{recipe} one ingredient ice cream

one ingredient ice cream

If you are looking for a little way to indulge your sweet tooth without totally falling off the bandwagon, look no further my friends.  I have a trick for you that one of my girlfriends introduced to me several years ago.

Did you know that you could create “ice cream” at home with just one single ingredient?  I kid you not, this is all you will need:

one ingredient ice cream

Yep.  A frozen banana.

It is the absolute easiest recipe you will ever create, I promise you that.

Simply:

: Take a banana that is fairly ripe, you want some of the sweetness that comes with the brown spots.
: Unpeel it and pop it into a baggie in the freezer. Some people slice it up before putting it in the freezer, I just put it in whole.
: Let it freeze for at least 2 hours, or it can be one that has been in there for a few days.
: Use some device to blend it up {I have found that a simple blender didn’t work as well for me. A food processor works great, and my magic bullet has never let me down on this one}
: This will be your process: Blend, scrape down the sides, blend, scrape, blend, scrape.
: And then, suddenly, your banana will transform from big chunks, to more like ice chips, to gooey, to this beautiful dreamy soft-serve consistency.

Plain really is delicious, but you can also add toppings! Here are some that I have tried:

A sprinkle of cocoa powder with about a tablespoon of honey
A tablespoon of peanut butter
Chocolate chips
Cinnamon

The peanut butter/chocolate chip combination is my favorite:
one ingredient ice cream

So if you need a quick little treat on game day, or any day, to get over your sugar cravings- try this!  It does the trick and is pretty delicious.

Have a great weekend~!
xoxoxo

a letter to my husband on his birthday

letter to my husband

My husband, Lane, turns 32 today.  We’ve been together since we were 18 years old- in a sense, we have “grown up” together, meeting when we were still practically babies!  What a ride it’s been.  Here are the words I can gather together for this man that means so much to me on his birthday.  If you want to read about the best gift I ever gave to him, find it here.

Lane, this is what I know about you:

You are adventurous.  So many of my favorite memories with you involve the outdoors, from you teaching me how to rock climb in college to you encouraging me to jump off of the “cliff of courage” in Mexico this past fall, from climbing 14ers to backpacking in Utah, from us climbing the Manitou Incline to teaching our girls to embrace getting dirty in nature.  You parachute.  You surf.  You shoot guns.  You backpack and rock climb and hike and run.  You help me be brave.  You get into the wild and love a good {but calculated} thrill.

letter to my husband

You see people.  Yes, you care about people but it goes deeper than that.  You see them.  You see their stories because you take the time to ask them.  I don’t even know the number of hitchhikers you have picked up any more… if someone is in need, you stop to help.  And the stories you have gained from those rides!  Sometimes you need to remind me to take a step back and have some grace… They must have a lot of wounds in their life to respond in that way… you tell me.  You have grace and love and compassion and love and grace and you act on it.

You are strong.  The physical and mental toughness that it requires to become an Army Ranger boggles my mind.  What you put your mind to, you accomplish.  What you wish to excel at, you do.  Not because everything comes naturally to you {though so much does it is completely annoying} but because you work hard and you train your mind and your body to do what you want them to do.  What you have encountered in training and in war has turned you into a warrior.  But you believe in justice and you believe in peace.  You defend the defenseless and protect the hurting.  But it’s not simply physical strength that I see in you… your passions, your convictions, your integrity, your dedication, your discipline… you will not let yourself be compromised.

letter to my husband

You love Jesus.  With passion.  Anytime a speaker asks the audience to think of people that have impacted their faith, I don’t think of a mentor and I don’t think of a college roommate or friend or coworker… I think of you.  You make me better.  You show me a better way to live, to love, to think, and it is based on your love for Jesus and how he has changed you.  And it doesn’t end with me.  In Iraq and in Afghanistan and in the halls of the local high schools and on the soccer field with your players… you make us all better.  We all think of you when we need to think of someone who impacted their faith.  So many could echo my words.

You are fun.  When we’re shopping, you throw in a bag of candy “just because.”  You make blended margaritas on Saturday afternoons because “why not?”  We went laser-tagging for your 30th birthday.  You don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure we have a good time.

letter to my husband

You are an amazing daddy.  You are the light in our girls’ eyes.  And they don’t know it yet, but you will become their standard in what they look for in a boyfriend and a husband.  All men will be measured against you because you love them so well.  A request to dance?  You turn on Disney music.  Daddy will you play?  You’re on the ground building a tower or finding the best hiding place in the house.  You sneak them chocolate chips when I’m not looking, make sure they know they’re beautiful whether they’re wearing a princess dress or pajamas, but also made sure they know how to climb a tree and how to hike the Colorado mountains.  You’re already planning your first snowboard trip with Brennan, when you can start coaching their soccer teams, and wondering how early is too early to teach rock climbing.  You are a good Daddy because you are involved, but more so because they know because they know because they know that they are precious in your eyes.

letter to my husband

You are my rock.  You reel me in, you keep me grounded, you are my solid ground when I have none.  You are the steady to my waver, the logic to my passion, the details to my dreams.  You are the anchor to my ship, the encouragement to my doubt, the love to my fear.

In this picture here, the night we got engaged on top of a mountain at sunset in 2004, I had an idea of what I was getting in you… but I had no idea.  As Helen Keller said, Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all, and you, my love, are taking me on the very best adventure I could have ever asked for.

a letter to my husband

what i want my daughter to know

{ as a side note, friends ::: in the last few days our sweet community has grown more than I ever anticipated.  I wrote for (in)courage and then for MoneySavingMom, and am so so grateful for those of you who have found a place here at thejellyjars.  so: welcome!  SO glad that you are here, I can’t wait for us to get to know each other.  I thought this post would be a good place to start. }

what I want my daughter to know

Fairly soon after having a baby, you begin the dance of feelings between absolute love and absolute anxiety.  A sense of responsibility hovers, beckoning you to mold this life into one that is hard-working and caring, one that walks humbly and loves mercy.

Absolutely.  It is a gift.  But also, absolutely it is hard and overwhelming and enormous.

As for my role in the process of building a life, this is what I want our two girls to hold onto:

: How to change a tire: both on a car and on a bike.  There might come a time when you simply cannot be the damsel in distress.  You’ll be late to a meeting or you’ll be in the middle of a triathlon and you’re going to need to buckle down and do it yourself.  It will instill confidence within your soul that you are strong and capable.

: Offer help to others.  Pick up the toy that the baby dropped at the store for his mom.  Sacrifice time on a Saturday to mow your elderly neighbors’ lawn.  Get outside of yourself and your own world.  Show others that you are with them in this… and then be with them in this.

: You have much to offer this world.  There is nobody else in the entire world like you.  You are unique, you have perspective that no one else will have.  Know that your voice matters; what you think, what you say, who you are, matters.  So learn how to speak your mind.  If you disagree with a situation, explain why in a loving way.  If you have this really good idea, say it.  Your words have value.

: Express gratitude.  Don’t be entitled.  Recognize the shoulders of those on which you stand.  Say thank you to your high school teachers.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The person holding the door for you.  Recognize your fellow human beings; we’re all in this together.

: How to summit a mountain.  Or how to backpack in Utah.  Or walk along a river.  Get out into creation.  Step far away with it, where the noise is stilled, where you can see for miles, where you feel most at peace.  Use the strength and grace and agility of your body to get dirty and get tired.  Stare up at the stars in the sky in the evening and recognize just how beautiful it all is and just how tiny we all are.

: Know who you are, know what you want to be about, and be sure of it.  The world will try to tell you otherwise, and it can be all too easy to let the allure of those shouts drown out the still and small voice of truth.  Be who you are, be true to your identity- don’t be what you think others want you to be.

: Move your body.  In whatever way best suits you.  It will speak to your soul and will make you feel strong.  Whether it’s dancing, rock climbing, running, or gardening.

: Create.  Whether it’s photography, writing, painting, or knitting.  Bring something to life that wouldn’t have existed had you not taken the time, the skill, and the love to bring it forth.  Find what is the most life-giving to you and then go do that.

