Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween + More October

First, the obligatory Halloween costume photo...


I spent quite a bit of time scouring Pinterest and wracking my brain to come up with the perfect Halloween costume for Sam this year.  (It's hard to compete with last year's lamb.)  Jeff and I both had very specific criteria for the costume - adorable (for me) and "boyish" (for Jeff) - and, as is usually the case, they weren't exactly the easiest to combine.  (I tried desperately hard to make "puppy dog" sound exceptionally masculine, but to no avail.)  Anyway, one day on a whim I just asked Sam what he wanted to be (what a novel idea, I know) and he told me very passionately "DINOSAUR."  That answer stuck every single time I have asked him since; so, naturally, a dinosaur he is.  A pretty cute and cuddly (and masculine) one at that. ;)


These two photos (above) were taken at our first and second annual neighborhood Halloween parties, and I just couldn't resist the cuteness and comparison.  How did our babies turn in to boys so fast?  (Also, gone are the days of sitting the boys down for multiple photo sessions... That second shot was a NIGHTMARE to get!)

Yesterday, Sam wore his costume to music class and to visit his great grandmother, and this afternoon he'll be rocking it at my dad's office and for a little trick or treat jaunt down the street later.  *Home boy isn't going to know what hit him when he realizes that three simple words will get him a bag FULL of treats!  (Cue the Halleluiah chorus.)

As is tradition, we have family coming over to help hand out candy tonight, and I'm making a big crock pot of white chicken chili (using this recipe from LBF).  Then, tomorrow, its on the road again as I head back down to South Carolina for my friend Stephanie's wedding!!


If I could summarize this month in two words, they would be BUSY and FUN.

This month has been FULL.  We have visited friends and family in Richmond, traveled for weddings, gone to the pumpkin patch, attended a conference, etc. etc. etc.  Everything has been SO good, and I am SO thankful for great friends and opportunities; but, of course, I'm also ready to settle back into normal for a bit.

After this weekend's trip, November promises to be calmer and quieter, and I'm ready for that.

Until then, here's a look back at the last 31 days:


New guest post up tomorrow, and the big sponsor giveaway is going on until Monday!!

Happy Halloween!

*Follow me on Instagram for more Halloween and travel pics.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working Mom: Keshet (on Community Involvement)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom here.)
Today, I'm honored to introduce you to New Jersey mama/lawyer and blogger, Keshet as she shares some of the things she's learned about balancing her life as a professional and a mother with everything else:

When I was younger, I did not want to be a working mom.  To me, working motherhood seemed like stepping on a nonstop carousel, with no time to breathe, read a book, or even do something really self-indulgent, like baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch. No, thank you.


Years passed, and when I welcomed my first baby after a few years of infertility I found that (a) I really liked my job, and was loathe to leave it, and (b) I needed social time to be happy. Oh, and the salary was somewhat necessary too!  So I found myself becoming exactly what I had wanted to avoid--a working mom.

Since becoming a working mom, I've learned a few things. First, every mom feels like they're on a carousel that never stops spinning, at least some of the time. But more importantly, instead of trying to find a balance between work and family, I find myself struggling to find a balance between work, family, and all that other stuff that makes up our lives, especially community.


In my Orthodox Jewish community in New Jersey, we invite guests for the Sabbath (aka "Shabbos") a lot, sometimes nearly every week. If you've never been to a Shabbos meal, it's basically the equivalent of making a Thanksgiving meal every single week.  In addition to that, when someone in the neighborhood has a baby (which seems to happen a lot!), a sign-up sheet goes around to prepare meals for them.  There are community events, last-minute prayer meetings, and the everyday things I want to do for my friend who just broke her leg and is bedridden, or the one who has been having a hard few months.


But the question is, how? How do I do all of these things without sacrificing sleep, mental health, or biting my husband's head off? When do I push myself to give to my community, and when do I accept that there is a season for everything, and this may not be the season for X, Y, or Z?

