Organization, Parenting

    A Simple Summer Schedule

    I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted this summer to be as the school year was winding down. I also knew that it would be a summer of transition due to the fact that we had just bought a house. In the first couple of weeks of summer, I could see which ideas of mine would work, which would not and got a basic idea of what our weeks would look like.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to have all three of my kids home with me, but also, the thought of many, many long hot days ahead of me was a bit overwhelming. Because here in Texas, once July hits, basically the only thing one can do outside is swim. And even packing up and going in the car somewhere is sometimes unappealing due to the fact that going out in the heat is a requirement.

    So one of the first things I did was make up a summer schedule. It is not incredibly detailed but it sets out blocks of time for specific activities each day. That way, if we don’t have predetermined activities already, we can loosely follow schedule and feel like a productive day was had by all (mostly). When I first introduced this, my child who attaches most to routines insisted we follow the schedule exactly. But eventually, she relaxed a bit and now there is not a big commotion if we don’t fit in something during the day.

    To make our schedule, I wrote down the activities I wanted to happen each day and fit them in. We’re not perfect at this. Some days we follow the schedule exactly, some days we are out of the house all day so the schedule doesn’t really apply, and some days we just throw the schedule out the window and hang out in our pajamas all day. And we are swimming probably at least four out of five days during the week these days. But just knowing the schedule is there gives me piece of mind. It took me about fifteen minutes to make this schedule. Sometimes, it is better for me to finish a project, then worry about making it cute (though I love me some cute things).

    My next post is going to be all about our quiet time. This part of the day is critical for me. As a mostly introverted person, this time is so needed for me to recharge and check a couple things off my own to do list so that I feel refreshed and reenergized to focus on my kiddos for the rest of the day. So stay tuned!

    Collective Thoughts, Health & Fitness

    Life Lessons in a Half Marathon (A Belated Recap)

    Back in April, I ran a half marathon. Doing this was one of my goals for the year and I am happy to say I was successful! It was also right about then that we put an offer on a house, got accepted and started the craziness of moving. Hence I am just now writing this post!

    When I hear most people speak of running of half marathons, they often refer to it as a race. It is not that way for me, because I am not at all racing. I’m aware that I am pretty slow in comparison to many other runners. I have done four half marathons and each time I have seen it more as a competition with myself. There’s a lot I could write about how I prepared for the half marathon, things I learned along the way. But I wanted to write today about the half marathon itself, how I got through it and what kept me going. This first photo is me during my first half marathon five years ago. The last photo is from my most recent half marathon. It was amazing to think about all that has happened in those five years!

    Run your own race/run

    This is literally one of the first thoughts I had at the start. In a race of over 2000 people, it would have been easy for me to think about all the people that were already passing me, or all the people that were ahead of me, or started out faster than me. But in the end, it’s about my own race/run.

    Set goals but be willing to adapt

    I had a couple of specific goals for this race. Some I met, others I didn’t. I could have let the fact that I wasn’t going to meet one of my goals cloud the entire rest of my run, but instead I chose to focus on the most important one which was, to me, finishing the race.

    Find your motivation

    Along the course, I used to different strategies to find my motivation. For the first five miles or so, I didn’t need a lot of external motivation. I was cruising along, listening to my music and feeling pretty strong. Around mile five, I started to lose mental focus a bit and so I started thinking how I could motivate myself. At this point, I knew my family would be around mile 6.5 and this kept me motivated for that next mile and a half. The funny thing is, I thought I would see them a bit sooner than I did, so when I didn’t see them I was so disappointed. I lost a little motivation and had to really pump up the music to get myself going again! But then there they were a little ways ahead and I was instantly motivated again.

    It’s okay to slow down, but don’t quit

    Of the four half marathons I have run, I felt the strongest on this one. This doesn’t mean it was easy. I did all of my training on a treadmill so that I would have childcare. About mile ten, this fact really started to wear on my knees. It was at this point I knew I most likely was not going to meet my goal time, but I could still finish. I slowed down, took a minute to regroup and started back up again. I got to the finish a little slower than anticipated, but I finished.

