Encouragement, Monthly Goals

November Goals

Ahhhh, November is here, friends!!  There is just something so special about starting a new month, don’t you think?  It is like a fresh start, a do-over, a new beginning, a clean slate.  Whether you need to say goodbye to the troubles of October and leave them in the past or October was so wonderful that you feel November can’t possibly top it, I want to assure you that God made us for seasons.  I am so thankful for the start of a new month to remind me of God’s sovereignty and understanding of what I need.

For me, the start of November was much needed.  October was full of so much good, but also full of many hard days.  It was full of #momfail moments, too much anxiety, stress, and worry, and not enough time spent purposefully pursuing peace.

 

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This month is going to be so full.  This month we get to travel home to see our family whom we only see once or twice a year.  My husband hasn’t been home in over a year and I haven’t been home since Avary was 8 weeks old.  I’m so excited to share our baby girl with the family and let them see how much she’s grown.  I am so grateful that we get to spend the Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by family and friends.  We haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in 3 years!  So, November not only promises a trip home and Thanksgiving festivities, but Matthew’s birthday is also this month!  This will be the 8th birthday we have celebrated together.  Wow, time flies.  Also, November marks Growing the Nest’s 6 month anniversary!  I started my little blog 6 months ago, and I am so thankful to have made it to this point.  I love this space of the internet I have here, the outlet my blog is for myself, and the people I have met along the way.  So November, I have high hopes for you!

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In all seriousness, though, I think one of the keys to living a peaceful life is taking time for reflection and planning/living life with purpose.  I love how writing in this blog is making me more intentional with my thoughts; because, I have honestly never written down a list of goals for a month.  But in the midst of trying to organize my life and live with intention, I decided to write out my goals for the month of November.  I was inspired by a fellow blogger, Rachel over at This Beautiful Season-where she encourages women to savor each season of life they find themselves in.  She has written posts about her vision and goals for each month, and how she will achieve them.  I love reading her thoughts, as they are so encouraging.  Definitely go check her out!  I think writing out my goals for the month will help me be more intentional in meeting them.

November Goals:

  • Make my quiet time with God a priority.  Spend more time reading and studying the Word, and praying with purpose.
  • Give my anxiety, stress, and worry up to God!  Whenever I feel myself becoming anxious or having stressful thoughts, I want to quote Bible verses that assure me of God’s peace, my victory over fear, and His protection and care for me.
  • Instead of turning the TV on when I have a spare moment, I want to open up a book and get inspired!  Finish the 3 books on my November reading list!
  • To look at those around me through God’s eyes.  To bless someone around me just because I can.  To reach out to someone so they know I care.  To be the hands and feet of Jesus, showing love and compassion.
  • To find creative ways and little moments to show Matthew how much I love him.
  • To soak up every moment with our family when we are home with them. <3
  • Stay consistent with my exercising!
  • To produce great content for my blog, especially coming into this holiday season.
  • Drink a #saltedcarmelmocha from Starbucks with my mama! (Man, I miss her!)
  • Learn how to coupon so I can save my family some money.
  • Be the very best mama to Avary that I can be by being present and in the moment.

Those are my goals for this month of November.  I am sure I could have thought of one hundred more, but you know!  My thought for this month is: PURPOSELY PURSUING PEACE.  I am praying over this month and asking God to show me how I can achieve these goals.  I am asking him to help me relinquish “my control” and live this month purposefully.  Pursuing peace.  Seeking grace.  Letting go of anxiety.  Living free and full.

I would love to know what your goals are for this month!  Let us know in the comments section!  Also, can I help you in any way?  If there is anything you’d like me to pray about or you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to hit that Contact button at the top of my blog or message me on Instagram or Facebook.  Let’s build each other up and support one another this month!

sean (1)

Baby, Motherhood

How To: Create a Routine as a SAHM

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.*

When we made the decision that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom to our little girl, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I assumed that the job was pretty easy because all I had to do was take care of the baby, right?  Wrong!  Being a SAHM is much more than “taking care of the baby.”  A lot about being a SAHM is being a homemaker-making sure things stay cleaned and organized, planning meals, preparing food, doing laundry, running errands and just simply keeping the house running.  Not to mention, taking care of the baby involves a host of different tasks.  I’m feeding, changing, nursing, bathing, entertaining, comforting, and nurturing a little human being.  And now that my little girl Avary is at the age where she is crawling, pulling up, and cruising around the house, our playtime has to be more meaningful and teaching and SUPERVISED.  I have to teach her what is and is not safe to stand up on, what we do not touch, that we do not eat dog food, that we should not take the dog’s bed, that we cannot eat books or fuzz or the rug or DVDs. . . (ha!)