: My baby girl, you are beautiful.  Beauty is not defined by magazine covers or the number on the scale.  Be comfortable in your own skin- don’t listen to any other messages you might receive.  Let me and your daddy be your mirror; remember what we tell you about your beauty.  Real beauty is being comfortable in your own skin and then living firmly within that identity.  You are exquisite, my girl.

: Life doesn’t always go according to plan.  Learn how to lose gracefully- it will be noticed and speak volumes about your character.  There will be bumps in your journey.  But I promise you this: hold tightly to grace, do not let go of what you know to be true.  Sit in the tension, sometimes beauty shows up where it’s least expected.

: Spend time with those who are not like you.  It will expand your thinking, show you different experiences on this same earth, show you that there are many different ways to live this life, and mold you into a more loving, more compassionate person.  Things aren’t always what they seem; go get out of your context.

: Play your note in this world.  Figure out what you love, what makes your heart beat, what you have to offer this world.  Sing love into this world.  Step into the places of need, the places of heartache, the places that need you.

And you, my darling, will live this life well.

the thing about being brave

living a wholehearted life

Let me tell you guys a story.

Last week I talked about how I’ve been sitting with and processing and turning over this word wholehearted.  To live with everything I’ve got, even when it might be hard, even when life might not look the way I imagined, even when it hurts.

Even when I have to do scary things.

Even when I have to be brave.

Because I don’t want to look back on my life… or even simply on this season… and have to say She lived mostly… but not with her whole heart.

Since I have put the word out there to y’all, I have been thinking: Sure, that is a great word.  But what does that look like?  Things are great in theory, but until you move it is just a word.

What does it look like to live a wholehearted life?

I think it looks like diving in.  I think it looks like offering a word to someone who needs it even though you feel unsure. I think it looks like taking that deep breath and going for it even when you don’t want to because there just might be something amazing on the other end.

I think it looks like the exhausted mama running on 3 hours of sleep, still playing puzzles with her kids.
I think it looks like walking up to someone and striking up a conversation because you need a friend.
I think it looks like listening to that little whisper of passion inside of you to follow that crazy dream.
I think it looks like fighting to be all in to your moments and not fast-forwarding or wishing for the next.
I think it looks like being brave and doing scary things.

And that was me last week.  See, we’re new here.  I have not a single friend to my name here.  I know people, sure.  But friends?  Not a single hang-out, not a single play-date, not a phone number exchange, nothing.  It has not been awesome.  And there was a bit of craziness added in to our move in early December with Christmas season, Lane getting used to a new job, family stuff to pay attention to, mama exhaustion, etc., but before I knew it we have lived here for 6 weeks and I was throwing myself a good month and a half long pity party.

But that just gets old.  I was not being a good mama.  I was not taking care of myself or my heart.  I’m sure I wasn’t being a good wife.

So I decided to do something about it.

There’s a great MOPS group that meets near me that I decided to go to.  200 women.  I knew not a single soul.  I’ve never been to MOPS before.  But I figured if I was going to change my story here, I had to start somewhere and the onus was on me.

So here is where it gets really cool.

No matter how extroverted you are, it is just hard showing up to a room of 200 people that you don’t know, by yourself.  It just is.

But I did it.

Because I was going to live wholehearted this year and that means stepping out and seizing the moment.  It means doing scary things.  You never know what a moment might hold if you don’t grab on to it.

Before I went I whispered a little prayer: Jesus… I just need a little bit of grace today.  I need a little bit of strength.  If you could show up today at Mops, I just need to know that you’re in this. 

I walk in the room and one of the leaders guides me through the process, helping me with the girls and setting me up with what I needed to know. And then:

Hmmmm… let’s see… what table should I put you at?  Let’s sit you at the Red Table”

It felt very random, but I followed her to the Red Table, to a group of darling gals similar age and stage as me and they said hi.

The girl I sit next to says “No way.  You were at the gymnastics class on Tuesday, weren’t you?!”

Once again, in my effort to Get In Our Groove here, I enrolled Brennan in a toddlers tumbling class.  Her little boy and my little girl became total BFF’s at this class so we interacted that previous Tuesday as we laughed at how cute they were.  But that was it.  And she goes to Mops and was my Table Leader?  I took a breath… it was going to be alright.

And then.

My gymnastics mom friend was asking me my story, I mentioned the church we attended in the Springs and when I said the name, another gal at our table leans in closer: Oh, hey- you went there?  You don’t happen to know Anne ___ do you?”  

Um… Anne is my sister.  How do you know her, new friend?

Turns out that they were good friends in NC, were in small group together, and completely love and adore my sister and her husband.

And I was randomly placed at her table too?

I took another breath.  It was absolutely going to be alright.  This was the table I was supposed to sit at.  Almost like my exact prayers were being answered.

These girls and I hung out last Saturday night.  It was incredible.  Threads were being woven within my story that I didn’t even know about.

So here’s my point friends: It is hard to step out and do scary things.  It is uncomfortable to do something new, something unknown, something brave.

But look at what I would have missed out on if I had just stayed comfortable?

Look at what I would have lost if I hadn’t embraced vulnerability and done this hard thing?

But because I knew I wanted to live wholeheartedly this year, I knew I had to back it up with my actions no matter how scared I was, no matter how uncomfortable it was, no matter how much easier it is to just stay home with my two kiddos.

So now here is my challenge to you:
Go out and do that scary thing.
Make that phone call.
Send in that application.
Invite them over for dinner.
Wake up early to take care of your heart before the day begins.
Volunteer in that class.
Devote yourself to playing with your kids.
Apply for that internship.
Begin that new hobby.
Have that conversation.
Show up as the new girl.

Whether wholehearted is your word this year or not, embrace your minutes and embrace your moments.  And do that scary thing… You never know what is on the other end.  

So go be brave: it just might be worth it.  

~xoxoxo~

finding one word to guide your year

one word

Here’s the thing: we’re 14 days into this year and I’m just now thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and Words Of The Year and how I might intersect with what is ahead of me in 2015 and what umbrella I want to cover it all.  I never said I was a Type-A, details-driven, plan-ahead kind of gal, so let it be no surprise that I am just now tackling this topic!

I wasn’t going to assign myself a word this year, hence the delay.  Have you seen these words of the year?  A word you claim over yourself and your year, revisiting and reawakening and remembering as the months tick by?  A focus to your thoughts and energies and days?

See, Words of the Year are kind of the thing right now.  They’re all over.  Hope, Anchor, Continue, Trust, Faith, Content, Dream, Fearless, Purpose, Brave.  But I wasn’t going to join in, I think because 2014 made me a little gun shy.

See, the year began one way: simple, expected, ordinary, tame.  And then, about January 16th, it took a giant and forceful and unexpected turn, and our entire year, from January until December 31st, was defined by transition.  We changed life plans, we sold our house, we gave away our dog, we said goodbye to our best friends, we lived in a friend’s house for 6 weeks, we then moved away from the city we thought we’d retire in, then we lived with my parents for 5 months, Lane’s job- the reason for all of the moving- went haywire on us, then his parents revealed he has a long-lost brother we didn’t know about, and then we moved again.  Transition, transition, curveball, transition.  None of which we were anticipating in January.

So I felt a little hesitant in claiming a word over my year because I’m still recovering from a year that knocks you to your core again and again and again.  And so with no idea what this year, 2015, is going to hold, can I really choose a word?

What if the word I choose right now is Dwell but I realize I actually need to be Brave?  What if I choose Gentleness but I actually need it to be Thrive?  Doesn’t it all feel a bit futile?

And it’s not like we’re in the clear with transition- are any of us?  2015 holds just as much unknown for us as 2014 did- and the stakes are a little bit higher now with Lane’s career.

And so it is hard for me to put a blanket over all of 2015 without knowing.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever dealt with this?  What do you do when life is supposed to go one way and it goes another?  How do you reconcile a word with your year that might not fit?  Do you give up on words and hope and an umbrella to cover your days just because you had a bad year?

