Monday, September 28, 2015

Good Intentions {Summer Recap}

In my mind I planned a whole blog post on how I had good intentions on keeping up this blog over the summer, and then I realized that is a complete lie. In fact, I had one intention this past summer: to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did. My tan skin is a testament to the fact that I spent the good majority of it outside either playing with my kids, reading a good book, or watching my kids play. I honestly don't think I've enjoyed a summer like I have this one since I was a kid.

When people ask what we did this summer, I honestly don't know how to respond, because we didn't do much. We went on one camping trip. We intended on going on more, but one is all that worked out. We hit up the local swimming pool, we went to our county fair, we even made it to the State Fair, and we ended up doing a few more of our regular summer activities. Otherwise, we hardly left home, instead choosing to spend the summer in our Intex Swimming Pool, riding bike, hiking through the woods, and listening to as much music as possible. I let my house go a bit, I let the laundry pile up, and it was wonderful. It was probably the most stress free I have ever been since I had kids, and I loved every minute of it. Remember last summer how my neighbor mentioned he could hear me yelling? I didn't want a repeat of that this summer, so I intentionally chose to keep my summer as stress free as possible and didn't put requirements on myself or the kids. I wanted to read a lot this summer, and so I did. I wanted to introduce the girls to various musicians, and so we did. I wanted to sit and soak up the sun, so we did. I took them on walks through the woods, down our road, and we sat outside marveling about how lucky we are to live here. I may have yelled a time or two, but I know that if I ran into my neighbor again, he would probably say he heard laughter this summer. Which is exactly what I wanted it to be.

Intentions....they can put a lot of pressure on us, and this summer I chose to be wise with my intentions and expectations. Did stuff get put aside until later because of it? Absolutely! This winter, I'm going to have my work cut out for me organizing our basement and our toy room (yikes). But winter is a good time for it, because it's cold and dark outside. Did my house sometimes go weeks without cleaning? Yep, but it's still standing and I even managed to clean it yesterday and it was just fine.

Interestingly enough I managed to get through summer almost completely on my own. Chris' business has picked up enough to the point of him working not only all day, but also late into the evening. This is wonderful for us financially, but a big change on our family with the absence of Chris. Thankfully he is finding some great employees to take over the evening work, but for the majority of this summer it has been Chris working all day into the evening and me figuring out how to parent alone. I was, and in many ways, still am exhausted. Which is why I am so glad I didn't force myself to do more this summer, but instead just chose to enjoy it.

So like always, our summer flew by and before we knew it fall was here. If I could have summer all year long I would. I love warm weather, I love the sun, and I love the stress free life of just enjoying summer. I'm always sad when summer comes to a close, but this summer I can say I enjoyed it fully!

How was your summer? Have you gotten into the swing of fall yet?

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

On Our 12th Anniversary {A Love Letter to My Husband}

In the words of one of your favorite singers, Ed Sheeran

"Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes"

In 12 years, we have said and done things that have hurt. Sometimes even hurt deeply. That first year of marriage that we thought we never would survive. We threw insults and jabs at each other as if they didn't matter, yet they did, they hurt deeply. The year we had our first baby and realized that if we were going to make it, we had to work as a team. I drove away from you once with our baby safely tucked into her carseat. I was determined that I just couldn't work at our marriage anymore, it hurt too much to love deeply and work so hard and not have it be perfect. That time I was a jerk and hurt you so much I truly wasn't sure our marriage was going to survive.

Yes, I would say Ed is correct that loving can hurt.

"When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes"

Every time I hear that lyric, I tear up. When you are standing in the front of a church staring into each other's eyes with the most love you think you will ever have for each other, it is easy to think that life will never get hard.

Until it does.

No one tells you the struggles you will have. There have been times we truly were not sure how we were going to pay that next bill that was due, or even if we would have enough food to put on the table. No one sits down and explains to you what it means to own your own business, and the sacrifices it will take to make that business succeed. No one tells you about that lost baby that felt like every dream inside you was dying. No one would tell you that for 7 months straight you would sink down into a deep depression and cry everyday for your daughter's loss that is just too great.

"Loving can heal. Loving can mend your soul."

Yet there you were, and still are, with your arms wrapped tightly around me just letting me grieve. Through the tears, the depression, and the anger you have been here. Mending a bit of my broken soul each day. Your love for me has healed so much of my broken.

"I swear it will get easier."

We've seen life get hard and easier throughout our 12 years. It is like the ebb and flow of the ocean. I have no doubt the days ahead will be hard, but 12 years in, I know that the easier will follow the hard.