And what I have learned is, if we just wake up in the morning, with no plan for our day, the day is going to be very unproductive.  I won’t be able to get chores done around the house, we will miss running our errands, the baby will probably act out because she doesn’t know what to expect next.  It took me months to realize that what we needed was a routine and a schedule!  Once I added this to our lives, everything changed!  So I thought I would share with you my tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM + stick with it, as well as a glimpse at what our daily schedule looks like.  I would like to preface this by saying, in the first 3 months of Avary’s life, we did NOT have a schedule.  I felt that in those early newborn days, it was important for me to allow Avary to make her own schedule so we could get to know each other and she was giving me cues to exactly what she needed.  We really started carving out a routine when she was around 4.5 months old when we began transitioning her from co-sleeping to sleeping in her own room and crib.  Remember, you know your baby better than anyone, so experiment with routines and schedules and find what works for you!

Tip #1: Get a Planner

Get a planner, get a planner, get a planner!  I cannot tell you enough how helpful a planner is in staying organized and helping create a routine.  Depending on what you like, you can pick up a cheap planner from Target or if you want to get serious, you can get something like the Erin Condrin Life Planner or Lara Casey’s Powersheets.  You can use your planner to write down any important dates to remember like appointments, work schedules, meetings, playdates, birthdays, holidays, vacations, weekly cleaning schedules, to-do lists, goals, priorities, etc.  Basically, you want to write down anything and everything here so you won’t forget and so you can stay motivated to check tasks off your list.

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Tip #2: Plan Out Your Day

Planning your day out is a great way to give your day structure, as well as productivity.  I have often found that if I have no plan for the day, I end up getting nothing done.  There is something to be said for predictability; it has its place.  Some people thrive on planning out their day down to the hour.  I personally am not that rigid.  But, I plan our day so I know when we are having mealtimes, naptimes, going out, cleaning, etc.

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Tip #3: Create a Baby Schedule

After you are past the newborn phase, babies truly do thrive on a schedule.  They need the predictability and stability that a schedule provides.  It helps them in their development to be able to learn their routine.  When we transitioned Avary to sleeping in her own room and crib, this was the time that we started shaping out her schedule.  One of the biggest things that I believe helped solidify her schedule was creating a stable bedtime routine.  For us, this looks like:

  • 5 pm:  Dinner
  • 5:30 pm: Playtime
  • 6:00 pm: Winding Down Play/Books; Clean Up Toys; Head Upstairs
  • 6:10 pm: Bathtime *(she doesn’t get a bath every night so on nights she doesn’t, our winding down play is a little longer)
  • 6:25 pm: Diaper, “Night Night” Lotion, PJs & Nighttime Nursing Session

Once you get a bedtime routine down, you can start incorporating when baby needs a nap into your daily schedule.  You also want to carve out times for play-whether structured (a planned activity) or free-play.  I have also found that with a baby Avary’s age, she needs to get outside a couple times a day.  As long as the weather permits, we do a playtime out in the backyard in the morning, we take the dog on a walk while Avary rides in the stroller midday, and go to the park or play outside again in the afternoon.  She loves being outside and fresh air is so good for babies.  If you want to see what our full daily routine looks like, a post on that will be coming soon!

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Tip #4: Create a Cleaning Schedule

I don’t know why I didn’t do this a long time ago; maybe because I was working and just cleaned whatever I could squeeze in that day, but since becoming a SAHM, I have realized the beauty that is a cleaning schedule!  I actually came across “Clean Mama” on Instagram, you can find her here.  She has created a simple cleaning and homemaking routine you can follow weekly to help keep your home clean and organized.  I love it because each day you have a different cleaning tasks.  It helps so much; because, you don’t feel like you have to tackle one hundred different things in one day.  It feels more doable with the one or two tasks to complete each day.  She also has printables to help you stay organized in your schedule.

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Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself

I am going to be honest, in the first couple of months of motherhood, it is so incredibly easy to lose sight of yourself when you are constantly taking care of another human being.  It is so easy to forget to shower or get dressed or make yourself some food or workout.  Every day looks different, but I learned that it is so important to take care of myself, my body, and my health.  If I am not taking care of myself, I won’t be able to take good care of Avary.  In this season of life, we just don’t have the luxury of paying for a gym membership where I can drop Avary off at the childcare and go workout.  So I had to come up with a way to exercise when I was home with her.  I was looking for exercises on YouTube that I could do from home, and I came across Moms Into Fitness.  These workouts are designed especially for moms for strengthening your body postpartum.  I absolutely love them!  They have really helped strengthen my core, my back, and my pelvic floor.  There are workouts anywhere from 5-40 minutes I have found.  Honestly, doing something to get your body moving and working-even if it doesn’t seem like a lot-is going to help!  You can find the Moms Into Fitness workouts on Youtube, here.  Or you can purchase full length workout videos here.