I don’t think so.

Because that is life- unknown and transition and days that go well and days that don’t and curveballs and emergencies and smooth and peace and uneven ground.

See, I think that there is something significant in reclaiming a new year.  I think that there is a lesson to be learned in the process- whether it was an easy process or not.  I think that if I weren’t to choose a word this year that I would be letting the hard year win.  I would be saying that God isn’t big enough to still be at work, even when I can’t see him.

Because sure, choosing a word over our year is about the word and the intention behind it and how you interact with your moments.

But it is also an act of hope.  It is about staring at all of the new that a fresh year holds and saying, I think this one can be better… I think I can be better.

At it’s core, choosing a word is about grace.  Because our years ebb and flow, our days moving in and out with the shifting tides of 3-year-old emotions or stressful travel schedules or new babies or horrible bosses, and a word can flex to match the weight of each, holding us steady as we find our footing.

It can center you as you feel your world unraveling around you… brave.  Or it can reel you back in as you revisit it after a month of forgetful whims… anchor.

It is a frame over our year, a way to view what we encounter.  It is the focus on our camera, tightening our perspective as we see our days through its filter.

And if you are like me and haven’t dared yet dream of a word over your year yet, there is grace here, friends.  I challenge you to think ahead and place a word over you year.  It just might give you a little freedom along with the dose of hope.

Just in case you’re curious, the word I have settled on is Wholehearted.  It has actually been a theme of my life for about the last 6 months and has been so impactful that I’m not ready to release it yet.  Every single thing I do, whether expected or not, whether graceful or not, whether easy or not, I want to do with my whole entire heart.

Not longing for another moment
Not wishing for another hour of sleep at 6am
Not wishing to be somewhere else
Not counting down the minutes
Not counting down the months

But being right here, right now, with my whole entire heart.

If you feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear what your word of the year is!

xoxoxo

room at the table

room at the table

We were only living there for five months.  Five months of unknown, five months of transition, five months of waiting for my husband’s next career move to fall into place.  We had taken big steps of faith, and Colorado Springs was the intermission connecting where we had been and where we were going.

Five months that threatened loneliness, living there long enough to sense the emptiness without friends but too short to actually walk the long road that real relationships require.

I ran into her at an event we went to one Thursday evening.  An acquaintance, more a friend of my sister’s than my own.  But we crossed paths and immediately she said: “We are having y’all over for dinner.  What are you doing Tuesday night?  Come over.”

And so we shared a meal that Tuesday.  One of those meals where you linger at the table long after you’ve finished.  One of those meals where at the beginning you hardly knew each other and at the end all four of you have shed tears at some point.  One of those meals.

I’m writing over at (in)courage today… to read more about how this sweet friend entered into life with me, join me over there~ we’d love to have you! 

being a good enough mother

As I was reading last night I came across the phrase good enough mothering.  It was referencing an outside study, it was a thought in passing, a bridge for the ideas the author was connecting and then she moved on.

But I couldn’t release it.

Is it okay to just be good enough?

In this age of try harder, work smarter, raise kind and intelligent and athletic and gifted and obedient and thoughtful and humble and justice-minded and patient and strong and humble and outgoing and resilient children… is good enough really going to cut it?

As we watch other mamas enroll their kids in piano and competitive soccer and early literacy programs and compare when one child started to read and when the other was potty trained and whether the first is as social as he should be, we keep ourselves yoked to the drive to be perfect.

Have you felt yourself caught in the cycle of the high standards and the trying harder and the comparisons and the guilt and the judgment and the not measuring up?  Or even in the exhaustion from correcting and training and teaching and trying to be perfect- or at least getting them to behave perfectly?

Doesn’t doing a good enough job at mothering feel… not good enough?  I read that phrase and I question it.  Don’t I want to be the very best mother that I possibly can?  Love my girls so fiercely and honestly that not for a single second do they ever question who they are or their value or their significance in this world?  Don’t I want to go to every length imaginable to give our kids the very best life they can possibly imagine?  Don’t I want to be the very best mama- the perfect mama?

But then, I think about the phrase Good Enough Mothering again.  This time, rather than seeing it as an insufficiency, I see it as liberation.  I see it as a release that I don’t have to try so hard.

Because Good Enough is not synonymous with failure.  Good enough is still doing your very best, but being okay that your very best is enough.

It’s okay that it took you 3 days to finish a load of laundry.  It’s okay that you momentarily lost your temper.  It’s okay they watched a tv show while you regained a moment of sanity.  It doesn’t make you a failure of a mama.

Step into the confidence that you are exactly, perfectly, completely who you were made to be.
Step away from self doubt.
Step into assurance that you are the very best mama for these little lives.
Step into freedom and love and grace because you are good enough.

Because being a mama is difficult and exhausting.  It is inspiring and rewarding.  It is fierce and worthwhile and stretching.  It will take you to your limits and then spin them around and show you how much wider and superb your potential is than you ever dreamed.  Being a mama is powerful and magnificent and mundane and ordinary all in the same moment.

And in those moments, in each and every moment, we offer our very best.

And that is good enough.

And our kids are going to be fine.

And so now, as we enter into a new year, I release all of us to be okay with being Good Enough.  We don’t need to fight our way to the top, push our kids to the top, compare them with the overachiever at the end of the street, or run ourselves ragged volunteering for board after board after board and running around after the children cleaning up crumbs and putting away toys and hushing them from screaming too loud.

We need to let our kids have a little bit of empty space in their day- that space where boredom and creativity combine.

We need to free up our schedule and our mind and our heart- make room for love and purpose and joy and contentment to fill in the cracks that stress and guilt and exhaustion used to occupy.

We need to take a step back sometimes when everything inside of us screams to intervene- letting our kids taste failure every now and then trains them how to solve problems for themselves.

We need to give out grace and compassion and more grace- on ourselves. Give yourself a break, don’t hold yourself to such a high standard. You are doing the best you can, you really are.

Because Mama, you, just as you are, are doing a Good Enough job.

And that, my friend, is good enough.

a {new} new year tradition for our family: memory jar

And here we find ourselves, standing at the edge overlooking the entirety of a year before us.  It is right here that we are offered the chance at something new.  Don’t you have the sense that something big, something unknown, something grand is before you at the very beginning of a year?  At this edge of unknown, the possibilities spread out before us.  So many moments stand in front of us, yet to be revealed.

And I want to remember as many as I possibly can.

If you’re like me, sitting at the end of a year, trying to close it well, you find yourself thinking: “What in the WORLD happened to 2014?”

How did this year become one big blur as I look back and try to honor it and remember it and do justice to 365 days of life?  I can look back on the big markers, the birthdays and the moves and the events, but it is the little moments of our day and our girls’ world that I find myself forgetting.

I want to prevent the blur and the fuzzy and the forgetfulness in future years, so we are starting a new tradition this year.  The idea is not mine, some of our dear friends do this, but I share it with you in case you need something tangible to hold on to and remember your year.

Memory Jar

new year tradition

As our days flow through 2015, we will take pieces of paper and write out moments we want to remember- significant memories, little moments, funny events, milestones, little bits of our day, whatever we deem worthy of the jar- and fill this jar with our year, with the moments both big and little that shaped our days.  Then, on New Year’s Eve of that year, we will sit down and go through our jar and remember and laugh and honor and celebrate as a family as we close out one year and prepare for another.

What a neat way to remember all of the little moments that made up our family in a year and sit together to laugh and remember and celebrate and get closure on a year.

how we eat paleo on a budget

Maybe you are anxiously awaiting January 1, ready for the new and the change and the fresh start that is blown in when the calendar shifts.  Maybe you are considering every meal from now until then your last supper, indulging in all you can in the final moments before we collectively make our resolutions to become new and our promises to change and our vows to become healthy and lose those pounds that have crept up as the months of 2014 ticked on.

Maybe you’re interested in eating paleo this year.

