when your very best doesn’t feel good enough

best not good enough

Friends, we’re on Day Eight over here.  Eight days of sick kids.  Eight days of sick mama.  Eight.  Night after night after night of midnight summonings, three-hour spurts of half-sleep, rocking and rocking and hushing and singing and consoling when I am so very tired myself.

Because that is just what you do.

Eight days of survival, of go-mode.  Eight days of “What are you thinking for dinner?” questions at 5:00 pm that I can only meet with a blank stare and a glance at the cereal boxes once again.  Because grocery shopping and meal planning and prepping and cooking?  I can’t even.

Eight days of no laundry, no cleaning, no “learning time,” no educational activities, no play time outside of the house.  Because we are surviving.  Eight days of questioning myself, feeling like a failure of a mother, a less-than wife.

Because where else does your mind go when you feel like you’re not giving your everything to anything?

Or even harder still, what about when you are giving your everything, and it’s just not good enough?

Because I am at capacity.  I am tapped out, this is the absolute best I have to offer right now… and it still just isn’t cutting it.

Do you know what I mean?

I don’t know where life has you right now, what your hard thing is right now.

Maybe a new and fussy baby, maybe a sick kid, maybe a new house, or a big move, or a new job, or maybe you’re actually doing good in the middle of familiar and comfortable days, or maybe you just had a fight with your husband or a health scare or something wonderful happened or something bigger and beyond you with huge challenges are ahead.  Maybe it is a mixture of all of the bitter and all of the sweet.

I’ve found that life seems to contain a little bit of both at most moments.

But in those bitter moments, those moments when you have to do that hard thing, what do you do when your very best doesn’t feel good enough?

I keep my mind in check and repeat my mantras:

I can do hard things.  This is hard.  But you are strong.  You can do hard things.  
Keep going. Just take it 15 minutes at a time. One day at a time. Don’t give up. Keep going.
I am enough. God made me just as I am to be right where I am to mother these children and do this thing and I have what it takes because he says that I do.

And I whisper my prayers:

Hold this together, please, hold this together.  {Colossians 1:17}
Keep me from falling.  I feel like I’m falling, like I’m losing my grip, like I don’t have anything to hold onto.  Keep me from falling.  {Jude 1:24-25.  David Crowder and Shane & Shane sing a beautiful version of this, we sing it over our girls every night before bed, listen here

Because so many times, it is a mind game.  It is a strength battle, seeing which thoughts you let win.  So when I catch myself in a spiral of pity or worry or doubt or questioning or fear or unbelief… I stop the free fall with these thoughts instead.

One step at a time.  One day at a time.

Because we can do hard things.

And God won’t let us fall.

And he holds it all together.

{this is all, of course, paired with a healthy helping of chocolate chip cake with gooey vanilla frosting, hidden in the kitchen while the girls watch Curious George.  I mean, if I’m being honest with y’all.  A girls’ gotta survive.}

xoxoxo~

indoor kid activity ideas

indoor days kids activities

Friends.  This week has been crazy!  We are on Day 5 of being home bound- most of which has been because sickness has hammered us this week- the dastardly pink eye finally hit us alongside some fierce colds and stomach bugs.  But along with that, Colorado has been hit pretty hard with some consecutive storms, leaving romping in parks a distant hope.

Is anyone else stir crazy?  Well, I gathered together a few kid activities that I have either posted here before or are just winners for us so that y’all can have them in one central place when you are in need of some inspiration.

Go have fun with your people!  And eat chocolate!  And stay sane!

