Friday, February 27, 2015

Pretty Pintastic Link- Up {+Pinterest Wins)

I am so grateful and excited to be co-hosting the Pretty Pintastic Link-Up ("Where every link gets pinned"). I love this link up, its great exposure for all who participate and you just might find some new blogs to read!

This also feels like a perfect time to introduce a monthly feature I'm adding to My New Lines. Pinterest Wins!  At the end of each month, I'll be sharing some of the things I've found via Pinterest that have been successful--recipes, home projects, activities with JaiseAnn, dates with Zach and more. This weekly link-up will be perfect for helping me find inspiration!

(If you're not already following me on Pinterest, you should be!)

Now it's time for you to do YOUR thing and share a post of yours for the week! I can't wait to see them all!

Are you trying to grow your Pinterest following this year?  We are too and would love it if you follow us!  We will follow you back! Coffee With Us 3

 Important!!! It has come to our attention that some of you are not repinning the features! This is a key to making this party successful so please don’t skip it!! If this trend continues, we will begin to pick features only from those who repin.

But as always all posts are pinned; features pinned by all!
First, let's meet the hosts:
Alli from An Alli Event Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter
Daisy from Simplicity Relished Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter
Madison from The Wetherills Say I Do Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter
Heather from Divas Run for Bling Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter
Jamie, Kerry, & Lucy from Coffee With Us 3 Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter 
Here's what your hosts have been up to this week!
dotten-co-host Every week we will have a fabulous co-host! Our co-host this week is Sharlee from My New Lines.  Sharlee blogs her adventures at a wife, mother and friend.  She shares stories, tips and more. She recently posted about spring cleaningd7e8f7d84eb01a34d486bbb68126df93 Show Sharlee some love by following on Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter. Now on to the Party!!
This is a super relaxed party! You show up with your fabulous posts and we pin every single one! We only ask one thing from you!
  This week's Features:       Features PPP19-Features  Easy 6 Layer Rainbow Cake from Kerry Cooks Afghan and Amigurumi Bunny Set from Over the Apple Tree Strawberries and Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal from Spoonful of Flavor How to Make Over Photo Frames to Create A Gallery from Chocolate and Sunshine Girl Scouts Samoas Larabars from Little Family Adventure Easy Homemade Garlic Powder from Saving Everyday with Sonya K If you were featured, grab a featured button!!    
Pretty Pintastic Party
         Everyone else grab a button and help us spread the word about our party!!  Thanks!   button         
By linking up, you give,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, or any co-host permission to feature your post on social media and our blogs using a photo, title, and link to your site. Proper credit and links will be given to you.          

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Benefits of Having a Dog and a Baby

We had Mal years before we had JaiseAnn. People would often comment about sharing a home with a dog and an infant. When JaiseAnn was just a brand new baby, some family members would worry about Mal getting too close. They were worried about him being dirty or wanting to hurt her or a number of different things.

We weren't worried about it. We knew Mal. We knew he'd be sad that he was no longer the center of our world, but we know that he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. And we weren't worried about the cleanliness of him--so JaiseAnn gets exposed to a little extra dirt and dust, it can only really help, right? Actually yes. There are several benefits to having your newborn share a home with a dog:

Dogs and babies

Kindness and Compassion 
From the beginning, JaiseAnn has been drawn to Mal but she would hit him or poke him when trying to show her adoration for him. We had to teach her to be "soft" and "pet him nice." She has learned to pet him and to give him hugs and kisses. We love that she has been taught from a young age to show kindness to animals and living things and not to hurt them.

May Prevent Allergies
Some studies have shown that if babies grow up in a home with pets during the first year of their lives, they may have a lower chance of allergies later on. (Source)

Proper Behavior with Animals
Many children are afraid of animals when they come across them. While there are some animals that are not kind or safe to be around, many are. I find it unfortunate when little kids get scared when they see animals. I will have to teach JaiseAnn that not all animals are safe like her dog, but that if we ask the owner if it's okay to pet the dog, we can. JaiseAnn won't be afraid of animals and will know how to react when encountering other animals early on.

Easier Clean-Up
It might be gross, but it's true. Toddlers are messy eaters and Mal often loves to hang out during JaiseAnn's meal time. We still sweep and mop the kitchen, but we really appreciate the surface level cleaning Mal provides.

It's Adorable 
One of my absolute favorite things about having a dog is watching JaiseAnn interact with him. It's no surprise that "dog" has been her first word and it's what she wakes up repeating every morning. She took to her dog almost immediately, but to watch the relationship flourish just melts my heart. She pets him and gives him "love" and relaxes for the two seconds that she stops moving and sits back on him. She gives him her food and looks for him through the window when he's outside. She is learning so much about love and friendship just by having a dog.

