A Recap of Our January, Goal Progress, and a Big Announcement!

I can’t believe it’s already February! My apologies for not writing this earlier this month; work has been insanely busy with a few managers needing time off and so I needed to work longer hours than usual to keep up with everything.

January Recap:

Even among all the craziness, January was still a great month! The best man from our wedding, Luke, got married at the beginning of the month, so we started the year with a road trip down to the wedding. I found a great deal on hotels.com for a beautiful lodge near the ceremony.

Cedar Creek Lodge was absolutely wonderful! It was originally a conference and corporate retreat center, and they opened up to commercial bookings a few years ago. When we arrived, we learned that they decided not to put us in the more hotel-like atmosphere of the lodge, but instead upgraded us to our own little cottage! Had I been thinking ahead, I would have taken tons of pictures. These cottages are brand new. Everything was pristine and beautiful. The cottage had a king sized bed, plus a twin with a trundle, and vaulted ceilings.¬†We had a screened-in porch with a table, chairs, and twinkly lights. The description stated that breakfast was included, and in the kitchenette we found a basket of fruit, cereal, granola, and muffins. In the mini fridge were bottles of milk and orange juice, and cartons of yogurt. We had supper at their Town Hall restaurant, where I had the best sweet potato fries and veggie club I’ve ever tasted. And I (barely) beat Peter at a game of pool. ūüôā

We had just gotten cozy for the night when suddenly – we lost power! I called the number it said to call for emergencies, and the woman told me that there had been a sudden outage in the area and about 1,400 other people were also without power. She said we were welcome to leave and they were going to give us our money back for our stay either way. I told her that since it was 10:30pm, we didn’t know where we were, and we have a toddler, we would stay. We took the blankets off the twin and trundle and that kept us plenty warm. The power turned on again around 7am, and the heater was very welcome. We are already talking about coming back this summer to stay there and enjoy their saltwater swimming pool.

2017 Goals Progress:

Personal Goals

Complete the 15 Days to a Healthier You challenge in January¬† This was so beneficial for me. It was much more holistic than I had anticipated and I’ve really been mindful of more aspects of health since this course. I’m drinking more water, processing emotions (something that is very difficult for an ESFP personality type like me since we prefer to be happy all the time, even if that means that we have to ignore issues or just hope they go away). Crystal will be hosting another challenge later in the year; be sure to sign up to be notified for the next round!

Complete 2 yoga challenges and 1 CouchTo5k challenge
Quit coffee for the month of January. I did it! I can’t tell if I have any more energy than usual, but coffee is back to being a treat that I choose to enjoy rather than need to survive. It’s more fun to have coffee with Peter on the weekends now that I’m not depending on it to wake up.

Family Goals

Save a certain amount (I will update you all on our progress by %). More on this in a minute.
Take an actual family vacation.
Find a meal plan system that works for us and stick with it. I’m making slow progress with this. We decided that it would save us money to travel 35 minutes each way to head a couple towns over to the nearest Aldi, so we tested this theory on Friday. We were able to get 25-30% more food for the same amount of money that we normally spend each week at Walmart! This week I’m looking forward to marinated pork with roasted brussel sprouts, ¬†spaghetti with meatballs, and quiche. We were able to get 3 dozen eggs for $1 less than 1 dozen here at Walmart! I couldn’t believe it! I’ve missed Aldi so much!
Grow a garden. Not quite the season to check this off yet, but I am in the planning stages of what I want to grow. 

Business Goals

Get my blogging/writing done early before my family wakes up. I love blogging, but I do not want it to interfere with family time. I’ve been doing well at this, but when I’ve been getting to work at 7:30 and not getting home till 5, I’ve been too tired this week to get up earlier.
Complete 2 Pinterest improvement challenges. Keep track of numbers before and after to see if it’s making any difference.
Stick to an organizing system for income and expenses.
Transition to a different hosting platform for the blog.  Done! Now hosting through Siteground, and their customer service is amazing!
Post in CHL at least 4 days/week. This needs to change to 2-3 for the rest of the year. I love writing, but as I wrote earlier, I’ve found a better balance if I take a couple days off writing to spend improving the site, focusing on Pinterest, or writing articles for other sites.
Send at least one newsletter a week (be sure to subscribe! I share what I’m learning, what kinds of fun things we discovered, and good deals if I find them). This happened once this month. I’m thinking these will be a Thursday or Friday night task.
Submit at least one freelance/guest blog post every week. I submitted one in January.

