You Just Can’t Do It All

Obviously, I know this. There is no way I can do it all, let alone do it all well. However, I live and plan out my days acting otherwise. I think part of the issue is the fact that my main job is being a mom. Since I don’t have a typical 9-5 job, I tell myself the lie that I should be doing more. The problem here is this logic is ignoring the fact that being a stay-at-home is an all-consuming, 24-7 job. If I was still working, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t feel the same type of guilt when I run out of time to go to the grocery store or fall behind on 1st birthday party planning. Actually, I probably still would, and I’m sure working moms can attest to this as well. The point here, is no matter what type of job or lifestyle we live, none of us can do it all and mom guilt is a real thing. Just because I’m a stay-at-home mom does not mean I have the time to have every cabinet in my home perfectly organized or be able to make everything homemade. The truth is, my floors never even look that clean and it almost is always a scramble getting a relatively good tasting meal on the table. I can’t do it all.

Back to my previous point, about guilt and staying at home. I think since I am not physically bringing in a pay check to help support our family, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure (solely created by me) to hold my end of the stick by ensuring the house is kept orderly, healthy meals are on the table, and parties look like Pinterest. Not to mention that Hudson is well-fed, clean, and happy, which let me tell you, just that is a full time job. And that is the problem. Just doing that sometimes doesn’t feel like enough, so I tack on all the other things. Train for a marathon. Be involved in MOMS Club. Teach bible study lessons. Create fun experiences for Hudson. Plan playdates. Organize all the cabinets and closets and drawers. Substitute teach. Write a blog. Create a podcast. Go to yoga. Wake up early. Budget. Buy all the gifts. Plan and host events. And the list could go on. I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining because I really am not, I feel so thankful to be in the place to do those things, but what I am saying is that it can quickly feel overwhelming, even if my main job title is “mom.” I can’t do it all.

I tell myself I can do it all because I see through the windows of social media what other moms are doing. But here’s the thing, I am just looking through a window, I don’t get the chance to see the things that she has chosen to let go of or say no to. This is huge. This is what I need to constantly remind myself. No one can do it all. I see the perfectly made lunch, but I don’t see the mess in the kitchen. I see the miles and miles of training she logged, but I don’t see the nanny. I see the beautifully laid out blog, full of amazing content, but I don’t see the strained relationships. We are just seeing windows. Remember this. We can’t do it all.

This is a lesson I am currently learning. If I’m honest, even typing this up I feel a bit phony, as Holden Caulfield would say. I am still figuring this lesson out. I say I can’t do it all, but I still convince myself I can run 50 plus miles a week, write 2 blog posts a week, record a new podcast every week, keep the house clean, plan Hudson’s birthday party, and most importantly be the most present and loving wife and mother I can be. This last one is the most important to me, but sadly my days do not always reflect this priority. That needs to change. And it will. Words and miles will always be there for me to come back to, but this time with my husband and sweet little boy, that I can’t get back. So I will keep typing it until it sets in. I can’t do it all.

9-12 Month Baby Routines

As promised, this is the last part of the baby-related series of March.  I have written a lot about the importance of routines and patterns in my life.  I have found that routines have become an even more important aspect of my days since Hudson’s arrival.  The tough part with baby routines is that babies are changing SO much from a month-to-month basis that I have found our routines need to be adjusted relatively frequently.  Nap times and nap frequency changes a lot and this has a big impact on the whole day’s routine.  Since Hudson is already almost 10-months old, I am going to focus on his current routine, which I imagine will stay relatively similar for the next couple months.  Every day is different, but I have found that ever since he has turned 9-months, his naps have become extremely predictable.  He is now down to just two naps a day.  He usually has his morning nap at 9 am and his afternoon nap at 2 pm.  There could be a slight variance if his morning nap was shorter, but for the most part, these are the two times he naps.  I have loved having these very predictable times because it allows me to fill in the spaces between naps more easily.  I would probably bore you if I went hour by hour and explained Hudson’s typical routine, so instead I am going to break it down into the three parts of the day and give general ideas and inspiration for 9-12 month old baby routines based on what we have found successful.

Morning Time: 7:00-11:00 am 

  • Wake baby up at a consistent time.

