Monday, June 13, 2016

the best way to start a day

Confession: this post is 110% for me- but I hope it can be useful for others, too! Sometimes I find myself getting stuck in a rut in the morning. The kids play or watch a show and I have my coffee and just kind of sit there, wandering aimlessly on social media or in a half-sleep kind of state on the couch for 45 minutes. But what if I had goals in the morning? Would my day run more smoothly? Would I be happier, healthier, and more productive? I bet you can guess the answer. I narrowed down a list of seven things to do within the first hour of waking up for a better day.

1. Drink something. Coffee, tea, or just a big glass of water. Wake yourself up and hydrate from a night of sleep (or lack thereof). Take fifteen minutes and check Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, texts, email-- whatever it is you use to connect with the world.

2. Make your bed. Sounds weird, but when I make my bed my day is almost guaranteed to go better and be more productive.

3. Start a load of laundry. If you're all caught up, tackle that one thing you've been avoiding. Maybe a pile of clothes on the dresser or an overstuffed drawer. Just find something to accomplish.

4. Make breakfast... not just for the kids! If I eat in the morning with the kids I'm 120% less likely to be grumpy and lose my patience with them. Maybe its an egg, maybe its oatmeal, maybe its a shake. But if you start off with a little protein you'll have the energy to tackle the rest of this list ;) Breakfast tends to be the biggest indicator of how my day is going to go, so often I use Instagram as an accountability tool to document and make sure I'm getting off to a good start. I aim to eat (and feed my family) something whole grain, something fruit, some vegetable, and some form of protein. Of course there are those frozen waffle or cereal days but having the goal of a balances meal sets you up for a greater chance of success.

5. Read a morning devotional. If I were to just open my bible and start reading, I might not know where to begin. This is where devotionals come in. A one page passage reading to center your mind and heart on truth can give you something to meditate on all day. Something positive, something encouraging, something to help you look both inside and outside of yourself. For me this is invaluable. Do it over breakfast!

6. Schedule a workout. Plan out when your going to get some exercise- a walk, a run, some weightlifting. Whatever it is you do, commit now to a time to do it. Endorphins are real. your confidence will get a HUGE boost. You'll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

7. Get dressed! Again, everyone! Not just your kids. Even if its just another pair of yoga pants, change and start a fresh beginning for the day. Take a five minute shower. Put on a little make up. Comb your hair. You've got this, Momma!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

How to be steady, even when life happens.

My friends and I have a thing we say, "This is Life." I'm not trying to take 100% credit but I think I started it. Somebody has a situation at work, their four year old won't potty train, they go through a divorce, their baby gets sick. I've seen all of the above in the last few years. And every time, again, somebody says it "Wow, this is hard but... this is life." And everyone just has to nod in agreement, no matter how painful the situation is. Life happened. A bad and hurtful thing happened. We prayed, hoped, and believed but then the bad thing happened. Somehow it's strangely comforting to know 'life happens' to all of us. God isn't punishing us or teaching us a lesson. It's a universal truth... Just show me one person who has everything fall into place 100% of the time. Even Jesus said it!- "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Maybe our trouble isn't being martyred for our faith at the moment-- and it's important to keep the perspective that there are people around the world with bigger problems than we have-- BUT things can feel pretty hard at times. My goal in the midst of my life as it happens is to be faithful... to be still and steady. To believe Jesus when he said "Take heart! I have overcome the world!" and to grow even closer to Him than before.
When I was in college I thought it would be wise and fun to go into a strangers basement and allow him to tattoo my upper rib-cage. For some reason I chose Psalm 46:10- "Be still and know that I am God." I had no idea how meaningful it would be for me. In the past my personality has been one that wants to have some form of control over everything around me- my environment, relationships, appearance, etc. One day I woke up and realized I was going to drive myself crazy. Life happens, and you have no control over that...in this world people hurt one another. In my most anxiety ridden moments I would try to talk and figure things out, manipulate and control my situations. Tears, silence and hysterics often ensued and they were my tools of the trade. Now I know none of that leads to a healthy place. My kids will misbehave, I have disagreements with my husband, and friends and I go through a misunderstandings. I have zero control over what others do, but what I can control is how I respond. When things go badly, as they do, God has been teaching me to be still... to know that he is God and he is safe, no matter what our circumstances look like around us. People fail us, we lose jobs, and everyone dies some day. BUT I know this- I don't have to be shaken by it. God has given me the ability to be still... not to panic or to become hysterical... but essentially to be an adult and one of the 7.2 billion people who will experience difficulty- and to come through still loving God and still loving the people around me. I can be happy in the midst of hard things, because I know He loves me and the plans He has for me are good. In this world I will have trouble, but I know I have the ability to take heart, to stand up and face tomorrow with a smile. I can be still when a storm is going on around me because even the wind and the waves obey Him (Mark 4:41).
Once when I was in the middle of a somewhat serious conflict, someone smiled and said to me "Jessica, this is not all a terrible disaster. This is life, honey, and you are going to make it and be just fine." Yes, it's a battle we're in and definitely a fight at times, but we are able to handle any situation we find ourselves in because God's ultimate plan is bigger than any of the struggles we'll face on this side of eternity. I thank Him for the supportive people around me- my husband and friends and family- and the encouragement they have provided throughout the ups and downs. We can hold on to truth and finish well, not avoiding pain but allowing it to teach us and push us closer to God.
This is life, and I'm determined to live mine with joy and peace, no matter my circumstance. Who's with me?