(To see more pictures of JaiseAnn and Mal check out my Instagram or visit #jaiseannandmal)

Do you have a pet? How do you feel about children and pets?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Whole 30 Results

Before I started the Whole 30 program, I put a lot of thought into the things I was struggling with physically and emotionally. I know personally that my body and spirit are really connected and I have to take care of one in order for the other to thrive. I originally wrote down 7 things I was hoping to see a difference in after starting to eat clean and healthy: loss of weight, loss of inches, visible difference (skin, countenance, weight, etc.), improved sleep (and maybe improved sleep for JaiseAnn which would drastically improve my sleep), less pain in my lower back/hip, curb cravings, and my an overall improvement in my mood. I'm sure you're almost as anxious as I was to find out how it all was affected (if at all) after thirty days--especially if you're considering the Whole 30 program for yourself.

(My goals for self-improvement this year)

whole 30 before and after

Pounds Lost-15
I know. I cannot believe it either. I followed the program rules and did not weigh until the very end which was liberating in all honesty. I was able to soley focus on how I felt over those thirty days and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of little to no weight loss.  I honestly didn't think I was losing weight until the final week of the program. In thirty days. I promise I didn't start a minute sooner. We had family in town for JaiseAnn's birthday--I binged on pizza, cinnamon roles, ice cream, and more. (Note: some people do not see weight loss like this everybody's body and results differ)

Inches Lost--10
I noticed this the final week as well. My pants/skirts started fitting better and I just felt a little less bulky. I'm not down any pant's sizes or anything just yet, but I am definitely getting closer to fitting into my pre-pregnacy clothes.

As you know, we have sleep issues with JaiseAnn. We co-sleep and she wakes frequently throughout the night. She still wakes frequently throughout the night, but there has been a major improvement. I don't know if I can give Whole 30 the credit for this or just development on JaiseAnn's part. Either way, this past month has been so much better sleep wise for us. I do find that I am sleeping more soundly in general and I think I can thank Whole 30 for that. 
Hip Pain
I'm just going to be honest, I'm writing this on a really good day. I feel good, I'm excited about my progress and things are good. Today I don't have hip pain like I normally do, but it has come and gone throughout the 30 days. I think it's safe to say that there are no foods that are causing my pain. I think it's a substantial injury and I don't think my diet can fix it. I do however, notice that it does get some relief when I am healthier, so that's something.

Do sweets and waffles and rice still sound good? Absolutely. Pizza and cookies still sound amazing and I still plan to eat them. My relationship with food has changed, though, and that's ultimately what I was seeking. I no longer need a treat all day long on the weekends or need to have something while watching a show with Zach at night. I don't feel ruled by food and I don't feel like food rules my life. I'm not irritable when I am hungry and just throw a few almonds into my mouth. I feel satisfied and good. I really wasn't a hundred percent positive that thirty days could really help me really change my relationship with food, but it has. 

Overall Mood
This is probably the best part of it all. I did a lot of reflecting before starting this program, I was definitely feeling a little like the sound and color in my life was muted. I was tired and feeling sad about my weight. Motherhood was wonderful, but I had added worries about my opportunity to continue to stay home with JaiseAnn and I sometimes would spend many parts of my day worrying about things I couldn't control in that moment. When I was finally honest with myself I realized that food (and my over consumption of food that wasn't good for me) was really playing a part in everything. I had hoped that I would find hope, ambition, vibrancy, and more through cutting out all the crap--and I can honestly say I have. 

From here? Where am I going, what's the plan.  

I am halfway to my prepregnancy weight. I am going to adhere to a mostly Paleo diet from here on out. We will avoid snacking on the couch at night (except for maybe on date night) and we will continue to control our eating habits. I will eat primarily Paleo and exercise 5-6 times a week. I will add addtional exercise in the form of walks and runs as I prepare for a 5k. 

When I hit my goal weight and can fit back into my clothes, I plan to still stick to a pretty similar diet at an 80/20 rate. That's the plan for now. 

Are you contemplating a Whole30? What are some results you would most like to see?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why Pool Fitness Should Be Part of Your Workout Routine--Guest Post

I'm so excited to have Kaitilin from An Apple Per Day here to tell you about her experience with water aerobics.

