Friday, November 28, 2014

No Black Friday For This Mama

Sounds a little crazy, huh? No Black Friday shopping? Staying up late or going out early in search of the latest and greatest deals around?

Nope, not for this mama.

See, I'm still feeling warm and fuzzy over Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. I still feel like I have a whole lot to be thankful for, especially the non-material-possession type things. 

Watching a bunch of crazed people pushing and shoving and being rude to one another over material stuff that isn't necessary would ruin that feeling for me.

And personally, I feel like it totally defeats the purpose of Thanksgiving for me. I spend weeks preparing my home and my heart and my daughter's heart for Thanksgiving. We talk about what is REALLY important. We talk about the difference between want and need. We talk about what we are so thankful for, what the Lord has blessed us with.

Going on a major shopping trip and being surrounded by stuff, and people on a mad search for stuff, takes away from that for me. I do shop online from now until Cyber Monday. I'm not against the whole idea of finishing my Christmas shopping and saving money! It's just the encouragement to "buy buy buy" and come in ON THANKSGIVING to beat other people to the things your kids NEED.

Let's be real here, my little girl does not NEED any of this. And it doesn't matter what I get her, I know she will be happy and thankful and so excited because it's Christmas and Santa came, and Baby Jesus was born on this day. The things I'm shopping for are a matter of want, and while I want to get things I know Reagan will love, if I don't find it or it sells out on line because I was too busy cuddling with her and being lazy in our post-Thanksgiving haze, well that's fine and it won't make or break our Christmas.

The act of giving and receiving in His name is what makes Christmas. The fact that our Saviour was born on this day makes Christmas. It's the real reason for the holiday and the experience of Christmastime that means so much.

So if you see some people acting out over Black Friday or find yourself caught in a shopping frenzy, just remember the real reason for the season ;)



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Stress Relief

The holidays are a fun and exciting time! It's the most wonderful time of the year, right?! In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's also very easy to overplan and stretch yourself to the limit. An overwhelming to do list is not uncommon, and that takes away from the enjoyment of this wonderful time. In the season of giving to others, it's also important and HEALTHY to remember to relax, destress, and take care your yourself too!

Here are some of my favorite ways to relax and enjoy a little rejuvenating "mommy time":

1. Take a breath. Meditation heals a multitude of stressors. Sometimes all you need to gain a better perspective is to sit in a quite spot, breathe deeply, and think.

2. Get your yoga fix. Even a few minutes of stretching and balancing can help you literally find your center and concentrate on yourself. The health and exercise benefits of yoga are also an added bonus!

3. Sip on your favorite seasonal beverage. I love all the holiday flavors at Starbucks right now. Nothing calms me during a busy shopping trip like a festive flavor from their red holiday cups. My Keurig is also my best friend this time of year. When I need an pick me up to get through an exam or keep up with my daughter, I have to go no farther than my kitchen. Whether you love hot chocolate, coffee, eggnog, or cider, there are lots of new flavors and old favorites out for the season, so sit back, relax, and sip to unwind.

4. Get a mani pedi. Whether you want to pamper yourself at home or let someone else do it for you, you'll look great and feel great! I have a foot spa that bubbles and heats water and enough bath salts and foot soaks and nail polish to open my own spa ;) so if I'm super busy, I'll just do it myself. My sweet little girl got it for me for my birthday this year! There is not too much that a nice foot soak, lotion, and a little polish won't fix!

5. Take a bath. If you really need to relax more than your fingers and toes, take a bubble bath and soak it out! Shopping and baking and keeping up with kids is hard work! Take a dip with your favorite scent of bubble bath. You deserve it.

6. Light a candle. Ever heard of aromatherapy? I'm currently burning Bath and Body Works' Pumpkin Carmel Latte, but they also have this one from their stress relief line. Anything lavender scented is also great for inducing relaxation, but I feel like cozy fall and winter scents work well for me too!