Encouraging Verses for Difficult Times:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

"He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Banana Bread Power Pancakes!

For a change of pace on the weekend (or if you're feeling super peppy on a weekday morning) these power pancakes will be a hit. I double the recipe and put the leftovers in the fridge to serve a second morning. Here's what you'll need:

1 cup whole wheat (or white) flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or more, if you like)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
1 packet of oatmeal, prepared (or one cup, cooked)
1 banana, sliced

plus: whatever mix-ins you like! I added 1 tbs chia seeds, 2 tbs shredded coconut, 1/3 cup chopped pecans.

Mix the dry ingredients first then add the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Heat a skillet to just under medium heat and spray with cooking spray or grease with butter. I used some coconut oil spray I got from Aldi (exciting new product alert!!!). Pour a half cup of batter in a pancake shape. Put four banana slices on top and flip, waiting until the edges start to brown slightly. I topped ours with a few mini chocolate chips and extra banana slices and the kids were crazy about them! 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What you REALLY need for your new baby- my comprehensive list.

Trust me when I say I've learned the hard way that one high quality baby purchase is better than buying ten cheap products that are going to fall apart. This applies to bottles, pacifiers, clothes, and gear. After having three kids, I really am starting from scratch for most of my baby things. Thankfully I have found that there really isn't all that much that I need! Here's what I recommend having:

1. A great stroller
2. A high quality white noise machine
3. Ten really adorable non-white outfits
4. Ten long sleeve and ten short sleeve white onesies
5. Receiving blankets
6. The Rock n Play Sleeper
7. Diapers
8. A Pack n Play
9. A crib
10. A baby carrier


1. A great stroller. Sure Graco makes decent strollers, and that's what we registered for, but in the end you're going to wish you had chosen something a little nicer. My recommendation is find something high quality second hand (gently used) from Craig's List if it isn't in your budget. If this is your second baby maybe invest in a double stroller.

If I could choose a new stroller that fit my budget- here's what I'd pick. And it's on sale! Britax is probably my favorite car seat brand and this stroller gets great reviews.


2. A high quality white noise machine. We've been using these with all of our kids and it makes a huge difference in their sleep. You don't need to tip toe around the house after bedtime, and if one of your other children wakes up the baby is less likely to hear. All of my kids sleep with white noise... they might be fifteen years old before I wean them off. Disclaimer- since you use these for about 14 hours a day, they aren't going to last forever. Either buy the $100 model or be prepared to replace them yearly.

Here's the one we have. $24.95 on Amazon.


3. Ten really adorable non-white outfits. I say non-white because your baby is going to vomit and poop all over them. Just being real. Let this be your warning. Choose something you can wash and that your baby won't ruin in one wear. I recommend picking several high quality outfits that you really love- maybe its Baby Gap or Janie & Jack. YOU pick them, not Great Aunt Mildred. Stay away from Target, Walmart, or discount brands. I found myself dressing my babies in my five favorite outfits constantly, while much of the rest of their wardrobe went unworn simply because I didn't like it.

4. Ten long sleeve and ten short sleeve white onesies. This is important. Have these stocked and ready to go, you'll go through them like crazy. Like I said, poop, vomit and drool are going to take their toll. Be prepared!

$10 for five on Amazon. Gerber is the way to go.




5. Skip burp cloths, go straight for receiving blankets. I know this sounds kind of crazy... in the beginning I really don't think you need them. Go straight for some great, generously sized receiving blankets in prints you really love. They double as burp cloths, swaddles, blankets, nursing covers, instant changing tables, and play mats.

Well these are cute.



6. The Rock n Play Sleeper. This is a MUST HAVE! The first three months I tend to sleep on the couch in the living room with our babies, because I feed them on demand through the night. So if they're crying, I'm pulling them onto the couch nursing them. This is just what works for us... Andrew doesn't wake up, the kids are less likely to hear, and I can put on Netflix to keep myself awake. (Memorable series I've watched with newborns have been Parks and Rec (complete series), Heartland (complete series) and Hart of Dixie (embarrassingly, complete series, ugh). Anyway- I set up the Rock n Play next to the couch, and grab the baby as needed to nurse. Then they get swaddled as tightly as possible and put back in the Rock n Play after nursing.