Also, when it comes to nutrition, try to make sure you aren’t skipping meals or forgetting to feed yourself.  I think us moms have our fair share of times that we forget to eat because we get so busy!  One way I’ve tried to alleviate this problem is by having easy meals or snacks ready to go.  I might make a batch of hard boiled eggs, which are great for breakfast or a quick snack.  I also love to make my own trailmix with almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips.  I always have granola bars and fruit on hand.  Another thing I love is putting dinner in the slow cooker in the morning, so I don’t even have to worry about it all day!  Meal planning and meal prepping is another way to save you time in the kitchen and take care of your health.  This is an area that I am trying to learn and grow in.  Remember, when you take good care of yourself and your body, you will be able to take care of your littles much better!

Those are my 5 tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM.  Being a stay-at-home is much harder than I thought it would be; because, it truly is a job and you have to be organized and productive the same as any other job.  Creating a routine saved my sanity and made me feel like I was running our home well.  I know everyone’s routine will look different, but what is one thing that helped you when you became a SAHM?

sean (1)

 

 

 

Fall, Reading Lists

November Reading List

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.*

Happy November, friends!! I can’t believe we are already here.  Time flies!  For the month of November, as well as the months ahead, one of my goals is to make it a priority to read good books.  Somewhere in the midst of motherhood, I have forgotten to pick up a book and read.  In the moments I find myself with down-time, instead of clicking on Netflix and spending mindless time watching a show, I want to spend meaningful time reading a book that will inspire me.  I don’t know about you, but inspiration is what drives me and encourages me and motivates me to take action.  And in this season of life, I need a little motivation and inspiration!

I put 3 books on my list to read this November, and they will all be linked below.  I know that may not be a lot to some, but-baby steps!  (I have a little one I’m chasing around!)

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Loving My Actual Life.

One thing I have been struggling with lately in my personal life is contentment.  I often find myself feeling dissatisfied with where I am at and what I am doing.  I get caught up in comparing myself to everyone else-even though I know this steals the joy from my own life.  Alexandra Kuykendall addresses these very topics in her book, and I can’t wait to find some inspiration and truth in it.

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Present Over Perfect.

If you are a perfectionist-like I sometimes am-I am sure you understand the struggle of pressuring yourself to ‘do do do’ or ‘be be be,’ and perform this all perfectly.  Sometimes in our struggle to be perfect, we end up just failing to be present-missing out on precious moments and the ordinary.  Present Over Perfect seemed like a great book to pick up as I learn how to refocus this mindset in my life.

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The Magnolia Story.

I love Chip and Joanna Gaines.  I mean, doesn’t everybody?!  The countdown is on for the season 4 premiere on November 29th.!  I just enjoy watching these two on the show and also hearing their testimony, and seeing them live out their faith for the world to see.  It is absolutely inspiring.  I am excited to read their book and learn more about their life and their story!

If you know someone who could be encouraged by these books, they make great, inexpensive birthday or Christmas gifts!  They are already on my list for some friends of mine.

That is my reading list for the month of November!  What are you currently reading?  Have you read any of these books?  Did you like them?  I cannot wait to dive in and get inspired.

Happy Reading, friends!

sean (1)

Family

Seasons of Change

You know what I realized lately?  I have never written a blog post where I am just talking to you guys!  I have never written a post where I just rambled on letting you know what is going on in my life.  I’m not sure why I haven’t.  Maybe I thought no one would be interested in hearing any of that, and if that’s the case, that is totally okay!  But, I feel like if I want you all to get to know me as a person, just talking is one of the best ways. Anyways. . .

I have found myself in this season lately. . . a season of change.  You know that place in your life where you have come to a crossroads and you are about to head down a brand new path.  That place of exhilaration, yet complete panic.  Excitement, yet hesitation.  Happiness, but the bittersweet kind.  That kind of change.  The change that upsets your “normal” and refocuses your whole life.  Change that turns your routine, schedule, plans and comfort zone-upside down.

In the last couple of weeks, Matthew and I have had to start discussing moving.  As some of you might know, Matt is in the Coast Guard and 2017 is our year to PCS (permanent change of station).  Honestly, not long after we moved here, I began saying “I can’t wait to move!”  I struggled with all the change at first.  Matt and I were newlyweds, I had never lived away from home (and then I moved 1,000 miles from home), I had never been away from my family, I left friends, I left college, I left everything about my “old life” behind and started a new one with Matt and the military.  It was strange and new and I thought I didn’t like it.  I eventually got used to life, and moving taught me so much about myself, and it grew Matt and I as a couple.  I wouldn’t change anything about moving here and the life we have.  And it feels like I have just recently gotten comfortable.  Like I just came to terms with the fact that this is my home, and I love it; and now we are coming up on our next move. . .

 

Doesn’t it seem like just when you get comfortable, when you find your “normal,” when you accept that ‘this is where you’re at,’ things change?  Instead of feeling like I can’t wait to move, I have realized that I’m going to miss it here.  I’m going to miss this life we built.  I’m going to miss this house that was the first place we lived as a married couple.  I’m going to miss this place where I brought our baby girl into the world.  I’m going to miss these memories we have made.  And as I sit here and type (while crying like a baby), I wish I would have held onto more moments.  I wish I would have lived more, and loved more.  I wish I would have lived in the now and not worried about the future so much.

