial for us. 

Do you have any tips for zoo trips?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Finding the Beautiful Moments in Motherhood

Motherhood has brought me face-to-face with some the most tenderhearted moments of my life and at the same time it's brought me to tears as I realize just how worked up I can get about a situation. Disciplining a toddler is not for the faint of heart. Our relationship can be sweet and gentle one moment and then turn into an all out brawl the next. I'm not proud of it, but the daily nap time battles are wearing me down.

In these moments, when I am least proud of the mother I am, this is where I become keenly aware of my need for Jesus. It seems I have no control over my child's words and actions. I like to think I am doing my best (and also not my best) to discipline this toddler in a loving, yet firm way.

And Jesus is still there. He meets me in my mistakes. When I have to step out of the room and take a deep breath, confess my desire for control, getting caught up in doing things "my way" and recognize my inability to make it happen. In these moments when I am at a loss, I can only lean on Him and trust His Word. He is faithful.

I was thinking the other day as I read an old favorite devotional, 31 Days of Praise, and noticed some of the notes in it from previous times I'd read it. I thought about how things that seemed like such disappointments in 1998 and following years, pale in comparison to the roads I've walked since then.

The author, Ruth Meyers, uses Scripture in each day's reading, basing her words on what is written in God's Word. My circumstances are not by accident, but they are "raw material for blessing" in my life and those around me.

give thanks in all circumstances...
1 Thessalonians 5:18a 

While I wouldn't say my current circumstances are particularly hard, I have been walking through a time of transition. I am in a totally new season: we moved across the country to a small town where I am slowly forming friendships and am now a stay-at-home mom to two children. 

This reminder of having an attitude of gratefulness is so important for me to cling to in the harder moments of motherhood. When I am feeling stranded because we currently have one car and there are days my husband needs it for work; I can load up the kids in our double stroller and go for a walk. While walking, I am reminded of God's bigness with the sky stretching to meet the road ahead.

Other days, I simply need to ask Him to meet me where I am, whether it's standing at the sink doing dishes or turning on a favorite Pandora station to sing along.

I have to choose to focus on the beautiful moments of motherhood. There are so many and I made a list in my journal to remind me of the moments I love on a daily basis.
  • Singing to M when she goes to bed. She usually asks for a hymn and lately it's been Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)
  • Reading books to the kids
  • Smiles and giggles from B
  • Telling Brandon the funny things M said or did during the day
  • Snuggling B after he nurses
I could go on and on once I stop to think about the beautiful moments of motherhood. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May goals

Looking back at April, I was able to make progress on each of my goals in some way. I can't say they're 100% complete, but I did feel motivated throughout the month to work on them and that is the reason I set monthly goals.

1- Make healthy lunches. For the most part, Maggie ate lunches with a fruit/veggie and protein and/or carbs. It wasn't perfect, but she is a pretty good eater so I will say she ate most days and didn't fight me. 

2- Introduce some pre-school activities into our weekdays. We didn't have a routine about it, and probably only did a planned activity a handful of times, but it's exciting to me that Maggie now asks for "projects," meaning we get out the craft supplies. I'm still looking to Pinterest for most of my inspiration. 

3- Unpack my clothes and finish setting up our bedroom. Brandon hung my necklace/earring organizer so I could unpack my jewelry. That's the only thing hanging on the wall, so it's not done but we made some progress. 

4- Mail out those birth announcements. DONE! They were all mailed and (so far) only one has come back.

5- Watch the sun set. I have not yet seen a full sunset, but I do have plans to go to a friend's house who lives outside of town and has a beautiful view. I am so looking forward to seeing the sun set from their place.

As for May, I'm going to continue to keep it simple.

1- Go on a date to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. It seems terrible, I have to set this goal, but I want to make sure we actually do something for our anniversary because we have slacked on this in the past. 

2- Walk a minimum of three times per week (at least 30 minutes). I recently got a double stroller and the weather is getting warmer, so I really have no excuse not to walk. We went for a walk last week; Maggie loved it and Bodie slept, which was great. I need to incorporate more exercise into my day-to-day routine so this is my starting point. 

3- Go to the zoo. I am excited to take Maggie (and Bodie) on their first trip to the zoo. I think M is at the perfect age to begin to appreciate the animals and be entertained by them. 