I wish I had an easy answer to this question (maybe someone else can write this part of the post?) but I don't. I've been trying and honing and debating for twenty months since I became a mother, and the little baby I'm expecting in December will only shake things up, I'm sure. But although I have no golden wand to share with you, here are a few of the tips I've found that have helped me strike this balance:

  • Just because you need to do something LESS doesn't mean you can't do it at all. I may not host Shabbos guests every week anymore, but I still host every 2 to 3 weeks, which adds up to a lot of guests over the years. 
  • Do things your way. If a Shabbos guest offers to bring a dish, I always say yes--less work for me!  I serve a good amount of food, but I don't knock myself into the ground making two kinds of meat and fourteen side dishes.  (In keeping with this theme, if you have a baby and I bring you a meal, it will probably be pasta-oriented. Maybe with meatballs. But no appetizer--salad--main--side--dessert business.)
  • It isn't all or nothing. The other week, I really wanted to attend a prayer meeting for a young girl that was sick, but just did not have it in me to get dressed and go out at 9:00. So instead I texted a friend who was going, and she told me which Psalms they were dividing up, and I was able to participate from home. 
  • It's okay to say no. My husband came up with the "resentment test," where before I agree to something I try to figure out if I will feel resentful of the commitment when it comes times to follow through. In the past, If I did feel resentful, I assumed that was a flaw in my character. Now, I'm trying to think that maybe it's just a sign that this commitment doesn't fit in with the obligations I have on my plate at the moment. And that's okay.    
Community is such a huge part of life. For me, my faith, my closest friendships, and my core identity are all tied into it. I wouldn't be a complete person if I didn't spend time on those things.  But at the same time, there are only so many hours in the day.  So I try to balance, and sometimes I do a great job, and sometimes I fail.

But the nice thing about community is that it's always waiting for you the next day, when you're ready to try again.  And so is parenting!


Keshet Starr is a 28 year old mom of Ellie (20 months) and a sweet little baby on the way! In addition to running after her toddler, she works as an attorney in a nonprofit setting. In her free time (whenever that happens), she enjoys scrap booking, reading, baking—and eating baked goods, and blogging at Over the RainbowKeshet lives in beautiful New Jersey with her family and has a love/hate relationship with the process of fixing up her 1950s era house!


THANKS KESHET!

How do you balance community obligations? What tips have helped you strike a balance in work-home-life?!?


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Having Sponsors & the October Giveaway

*For some reason, I'm having a REALLY hard time putting my experience at the Allume conference last weekend to words.  This is, obviously, ironic since the whole conference was about words and blogging and putting what the Lord is doing in my life to paper (metaphorically).   Actually though, I think that's what makes it so hard.  I want to do the conference justice.  I want, more importantly, do to the lessons I learned there justice in this space.  And, frankly, I think I'm just a little thought and talked and written out right now.  So... It is coming.  (It really is, I promise.)  But, it will probably be a few days still.  Sorry friends!

In the meantime, I am happy to brag on my amazing sponsors for a little bit today, and I've got some great working mama guest posts lined up for the later this week... Can you believe it is already the end of October?  Seriously, whoa.


If you've been around for a while, you probably know this drill by now.  Every two months, I take a minute to thank the people and small businesses behind this blog, AND I give one of you $25 to spend in any of their shops!!!  Today will be no exception; BUT, while the give away part is the most fun, I really don't want to skip over just how grateful I am for this part of E, Myself, and I...

Cameron, Erika, Sandy, Leanne, Jennifer, and Lisa are so much more than just sponsors to me.  They have become friends and partners over the last few years of working together.  Many of them are loyal readers and have supported my writing from the very early days.  I genuinely care about each of these girls and their success, and I am proud to represent businesses that (truly) fit the vision and purpose of this blog.  

The truth is, I would exist without them.  Ads are not the meat and potatoes of this blog, and they certainly aren't "making me rich;" but, like a nice glass of wine or a decadent dessert, they make this that much sweeter for me.  Having sponsors allows me opportunities like attending Blogher in July and Allume last weekend, revamping the look of my blog or having a cute button made to match a new series, and - most importantly - to give back to the community whether it is by sponsoring a child through Food for the Hungry (which we just did this weekend - his name is Samson, he is eight, and he lives in Ethiopia.  WE are sponsoring him friends!), or giving to charities that you all have a heart for through projects like my Get & Give Away contest at the holidays.  In so many ways, those little ads don't take away from what I'm doing here - they add to it!! 

I'm not writing all of this to defend my decision to have advertising on my blog.  I know people have strong opinions about that, and I'm not really willing to argue about it.  I am writing this because I want you to know what a blessing you are to me and to each of these women when you shop in their Etsy shops and on their websites.  These are mamas (two of which are currently expecting) - like you and me - doing what God has called them to and using the talents He has given them to be able to stay home with their kids, express their creative energy, raise money for adoptions, etc. etc. etc.  

