Monday, September 29, 2014

The Miracle of Motherhood

When I was just over six weeks pregnant, we decided to let some of our church leaders know. We had been asked to serve as a "Ma and Pa" to ten youth (ages 12-18) for our stake's pioneer trek the summer I found out I was pregnant. We hadn't decided if I should go and we also wanted to make sure there wasn't a policy against pregnant women going on the trek.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was absolutely elated and thrilled. I was so happy and excited that I was blessed with a pregnancy again. This time I wouldn't worry about silly things like finances and weight gain. I was only going to enjoy the blessing of getting to carry a baby inside me.

I am human and it didn't take long for the reality of becoming a mother to sink in. With that reality became a bit of worry, fear, and anxiety. I worried about trivial things once again like finances and weight gain. I also started to worry about being a mother in and of itself.


 One Sunday, just a few weeks after seeing that positive test, I remember sitting in sacrament meeting at church. In our church, all ages participate in the first hour of worship together. This particular Sunday it seemed like the kids all had microphones. I wasn't tuning in to the lesson or even the cries of itty bitty babies. I was hearing the fits, the "No's," the "I don't want to's," and more. I saw little girls glaring at their parents and crossing their arms out of anger for not getting their way. I saw toddlers running up and down the isles with the mom chasing after them.

Suddenly, the world seemed very small and quiet and then this loud booming voice started repeating, "I cannot do this!" I heard the message over and over again. "I'm not ready." "I can't do this." "I don't know how to have a kid. A baby I can handle. I cannot be a mom to a five year old." I proceeded to attempt to find a balance between panic and prayer for that first hour of church.

After the hour was up, our bishop at the time asked me to meet with him in his office. He just wanted to touch base with us about the trek, see if we'd made a decision, and go from there. I have been blessed to feel the love of every bishop I have had. I know that those men care about me and I have always felt safe in their presence. This bishop was no different (I still carry a great love for him in my heart). As I sat down he simply said, "How are you?"

I knew he was making small talk. I also knew that he loved me and cared about me. In typical Sharlee fashion I started crying. "I can't do this. I can't be a mom. I'm so scared. I can't have a five year old, Bishop." I managed between tears.

Understanding me well, he smiled a bit and told me, "That's why you don't start out with a five year old. You get to work yourself up to that." He then proceeded to promise me that I could do it and that I would be a wonderful mother. I expressed some other concerns to him such as working outside of the home and he continued to calm my heart and ease my fears with words of encouragement.

That Sunday is forever engrained in my memory because I was so incredibly terrified of parenting--of motherhood. Yet, I was able to be calmed and reassured.

The day my daughter was born I remember seeing her and falling instantly in love with her. I knew she needed me and I knew I was meant for her. I went from being terrified of having a daughter and terrified of having a kid some day,  to looking at her and marveling at the many opportunities I was going to get to be a part of as the mother of a daughter.

While I cuddled her tiny little body snuggled against mine during those precious newborn days, I wanted her to stay little forever. At the same time, I couldn't help but daydream about making cookies, building forts, and playing dress up and make believe. I started to get excited about having spa nights, coloring parties during rainy days, and watching my little girl fall in love with something--whether it be bunnies, our dog, Minni Mouse, or bugs.

I realized all that I had to look forward to. I started to look forward to it to. That's the miracle of motherhood. It changes you faster than anything else. I went from terrified to exciited. I went from feeling under-qualified to feeling like I was meant for this.


Some days are still struggles and some days I still get scared and anxious about all of the responsibilities that accompany raising a little girl. Still, I know that I am made for her. I am designed to be a mother. The miracle of motherhood is in the small tranformations that take place to our hearts and our minds. Things fall into place. Inspiration comes at times when you need it most.

The miracle is that even though you don't feel ready, you are.

Have you ever had anxieties about a life-changing event?

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Favorite Piece of Parenting Advice

As a teacher, I understand the great need for children to become problem solvers. I know that they need to be accepting and tolerant. I know that children need to feel loved and need to learn responsibility. When I got pregnant, though, I started to worry that maybe my child would not become those things. What if I wasn't capable of raising someone responsible and accepting? What if I raised an excuse maker instead of a problem solver?

To top it all off, everyone has advice for you. Everyone. When you're pregnant the advice seems to come for children that have outgrown their diapers. Why is that? Moms-to-be are scouring books and various sources to learn about childbirth, breastfeeding, and all the choices that are soon to follow that little babe right out of the womb. But everyone has opinions and advice for far beyond that little scope of time.

My brain felt like it just couldn't hold it all. There was too much. All the advice.

But there is one piece of advice that took hold and there it has stayed. It may be my favorite piece of parenting advice I've received so far.

Most good teachers will all agree that students will rise to the level of expectation.