Change has a way of making you recognize everything you would have done differently.  I could look back and wish and wish and wish, but that serves no purpose.  Instead, I have found myself stepping out. . .  I’m trying to do things I have never done before.  I’m trying to soak in every trip to the beach.  Every sunrise.  Every drive.  All the ordinary things, too.  Because I know I’m going to miss it.  And even though when I think about moving I feel scared and unsure and sometimes terrified, I’m also so excited!  It is so cool that we get a fresh start!  A do-over.  A new beginning.  A new path.  A new life.  We get to write a brand new story!

When I was thinking about this, I thought about some verses that I loved in high school. . .

“This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies– they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand new.  It’s bursting out!  Don’t you see it? There it is!”  Isaiah 43:16-19

My goal is to live in the now, to be present.  Even though I am going to be stretched wayyy outside my comfort zone and everything about our future is unclear, I am going to embrace the brand new that God has up ahead for me and my little family.  In this season of change, I’m choosing to be content where I am at and where I am headed.

Change.  Is anything in your life changing?  If so, let me know.  I’d love to pray for you.  I think we all know how scary change can feel sometimes.  Also, is there anything that makes change easier for you to handle?  What do you do?

Thanks for listening, friends.  I hope you have a beautiful Friday and a wonderful weekend.

sean (1)

Baby, Fall

Fall 2016 Baby Capsule Wardrobe

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*Disclaimer:  This post is NOT sponsored, I just really love these clothes and companies!  If I ever do a sponsored post, I will disclose it at the beginning of the post.  I do not own the images of these products, they are property of the online retailers-which you can find at the below links.*

Capsule wardrobes seem to have become a “trend” lately-and rightfully so-because it is such a great idea!  When it comes to dressing my little girl, it is pretty much necessary for me to have pieces that will mix and match together, as well as core pieces that will build her wardrobe.  Also, I am always looking for a good sale!  That is why I do the majority of my shopping at Old Navy, Carters, or Target.  Most of these pieces are from Old Navy because their fall line for baby girls was on point!

I love shopping at Old Navy because they have adorable, on-trend fashion for my baby, they have affordable prices, and they are ALWAYS running great sales!  I feel that Avary always looks put together and trendy without breaking the bank.

As far as accessories go, like bibs, scarves, bows, and headwraps, I like to shop small!  I always find unique, cute pieces this way.  If I could afford to shop small for all of Avary’s clothes, I totally would-it’s just not in the budget right now.  So if you need a little inspiration on how to shop for your baby girl, shop the links included below!  All links follow the order of the pictures from left to right.

Also, for your reference.  Avary is 8.5 months old and wears a size 6-9 months or 6-12 months.  She is on the petite-side and has room to grow in these sizes, which will be great to transition some of these into wintertime, as well.

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Floral Swing Dress. | Gray Cardigan. | Cream Cardigan. | Striped Swing Dress.

These swing dresses are so cute and easy to build an outfit around!  You can pair them with flats at the beginning of fall when it is still warm, or pair them with tights and boots once it starts getting chilly.  And these cardigans, oh!!  I love them so much!  They are dainty and sweet and look great with jeans, leggings, or dresses.  They are knit, but surprisingly warm.  I wish they had them in my size!

Pink Ruffled Leggings. | Pom Pom Beanie. | Kishu Baby Bib. | Striped Ruffled Leggings.

Old Navy’s leggings for baby girls are ADORABLE because they have ruffles on the bum!  Who doesn’t love a ruffly baby bum?!  A beanie is essential for any fall wardrobe, as well and I love this one with pom poms.  Also, these bibs from Kishu baby are amazing!  I love them because they look more like fashionable baby scarves than bibs so they make a great accessory + drool-catcher for a teething babe.  They are made of cotton muslin so they are super soft and breathable.

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LOVE Bodysuit. | Fringe Booties. | 6 Pack Socks. | Gold Moccasins. | Pink Graphic Bodysuit

Bodysuits are just essential for my baby.  I like putting Avary in regular shirts, but they inevitably ride up and her belly and back are always hanging out.  When it is chilly outside, I just prefer having some cute, graphic bodysuits!  These ones are great and inexpensive.  Old Navy has the cutest baby shoes! (I am probably saying ‘cute’ and using exclamation points way too much, so I apologize-but I can’t help it).  I love these fringe booties for everything and their moccasins are great, as well.

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Strappy Black Ballet Flats. | Kishu Baby Bib. | WildSunshine Threads Headwrap.

More shoes and bibs. . . I just LOVE.  This headwrap from WildSunshine Threads is so classic.  If you love big bows, you will love this.  Go follow them on Instagram-you won’t be disapointed!