With the holidays approaching quickly (Jeff and I just had our "holiday budget talk" - ugh), would you consider supporting one (or all) of these awesome ladies?!?!

Here are a couple of ideas...

How about this sweet monogrammed toddler dress for your daughter from Lil Sweetie Designs?

Or this precious buffalo checked shirt for your son from Room to Romp?

What about some Christmas iron-ons to dress up plain (cheap) onesies from Boy Oh Boy Boutique for your friends' kids?

Adorable handmade headbands or bows for your nieces from Shared Joy?

Or this stunning bag from Noonday Collection for your mom?

Want to update your blog design before the holidays?  Or have custom designed Christmas cards?  The Fairy Blogmother can do it!!!

It is so easy to represent each of these great shops, because I really do LOVE what they are selling!  Go look around, I promise you will find that "perfect" thing.


And... just so you know I put my money where my mouth is... I'm upping the ante this month (Jeff is going to kill me) and giving away $50.00 (FREE MONEY PEOPLE) for one lucky reader to spend any way they want in these shops!!!! *Usually, the sponsors themselves contribute something little to the giveaway; but, honestly, I just want to bless them this time!  I hope you'll get on board!

Entering is easy: Simply leave a comment on this post telling me how you'd spend the $50 if it was yours, all yours!  You can also earn extra entries by posting about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog and leaving a link in the Rafflecopter widget below.  And, this month only, I'm giving TEN extra entries to anyone who actually buys something from one of these gals.  (Just leave the order number in the widget.)  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will announce the winner next Monday!  Can't wait!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I'm a Pledge Ambassador!

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Pledge. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and promotional item as a thank you for participating.

(Is it just me, or are we talking an awful lot about floors and cleaning around here lately?! ;) Bear with me for one more day, ok?)


To me, one of the best smells in the world is the lemony-aroma of a freshly dusted house.  My mom used Pledge products in our home growing up; and, to this day, that smell means "clean" to me.

I think I took a can of Pledge with me when I moved in to my freshman dorm in college, and have been a loyal user ever since.  I use it at home, at school, and even keep a package of Pledge wipes in my car... While I've tried many different kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, I have never strayed from Pledge.  Maybe it is nostalgia, but nothing just quite says clean like that smell and shiny clean furniture. 
 

Naturally, when I was contacted about becoming a Pledge Ambassador (so professional sounding) and asked to try out the new Pledge Floor-Care Wood products, I couldn't resist.  My house is 95% hard wood floors and - thanks to a certain furry girl and messy boy (not to mention very old floors) - keeping them clean is basically A NIGHTMARE!

Combining my favorite cleaning product with the dirtiest thing in my house? #itsliketheyreadmymind


Now, as you know, cleaning has not been a strong area for me recently (read: it's been MONTHS since they have had a good cleaning, and I've all but embraced the filthy floors), so I thought participating in the Pledge-to-Pledge 30 Day Challenge might be just the motivation I need to get back on track.  (Well, that and the fact that thirty days puts me almost exactly at Thanksgiving - when I'll be hosting about 20 people in our home.) 

So, here we are.  I'm taking the "Pledge" folks.  For the next thirty days, I'll be using the Pledge Floor-Care Wood products (shown below) and documenting the changes I see with Before and After photos. I'm going to use the product throughout my house; but, for the sake of this "experiment," I'll be focusing on the two most high-traffic spots - my kitchen & entryway.




And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

The Before:

#dontjudgeplease #ihaveatoddler #andalonghaireddog

So... 30 days, 4 products, 2 rooms, 1 dog, 1 toddler, 1 mop, and 1 momma.  Let's do this!!


In the meantime, while you try to contain your excitement and anxiously wait for the "After" photos to come in 30 days, check out www.pledge.com to learn more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Working Mom: Hollie (on Chores & Cleaning)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom here.)

I first met Hollie last December when she was the winner of my "Get & Give Away". Immediately I was drawn to her blog because of her faith and humor and just all-around genuine writing style.  Today, I've asked her to share a little about how she keeps up with household chores and cleaning on top of a busy work schedule & life in general:

Hi y'all. I'm thrilled to be blogging as a part of E's series on working moms. It's a hard job working outside of my home and spending long hours away from my little guy. Not every mom has the luxury of staying home full time.  Some of us don't have the desire to stay home-- and that is OK! Personally, it gives me a feeling of purpose when I bring home a paycheck, like I'm really making a valued contribution to our family. I hope my son grows up and sees his father and myself working hard to make a living and a life for us.