I had a female college professor for a class last fall (whom I greatly admire). She is a mother and around Halloween she mentioned that she limits the amount of Halloween candy her kids can actually have and they give the rest away. I, personally, love this approach. Halloween candy is something that I've occasionally been known to get riled up about (yes, I know I'm a bit over the top, I can laugh at that now).

I approached her after class, my pregnant belly was very obvious at the time. "How do you do that?" I asked her. "Do what?" She replied. "How do you limit your kids' Halloween candy without them throwing fits or hating you?"

"Sharlee, here is one thing I've learned about parenting--it's all about the expectation. We've always limited the Halloween candy. That's just the way it is in our house. They know it's different in other places, and sometimes they put up a small fight or argue their case, but they know that in our home that's how it works."

This gave me such a relief.  There are things that are important to me in child rearing that other people might not appreciate and some have let me know. I have goals in mind for sugar intake, screen time, sleepovers, video games, and more. Many of these goals are not popular. While I am almost positive I will be changing my mind on some of these, it gives me great relief to know that if I want to make it a lifestyle for our family, it simply has to be an expectation.

I have seen this work in the classroom. I am excited to lean on expectations as a parent as well.

 What is your favorite piece of parenting advice?


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learn to Love Cooking

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Life Could be a Dream.

I never really learned to cook growing up. In fact, I left the house thinking that I hated cooking. My cooking in college consisted of frozen chicken nuggets, boxed rice, and flash frozen chicken breasts cooked until completely dry. Sometimes it was even opening a can of Spaghettios.

 After I got married and had my own home (and kitchen) I started to dabble a bit more in the kitchen. I started to really enjoy finding recipes and "cooking." Most of my recipes contained cream of __ soup and cream cheese or sour cream. No wonder I started to love the kitchen.

Now, we eat far more wholesome meals just about every night. I'm gaining increased confidence in the kitchen and I can now honestly say that I love cooking.



I went from hating almost all vegetables to finding new ways to enjoy many of them. I went from being completely oblivious about spices, herbs, oils, and other ways to add flavor to foods to buying fresh herbs and pinning ideas for infusing oils. I went from shopping in all of the aisles in the grocery store to sticking to the outside.  Today I'm going to share some tips to help you love the kitchen and cooking.

1. Start Small
Try cooking from scratch one meal per week to start. You'll be amazed at how comfortable you become with techniques and ingredients. Start with a few foods that you already like and seasonings you already know you like. For example, if you love tacos--make tacos without meat or without ready-made seasoning (make your own) and combine them with homemade beans or rice.

2. Meal Plan
Once I felt like I had some good staple items down, it was easy to pick three or four nights a week to cook some of those staples (spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, etc...) and choose one or two new recipes to cook per week. Right now I manage two new recipes most weeks. Not only does it introduce me to new ways to enjoy foods, but it helps keep cooking exciting. I look forward to some tried and true favorites, but I also look forward to trying something new. 

3. Try a Special Diet
I tried a dairy free diet for a few weeks in hopes of clearing up my skin. I also eliminated sugar from my diet for 2 months. More recently I attempted the Whole 30 diet. I never intended to permanently change my diet (unless, of course, I got rid of my skin issues) but rather I wanted to introduce myself to new ways of preparing foods.

It gets so easy to stick to the same ingredients and preparation techniques. When you eliminate food groups, you often find a whole world of different approaches and some are pretty amazing! I have discovered so many great ingredients that I never would have even thought of (hadn't even heard of) until I got rid of something and was forced to search for alternative cooking methods. You'll likely find some things that you really love--and they might even be better for you!

4. Participate in a Bountiful Basket or  Co-Op Program
Just like eliminating foods from your diet, forcing foods into your diet can have the same effect. With these programs, you often pay a small fee every week in exchange for locally grown produce. The kinds of produce and amounts vary from week to week and you never know ahead of time--nor do you get a say in it. You may get foods you've never worked with before, or maybe you have, but now you have a TON of it. You'll likely find yourself researching recipes to accommodate your new produce in delicious and creative ways.  

5. Create a Kitchen Routine
Before I had my daughter I used to fill a fancy glass (that's what I call a wine glass used for drinks other than wine. I don't drink alcohol, but I keep fancy glasses in my home in abundance) with a favorite drink--lemonade, sparkling cider, sometimes even chocolate milk. I would then turn on Pandora and get to work in the kitchen. I still like to turn on music and have a drink but it's usually water and I'm finding ways to make my new little helper part of my new routine. If at first you're really dreading it, that promise of chocolate milk in a fancy glass might be all you need to get you cooking! 

Do you enjoy cooking, why or why not? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

What My Twenties Taught Me

I say goodbye to my twenties tomorrow. I'm not really upset about aging or feeling old. I'm just a bit sentimental and so even though I'm  ready for all that my thirties have in store--mainly oh so many memories to make my husband and daughter, I still may shed a tear or two. I'm leaving behind a decade filled to the brim with love, laughter, and lots of learning.


