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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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    Motherhood, Parenting

    Walking With Your Child Through Their Struggles

    Yesterday, while at a lunch playdate with some friends, my two and half year old came up to me after being away playing for awhile. He tugged on my arm and said, “Mommy, that boy push me”. I said, “Oh no, I’m so sorry! Tell him, ‘Please don’t push me, that’s not nice'”. And he ran off as happy as could be. Later, I couldn’t find him in the playplace for awhile, until I found him in a corner of a tunnel protectively holding his cars he had brought while another little boy was trying to grab them. He was just sitting there saying, “Stop, don’t do that!”. Just sitting there.

    I didn’t think much of it until later, when all of a sudden I realized the significance of that moment in time and I almost started to cry. Eighteen months ago, this day seemed far away. When he was about sixteen months old, he started to go through a hitting and pushing phase. It was random and didn’t seem to be a reaction to anything, just something he started doing. It’s a common phase that toddlers go through, but that doesn’t mean it is not a hard phase.

    This affected me as a mother in a significant way. No matter how much I snuggled him, hugged him, spoke kindly to him or reacted after each instance, nothing changed. It made socializing with other moms and kids so hard. I sometimes avoided going to playdates because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be too far away from him.  I struggled with how to respond. I struggled with feeling judged by those around me. Honestly, I probably had a harder time with this phase than my little boy did.

    Finally, I had to make a decision. I knew that he was not an aggressive little boy. I knew that he was simply trying to communicate and interact with others, and he just wasn’t able to in the way he wanted. But others didn’t know that. I eventually had to choose to walk with him through his struggle. I had to stop paying attention to those around me that gave judgmental and sometimes hurtful comments or stares to me or to my child. The thing is, I understood where they were coming from too. It’s a mama bear thing. But my little boy was also not even two. It would be different if he was eight or even four or five.

    Instead, I had to choose to focus on him and walk with him through this phase of his life. It didn’t mean I didn’t tell him no, or put him in timeout, or respond when he hit or pushed someone. But it was loving and always followed with me telling him I loved him and that he was a good boy. I gave him love. I played with him at the park. Every time I put him down to sleep I whispered in his ear that he was a good, sweet boy.

    This went on for several months. I started to see slow declines in his hitting and pushing and it was so encouraging. He was a bit slow to talk and the more he was able to communicate, the instances decreased more and more. Now they are almost nonexistent (except for the occasional target- his little sister who doesn’t know how to wrestle yet) –almost eighteen months later.  It took eighteen months. But he and I, we worked together, I walked with him and loved him through it and we made it!

    So back to my experience yesterday. While he has been doing great for several months now, this was the first time I heard him communicate so clearly with me and I could see and hear that he got it. So fulfilling as a mom.

    It also got me thinking about all I have ahead of me. This little trial was probably very small compared to some of the struggles and trials my kids will go through as they grow up. I’m so grateful for this experience because it gave me a chance to see what it means to walk with my child through a struggle, to love them through it, not shame them and both of us come out better on the other side.

    So if you find yourself in the middle of a struggle with your child, walk with them through it, love them, build them up ad you will find yourself, and probably them, better on the other side.

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    Collective Thoughts

    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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    Holidays

    Christmas Memories We Hope To Make This Year

    I mentioned in my post on Monday about how this Christmas is truly our first Christmas in our marriage where we don’t have major life events or the end of school semesters. This whole year has been the same, no school, no pregnancy or newborn. It’s allowed a little more time to think about family traditions and memories that we want to be intentional about creating.

    Here are a few traditions and activities we are looking forward to doing as a family this Christmas season:

    Reading Christmas Books. This is one of our favorites and it is one of the easiest. We have a pretty substantial collection of Christmas books thanks to some generous gift givers a few years ago. Every year we add one or two. Finding a spot for them is always tricky! The first year, twenty-four books were wrapped and we opened one each year to read, which was so fun! Now we leave them all unwrapped so we can read them multiple times. There are some great Christmas books out there of every kind- classic, spiritual, funny, nostalgic.