    Beat the mental battle

    So many times, little thoughts crept into my mind. There were points were I was sure my legs would not go another step. There were times where I was sure I would have to stop to use the restroom (thank you childbirth). Those were the times I really just had to push through and beat my mind. Another key to a successful finish, was starting with the end in mind. I started the run believing I would finish. That in and of itself got me through many parts of the run.

    Overall, this half marathon was an inspiring experience for me. I was focused and my mind was clear and all of these life lessons and thoughts came to me as I ran. I feel like this year as already been one of reflection and action. I feel confident and in control of my life. All of this is not to say that I felt “lost” or somehow less confident before, I just have felt very aware and much more deliberate in my daily life. I average about 2 years between half marathons, but it’s just about that amount of time where such a goal is really motivating and leaves me feeling inspired and feeling on top of the world.

    Collective Thoughts, Organization, Parenting

    Making Spaces In My Everyday Life

    Well, it has been a long time! Much longer than I planned, but sometimes you just have to prioritize and many other things took a higher priority. We bought a house, moved and have been unpacking and organizing. We’ve been working on getting our home and “new” life organized. I started teaching online in the early morning hours about six months ago and it took several months to feel like it was a “natural” part of my day. But I am there now and it feels great!

    I’ve been so grateful that these transitions happened over the summer. It has been so nice to not really have any other obligations except for getting my home, family and life in order. Me being the perfectionist I am though, sometimes it is overwhelming when I can’t have everything I want it right away. It gives me some anxiety if I start thinking of things as one whole, but I often feel like if everything isn’t working, then nothing is working.

    With this fresh start of a new home and, let’s be honest, the realization that all of my decorating and organizing projects and visions will not occur in one weekend, I’ve taken a new approach. I’m working on making “spaces” in my everyday life. I try to compartmentalize my day, my projects, my goals, so that everything is more manageable, not one huge project starting me in the face. Here are a few ways I’m working on that:

    • Finishing smaller projects more quickly than large ones. It is satisfying to walk into a room and have even one small spot that feels “finished” instead of a whole house of “unfinished”. This little “space” of finished gives me patience in the other “unfinished” spaces. This one in our master bedroom just makes me smile and it gives me encouragement to keep working on the neverending project list.
    • Creating a daily schedule. I was excited for summer, but I’ll be honest, three months of long, hot days seemed a little…stressful when I first started to think about them. So I wrote out a simple summer schedule that has made these summer days go by relatively smoothly and enjoyably. The schedule is especially helpful for the days we have nothing planned and the “space” seems overwhelming. Smaller spaces of designated time help our days so much. Now, if they could just reopen our pool that they just closed for ten days, that would be great.
    • Quiet time. This has been a game changer for me. Everyday we have two hours of quiet time. My baby naps and my older two play together. I tried to have them play separately for an hour and then together for an hour, but that was not happening. So now, they play together for the full two hours. It’s not always quiet but it gives me the time during the “space” and time I need desperately each day to recharge and collect my thoughts.

    I hope to write more about each of these “spaces” in my life and others over the coming weeks. It has really changed my mindset and made my days feel lighter, more free and less overwhelming when there always seems to be something to do.

    Health & Fitness

    What’s In My Gym Bag + Half Marathon Training Schedule

    The first time I ever really “exercised” consistently was in college. My roommates liked running and so I decided to do it too. I signed up for my first 5k shortly after and I remember thinking that 3.1 miles seemed like a really long time. After that, I was off and on with exercise for the next several years.

    About four years ago, I ran a half marathon with my sister-in-law. I went on to do three over the next three years or so, really only exercising consistently when I was training for a race.

    In the last year, though, I have really become consistent with exercising and it is one of the best things I have done for myself in a long time. Back in this post, I talked about how fitness changed a lot of things for me and I still believe them all to be true! Since I feel a little more confidence in myself as someone who “works out”, I thought I would do a post about what I use when I work out.

    As far as workout clothes go, I am pretty simple. I wear a combination of basically the same thing every time I go. A work out shirt, black leggings and my workout shoes. For Christmas, Brian got me a few new workout shirts from Target and I love them. They’re fitted, but not too tight. I love the Old Navy black workout leggings. I actually love them any day of the week, whether I am working out or not. I probably should buy a few more pairs of those.