Here's our setup: My husband is a youth pastor and sometimes it feels like he works 24/7. I'm a nurse and I work 2-3 twelve hour shifts each week. My work hours are long and my commute is long, which means those days I don't see my boy at all and I have very little time at home to be productive. I might have 4-5 days at home each week, but when you start factoring in our church events and all the other "stuff" makes for limited downtime. About 9 months after my son was born, I was nearly crippled by the amount of stress I was carrying around on my shoulders. I wasn't a nice mom or wife. I could hardly get anything done on my days off because the amount of work needed was absolutely overwhelming. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone especially if I had a quick turnaround (like only 1 day off between a couple of work days). Sure, I was treading water as long as everything was calm, but as soon as the waves came along, I felt like I was drowning.

Something HAD to change.

Some people eliminate stress in their life by cutting out "extracurriculars." Some folks exercise. Me? I clean. Just ask my husband. Anytime I get exceptionally angry at him, I vent my frustrations by feverishly cleaning. So I knew that having a perpetually clean house would make me feel so much less anxious. It's like the clutter makes me claustrophobic or something. So I sat down with my husband one afternoon and we came up with a game plan. He was just as eager to have a happy wife back.

As a side note: I thought it was a little ironic that E asked me to write about keeping up a house, considering it wasn't something that came natural to me. More like, I was a complete failure before kindasorta figuring things out. Side note over.

It might sound a little like a second grader earning an allowance, but we implemented a daily chore chart. You see, before having a baby, I'd clean the entire house once per week in a single day, devoting several hours to the vacuuming, bathrooms, dusting, etc. Nowadays, I don't have those giant chunks of time to devote to cleaning anymore, so it just wasn't happening. Like, I'm not just saying that either. Literally, at one point in time, our bathroom didn't get cleaned for at least 8 weeks. And that's probably a conservative estimate.

Enter the daily chore chart. First, we prioritized our most important household needs. Then we discussed a schedule that would best fit our lives. Plug in needs to schedule and voila! A daily chore chart is born. I clean one or two "big" things and a few minor things around the house each day. That's it. Each part of the house is touched over a week's time, so there's no stress in thinking that there's too much to do in one day. Also, I added in a day for meal planning and a day for grocery shopping. So, not only is there an order to cleaning, but our dinners are now low-stress as well, because I'm no longer standing in the pantry trying to come up with a meal out of garbanzo beans, penne noodles, graham crackers, and pork chops.

Check out what our weekly schedule looks like:

I cannot even tell you how successful this has been in our house. I'm talking like a 71% reduction in my overall level of stress (and a totally arbitrary percentage). Waking up in the morning to a clean house is such a relief and weight lifted off of my shoulders. If we have a surprise knock at the door, it doesn't strike fear into my heart. I don't ever wake up and feel overwhelmed at the amount of work to be done. Finally, there is order instead of chaos. It's been so easy to keep up with each day's task, and it's gratifying to "check" things off the list every day. We always have the groceries we need to make the meals we've planned for. Most importantly, it's allowed me tons of free time to spend with my little boy as well as a little extra guilt-free time for myself.

I've learned a few things over the last few months, so here are some tips:
  1. Allow yourself to be flexible. It's so easy to make an idol out of a clean house. This might be the most important thing I tell you: don't let yourself become a slave to your cleaning routine. Some days get busy with errands and appointments and once I'm finally home, there may not be time to accomplish one or all of my daily tasks. Sometimes the baby pee pees out of his diaper and the sheets need to be changed on Monday. Or maybe the groceries don't get bought until Tuesday. This is messy parenthood-plus-working life. Things come up. Be flexible.
  2. Make your schedule fit your family/needs. You might notice that I vacuum twice each week, which is because we have a big black dog that sheds all over the house (honestly, I could easily vacuum every other day). Maybe you don't need to vacuum that much, or maybe you'd rather pull weeds once a week and mop only once a month. Maybe you can only spare 15 minutes per day -- this is where you prioritize your needs and plug in your top problems into the schedule that fits your family. 
  3. Realize that things will never be perfect. We all have kids!!! There will be crumbs on the table. They will pull toys out faster than you can put them away. My house is clean, but it's far from perfect. There will come a point where you just have to let it go and remember that each task has its appointed time. There has to be a balance. Don't eat away precious time with your baby trying to keep up with all the little messes.
  4. Just do it. Roll up your sleeves and give it a substantial try for a few weeks. My husband was willing to help out (and do the chores on my work days! What a great hubby!) for at least a month just to see how things played out. Within about 3 days I knew this was going to be a great fit for us. 
I can't pretend that every step of this is easy; I have to fight against my own tendencies to be lazy and selfish every day. I'm not a naturally organized person, but when I make a concerted effort to uphold our daily chore chart, things just feel more simple. And anything that makes life as an employee-slash-parent more simple is a win in my book.