Why Pool Fitness Should Be Part of Your Workout Routine
Even while raising two children, I have tried to be consistent about getting enough exercise. My husband will tell you that when I’m not working out, I get grumpy at times, and the whole house can feel it. My main passion has been running, but I’ve added in pool workouts, and it’s made a real difference.
water aerobics benefits

The basics of aqua aerobics. In the pool, if I’m doing an exercise that raises my heart rate and thus gives me a cardiovascular benefit, that can qualify as aqua aerobics. I love that there are now a lot of options for using the pool, from aqua kick boxing and the sexy dance moves of Zumba, to the calming of aqua yoga and tai chi. There are numerous benefits to pool exercise, one of which is that I can still work out during bad weather using an indoor pool. Here are some great resources with more information:
Cross training. Over the years, I have found that my favorite form of exercise is running, for a lot of reasons. I get a lot of benefit from my workout in a short amount of time, and I just love being out on the trail, feeling the breeze, enjoying nature, and waving at other runners. But when I started increasing my weekly mileage, I began to feel it in my knees. One of the guys in my running group who runs marathons suggested I add a cross training session each week. He used aqua jogging, so I gave it a try, and I have really enjoyed it.
Aqua jogging. I go to our community pool one day a week when I know the lap lanes will be open. I jump in a lane, and begin moving up and down it with my best jogging posture. Actually, my motion is closer to running a fast interval, meaning that I lean forward a bit like I’m almost sprinting, because of one factor – resistance. The water is a dense medium, and it takes extra effort to force my body forward through the water. I was surprised the first time I went to the pool, because I hadn’t accounted for the extra work, and I had to stop before I planned. It’s a great workout, and I enjoy being in the soothing cool water when it’s a scorching hot day outside, hearing only the gentle lapping of the water. I wear old tennis shoes to protect my feet, and keep a water bottle at the end of the lane to stay hydrated.
Recovery from injuries. I’ve heard runners who have sustained been injured while running say that they used aqua jogging to keep up their condition while they allowed their injury to heal. Because aqua jogging is a low impact exercise, it is really easy on the knees. The foot strike is much more gentle than you have on a running trail, and that allows tired muscles and joints to rest or recuperate. One runner said that after working out only in the pool for 3 months, he returned to the trail and his condition was just as good as when he stopped.
The heart benefit. In the water, a person’s heart rate will be about 13 percent less, or roughly 17 fewer heart beats per second. It is thought that this effect is due to the lessened effect of gravity and lower water temperature. I have never had heart problems, and I want to keep it that way, so any exercise that gives my heart a break in addition to resting tired legs, rates high on my list of activities.
When I told my husband that I had been aqua jogging that day, he just smiled and nodded. He could tell.

Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spring Cleaning in 15 (ish) Days

I know some of you in parts of the country are thinking, "Spring cleaning? I'm up to my elbows in snow!" If you are one of those people, I"m sorry. I'm sorry about the snow and your awful winter (I really and truly am) and I'm sorry for taunting the word "spring" in your face.

Our lives are about to take a slight shift during many of the official spring months. JaiseAnn was just a newborn last spring and I was adjusting to motherhood with some difficulty and much exhaustion. Spring cleaning didn't happen last year. And I'm determined to make it happen this year, even if a bit early.

I've chosen to take ABOUT fifteen days to get the basics done. So if you're like me and short on time but really feeling the need to renew your home. Here are some suggestions for getting your home clean and organized this spring!

spring cleaning ideas

(I will not put these in any particular daily order--you can pick and choose how you go about them)

*Empty, clean, and throw out the old in the fridge

*Clean the oven (Clean an oven using ammonia)

*Empty, clean, and mop out your pantry

*Restock and organize pantry (Ideas for pantry organization)

*Clean all the baseboards in the house (Suggestions for cleaning baseboards)

*Disinfect all handles (door knobs, faucets, light switches, etc.)

*Spend one day sweeping, mopping, vacuuming all the floors really well. If you have time shampoo or steam a room or two.

*Clean your mattress (Clean your mattress with two ingredients)

*Clean the dishwasher and the washing machine (Tutorial for cleaning dishwasher and tutorial for cleaning washing machine)

*Unclog drains and clean all sinks and underneath all sinks (DIY drain cleaner)

*Clean your exhaust fans in the bathroom and your stove's exhaust fan (How to clean a bathroom exhaust fan)

*Wash your pillows (Post on washing pillows the correct way)

* Organize your junk drawer--if you have more than one junk drawer, condense to just one. (Tips for organizing your junk drawer via recycling some of your...junk!)

*Clean out your closet(s)! If you don't have a full day to dedicate to the task, choose a number of things to get rid of and start there...just quickly glance through and select the (ten, twenty, one hundred) items to throw away, reuse, or donate.

*Dust and include door jams, ceiling fans, and light fixtures (Easy tip for cleaning ceiling fans)

How do you set aside time for spring cleaning? What chores are always a MUST for you each year?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why We Keep a Minimalist Approach to Toys in Our Home

It actually started when I first discovered I was pregnant. We have a fairly small home that seemed plenty big for the two of us. In our three bedroom house,however, every closet in every room was full. We had gift wrap, luggage, extra blankets, board games galore, and more all in storage. As I started to make room for our pending arrival, I started to panic.