Here's one from Target, $53. 


7. Diapers. Um...duh. I did cloth diapers for a while but after two kids couldn't keep up with it. Pampers Swaddlers are what they give you in the hospital for your newborn and you will never forget the smell. Every time I have a newborn it brings back so many memories. So stock up on those, I think they make them up to size two. It pays to have a high quality diaper at first, but after their poop is more solid (6 months-ish) there is no reason that child shouldn't be in Target/Wal-Mart brand unless you're Jessica Alba. Babies r Us diapers are terrible, FYI. So skip those.

Available everywhere, but here's the link to Target.

8. A Pack n Play. If you go on vacation or leave your house overnight, these are useful. Graco brand is totally fine for this since it isn't in use every day. Mine has lasted through three kids and I'll use it with my fourth.



9. A crib. Again, duh. And I've used the same white Target crib with all of my kids. I believe its middle of the road priced. Yes they've gnawed on the rails so if that bothers you get something in a composite material. Honestly, no complaints here and this is based on your taste so you really don't need to spend a ton.

They still sell our original crib! $200.


10. A baby carrier. I couldn't have functioned without my Mei-Tei wrap. My three year old still rides on my back in it sometimes. This one is affordable and has lasted through all three kids with daily use. And if it wears out... it's only $30!

The Infantino Sash Mei Tei $34


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My First Trimester Survival Guide

If you've ever been pregnant or lived with someone who is, you know life often comes to a screeching halt during the first trimester- at least it does for us. This is the fourth time we've made it through, so I wanted to share a few tricks I use to make the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester more bearable. This is what I've found works for me. My symptoms include moderate all-day/night nausea (mostly without vomiting) and fatigue.... not to mention emotions ALL over the place. I'm not advocating this as the healthiest way to do it by any means, but it's what helps me make it through those first three months ;) After that I can return to my regularly scheduled meal planning and low carb/high protein diet.

1. Food that I don't have to cook myself (or worse, smell while it's cooking)

This may include any of the following:
Drive through, eating at someone else's house, a microwaved can of soup, or a TV dinner if I'm feeling frivolous (HA). My kids have been living on mac and cheese, chicken tenders, frozen waffles balanced out by some fresh (raw) fruits and vegetables. This won't be forever but they will DEFINITELY enjoy it while it lasts.


2. Cold food/drinks

More specifically: frozen. Like... ice cream.



3. Caffeine

Maybe you will stop reading now. That's fine. Coffee makes me absolutely disgustingly sick. It's so bad I can't even smell it, and Andrew has had to go without this whole first trimester unless he makes it at work.So instead I go with iced tea, lemon, and tons of ice. It gives me energy and takes the edge off my nausea for some reason.

4. Unripe pears- my secret weapon!

Mid morning when I start to feel hungry I eat a pear and it helps me feel less sick. Then right before dinner I eat one also, and for some reason that helps. If I run out, I get panicky. !!!


5. Keep smells to a minimum

Absolutely under no circumstances shall there be any: perfume, candles, air fresheners, scented body wash, soap, deodorant, fabric softener, or face wash. So help me God.

6. Naps and TV

You really just have to make time. I put a show on for my girls and I fall asleep for twenty minutes, sometimes twice a day. Additionally, while the girls and playing in the dining room I put on a show to distract myself. Find a good (kid appropriate) series and relax for an hour!


7. Lower your expectations

In previous pregnancies I've gotten a little sad in my first trimester, feeling like I was slacking or falling apart or something. Maybe even a little depressed. You really have to remember this isn't going to last forever. You haven't changed or become lazy, your body is telling you to slow down while it does this very important job of growing your baby! Keep the perspective that soon enough you will be back to yourself, and able to do everything you want to do again. So enjoy that Netflix series guilt free and grab a nap while you can.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Meal Prep Week Three!

We got back from vacation, I hit the grocery store, and the next morning stocked the fridge with some meals. The food in Martinique was AMAZING but I needed some of my old standbys. For brunch we ate salads and meats, I stayed away from the breads but did sample a few ;) For dinner seafood and vegetables. Such a healthy and nutritious island diet, mixed with a bit of French flair. To top it all off, the rum filled cream puff wedding cake covered in melted brown sugar was to die for.