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    The Elf. Last year, my kids started asking about an elf visiting our house. They were pretty insistent and finally I obliged. Now, before you get all excited there won’t be any funny antics posted about our Elf. Our Elf is very uneventful. He moves from place to place but doesn’t do anything funny or report back to Santa. My kids don’t know that is an option, they just love looking for him! I forgot to move him last night (yep, Day 1) and this morning they thought that maybe he fell asleep. To be honest, this was not a tradition I was interested in or wanted to pick up. However, my kids get so excited just looking for him each day, that it is worth it to me. I’ve learned that sometimes I just have to suck it up as a mom and do it, even if it is not at the top of my list of priorities.

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    Traditional Christmas Meals. Both Brian and I have traditional Christmas Eve meals from our childhoods that we love. His is a formal delicious feast (formal clothes, beautiful table, delicious food). Mine is an informal delicious feast (non-formal clothes, a blanket on the floor, also delicious food). This year, we decided to do the formal meal on Christmas Eve and the informal meal on Christmas night. I am so excited for both of these delicious meals.

    Christmas Lights. Last year, on our “official” drive around town to look at Christmas lights, I fell asleep. Yep, I sure did. In my defense, I had just finished the last semester of graduate school, my graduation had been that night, and I had a 4 week old baby. This year, I am hoping to take my kids out multiple times to look at the many great displays around our area and not fall asleep while doing so.

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    Christmas Cookies. This is one thing I always say we are going to do and then for some reason it doesn’t always happen. But I have a box full of Christmas cookie cutters and a delicious cookie recipe and can’t wait to decorate with the kiddos and share a few. Or maybe not, because cookies.

    Community Activities. A couple of weekends ago, we went to a tree lighting in our area. I had the best time. We ran into friends while there, the kids ran around playing and Christmas music was playing loud over the speakers. Santa arrived and lit the tree and then there was a Christmas light show set to music. Thought I did not know 99% of the people, I felt this unifying feeling with my community as we sat there in the chilly night watching the tree be lit. I am hoping to take in a few more activities before Christmas is over.

    Serve. I hope to do a good amount of service, individually and as a family this year. Serving others brings a special spirit to my life that is hard to replicate with other activities. I hope to instill that spirit in my children too. A great way to do this is by following along with the #LightTheWorld initiative. Learn more about it here

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    Image from The Small Seed

    Tomorrow the forecast is in the 40s and rainy all day. I’m looking forward to jammies all day, blankets, books, movies, popcorn and hot chocolate!

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    Food

    Lemon Quinoa & Barley Salad

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    Lunchtime is a struggle, am I right? I am constantly trying to figure out how to manage preparing healthy lunches for myself that don’t consist of my kids’ leftover quesadillas. Lunchtime is also at the beginning of naptime, of which I am very protective on the days we are home. As the clock ticks closer to 11:30, I am more focused on making sure lunch is eaten and kids are tucked into their beds. Then I am usually off to the races checking off my to do list before I have to wake up my two babies to pick my oldest up from school. So I am constantly on the lookout for lunches I can prepare ahead of time and have ready to go for a quick, healthy lunch for me on the weekdays.

    I came across this recipe from Super Healthy Kids a few weeks ago and it looked delicious! I had been meaning to try it out and this week I finally got to looking at it more closely. Reading through the recipe, I modified several aspects from the beginning. I actually love quinoa cold in a salad, mixed with some yummy dressing, instead of warm. I swapped orange bell pepper for the carrots. I also realized I only had 3/4 of a cup of quinoa when I went to make the recipe. But I did have 1 cup of barley. Thus, Lemon Quinoa & Barley Salad. 

    If you cook the barley & quinoa a couple of hours before (or even the night before), it will be cold and ready to go when you are ready to put the salad together. This salad comes together really easily, which I love!

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    I didn’t use quick cooking barley, so you may be able to cut some prep time if you use that instead. Also, once I serve myself a bowl, I usually add a little more lemon and balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. One recipe will usually last me a week’s worth of lunches. If you don’t mind eating the same thing every day for a week, this is perfect! Enjoy!