    Also, for Christmas I got new shoes after about five years of wearing the same old ones. They are these Adidas shoes, and I am really liking them! The padding inside is really comfortable and nice to workout in.

    It took me several months to finally think about getting a gym bag. I’m not sure why, but before that, I would just hold everything in my hands, or stick it in my pockets, all while trying to get two kids into the childcare. Finally, I saw the light, and got a gym bag together.

    If you were to ask me where I got my gym bag, my answer would be that my husband got it for free at a business conference. And it works great! As of today, this is what is in my gym bag:

    • A pouch to hold my license- Instead of bringing my whole wallet in, I just stick my license in here. There is a clear cover, so I don’t even have to take it out when I check in my kids at the childcare.
    • A towel- I don’t normally sweat a lot, but some of the classes I go to really get intense, so I throw one in, just in case.
    • Gloves- I don’t use these every time, but when I go to Body Pump classes I do. These are just the most inexpensive ones at Dick’s Sporting Goods and they have worked great for me.
    • Water bottle- I got these water bottles forever ago at Costco in a 3-pack and they still work great!
    • Tissues and chapstick- Because a runny nose and dry lips are never fun, especially in the middle of a good workout!
    • A calculator- This was in my bag from a day my son brought it in with him as “his phone.” He then asked me to hold it while he was playing so he wouldn’t lose it.

    It’s been two and half years, so it’s about time to do another half marathon. I put off starting my training for a few weeks because I just couldn’t give up my classes. But now I’m coming around and am getting into a groove. I read a lot of training plans and I wrote one out for myself that would work for me. It’s the most basic of basic formats, but sometimes that is the best. So far, I successfully completed Week 1 and am feeling confident for the seven weeks to come!

    Collective Thoughts

    Four Books I Have Read In The Last Two Months That I Couldn’t Put Down

    I have such an interesting relationship with reading. I love it. But I also struggle with balance. The books I choose seem to fall into two categories. The first would be books that I start reading, never really get into and then take weeks and multiple renewals before I finally decide I probably won’t read it and return it. The second is where I am hooked on a book and read it at every possible free second until I finish, often neglecting things such as house cleaning and other important and necessary tasks until I am finished. I am working on a balance.

    That being said, in the last several months, I have tried to be better about reading books. I read a lot of articles and such on my phone, but I want to read more actual, physical books. I consulted the Internet and reserved several books. These four made the cut and I can honestly say that I couldn’t put any of them down.

    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah- This story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and their involvements in the resistance movement during World War II. For many years, they have been estranged, but events of the war and their ensuing involvements in the resistance bring them back together in different ways. I find this to be one of the most fascinating time periods to read about and this book did not disappoint. I had to turn in my physical book before I could finish it but was able to check out the e-book to read on my phone. I sat in the same spot on the couch for several hours until I finished it.

    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes- I am obviously behind the curve on this book, since it was made into a movie last year. Because of that, I knew how the story ended. It is an interesting perspective to read a book knowing how it will end. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. But this story follows Louisa, who takes a job caring for Will, who is confined to a wheelchair. The story follows their relationship, from its early uncomfortable stages to a blossoming romance. Much of my feelings about the book I think come from the fact that I knew how it would end. I probably would have had a different experience had I not had that knowledge from the beginning.

    The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman-This is the story of Tom and Isabel, who live on an island while Tom works in a lighthouse. Isabel desperately wants a baby but is not able to have child of her own. One day, a boat washes onshore and in it is a baby. Isabel wants to raise baby as their own, Tom is not so sure, and the book follows their story. I enjoyed the book, but I felt the ending was a bit rushed after so much build up. As a result, I was left wanting a little more. But overall, it was a great read. This is also a movie now, so its clear I need to have a movie night.

    Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse- This book, I could not put down. I was hooked from the beginning. Hanneke is a teenager during World War II who finds and delivers items for clients on the black market after the Germans invaded her country. After one delivery, she is approached to find a missing person. Beginning with no intention to carry out this request, she finds herself now involved with resistance against the Germans as she searches for this missing person. These storylines draw me in so much, I think because it is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that these events occurred. And even though the stories in these books are fiction, they are based on real events and experiences. It just opens my eyes to this whole period of history in a small way.