"And if you hurt me that's ok, baby, only words bleed"

How I have hurt you these past years, and I am sure your heart has bled, just as mine has when you have hurt me, but....

"And I won't ever let you go"

No matter what, neither of us is willing to let the other go. When I think of this lyric, I think of hanging on to a board in the ocean, refusing to let go even as you are pulled into the strong current, because when you let go of the other, you drown. Drowning isn't an option.

"Inside the necklace you got when you were 16, next to your heartbeat where I should be."

For my 18th birthday, you got me a Kmart special on a tanzanite and diamond heart necklace, because you knew how much I loved tanzanite. That cheap little necklace has sat next to my heart off and on since that day. I wore it on our wedding day because even though it isn't worth a thing to anyone else, it means something to me knowing that you bought it when you had not a dime to your name.

"We keep this love in this photograph. We made these memories for ourselves. Where our eyes are never closing, our hearts were never broken, times forever frozen still."

12 years Christer. 12 years of photographs that show the memories and love we have for each other. Time and love frozen still in hundreds of photographs taken throughout the years. Photographs don't show the hard times, the are we going to make it times, the heartbreak of loss, or the anger of yesterdays gone by.

But those photographs show love. The love of two broken people who joined together on a warm August day and became one. 12 years later, we have three beautiful daughters who are here because of our love for each other. We have a little home that is still filled with hopes and dreams, they just keep changing through years. We have each other.

Thank you for always loving me. For never leaving me 11 years ago like you maybe should have, or any of the other times since. For proving to me my life phrase of "What is done in love, is done well."

I love you, Christer! Happy 12th Anniversary!

*Words in italics are the words to Ed Sheeran's song Photograph, which you can listen to here.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

On Your 5th Birthday (A Letter to Xiomara)

Happy 5th birthday to our always smiling, compassionate, gymnastics loving, full of life, happy, animal loving, and still my baby girl Xiomara Marie.

5. I am not handling 5 well at all darling! I keep staring at this picture thinking there is no way you are that grown up! What happened to my baby?!? Meanwhile, you have been counting down this day for weeks. Planning it out in your mind with a thousand different things you want to do today. That describes your personality so well! Just a desire to live your life to the fullest in all you do. But I just can't wrap my head around the fact that you are now one whole hand. How is it that the teeny tiny baby we met on a hot day in Georgia is now this vivacious little girl who captures the hearts of all around her?

This year has been a growing year, both physically and emotionally. Not only have you gotten taller, but you have grown up emotionally. You match Meridian in height now, and because you are so close in age to you sister, you like to do everything she does. Last year you felt like so much of a baby, but this year you grew up before our very eyes. You talk like a big girl now, you are completely out of diapers during the day (we still are working on those nights), you sit for school like a big girl. You also proudly just lost your first tooth! Part of me looks at you and wishes I could have my baby back, but the other part of me is so proud of the big girl you have become. I am thankful that you still love to snuggle with your mama and even though I try so hard to get you to stop sucking your thumb, that thumb reminds me you are still little.

This past year you got to do preschool in homeschool with mama. You were so proud of yourself for sitting down at the table each day and doing your school work. I'll never forget how excited you were when you figured out you could write your whole name by yourself. School was slow going, but I remind myself you are only in preschool. We are not in a rush and being that you are a summer birthday, you will be in preschool once again next year.

At 5, yellow is your favorite color! You don't get really get dressed in the morning. Instead, you wake up and either put on a swimsuit or a dress up dress and that is all we see you in the rest of the day. You live and breathe gymnastics! You don't just walk around, but instead go around the house doing cartwheels, round-offs, and any other gymnastic move you can think of. Everyday you ask me if today is a gymnastics class day. You grab my iPad, put on a song and do gymnastics moves to the whole thing. You have so much talent in gymnastics little girl. Remember that talent comes from God, and you have an opportunity to use that talent for good. If you aren't doing gymnastics, you are outside playing with our chickens, dog, or cats. You LOVE animals and have a gentleness with them that I have never seen before. When you grow up you tell me you want to be a gymnastics person like Gabby Douglas, or you want to be a Vet and work on animals. You are a definite people person! You thrive on engaging with others. You have this amazing and unique ability to connect with others and put a smile on their face with your vibrant, joyful personality! You also have a compassionate heart for the hurting, whether it be hurt animals or hurting people, you reach out to them with your whole heart. I have seen you this past year go on adventure hikes around our yard, or play quietly by yourself with your Legos. You have quite the imagination that I've enjoyed seeing emerge this year. Your favorite food is pizza. I hope I never forget about how you make sure everyone knows about your one special curl and no one can ever cut that! It is an adorable curl!