4- Keep up with my online Bible study. I am participating in a summer Bible study with some of the younger women in our church and it kicked off May 1st. We only meet in person once a month, so I want to keep up with the study and not find myself cramming or playing catch up.

5- Get my desk setup in the office. There's a smaller desk in our home office and it's currently piled with books, boxes and a bunch of mail that needs to be sorted. I'd really like to use this space, so I need to get it organized and functional. 

Do you have any goals for the month?

Monday, May 2, 2016

To the New Mama on Mother's Day

Dear New Mom,

This is your first Mother's Day since meeting your baby face-to-face and you may not have realized the weight this holiday can have on your new mama heart. Or maybe you already have a strong relationship with the Hallmark holiday because of a painful relationship you have/had with your own mother. Or maybe you dreaded the day because your mom is no longer living.

Whatever your previous relationship to Mother's Day was, you now have a clean slate. You can start afresh. Although you may not be able to "leave your baggage at the door," you can look at Mother's Day through a new lens: as a mother.

My advice is simple.

Do not place too much expectation on the day. While your child is young, the burden of planning a Mother's Day celebration will likely fall to your husband and he may not realize the emphasis so many others put on this day. If he does surprise you, enjoy it. If he doesn't, lovingly let him know you'd like to celebrate differently next year (and maybe wait a week or so to bring it up).

Stay away from Facebook. I'm serious, it can be your worst enemy on Mother's Day. You will be tempted to compare your day to all the other moms out there who got breakfast in bed, personalized jewelry and handmade gifts from their elementary aged cherubs. Don't let Facebook (or any other social media) rob you of the joy of your first Mother's Day.

Think about your new mom friends. Chances are you have some same stage of life friends who are also new moms. Consider how you may cheer them on in their motherhood journey rather than compare your experience to theirs. Do they like tea or coffee? Pickup a box of their favorite next time you're grocery shopping and give it to them with a simple handwritten note the week after Mother's Day or think of something that would speak to their new mama heart.

Just remember, Mama, you are now a mother 365 days of the year and just because all those other Americans you know are celebrating Mother's Day in big ways on this one day, you are no more or less of a mother because of what was said or done.

Motherhood is beautiful and exhausting and downright emotional.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Finds: April edition

Happy Friday! Thank you for your support and reading my last post about HOW we ended up in Colorado.

I barely read books anymore (but every now and then fit in an audiobook). Lately, I find myself reading articles which I usually find via Twitter or Facebook or TheSkimm. I bookmark them or use Facebook's handy save option, but I don't usually share them so I want to start some of my favorite reads monthly around here.

I can't wait to make this bird feeder with Maggie.

One of my favorite books, Surprised by Motherhood (I listened the audio version), is on sale for Kindle through the end of the month.

Agreed: this life stage is hard, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Snapchat isn't useless, in fact it encourages storytelling.

Sometimes it can be a struggle to buy local, but this is a great reminder of its importance.

I've been trying to incorporate more natural remedies from into our life and have been using hydrogen peroxide to get stains out (works great on baby poop).

Children are not colorblind.

I'll admit it, there are some emojis I've been using incorrectly.

There seem to be so many drawbacks to the age of technology we live in and this is what scares me the most: the end of empathy (adult language warning).

Now that we live out west, I need to tackle some of the things on The Great American Bucket List in this part of the country.

Disclosure: affiliate links used

Monday, April 25, 2016

What are we doing here?

What ARE we doing here? If you follow me on Instagram, you may be wondering why we left our east coast city life or why I walked away (hopefully temporarily) from a great career in higher education after nearly 12 years.

To be honest, I have to remind myself what we're doing here too. Not in a "get me out of here" kind of way, but more of a "how did this even happen?" I realized I hadn't really shared how we actually got here. I mean the HOW behind WHY we live in eastern Colorado.

It's a great story (but I'm biased of course) and one I'm excited to share.

For the past few years, we had been planning to move to Colorado once my husband, Brandon, finished graduate school. We didn't have any family in New England and while I didn't grow up near grandparents because my dad was in the military, I yearned for my kids to experience living close to at least one grandparent.

Brandon finished his coursework in seminary last August. He had to quit his job to attend the last two classes because they met during the day (all of his previous courses met evenings and weekends). It was our first step of faith in this process-- to go to a single income and trust that God would provide a job 2,000 miles away and he could begin his career as a pastor.