Alright. Back to reality :) 
Here's this week's fridge:

Aldi Grocery List:

Uncle Ben's Brown Pre-cooked Rice; 1 Packet
Red Potatoes
Honey
Mustard
Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
Red Lentils
Quinoa
3 Quarts of Chicken Broth, Organic/Free Range

Fresh Fruits, your Choice. This week I bought: 
Grapes, Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Pineapple, and Kiwi
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Spinach
Romaine Lettuce
Mushrooms
Spaghetti Squash
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Green Onion

Eggs
Shredded Cheddar
Chicken Breast
90/10 Ground Beef OR Turkey
1 Lb Sausage

Soups: Zuppa Toscana and Veg Rice

For the Veggie Rice soup, I basically diced up my favorite vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and zucchini) and simmered in six cups of chicken broth until it was tender. Then I added the Uncle Ben's pre-cooked rice!
My Zuppa Toscana recipe is extra simple: Brown 1 lb of sausage, add 6 cups chicken broth, and sliced red potatoes and simmer until tender. Add spinach and a splash of milk. 


Meal 1: Meatloaf and Sliced Baked Potatoes
For this one I threw together a meatloaf with 1 lb ground beef, a couple eggs, cooked quinoa and some spices. Baked at 400 for 45 minutes. 
The potatoes were red potatoes, washed and sliced about 3/4 of the way into the potatoes. I mixed up some honey, mustard, and garlic and poured over the sliced potatoes, baking them with the meatloaf.


 Meal Two: Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
I brown a half pound of ground beef and sauteed with some mushrooms and spinach. I then added some marinara sauce. Baked your spaghetti squash (directions here) and store separately until serving.



Meal Three: Honey Soy Chicken with Quinoa and Zucchini Fritters
For the chicken, chop into small bites and toss with equal parts honey, soy sauce, and olive oil. Sprinkle with ginger powder and black pepper. Bake at 375 for about twenty minutes in a casserole dish.
Zucchini Fritters: Shred one cup zucchini (packed and drained), half cup carrots, some of the spaghetti squash from Meal 1, and quinoa with lentils. Mix together with salt/paper for taste, garlic, and two eggs. Spoon onto a greased baking sheet in two inch rounds, flattened. Bake at 400 degrees for twenty minutes, then flip and bake an additional 10 minutes.



Meal 4: Lettuce rapped Tacos with Lentils and Quinoa
Brown taco meat and sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.
Serve whole romaine leaves with taco filling, salsa, sour cream, quinoa and lentils, and any other toppings! Serve immediately.

Shredded Salad: This one is my favorite! I used the cheese grater to grate two cucumbers and two carrots. I finely chopped a handful of spinach and some green onion. I tossed everything with some honey, mustard, and a little olive oil. (Same seasoning from potatoes) Add nuts for protein! Feta would be good too.


Misc: Of course I prepped some fruit and salads for easy to grab snacks :)




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How to Grow Your Confidence and Like Yourself

Have you ever heard the statistic that 20% of people aren't going to like you? Kinda crazy. You just aren't going to be everyone's style- and that's totally fine. There is always going to be that one (or more than one) person in your life who just doesn't approve of the decisions you make. Growing your confidence is about being totally comfortable with yourself- the things you like, don't like, promote, share, and do- without fear of what the people that disapprove will think. If you live your life trying to keep everyone happy and impress everyone, you're really not going to end up doing anything special. You have talents, desires, and gifts that God gave YOU, not someone else. People aren't always going to understand.. do YOU anyway! You might make other, insecure people uncomfortable- don't stop being you! If you love blue hair but 99% of people will hate it, get the blue hair. If you really want to try something new, like a sport or hobby- but have no idea what you're doing- start anyway. I saw something really interesting on Instagram this week that really got me thinking about all of this:


Carrie Underwood shared this picture some man had posted of a woman (who happened to be Carrie's friend). She was exercising during her son's soccer game (maybe she was a busy working Mom, who knows?) and he was shaming her on social media. Apparently this guy was one of the 20% who was NOT a fan of the jump roping Mom using her time wisely and getting a workout in. Here was Carrie's response: "That man obviously has a big problem...with himself. I only hope he can learn to like himself someday so he can be an adult and stop bullying others for bettering themselves!... This guy felt the need to post this pic of my friend and trainer, Erin Oprea, along with some really insecure and mean comments. He was shaming her for getting in some exercise during her son's soccer game. Not cool."
If you aren't confident, the kind of negative (and mean) feedback this man was putting out there on social media could crush her. It could make her question herself, her motives, and set her back from achieving her goals. There will always be people like this man in your life- to be great, you're going to need to rise above the negative, unhelpful feedback and be yourself. That's what growing your confidence is all about. That's what being comfortable in your skin- and liking yourself- is all about. You need to silence the voice of the haters and listen to the truest voice that's deep down inside you. You've got this.

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