I cleaned out one closet in the baby's nursery and condensed the items into one closet in our final spare bedroom. And then, in true Sharlee fashion, I began to panic about life with two babies and no closet space for our gift wrap and board games. Where will everything go? I know I was pre-worrying...It seems to be a hobby of mine. And yes, I know I need to get a new one. I'm trying--sort of.

So I devised a plan of action to help me feel a little more in control and a tiny bit less worried. I would buy a set number of bins that would fit comfortably in JaiseAnn's closet. Those bins would hold all her toys save a few larger items. (A few meaning one or two that might comfortably fit in her room).  When she got older, we'd store the few baby toys we planned to keep and put some new toys in the bins. She would play with one bin at a time--minimizing messes and clutter.

This plan was at first met with negative responses. My mom and Zach thought that one bin to play with at a time felt mean. My mom felt like she wouldn't be able to shower JaiseAnn with all the toys and that's what Grandmas are for. But I stood my ground and as time went on and our house filled with baby things, everyone seemed to realize that mimizing toys was a great option for storage.

But something else has happened. As we've decided to minimize toys for storage/clutter/and overall space, we've learned that JaiseAnn doesn't need many toys. She plays with one bin a day and we rotate throughout the week so she sees a different set of toys each day. But her toys interest her far less than helping with the dishes, emptying cupboards, tearing through bookshelves, and playing with mom and Mal. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

JaiseAnn will spend a few quiet minutes throughout the day exploring her toys by herself, but she'll also spend time to herself exploring her world. She'll mimic me by carrying clothes around the house. She'll dance. She'll talk. She'll explore the closet and our bedroom, and she'll look out the windows. We feel that the fewer distractions she has, the more she'll have to use her imagnination. The fewer plastic toys with lights that beep, and buzz, and play music--the more she'll have to pretend her wooden blocks do those things. She has a set of blocks and those blocks have the potential to become just about anything she wants.

I find that the less I satisfy my sweet tooth, the less I want sweets. The less I satisfy my "urge to shop" and buy things of material value, the less important they seem. I can't imagine it's any different with children. The more comfortable JaiseAnn gets with only a few toys and her imagination, the less she'll want, need, or feel entitled to as she grows. At least that is our hope.

So we've come to the conclusion that we will continue to be minimalistic about toys throughout our children's lives. We will allow a few toys in the home and they will play with even fewer at a time.

How do you feel about children's toys? Do you like a lot of toys or do you like very few? How do you organize toys and keep your child interested and willing to play independently?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Baby Fever

JaiseAnn is 13 months old (what?!!?). People all around me with children her age (and some younger) are hoping, trying, and already pregnant. I had a friend with a five month old tell me the other day that as soon as her little boy is past the baby stage, she'll want another.

I love babies. And I loved the newborn stage with JaiseAnn (so very much). But I do not have baby fever of any kind right now. Maybe it's because JaiseAnn is so small still. Or maybe because she still has very little hair. Or because she still wakes every two hours. Or because she is still nursing--often. It could very well be all of those things. I think though that the biggest thing is-- I have JaiseAnn fever

Zach and I are both totally obsessed with her. This age is so fun (way more fun than I could have ever imagined). That girl literally makes me laugh from my gut every single day. She is just the most fun I have ever had...and I mean that. We are having a blast with her and I'm falling in love with every new age as she hits it. 

I feel a tiny bit of pressure to start feeling ready for a second child only because I'm already thirty and it took us a while to get pregnant with JaiseAnn. But I'm just not feeling it at this time. I'm hoping that whenever the time comes I will feel ready..and perhaps even more terrified than the first time. 

I hope that I will just know. I have never had a timeline for how many kids I would want and how many years apart they would be. For us, we've always just played the family planning thing by our hearts and it's done well for us so far. As of right now, though, we sure are enjoying being a family of three--right now we feel pretty complete. 

What are your thoughts on family planning or spacing kids apart? How did you know when it was time to start/add to your family? Do you have a baby timeline?

Friday, February 13, 2015

How We Met--My Husband's Story

Ok, so I know the title is extremely cheesy, but the story of how Shar and I met is the closest I've ever come to a fairy tale.

For those of you who follow Shar's blog, you'll probably be able to identify me already, but I'll introduce myself.  My name is Zach, and I'm her husband.  She's probably told you way more about me than I would tell you myself, so I won't bore you with many details about me, and I'll cut right to the chase and apologize for being a little bit random and a lot bit wordy.

As always, the best place to start a story is at the beginning... even if you already know the fairy tale ending.

My part of the story begins with the fact that I was married once before.  That's another story I won't get into, but just like any good fairy tale, an unhappy story leads to the happy one.  I was going through a divorce...  well, beginning one.  It had been a rough little while for me, and some friends invited me out for a night of games with some mutual friends from the local singles ward.  I was at the point where I knew my marriage was over, even if the paperwork needed to be finished, so I figured what better way to get things off my mind than play some games with friends and meet new people.