7. Read a book. What better way to forget your holiday stress for a little bit than to escape from it? My current favorite is Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, available here. (Hint: It's about mermaids.)

8. Write it out. Sometimes keeping a journal or just writing things down occasionally is the best way to get things off our chest. Blogging works for me ;)

9. Pray about it. The little things and the big things, God says we can bring them to him. Whether you're worried about Christmas finances or burning the turkey, let go and let God take your troubles. Talk about relief!

10. Read your Bible. The Ultimate Counselor has this amazing book with a ton of the best advice we'll ever receive if we only seek it out. There are Bible verses for hard times, look them up and feel the peace they bring to your heart and mind.

11. Phone a friend. I love my friends because those women know how to listen and they know my heart. Sometimes a vent sesh with them is exactly what I need, and they are always there for that. (Love y'all!!)

So there you go, 11 of my favorite quick and easy ways to unwind when I need it most! Do the holidays stress you out from time to time? What are your favorite ways to unwind? Comment below!



Thanksgiving Madness

We have up to 7 Marines coming to Thanksgiving dinner and staying with us next week whom none of us have ever met. Sounds crazy right? Add in the fact that we normally have 20 or more people in the family at our gatherings, and it sounds more crazy!

My cousin is a Marine and we have a long history of military service in all branches in our family, so the fact that we have the ability and the heart to open our home to these men who serve our country makes me so happy! My family has such a heart for others and so much to be thankful for, so it really drives home the meaning of the holiday.

Now this is all a recipe for mayhem, but to top it off my grandmother is having a cardiac catheterization done on Tuesday. Yes, two days before Thanksgiving dinner. My grandmother, my wonderful grandmother, who cooks nearly every dish for every family dinner. My grandmother who goes even more above and beyond for special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So how are we going to make all this happen?? I'm not sure yet, haha, but I did start making treats yesterday so I don't have to cook it all in two days. I attempted Oreo truffles with orange candy melt coating and fall sprinkles. This is how they turned out:

Don't worry, they taste better than they look! Thank God! I just couldn't get the consistency of the candy melts right! And I was even using a Wilton melting pot!! And then I ran out of the orange concoction and resorted to the partial bag of left over birthday cake flavored candy melts... Not my finest work :)

But on the bright side, I got to make treats with my little girl, we're all happy, we're mostly healthy, and we have lots of love and food to share with some special people who can't make it to their families for Thanksgiving, so I'd say we're doing pretty darn good! How are y'all getting ready for Thanksgiving?



Friday, November 21, 2014

Mommy Daughter Date: Tea for Two

I've mentioned Reagan's behavior chart that keeps those terrible tantrums at bay (mostly), and I promise I'm posting on that soon. Basically I let her pick rewards within reason, and on one of her latest picks included a tea party for the two of us. We had so much fun, I just had to share!

Full disclosure... I had totally planned on cleaning the front porch (her play area) so these pictures would be "perfect" but life had other plans for me. I recently posted about how much my shoulder had been hurting and how it was making everything harder... well I may have a torn rotator cuff! Don't ask me how I managed this, I have NO CLUE!! But a tea party was planned for this day, so a tea party was going to happen! After all, Reagan had earned it, and I needed some one on one time with my little.

Another thing to note is that I didn't make any of these treats! I went to the store the night before, after finding out this news about my arm, and decided I would buy everything to make it easier on myself, rather than baking it all like I had originally planned.

Mamas - you are busy and stressed and want to do it all. I want you to know that spending time with your children, even with a messy play room and heat and eat treats is STILL A VICTORY!