Please note her one special curl that goes in front of her eye. She loves it!

I know this past year you have been forced to grow up faster than either of us would have liked. No 5 year old should have to face the kind of loss you have faced this past year in losing your birthmama. I'm so sorry honey. If I could take that pain from you, I would. I know and love how much you love her. She will always be special to you no matter how much time passes. I will also always remind you of the words she told me on that July day when she lovingly handed you to me, "Always love her no matter what, and please never let her forget that I love her". You are a blessed little girl Xiomara. So many people love you so much and I still feel amazed that I get to be your mama. I love you and Happy 5th Birthday sweetheart!

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Nogii Review

We are a gluten free family which is actually way easier of a lifestyle to live than most people think. The only area where I sometimes struggle is trying to find easy on-the-go snack foods. Veggies and fruits are often a staple in our house. However, sometimes when I am in a hurry, I really wish I could find an easy, healthy protein bar.

Then I found NoGii and I seriously am so impressed with them that I will for sure be buying them in the future! Created by Elisabeth Hasselback, NoGii is a line of certified gluten-free protein bars, protein powders, and paleo bars. Made with sustainably sourced, premium ingredients, NoGii bars have an ideal balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and do not contain any trans fat, hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.

Moms Meet sent us a box of various flavors from Nuts About Tropical Fruit (Paleo Bar), Chocolate Mint, Nuts About Berries (Paleo Bar), Nuts About Nuts (Paleo Bar), Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp, Whey & Quinoa Protein, and more! Our girls LOVED the Paleo Bars. I unfortunately cannot eat the Paleo bars as I am allergic to nuts, but my husband and girls said they were so good! I did try some of the other bars though and I was very impressed. In the future, I would love to see a Paleo bar without nuts (I know, probably pretty unlikely) but I would love more protein bar options without sugar that I can eat too.

To learn more about NoGii, make sure you follow their social media pages by checking out their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet Program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Stitch Fix #4 {Review}

Time has seemingly gotten away from me as my girls have gotten older and busier. This makes it hard for me to find time to shop. It also is a little know fact that I hate shopping! There is something about standing in front of a mirror, with those awful fluorescent lights that makes me cringe and not want to look at every single flaw I have in that all too big mirror. I prefer to try those clothes on at home....enter Stitch Fix. Stitch Fix is a style service where after filling out a detailed style profile, a personal shopper picks out 5 items for you, you keep what you like and send the rest back in a postage paid envelope. You do pay a $20 styling fee, but it is applied towards your final order.

Since I'm getting caught up around my blog, this was a Stitch Fix I received last fall. For this Stitch Fix, I specifically asked for cute jeans and some more fall type outfits.

Item #1: Mystree Redford Striped French Terry Zip-Up Cardigan: $28

I'm really into cardigans, especially for our long fall/winters. I feel like they can be paired with so much and look really cute. I initially wasn't sure what I thought of this one. For one, the sleeves were white and I have young kids. Plus, it zipped up and I typically prefer to have loose fitting cardigans. However, all my hesitations faded once I tried it on. This is the softest, most quality material I have ever owned. Absolutely amazing! Plus, it looks adorable on (trust me this isn't the best picture of me in it, but it really does). After realizing I had a $20 credit to use, this was an absolute keep!

Item #2: Market and Spruce Pegah Striped Long Sleeve Shirt: $48

Oh how I loved this shirt! It was cute, comfortable, and really nice quality! The only thing holding me back is that I have a ton of clothes that are navy and white striped, including the zip-up cardigan I was about to keep. I just couldn't justify keeping this one too.

Item #3: Kensie Jeans Kaleigh Ankle Biter Skinny Jean: $88

I pulled these jeans out of my box and just gasped! I LOVED them! Plus, they actually fit when I put them on, which isn't very easy to do on my curvy bottom. An added bonus was that these things were comfortable! Soft, good quality, and such a great fit. There were only two things holding me back, the color and the price. I really liked the color, but wasn't sure I would get as much wear out of them as I would a typical jean color. I was fine paying the price on something I am going to get a lot of wear out of, but these probably would not be worn daily. I passed on these, and to this day, I still regret it. I may be trying to put in a request for these sometime this next fall.

Item #4: Collective Concepts Melandry Dot Print Button-Up Blouse: $34

This shirt was so adorable! Especially when paired with the cute pants! However, I didn't quite feel comfortable with the fit being a bit flowy. For the price I would rather have found a shirt I loved and this just didn't fit that this time.