    Collective Thoughts

    Any Day Can Be A Monday + a meal plan!

    This may differ from a lot of people, but Mondays are often my most productive days of the week. I’ve (usually) had a (somewhat) relaxing weekend and I have some goals and ideas about how to make the coming week better. I usually am motivated to hit the gym, do some cleaning and just be overall productive. My enthusiasm starts to wane somewhere around Wednesday-Thursday. Ha!

    So, let’s talk about goals. There seems to be some unwritten rule that goals have to start on a Monday, at the beginning of the month, at the beginning of the year. Otherwise, we think that we have failed and have to wait until next Monday, next month or next year. I’m trying to let go of that idea and realize that any day can be a Monday! Any day can be the day I start to get things done, set new goals and be productive! Woo, high five! Okay. So it’s Thursday. All week I have been a day ahead of myself, so in my ahead it’s Friday. So, that’s fun. But I have dragged out avoiding the grocery story (or in my case, the grocery website) all week. But this morning I sat down, planned some meals and snacks and placed my order and between 5-6 pm today we will have a freshly stocked fridge and pantry.

    Your dinner table doesn’t look like that every night? Mine either. That is a blurry photo from our Christmas Eve dinner that I snapped because I wanted to remember what it looked like, too much going on to take a nice clear photo I guess!

    Just a little sidenote to tell you how much I love Walmart Grocery Pickup. It seriously saved me last year as I adjusted to having three kids. I honestly don’t think I have taken all three kids on a full grocery shopping trip ever. Costco doesn’t count, because that’s fun, am I right? Anyway, I love grocery pickup. Never had an issue with my produce, I can also order detangler, and sometimes they give my kids snacks. Thank you. The only issue I have is that when you order by the pound, there are no half pounds. So if you want two roma tomatoes? Too bad, you get eight. But that’s okay, we’ll just make some salsa!

    So, when I meal plan, I try to plan slow cooker meals on the days we have activities in the afternoon so we don’t end up having pancakes twice a week. I also try to make a new recipe each week so we can expand our list of go-to recipes. I also enlist Brian to cook on the weekends. It helps to have a spouse who loves to cook and is amazing at it, win for me!

    So here’s my meal plan for the week, starting on a Thursday! I linked to the recipes I plan on using, and explain the others:

    Thursday: Taco mix/Nachos (This is the easiest, no recipe dinner. I just cook some ground beef, mix in some salsa, corn, black beans, cheese, etc and serve it on chips or in tortillas. Super versatile and easy.)

    Friday: Creamy Chicken and Fire Roasted Tomato Pasta

    Saturday: Clam Chowder

    Sunday: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Rolls (Brian bought a turkey on sale after Thanksgiving/Christmas, so we’re going to cook it up on Sunday. Or at least I’m planning on Brian doing it, hopefuly he is up for the task!)

    Monday: Coconut Chicken Tenders

    Tuesday: Garlic Beef Sandwiches

    Wednesday: Leftovers or French Bread Pizzas (I plan a leftover night, but have learned to plan a super simple dinner in case we actually do not have any leftovers. French Bread Pizzas are as easy as they come)

    Thursday: Pasta & Meat Sauce (After a full week of making awesome dinners, an easy dinner like pasta and meat sauce is exactly what I’m looking for, simplest meal out there).

    Snacks: I’ve been trying to actually plan a few snacks to prepare so I can try to get my kids to eat a variety of snack and not subsist on Pirate’s Booty alone. This week these are my ideas:

    Alright, I’ve put it on the internet so I am holding myself to this meal plan! What can you do today that you are waiting until “Monday” to do?