And you know what? It's still fun! I love to plan and photograph things for my blog and instagram. I love to make it pretty and share it and for a brief minute look like Super Mom on the outside. But doing that all the time? Especially when I'm hurt? It's exhausting, and it's too much. So let me be the first to tell you, a fancy tea party that completely thrills your little girl is easy and really doesn't take much work at all! You can even do it with a gimpy arm and still receive hundreds of thank you's and accolades from your three year old ;)

So here's how I pulled off this super doable "fancy pants" tea party:

First, I made a trip to Walmart. That's how all great things start, right? A trip to Walmart or Target? Haha. So I scouted out mini foods, because tiny foods are cute and perfect tea party material. Here's what I came up with: lots of frozen things. I found frozen dark chocolate covered banana slices and strawberry slices, macaroons, and mini eclairs. For the actual food I got mini quiche and crab rangoon. 

Reagan helped with the prep...

aka ate the crumbs from the macaroon package ;)

So we laid out all the desserts on our fanciest platters. All they had to do was thaw! Easy peasy!

A little advice on the chocolate covered bananas... The package says to thaw them for 5 minutes before serving. It was well over that long before we got to the dessert course and they were mushy and slimy inside. The strawberries did not have this problem. I would suggest taking the bananas out just before serving instead. Reagan loves bananas though, and she thought they were divine :)

The rangoon and quiche just needed to be popped in the oven for a few minutes, so that was easy! For the tea, I just used some decaf English tea. Ours is called "Yorkshire Gold" and it's delicious. Earl Grey or any similar tea is good too. I wanted to make sure it would go well with cream so we could use the whole tea set!

So I brewed the tea, got out our very best china and gold cutlery (saved for special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving) and I set Reagan's play table for our tea party. We also used her other table for our makeshift buffet. Don't forget your linen table clothes ;) 

Reagan invited baby Rapunzel to join us too.

And her Poppop (great grandpa) stopped by for a bit :)

You can kind of see in the next one how she was trying to be fancy and use her "tea manners" haha! Oh she just melts my heart!

We had a wonderful time pouring tea, practicing our manners, being fancy ladies, and enjoying our treats. The best part? The conversation and the bonding. I'm a firm believer in "dating" our children and I so very much enjoy the quality time we get together from this. It doesn't have to be expensive or even involve leaving the house. I just plan these special dates for us, put away my phone (except for capturing a bit of the moment) and connect with her. Little ones have some very interesting things to say when we're willing to listen! 

I hope y'all have as much fun with your fancy tea parties as we did!! I'll definitely be sharing more of our mommy daughter dates in the future! Let me know if there is anything else you'd like to see and tell me how yours goes!



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Monday, November 17, 2014

Intentional Parenting

Do you have a toddler/preschooler? Do they seem to have the ability to zero in on exactly which one of Mommy's buttons she doesn't want pushed at any given moment? You're not alone!

{My little is three... what does that make her? I say toddler, some say preschooler. But she's not in preschool! I'm holding on to the tiny years as long as I can! ;)}

So here is our current situation... I'm behind on school work (what else is new?), the house is a WRECK, and my shoulder is out of commission. I have no idea what I did to it, but I can barely move it! And it's my left shoulder. I'm left handed! While I'm trying to take notes and write papers, I'm in excruciating pain.

The higher my pain level, the lower my patience. They're directly correlated to one another. I think Reagan knows this. We have had our issues with the Terrible Threes (way worse than the terrible twos, mind you) but this has gotten SO MUCH BETTER in the last few weeks! (Stay tuned for a post on my number one best tool to combat tantrums very soon!)

Anywho, with my nerves shot and so many stressors on my mind, the first thing out of my mouth has been "No!" all too often lately! I honestly just have to take a deep breath and think about what I'm saying or requesting. Is it a fair no? Am I asking too much of a three year old? When I make a request or a rule, I want to do it with INTENTION!

To me this means having valid reasons and owning my words. And by valid, I mean something other than "it's annoying" or "I don't have time" or "my patience is already worn too thin". You see, if I save my "no's" for times when I really legitimately need them, they carry much more meaning and I can really stick to them! If I say no for every little thing Reagan does during trying times, the seriousness and intent wears off and I'm probably going to recant it when I realize I wasn't really being fair.