Roll-cuffed Jeggings. | Fox Knee-Highs. | Cable-Knit Tights. | AWESOME Graphic Tee.

When I say Avary lives in these jeggings, I am really not exaggerating.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they look great!  They have a great stretch-just like a legging, they are cuffed at the bottom which I like so they don’t drag on the ground, and they have the stitching of pockets and seams to make them look realistic.  Score!  Every little girl needs a pair of fox knee-highs.  Enough said. (HA)  The graphic tee that says Awesome is from Carters and it is a great basic and layering piece.

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BEAUTIFUL 2-piece Pajamas. | Utility Jacket. | Floral 2-piece Pajamas.

You are probably going to think I am ridiculous, but the first time I put Avary in 2 piece pajamas, I about cried!  I mean, zip up jammies mean your baby is little, right?!  At least, to me it does.  When I put her in 2 pieces, it meant she was a big girl!  I don’t know why, I am just weird (LOL).  I love these ones from Old Navy, though, because they are super soft and snug fitting.  I use them when I put her in a sleep sack for bedtime if it is chilly.  Last but not least, this army green utility jacket is everything!! It just screams fall and I love it.

Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite stores are to shop at for your baby!  Or do you have a small shop?  I’d love to check it out, so let me know!  Happy shopping, mamas!

sean (1)

 

 

Fall, Food

Trader Joe’s: Fall Favorites

Trader Joe’s is one of my absolute favorite grocery stores to shop at for my family.  I don’t know if it is just something about the “neighborhood-feel” of the store, since it is much smaller than the traditional grocery store, or the yummy specialty items they carry, or the fact that there prices are SO affordable-I just love everything about it!  Well, and Trader Joe’s + Fall = Awesomeness!

Let’s be honest, putting pumpkin in everything come fall time makes any product more marketable, am I right?  Just the other day, I saw a “fall harvest” spaghetti sauce. . .  Doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but it is on the shelf because someone is buying it! (Ha!)  Anyways, I love love many of Trader Joe’s special fall items so I thought I’d share with you 4 of my current faves.

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Spiced Cider.  If you find yourself unable to get to a local orchard, or you just don’t feel like spicing cider yourself, you need to try this cider!!  It is so yummy and basically tastes like fall in a cup.  It’s refreshing cold or delicious warmed up.

Pecan Pumpkin Oatmeal.  I am a big oatmeal fan.  Ever since breastfeeding, I eat it all the time.  I’m always looking for ways to spice my oatmeal up so I was excited to try this, and mmm it is tasty!  Add a few fresh pecans to the top, some dried cranberries, and chia seeds and you have a hearty, healthy, delicious breakfast!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread.  Guys, my food weakness is bread, bagels, croissants, baguettes, biscuits, rolls. . . basically anything that is a carb. . . (ha!) So when I saw this cream cheese, I knew I had to try it on a bagel or some cinnamon toast.  Oh my goodness, this stuff is delicious!  Definitely dangerous but so very worth it.

Pumpkin O’s.  If I eat cereal, I am a basic cereal person.  I think Cheerios are great even though they are super plain.  So why not add a little variety to your Cheerios?  These are fun and yummy for fall and great with some fresh fruit on top and Trader Joe’s vanilla almond milk!

So there you have it!  Some of my favorite fall finds at Trader Joe’s!  Do you shop at Trader Joe’s?  What’s your favorite fall specialty item they sell?  If you would like a part 2 of this, comment down below!

Happy Fall, friends!!

sean (1)

 

Family

Our Fall Bucket List + Family Traditions

Happy Fall, ya’ll!

Okay, I don’t ever say ya’ll, but the little saying is cute so I went with it! (ha!)  Anyways, Happy Fall!  If you’re like me-or like any basic woman or mom out there-you love fall.  Autumn is by far my favorite season!  I just love the coziness of it, the start of routines and traditions, the food, the smells, the coffee, the cider, the pumpkins, the apples, the baking, the fashion, the Bath and Body Works candles. . . okay, I’ll stop now because my list is later!  I also love the fall because it is like the start of the holiday season, and it just reminds me of all the goodness right ahead.

So every year, I always formulate a “bucket list” in my head of things I want to do for the season, but I never have actually written it down.  This year, I decided to create my bucket list and share it with you all and maybe you will get some inspiration to go out and make sweet memories this fall!

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Now I know what every parent means by seeing through your children’s eyes.  I’m so excited to share the fall and the upcoming holiday season with Avary.  I can’t wait to help her pick out her very own baby pumpkin and watch Matt help her pick apples from the trees.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she plays in a pile of crunchy leaves (she loves anything that makes a crunch noise!).  It is just so fun to get to experience all her ‘firsts’ with her!