 I used to not do this.  If he slept past 7 am, I would let him.  It is so hard to wake up your baby especially when they are finally, actually asleep.  However, I have found, especially at his age now, that it is much better to get him up around 7 am.  As tempting as it is to allow him to continue to sleep, so I can continue to enjoy my morning quiet time, I am learning that sticking to a wake up time is better for the both of us.

  • Start day slowly.  

The day always seems to be better when I allow those first couple hours of the morning to be a slow start.  I typically never plan anything before his first nap.  This allows for a solid two hours in the morning with the ability to slowly wake up to the day.  We usually read a book or two.  We say good morning to the tree and wall and neighbor’s house outside the window.  We pet Nala and tell her good morning.  I re-heat and sip my coffee.  Now that Hudson is a full-on crawler, I usually let him explore and crawl around in the living room a bit before breakfast.  Of course not all days allow for slower starts, but especially during the week, I really try to move things slowly before 9 am.

  • Get all ready for the day BEFORE nap time

I used to leave Hudson in his pajamas for his first nap, but recently learned it makes much more sense to get him all cleaned up and dressed before I put him down for his nap.  Part of the reason I do this is out of necessity.  He usually is a complete mess after his breakfast.  Quinoa cereal is usually smeared all over his little body.  Bananas are stuck in his hair.  Prunes cover his face.  The other reason I get him all clothed and ready is that I don’t want to waste the time once he wakes up from his nap.  When he wakes up, all I have to do is quickly nurse him, grab the diaper bag, and we are out the door!

Afternoon Time: 11:00 am-2:00 pm

  • Schedule an outing.

Typically, right when Hudson wakes up, we leave the house.  This outing will vary based on the day.  As of recently, it usually is a trip to the park to play with friends in our MOMS Club or a grocery store run at Trader Joe’s or a run in the jogger on the strand.  Sometimes the outing is fun, like baby yoga; and sometimes it is more practical, like running errands.  Especially at this age, what seems to really matter is that we are getting out of the house and he gets the chance to interact with other people and babies.  Anytime I have to go to the grocery store or go to an appointment, I know to schedule it during this time slot.  I also try to have specific outings for certain days of the week.  For example, Wednesdays are usually story time or yoga, Thursdays we always go to Trader Joe’s, and Fridays we usually go to the park or beach.  I find it really helpful to have these weekly patterns.

 

  • Be home for nap time.  

Just as important as the outing is the nap time.  I used to be out during nap time and Hudson would often take his second nap in the carseat.  There are definitely certain days where there is no getting around that, but as much as I can control it, I plan to be home for that 2 pm nap time.  The afternoon nap is a really important time for me to get some rest and get a few things done around the house before Lance gets home.  Also, I find that Hudson gets an overall better rest when he naps in his crib.  I always try to cap our outing to around 12:30-1:00, so we can get back home, feed Hudson lunch, and allow him some freedom to play before he has his last nap of the day.

Evening Time: 4:00-7:00 pm 

  •  Allow for independent play time. 

Hudson typically wakes up around 3:30.  By the time I’ve nursed him and changed his diaper and read a book with him, it is time for me to start dinner.  I use this time to give him some alone time to play on his own.  Hudson is around people a lot of the time, so I really want him to learn how to also be adaptable and learn how to entertain and play on his own.  Usually, I will put some toys in the pack ‘n play for him to play with as I begin to make dinner.

  • Eat dinner together.

We are early dinner eaters.  We usually eat around 5 pm or sometimes even earlier.  Since Hudson has been in a high chair, eating together at the dinner table with all three of us is very important.  It can be hard especially when it takes a lot of energy to get Hudson to eat anything at all, but I think this routine is an essential one for our family. No matter what happened in that day, we will find ourselves together again around the table.  We pray. We eat. We slow down.

  • Create a bedtime routine.