Read more from Hollie at her cute blog, Blog-o- hollic.

THANK YOU HOLLIE!

So, how about you?  Do you follow a weekly cleaning schedule?  
How do you keep up with your house work and other chores?

Have a great weekend friends!!
 
P.S. Check out all the posts in this series here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Working Mom: Sami (on a Healthy Marriage)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom here.)

I am happy to introduce you to my new blog friend, Sami today.  She emailed me when I initially posted about this series, and I loved how unique her story and situation is.  I hope you enjoy these great pictures of her adorable family and her words of wisdom on maintaining a healthy marriage when you are working and raising kids:

About Me: 
I am an almost 30 something, working mom with 2 kids of my own and 2 step-children. My husband and I have been together a little over a year now and will have been married a year in December. He previously had two children, C & G who are 5 {C just turned 5 on October 14} and 3.5. I have one kid with my ex, Lu that is 2.5 and Justin {my husband} and I have 1 of our own Lyds that is almost 4 months. Hence the name of my blog “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” 


Family Picture 2012
Family Picture 2013
I am a teacher by day. I work at an alternative school for trouble students. They are mainly the students that have behavior issues and have trouble functioning in a normal school setting. For a lot of the students, we are their last step before expulsion. Many of them have bad to awful home lives which makes me even more mindful of how I want things at my home for my kids. It kinda sucks for my kids because I am little tougher on them because of what I’ve seen with my school kids. Probably the only perk about the job is the days and hours. We don’t start up until October {really no one should be that bad in the first month of school} and my typical day runs from 7:30a to 2p. This will be great once the kids are in school - I will be out before they are!! (If you want to read more about me checkout my "About Me" page on my blog.)

Keeping your Marriage Healthy
I’m very excited to be part of this blog series with E about Making It Work as a Working Mom. The topic I’ve been given is “Keeping your Marriage Healthy.” This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. Being home all summer together was a blessing. {Justin is also a teacher.} We took turns doing things with the kids and tried to make sure one-on-one time was divvied up among all of them. Even though we were absolutely exhausted from having all 4 of them all day long, it was fun to be a big family unit together!

The days leading up to me going back to work were stressful for me. When I had Lu, I was home with her for 5 months. {Her birth landed perfectly, so I had the whole last month of school off and didn’t have to go back until October!} But with Lyds, I only had 3 months with her plus all the other kids; so I’ve felt short changed in that aspect, but there really isn’t anything I could do about that. {I don’t really get maternity leave, it would just count as sick days, and I need to save those!} I know I shouldn't complain - some moms have only 6 weeks or so, but I love the time I get with them when they are little and don't want to miss any milestones. :(

Needless to say I was freaking out just a tad. I knew there would be so much to do and not so much time to do it in. I want to be able to spend time with the kids and Justin, but I also don’t want to have a mess of a house and piles of laundry to tackle on the weekends. I’m a bit of a control freak and like things done a certain way {usually my way}. Being able to let go and let someone else do stuff to help is something I’ve had to work on. In my previous marriage everything was pretty separated, he did his thing and I did my thing. There wasn’t much of a team effort {which was one of many reasons why things didn’t work out.} So with Justin, I want to make the conscience effort to not do things like that.
this is my favorite picture of us
Justin makes me feel like the wife and mother I’ve always thought I should be. I want to do all the housewife stuff, but while working and being a mom I get spread a little thin. I want to provide him and the kids with a happy wife & mom. We do work well together. He {usually} picks up on hints or suggestions I give without me actually saying them. For some reason with men, plans seem to go better if it’s their ideas. He always asks if there is anything he can do to help and my stubborn, OCD, independent self comes out and I say “No I can do it,” when I really mean “Yes please, but do it exactly how I do it.” I wish part of me could just step back and let go and not worry about how things are done, but when it’s your house and you want things just so it’s hard to let go. {I’m working on it though!}