    Collective Thoughts

    2017 Bucket List

    Three years ago around New Years, I was sitting in a church class and we were talking about goals for the coming year. We were asked to write down one goal we had for the coming year. Immediately the thought came to mind, have a natural childbirth. I was about seven months pregnant, so the topic of childbirth was at the forefront of my mind. It was my second baby. Natural childbirth had never crossed my mind. I am a fan of pain management. I support and admire those who want an unmedicated birth, but that was not me. Needless to say, I was very surprised when this thought came to mind. For a week or so I was really psyched about possibly meeting this goal. Then I lost interest and decided I didn’t truly want it so I was not going to guilt myself into it and feel bad if I failed. Fast forward three months to when my son was born, the time from the first true contraction to his birth was about three hours. I was pushing him out as the anesthesiologist walked in the room. It’s possible I should have listened to that intuition I had three months earlier, because I was in no way prepared for an unmedicated birth. I guess the point of that story is to trust your intuition when coming up with goals, even if they are totally unexpected to you!

    Like many people, at the New Year, I like to set goals and make plans to improve over the coming year. Sometimes they are general ones that I seem to make every year (eat healthier, exercise more, etc) and some years I have broken my goals down into categories (physical, spiritual, mental, financial, etc). I’m still working out the best way to set goals without feeling overwhelmed and then let down when I struggle to keep up with all of them. I feel like I am consistently wanting to improve in certain areas of my life, so I don’t necessarily want to make them my “resolutions”for the year.

    This year I decided to take a little bit of a different approach. Instead, I made a 2017 “Bucket List.” I came up a list of twelve things I would like to do this year. I chose twelve because there are twelve months in the year, but I won’t necessarily just do one a month and there is no specific order. I’m sharing some of my list here today, partly for accountability and partly for fun if you need some inspiration to approach the New Year in a unique way! I’m only sharing some of my list, because there are a few things on my list that are a little more personal that I may share once  I do them, but for now they are just for me.

    Here’s a glimpse into my Bucket List for 2017:

    Learn three new hairstyle for myself. I am pretty much the most low maintenance person when it comes to hair. I wear it two-ish ways: straight (sometimes I curl it for special occasions) and in a ponytail/bun. That’s about it. I really would like some options when it comes to doing my hair. I like to keep it out of my face a lot of the time, especially when chasing after three little ones, but I also like looking put together. So this year, I’d like to learn a few ways to do that outside of my one or two basic styles.

    Run a half-marathon. I have run three half marathons. It has been almost two and half years since my last one, so it’s about time for another. I don’t claim to be an awesome runner. My times have never been fabulous. In fact, the last half marathon I did was a small race, and I am pretty sure I finished second to last. But I finished and I ran the whole time. This time my goal is to beat my fastest time, which was…not so fast. So I have a pretty good chance of meeting that goal! I got new shoes for Christmas, so I can finally retire my running shoes that I have had for almost five years now. They were so worn, it basically felt like I was working out barefoot. There has been a night and day difference with my new shoes and I love it.

    Go on three family road trips/day trips. I would really love to take a few family road trips this year. They don’t even have to be overnight trips. I would just like to find some unique places to visit with my little family. We have so much fun when we go out on adventures together. For the past year, or years really, it seems that once Saturday comes we are so spent from the week that we just want to chill out around home and our local visits, which is great. But there is something about getting out and adventuring with your family!

    Try a cycling class. I regularly attend classes at the gym and have a pretty set schedule of the ones I attend. However, there is one type of class I have never tried and that is cycling. To be honest, I have always been intimidated by it, but I have been intimidated by almost every class I have tried at the gym and have always come out loving it. Between my normal gym classes and starting up training for a half marathon, I am not sure when I’ll squeeze it in but I want to try at least one this year!

    Host at least one party at my house. We have had parties at our house in past years, but they are mostly for our kids and really simple gatherings. I’d like to host a really fun party, with decorations, food, etc. I love the idea of planning parties, but have had other priorities in the past. I’m really hoping to carry out at least one awesome party this year!

    Read 2 books each month. Every time I pick up a really good book, I’m reminded that I love reading. But my problem is, when I get into a book, sometimes I literally do nothing until I finish it. That is a struggle. I’m trying to find a balance there. In the last few months, I’ve read a few really great books and I have a few on my nightstand right now. Two of them are parenting books and I’m excited to read those. I took a little break from parenting books for awhile because I was getting a little information overload, but I think I am open to that genre again now, after some time away.

    These are “goals” I am genuinely looking forward to doing! Thanks for indulging me this week with all these New Year posts! 2017 is looking very promising!