:1 Make a fort.  Always a winner.  I think that we spent the entirety of our Monday in this fort.  The girls are so entertained by it!  We even did normal, typical things in it- color, eat, read books, drink hot chocolate, repeat.  But having all of our furniture pushed together and a cozy creation over our heads brought a sense of novelty.

building a fort

 :2 Fake snow.  Mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of hair conditioner and you have this awesome dough to play with.  Less moldable than playdoh, but can stick together, and it looks like snow (especially if you use white conditioner).  I kid you not, they played with this for probably 40 minutes today.  {I do things like this while Daddy is gone… the mess does not freak me out like it does him.  It’s an easy sweep job.}

playing with fake snow

 :3 ArtForKidsHub.com. Such a cool website.  It’s an artist dad who brings his kids in alongside him and teaches them how to draw basic pictures.  So the professional is on one side, the kid is on the other and he guides you step-by-step.  Right here, Brennan is drawing a mermaid, and it was so incredible to watch it come to life as she followed the instructions!  She was so proud of herself too.  They have an area for kids under 5, but also more advanced tutorials too if you have older kids.  Check it out if you don’t know this site already! {www.artforkidshub.com}

art for kids hub

:4 Learning Dance Party.  We have so much fun when we do this.  Read this post for more directions.

toddler learning activity

 :5 Homemade slides.  Brings me right back to my own childhood.  This one is great because it helps to get some energy out when they’ve been cooped up all day.  We just laid some mattresses down and they laughed and laughed and laughed.

playing with your children

 :6 Moldable Sand.  Mix 5 cups flour with 1 cup baby oil and it becomes this neat consistency that feels like sand that is completely moldable!  The girls use measuring cups, spoons, any kitchen gadget really- and get lots of entertainment.  It also can be messy, but easy to sweep up.

moon sand

 : 7 Shape Dice.  Wrap two boxes {we used old square tissue boxes} with paper, and cover each side with different color shapes- with the other box having all of their matches. Have one person roll the dice and see who can get the most matches.

shape dice

 :8 Drum Set.  This one requires grace from the mama, but entertains them so heartily for so long, that sometimes I let them just go with it.  Get out whatever kitchen bowls you have, flip them upside down, and let them have a jam session with their hands and kitchen spoons.

makeshift drumset toddler play

 :9 Rice Bowl. Grab a big container and a big bag of rice and this creates a great sensory activity.  Again, be warned- it definitely has a tendency to spread out and get messy.  Nothing a little dustpan and broom can’t fix, but I am not the type of person that this annoys- if you are, just move on to the next activity! :) You can add in pasta noodles for extra texture, too.  But she just runs her hands through it, letting rice fall through her fingers, stirs, pours from one cup to the other.  It’s so fun to watch how much they love activities like this.

easy activity idea for toddlers

 :10 Yogurt painting. How often do we tell them to not get messy and not play with their food?  What if you poured some yogurt on their tray and let them just express their artistic side.  Finger paint that is edible & entertainment for them, while also being contained if you need some free time.

yogurt playtime

 :11 Baking Soda & Vinegar.  We did do this over the summer, but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work inside too- it doesn’t get too messy, and you can just lay a towel down or do this at your kitchen table.  Pour baking soda into any large dish and divide vinegar into separate bowls (I found a muffin tin works perfectly).  Add a few drops of food coloring to each container of vinegar and use a dropper, straws, or small spoons to to drop the vinegar onto the baking soda and watch the colors bubble up.

experimenting

 :12 Painting with whipped cream.  Again, another summertime activity, but I see this easily transferring to the bathtub.  Just grab some whipped cream {or even a can of shaving cream might be fun} and let them use brushes, spoons, whatever utensil along with their hands to “paint” all along the bathtub.  An added bonus- they are already stripped down and ready to be cleaned off!

summer activity for kids

And just in case you need an extra bit of entertainment and are looking for something to read, here is my second piece on Huffington Post. ;)

xoxoxo~!

I’m not sweet, I’m just truthful.

using our words for encouragement

We didn’t sleep on Saturday night.

The one-almost-two-year-old woke up at 1:40am and once I am up it is hard for me to fall back asleep.  I see the promise of rest fade before me as the clock reads 2:15 then 2:44 and then 3:10.  It glows 3:45 when my eyes look to it one last time before slipping into slumber for the few more hours I have before the kids wake up, ready to start their day.

And then the day begins, more abruptly than it should after a night like mine, and we get ready to go to church.  It takes me longer than usual, moving slowly and pinning my hair up praying that my days without a shower and my night without sleep don’t betray to the others how tenderly I am carrying the pieces of myself with me into the building designed to put me back together.