He never asks too much of me. I like to surprise him with things he’s mentioned in passing or small talk, and I know he does the same with me.  We both love our time without kids. {Which is rare.} Before Lyds we would always have every other week to ourselves, but now we are always stuck with that one kid! {JUST KIDDING, we aren’t stuck, just happily blessed!} We both have wondered what our lives/relationship would have been like without the kids: traveling, romantic weekends, adventures to far off places, and other random stuff we “wish” we could do. But, without the kids, I don’t think we would have made the bond that we did. Having kids brings a whole new perspective to everything and you have a different outlook on life. We both have been on the same page about almost everything when it comes to the kids, which has made it easier on our relationship. 

for some reason I feel like we are in this position alot!
sums up our life
We will try at least once a week to have some adult time without any kids. Our mothers and grandmothers have been great about wanting to watch the kids so we can pawn them off let them have "grandma time" anytime. We have yet to be away from Lyds overnight yet, but I’m working up the courage to do it. Just that 2 or 3 hours of “us” time helps us connect and talk without have to shout over kids or wait until we are dead tired after the kids have gone to bed. Communication was such a downfall in past relationships, we want to make sure we both are open and talk about whatever is bothering us. With both of us coming off divorces we know what didn’t work in them and are making a conscious effort to not let those things happen this time around.
we chaperoned homecoming last year
Both our personalities suit each other well. We have similar interests, so we can do things together rather than on our own. We have similar mindsets about how things should go and try to be open to new ideas the other one has too. Our situation could have been {still kinda is} a tricky one. Having our own previous kids and exes can make things complicated, but when you make a conscious effort, it makes a world of difference.

So my advice to my working-mamas out there -- make a conscience effort to make change where it’s needed and to have “us” time. Talk things our that you don't understand or that bother you. Let your kids see you work through your some of your problems {some problems should be private}. They will learn certain skills from watching/listening to you. But DO NOT fight in front of them!!! You don't want them to think that is how every disagreement is worked out. It’s pretty simple. If your marriage is suffering, all the other aspects of your life will suffer to. My marriage has really made me into the person I’ve always wanted to be. Justin brings those qualities out in me. I’m a better mom and wife than I was a year ago. The difference a year can make.

Thanks so much to E for letting me be part of this awesome series!!!


Read more from Sami at her blog Yours, Mine, and Ours!

THANK YOU SAMI!

What is the best advice you've ever been given when it comes to keeping your marriage healthy? What works for you?!?!


P.S. Check out all the posts in this series here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Fall "Uniform"

Have you seen this article that's been floating around the internet this month? According to its writer, there are eight things every happy woman should have: a go-to drink/ a go-to karaoke song/ a uniform/ a hair stylist they love/ an exercise routine/ a hobby/ a best friend/ a healthy sense of self.

I think the list is fun; but, while I think I'm a pretty happy woman, I don't have a go-to drink (unless you count diet coke), a go-to karaoke song ("Wheels on the Bus"?), or an exercise routine (oops).  Obviously, its hard to really build a case around any of these things (except maybe #7 & #8) really being essential to happiness; but, regardless, it's fun to think about. 

In particular, I've been thinking about #3 - a uniform. (Deep, I know.)

Lest you think I'm talking about a plaid skirt and knee socks, let me explain... Your "uniform" is your go-to style.  It's the basic components that make up all (most) of your favorite outfits.  It is the look you feel the most comfortable, the most beautiful, the most you in.   If someone were to draw a picture of you from memory, this is the outfit you'd be wearing.  Are you with me?

Anyway, I've been cleaning out my closet/switching to fall clothes for the last couple of months days, and I've been particularly aware of my own uniform.  Now that I'm actually paying attention to it, it's a little ridiculous to be honest... My uniform is SO uniform that I probably should go to some sort of stripe rehab branch out a little bit.  But, regardless, I'm thankful to have settled on a look that is "signature" me.