It was General Conference weekend in October (for those of you not familiar with the LDS Church and culture, General Conference is a semi-annual meeting of all Church members around the world to hear from the Prophet and other leaders of the Church).  I had just gotten back into town from taking the rest of the things my soon to be ex-wife left behind when she left me, so I wasn't looking for anything other than a break from the less than sunshiney time I'd been having.  Needless to say, I wasn't prepared for the break that came... But I wouldn't change it for the world.

So back to the story.  My friend Jake invited me to come along with him to this game night/get-together that was being hosted by a girl from the single's ward.  (Mormons use General Conference weekends as an excuse to get together for social things, and so it was this particular weekend.)  I decided to come along and try to enjoy myself, even if I wasn't looking for anything or anyone.  Besides, Jake had been telling me about this girl he'd met there who was really pretty and classy and dressy and wore these awesome heels every week and was smart and funny and pretty...  I figured I'd finally get to see what all the fuss was about.

We arrive at the place and there's already a small gathering of people.  I think I only know 1 person beside Jake, if that.  But, as I walk in the door, I see her. (Well, I really only saw like the back half of her, but it was a good view.  Also, it being just the back half, I didn't know who her was.)  Anyway, we make our way in and we start talking, and somehow, I miss the introductions that are made.  So, soon she and I start flirting.  It's kinda tame, really... She plays poker, which isn't typically a Mormon thing to do - I play poker (she makes fun of me later because I'm not very good... but I'm getting better).  She hates BYU - I hate BYU.  (Sorry BYU fans.)

It goes back and forth this way for about half an hour, if I remember correctly, and then I get a phone call and I'm getting asked who is there to play games.  Since I missed the introductions, I'm asking everyone's name again, and when it gets to her, she pauses slightly before saying "Sharlee" and I pause even longer and I'm more than a little embarrassed as the realization that I've been flirting this entire time with THAT girl that my buddy Jake was excitedly telling me about and I slowly repeat into the phone "Shar-leeee..."

She'll say later that she was sad because she thought that I didn't know her name because I wasn't interested in her.  I'll say later that I'm really sorry man I had no idea I missed the introductions and I didn't mean to.  Jake will say later that it's ok and he could see it happening as it happened and he knew there wasn't anything that was going to change that and it was fun to just watch it happen and then funny to watch my reaction as I realized what I'd done.

  After that, it's pretty much a whirlwind.  More game nights and a card game about guns and beer and life (which is a story in itself, too, since Shar is so against alcohol).  Facebook messages and Church meetings and MORE game nights and Firefly and Rock Band and LoveSac and kickball and poker and LAAAAATE nights and Kisses (if Shar hasn't told this story, I'll be happy to tell it too, at some point)...  And more of all these things, and then finally wedding plans and house hunting and a sealing and family and OUR house and OUR dog and OUR Idaho Pizza and OUR lives together, forever.

And even though there's bumps in the road sometimes, even when we don't see eye to eye, there's no one else I'd rather have by my side through it all than my beautiful, kind, loving, always opinionated, nearly always right, most of the time funny, sometimes as funny as she thinks (JUST KIDDING!), FAVORITE wife.

Thank you for my fairy tale!

Happy Valentine's Day, Shar!  I love you!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Confessions of Confident Women: How Confidence Affects My Marriage

 I was talking with a friend a while back and she mentioned feeling less-than-desirable when she was with her husband intimately. She struggled to feel good and comfortable in her own skin and it was causing some issues in her marriage and was only further affecting her already low self-esteem. She asked me if I felt that way as well. While I wanted to agree with her and tell her I had experienced those same thoughts and feelings and that they had affected me in similar ways at different times. I coudn't. Not completely, at least.

My marriage is definitely affected by my insecurities at times. Sometimes it is greatly affected by my insecurities. It doesn't, however, affect me in a physical way with Zach. I'm not sure why, but I am comfortable in my own skin around him enough that it doesn't inhibit me in any way there..

But we have had our fair share of issues when I'm feeling less than confident.

how to feel confident with your spouse

When I'm Lacking Confidence:

*I pick myself apart--from the littlest things to the bigger things. I tend to take that out on everything and everyone else--I pick apart our house, our schedules, our down time, our lifestyle, my dog, and my husband. I complain a lot and I find more flaws than good. 

*I am busy finding flaws and trying to think through how to fix ALL OF THEM at once. My brain feels overwhelmed and I am short and impatient.

*When I am feeling insecure, I want compliments. My love language suddenly changes to Words of Affirmation and I want them at the exact moment I feel I need or deserve them. When Zach doesn't deliver I suddenly magnify things and decide that he doesn't make me feel loved or valued, and he doesn't find me attractive.