My Twenties Taught Me:

How to Laugh
Of course I laughed long before I hit my blessed twenties, but it was in my twenties that I learned to really laugh. I laughed without comedy. There were times I laughed just from pure happiness or joy. I can remember those moments very clearly--whether they happened on my college campus, in the car with the boy I first loved, or in a church worshiping.

My brother and I really came into our own in our sibling relationship and in our humor with one another. With him, I truly learned to laugh with everything inside of me. There is something so theraputic about laughing with my brother. I discovered this in my twenties and I will always cherish our memories and pray that I will continue to laugh with my brother. 


I learned to laugh at myself. While I still have a long way to go in this regard, I really do know the parts of me that are laughable. I know that I am dramatic, moody, judgmental, and a bit of a brat. I can be snobbish and rude. I have weird quirks. I've learned how to embrace them and laugh at them occasionally.

Confidence
I've learned so much about myself over the past decade. I've stood my ground when opinons of mine were not popular in every aspect of my life. I've had the opportunity to discover what I really do think and feel about things and I've learned not to apologize for those. I know who I am and even though there are times when I struggle with feeling good about myself, I know who I am and I always work hard to get back to feeling good. Confidence, I've discovered, is just that. It's not always feeling amazing, sexy, beautiful, smart, capable, etc..It's knowing that those things are in you and knowing that you have the possibility to uncover them.


My Favorite Poker Hand
A lot of my favorite memories from my twenties involve me playing poker. It was a huge part of my life and a highlight of my life during that time. One of my best friends taught me how to play and I fell in love with the game. I became a decent player, spent many (many) late nights hoping to win a little money, but more so just enjoying the company. And yes, I even established a favorite hand. I will not tell you what it is. I might still play occasionally.

Dealing with Disappointment
Dishonest bosses, job interviews that ended in a "No thank you," friends that forget your heart and real intentions, family members that seem to care about you less and less--my twenties were filled with great opportunities and memories, but disappointment accompanied many of them.

I've learned that those things happen. Disappointment is inevitable--especially if you're a person like me with high expectations. But dealing with disappointment is the real test and a true art. 

How to Learn
This is a sad admission for me, but I really didn't know how to learn before I entered college. I used to pride myself on being an honor's English student for three years in high school without ever reading a book. I wrote the papers and participated in discussions, but I never actually did any learning. How that is even possible is beyond me. In My pre-college life as a student, I treated school like a chore. I went and did what I had to do to move on. Assignments were checklists for me. How can I do this assignment the fastest and easiest way without having to really put any effort? I always searched for the answer in textbooks without really reading the content.

Yes, this disappoints me. There is a whole lot of information I missed that I would LOVE to know and understand now. I'd love to know more about the sciences, world history, and even grammar and mechanics. I was always an A/B student and thrived on minimal effort for an acceptable grade.

 During my first semester of college, I fell flat on my face. I didn't have to attend classes and no one was keeping tabs on me in any way--so I just floated through. I received my first "F" at midterms my freshman year and I couldn't accept that. That was the beginning of my learning how to learn. Since then, I have become a seeker of knowledge and an avid reader. I love asking questions and finding answers. I thrive on education and knowledge. Nothing would thrill me more (aside from motherhood) than being a full-time life-long student. In some respects, I hope to do just that.

I Don't Do Junk Food
Except that I do do junk food. I love it. I am happiest and healthiest when I stay away from it. There were three times in my twenties where I went without junk/sugar for substantial amounts of time. Those times I was mentally and physically healthy, happy, and confident. But it's just so hard to stay away.

 Happiness for Me
In high school I discovered that I had a love of love. I loved Disney movies and romantic quotes. I was in love with the idea of love. In my twenties I learned how much happier I am when I am busy loving. I learned that through opportunities I had to surround myself with people to love, even in my work. I was just happy doing the most monotonous or low paying tasks, but I had love to give and I gave it.

When I had moments away from that love and those opportunities, I noticed the lack of joy. I am truly happiest when I am surrounded in opportunities to love other people.

Heartbreak and Goodbyes
They both hurt. They both suck. It's possible to heal from all of it. I said goodbye to my first love, or more accurately, he said goodbye to me. I lost all four of my grandparents. I saw positive pregnancy tests two different times before I ever saw the positive that would give me JaiseAnn.

With each experience, I learned something. With every loss, I gained something. It didn't even the score, and it didn't erase the hurt, but I did learn that there is no goodbye that leaves us empty handed.


Love

I grew up knowing love. Loving my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and my brother. I eventually loved my friends as well. I grew up understanding love to a point.

