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Collective Thoughts

    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.

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    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?

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    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!

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    Collective Thoughts

    Calm, Joyful, Presence

    I’ve been thinking about goals and plans this year quite a bit for the past several weeks, as I’m sure many of you have! I have been trying to think of simple changes or reminders I can have that will make lasting improvements, that won’t leave me feeling guilty or stressed out if I fall short. I’ve seen the idea often around the Internet of having a word or phrase for the year. I thought that would be an interesting approach this year but I wanted my word(s) to come naturally and not be something forced.

    Three words came to me pretty quickly: calm, joyful, presence. They are powerful alone, but they also come together to create a really nice phrase that is simple to remember. The fact that they came so easily to me let me know that these were three important characteristics I need to more effectively apply to my life this year.

    There are so many applications of this word. I want to exhibit calm in my life is in my mothering and with my children. It’s easy to think that children have it easy in life, but just like anyone, they have struggles and worries and there is so much going on in their little brains and bodies. I want to be a calm space for them. The person they know will be a safe place for them to come to. I know I will make mistakes and will have my less than calm moments, but in just the first three days of this year, I have recognized how an increased focus calmness has positively affects my home and family.

    I also want to be practice calmness in other aspects of my life. Small, but significant, ways to add a level of peace to my days. Case in point: Yesterday, I had my day perfectly scheduled out in my head. I would drop off my oldest at school, go home and get myself and my two babes ready to go, head to the gym, and then take my kids to an activity at the art museum. I was super proud of the fact that I got to the gym ten minutes early, because usually I’m rushing in to drop my kids off at the kids club and make it to my class before it starts. Then I realized I left my license at home, which meant I couldn’t check my kids in, so we had to turn around and leave. This would typically leave me frustrated for a good while. Today I made a conscious effort to give myself about two minutes to be frustrated and then move on with my day. Surprisingly, it worked. And due to the fact that I couldn’t go to the gym, I had time to put dinner in the crockpot, so there’s a win. Point for calm.

    The second word that came to mind was joyful. I consider myself a generally happy person but I want to work on finding genuine joy each day. Less frustration about the alarm clock going off so early (maybe going to bed earlier?), more laughing with my kids at bedtime. Being more intentional about finding joy in the little, seemingly insignificant moments.

    I also want to be more joyful amidst uncertainty and change. As a mom of young kids and a young family making big decisions about the future, sometimes I get caught up in thinking and planning, that I forget to find joy in the present because I am so focused on planning the next step. I tend to over analyze things and worry too much about things out of my control, so I’m going to try to reign that in a little this year!

    I think we all hope to be a little more present in our lives- with what we’re doing, with the people we’re with. I am trying to focus more on being present in whatever I am doing and not try to multitask, even if it’s in the name of efficiency and time-saving. I enjoy having a full day, projects and to-do lists, but this year, I hope to focus on individual tasks, projects, and especially people.

    Together these three words form the phrase: calm joyful presence. It’s amazing to me that just the fact that I am focusing on these words has allowed me to be more aware of their appearance or absence in my day. There were several times in the last couple of days where I caught myself saying, “Are you being present in this moment?” There were also a few times where I just told myself “I’m fine. I’m calm. Everything’s fine”. It’s the awareness, right?

    Here’s to a calm, joyful and present year!

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    Collective Thoughts

    A Reflection on 2016

    Hi there and happy New Year! I’m excited to be back after a holiday break! I took the time over my break to think about 2016 and what it meant to me personally. Looking back, I learned so much about myself as an individual.

    2016 was a year of self-discovery for me. The year started with no school to worry about, I wasn’t pregnant, and I didn’t have a brand new baby. The year was wide open. To be honest, this brought out a little anxiety for me. For years as an adult, my days were scheduled out almost completely (as they are for most of us, right?). I took care of my babies. During naptime and after they went to bed at night, I worked on homework. Before babies, I was planning lessons at night and teaching during the day. And before that, I was working and studying in college.

    So to be presented with a year of choices was a new experience for me and a bit nerve wracking. I was fortunate to have some side work for several months of the year that taught me some important lessons. I enjoyed having that work. It taught me that I could find balance in my goal and dream of being home with my children with pursuing other interests and passions. I was able to think about what I wanted my life to look like and I started having thoughts and ideas for future pursuits and opportunities. I also was able to really think about and visualize the type of mother I wanted to be for my children.

    As the year went on and my anxiety dissipated, I started making plans and going for it. Starting this blog was a big one. I had felt the push for years, but kept pushing it aside because I thought I didn’t have time or didn’t feel “qualified”. Thanks to a little courage, and a few gentle pushes from my husband, I started this blog. After I did that, I felt a weight lift and my mind seemed to clear. I gained perspective and convictions about where I wanted to go in my personal pursuits. I continued to find opportunities and ideas continued to flow. Now at the end of 2016 and the beginning of a brand new year, I feel encouraged, excited and motivated to pursue improvement in all aspects of my life.