What I also love about the fall is the little family traditions Matthew and I have created together.  I love how family traditions are formed through influences we both had as children and what we did with our own families.  Every fall season we find a local apple orchard and pick apples that are in season, get a gallon of apple cider, buy some apple butter, and get some tasty treats like apple cider donuts or caramel apples.  I did this with my mom every single fall and it is such a special memory for me.  I can’t wait to create these memories with Avary.  A trip to the pumpkin patch was something Matthew and I both did with our families.

I don’t know about you but the crisp, cold air in the fall just puts me in the mood to bake and make yummy, warm food!  Some of my favorite things to make in the fall are recipes passed down from my mom like: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, pecan tartlets, and blondie brownies.  I also love making slow cooker meals like: beef stew, chili, potato soup, and chicken tortilla soup.  This year, I’d like to try baking double chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin scones!

Here is the link to my go-to Beef Stew recipe from Butter With a Side of Bread and the recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread I am going to try from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Butter With a Side of Bread

Sally's Baking Addiction

Sally’s Baking Addiction

You can find all the fall recipes I’m loving and all the fall goodness I’m pinning here!

So what is on your fall bucket list?  Do you have special traditions you do with your family?  Share them with us all below!  Excuse me while I go drink a glass of Trader Joe’s spiced cider!  Happy Fall!

sean (1)

Encouragement

Freedom Over Fear

FEAR (n): an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

FREEDOM (n): the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.

Fear.  It is something we all have experienced at one time or another; but some of us, on a different level than others.  For me, fear has been a personal struggle of mine for as long as I can remember.  When I was around 8 years old, my family moved into an old, Victorian style house.  It was one of the ones with tall doors and lots of rooms.  I remember that my bedroom was connected to the attic.  And it wasn’t just a drop door or a crawl space to the attic, it was a regular door to a full-size, unfinished, creepy-looking attic.  I was the youngest in the family, with 3 older brothers, so I got this room all to myself.  Every single night, I would be so scared that something was going to come out of that attic!  Of course nothing did, but the fear I felt as a small child was real-even though there was no real danger.  Ever since then, I can pinpoint a pattern of fear in my life.  It is my greatest spiritual struggle, and I constantly am being reminded of God’s faithfulness through this struggle.

In the world we live in, filled with so much  uncertainty, violence and heartbreak, sometimes it is hard to feel safe.  Sometimes it is hard to feel free.  Sometimes it is hard to live life without a sense of fear; because, it seems our safety has been compromised.  Because it feels like no matter how hard we try to block out the fact that there is a big, creepy door to a dark attic looming in the corner of our bedroom, it is still there and we cannot change that fact.  And the truth is, we can’t change all the factors in our world, in our environment, in our jobs, in our families, in our relationships that scare us, but we can; however, change how we respond to these fearful encounters.

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The truth, my friends, is that God offers us a way out of a fear.  He offers us freedom!  You see, fear can be crippling, debilitating. . . Fear can cause you to live a timid life-unwilling to take risks, missing out on opportunities, living half-heartedly for fear of what living fully might bring.  God did not create us to live in fear, nor did He desire for us to ‘live safely.’  He designed us to live freely and fully-embracing all the goodness life has to offer.  He welcomes us to live in the overflow of His spirit and His unchanging nature.

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When I feel afraid or when my thoughts are overtaking my actions, I remind myself that fear is not of God.  God supplies me with power and love and a sound mind.  You know, when I was 8 years old and scared of that attic door, I never opened it.  My mind created all these images of what might be behind the door, but I didn’t want to open it and find out what was really there.  But one day, one of my older brothers held my hand and pushed the door open and made me look.  (I don’t think he was trying to be ‘nice,’ per se, but it actually helped me!)  You see, he made me confront my fears and what I found was an old attic with dusty wooden rafters and no monsters. . .

I think God is a lot like this.  Maybe He holds your hand and draws you closer to your fears and helps you overcome them.  Maybe He is holding your hand and drawing you into the middle of stormy waters. . . But friend, He is not trying to drown you.  He is encouraging you to conquer your fears, to hold tight to Him, to walk in freedom, to become brave.  Bethel Music has a worship song that I just love that says:

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I am so thankful that God’s love and promises to me has made a way for me to overcome my fear.  My battle with fear is a daily one.  It is constantly reminding myself that God is in control, that my life is in His hands, that He only wants good for me, and that He has not created fear but freedom.  When I live in these truths, my life is so much more full.  So friend, if you’re anxious about an upcoming move, if you’re nervous about whether to accept that “crazy” different job offer, if you’re unsure whether you are parenting “the right way,” if you’re worried about standing out among your friends and coworkers, if you’re scared of failing at whatever it may be-give it to God!  Give your fears and concerns over to Him and live in the freedom of God’s grace!