When I was 24 I met Zach and my life has never been the same. I loved my first love with my heart. I loved him and my heart beat faster and my hands shook. I met Zach and I loved him with my soul--as though I had known him once before. (I'm convinced I did).  At times my heart beat faster and my hands shook. But mostly, I felt like my heart was safe with him and I felt I could find rest in his arms. He unraveled me and put me back together at the same time.


 Loving Zach has taught me so much. There are really no words for what I feel for Zach and continue to feel each and every day. Our love is constantly changing and our relationship looks different from one year to the next, but my heart is at peace when I am with him. It's a calm that tells me that together is the right place to be.


If no words can describe my feelings for Zach, then there are certainly no words that describe how I feel about my daughter. Becoming a mother has been the finale of my twenties and what a fitting and perfect finale it is. I love her with all that I have. Motherhood has taught me about a lot of things, but it has mostly taught me about love. The love I have for her, the love she shows me, the love of our Father in Heaven, and the love of my husband in his role as father. It has forced parts of my heart to grow--sometimes that growth is painful, but it is always (always) beautiful.


People always remind high school students that they are in the midst of the best years of their life. I strongly disagree. While I loved high school, I have loved my twenties more. So much more.

There have been reality checks: disappointments, loss, and goodbyes. Lessons I've had to learn the hard way and challenges that I never faced when I was younger. But there have been opportunities to learn and grow. I've had more opportunities to love and make memories with people that mean the most to me. I've learned about my talents, abilities, and myself. I know what makes me happy and I know how to work to bring out the best in myself.

That's why I'm not afraid of turning thirty. If the twenties have been so amazing, why should my thirties being any different? I get to be a mom, wife, and figure out how to balance that with a little bit of Sharlee.  Bring on this new decade. I can't wait for you!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Advice for a Thirty-Something?

I'm turning thirty in just a few days. I'm trying really hard to focus on the good (even though I am going through the biggest physical/emotional/mental/financial adjustment period of my life) there's SO much to look forward to about my thirties. I have a family now and that's pretty much the best thing ever.

Do you have any advice for me? How do I become a super confident thirty-something?

Goodbye Twenties, You've Been Amazing
And I give a high five to the following posts. Enjoy some weekend reading!

*The next time you think you need to upgrade something (your wardrobe, car, house, body even) think about upgrading your perspective.

* Our budget is really tight now that I quit my job. There's not a lot of flexibility, but there is a little wiggle room with our grocery budget. These 7 tips (and these 7 more) for sticking to a grocery budget are really great. I've already started implementing some and can't wait to implement more.

* I love this analogy for why life is hard sometimes. I can't wait to share it with my daughter and teach her that she's in the middle of writing a beautiful story.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Girl Talk--Self Worth

Meet Brooklyn


 Explain what self worth means to you.

 Self worth is the way you view yourself and the difference you feel you can make in the world.

What do you think influences your ability to understand your own worth?

Understanding your own worth comes from understanding the love Heavenly Father has for you & the faith he has in your ability to succeed. Self worth can also come from accepting challenges and overcoming them, setting goals and reaching them! Understanding your self worth comes when we surround ourselves with people who life us up, and choose to lift others up as well.

What are some tips you have for someone struggling with self worth?

Turn to the scriptures and pray. Ask to understand how much you mean to Heavenly Father, and ask Him what you can do to help him! Sit down and make a list about all the things you are good at, ask your mom and best friend to write a list too! Watch uplifting movies & listen to uplifting music. Set goals but be accepting of yourself where you are right now!

Posts by Brooklyn related to self worth, be sure to check these out!
 Is Anyone as Beautiful as They'd Like to Be?
7 Day Challenge: Love Yourself More
He Believes in Us

Connect with Brooklyn: Bloglovin~Facebook~Instagram~Pinterest~Twitter

Meet Ashley


Explain what self worth means to you.

Self worth is the knowledge of knowing how incredible you are without seeking approval from the world around you. Self worth is believing that you matter and that you have a purpose in this world and you don't need any one to tell you so. It's about being confident in the unique gifts and talents that you have been blessed with. It's about embracing every single feature you have and not having the desire to look like any one else or impress any one because you know who you are and what you stand for and no one can stop you from fulfilling your purpose. To have self worth, you know that you are worthy of being loved and you have an influence that can affect all those around you. Self worth is the deep inner belief that you are powerful and you have more to offer than you could ever even fathom.

What do you think influences your ability to understand your own worth?

Being in tune with my inner voice and choosing to listen to that influences the ability I have to see my own worth. I know I matter and I know I am a girl born to make a difference but I'll be honest, I have days where I forget this. Those days when I don't feel or believe in my self worth are the days when I am distracted by worldly things such as social media, magazines, or when I start playing the comparison game. When I reach out to God, he reminds me of my worth and my spirit feels it. I have to surround myself with inspiring music, inspiring books, inspiring quotes, scriptures, articles and all things that remind me of who I am, which I know to be a princess, a daughter of God. My worth is defined in this principle and no worldly thing can ever take that away.