    Lemon Quinoa & Barley Salad

    Ingredients:

    2 1/2 cups chicken broth

    1 cup barley

    ¾ quinoa

    ½ cup chicken broth

    ¼ cup olive oil

    1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (or more)

    Juice from 1-2 lemons

    1 garlic clove

    1 tsp honey

    ½ tsp oregano

    1/8 tsp salt

    1/8 tsp black pepper

    1 cup spinach, chopped

    1 15 oz. can white kidney beans

    Feta cheese for individual servings

    1. Bring 2 1/2 cups chicken broth to boil, add barley and cook on low for 30 minutes. Add ½ cup chicken broth and quinoa and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes Chill barley & quinoa in the refrigerator.
    2. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, honey and spices together to make dressing.
    3. Drain and rinse beans.
    4. Once the grain mixture is cool, add diced orange bell pepper, beans, chopped spinach and dressing. Mix well to combine. Serve cold, adding feta to individual servings. Add a little more lemon and balsamic vinegar if you want, which if you’re like me, you’ll probably will.

    Enjoy!

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    Celebrations, Holidays

    Making the Most of the Holiday Season

    I made it a goal a few months ago to be more prepared for the holiday season this year. I feel like for the last several years I have literally been sprinting to the finish when it comes to preparations. Slipping out to go to Target on December 23rd, putting off certain traditions I really wanted to do because I just didn’t plan for them, and generally feeling stressed and overwhelmed instead of full of Christmas cheer. In our defense, every holiday season since we have been married (almost eight years now) has also been the end of another busy semester of school, or the birth of a baby (this happened two different times) and so everything was pushed off until the two weeks before Christmas.

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    Not this year I said. I started thinking about Christmas around the beginning of October. Not in a crazy way, but I did start thinking and planning so that  I could avoid all the rushed, overwhelmed feelings of years past. And now that  we are approaching December 1st and I have generally stuck to my plans, I feel so good. Tonight, Brian and I talked about some activities and traditions we want to make sure and do this month and we didn’t discuss gifts at all. We have purchased most of our kids’ gifts already, and clearly aren’t talking about our gifts to each other. So we could focus on the activities, events, food and any other holiday happenings. It was so nice. For my future planning (to remind myself next year that it was a good idea to plan in so much advance) and any others who are interested, here’s what I did this year:

    Start thinking about gifts early. I started a new note on my phone at the beginning of October, listed my kids’ names (and my husband’s!), and every time I would think of something they might like for Christmas, I would write it in my note. Big or small, wrapped gift or stocking stuffer, it went in the note. Then, when Brian and I sat down to talk about what to get our kids, we already had several ideas. Because tell me I am not the only one who went into a store unprepared to buy gifts and stood there and thought, “What in the world am I going to get? Maybe my child will like this…t-shirt?” A plan makes it so much easier.

    Shop online. At first, this made me a little sad, because isn’t that part of the fun, going to the store and picking out the perfect gift? But then with one click and two days later, the packages were sitting on my front porch and I thought, “Well, this is nice too”. This also meant that if I got the bigger gifts ordered online, I could still go to the store and pick out smaller stocking stuffers (with my handy note on my phone) at a slower pace. But also, check the front porch before you open your door to check the mail with your kids. Just a tip.

    Choose your traditions. I think most would agree that traditions make up many of the memories we have of holidays and events in the past. That being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Filling every last minute with tradition leaves everyone exhausted and little time for spontaneous memories. I wrote a post on Collin County Moms Blog about simple ways to create lasting family traditions. In a nutshell it is: make choices, make a plan, prepare and also, relax! Traditions are meant to be fun, not stress-inducing, but they require a little work on the front end, usually from the parents. It’s part of the job, really.

    Make a “schedule” of holiday activities. This is not meant to be an ironclad, maxed out schedule. It’s more of a list of things that you want to do throughout the season. Some might need to go on a calendar (I’ve missed activities in the past because I figured I would “remember” when they were. Ha.), but in general just a running list of activities will suffice so you feel satisfied at the end of the season. I have found that Facebook is a great resource for local events. I can click “interested” if I see an event we might want to go to and it sends me reminders about the event so I don’t forget! We went to a tree lighting last weekend that ended up being such a fun little activity, so easy and simple but my kids (and Brian and I) had such an enjoyable time!

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    Some of our list includes: seeing Christmas lights, visiting some of the town squares in the area, Christmas Eve dinner, decorating Christmas cookies, “gingerbread” houses (really, graham cracker houses), and I’m sure we’ll squeeze in a few more things.

    I love this time of year. Even without all the “extras” the spirit of this season is different than any other. People are more loving, more giving and it’s a time I hope everyone can find a little more peace and happiness.

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