We eat paleo about 80% of the time and our other 20% falls under the Gluten Free category.  I’ve eaten paleo off and on for about the last 3 years, but I became a total believer in how much better my body functions and how much better I feel when I did my first Whole30 about a year and a half ago.  After that, I was hooked on feeding myself and my family a nutrient dense diet centered around lean meats and vegetables.

There tends to be 2 central struggles with eating paleo: 1~ It is time consuming and 2~ It is expensive.

We are in what I like to call a lean season of our marriage.  As we journey into new realms in my husbands career and our family dynamics, our budget has shrank… and shrank… and shrank.

But I refuse to live on ramen noodles and junk-filled hot dogs and mac n’ cheese for 2 years.  Food is entirely too central of a factor in our health for me to disregard it.  So we make it work.  We make sacrifices in certain areas of our budget in order to pour more money towards our grocery budget.  As the creators of Whole30 say in It Starts With Food- the food you eat will either make you more healthy or less healthy.  So we make it work.

whole30 groceries

If you are interested in overhauling your pantry as you ring in the new year or if you want to dabble in the world of paleo but are intimidated by the fears of how expensive it is, I am going to explain how we eat paleo on a budget.

First off, just to get the nitty-gritty out there: I grocery shop on Mondays and each week spend about $70 on our weekly groceries for a family of 4.  Once a month I will go to Costco and stock up on items like gluten free snacks and organic meat and spend between $100-150 for that once-a-month trip.  Food is absolutely our highest spending category by far each month, but again: I believe that it is so central to the health of our family that we would rather spend money on healthy food right now and sacrifice on some entertainment or classes for the girls if we need to as things are tight.

According to the USDA the average family of 4 spends $722 a month on groceries.  With our monthly grocery bill at about $400 a month, that falls well under the average family (and $722 was even on the low end of the spectrum- the high end was over $1000/month).

So now for some actual tips on how we eat paleo on a budget.

We eat a lot of soups and egg dishes

One pot of soup can be extremely nutritious and filling, especially if you use homemade bone broth, leafy greens, veggies, and any form of protein.  It’s a great way to stretch out your protein and have leftovers that last through a few lunches and/or dinners.  Same goes for egg casseroles.  If we were to just scramble eggs for a breakfast, it would use up 6-8 eggs in a single meal to feed all four of us.  If I make it into a casserole of 10 eggs and fill it up with breakfast sausage, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables, one 9×13 egg casserole will last us 3 meals and we are still completely filled and satisfied.  Stretch your food in whatever way you can.

We don’t go out to eat very often

If you commit to buying food at a grocery store rather than at a restaurant, you can re-allocate money that you would use out at a restaurant toward some of the protein that you will be buying.  Making your own food at home is incredibly cheaper than buying a meal at a restaurant.  Yes it’s more work and you have to do your own dishes, but really, it makes such an impact on your food budget.  If we do go out to eat, it’s typically Chipotle because it’s something we can modify to a paleo meal fairly easily.

We don’t eat 100% paleo

It’s actually very difficult to eat 100% paleo.  Shoot for 80% paleo and even then I believe it will make a huge difference in your health.  Our other 20% is gluten free, and that does help to give a little wiggle room with how we spend money on our food.  If we have a crazy morning I don’t feel guilty pouring the girls a bowl of Cinnamon Chex or if it’s a hard day we will absolutely have gluten free pancakes for dinner.  Sometimes we stretch a fish dinner by having white rice with it.  Give yourself some grace as you start this journey.  It doesn’t have to be 100%.

Only shop the perimeter of the store

It is rare that I will actually walk through the aisles of the grocery store.  Stay away from temptation, right?!  But when you stop spending money on cereal and chips and crackers and bread and salad dressing, it allows you to simply redirect the money that you used to spend on all of the processed food into food that fuels your body- the eggs, fruits and vegetables, and meat that is found in the outside circle of the store.

Don’t be afraid to buy frozen produce or canned wild caught fish or canned vegetables

Canned fish is an excellent source of the highly coveted Omega-3’s and helps give some variety to your nutritional profile by stepping away from beef and chicken for a meal or two.  Alaskan wild canned salmon makes salmon very affordable, or you could even go for some canned sardines!  Frozen produce is also a great trick to save some of your food budget.  Since the producers freeze the produce at the peak of freshness, for much of the year you can find higher quality produce than you even can in the produce section- and might even be able to get organic at the frozen aisle prices.  And don’t forget about canned vegetables- as long as the only ingredient is the vegetable itself, it is a fantastic and cheap way to get some more vegetables into your diet.

We don’t snack that often

I have found that when I eat more nutrient dense food and focus on actually enjoying the food as I eat it rather than scarf it down, I don’t get as hungry in between meals.  When the girls eat a snack, or if I do have a snack in between meals, we keep it pretty basic (and therefore frugal): a banana, an apple and almond butter, string cheese, carrots & guac.  When your body is getting the food it needs to work most efficiently, it won’t be riding the roller coaster of carb sugar highs and lows and you trying to keep up with it; instead, you’ll just find you won’t need to eat as much.

Be willing to invest time

I have a Sunday routine where I will take a couple of hours in the afternoon to prepare for the week ahead of us.  I will typically make an egg casserole, a soup, chop up carrot sticks and other veggies for easy meal prep during the week {don’t buy pre-chopped veggies at the grocery store- do it yourself at home and save some pennies}, and usually some sort of paleo/GF muffin or bread for the girls to have throughout the week.  {This is a delicious bread that I make often}.  I might put a whole chicken in the crockpot for chicken meat for quick salads and bone broth for soups {buying whole chickens are a much more budget friendly way to get your chicken meat, btw!}.  Maybe I’ll start a batch of kombucha.  But Sunday afternoons are my time to get our food ready for the week.  Preparation really is so key to success when eating paleo.

Buy in bulk

If you don’t have a Costco membership, goodness gracious do I recommend that you get one.  It is so worth it.  They have so many organic options and gluten free snacks- it really helps us get through the month.  Buying in bulk is always cheaper than buying little by little… great way to save money.

We tend to eat the same kind of protein

We eat a lot of ground beef because then I feel okay spending the extra dollar to get the organic grass fed beef.  A lot of taco salads, a lot of chili, a lot of meatballs and meatloaf.  Also we do a lot of chicken drumsticks- I can buy 10 organic chicken drumsticks for less than the price I would pay for 1 lb of conventional chicken breasts.  Eggs are our main protein for a lot of our meals.  It’s okay to find what works for you and stick with it.

If you have the choice, spend most of your food budget on high quality meat

High quality meat is more critical to your health than organic produce is.  When I can, I buy organic produce- especially those on the “Dirty Dozen” list like spinach, berries, apples, etc.  But if I have to make the choice, I put our money toward high quality meat.  Read this article on what the creators of the Whole30 say about it.

Focus on eating paleo foods and take one step at at a time

Don’t worry about eating grass fed beef and locally sourced organic produce at first.  Eating meat and veggies is a great place to start- it’s better to start with any version of the paleo diet than not at all.

Hope that helps.  I’m going to continue to focus some of my posts on healthy eating tips and tricks as the new year begins- it helps keep me in check too!  Feel free to ask me any more questions!

Hope you are well, my friends.
xoxoxo
~Sarah

what we’re eating this week

Every Sunday I have a routine of thinking through the week and our nights and what we will eat when and make a grocery list based on my meal plan.  Having a plan of what I will make that covers our whole week helps me so much when we get to the day-to-day.

I’m not looking at the clock at 4:00pm on Tuesday afternoon stressed out and settling on cereal for dinner yet again… I have a plan laid out, the groceries already bought, and feel set up for success.  If you’ve never thought through a meal plan at the beginning of the week, I highly suggest you try it.  It makes my weeks flow so much more smoothly.