This is something I personally need a lot of work on and I struggle with daily. Especially in times like these when I'm feeling kind of stuck and useless and literally hurting. I can see the effect it's had on Reagan's behavior after just a few days, and I'm not happy about it. The girl has been quite sassy lately!

The good news is that even if you slip up for a few days or you've never been intentional in your parenting before, you can start now. You can get back on track! Set good limits with reason and your kids will thank you for it. Being intentional and letting go of the things that I should not be trying to control honestly brings me a sense of peace. Y'all, peaceful mommy is SO much happier than tense mommy, and so is her little one!!

Here is my goal for the next couple days: don't say no unless you really mean it. If Reagan is having fun and it's not hurting anyone or anything, just let her be and let it go, even if it's not exactly what I want her to be doing at the moment or the decibel level I'm looking for.

I'll be talking about intentional parenting and intentional living plenty more because it's something I believe in so firmly and it has really blessed my family. How do YOU parent with intent? Comment or send me an email!



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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving with Toddlers: Giving it Meaning

Thanksgiving is well on it's way y'all! I'm excited! This is such a meaningful time to me. It's a time for family and friends and reflecting on all the things we have to be so very thankful for. I feel like this is so important, especially before all the gifts that come with the holiday season. It sets the tone for not simply getting, but giving and being thankful for what we receive! Thanksgiving is also a time for remembering our heritage. Indians and pilgrims people, you know the story!

So Reagan is three now and this year I decided she really needed some different ways to bring Thanksgiving into perspective. 

First, I bought her a Little People play set from Fisher Price.

You can find one here. She had so much fun setting up Thanksgiving dinner, saying prayers, and learning about how the pilgrims and the Native Americans came together for this celebration.

Now I've been out of school for some time and history was never my best subject, let's be honest here. I could remember the basics, but I was a little fuzzy on how the finer details of the first Thanksgiving came to be. I took my one major Christmas shopping trip of the year this week (have I mentioned that the closest mall is a little over an hour away?), and I decided that while I was picking out Christmas books, I needed to look for some Thanksgiving material to.

That's when I came across this beauty:

Anything I could possibly want to teach Reagan about Thanksgiving is right here in this handy children's book! I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble. They touch on the Mayflower, religion, Squanto, some of the pilgrims' struggles, and being thankful to God for our blessings. I cannot say enough how well-rounded this book is. I'm super impressed.

So Reagan and I read this book together (5 times in one sitting because she liked it so much), and we have been playing with her Thanksgiving play set. I felt like she had gotten enough out of them from our discussions and over the next couple of days I let her play on her own.

Then I had a proud mommy moment.

Reagan was playing and she told me she wanted a bowl of grapes. I fixed it for her and then instead of eating it she put them on the table along with some pumpkin decorations she found around the house. I asked her what she was doing and she told me that she wanted to have Thanksgiving right then and there. She said she needed to set the table so her friends and family could come dinner and thank God for everything they have! That right there makes my heart so happy! She was so excited about giving thanks to her Lord and sharing a meal with her friends and family!

So, how do you teach your littles about Thanksgiving? Comment below!



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Friday, November 14, 2014

Thrive Moms: Warrior

It's been a rough week. It's been a rough few weeks to be completely honest. I've blogged about some of the problems I have juggling school, being an "only parent", and life in general. This week has been especially hard though. Thankfully I was on Instagram and I came across Thrive Moms. They posted about a bible study they were starting this week. What a blessing that God led me to this while I thought I was wasting time on my phone!

I'll be honest, I don't know much about them, but you can follow Thrive Moms with me on Instagram at @thrive_moms . Also, if you have an iPhone or iPad, download the Bible app from Life Church. I regularly turn to the built in devotionals for guidance in my time with the Lord. I was thrilled to find out that Thrive Moms' bible study was available through the Bible app I've come to love!