Yes. When I am not feeling good about me, I'm not happy and it can get crazy and tense in our home. I usually know that I need to do the things that personally bring me peace and help me feel confident (For me those things are: clean up my eating, exercise, try to look nice, and take time for myself.)

When I am Confident:
*I still know that I have flaws, but I'm also aware of the good things about me--inside and out. I am not overwhelmed by the changes that I need to make. I feel that I see myself more clearly and I have more hope and excitement about the future and reaching goals. In turn, I see Zach for his strengths and abilities and all that he does. I see our house as a home and I treat myself and everyone in my home much better.

*The flaws and changes I need to make don't cloud my mind. I am more productive. I create a plan of action, I pray, I work hard, and I keep my focus on the future and meeting those goals. I am able to imagine success and feel good about it. I feel more at peace.

*I still like compliments, I won't lie. But I can see Zach's gestures as signs of love and I don't feel the need to feel attractive to him as much as just feel beautiful in general. I can get dressed up and come out of the bathroom and even if he doesn't say anything, I still feel good about myself. (Zach's not so great with the compliments, it's just not a strength of his, but I do find that I receive more compliments when I am feeling more confident.)

It's amazing how much confidence plays a role in my home. It affects my attitude and my relationships. When I am not feeling confident things feel like they quickly spiral out of control and I have to recognize the problem quickly and address it. It took me a year after JaiseAnn was born to start addressing my lack of confidence and I know that insecurities played a big role in our marriage after a baby. Things are much better now and I am starting to feel that confidence resurface, I know that they are most definitely related.

Do you notice your relationships change when you are lacking confidence? How do your relationships benefit from increased confidence? What do you do to increase your confidence?

*If you'd like to participate in this series, please comment below or email me at [email protected]

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Powerful Role

JaiseAnn had an appointment with a dermatologist last week. The woman she sees was two months away from having her first---also a little girl--when we last saw her. Before we left her appointment that last time I told her that it was going to be the most incredible thing she'd ever experienced. "No one can prepare you for how amazing it all is." I told her. I concluded with, "I'm so excited for you!"

When we went to her appointment last week I almost couldn't wait to hear about her doctor's life as a mom. When she walked into the room we greeted and then I immediately started in. We talked about how much fun motherhood is, how hard it can be, and all of that in between stuff--how much it took us by surprise and how much we see ourselves changing every day. I left that appointment feeling like I just left a good get together with a friend.

This isn't the first time this has happened. I have connected with ladies in line at Target, families out at a restaurant, and women at church. I have especially made some true connections with ladies I've met through blogging. And all because of motherhood.

I've found in such a short time that motherhood has a great power within it. Yes, it is a power to create and nurture little lives. It is a power to raise and teach little hearts and minds. And that power is incredible. But there's even more.

Motherhood allows us to connect with, care for, and even understand a little about strangers, friends, and enemies.

tiny toes

Motherhood has the power to create friendships and destroy grudges. It has the power to heal hurt feelings and mend broken bridges. 

I know. I have seen it happen in my own life in a very short time. I have witnessed firsthand what it is like to see relationships blossom and flourish or repair itself and begin to grow. 


There's something powerful in motherhood. If you allow it--it will allow you to let your guard down and be real. We all worry, we all question, we all struggle, and we all love more than our hearts sometimes feel like they can hold.

And we are the only people who know those feelings and understand them. It is truly impossible until you've been there. Until you've been so exhausted you can't see straight. Until you're saying prayers for guidance. Until you've got a sick baby and you have no idea what's hurting her. Until your body is just so exhausted you don't know how you'll get through the day--or night. Until you cry over the first smiles and every giggle. Until children's books speak as much truth to you as scripture. Until you anticipate the end of each stage with the mixed emotions of excitement and sadness. Until you make a million sacrifices--be they financial, physical, emotional, mental, order for your child to be safe, happy, and healthy. Until the future feels so bright and exciting and at the same time overwhelming. Until you feel like you've entered a new world and you get to watch it unfold every day through brand new eyes. Until you've experienced a happiness you didn't know existed.

Only mother's know. There's something that happens to our hearts and it can make you feel incredibly connected to other mom's. There is great power in motherhood.

"Motherhood was the great equalizer for me; I started to identify with a mother, you have that impulse to wish that no child should ever be hurt, or abused, or go hungry, or not have opportunities in life."--Annie Lennox

What kinds of miracles have you seen happen with motherhood? Did you notice your relationships change with other moms or people in general after you became a mom?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Expectations in Marriage (Part 1)

I am the type of person that admires the good in others rather...shall we say intensely. I admire people with a lot of my heart, and I often find myself wanting to develop the healthy habits or talents they have or maybe I just acknowledge that they have them. I have always done this. 