I generally plan about 4 meals a week.  Three weeknight meals and one to cover a weekend night meal, and we fill in the gaps with the leftovers.  If you need some ideas of what to cook for your own people this week, this is what we’re eating:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

: Mondaypizza spaghetti pie

: Tuesdayspicy chicken drumsticks, sweet potato chips, kale chips
{this dinner is on our every-single-week-rotation. I kid you not, it is so good. the girls both eat every bite on their plates. make this.}

: Wednesday —  leftovers

: Thursdaysweet potato hash with eggs and bacon

: Friday — taco salad

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hope y’all had a great weekend!

xoxoxo
~Sarah

fun {and easy} christmas kid craft

Brennan has been really into snow globes lately so I decided that it would be fun to try to make one of our own.  It ended up being a pretty easy craft and a neat way to incorporate the holiday spirit into our regular craft time activities.

Here’s what you need:

: glue gun
: empty jar {needs a solid lid, not a mason jar type lid}
: Christmas decorations {I found these mini ornaments for $1 in the front bins at target. Use little trees, animals, tinsel, etc. Get creative!}
: glitter
: black electrical tape

easy christmas craft

1.  Take the decorations and glue them onto the lid, which will serve as the base of your snow globe.  Leave enough room around the edge to make sure you will still be able to close the jar.

easy christmas craft

easy christmas craft

2.  Once your base is assembled, pour glitter into the jar.

easy christmas craft

3.  Screw the lid on tight and wrap the electrical tape around to seal and make sure there are no leaks.

easy christmas craft

We’ll see if it makes the forever keepsakes box of creations she’s made… ;) … BUT, it was really fun tapping into something that she is so passionate about right now and getting the chance to have her create one of her own.

And besides the mini ornaments, the rest were supplies that we already had at home.  So if you’re searching for a Christmas craft to do with your kiddos, this is a wonderful one that was fun and frugal and easy.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

easy {paleo} breakfast casserole

Whew.  You guys.  I promise to get back to normal around here soon.  In case you missed it, we ended up having to live with my parents for the last 5 months.  Yep.  5 months.  They are complete and absolute gems, and despite some hiccups going on in our life, it ended up being a very restful time there and really fun getting daily time with my parents.  However.  We were ready to get into our own space and reunited with our own things and the rest of our clothes and possessions that had been in boxes since May.  And that happened last week!  Hoorah!

We moved to our darling {and unique…} little home right outside of Denver last week, which of course coincided perfectly with the last 2 weeks of Lane’s seminary semester.  So, two toddlers plus tired mama plus husband who might as well be out of town for 2 weeks plus moving equals a bit of crazy.  I’ve been unpacking boxes and moving furniture and wrangling the two littles.  And actually it has been so fun; it feels like an early Christmas opening every moving box it’s been so long since I last saw all of our things!

All that to say, I haven’t been around here as much as I would like to.  I know you must be in the throes of holiday season chaos too.  But just know that I have some fun things in store around here.  I’m going to get back on a regular schedule, have some fun craft/decorating ideas brewing now that I’m in my own space again, and am working on some food posts with thoughts on healthy eating on a budget, as well as just my normal honest thoughts on life.

Speaking of busy schedules and food, I have learned how much it helps my mornings, and therefore the flow of the rest of my day, to have breakfast already prepared in the fridge.  Mornings can be so busy as they are, add in dashing out the door for errands, or school, or holiday hustle and bustle, and cereal can become the daily go-to.  But this breakfast casserole can be made so quickly {I made it at the same time I was making dinner tonight it is that easy} and can be heated up quicker than you can make a piece of toast in the morning.  Hope you enjoy it and that it adds a little bit of sanity to your mornings!

easy paleo breakfast casserole

INGREDIENTS

DSC_0039

: 10 eggs
: 1 sweet potato {I use white sweet potatoes}
: 1 lb breakfast sausage {Jimmy Dean makes a great all natural sausage}
: ~ 1 1/2 cups finely chopped kale {or other green}

DIRECTIONS

{preheat oven to 350}
1. Peel and grate sweet potato
2. In a skillet on medium heat, cook the sausage and sweet potato at the same time until sausage is cooked through and sweet potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add kale once mixture is cooked through and let cook for a few minutes
4. While sausage/potato/kale mixture is on stove, mix your eggs. {disclaimer: I added about 1/4 cup of milk to the egg mixture because I like the way the eggs turn out a little fluffier with milk mixed in. To make it true paleo or if you can’t tolerate dairy, omit the milk}
5. Add the stovetop mixture to the eggs and put in a prepared {I greased mine with coconut oil} 9×13 dish.
6. Cook for 25-30 minutes until eggs are firm and starting to brown around the edges.

easy paleo breakfast casserole

How easy is that?!  The girls eat it up, it’s a great way to get some greens in the first meal of the day, and it is so so so convenient having something ready to eat right when you wake up.

Hope you are well.  Enjoy.

~Sarah

because in a day so ordinary, everything changed

As I document our moments on Instagram I have started using the hashtag everyday beautiful.  It began as a way to collect our mundane, our ordinary, our everyday moments together, the ones that shine in an otherwise regular day.  It has evolved into a rally cry for my heart, to notice those moments that make up every one of our days.  It has transformed into an intentional effort to not let these days just pass me by as we sometimes simply survive our moments.

And sometimes it surprises me where I can find the joy and the peace and the contentment when I let myself look for it.

parenting is hard

Because everyday is beautiful.
Every single day.
In the ordinary, in the mundane, in the routine.  In the crazy, in the chaos, in the hard, and in the unpredictable.

Even the ones that seem to be so dark.
Even the ones where all you hear is silence.
Even the ones when you wonder how it is all going to work out.
Even the ones that scream busy and hurry and stress and too much.

everydaybeautiful

Those moments of everydaybeautiful- the big ones as well as the small as well as the seemingly insignificant as well as the ones that I have to squint to see because the day is so dark- reminds me that a lot of the time there is more than meets the eye.  It reminds me that a lot of the time there is beauty in the ordinary and the busy and the difficult.  It reminds me that there is a bigger story going on.

Because at one time, there too had been silence.
Once, the people were longing for answers and direction and something, Someone, to come into the ordinary and the everyday and the moments and rewrite the story.
At one time, when all was dark and unknown and silent and the days were ordinary and everyday, the story changed.

Because once, a baby was born in a stable.

Within the mess and the animals and the unknown and the teenagers who had their plans changed and the dark of night, a star shone above as the bigger story played out amidst and underneath and within and around the peoples’ very eyes.

And because of that day, our days have been forever transformed.  Because of that day, December marches us slowly and peacefully and intentionally into the presence who was welcomed in the mess and the dirt.

everydaybeautiful

But sometimes December isn’t peaceful.  Sometimes December doesn’t feel slow.  Sometimes December feels anything but intentional as we move from party to party to gathering to shopping to breakfast to dinner to meeting deadlines to shopping to wrapping to reading the story to moving the elf and we fall into bed feeling nowhere close to restored or peace or the night divine.

And so I look for the everydaybeautiful.  I pause to find the presence wrapped within the presents sitting underneath the tree.  I quiet and I still the noise, if only for a moment, and look at the gifts- the intangible and the unseen more than the boxes wrapped up with bows.  I remind myself that there actually, really is a reason for this sometimes chaotic and stressful and filled-to-much-to-the-brim season.  And it changes everything.

When I allow myself to see the beautiful in the ordinary, the beautiful in the everyday, I see that sometimes there is more to the story.  I see them asking me to sit and read the book rather than seeing a nuisance interrupting my workflow.  I see the opportunity for a conversation with my husband rather than a disruption to our routine.  I see the chance to step in and give a gift to someone I don’t know and will never meet rather than an additional drain on our budget.  I see the drumbeat marching us toward and beckoning us to witness the wild pursuit of love rather than a packed schedule stressing us out.

Because once, a star shone in the dark of night.
Once, when the story seemed to be going one direction, a whole new narrative was written.
Because once, in a day so ordinary, a baby was born.

And everything changed.

learning to let go of worry

The days inch us closer and closer still into that which we waited for.  It sings of new, of potential, of hope.  A new home to learn and unpack and decorate and explore and run around and make our own.  A new community to learn and discover and explore and make our own in the name of adventure and trust and faith.  A new group of people to befriend, new ways to be brave, new rhythms and patterns and elements in our world.