What are some tips you have for someone struggling with self worth?

I would suggest journaling. To find your self worth, journal out who you believe you are. After your done with that, write down 10 things you love about yourself. I don't care how long it takes you, you can't get up till you have completed this task! Then hang the list by a mirror, by your bed, in your car - just somewhere you will see it often! You have incredible qualities and it's all about tuning into your inner voice that is routing for you constantly. Sometimes the noises of the world can distract us, journaling is the #1 cure I have found for overcoming self doubt and low self esteem.

Posts by Ashley related to self worth, be sure to check these out!

12 Ways to Feel Beautiful
10 Things I Love About Myself
Let's Take Back Beauty from the Inside Out
The Power of One Girl Challenge

Connect with Ashley: Bloglovin'~ Facebook~Instagram~Pinterest~Twitter

Your turn! I'd love to hear your thoughts on self worth. Do you relate to anything Brooklyn or Ashley shared?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Summer in Pictures

 JaiseAnn's first summer was a quiet one. With a dad working lots of extra hours and mom not getting enough sleep, some days it felt like we weren't really doing much at all. In fact, there were days I felt sorry for myself and for JaiseAnn--it felt like we were both robbed of our summer. Looking back over these pictures, we had made some little memories all summer long. As Zach puts it, "This girl was meant to for a life in the grass." I'm looking forward to next summer and all the fun we will have with my little outside girl! 

But first...pictures...

and then..FALL! 





 
















What are some of your favorite memories from summer?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Date Night Ideas at Home for New Parents

Navigating new parenthood is a constant journey. At times it can require almost all of your attention and energy. Making time for your spouse can be hard. Energy, time, and even funds can be hard to come by during this adjustment period. 

I've compiled a list of five of my favorite (so far) dates since becoming a new mom. All of these dates take minimal preparation, take place at home, and require minimal time (though, you can give it as much time as you are able). 

Right now we are in a strange situation where JaiseAnn won't take a bottle, so leaving her right now is really hard and doesn't happen much. It honestly won't happen much for quite a while most likely and so as we try new date nights at home, I'll compile another list and try to share it again.


 Breakfast in Bed
As new parents, there can always be more time spent in bed (take that any way you'd like). Cook up your favorite breakfast, add some orange juice, get into your pjs, and crawl into bed a little early.

Bucket List Night
 I loved the idea of a reverse bucket list so much, that I had Zach and I each spend a few minutes creating our own one evening. We then shared them with each other over dinner. We also created new bucket lists and shared them. Spending a whole evening discussing our accomplishments and blessings and looking ahead with dreams for the future was a wonderful way to relax. We had some great conversations and really went to bed that night with full hearts.

Christmas in July
Or whatever month it is. This was a favorite recent date. Pick your favorite Christmas movie, buy some gifts (or give coupons for service), and enjoy a holiday treat. I told Zach about our night a few days in advance. Our budget is tight so we set a limit and he had time to pick me up a gift. We exchanged gifts, and then watched Elf, while devouring hot chocolate floats.

Game Night
An oldie but goodie, these nights are perfect for new parents. It takes little energy, you get a chance to have fun and talk to your spouse, and it's always fun to wager when you're playing  a two person game. You can change this up a number of ways by adding video games or outdoor games as well. 
 
Do you have any favorite at home date nights? I'd love to hear about them!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Old Lines: Tying My Shoes and Changing My Heart

Do you remember learning to tie your shoes?

I do! My grandma taught me. I remember it looking and feeling so foreign.

Grandma showed me repeatedly how to tie. She likened my laces to a bunny running around a tree and then the infamous bunny ear appeared and I was done.

WHAT!?! How does that even make sense?

It took lots of practice, but I finally succeeded in tying my own shoes. Even then, though, I still had to deliberately tie for quite sometime. I had to coach myself through it for weeks, months even.

Decades later, I can tie a bow with my eyes closed or behind my back.

I think that's the way it is with so many things we learn. Today, instead of learning motor skills, I am trying to learn to be the best version of myself.


My teacher, my Heavenly Father, knows me best. And He pulls out all the stops to help me get there. He gives me written instructions in the form of scriptures. Verbal instructions in the form of church leaders. He is always teaching in parables to help my mind understand a little better. He gives me quiet nudges when I'm at the end of my rope.

But I am ever-fumbling my way through this lesson. Sometimes pulling too tight, sometimes not tightly enough. Sometimes I'm too deliberate, other times I really don't care. More often than not, though, it's simply frustrating.

The other day I got one of those blessed quiet nudges. Someday I will almost effortlessly be my best self. I won't have to practice so deliberately to bring out the best in myself, but I will be the person I want to be.

I just have to make the choices the person I want to be would make. I have to be deliberate about it now, much like I was when I first tied my shoes, I have to try.