This admiration in others has, in a roundabout way,  affected my expectations for life, for myself, and for my husband. I expect a lot of people and it can be very damaging. By far one of the biggest struggles in our marriage has had to do with my expectations.

are my marriage expectations too high?

As a teenager I had a thing for saving things up for the future. Ideas of all kinds were stored in journals and notebooks. I had a book I had created (as a project) that compiled all of the women I admired most and listed the qualities I hoped to develop someday as well. I had a journal that I kept full of ideas for snacks and activities with kids, home decor ideas, and bedtime rituals--most of these were discovered through babysitting. I even kept an envelope filled with articles and tips from Cosmopolitan for steamy nights--saved for after my wedding, of course. Basically I was "pinning" before "pinning" existed. I had hard copies of each idea, and I basically ruled at bookmarking my future. 

If I wasn't busy jotting down or storing these ideas permanently, I was doing them mentally. I babysat A LOT (so much I can't even begin to describe) as a teen and even throughout college.  I worked with a  lot of families and I would walk into their homes and I would see perfection a lot of the time. Clean houses, good dinners, pretty wives, handsome husbands, beautiful kids, and everything seemed so ideal to me. I would mentally list all of the things I wanted for myself and my future self, home, kids, and especially husband.

I have a tendency to magnify strengths and ignore weaknesses when it comes to people I admire. And as much as I admire women, I can really get over the top about good men. There is just something about a good man that has always stood out to me.

So for the decade (or more) before I met Zach I was literally magnifying the strength of every good man I knew or met and logging his strengths as things that I wanted in a future spouse. Of course it never occurred to me that although "Guy A" was incredibly affectionate toward his wife, he was also bad with money. While "Guy B" was great with money and was a hard worker, but he lacked in another area. I just started compiling---every single thing I liked about someone: sprititually strong, hard working, good looking, funny, polite, affectionate, passionate, good with money, good with kids, ambitious, active, a handy man, a movie man, a camping man, a shopping man, a man that makes his wife breakfast in bed, a man that surprises his wife with a weekend getaway and covers every detail before surprising her at work, a man that sends flowers, a man that dances in the kitchen, a man that takes goofy family photos, a man that is smart, and the list goes on...and on...and on.

When I met Zach I had obviously realized that he didn't have all of those qualities, but he had really important ones that stood out to me. He was spiritually strong, he was smart, he was dependable, he wanted kids, he was incredibly well-mannered, and he was affectionate and passionate to name just a few. And when we were dating I magnified those and chose not to focus on his true Sharlee fashion.

But throughout our marriage there have been times when I have started to notice his weaknesses and I magnified those while ignoring his strengths. I started to treat Zach as though all of those things that he WAS were not enough.  He needed to be more...he needed to add to his list. One day during a particularly rough period, I started to think about all of the hurtful ways I had addressed Zach and been frustrated with him for what he lacked. And it hit me: I have been expecting my husband to be one hundred different men and, even more, one hundred different men's strengths minus the weaknesses. 

 Expectations are a tough battle. I have had these notions of what I want from a spouse in my mind for a very long time and sometimes they creep up at unexpected times. Suddenly I am expecting Zach to do something that I have not communicated to him and he's never done before. When we had JaiseAnn I suddenly expected Zach to do some things that he had never done. Apparently I had saved up some thoughts about marriage after a baby and expected him to act or be a certain way.

There are Three Things I've Learned When it Comes to Dealing with Expectations in Marriage:

1. Ask if it's fair--When you're discussing/arguing because you want to see a change in behavior from your spouse--there are times that your expectations are unfair and there are times that it is completely fair and reasonable to expect growth and change. Think this through before addressing it and choose your battles

2. Stop and think about the strengths-- I know that I am much better at noticing Zach's strengths when I am in a more positive state of mind and I feel in love. I have had to learn that the hard way. I know that a good way to get us back to that place is quality time. We leave JaiseAnn with my mom and spend time together, or really dedicate some time together after JaiseAnn goes to bed or on the weekends. I also know that I need to take care of myself--so I will take a bath, or ask Zach to get up with JaiseAnn in the morning (this one has been really hard, but now I have learned to just ask), and I take some time to get back to myself. When I feel more in touch with myself and my husband, I see things more clearly and in a more positive light.

3. Pray--This one is huge for us, but it is also hard. I want to tell Zach every thing that's frustrating me, but when I pray I sometimes get an answer of, "Let me handle this one." And it's so hard to do. I don't have enough faith at times--especially when I'm angry. But I do promise prayer works. The biggest thing I ask when I pray is "Help him change his heart, or if it's my heart that needs changing, let me know."