And this is what threw her off the last time, this is what threw me off the last time- the new, the change.

And so I start to worry, I start to hold tight, I start to long for control, not trusting Him to write the story so I grab the pen.

I start to wait and watch and anticipate her moves, matching mine to hers.

I wake in the middle of the night, mind racing, traveling to the months ahead of us, assigning end results to moments we haven’t even lived yet.

I sit in the tension of welcoming change and being terrified of what it might mean.

How easy it is to remain there- in the waiting and the watching and the worrying.

But when I go there, that is where I camp and that is where I stay and that is where I live.  I live in the questions, I live in the worry.

I don’t want to live the questions.

I want to live my moments.  Right here.  In front of me.  Even when gratitude is hard.

Because really, we are constantly waiting.  Waiting for the baby, waiting to make friends, waiting for the new job to start, waiting for the kids to be disciplined- at least more disciplined than they are now, waiting for them to not meltdown in public, waiting to lose those last ten pounds, waiting to graduate, waiting to get married, waiting to be working again, waiting for them to be potty-trained, waiting, waiting, waiting.

And waiting and worrying and watching can be exhausting.

I am both.

I had a friend who was an incredible cross country runner in college.  One day I asked her how she wins these races she runs in and her answer?  Well, I just put one foot in front of the other as fast as I can.

There was no technical jargon, no mottos she chants, no expounding on her diet in the week leading up to race day.  She didn’t talk about visualizing the finish line, she didn’t mention the feeling of the medals she has held in her hands.  While each might be important, when it is distilled to the basis of her races, she puts one foot in front of the other as fast as she can.

She goes back to the basics.

It’s the little moments, the little actions, that build into one big race.  She focuses on what she has to do right then and does that the best she can, and then moves on to the next thing and does that the best she can, and then moves on.

Because when I look too far ahead, I live there.  I worry about how it will all play out.  I look for rest there, I look for answers there.  I complicate life when it doesn’t need to be complicated by thinking about the next move and anticipating the end result.

But then I miss out on now.

And so I learn a few things from the basics of my runner friend.

: Grace. Always grace.  We don’t need to try so hard.  We just need to do our best with what we are entrusted with right now.  And do that thing.  Do it well.  And then move to your next thing.

: Dig in to now.  This moment right here.  Learn to find rest even in this, even now.  Don’t get too far ahead of yourself like we love to do, just put one foot in front of the other.

: We don’t need to complicate things.  Just go back to the basics; look for grace when it’s hard to see, find the gratitude in each situation, seek ways to rest and find Sabbath in each day.

learning to not worry

When I learn to find rest in the green pastures and the still waters and the right here and right now, I also learn how to find rest in the suffering and in the questions and in the waiting and in the Tuesdays and the Wednesdays and in the everyday mundane and in the day-to-day chaos of energetic and chaotic little girls.  I learn to find rest in the worry and the waiting and the change.

Because I have the muscle memory to look for it.  I put one foot in front of the other.  I focus on what is right in front of me, and only that.  I see that the prepared ground on which we walk is exactly what we have strength for, because He gives us strength for that very journey.

Because when we get back to our very own basics, we learn to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.  I learn how to rest and breathe deep and be grateful for whatever is right in front of me.  The moment right here, right now, that I hold in my hands.

Because He gives us permission to rest and leads us to still waters and He tells us not to worry about tomorrow.

God is still good

So I don’t want to miss out on my today, on these moments, always wishing for the next step ahead.  So I am going to passionately live this one, right here, right now.  And it is a constant renewing of my mind, a constant fight to change my thought patterns, a constant back and forth with what I know and what I fear.

But I want to live here, not then.

So I am going to grab my girls, grab a spoon, grab some ice cream, and eat right out of the carton.

I am going to build a fort to rival all forts.

I am going to sit and breathe deep and hold tightly to trust, to grace, to the silence.

I am going to silence whatever takes me out of this moment, because who can add an hour to his life by worrying?

And I am going to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

the dance of the mama

The sun wakes up and so do they, one right after the other.  They start their day so I start mine and we begin it all as one.  We start the dance of the morning with the coloring and the cooking and the yelling and the forgiving and the exploring and the experimenting and the actual dancing.  Our dance goes back and forth and around again as we each figure out the rhythm that this day will need, that our hearts will require.

Two steps forward and one step back and this one better than the last.  Two steps forward and one step back and we step on each other’s toes.

We’re all figuring this out together, you see.  One is discovering and exploring her world and one is discovering and exploring her independence and I am discovering and exploring them and me and my identity and my game plan and us together all at the same time.

I didn’t know the dance moves before we hit the floor, you see.  How I wish I did.  Right/left/box step/jazz hands would have been so helpful as I learned how to move with you and around you and holding you and for you.

kids imitate parents

But none of this came with an instruction manual, none of this came with a trainer, none of this came with a users guide.  Sure there are those that have gone before and those that go beside and those that offer advice from the grocery store aisle.  But this is our dance.  And we need to find our rhythm and our own back-and-forth together.  These are our days, each as unique as the one before.

One is learning how to become hers more than mine and the other is a bundle of energy learning and growing, but still mine more than her own.  And then one is on the floor screaming while the other is scavenging in the pantry and one is back-talking while the other is running away from me.  And then one is saying no while the other is saying no too.  And then they both are heaps on the floor, too exhausted from learning how to live in this world.

And I improvise my moves to each of theirs.  I match their moves, sometimes a step ahead and sometimes lagging behind and sometimes too exhausted to anticipate the next.

kids imitate parents

And here is what I see, the most important part of it all: they too, are matching their moves to mine.  It took me this long to see it, this long to notice the high and heavy purpose I carry each and every day: I am duplicating myself in them.  They watch and they analyze and they mimic and they do as they see me do.  Each of us is learning how, together, all at the same time, to do this well.  How to be a mama and how to be a sister and how to be a 3-year-old and how to be a 1-year-old and how to passionately engage in our world and be our best selves.  And so they imitate the one they are around the most, they emulate what they see me do, what they hear me say.

Both my moves that should be imitated and my moves that should be forgotten, each of them and every single one is replicated in mini-me fashion right beneath my toes.

The little one, the one still even just learning her words, looks me right in the eyes and screams an emphatic NO.  The bigger one, the one who grabs my hand spontaneously as we cuddle on the couch, this one also yells STOP IT.  RIGHT NOW.  JUST STOP IT.  And I ask myself where she has heard that phrase before.  

And they play with their pretend phones, pushing buttons and talking emphatic, distracted as ever.  I look down with my computer on my lap and my phone open to Instagram.

And then the older says phrases like Daddy, you are my best boy and Thanks for coming to my rescue and You’re just the cutest, baby girl.  Maybe I do say kind things sometimes?

And then as we are running late and the morning has been difficult and I am trying to rush rush rush them out the door and they mirror my emotions and mimic my stress, escalating the day into a ticking time bomb, each of us frustrated with the other.

It has taken me this long to completely and fully and really realize that I am duplicating myself in them.  The good and the bad and the better and the worse and the gentle and the ugly, they are following my footsteps, they are mimicking what they see me do, how they hear me talk, how they watch us interact; they watch my every move.

kids imitate parents

And I ask myself: am I worth duplicating?  Are my actions and my words and my responses and my reactions worthy of multiplication?  Sometimes.  Not always.  And so we continue to practice.  I continue to take deep breaths and pause before speaking and freeze before I grab her arm too forcefully and think about the consequences and how I want them to speak to me and to others and to themselves.  I snuggle them and I hold them tight and I whisper love over their tired hearts all the live-long day.  I ask forgiveness and we make it right and we all swim in grace.

And we move on and begin each day anew.  Because everyday holds rhythms of its own and we do this dance.  And we figure it out together and they watch me and I watch them and we match each others moves.

And so my girls, thank you for getting in the way of me.  Thank you for being my mirror and shaking my pride and reminding me how very much I do not have it together.  Because we are works in progress.  Our dance might be clunky and graceful all at the same time, but it is ours.  Thank you for your grace and restoration and laughter and bear hugs and bringing so much clarity with your complexity.