Here it is:
Uniform

The only thing I actually own from the above photo are the shoes (Tarjay baby); but, my favorite outfits almost always involve some variation of stripes, jeans, flats, and a statement necklace (oh, and pearls... always pearls).  Obviously there are variations of this for the work week (substitute black pants or cords for jeans) or different seasons (add cute blazer, replace necklace with scarf, wear boots instead of flats); but, this look is pretty standard for me.  I think it says "I'm casual, but I'm classy", which is just the way I like to think of myself. ;) 

#seewhatImean? #thosearedifferentshirts #Samwearstheuniformtoo

So, do you have a uniform?  What is it?

Do I have any other stripe lovers out there? (ahem, Sara)

Does anyone want to buy me that Kate Spade bag? ;)

Does anyone else still switch their clothes over each season?

Have I asked enough questions yet?


Happy Hump Day friends!  I'm headed to the Allume conference bright and early tomorrow morning, but I've got some great Working Mom guest posts lined up for the next couple of days.

Enjoy the rest of your week!


P.S. If you see me at Allume, please say hello!  I'll be the one in stripes! ;) #butseriously
 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Working Mom: Meg (on Making Time for Yourself)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom here.)

Meg was one of the first people I thought of when the idea for this series came to my mind.  She is a loyal blog reader and commenter - the kind of person you feel like you know really well even though you've never actually met in person - and, I happen to think she also has the BEST fashion style ever (you should see her two year old little girl too).  Lately, in particular, she has been a huge inspiration to me because of her lifestyle changes and weight loss journey.  She is proof that I CAN fit in time to take care of myself, and that doing so makes me an even better mom.  :)  I am proud to welcome Meg to my blog today as she talks about the importance of making time for YOU.


Hi, my name is Meg and I just have to say, first and foremost, that I am so honored that E gave me some space to write about some of my favorite things (mama-ing, working, and exercising). She is one of my most favorite bloggers and I almost always (sorry, E, I don't watch the Bachelor) find myself nodding along to her posts. I am pretty sure if we lived close to each other, we would be In Real Life friends. 

 I (sporadically) write over at my very little and humble blog, Better Late than Never. My husband, Ryan, and I have been married for 5 years and our daughter, Avery, is a sweet and spunky two and half year old. We actually started our family with pugs, and now have three of them (I question this decision daily). Both Ryan and I work full time and my sister watches Avery at our home (in which I could write a whole post on what a blessing this is).  I work in the automotive paint and coatings industry. I like my job and I love my group of coworkers.  My job is very flexible and that makes the biggest difference when attempting to juggle all the other important pieces in life.


Anyway, I should probably get to the point of this post and what E asked me to focus on: Making Time for Yourself


This is the thing: You make time for what is important and what is important to you.

We all know, and have experienced, life shifts – or flipping completely upside down – during big moments – getting married; having kids…things that were so important to us when we were dating/engaged soon become trivial to what is important when we are married and living life as an “other”. And then we have kids – or for me, my first child.

For the first two years of Avery’s life, I got up, went to work (I am up, out of the house and at work before most people are even awake), came home and it was all things Avery until she went to sleep for the night.  This was OK and what we needed to do for that time as we adjusted to a new baby and a new schedule – a term I use lightly. While I was trying to figure out the balance of working and being a wife and a new mom, I was putting on the pounds. We ate what was convenient, and did not do any more exercise than running up and down the stairs of our home. By the time Avery’s second birthday came around, I was 50+ pounds overweight, unhealthy and succumbing to my laziness. Worst of all, I was miserable.

It was the evening of this past Mother’s Day that something happened. I cannot really explain what snapped (or clicked?). But I felt the fire under my arse start to burn, and alas! it was not hemorrhoids – this time. So I signed up for Weight Watchers and went back to spin class the very next day.

For five months now I have been working hard to get this weight off, and get healthy and fit. I am down 30lbs and have 20 more to go. I spin 3-4 times a week. I go to Body Pump once or twice a week and I run one day a week. On the weekends, we try to do something together as a family whether it is a 10 mile bike ride on a great trail near our house or a walk around neighborhood. I have even been a good influence on my husband and he started eating better (not that he had much of a choice since we live in the same house) and he goes to the gym 5 days a week.