Item #5: Market and Spruce Breyson Split-Neck Tab-Sleeve Knit Top: $48

This was the only item of this Fix that I just didn't care for. It seemed to fit me all wrong and I just could not get it right. Should have those sleeves been buttoned like that? Or were they supposed to go down? The material was also rather thin, and I want quality right now. I loved the color, but again, I am being picky on what I'm keeping and what I'm not right now, so this was a pass.

While I only kept one item out of this Stitch Fix, I have gotten lots of use out of it, and I love it! My only regret is getting rid of those gorgeous jeans. After looking at my fall/winter wardrobe I decided to take a break from clothes shopping until the spring! So watch for another Stitch Fix review coming up as I have already gotten a box! If you are looking to expand your wardrobe, I highly suggest you to give Stitch Fix a try! If you'd like, I would love to have you use my referral link and then please come back and share with me your thoughts on Stitch Fix!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Your 6th Birthday (A Letter to Meridian)

Happy 6th birthday to our ringlet curled, wide-eyed, quiet, plays by herself, sweet with a bit of spunk, dreamer, and snuggle bug Meridian Piper.

Oh my goodness, how in the world are you 6 years old?!? It seem unfathomable to me that the same little baby who came so quickly and unexpectedly into this world is becoming a little girl rather than the baby you once were. I remember so many nights and days walking countless hours trying to get you to sleep. I guess some things don't change being that you were our earliest one to quit napping and you still ask that daddy snuggle with you each night. I'm pretty sure daddy wouldn't have it any other way as all too soon you will be too grown up for snuggles. It doesn't happen as often anymore, but sometimes you come to our bed in the middle of the night, just to snuggle your daddy and mama. You LOVE snuggling and you are the best at finding me during the day just to get a little snuggle, or to give me a kiss and then you go back to playing. You have even nicknamed yourself the kissie monster.

This year you have started copying everything Zoelle does. When Zoelle requested eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon for her birthday breakfast, you requested the same. We were finally able to convince you to try something different, so this morning we enjoyed French Toast Bake with you. Zoelle got to go out to eat for her birthday, so you have to go out to eat for your birthday too. Sometimes I wish your birthday was just a little further apart from Zoelle's so you felt the freedom to do your own thing. I'm sure that will come in time. You have yet to lose a tooth and Zoelle already had by now, so you think you should too.

This past year you have done Kindergarten in homeschool. It has been slow going because you are such a dreamer and sometimes school is hard to do with a little sister around. The main thing you have wanted to learn this year is how to read. You were getting a little sad a few months ago that you hadn't read like Zoelle yet. I decided to let you try Bob books and you were amazed and so proud of yourself that you could actually read! My plan is to work a little more diligently on reading with you this summer. Being in Kindergarten meant that you got to be a part of our local community choir. Most of your concert was spent staring at other kids and when I asked you if you sing pretty during your class, you told me, "Well sometimes I just stare out the window at the trees mama and forget all about singing." That describes you so perfectly I had to laugh! Always my dreamer. You love playing piano and I was surprised at how natural it has come to you. You sit down and practice and remind me to always give you a piano lesson. You also quietly sing through each song you play. Speaking of singing, it seems that is something that just comes naturally to you. You aren't loud, but you listen and I often catch your eye in the car as you sing along to a song on the radio.

At 6, purple is still your favorite color! You still care about every single outfit you wear. Whether that be a play outfit, or a good outfit, you have to pick it out. This year seems to be the year of the dresses. If it isn't a fancy dress, you pout and argue with me to get your way. Sometimes I'm convinced this little side of you comes out just so we can notice you. Being in the middle is hard especially when you are naturally laid back. I often tell daddy how thankful I am for my Meridian in the middle. No matter what, you are calm and quiet. We aren't sure but your eyes may just be turning green, or maybe hazel like daddy's. You have a love for your ringlet curls and take pride in them. Your biggest worry is that someone will cut them off, but I can assure you sweetie that mama will not do that as I love them too. Your favorite food is pizza. You love playing with Lego Friends. You love to use your imagination and I often find you quietly using your imagination to play. You can play for hours by yourself, or you can play nicely with others. That is a good trait to have sweetie.  This year you and Xiomara have become buddies and play together constantly. There are sometimes fights, but most of the time you two are best friends. During Xiomara's naptime, you love to talk to our chickens. You take them on walks through the woods and talk quietly to them the whole time. When you grow up you want to be a nurse and help other people.