I needed that.

Now let’s go dance.

 

what to do when gratitude is hard {free printable}

I do think it’s going to be okay.

Eventually.

Just not now.

We were having yet another conversation about the house and the boxes and the paycheck and the move and the girls and the season and the unexpectedness everywhere.  We were talking about the future and the hopes and the dreams and the job and the degree and the potential and the trust and the fear and the ground shaking beneath us.

But eventually, he said, I do think it’s going to be okay.

when gratitude is hard to see

Sometimes all I can see is the unsettled.  Sometimes I see our past trajectory and how very unintentionally we are the model of downward mobility.  Sometimes I see the 4 moves in 6 months, the living with my parents for 5 months, the boxes and the boxes and the boxes out of which we live.

And then we calculate what our tithe, what our 10%, would be this month.

And it is just so funny.  Like, actually, completely hilarious.  And we laugh at our situation until our sides hurt, until I grab his arm and repeat the number and we start laughing all over again.

And I say the line to Lane about how very unintentionally we are the model of downward mobility and we die all over again, laughing until we cry.

And my question is, what do you do when you wake up one day so sure of how it would play out, and you go to bed that night reeling from the change of story?  How do you walk when the loss and the doubt and the lonely and the bank account weigh you down?  What about the hard thanksgiving?  What do you do when you have to squint in order to see gratitude?

Especially in a season such as this.  When we are reminded to do our 30 day gratitude challenges, when we pin notes reminding us to give thanks, when the upcoming holiday is wrapped up in Thanksgiving.

Lane and I went to the Denver Art Museum on Saturday night.  We walked within architecture inspired, colors magnificent, creativity completely.  The colors and the pieces authentic and the story behind each and the inspiration profound.

And then we walked upon the Monet.  The real, the true, the actually his, the not-a-replica.  And the plaque describing the artist next to the painting said that Claude Monet would often paint the same subject over and over and over, returning to a scene to see if he would be able to gain a new perspective the more he looked.  To see if he could capture something new, something that he had missed the last time.

And it hits me, that is how to do these good and heavy and hard days.  That is how to see the grateful when all your eyes fall on is the hard.

You paint your scene again.  You look at what you painted the first time, you see what is true, you process the feelings.  But then you look again.  Visit your subject once more, see if you can capture something new, maybe there’s a perspective to see for the first time.

Because I can sit once and I can see the boxes and the moves and the unexpected story and the shaking ground and the downward mobility.

But I sit again and I paint my scene again, looking and hoping for something new, trying to capture a new angle on my setting.

And I see them.  The tackles and the giggles and the Mama Please! and the loud and the developing friendship and the constant and the pitter-patter of one learning to run and the leaps across the carpet of the dancer.

when gratitude is hard to see

I see health.  Safe, healthy, whole bodies with big appetites and bigger energy stores and good sleep and strong muscles and sturdy lungs that can take deep breaths after running to the pond down the street and back again.

I see food on our table and a roof over our head.

I see him.  The one whose side I stand by through all of this and who stands by mine.  And the ground shakes beneath us and the wind blows but our muscles grow stronger and stronger still.  And it is unknown and uncomfortable but we laugh at our meager tithe because really, what other option is there?

And these unshakable things remain.

The girls, him, the roof, the food.  And the faith on which we stand.  Always that.

And suddenly my scene looks so very different to my tired eyes and weary bones.  What amazing gifts we have been given.  Really, truly, so very much to be grateful for.

And so when your ground shakes and you have to squint in order to see the grateful and the season of Thanksgiving just feels too heavy to carry, paint your scene again.

See if you can capture something new, maybe there’s something that shimmers amongst the hard.

So go, friends, grab a paintbrush.

{also, because this is the season of gratitude, I created two free printables for y’all.  they are both 8×10’s- go ahead and click on each picture to access the printable, then print off the pdf.  Maybe in a frame on your Thanksgiving table?  Maybe pin up above your kitchen sink?  I am grateful for each of you!}

give thanks Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 8.45.24 PM

fun toddler learning activity & the tunes we dance to

Brennan is three years old but we don’t have her enrolled in Preschool yet.  We’ll do that next year.  I kind of really love hanging out with the kid and like our rhythm of life right now.  But I still try to incorporate “Learning Time” with her when I can just to work on some of that basic knowledge.

Also, we love to dance.  Find us in the car, in the playroom, in the kitchen while making dinner and we are having a dance party.  I even made a “Girls Dance Party” playlist to have on hand to turn on whenever we feel the urge to move it:

Roar : Katy Perry
Shake It Off : T Swift
Love Story : T Swift
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together : T Swift
Party In The USA : Miley Cyrus
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough : Marvin Gaye
We Built This City : Starship
Don’t Stop Believin’ : Journey

It is So. Good.

When we were playing yesterday I realized that I could incorporate both of these loves of ours into a Learning Time activity.

I call it “Shake it and Know it.” hah!

: Take blank pieces of paper and write whatever piece of info you want to work on that day.  We used numbers and different colored shapes, but letters would be fun too.

{p.s. OF COURSE she’s wearing her Cinderella shoes}

toddler learning activity

: We turned this into a bit of Craft Time too. As I drew the shapes, we talked about the shape and what color it is and then both of the girls colored them in for me. Aside from these two, which I colored, it is very obvious that I had helpers in the coloring aspect.

toddler learning activity

: Find your very favorite music to jam to

toddler learning activity

: Spread the pieces of paper throughout the room

toddler learning activity

: Turn on the music and shake your little hearts out.  At any given time, pause the music and call out a shape and they have to run to it and jump on it.  Celebrate if they got it right, direct to the right one if they couldn’t find it, and turn the music right back on and dance some more.  Pause, call out a number, dance, repeat.

We did this for probably a solid 45 minutes this morning.  Seriously.  It was so fun.  And it tuckered them out.  Win/Win.

beauty lessons from the princess

We got her special Cinderella shoes today.

Every single morning before she is even out of bed, she transforms into Cinderella.  She puts on her dress and only responds to Cinderella.

I’m NOT Brennan.  I’m CINDERELLA, she says.  And then spins.

She has never even seen the movie.  But something in her connects at a deep level to the princess in blue.

And when we were in Target this morning we walked by these oh-so-special shoes and she just had to have them.  She exclaimed: Mama!  My shoes!  

See, she remembered.  Six months ago, she wanted these very same shoes.  We were there to buy one single pair of practical summer shoes and she wanted the Cinderella shoes.  I said no.  She melted down in the most epic of proportions.  Falling to the floor, flailing as I tried to lift her in the cart, I was absolutely THAT mama with the screaming three-year-old that I am sure other people were judging for my sub-par parenting that day.

And when she saw them again today, I caved.  They are NOT practical.

But they are beautiful.

And you should see her transform when she puts these shoes on.  Combine it with her Cinderella dress-up dress and this girl could take on the world.

She donned her complete outfit today- dress, shoes, and a tiara.  She took a deep breath; the kind that requires her whole entire body… in… and out.  Then she raised her hands to her mouth and ran to the mirror.

MAMA!  It is just AMAZING.  MAMA.  I look T-Riffic.  {Because that is how you pronounce “terrific” when you are a three-year-old princess and can do anything you please.  T-riffic.  All the time.}

MAMA!  And she spins.  Deep breath.  A big smile into the mirror.  I just look amazing.

And then, out of sheer glee, she runs full-tilt into my arms, tackles me to the ground and gives me the biggest Princess Cinderella hug she possibly can.

And then she spins.

And I just watch her.  Laughing at her delight.  In awe of the beauty she sees in herself.

Because the thing is, she is absolutely GORGEOUS.  She just is.

And she knows it.  And she walks in it.  And she delights in her beauty.

She has never had any other messages tell her anything otherwise.  She has never had any reason to doubt her beauty, never questioned if she was good enough or pretty enough.

And then I think of me.  Constantly comparing, wishing, analyzing.  Lifting up my shirt just to see what my stomach looks like that day, making mental notes to eat more salads.