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” Psalms 112:7-8

sean (1)

Motherhood, Pregnancy

DIY Pregnancy Survival Kit

A friend of mine recently told me she was pregnant, and I could not be happier for her and her husband!!  (Does anyone else feel like EVERYONE they know is pregnant right now?!  Gives me all kinds of baby fever!)  She was also telling me that she was experiencing terrible morning sickness, all day every day.  I felt so bad and wanted to do something to celebrate her pregnancy and maybe help her out with the morning sickness.

When I was pregnant with Avary, I had morning sickness but rarely ever threw up.  It was mostly constant nausea all day long (which I feel is almost worse!  I just wanted to throw up and feel better!).  Anyways, I found a couple things that helped me out a little bit, so I wanted to pass that on to my friend.  I made her a little pregnancy survival kit!

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What I included in the basket:

Premium Saltine Crackers.  Guys, I can’t even tell you how many boxes of these crackers I went through in the first trimester of my pregnancy.  I never want to another saltine cracker until the next pregnancy! (haha)  But seriously, I stashed these right next to my bed and would eat a cracker before I even sat up in bed in the morning.  I would be extremely sick in the morning if I woke up and got up on an empty stomach.  I kept these crackers with me at all times; because, sometimes when you’re pregnant, nothing sounds good, nothing tastes good, the sight of food makes you want to vomit. . . If I could just stomach a few of these crackers, it usually made me feel better.

Gatorade.  You really do lose a lot of electrolytes and other vitamins and minerals when you throw up, so I always liked to have Gatorade available.  It made me feel like I had some kind of energy put back into me when I couldn’t manage to eat much.

Ginger Ale.  I have always found ginger ale to ease my upset stomach, so I included that as well.  I definitely didn’t use this every day when I was pregnant, but if crackers and Gatorade weren’t helping, I would try this.

Tums.  I don’t know about you, but I do not like Tums!  The chalky texture just makes me want to gag, and for some reason, they just remind me of my childhood when I wasn’t feeling good (my mom must have given me too many Tums!).  When I started getting heartburn during pregnancy, I was dreading buying those colorful little chalky discs!  But then, I stumbled across the peppermint flavored Tums!  I knew I had read that peppermint flavors can help put morning sickness at bay so I decided to try those.  I don’t know what it is about this particular flavor, but they are so so much better than the original!  They are still chalky, but it is somewhat masked by the flavor.  Instead of feeling like you are eating a piece of fruit flavored chalk, it just taste like a weird kind of mint! (Much better!)

Peppermint Essential Oil.  I also added in a little bottle of peppermint essential oil since it is supposed to help relieve nausea.  I can’t say that it necessarily “helped” me, but if I was feeling nauseous, I would smell it or rub a little behind my ears.  I think it helped distract me from how I was feeling more than make the nausea go away, but hey, I tried everything!

Tea.  I added lots of tea in this pregnancy survival kit!  I personally love tea and drinking something warm always makes me feel better.  I drank Mother-to-Be tea while pregnant because it had a good blend of herbs that are good for expecting mamas.  I also gave her a little bedtime tea; because. . . well, why not?  Also, raspberry leaf tea!  If you are pregnant, look this tea up!  It is recommended that you don’t start drinking this tea until the last trimester of pregnancy, and you always want to check with your doctor or midwife before starting it, but this tea is so great!  It is a kind of uterine tonic, so it works to help strengthen your uterus making it healthy and stronger.  This, in turn, will help during labor-making contractions more effective-and during delivery-making it easier and more manageable to push.  I know everyone has a different experience, but I only pushed for 30 minutes with my first baby and attribute some of that to this tea helping strengthen my uterus!

Fiber One Bars.  Granola bars were definitely a go-to for me during pregnancy.  I always had one in my purse, in my house, by my bed, because I was bound to get hungry.  The regular chocolate chip Fiber One bars are delicious, and I made it a point to get plenty of fiber in my diet while pregnant to avoid dreaded hemorrhoids and such, and I didn’t get a single one.

Gum.  It was always helpful to have gum during pregnancy, as well.  Especially in that first trimester, having something in my mouth helped with the morning sickness feeling.  So I was always usually chewing gum, sucking on a mint or a Preggo pop.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter.  I know lotions and stretch mark creams and oils are kind of overrated (I slathered them on all pregnancy long and still got stretch marks), but it is so important to keep your skin moisturized!  Your skin is going through the trauma of being stretched to the max, and it needs some TLC!  Palmer’s cocoa butter was just something I used as part of my daily routine.  It always made my skin feel moisturized and relieved any itching from my growing belly.

EOS lip balm.  I really don’t know why, but my lips were always dry while I was pregnant!  Anybody else?  This is just my favorite lip balm so it is part of my survival kit.  Also, during labor and delivery, you are going to want some lip balm.  It is essential!  With all the breathing and panting and moaning and screaming, your lips get dry and cracky.  This definitely comes in handy.