Announcement:

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know this already. On January 6th we found out we are expecting! After two years of struggling with an inability to gain weight, I’ve finally found something that works. I was able to stabilize my metabolism and I think that had a lot to do with being ¬†able to carry another baby. We are currently 8 weeks, due in mid September. No real food aversions right now, but I have noticed a much more intense nausea after eating something sugary. When we were expecting Tristan, I ate a half pan of brownies for breakfast. Now if I eat one brownie, I’m kicking myself for not choosing a piece of fruit. Thankfully I can still (usually) tolerate my chocolate plant-packed protein powder, which I either make into a shake with hemp hearts and coconut milk or I add collage hydrolysate powder and hot water for a delicious mug of 24g of protein and nutrition from 26 plants.

I haven’t really gained any weight yet, but I’ve already had to pack away all my regular pants and switch to the much more comfortable maternity waist band! Coworkers joke with me that I might be having twins and the doctor I work with wants me to get an ultrasound to rule it out. He’s used to my more traditional ways by now, and laughed when I told him “if it’s twins, we will find out eventually!”

I mentioned above that our savings goals have changed. We took one look at our little Chevy and quickly realized that there isn’t enough space for two carseats! We are currently saving up to pay cash for a Chevy Traverse. We looked at an Equinox but decided that if we had more than 3 kids (which is still our goal), we would have to upgrade cars again. We drove a Traverse last summer while our car was in the shop and we loved it, so now we are aggressively saving and will hopefully begin shopping for one in late spring/early summer.

The owners of our rental house are looking to sell, so we did some quick house hunting in the area to see if anything was worth the hassle of a quick move. Ultimately, we decided to sign a new one-year lease, since any new owners have to honor the existing lease. It was a busy week of looking at houses, looking at our budget, and deciding that we are truly happy and content with our current location.

We were also planning a summer vacation trip to Chicago, but after needing to adjust our savings goals, we have decided that staycations are much more within the budget for now.

February Goals:

I found a prenatal yoga course on YouTube that I will be doing this month.

We will continue to save for our new vehicle, and I will continue to work on meal planning and creating good food for my family.

I will create a filing system for income and expense tracking.

I will submit my two articles for February’s contribution to Splendry.

I hope you all have a marvelous Monday!

 

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Reflections on 2016, and Planning for 2017

Reflections on 2016

It shocks me on a daily basis that it’s almost 2017. Our little family had a crazy year! Here’s a quick recap:

February: moved to Iowa

July: I published my first ebook! (pssst! You can get it for $0.99 through the end of the year!)

September: became debt free!

October: Peter graduated from college

When you throw in several visits back to St. Louis (and several visits by others to here), making new friends, turnover at my job, Tristan turning two, and just getting used to a new routine here, I am both exhausted and exhilarated.

2016 was way different than we ever imagined it would be, but we still managed to achieve all of our goals.

I am also learning more about blogging and freelancing. I studied to be a nurse since I was 3 years old. With this blog, I get to not only hone my writing skills, but also learn marketing, business strategy, law, photography, graphic design, and HTML coding. Every change I make to the blog, I do myself. Thank goodness for tutorials and YouTube! I’ve even conquered my fear of live video.

Planning for 2017

I believe in keeping goals simple. At the end of the week/month/year I want to look back and know that I actually accomplished what I set out to do. I also know that this time of my life requires more flexibility since I have a toddler and a work schedule that can be unpredictable. So with all this in mind, here are my goals for 2017:

Personal Goals

  • Complete the 15 Days to a Healthier You challenge in January (will you join me? HURRY – enrollment is only open through January 3!)
  • Complete 2 yoga challenges and 1 CouchTo5k challenge
  • Quit coffee for the month of January.