After the dishes are cleared, Lance usually takes Hudson and Nala for a walk around the block.  This is another important part of our routine because it gives Lance some alone time with Hudson, which they both enjoy.  It also gives me time to clean up or take a shower.  Once they return, the bedtime routine officially begins.  This is going to vary from family to family.  Create a routine that works the best for your baby and family.  For us, we give him his bath early.  We used to bathe him right before bed, but found that he needed to play between bath and bed to get fully tired.  Lance is in charge of everything bath-related.  He is the master bath giver.  Again, this time allows for me to just watch Lance be an amazing dad or get a load of laundry folded.  Did I mention that Lance is the best? He really is.  This is a slight side note, but it is so helpful to find routines and parts of the day that your spouse can be in charge of.  Lance and I function as a team.  For the days and weeks to work, we both need to hold our weight.  After bath time, the rest of the evening unfolds with pajamas, a little more play time, a story read, prayers, and milky.  Sound machine is on.  Night time teddy bear is playing music.  Hudson is snuggled up in his sleep sack. And I tip toe out of the room.  Unfortunately, even at 9-months the day does not end here and he typically gets up 3-5 more times until the next morning.  But we’re working on that, aka praying he sleeps through night soon!

Obviously, no day is exactly the same.  Some days we hit this routine spot on.  He naps perfectly.  He plays perfectly.  He sleeps soundly.  But, there are days, many days, that just don’t look like that.  This is our routine for the most part, but the fact is, when you have a baby, sometimes you need to let go of routines on those days that are just a struggle.  You have to be okay with that short nap.  You have to be okay when you cancel the outing.  Routines are good.  Actually, they are great and incredibly helpful, but at the end of the day, they are just a guide.  They need to be adjusted, changed, and added to.

Sunshine & Simplicity

This mama needs sunshine & simplicity.  This past weekend I was reminded how much I missed the sun.  This has by far been the coldest, rainiest winter Southern California has had in years.  As the coldness is slowly drifting away and the sun is making its way back, I am remembering my love for the sun and summer and the beach.  When the seasons shift, I can really feel it in the air.  It is a subtle change, but I can almost always sense it and the shifting seasons always brings me joy.  Even though I experienced that season just a year ago, I so quickly forget the joys found in it.  I become excited for change in weather, clothes, and activities.  This year, I am even more grateful for sunny days since they have been so few.

I am learning more and more that what makes me happiest is often involved around two things: sun and simplicity.  If we aim to incorporate simple things with sunshine, it is likely everyone will be happier because of it.  Last weekend when we were in San Diego, we had three meals out.  Two of the three were at nicer restaurants.  The other one was at a deli in San Clemente called Billy’s.  Of these three dining experiences, the most enjoyable was at Billy’s, where we ordered veggie sandwiches on squaw bread and sat outside at a table.  It was quiet, peaceful, simple.  And it was one of our very favorite moments of our weekend.  When we were reflecting on our little trip on the drive home, both Lance and I talked about how Billy’s was memorable.  Isn’t that funny how that works?  The most unplanned and simplest part of our entire weekend was the part of the trip that produced the most joy.  I was not stressed about Hudson making a mess or noise.  I was not worried if we were disturbing other people.  I was at peace because we were at Billy’s and we were outside and we had veggie sandwiches and Hudson happily threw puffs everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice restaurant, but there is something to the simple plans, the simple food, and the sunshine that has a way of leaving an impression that the fanciest restaurant just can’t touch.

I was again reminded of this truth when Lance and I had date night this past Saturday.  While we typically drive to a relatively nicer restaurant for dates, we chose to do the very opposite and it was one of my very favorite dates in a while.  Instead of drive, we rode bikes from my parents’ house to the strand.  It was bright and sunny and lots of people were out.  It felt like summer.  It felt like freedom.  I love Hudson to pieces of course, but it felt so fun to ride bikes with my husband and for just a couple hours not worry about diapers or a runny nose.  We rode and talked and laughed.  The second plan to our date was to be spontaneous in choosing a place to eat.  This defies every part of our normal character and routine.  But it felt fun to not have a plan, until we realized we are not very good at being spontaneous.  We walked from overpriced restaurant to the next and read fancy menus, but none of them stood out to us.  We kept walking until I suggested we just get Lemonade and bring it down to the beach.  And this is exactly what we did.  And it was perfect.  We sat by a volleyball court and sipped lemonade, ate poke and curried cauliflower and talked about our weekly rose-bud-thorns of the week.  We did not need cloth tablecloths or overpriced food or waiters or glassed waters.  It turns out those things just don’t matter that much to us.  What actually makes a date is the words exchanged, the setting sun, and the twinkle I can see in my husband’s eyes when he looks at me.  Simplicity.  It is easy to run towards the extravagant, the fancy, the over-planned.  You have to really be intentional about living simply at times, especially with the type of culture we are living in.  The culture that tells us to consume, consume, consume.  Especially on special occasions, like date nights and birthdays, it is easy to fall into the trap of over-elaborate and fancy, but if you can take the simple route, there is something so sweet about it.  Simplicity + sunshine.  Good things come from these two.  Even better things come from these two when they are centered around Jesus.  That is the key of the entire equation.  Whether we are at a fancy Italian restaurant or picnicking at the beach, if our hearts are not centered around Jesus and His love, the experience will end flatly.  We need simple things and the sun, but above all else we need The Son.