And she walks up to me during greeting time, she who is one not to be messed with, whose authority and word you trust and she who you don’t talk back to.  And she grabs my arm and looks in my eyes and says You look darling today.

I kind of laugh and say, “Well, you’re sweet…” mostly brushing her words aside and away from my pregnant body and my unwashed hair and my big questions and my big fears and my little pieces spilling over.  I dismiss her words without outright dismissing her.

And she looks me in the eyes even firmer than before and says, No, no I am not sweet.  I am just truthful.

We chatted a bit more about why I am tired and how we are doing and what she thinks of us.  Kind words.  True words.  Because now I know that she does not say what she does not mean.

As she walked away, just for good measure and just to make sure I believed her she said once more: You Look Darling.

And her words went over and over and through my mind all day: No; No I am not sweet.  I am just truthful.

And so I have been thinking about words a whole lot lately.  Because I am a writer and I pay attention to words.  I pay attention to the things around me and how I can translate them into something that makes sense to me and maybe sparks a new way of seeing for you.

And this is what was getting my attention the most over this exchange:

Words are a two-way street, we need to handle them with care.

When we are the speaker, we need to be careful to say what we mean and mean what we say.  We need to tread lightly upon each other’s hearts but we also need to know when we need to call out and encourage and call forth and rise up and shake the dust from each other’s weary load and carry it when they can’t.  We need to not simply be sweet but to be truthful so that others know that what we say is trustworthy and true.  Our tribe and our neighbors and our not-yet-known strangers need our words to stand in the gap when they don’t have the energy to make it on their own.

Sometimes we feel alone and we feel doubt and we feel Less Than and we feel not enough.  Sometimes others feel that way too.  What if we could step into that space intentionally, with love, with encouragement?  What if our words could give her enough to keep going for that day?  What if we could tell each other You are enough.  Keep going.  

And there is the speaking of words, but there is also the hearing of words.

Because my friends, we need to receive the words we hear.  Why do we as women have such a hard time receiving?  Why did I dismiss my friend at church with an Oh, you’re sweet… but not really letting it sink in, not really believing that she could mean that for me, not really accepting the foothold upon which she was offering me to stand upon?

Let’s accept each other’s encouragement.

Let’s speak words of life and of hope and of truth and of power.

Because words can change things.  And you can change things.  So let’s get in each other’s court and cheer for them and stand in the gap when they lose their strength and encourage and love those that need it because really, we all need it.  It can look like a word in the grocery store checkout, a phone call, a note in the mail, a short text message.  It can look however you need it to, but let’s use our words for each other.

And by the way~ you, my friend, are darling.

And I’m not being sweet, I’m just being truthful.

xoxoxo

what we’re eating this week

For our new friends around here, I have a habit of taking Sunday afternoons to look ahead to our week, see what our nights look like {if Lane has a meeting and will miss dinner, if we have dinner plans out, etc.} and come up with a meal plan for each night of the week.  Then on Monday mornings, I go grocery shopping for our entire week, which hopefully becomes my only trip to the store for the week.

It does take some effort on Sunday to coordinate all of this, but I have found it such a source of sanity during the week to have a meal plan charted out for me already.  If you don’t do this, I highly suggest you give it a try!  And if you need some inspiration for your meals this week, this is what we’re eating:

{and if you’re wondering, our girls get the same meal we do.  for some of the weirder ones… ahem, salmon cakes? that’s a newbie so we’ll see how it goes… I’ll add in something more kid-friendly to their plate like string cheese or carrot sticks or crackers & peanut butter, but alongside what we eat.  Trying to teach them I’m not their short-order cook and to expose them to new foods.  They do pretty good with this, but do what works best for your family!}

: Breakfast

easy breakfast casserole 

: Lunch

Make on Sunday for lunches to have on hand:

Crock pot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana soup {<— this soup is ridiculously good.  like, I would entertain company with it good.  my one-year-old had seconds and in Lane’s words: It is a MAJOR keeper} & Mediterranean quinoa salad