Family Goals

  • Save a certain amount (I will update you all on our progress by %).
  • Take an actual family vacation.
  • Find a meal plan system that works for us and stick with it.
  • Grow a garden.¬†

Business Goals

  • Get my blogging/writing done early before my family wakes up. I love blogging, but I do not want it to interfere with family time.
  • Complete 2 Pinterest improvement challenges. Keep track of numbers before and after to see if it’s making any difference.
  • Stick to an organizing system for income and expenses.
  • Transition to a different hosting platform for the blog.
  • Post in CHL at least 4 days/week
  • Send at least one newsletter a week (be sure to subscribe! I share what I’m learning, what kinds of fun things we discovered, and good deals if I find them)
  • Submit at least one freelance/guest blog post every week

I will do my best to give monthly updates on all of this progress. If you are subscribed to our newsletter, you will get a more behind-the-scenes look at our goals (like how January will go without coffee…I’m a little nervous!).

 

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Dear Tristan

Dear Tristan,

Today is your second birthday. These past two years have flown by, and I treasure every memory I’ve been able to make with you.

The day we found out you existed, we spent our last dollar to buy you this sweater. It warms my heart to see that you are now big enough to wear it.

The day you were born is one of my favorite memories. You made the entire process of childbirth magical.

Now here we are, two years later, and you’re the biggest ball of never-ending energy. You have a smile that lights up the darkest room. You love without holding back. You rock out to Daddy’s music with good rhythm. You are insulted if I try to put on your shoes for you, because you can do it yourself. You love anything related to the Minions and you have a tender heart for the hurting.

You are the coolest, T-dawg. I’m so honored to be your Mommy.

<3

 

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Free to be Me: My Personal Manifesto

Experiencing freedom in my life for the first time

I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s newest book, For the Love, and I recently reached the chapter where she reflects on how she learned to “just tell the truth.” In this chapter, she encourages her readers to be honest with our thoughts, and to free ourselves from the idea that people should avoid speaking anything less than rainbows and constant sunshine. This particular chapter was encouraging and empowering, as¬†I have heard recently that my parents are convinced that I have been brainwashed and manipulated, so I thought that I would take a minute and explain what it is for me to be free.

I grew up in a very judgmental, conservative household.¬†My mother¬†made comments to me all throughout my growing up years that still negatively effect my body image, including telling me at age 15 that I “needed” to wear makeup so I could “look like I take care of myself.”¬† I wasn’t allowed to read books that my father hadn’t approved of, because he was convinced that disagreeing authors were idiots and their ideas were not valid. I was almost not allowed to attend Mass with my best friend in high school because my father doesn’t think that catholic faith is legitimate. I was allowed to go on the grounds that I would write an essay on the differences between the catholic mass and a Presbyterian service. ¬†As far as I can tell, catholics are Christians too. But they didn’t worship in the exact same way, so it must be wrong.

I learned from a very early age to only talk about any shared interests or things that I already knew they would approve of, because I didn’t want to deal with their comments of disapproval or any lectures. I rebelled, but in little things. I waited, ever-so-patiently, to turn 18 and promptly added a second piercing to my ears (it looked “tacky,” so they wouldn’t sign for it). When I wanted other forms of personal expression¬†(I permed my hair, had my cartilage and my nose pierced, and got a tattoo), I just went and did it. I still had to deal with comments, but it was already done so they weren’t able to talk me out of it. When it came to most issues,¬†I learned to be docile and obedient, so as not to be the cause of any discord. Their way, they claimed, was freedom, but I was only “free” to choose the things which they thought were right.

We went to a very conservative church (example: a woman was made to apologize to the congregation for having a child out of wedlock).¬†My church leaders, when I informed them that I was resigning my membership upon marrying my husband and we were going to join a church together, informed me that I was not allowed to resign my membership until I had found a church *they* approved of. After we were married, we went to some friends for marriage advice. I was blocked in the house by my (not invited) former pastor, who made several attempts to get me alone and refused to leave, telling me “this isn’t your house, I don’t have to move.” Both my old pastor and Peter’s former pastor boasted about contacting the churches we visited to “warn” the leadership about us, claiming us to be troublemakers. (I dearly love most of the people from my former church. I was truly disappointed when the leadership behaved in such a way.)

Despite their belief that their church was the “true” church, my family would no sooner get to the parking lot than start making fun of the people at the service. They would make demeaning comments about this elder’s ideas or that teenager’s hairstyle. They still don’t like one of our friends from there because of the hairstyle he chose when he was 15. Evidently, Jesus only approves of collared button-downs and crew cuts.