So, next time you are left wondering how to fill your day, I have a few suggestions.  I would start with Jesus.  What is he putting on your heart?  I would start with prayer.  What do you have to say to Him?  Then I would add some simple things and sunshine.  I would go outside.  I would grab a book and read outside in the warmth of the sun.  I would eat hummus straight out of the container.  I would slice fruit.  I would call a friend.  I have a strong tendency to overcomplicate, over-plan, overspend.  I believe the lies that more is better.  That a higher price tag is better.  That the more crammed into one day must mean more was accomplished.  I am finally learning that this is simply not true.  Veggie sandwiches eaten in the quiet, cool shade of Billy’s deli beats fancy pasta and stuffy restaurants any day.

 

5 Ways To Not Go Crazy Making Baby Food

Before I was even pregnant, I used to dream about being a mom. In these dreams, I would imagine two specific things: planning birthday parties and making my kids snacks. These were two aspects of motherhood that I was so excited about. I am literally living my dreams right now! I am making food for my baby and I am beginning to plan his first birthday party. Why does it not feel as exciting as I had dreamed about a few years ago? Why has my excitement turned to stress and anxiety and control? Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to plan Hudson’s birthday, but the whole making him homemade, organic baby food is getting old and tiresome. I had this vision of what it would be like. I would create these nutritious and tasty meals for my kids and they would neatly gobble it up and praise me for being such a caring and loving mother. They would eat every crumb. They would thank me for all the time I spent in the kitchen. They would ask for seconds. They would tell all their friends about the amazing meals and snacks their mom makes. I know this all sounds crazy but if I’m honest this is the picture I had playing in my head. I am just a few months in to the food making process and I already know how false this picture is. Most days Nala ends up eating more of the food I make for Hudson. Most days he spits it out and throws his spoon in my face. Most days he gobbles up the sweet store bought applesauce but turns his nose to the chia pudding or kale sweet potato purée I freshly blended up in the Baby Bullet. By the end of the day I am left overwhelmed and frustrated with a dirty kitchen and one very messy baby.

I am learning a lot in the kitchen right now. I am learning my efforts will not always be returned. I am learning that part of feeding a baby is learning to let go of control. And let me tell you, that is a hard one for me. I truly did not realize how controlling I was until I had a baby. What a sin of mine! I am slowly, emphasis on slowly, beginning to let go and be okay with smeared beets all over his high chair and crumbs completely covered on the floors. I am letting go of my ever-so tight grip on that spoon and learning to offer it to him, to allow him to try on his own, to give him more freedom and be okay with the mess that comes with that. This is easier said than done. This is especially hard when I spend so much time looking up recipes, boiling fruits and veggies, grinding up quinoa, and lots of blending. It makes my whole body tense when I see the chicken coconut curry recipe I made thrown on the floor. It drives me slightly crazy when I bake pumpkin flax biscuits and he turns his nose to them. I have said “I give up” countless times to Lance at the dinner table. But, for some reason I find myself in the kitchen the next morning trying something new. It usually ends in the same way, messy floor, messy baby, food mostly eaten by the dog, but I am learning the importance of consistency and trying again and again. There are lots of disaster meals, but there are little victories that keep me returning back to the kitchen, back to the baby cookbook, back to the blender.