For lunch, the girls have something like: hot dogs, greensicles, and a yogurt

: Dinner

Monday: buffalo cauliflower & chicken casserole

Tuesday: salmon cakes, green salad {spinach & arugula mix, cucumber, peppers, sunflower seeds, & goat cheese}, sweet potato chips

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: sweet potato hash with eggs & bacon

Friday: bbq chicken drumsticks {slather drumsticks in bbq sauce, bake in a 375 oven for about 1 hour- flip over about halfway through the cooking process, add more bbq at the end}, baked potato wedges, kale chips

Saturday: leftovers

There you have it!  Cheers to meal planning, friends!

::: xoxoxo :::

be strong & courageous {free printable}

Sometimes being brave is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Sometimes being brave is listening to that still, small voice inside of you instead of the loud noises all around you.

Sometimes it is doing the exact opposite of what others want you to do, because it is in being true to yourself that you discover that it is always brave to be yourself.

Sometimes being brave looks like doing the thing that makes you scared, stepping out even though you feel the nerves, trying something new, doing something that you have never done before.

Sometimes being brave is re-writing the destructive narrative that your minds plays on repeat for you and replacing it with loving truth.

Sometimes being brave looks the same and different all at the same time.
Sometimes being brave is exactly what you would think it is and sometimes being brave surprises you.
Sometimes being brave is defined by the person and the situation and the moment and your yes might be brave while their no is their bravery.

Bravery is fluid, shifting to fill the mold that any given situation requires.

But still, it’s all the same, isn’t it?  Being brave is finding our strength.  It is finding our courage.  It is stepping out or stepping back in or risking it all or setting your boundaries.

You know what needs your strength and courage.  If you don’t, take some time to ask those questions.  What does it look like for you to be strong and courageous?  What do you need to step into… or maybe step out of?

I think bravery is daringly living this life and not waiting for it to happen to you.  It is living your life, doing your thing, and fully walking in what that means in your neighborhood, with your people, surrounded by your tribe.  It is being true to yourself, not to what others want you to be, or what you think others think you should be.

So in celebration of this year of wholehearted living and loving and daringly being brave and strong and courageous, I made y’all something.

Maybe you could put this by your nightstand, or framed in a picture gallery, or even in a child’s room to remind them that they too, can be brave.  However you use it, I hope it serves to remind you that we can step into this truth!

strong & courageous

{click here to download the 8×10 pdf}

I so appreciate you guys.  I’m cheering for you.  Now, go get ‘em.  ;)

my favorite parenting books

favorite parenting books

The longer I parent, the more I realize that I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.  And as soon as I do begin to feel like I understand my child and I am winning at parenting, she changes, and I am left trying to decipher her all over again.  It kind of constantly feels like I am playing catch up in the world’s very most important game.

I think before we had kids I felt like I would find one philosophy and stick with it.  I thought that I would find something that I could align myself with 100%, it would be our thing, and that is how we would parent.

I am discovering it is much more like a salad bowl: keep what you like, throw out what you don’t, imitate their recipe when you can, and toss it all together.  It’s a mishmash.  It depends on the kid and the situation and the age and what worked the previous time and what didn’t.

In my {relatively short… 4 years} journey of parenting, I have gathered a pretty decent arsenal of parenting books.  Some have been recommended to me by friends or family, some I have stumbled upon and taken a liking to.  I would say that all have helped to provide a framework within which I want to parent my kids, so I offer them to you.

Feel the freedom to look them over and do my same process: Keep what you like and toss what you don’t.  The caring for and raising of tiny humans is a deeply personal, significant, sacred, and exhausting task.  What works within one family might not work within another.  You are doing a good job with wherever you land, know that.