LUSH bath bomb.  I’m telling you the truth when I say that in my last trimester, I took a bath every single day.  My body was just so sore in that third trimester.  I also had planned on having a water birth so, as part of my nighttime routine, I would take a bath and put on my Hypnobirth and just practice relaxing and visualizing my birth.  Every now and then, I would throw in a LUSH bath bomb and just pamper myself for the night.  I haven’t had a bath since sometime during my postpartum recovery and my baby is 7 months old now.  Enjoy your baths and your bath bombs, ladies!!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  It is a classic and an essential.  I think every new mom reads this book either online or flipping through the pages.  While no pregnancy is cut-and-dry, it is always fun to see what is happening at different stages in pregnancy and to see how baby is developing.  I loved using their app while I was pregnant!

That is all of the stuff that I included in my DIY pregnancy survival kit.  I know I used a lot of other things, but I thought this little basket was cute and fun for an expecting mama!  What were some of YOUR essentials while pregnant?  Did you have a survival kit on hand?  Leave your comments below and help all us mamas out!

sean (1)

Encouragement, Love, Marriage

An Open Letter to the Military Spouse & Mama

 

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To my fellow military wives and mamas,

If this letter finds you, it means that you are in this unique season of life alongside me–married to your best friend, raising your family, but sharing your husband with the military.  It means that you didn’t just marry the man; you married his career, too.  I wanted to take a moment to talk about the real struggles and the real joy this lifestyle provides.  This letter is meant to encourage you on your journey, remind you of your strength, commiserate with your emotions, and highlight the all-too-forgotten group of women who stand ready alongside their husbands.

You didn’t choose this career path, but you chose this man.

Before Matthew and I even started dating, I imagined the man I would marry one day.  I imagined my life, my future.  I had it all planned out in my head.  One of the things I knew for sure about my future was that I would never ever marry a man in the military.  That’s what I told myself.  My father had been in the military, as well as my brother, and I saw that lifestyle, and I didn’t want any part of it.  I was sure I wasn’t strong enough for that kind of a commitment.  When Matthew came into my life, we were just teenagers.  We fell in love, and we fell hard.  When we got to the point in our relationship when we knew we would have a future–that we just had to be together–Matt had news.  He was joining the Coast Guard.  I can tell you, I spent sleepless nights battling with his decision, wondering whether I could really stand by him through this venture or if I even wanted to. . .  In the end, I chose him.  His love meant more to me than his choice of career.

To you, new (or soon-to-be) military spouse, if you are torn between your man and his choice to be in the military–choose your man.  Love conquers all.  No matter how insurmountable this lifestyle seems, no matter how scary all the changes may be; if you love him, you can make it through anything.

To you, seasoned military spouse, on the days you are weary from raising your children alone, on the days you are lonely because the bed is empty and you haven’t heard your husband’s voice in days, weeks, or months, on the days you feel as though you have nothing left to give, nothing left to sacrifice for this military lifestyle–remember your love.  Remember the love that drew you and your husband together.  Its because of that love that you can overcome the loneliness, find energy to engage with your children, and uncover that last bit of courage to get you through.

You didn’t want to move away from home, but you found a new “home.”

To you, military spouse, on the day that first moving truck was being packed-all your belongings being tucked away, and all your memories of the past with it–I know the feeling.  This day is one of the hardest days.  When you say goodbye to everything you have known and move on to the unknown.  Maybe your family is waving goodbye.  Maybe hugs are shared and tears shed. . .  Today, you will have to leave your family and your friends, and you’ll wonder how long it will be until you see them again.  This day will break your heart, but there will be many others like this.  After awhile, you won’t cry as long and your heart won’t ache forever.  In fact, ‘home,’ will take on an entirely new meaning.  Home will become wherever your husband’s job takes you; wherever you are together.  Wherever you build your life and grow your nest.

You dreaded the thought of leaving your family, but you gained a new “family.”

If there is one thing I learned through this military life, it is that-no matter what-we always have each other’s back.  Moving away from your family, friends and your ‘old life’ is hard.  Moving somewhere you know no one is even harder.  You have to learn to be bold, be brave and make new friends; because, those friends might just become family.  You have something in common with every military family–living a life of sacrifice, commitment, and transience.

You have become a strong, independent woman, but you need to relinquish a little control.

Becoming a military wife, and now a military mama, I have learned to be tough, resilient, strong, independent and in control–especially when it comes to raising our baby girl.  Oftentimes, as a military wife, you are used to taking the reins and being in charge.  Your husband comes home and is back to work alongside you, but you feel as though you know what the baby needs better than him, you know what to fix around the house, you know what the kids school and sports schedule is. . . But let me tell you, military wife, your husband wants to help.  Relinquish a little of that control; because, when your husband comes home, he wants to feel like he is still an integral part of his family, that he belongs, and that he is needed.  Let him help with the baby, show him what needs fixed around the house, and ask him if he’d like to drive the kids to sports practice.  It will do wonders for his confidence, self-esteem, and sense of belonging.

sean (1)