What about you? Do you ever feel like you (or your spouse) have unfair expectations? How do you deal with it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why I Save Gift Cards

I am a gift-card hoarder. Give me a gift card and I get super excited...not to go out and spend it but to stash it away. I save my gift cards like money savvy people save money. If you gift me  money, I am actually likely to save it, but less likely than a gift card.

hoarding gift cards

My mom actually stopped giving me gift cards because I didn't use them and she felt like she was not really giving me a gift. But here's the thing, gift cards give me peace of mind. It's silly really, but I've always saved them in case of an emergency. If you give me a gift card to Target and I need something from Target that I can currently afford, then I save the gift card and spend my own money. I save gift cards for use when I truly cannot afford extras.

I have a secure box that I save all of my gift cards in. We don't have disposable income right now, but I can tell you this: Zach and I can go OUT on nice dates (movies, dinner, dessert, bowling, mini golf and more) once a month for over a year because of our saved gift cards. When I wean JaiseAnn I can buy a few new bras. When I lose weight I can almost buy myself a brand new outfit to celebrate. I may not have extra money, but I've saved up the fun stuff.

Many people use gift cards and claim they are saving money..and maybe they are, but I wouldn't be able to use it the same. If I were to actually save the money I might have spent by using my gift card (which is unlikely in the first place--I'm a mediocre saver) then I wouldn't feel good about using it to go on decent dates or to buy a new bra. But when I have it in gift card form, I have no choice but to "spend" on the fun stuff, even when things are tight financially.

I love getting gift cards, even if I don't use them right away. They are set aside for a rainy day. Giving me a little peace of mind and some assurance that I can still have fun on a rainy day.

How do you use gift cards? Do you save them like me, or use them up immediately? Where is your favorite place to get a gift card?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Motherhood is Full of Eternal Truths

Despite the fact that I had a crisis of faith after JaiseAnn was born, becoming a mother has ultimately strengthened my faith.  (Somethings just can't be explained. It doesn't even make sense to me. While I won't diminish my faith crisis as it was a very real and extremely difficult/scary time for me, the further away I get from the experience the more I realize that severe sleep deprivation and hormones played the biggest part.)

I remember taking JaiseAnn to visit my classroom and my former students when she was around three months old. I had prepared myself for tears as I prepared to say goodbye to my students, but when I walked into the school the tears started coming for a different reason. 

I suddenly had the strangest deja vu type of feeling. I tried to pinpoint it and finally I realized that I had been taking JaiseAnn to school with me for about a year at that point. JaiseAnn was with me throughout my pregnancy. 

During my pregnancy I didn't know it was her but now that she's here, I've had a number of experiences where I realized, "We've already done this together."  It's the most surreal thing but I absolutely cannot deny that she had been around in spirit. I know that spirit, her spirit, and I can now recognize all the times she was with me before her birth. 

Most people say that having a child solidifies their belief in God. Some even start believing in a higher power once they have a child. And while that's true, my experience is a little different. My faith in my own religion was strengthened, and therefore my faith in God.

In the LDS faith we believe that our spirits existed before we were born. We believe our spirits lived, discussed, learned, celebrated, and more in our pre-earth life. We simply came to earth to get a body and experience mortal life--trials and all. (You can read more about that here). 

This belief in a pre-existence has always made sense to me. It actually seems logical and there have been many times that I recognize that the person I am is who I have always been. Some things about me and my life experience cannot be explained by parenting, learning, or anything of the sort. Those things are inherent in who I am. My Heavenly Father made me the way that I am. I have always known this.

But becoming a mother added a whole knew dimension. I felt her spirit and quickly recognized that she had been with me before the moment I met her. She had been a part of our family all along. I can't really do justice to those feelings, but trust me. She belonged. I belonged. Zach belonged. We belonged together and our souls knew each other.

We didn't think we were having a girl. We thought (and honestly hoped a little) that we were having a boy. But when she arrived it only made sense that she was a girl. I kept saying to Zach, "Of course she's a girl!" She just fit. It worked. We were meant to be her parents. 

There are days where I play with JaiseAnn and I make up silly songs for her all the time. For as much as I am not a musician, we sing at our house at least half of the time. It's silly and fun and it makes things more exciting--diaper changes, getting the mail, taking a bath, looking in the mirror, and more. The other day I was singing JaiseAnn a little song and I just had this overwhelming feeling that these songs have always been ours. They come so naturally do me because they are a part of the dynamic we have. I have never questioned the possibility of eternal families, but I do know that she's been mine for far longer. It's like I knew her before. 

Maybe I knew her before this life (while there's no direct Mormon doctrine that supports this theory, I happen to personally believe it's true.) Maybe I simply recognized her spirit as it was with me throughout my pregnancy--that is simply something I cannot deny. Whatever it is, JaiseAnn has a spirit and I've felt it longer than she's been alive. And that tells me that we do have spirits and that God does exist. 

How did having a baby change or affect your religious beliefs?

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