So anyway, today is day 2 out of 10 and I am loving this so much! I felt like yesterday's content and scripture was written just for me! Have you ever been in church or listening to Christian music or just in some type of reflection with God and gotten this warm and fuzzy feeling? Like you were speaking directly with your God and things were really just clicking? That is the most wonderful feeling, and that is exactly what came over me when I was reading for day 1. I think I just had my heart ready for this message.

It is about being one of God's warriors, and let me tell you lately motherhood for me has felt like a battle. I'm battling with my daughter's father who refuses to be present and seems to go out of his way to make parenting harder on me. I'm battling with school and work and everything that calls for my attention when I want to give the time and attention to my daughter. I'm battling with my daughter to get her to eat healthy, use her manners, and practice safe behavior (I type this as I'm banning her from the furniture because all she wants to do is flip off of it - hello daughter I love, do you want to break your neck?!). 

Yes, life is a battle. But do you have your armor on? We have the armor of God to protect us in this parenting battle! Oh the comfort and piece of mind that brings me! I need God. I can't do this on my own. As much as I want to be Superwoman and have it all figured out and do this motherhood and life thing flawlessly, I can't. But I can do it with God and my best is enough when I'm working through Him!

Let that sink in! You don't have to go it alone! Just make sure when you walk into battle, you're prepared and in the armor of God.

I hope if any of you are having a hard time you can take comfort in that fact. I know I do. Now don't forget to get your Bible app and look up Thrive Moms! Let me know what your favorite part of the bible study is.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Women Attacking Women

Twice in the last week I have seen people I know on Facebook post statuses attacking other women for "getting themselves pregnant on purpose" among other things. Now I know I got A's in Anatomy and Physiology, but are there really that many people who don't understand basic human anatomy?? These people are WOMEN attacking other women. WHY? Are we not all in this together? This womanhood thing and all it entails?

This is really a two part issue. I take serious offence pregnancy blame. I am a single mother, and no my daughter's conception was not planned and motherhood has not been a walk in the park with a husband by my side, but that does not have any effect whatsoever on her validity as a human being and a child of God and a cherished, most wonderful little blessing to myself and the rest of our family and friends. It does not reflect in the slightest any determination of the supreme amount of love and adoration I feel for the tiny human I created or the awesome responsibility of motherhood that I fully respect and embrace.

Now I realize that not every single mother's situation is like this. I was blessed with an incredibly supportive family and a heart that loves deeply. There are mothers (both married and single, mind you) out there who lack the support and nurturing personalities to be good parents to their children.

But one thing that I can say I have in common with every mother in the entire world is that it took SPERM for me to be impregnated. Folks, this did not happen magically. Trust me. It is physically impossible for me to do this by myself or to myself or on purpose. Just as it is for any other woman out there. So the idea of blaming one person for a pregnancy when it clearly takes two to tango is ludicrous. Pregnancy blame is stupid and makes no sense, so stop it y'all!

The second part to this issue is why in the world do girls have it out for each other?? Let's all be friends and get along, okay? Seriously though. I've been a young girl and I can remember the catty mean girls and the things they said and judged other girls for. I have a daughter who loves everyone and is so sweet and accepting of people, and I don't ever want her to think that it is okay to try to verbally attack someone, especially simply for the fact that they are female. I also don't want some other girl to come along and be hateful and rude and crush her spirit!

Y'all, we are raising our girls to be the versions of us they see when we think they aren't looking. It's not "do as I say not as I do." They're going to act the way they see us acting. So is your daughter being told to play nice, but then hearing your snarky comments about the other moms at play group from the safe confines of your own car? What's she going to think when she reads all your Facebook comments and subtweets one day?

Let's be honest, none of us are perfect. I know I'm not. And sometimes people do things that really irk me, and I can't keep it in. I have to vent about it. All I'm saying is we should try to be a little nicer and more understanding of one another, especially our fellow women. Take the high road and set a better example for our girls. Let's lead by example.