After I've put much effort into practicing making good choices, those choices will begin to come without thought. I will be the person I want to be with my hands behind my back.

Someday it won't feel foreign for me to take the best care of my body, or read my scriptures every day, or to practice patience. Little by little, those things will come with ease, if I practice those things now. Even though they are hard and take time. 

Of course, there will be days maybe even periods of time when I don't want to try. When I am exhausted or feeling defeated. Maybe I won't want to try because today, I feel good about myself. Whatever the reason may be, that's okay, too. I don't need to learn this lifelong lesson in weeks. It is a lifelong lesson. So long as there is effort on my part, I will make progress. I will get there.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Everything to Lose

When did I become a fearful person?

When I was young and single I had a bucket list packed full of thrill seeking adventures: bungee jumping, sky diving, and zip lining. I frequently went white water rafting with a group of friends and I was always the first to "ride the bull." In fact, I was known for it. If there was a fun or crazy rapid ahead, our guide would say, "Sharlee, you're going to want to be front and center for this one!"

I've never considered myself fearless. I've always been a little cautious, but I used to enjoy the thrill of forgetting caution for just a few seconds.

(Two days after our engagement!!!) We had just spent the day on the lake and we'd gone tubing. I ,of course, freaked out while TUBING for crying out loud. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time Zach was on the tube, too.
 Today, though, I would almost say you could call me fearful.

This didn't happen overnight. I noticed the transition happening when I first met Zach. The summer before we got married, we went to an amusement park with friends. I was actually afraid of the roller coasters. Tearfully afraid. I was afraid something could happen to me or happen to Zach. Although unusual for me I dismissed my behavior with thoughts of, "You're in love and things are a little new to you." or "You haven't been on a roller coaster for a long time, maybe this just happens to people as they get older."

Zip lining with Zach
But the fears just kept coming, heaping themselves on top of one another. After we got married I started making Zach text me every day when he made it to work, just so that I'd know he was safe. I would say prayers from the time he left the house until I got that text. I worried when we weren't together and I worried even when we were.

Now that I have a daughter, I've exeperienced even greater fears and worries. I will be the mom who follows her school bus home. I will be the mom who wants to chaperone every dance and field trip just in case. I can already feel it.

I'm a fearful person.

All I know is that the more my heart holds, the more afraid I am of losing it. The more I gain, the more I have to lose.

 I don't want to be a fearful person. I don't want my daughter to know me as that. I also don't know how to combat these fears

Have you ever experienced something like this? How do you deal with worry/fears?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Motherhood and Time

 I was doing cloth diaper laundry this evening. I hang JaiseAnn's diapers up to dry on a little rack that I bought. For weeks her reusable swim diaper has been hanging up on the rack and I hadn't taken it down yet. It's a plain, white, tiny little diaper and I just kept it there. Tonight I asked myself why I was so lazy about taking it down. As I started to answer my own question, I got a deep heartache. The kind I've become all too familiar with.

I haven't taken it down because I never get to use it again. As much as I keep looking forward to all that JaiseAnn will do next summer, she won't be the JaiseAnn I know now. She will be so much more. Those days in that little swim diaper are over.

The hardest part about being a mom is that you can't win with time. It is your best friend and your worst enemy. Things are supposed to get easier or better with time (oh, how I hope that is true) but the ever-growing baby that once nestled against your chest is changing by the minute and it actually breaks your heart. 

 In the hospital, Zach and JaiseAnn had a moment when she was just one day old. Zach came over to my bed with tears in his eyes and said, "I don't want her to grow up." I hadn't really thought that far ahead yet, but after that exchange, worrying about her growing up became a pastime for me. I spent many of those early weeks sad that they wouldn't last. I cried upon the end of each day because I knew I would never get those moments back.

 Sometimes I forget that sadness, though. It's hard for me to admit, but when I have weeks like last week, I look forward to a daughter I can talk to, do things with, and hopefully get to sleep at night. I start counting ahead to the next few months and even years. When she's a little older we could do ___________. When she's a bit more independent I can do _______.

But even looking through those pictures it hits me all over again. I don't get this back. And as happy as I am to have a thriving and happy little girl. As much as it is a blessing that she is growing and developing and aging. It hurts. And it also scares me. I have to ask myself each and every day, whether I did enough with that day. And usually the answer is "No.'

Time is different now that I'm a mom. Sleeping in is 7:30 and quality time spent with Zach comes in 30 minute increments. The hours between JaiseAnn's naps can sometimes seem long and lonely yet at the end of the day I can't believe it's over. Another day I don't get back. Tomorrow she wakes up just a little bit bigger. And while sometimes her getting older seems an eternity away, I know that it will be here in the blink of an eye. The last 7 1/2 months have flown by.