 :::Parenting Book Recommendations :::

{click on each title to be taken to its Amazon page}

The Story of Me (God’s Design for Sex) book 1, ages 3-5: This is book one in a four part series in how to approach the “facts of life.”  It’s written like a story-within-a-story format (conversation between parent and child) and very non-threatening, designed to help parents begin to weave these topics into early conversations and establish themselves as a trusted expert, rather than react when the topic is potentially awkward once their kids hits 13.  It does address adoption, but not necessarily other family situations: single parent homes, non-traditional guardians/parents.
::: The rest of the series :::
Before I Was Born, book 2, ages 5-8This book centers on how our bodies were created, but has a fairly direct approach to sex.  I am not at this stage of parenting yet, and am so glad! ;)
What’s the Big Deal?, book 3, ages 8-11: Reinforces the points of the first two books. It also walks the tension of not sheltering our children too much from destructive messages of the world but making sure that we have given them a firm foundation on which to stand as they encounter difficult realities of our culture.
Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You, book 4, ages 11-14: This book helps to prepare the child for puberty.

Your {____} Year Old series: This is a series of parenting books based on 40 years of research observing children and talking with parents.  They help parents to better understand their children through all of the different stages {the books go from Your Two Year Old, Terrible or TenderYour Three Year Old, Friend or EnemyYour Four Year old, Wild and Wonderful… all the way up to fourteen year old.}  Really, these books are so comforting and normalizing, honestly.  I feel like they are writing the book for Brennan and Ellie.  It is so helpful to know what to expect for each stage and that what we are going through is normal.  I could not recommend any book in this series highly enough.

Gentle Babies: Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, and Young Children:  Any essential oil mamas out there?  You need to know about this book.  It is the most helpful oil book for pregnancy and baby issues.  The entire book is an alphabetical list of different ailments (crying baby, diaper rash, dry skin, headaches, lactation, poison ivy, vomiting, and on and on and on) and what oils to use to treat it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have already opened it up for a little consultation.  It’s so helpful if you use essential oils.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Buy this book.  It’s a NYT bestseller, and for good reason.  It’s tagline is Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children and it is fantastic.  The author takes typical parenting problems and looks at them through the lens of important Jewish teachings to help parents raise children who are compassionate, respectful, and generous, and hard-working.  I love the no-nonsense style of the author and wherever you fall on the faith spectrum, it is still relevant parenting advice and the tradition of Judaism that the book is based upon gives such richness and depth to parenting.  Lots of gems in this book- nearly every page is highlighted for me- and it has lots of good practical examples.  I will warn you- it is very wordy.  It’s not a book to skim through as you are exhausted at the end of the night.  But it’s worth the effort.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Development: Another one I feel like every single parent needs to read.  It has helpful tips for 2-year-olds as much as 13-year-olds and is relevant no matter your parenting stage.  It is very accessible and gives parents very clear and usable strategies to help parent our kids.  It helps us to parent our children with their whole brain- the emotional as well as the logical.  It has given me some new ways to think about how my daughter responds to a situation and the best way to respond to her in turn.  Lots of practical advice… so, so, so very helpful.  Really, cannot recommend this one highly enough.

Bringing Up Bebe: I just like this one a whole lot.  How’s that for an endorsement?  You’re not necessarily going to find researched, practiced, hands-on advice for what to do in any given moment in this one.  But it is a great read.  An American journalist mother was living in Paris and noticed that French children ate quietly at the dinner table when out at restaurants, looked strangers in the eye and said hello, and spoke respectfully to their parents while still retaining that childlike playfulness and curiosity.  She wondered how in the world did French parents do it?  It is a fascinating read on parenting, and it did make me think quite a bit about our cultural norms as well as my own parenting style.  Fascinating book, engaging,  and very well written.

Last thoughts: One day I called my sister {who is my parenting sensei} when I was completely at my wits end with my three-year-old.  Her top two, and immediate, recommendations were The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and Your Three Year Old {I bought a whole heap of the series at once though!}.  For what it’s worth, I think those two along with The Whole-Brain Child are the very best for actual parenting advice.  And they come on her recommendation, which you need to just trust.  :)

Final bit: I am not an Amazon affiliate, just in case you were wondering. :) Just making it helpful for you to get these books in your hands because they have saved my sanity in so many moments!

Are there any books I missed that you think must be added to this list?  I would be so curious to know what you think!

~xoxoxo~

{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:

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: 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

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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.