I'm doing it for my daughter, and for yours.



Monday, November 3, 2014

You Can Fly!

Here's a little Monday morning inspiration for those who need it! I know I sure do! 

Don't be afraid to fly! 

My last post talked about some of the big changes I'm making involving going back to cosmetology school and switching professions. That's huge and scary!

But today I'm starting a 30 Day Health Challenge! I'm doing it with a group on Facebook, but I do want to share some of what I'm doing an learning on here too. 

We're all weighing ourselves and measuring arms, thighs, waist, hips, and chest first thing this morning so we can track our progress. A notebook dedicated to your health journey is a great place to do this, because you can also vent in your journal if you're stuck or struggling. If you're more tech savvy, there are lots of apps available like the new Health app from Apple, Lose It!, or Weight Watchers. I'm doing Weight Watchers to monitor my eating, in conjunction with yoga, walking, eating clean, and lots of prayer for strength. 

For breakfast this morning I had two cups of coffee with Splenda and fat free half and half, and a berry breakfast smoothie using frozen berries and a chocolate Quaker Breakfast Shake. 

In anything challenging, even if you're just trying to make this week a good one, Happy Monday, and good luck! With the right amount of effort and prayer, you can fly!



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Party of Two

It's the two of us, and that's all. Just me and Reagan. Not really, but when it comes down to our immediate family unit, that's the truth. Her father is broken and flaky. I can't make excuses for him, I can only try to facilitate some form of a bond between them and attempt to make up for all that he lacks.

So, how does someone who is not just a single parent, but the ONLY parent, go about being a good mother and yet making ends meet financially? Being a mother is the greatest accomplishment in my life and this little girl who counts on me for everything brings me more joy than anything else in the world.

When I found out I was pregnant I was in cosmetology school. I decided I needed to go to nursing school instead, because the pay and benefits were better. I've known from the start that I needed to be able to support us on my own. Now that I'm finished with my first year of Registered Nursing classes, I'm absolutely beside myself with anxiety and stress. Trying to study with a three year old is like fighting a losing battle! So I'm in the beginning of a year long hiatus from "nursing" classes. I thought I could take regular classes for my bachelor's degree and start clinicals again when Reagan started preschool.

Let me tell you, things are NOT going how I envisioned! Keeping up with these classes and a little ball of energy and all that that entails is hard! I'm so busy that I'm not taking care of myself and I'm still missing out on so many day to day things with Reagan. It's really making me question myself as a mother. What message am I sending her, sitting her studying all day? Telling her "Mommy can't play right now" multiple times a day. I see how its affecting her. We are extremely close, and it hurts me not to be able to spend more time just being with her.

At this point I'm considering going back to beauty school. I've always had a knack for it and a passion for it, so my best friend and I are seriously considering going back to school together and opening a salon and spa in our beach vacation town. Sounds crazy, right?

Now that I'm done rambling, my question is, how much should we put school and education ahead of our children? Does it really benefit them in the long run? Or do they benefit more from our PRESENCE and time and attention. I'm home with Reagan all day every day doing online classes, and yet she feels like she gets no time with me. I'm physically in the same room, but I'm not mentally present!

Do the pressures to be "successful" keep you from having quality time with your littles? What can you change to show them how much you care and that they are a top priority too? Maybe it's not something so drastic as changing careers and starting your own business, or maybe that's what you need too.

I don't know how to be a perfect parent, but I do know that success is about more than just how much money you're making. Success has to do with what you feel in your heart you are meant to do. When I can spend quality time with my mini me and work on raising her to be a God loving, forgiving, kind, compassionate, and educated girl who knows how strong my love is for her, that is my vision of success.

They're only little once, and that's over in the blink of an eye. I definitely don't want to miss out on making memories I can't get back.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

About Me

Just FYI I created an About Me page, so check that out if you want a little background info on myself and my family!