Motherhood might kick my butt some days, but I see it teaching me so very much. So much about myself and so much about who I am supposed to be. I am this little girl's everything. It's overwhelming to think about the responsibility I hold and it's overwhelming to think that it won't last forever. Some day she won't need me so much. I already know that day will be bittersweet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Girl Talk--The Mom/Work Situation

When I first had JaiseAnn, I thought I would return to work. I felt I had to return to work. When she was born, I couldn't handle it. I felt like I could not leave her. I prayed for part-time work or an option to stay home. Both came my way, but I chose to work from home a little to make ends meet, and my husband working a lot more.

In my mind, I ran through my day and life as a teacher and tried to blend it with my life as a mom. I was already overwhelmed just thinking about it. Staying home would be ideal. But I was home without working for over three months with JaiseAnn while I was on leave and that presented it's own set of challenges. Now that I'm working from home (which I initially thought was the "perfect solution") I can say that none of the solutions are "perfect." At least not for me.(For more on my decision to stay home see here).  They all seem to come with their own set of challenges and benefits. No matter what women choose, they still have to prioritize and nobody can do it all. The purpose of this post is to bring women together in this endeavor rather than divide them by their working status as a mom. 

This is a sensitive topic for some women and that's why I chose to take a more holistic approach and cover all bases with the different situations. It is also why I specifically chose Lauren to cover the working mom situation. I know there are a lot of working moms who do not want to work and wish they could stay home. Lauren is happy with her situation and is very fulfilled as a working mom, as you can read below and in her posts on her blog (links below).

Meet Laura--A Work from Home Mom


 What led you to make the decision to ________(work from home, stay at home, work out of the home). What factors did you consider? 

 I commuted at least one hour each way to work each day. Sometimes, I'd get home as late as 7:00/7:15. That was too long a time for me to be away from my child. When my boss offered the option to work from home, I jumped on it, and vowed to make it work. Had that not been an option for me, I probably would have looked for some sort of part-time work closer to home. My husband and I had long discussed the fact that when we had kids, we would try very hard to make sure I was home with them at least part-time. That had always been something I wanted very badly for me and my family.

What is the most challenging thing about _______(staying home, working from home, working out of the home).

 My answer to this probably has changed every three months, and will continue to change over the course of the next few years. In the beginning, it was hard because it was winter, I had a newborn, I was working from home, and I felt like I never left the house. Now, I have an extremely mobile child who needs to really be watched constantly, which presents its own new set of challenges. Some days, work isn't too busy for me, but then all of a sudden I'll get asked to do a project or make some phone calls and my day gets completely shifted in that direction whether Natalie is cranky/teething/happy/crying/whatever mood she's in. 

I also don't feel like I ever get a break. When she finally goes down to bed between 8 or 8:30 each night, it's not usually "Oh good, now I can relax" it's "ok...time to do some work for 3 hours before bed" I miss reading books for pleasure!

 What is the greatest benefit of __________(working out of the home, working at home, staying home)? 

 None of these choices are easy, each come with their fair share of bumps. An area I struggle with is time management and getting things done. How do you manage your time in your situation?

I don't know what I would do if my Mother-in-law didn't live around the block from me. I've finally resigned to the fact that I have her at my disposal and I need to utilize her to help me out. I've been asking her for help more than ever lately, and it's taken a lot of the pressure off of me. I know it's not for everyone, but having family close by, that you trust, and can rely on, has been extremely valuable to me.

When/if she's not around, I just try to do what I can during naps and after bedtime. Wear her in a sling, put her in the high chair with some cheerios while I sweep the floor, play in her crib or the 



Meet Lauren--A Working Mom


What led you to make the decision to ________(work from home, stay at home, work out of the home). What factors did you consider?
Truthfully, the initial decision to work outside of the home wasn't really a decision - the position my husband and I are in truly required me to work. Chris is working full time as well as going to school full time and my job provides Chris was a 50% tuition reduction. So, as soon as I got pregnant I knew I would be returning to work. At first, I was disappointed by this but after spending a few months at home I realized that I really crave the interactions and satisfaction that comes from employment outside the home.

 What is the most challenging thing about _______(staying home, working from home, working out of the home)?
 There are pros and cons to every choice and this is especially true about working outside of the home. There are a lot of little things I'm bummed about missing - for instance, Brielle's caregivers told me she said "Buh Bye" the other day and I haven't heard that yet so I was sad to miss it. But THE most challenging things is the amount of sicknesses Brielle has gotten. I swear, we don't go one full month without some kind of illness. I'm trying to look at the bright side and say that it will help build her immunities and also remind myself that even babies that stay home get sick but when it is 3am and she is running a fever I can't help but blame her daycare.

What is the greatest benefit of __________(working out of the home, working at home, staying home)? 
There is obviously the monetary incentive but beyond that I feel like I'm nurturing who I am as an individual in addition to who I am as a mother. The job satisfaction I have is amazing; maybe if I didn't love my job this wouldn't quite count but I take a lot of pride from my work and feel a lot of joy about my performance and successes.