I have this vivid memory from a few hours after your birth in which daddy had gone out for breakfast and it was just you and I. We snuggled and I remember you just stared at me while I cooed to you and told you how much I loved you. This past year, I felt that same connection with you again. You have always been a daddy's little girl and I've always felt a bit sad that you didn't want to spend as much time with mama as you did daddy. However, sending Zoelle to school and being home with me helped me connect with you. I love sitting together and snuggling. I love watching you use your imagination as you play. You give the best backrubs ever! My favorite time spent with you Rinnie is in all the little moments put together. You ooze sweetness in everything you do and I love that sweet spirit in you. I love hearing your little scratchy laugh, and the "Uh huh" you answer in a cute little voice. The joy in my day is when you tell me, "I love my mama" and then go on to the rest of your day. Goodness, sweet little girl you melt my heart and I love you!! Please don't grow up too fast this year. Happy 6th birthday!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

On Your 8th Birthday (A Letter to Zoelle)

Happy 8th Birthday to our blue-eyed, blonde hair, kind, hilarious, it has to be fair, passionate, and sensitive Zoelle Grace!

You are 8 today! 8 years ago you were this teeny tiny baby in my arms and we were learning how this whole parenting thing worked, while you were figuring out how this whole world thing worked. Kind of crazy isn't it? You will always hold a special place in my heart as the girl who made me mama. I'm convinced God specifically gave us the middle name of Grace to give to you because you are one of the most gracious, kind, forgiving little girls I know. Being you are our first, we've made a thousand mistakes with you, but you are always willing to extend grace. I love that about you.

This year is the first year you won't be home with mama on your birthday. You looked at the calendar months in advance to figure that out and there were tears shed from both of us when we realized your birthday fell on a Monday. The awesome thing is I get to take you to lunch, and I'm going to pick you up from school because I want to spend every second of your birthday with you that I can! I'm bummed it will be cold and rainy, but we will still have fun.

Zoelle made this in school a few months ago and it perfectly describes her!

This past year I've watched you change into less of a little girl and more into the pre-teen you are soon to be. Instead of that making me sad, I'm super proud of you. While I know you miss me each and everyday, you have really enjoyed going to school and it has helped you become "you" outside of who you are with mama. The kids at school love you and often wait for you in the morning to go into the classroom. You have a confidence about who you are that I hope you never lose. Most of all you treat others with kindness. I'm not sure I've seen a more empathetic and kind heart than yours. I think it is often your sensitive spirit that gives you such a kindness in your heart.

Each day you come home and spend hours curled up on the couch reading. Reading is still definitely your thing. You love to sing and play piano. In fact, we often find hidden videos on our phone of your sweet crystal clear voice singing a song just for us. When you get caught, you just giggle. You have the best giggle. Oh goodness, it makes me smile. You love to make people laugh and so you often tease me, or tell me jokes and I love hearing you laugh and laughing with you. What a joy it is to be your mama. You still take violin lessons but you aren't sure you want to take them next year because violin is hard work and it can be frustrating. I sure do love listening to you play so I'm hoping I can keep you interested still next year. You have your sights set on trying gymnastics this coming year and go around the house doing cartwheels whenever you can.

At 8, you have definitely chosen green to be your favorite color, but you still assure me that you like blue too. Your favorite food is pizza because "Mmmm, pizza is sooooo good mom!". You love to play outside, especially if I play with you too. The trampoline is a favorite of yours. Last summer you were a little fish and swam every second you could. You sometimes like to play with your sisters, but most of the time they just get in your stuff and make you mad. Your favorite thing to do is doing science experiments and you beg me each day to make a mess at the kitchen table just so you can learn more (I need to get better at saying yes to them as I love watching you learn). You like to help cook and bake. Sometime in February of this year, we noticed your hair went from wavy to curly and you aren't sure you like it that way because it is now easily knotted in the back. When you grow up you want to be a doctor, but you aren't exactly sure which kind yet. I always tease you that you would make a great lawyer as you fight for what is fair. Keep fighting for justice sweetheart because you will do great things.

My favorite moments spent with you Z are late at night when you sneak into our room because you just couldn't sleep, or you have me curl up next to you in your bed and we just talk. You LOVE to talk! I could listen to you for hours. You are expressive and I love watching your beautiful eyes light up as you tell me a story. Tonight, I snuggled into you as you read just one more chapter before it was bedtime, and I just watched you. I asked you, "Zoelle will you snuggle me like this when you are 18?" "Yes, of course I will mama", you say. "How about when you are 30?" I ask, and you answer, "I will probably always want to snuggle you and play with your hair mama." You always can sweet girl, you always can.

You are beautiful little girl, on the inside and out. I am so proud of you. I can't wait for the years to come with you, but for now I'll enjoy you still as my little 8 year old girl. Happy birthday sweetie!

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