I am absolutely no expert when it comes to baby food making. Just a mama that desperately wants a happy, healthy and well-fed little one. So from one mama to the next, here are a few ways to help you not go crazy when it comes to making food for baby:

1. Allow Room for Grace

Like the whole title of my blog, this mama needs grace when it comes to baby food. There seems to be a lot of pressure in the arena of feeding baby. I see other blogs and flip through cookbooks and wonder how anyone has the time or patience? It feels overwhelming. It feels unachievable. Allow room for grace. Realistically, you’re not going to be able to make a new, gourmet recipe every meal. Use leftovers. Dig into that freezer stash. Keep it simple. You don’t need to be a top chef to feed your baby well. Just good ingredients and lots of patience.

2. Be Well-Stocked

The fact of the matter is I just don’t have the time or energy to make fresh, homemade food for every meal. Don’t be afraid of the occasional pouch bought at the store or teething crackers from the package. Hudson loves Happy Baby Organic teething crackers and literally did not even want a bite of the made with love pumpkin teething biscuits that came hot out of the oven for him. Some battles are just not worth fighting. We both are happier when I just buy the packaged crackers. Also, when I am pinched for time it is super helpful to just pull a veggie or fruit pouch from the cabinet. I also think it is a great idea to make baby food ahead of time and get a freezer stash going. I wish I did a better job at this, but I always have at least a few servings of pears or peas in the freezer. On those crazy nights, I can just pop it out and it will be ready in just a few. Also I love to have at least one leftover serving from the dinner meal that I can use as a lunch for him the next day. I also found myself on days where the freezer and cabinet were empty and I did not want to go through the tedious process of chopping, boiling, and blending; that I gravitated towards easy foods like avocados and bananas. It is nice to always have a bowl of these easy to mash foods. Final thing that helped in terms of being well-stocked is to have a big container of applesauce on hand. Apples blend great with all sorts of other fruits, veggies, and cereal. I tried making homemade applesauce at the beginning, but it honestly is just easier to buy it. I found myself putting the time in to make it and it barely made much at all. I just get the organic jar at Trader Joe’s and this saves time and allows me to quickly add it to his oatmeal in the morning.

3. Be Adventurous at Home

Restaurants with a baby or kid are already stressful, there is no need to add to it by brining foods they don’t already eat well. Introducing new flavors and textures and even spices early on is super important, but there is a time and a place. A nice restaurant might not be the best place to bring beets. And I am saying that from lived experience. It happened and let’s just say there was red everywhere. Now, when we go out, I try to plan accordingly. I’ll try and give him a veggie or some type of food he doesn’t eat as easily before we leave and then when we are out, I’ll feed him something I am confident he will eat well. For example, I might order a side of avocado or bring a pouch that he has shown to already really enjoy. Be adventurous with your little one. Try new foods. Throw in chia seeds. Add the garlic. But maybe try these more out of the box foods at home.

4. Make Meals for Whole Family

This is a big one! You can’t really do this for the first couple months they are eating, but once they are around 8-9 months they can really eat what you are eating as long as it is blended or chopped tiny. Finding recipes that worked well for the whole family has been the best thing for us. I checked out this book from the library, Growing Up Gourmet. I think I’ll need to eventually just purchase a copy because I use it basically every day. There is a whole section of the book dedicated to meals for the whole family. Most of the recipes are relatively healthy, delicious, and easy to keep dairy-free. It makes my life so much easier to just have one dinner to make. The only thing I need to do differently is blend up Hudson’s portion. Hearty soups are great because they have lots of veggies, flavor and are easy to blend.

5. Don’t Give Up

“I give up!” is my go-to phrase at the dinner table. Making homemade meals for baby is no joke. It’s hard work and it’s even harder when your baby throws it everywhere and cries every time the spoon is near. You are going to be tempted to just buy the purées packed with sugar and close up the kitchen. I know I have. But there is something really fun about making your own meals for baby and trying new flavors. Keep trying. Stay consistent. Keep offering lots of vegetables. Don’t give up. Also make it fun. Hudson’s pediatrician reminded me at our last appointment that feeding baby should be fun. At this point, most of their nutrition primarily comes from milk. This is really just for practice and starting healthy habits. As much as you can, keep it light and fun. I definitely fail in this area a lot of time, but I am trying.

No matter how you choose to feed baby: homemade, store bought, purées, baby led weaning, formula, breastmilk; what really matters is the heart behind it and a growing baby. Each family is different. What works for you, might just not be possible for the next. As long as baby is given the nutrients and love he or she needs, then you are doing a great job! It is easy to let the stress get in the way of it all, but I am daily learning to let go and enjoy the messy and unpredictable process of feeding baby.