None of these choices are easy, each come with their fair share of bumps. An area I struggle with is time management and getting things done. How do you manage your time in your situation?
I know I can't do everything 100% and if I remember that I remember that I have to make priorities and stick to them. Date night with Chris trumps time alone. Playing with the baby trumps cleaning the house. Working trumps blogging. But, like any normal person, I still want to blog, I still want to keep my house clean, I still want time alone. For that, I use help. Chris is a great husband and a great father and a GREAT team player - he will help with house chores, watch Brielle if I want to attend the temple, and doesn't get too annoyed when I blog while Brielle naps. I honestly couldn't juggle all that I do if it weren't for Chris.

Posts on this topic by Lauren:


Meet Tanika-A Stay at Home Mom

What led you to make the decision to ________(work from home, stay at home, work out of the home). What factors did you consider? 

I knew I was going to stay at home with Gracie, because to be frank, we couldn't afford for me not to stay home. The cost of daycare would eat up anything I would make at the time. 
But also, my husband and I both know how important it is to be around your children as much as you can be. How important it is for the mother to be with her children. 
We both know how important motherhood is and I am grateful for his appreciation that makes it easier on me to stay home!

 What is the most challenging thing about _______(staying home, working from home, working out of the home)?

I would say the hardest thing is you know that for however many hours the safety and well-being of your child is solely on you. It's a lot of responsibility and completely overwhelming sometimes. 

What is the greatest benefit of __________(working out of the home, working at home, staying home)? 
I have been able to be there for every bump, bruise and every milestone. I have seen her take her first steps, I have seen her roll-over. I witnessed all of her firsts. I have been with her more than any other person in this world and I am immensely grateful for that. 

None of these choices are easy, each come with their fair share of bumps. An area I struggle with is time management and getting things done. How do you manage your time in your situation?

I think that most important thing is to create a schedule and stick to it as best as you can. I will wake up about an hour before Grace, and get myself and breakfast ready, then she comes in and we eat breakfast together. Then we get her dressed and usually we will go outside and play till lunch. Then it's lunch and nap-time. She wakes up and we do speech therapy for a bit, then she has playtime in her toy room while I do stuff around the house and start dinner. Dinner. Bath time. Prayers. Bed. 

A lot of days it doesn't work out exactly as I planned, but in those moments, I remember "Life is made in plan B!" (especially life with children) I try to remember that you can plan all you want to, but really, having kids is a roller coaster and you just have to go with the flow sometimes!




Monday, September 1, 2014

A Real Man

As a single adult--even in my younger years--I always said I would marry a real man.

I've always been attracted to manual laborers with dirty hands and names on their shirts. My favorite place for eye candy has always been via a visit to the mechanic. No pretty boys for me, I wanted a real man. My future husband was not going to be afraid to get his hands dirty, he would have a farmer's tan, know how to use just about every tool, smell like grease, and of course, he would drive a big truck. Real men drive trucks after all.

While Zach fits some of those things in some ways, he does not fully fit my former "real man" definition. We've been through some more trying times this past year and he has been rock solid. Lately I've had felt such gratitude for this real man of mine.

A real man drives a tiny rollerskate car to work every day when he'd rather be driving a big truck because the money saved is better spent on bills and his family.

A real man willingly takes on extra work in a job he doesn't love so that his wife can stay home with their new daughter.

A real man comes home after working over twelve hours and willingly steps in to help with dinner if it isn't done yet. He also willingly rocks a constantly waking baby that he didn't get to see all day while she screams. 
A real man tells his wife she's beautiful even when she's thirty pounds overweight and doesn't see it at all.

A real man holds his wife through tears of frustration while holding back his own frustrations from the day.

I met Zach after a summer of him bailing hay and I was very attracted to his worn jeans and defined shoulders. I saw so much of my "real man" ideals in him. Now I see so much more. I wanted to kiss his shoulders, hold his hand, and find rest in his arms, but I never knew the real strength those arms possessed.

Those arms held me when my grandmother passed away, and then again with the passing of both grandfathers. Those hands gave my grandpa a final blessing before he took his last breath. Those arms held me all night when we lost our first pregnancy.

Those arms squeezed my hand while I worked to bring our baby into the world. Those arms held her tiny yet perfect body with a daddy's protection and so much love. Those hands cupped my face the day we became a family of three and my husband proclaimed, "I didn't know I could be this happy!" Those hands blessed our daughter with health, love, and happiness.

When I feel like I'm falling apart, those arms hold me together. They are my favorite place on earth.

Those shoulders, though? They must carry the weight of the world. He carries our family--which must at times feel like the heaviest load, but he never complains.

My husband is a real man with great strength.

What do you think makes a real man?