But she looks in the mirror and sighs with contentment I just look AMAZING.  

When did we lose that?  That ability to fearlessly be ourselves?  That ability to look in the mirror and say I LOVE IT!  Everything I see in that mirror is just T-Riffic.  

And so I am trying to fearlessly be myself.  To take a cue from my Brennan girl.  When I look in the mirror for my gut reaction to not be criticism or longings of If only… but instead to speak truth and beauty over myself and this body and to exclaim This Is Amazing!

Join me.  In ways big and little.  When you look in the mirror, tell yourself what you love about what you see.  Ask for your eyes to be opened to your beauty.  Anytime a thought that says otherwise enters your mind throw it far away.  Exchange it for truth.  Tell yourself You. Are. Amazing.  and tell yourself  You. Are. Beautiful.

Because of the joy and the sheer delight I see in my girl as she experiences her own beauty and her own life, I am going to change the story I am writing over my body and my mind.  I am going to turn the narrative from one of criticism to one of joy and acceptance and sheer glee.  I am going to delight in everything I see.

I might even do a spin.

this is my motherhood

It’s deep into the afternoon and I’m just now wiping away the smudged mascara from underneath my eyes that I awoke with at 6:15am.  I am still wearing the clothes that I haphazardly threw on when the crying in the monitor snapped me out of my half-sleep.

The Instagram pictures that I scroll across each day pass through my mind as I gaze at myself in the mirror- the dreamy, faded lighting, the trendy mama with the boho-chic clothing and kids running through the field of wildflowers.  It crosses my mind how very much I do not look like her.

This is my motherhood.  Is that hers?

Because I can’t keep up with that.  I just can’t.

My motherhood looks like loading and unloading dishes, loading and unloading children.  My motherhood is days that are precious and days that aren’t.  My motherhood is dreaming and praying and hoping and fearing and gathering up the ounces of my strength and the threads of my nerves.

My motherhood is kissing owes and blowing bubbles and building towers and chasing toddler-sized dreams.  It is talking about trees and stars and friends and how to be brave.

My motherhood is offering up my body in order to construct theirs.  It is flowing in and out of jeans that fit and jeans that don’t.  It is arguments with the mirror, assuring my heart to believe what my eyes don’t see- that my value and my worth and my purpose is bigger and greater and more than the size of my pants.  It is accepting the fact that my body is never going to be the same again- regardless of the number on the scale- that it has shifted and evolved and stretched and changed and that is okay.  Because it brought me them.

this is motherhood

My motherhood is always a little bit broken, altogether completely tied up in their little life, fracturing over sad hearts, big emotions, and not always getting it right.

My motherhood is out of balance, the scale either tipping towards peace or threatening insanity.  It is days that flow peaceful, embrace questions, assure love.  And it is the the very next moments’ tantrum, a blindsided public meltdown.  It is grace for the day and limping across the finish line.

My motherhood is settling into the knee-dropping humility that can only descend once you actually have children and realize I have no idea what I’m doing. I delve deeper into that assurance the more children I have.  This is all one giant experiment.  Trial and error and finding what works for one kid doesn’t work for another.  Realizing what fits perfectly within one family’s system feels clunky and forced within your own.

It is fighting to uncover the magnificent amidst the mundane, fighting the boredom, breaking up fights.

And so to the mama who:

Has one baby and is overwhelmed.
Has multiple babies and is still overwhelmed.
Worries.
Struggles that your only tangible victory of the day was keeping tiny humans alive.
Plays.
Works from home.
Works out of the home.
Keeps a tidy house.
Keeps a loud house.
Wipes booties.
Loses her temper.
Drinks wine at 4:00pm.
Wonders.
Fears.
Compares.

This is worth it.  It just is.

this is motherhood

this is motherhood

Don’t for one single second think you are not enough.  That your unseen work at 3:00am doesn’t matter.  That either going to work or staying home makes you Less Than.  That your busy Saturdays and your busy homework hours and your busy minutes from wake up to bedtime don’t add up to purpose.

You love your babies fiercely.

You are doing a good job.

And really.  I cannot let the Insta picture world we live in dictate how I feel about myself or my babies.  I cannot let the filtered and edited snapshot into their life be the lens through which I see my own.

What you do matters.

Your work counts.

this is motherhood

Whatever your motherhood looks like, whatever season you’re in.

Just go look at those little fingers and toes smudged with yogurt.

Even when you are still wearing yesterday’s makeup and this morning’s sweatpants.  Even when you feel like you don’t have it together.  Even when this requires more than you have to give.  Even when you are at the end of yourself.

I kind of think that is the point.

8 phrases that help me in my parenting

Lane and I have been laughing lately at my “mommyisms.”  See, there are a handful of phrases that I keep in my back pocket and use regularly as the right situation arrises.  They are phrases that I have either picked up along the way or have heard other mamas I respect use with their own kiddos.

I told Lane that having these phrases helps me because it just gives off the appearance that I actually know what I’m doing.

Which I don’t.  See, I don’t follow just one parenting philosophy and I’m sure I don’t get it right 100% of the time.  But being consistent helps, and having phrases that the girls know and expect helps.

Having these phrases floating around my head helps me as I deal with the multitude of situations these darling and demanding and exhausting girls present before me every single day.

Maybe even just one of them will help you too.

: How are you going to make it right?  
I love this one so much.  When one child hurts another or somehow wrongs another, I’ve never really been able to grasp making them walk up, say sorry, gain forgiveness, hug it out and then go on playing.  Don’t get me wrong, I have done this too- I just don’t know the life lessons it produces… it feels too forced and too much of a transaction.  (Any thoughts on this?? Would love to hear some perspective)

What I love about the How are you going to make this right phrasing is that it places responsibility back on the child.  They realize that they have to think through how to right the situation and participate in justice.

: Wait quietly with a happy heart.  
So many times we tell our children to behave a certain way without defining what that actually looks like.  This phrase is the definition of patience.  So instead of telling our girls to “be patient,” we tell them to wait quietly with a happy heart.  It gives action to a word, it tells them what is expected of them.

: Let’s try that again.  
If Brennan is melting down, being demanding, or just generally being a 3 year old, I tend to say: Let’s try that again.  Not an automatic time out; instead a means to give grace, show me that you can do it better.

: Turn that into a question please. 
So often I hear: I want some milk!  I want to watch a show! Instead of just giving them what they demand, we ask that they turn that phrase into a question.  Polite, respectful, loving. And even at my girls’ young ages, they know what to do and quickly rephrase: Can I have some milk please, Mama?

: May I please… 
Similar to above, this is how we train our kiddos to ask questions whether it is at the dinner table or to the waiter at a restaurant.  No demands here, respectful phrasing.

: Rather than saying no all the time, instead… Yes, when: 
Sometimes I feel like the guillotine: No!  Stop that!  Not now!  No, no no.  I want our kiddos to hear yes more than no as they grow up.  So even if it still is directing them to complete or act on a behavior (Yes you can go play outside when you finish putting away your toys), it is still a positive phrasing.

: You have some pretty big feelings right now, don’t you: 
This can encompass a variety of emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, complete and total melt-downs.  So often my immediate reaction is to shut them down, react to how they are acting, whether with a timeout or getting frustrated myself.  But that doesn’t connect with the child and what they are feeling, it isn’t a compassionate response, coming across as cold and inflexible.  Validating that they are having Big Feelings gives me a second to evaluate the situation before responding, but it also affirms to our kiddo that they are feeling sad or angry.  We don’t ignore the behavior, just connect with the child before correcting.  And then once they calm down we are actually able to teach them how to express feelings appropriately.

: That isn’t good for your special body, let’s have this instead 
As we have had Brennan’s wheat allergy officially diagnosed, we have had to remove a lot of foods out of her diet that she dearly loves.  She still asks to have bread or rolls, so this is the response we have landed on.  I like the phrasing of “your special body,” and then just redirect to something that she can enjoy.

xoxoxo
~Sarah