    The most exciting and important thing I have come to learn is that just because I’m “an adult” doesn’t mean I am done and have to have it all figured out now. As cheesy as this may sound, the realization that I don’t have to have it all figured out now relieved so much anxiety for me. I was being to feel overwhelmed with the feeling that because I was an adult and a mom, responsible for three other human beings, I had to know exactly what the rest of my life would look like. The lessons I am taking from 2016 is that no matter how old we are, we continue to learn, grow and change. I am continually discovering who I am and what I want to give to the world- my own little world with my family, and the bigger world around me.

    I am excited for the ideas and plans I have for this blog for 2017. I took a couple weeks over the holidays to really think about what I wanted this space to be for me and can’t wait to get started!

    Thanks for stopping by and reading- I hope you’ll come back soon!

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    Riding the Rollercoaster

    I haven’t been on a legitimate rollercoaster in…well, it’s been years now, I think. But as a kid, I loved them! Something about the excitement, anticipation and thrill was very enjoyable to me. I’ve been thinking this year a lot about balance in my life. So much is said about balance. How do we balance all the different aspects of our life so that we don’t feel like one area is lacking too much or one is attracting too much attention? This year has been an interesting one for me, as in my own life, a lot of what I have done has been very much my choice. In the past several years, my schedule was dictated by babies, a class syllabus, demanding internship or work hours. This year, much of my schedule became my own choice as my schooling ended, any work I did was on a flexible schedule and babies have grown up.

    Life is much like a rollercoaster ride, am I right? You get on, a little uncertain of what’s to come ( for me it’s been. college, marriage, babies, graduate school, moving to a new city, new jobs, maintaining a home, etc), you head up the hill, working, working, working. You reach the top of the hill and you breath a little at a break and then all of a sudden you’re rushed into the next thing suddenly feeling like you’re barely hanging on and just making it through the day. Then, you reach the bottom and once again everything feels a little calm. Then you might hit a really rough patch (you know those parts of a roller coaster that go around and around, tighter and tighter and you can feel gravity closing in on you). You wonder if it’s going to stop soon, then it does and once again you breathe. This all repeats itself a few times and then you pull to a stop and get off the ride. Except I’ve learned that in life you never really get off the ride.

    That has been a struggle at times for me, especially in this season of life, where so much is unpredictable. Sleep patterns, moods, eating habits, even my address. It’s hard to know if I’m talking about my babies or me here. I find myself trying a new behavior strategy with my kids, or maybe a new approach to chores. Even a new “morning routine” for myself. For a couple of days, it would go smooth as silk. Then chaos returns on the third or fourth day. For months this year it has felt like the unpredictability was wearing at me.

    Personally, I am a person of order. I enjoy routine, predictability and not a whole lot of change on a day to day basis. Girl with the color coded planner and categorized to-do lists? That’s me! This uncertainty of what lay before me each day often left me frustrated and wondering if things would ever settle down.

    As I  tried to think about my reaction to this unpredictability, I found myself thinking about my approach to riding a rollercoaster as a child. I was excited. It was highly anticipated! I loved the experience and got off wanting to go again! The more I see life as a rollercoaster, the more I realize, I have to approach life with the same enthusiasm. I have to look forward to that unpredictability. I have to anticipate it and I have to enjoy the experience as much as I can while it’s happening or I get that feeling like I am on a rollercoaster spinning towards the ground and gravity is pulling me harder and harder.

    Because like so many people I pass at the grocery store tell me, “It goes so fast”. Just like a rollercoaster ride, in the blink of an eye, these moments will pass. The unpredictability will change and I know I will miss it. So I have to hop on, hang on and enjoy the ride.

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    In My Home

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    Well, yesterday was a big day. An interesting day. An unexpected day for many. In the past few days, due to increased talks at school I’m guessing, my kindergartner has had many more questions about the election, who is running, what they think and what it all means for us. I had to have some conversations with her that I never expected to have with her at five years old because of things she heard from others. To explain certain things out loud to her was hard. But I learned from her, or rather it was more impressed on me because I have always known this about her, that she is wise beyond her years, she asks insightful questions, she questions things that don’t make sense to her, she understands when someone is not making a good choice. I learned I need to be more prepared to talk to her about topics I once thought we wouldn’t approach until later.

    But as we went out the door to school, I told her that I hope our new President makes good choices. I hope our new President shows compassion, love and kindness and makes decisions that will promote the safety of our country and protects our freedoms. And then I told her, that we can do all those things too and that is where it starts.

    “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house”

    – Barbara Bush

    In our home we will teach:

    To love others, no matter their differences.

    To speak kindly.

    To show compassion.

    To show respect to others.

    To seek out and befriend the lonely.

    To stand up for what is right.

    To make good choices that will promote the safety and freedom of us all.

    We can choose to do all those things and more and we will.

    I’m grateful to have been raised to focus on finding the positive in any situation. To look for the good in the world and in others. It is my hope and belief that if we all do that, everything will be okay.

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