I was never given freedom to explore. For my family, there was only One Way – for everything. This put a damper on my learning about the world. I was sent to a worldview class where the Christian teacher clearly said “what I want most for you all is to learn to think for yourselves!” but if we answered questions on the exams in a way that didn’t follow the teacher’s specific religious beliefs, they were counted as incorrect.

After Peter and I were married, we searched the Bible together in the evenings, and applied what we learned. Our questioning was not received well. Our 3-year journey has led us to atheism, which we have held for some time now. This is due to many reasons, but was largely because of the responses we had received as we searched and studied and challenged commonly accepted practices.

After we had been married for a few months, something amazing started to happen. My wonderful husband had given me a voice. He started asking me what I wanted, what I thought, what made my soul come alive. He asked questions because he wanted to know, and I could state my desires and opinions without fear of lectures or ridicule. I became confident, curious, and alive. I was free.

One major example of this newfound freedom and health is how I deal with my emotions. My mother, who holds a PhD in child psychology and does family counseling, told me recently that she had read in a psychology book that when your teenage daughter is upset, the best course of action is to leave her alone and let her get over her own feelings, so that’s how she dealt with me. Peter learned very quickly that I need to be chased when I’m upset, and over the past few years I’ve learned how to actually work through my emotions, understand them, and deal with them in healthy ways, rather than just isolate and ignore my problems.

I learned through all of this how trapped I had been growing up. My family’s very specific views on religion, politics, and lifestyle were taught as true freedom because they smiled. They viewed my silence as acquiescence, when in reality I had just learned to shut up and bide my time. They thought they knew the true me, but their idea of me was never accurate.

Even now, my family refuses to accept my new freedom. My mother informed me she still wishes I hadn’t gotten married, something I take special offense to now that I have a son. Having experienced my father’s disapproval for my marriage, I do not feel respected or safe around him either, so I set ground rules for any future relationship with my father that require he make peace with Peter before any contact with me. Even this simple request has been refused, with the excuse that I would have never placed such a restriction before, so Peter must be manipulating me into making such a suggestion. While hard to listen to, their negative comments serve as a reminder to me of the freedom I now get to enjoy, and a reminder to breathe deeply, love fully, and walk my new path bravely.

I hate conflict, so I followed their lead for as long as I needed to, but now that I am married I am finally getting to explore who I am, what I believe, and live it out in the way that is in keeping with my own personal worldview. This blog is an extension of me and my values – I am a health conscious, green, quirky, dance-in-public, hippie mama. I practice grounding and meditation. My personal style looks like the love child of gypsies and a rack from the set of That 70’s Show.¬†I value people without discriminating based on social status, gender identity, sexual preference, or religion. I believe in doing what is best for people over what is best for profit. I share what I learn because I’ve always wanted to help people feel better, and natural solutions help fix issues at the root cause. This is me. This has always been me, but I am now free to explore, enjoy, and express it to my heart’s content.

This is freedom.

 

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Weekends in Paradise

Alright ya’ll, so I’m working on making blogging part of a routine again and I’m super pumped to start #MakeoverYourEvenings on Monday with you! But because this little slice of heaven is so perfect, I just have to share the beautiful weekend routine we have created for ourselves:

Saturdays:

Wake up late, make brunch. Saturdays are pancake days. Lately I’ve been making this recipe from Wellness Mama by throwing all the ingredients into my Ninja blender and then pouring it from the blender onto the griddle. I top my pancakes with melted coconut oil and it is just delicious.

Then we clean up the house and I put Tristan into his carrier and we walk to the coffee house. They know us there and the younger baristas love to interact with Tristan. Some mornings they have a local musician playing and we stay to enjoy the music. On mornings that they don’t have a musician, we take our coffee to go and head across the street to the park.

After a walk around the town and some play time in the park, we head over to the library to pick out new books and movies for the week.


Then we head home for a nice lunch, after which we head upstairs to the gym for a workout. Yes, working out has become a routine for me! I’m even enjoying it! Miracles do happen.


We spend our evenings watching movies and enjoying being a family.

On Sundays we basically repeat Saturdays, just without the coffee and the library. We go grocery shopping if we didn’t do that on Friday and I get a basic idea of meals for the week. I also do our meal prepping, which includes making muffins for our breakfasts during the weekdays.


I absolutely love living in this peaceful little town. I could not have imagined a better place for our family to grow and be nurtured.

Happy weekend!!
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