We also had a bunch of unfinished home improvement projects on our 1922 colonial, so Brandon was able to work on those once his classes ended.

He began the job search for pastoral positions. In an effort to be closer to my family, the search was concentrated in Colorado. After some time of searching in one city and getting discouraged by the lack of openings, we discussed and prayed about widening our search.

We decided to look at the whole state, and even northern New Mexico to increase the options. Every time Brandon came across a new opening, I would check out google maps because several of the towns/cities I had never heard of and I wanted to see how far the drive would be to my dad's house.

Within days of applying for a solo pastorate on the eastern plains of Colorado, he got a phone call from a church and they setup a phone interview in November. While visiting my family at Christmas, we had a chance to meet with the search committee and see the town. Within hours of the interview ending Brandon was asked to preach the following Sunday (four days later), so we extended our stay a few days and got to spend even more time there.

After meeting more people in this small, agricultural town, I was surprised at how easy it was to imagine our little family living there. I felt so genuinely cared for throughout the whole process (and I wasn't even the one they would hire!). About three months after that first phone call, he was officially called as pastor in February. We had about six weeks to have a baby, pack up and plan the move before he would begin on April 1st.

Meanwhile, I was working full-time and growing a baby-- there was plenty to occupy my mind. The due date was getting closer and I was wondering how the whole moving across the country with a toddler and newborn would shake out.

But God provided in yet another amazing way! One Saturday morning Brandon got a phone call from one of the men on the search committee telling him that he and his wife wanted to drive our moving truck across the country for us. What?!

It was truly such a blessing.

So I ended up flying with both kids, while Brandon drove across the country in our car and the couple drove our moving truck.

We moved into the parsonage (with lots of help from our new church family) and had some time to unpack before Brandon officially started.

It's been about a month since the move and there are a lot of people to get to know and places to explore. We are really excited about this opportunity and sometimes while I'm driving, I just look at the huge sky (if you've been to the western United States you know what I'm talking about) and think about how quickly life can change. In a matter of months, we went from Brandon finishing seminary to job searching to moving across the country for him to have this exciting opportunity!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Words on My Arm

No, I didn't get a tattoo. But as I prepared for a new season (staying home), I wanted a visible reminder that it's not about me. My staying home with two kids season has purpose.

I can't really take all the credit because I was inspired to get a bracelet with meaningful song lyrics after reading this blog post from Rachel. I just loved this idea, but I struggled to find a song that fit this season.

I've been experiencing so many emotions in this new season. I am excited to finally be able to stay home with my kids, something I longed for while working after Maggie was born nearly three years ago. But as I enter an unknown place, I have my own fears and anxieties. In addition to staying home, I'm now getting to be known as the pastor's wife since my husband has a new job.

I can't remember if I landed on the song before or after Bodie arrived, but I do recall singing along to a song while showering one day and being struck by this line: "Let me be singing when the evening comes."

I just stopped for a minute and thought about how true I want these words to be for my life. No matter how many things I'm juggling, I want to have the ability to sing praises to my Creator when each day ends.

As a mom, there are moments the last thing I feel like doing is singing. I want to scream if I hear one more thing about an imaginary friend or have to unbuckle the toy carseat again. But those really are not terrible things at all. It is such a joy to have a child with a vivid imagination and a privilege to play with her. I don't have work emails hanging over my head anymore, but I can plan a day of fun activities for my daughter and son.

Once I decided on the quote, it was kind of a challenge to find someone that would put all the words I wanted on a bracelet; most handmade shops only put initials or a name on their jewelry. Fitting a phrase on a bracelet required me to do some searching.

I follow Melody Joy Designs on Instagram and have always loved her leather cuffs. I seriously love the way a leather cuff looks and can be layered with other bracelets (I already wear a silver cuff from my mom and a twisted cuff from my husband). Melody Joy Designs cuffs come in various colors and I noticed she stamped some other bracelets so I just asked her if she would be willing to stamp a leather cuff for me. Since the cuff wraps around your wrist four times, I figured the phrase would have plenty of room to fit. And an added bonus --Melody didn't even charge extra for the stamping!

I just love how it came out. It's a beautiful reminder to me of how I want to be joyful throughout the day. 

I know I will have my rough days and the last thing I'll feel like doing is singing, but these words on my arm will remind me of God's goodness. He's allowing me this season. I don't know exactly what He will do with it, but I am confident He will give me plenty to sing about.