It was hard for me, at first, to not feel guilty about spending time at the gym, even though I only go for an hour. I am away from Avery during the day, was it selfish to go and do something I wanted (I needed)? The answer I have come to is “No”. A very confident NO! Exercising makes me happy. I am betting most of you know the many benefits of exercising, along with losing weight so I won't bore you (sorry if that happened a few paragraphs ago)with all of that stuff.

Exercising makes me happy and, in turn, I am a happier wife and a happier mother. The stresses of work and home are sweated away each night on the seat of a spin bike, the belt of a treadmill or under the weight of a barbell in Body Pump. Sticking to this healthy and physically fit lifestyle has given me confidence I did not expect. Instead of feeling bad that I am away from my daughter of another hour, I am proud that she sees me up and doing something, coming home sweaty and happy. 

For the most part, Ryan and I juggle our times at the gym so that one of us is home with Avery. Although our Y does have childcare and we do use it at times when Ryan has to travel or work late or I am not taking a class and can get to the gym before he gets home. Since he goes on his own schedule and I have specific classes I take, we work around my classes. I get home at 3pm Monday through Friday and I get dinner together (we actually just implemented  Crock Pot Monday and Wednesday so we don’t have to worry about dinner at all! It has been glooooorious), I feed the dogs, play with Avery, do some laundry and any other stuff around that house that is calling my name. Then Ryan walks in the door at 5:30, I have Avery’s dinner heating up and he is an able body so he gets his dinner for himself. They eat together and I rush out the door to get to spin before the snooty Swedish cougar gets my favorite spinner. I get home a little after 7, our Y is only 5 minutes from our house, I eat dinner and we usually hang out for an hour in our room as Ryan gets ready to go to the gym and I get Avery ready for bed. Then I get a shower and everything ready for the next day. I try to be in bed by 10.

The week days are definitely a little crazy, but it works for us. We make it work for us. We make it important. We rarely have time or energy to watch TV, thank goodness for DVR! My house is never clean, ok, maybe once a month it is, but with a toddler and 3 hairy, shedding pugs? We use the word “Clean” very loosely. 

We are happy and (getting) healthy. And that is our important.


Read more from Meg (including this "preface" post she published yesterday) at her blog Better Late Than Never.


THANK YOU MEG!

How do you make time for yourself?  What is important to you?

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Twenty Years

The other morning, as I was driving to work (before the blasted sun) and after texting our babysitter to apologize (again) for our crazy messy house (not while driving), I started having some pretty deep thoughts...

In twenty years, when I look back on Sam's childhood and my life as his mama, there I things about this season I might or could regret, and then there are things that I definitely will NOT regret about it. 

Those lists look a little something like this:

Things I will NOT regret:
- Not keeping my house cleaner.
- Not sticking to a weekly meal plan.
- Not having a bigger blog/instagram/Twitter following.
- Not being twenty pounds lighter.
- Not getting papers graded and returned to my students faster.
- Not wearing (or dressing Sam) in the best clothes ever. 
- Not being consistent enough with time-outs.
- Not hosting huge, elaborate parties.
- Not putting away laundry in a timely manner.
- Not giving the best gifts to Sam's teachers.
- Not doing crafty DIY projects & having the best-decorated house.
- Not getting rid of the pacifier (or potty training) sooner.


Things I don't WANT to regret:
- Not playing on the floor more.
- Not reading one more book.
- Not modeling a healthy lifestyle
- Not eating dinner together.
- Not welcoming people into our home more
- Not laughing and being silly more.
- Not traveling and showing Sam the world.
- Not making time for my spiritual life & talking to Sam about it more.
- Not going on more dates with Jeff & praising him in front of Sam.
- Not having dance parties enough.
- Not spending more time outside.
- Not taking more pictures (and being in more of them).
- Not snuggling for ten more minutes before bed.

Really, when I think about life this way, it changes my perspective on A LOT of things.  Obviously, this doesn't  mean I'm never going to clean my house again or put away laundry. The truth is, if I am so unorganized that I spend all my time running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it would be impossible to play and read and all those other things.  But, mostly, I don't want to spend so much time worrying about keeping it "together" that I sacrifice these precious (and oh so short) years with my boy.


I can have a clean house and cook fancy meals and host big parties in 20 years. 

What about you?  What do you not want to regret when you look back at this season of your life? What things do you need to change now?


P.S. Have you seen this cute video with a very similar message?  It is adorable, funny, and SO true.



*A new Working Mom post coming tomorrow!!! :)


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