Starting Slow, Finishing Strong

This mama needs to start slow.  In college, I used to be able to roll out of bed, slide on my shoes, and hit the pavement at a 6-something-minute pace.  Emphasis here on used to.  The funny thing is that college for me was not even that long ago, I am just three years out, but my sense of pace has already greatly shifted, both in a literal and figurative sense.  My pace in terms of running has definitely changed.  My current pace now is what I used to think of as a slow, shakeout run.  But it is not just running, it is an overall life pace that I can feel is shifting as I type this.  In college, it was about going.  It was about jumping into cold pools before the sun rose.  It was about midnights in libraries and drinking coffee at 1am.  It was about miles and miles; pages on pages; words upon words.  It was all about speed and getting things done.  Trust me, I am still all about getting things done and accomplished, but my pace is entirely different.  I need to start slow.  I need to warm-up.  I need to lie in bed just a few extra minutes and wake up as I read just a couple pages.  I need to sit and sip in silence.  I need to stay in pajamas just a bit longer.  I need to hold my baby and not worry about my to-do list for just a few moments longer.  I need to take it slow.

I am all about the slower starts, the lazy mornings, the clear schedules.  My whole essence thirsts for the slower pace.  This easing into things is becoming essential to me.  It is essential for how I run and also how I live.  The danger in this, however, is when we stay in the slow and never learn to shift gears into the uncomfortable.  I start slow, but I never finish there.  While starting slow is key to me, shifting gears into uncomfortable speeds is also required.  I was reminded of this inherit need for speed (ignore the cliche rhyme) last week when I returned to the track.  My feet literally have not touched a track in just about 3 years.  Last time I was on a track was June 2016 in Kansas for my last collegiate 5k.  So, it has been some time.  And I could feel this separation.  I was doing a 10 by 400 meter workout with my dad so kindly agreeing to take my splits.  The first one felt raw and scary and too fast.  The second, third and fourth felt like I had made a mistake in choosing to workout at the track.  The fifth and sixth one felt completely numb, yet still painful.  But it was the seventh one that made sense.  It was in that seventh 400 meters that I hit my stride.  I felt back at home.  I remembered the turns and the straight aways and where to settle and where to push.  Don’t get me wrong.  The 7th-10th 400 were still painful and uncomfortable, but by number 7 I knew I would finish.  I knew I would not slow down.  Is this not life? It is hard, hard, hard, and then you hit a point of endurance.  It does not necessarily get easy, but it becomes endurable.  You become stronger, more confident, and more fierce, that by number 7 you know you are not stopping.

It is a great balancing act to create a life that holds both the slow and the burning speed.  It takes trial and error.  There are days that will feel too slow and days that have way too much intensity.  So you adjust.  You learn.  You create good patterns and break the ones that always put you into ruts.  I am learning that timing and structure are key elements in helping me balance the slow with the quick.  Here are 5 things that help me achieve this balance:

  1. Start Day Slow

I need to start my days at a very slow pace.  If I know I have a commitment or somewhere to be early, I get up even earlier to allow for the space to wake up.  I no longer can just roll out of bed.  I need time.  I need coffee.  I need scripture.  I think a huge part of being able to work hard throughout the day is allowing the start of the day to be slow and gentle, not rushed and frantic.

2. List and Schedule 

I am a list-oriented person.  I really struggle when I do not have lists to guide me.  I am always at the grocery store or Target, with a list in hand.  Even if it is the smallest errand, if I don’t write down: puffs, detergent, tea, and salad, I will become distracted or waste time.  Lists keep me focused.  I need them.  The same is true with my days.  As a teacher, I was my most productive self because I have the schedule of bells ringing throughout the day that kept me extremely structured.  As a stay-at-home mom, I must create these bells on my own.  For those mamas that work in the home, it can be so easy to waste our days.  It is essential to list out the “work” that must be done.  Not only list out what needs to happen in that day, but schedule it in so you know exactly when it will happen.  This helps keep me focused, so when I am doing the work elements, I am not thinking about yoga class and when I am in yoga, I am not thinking about laundry or dishes.  This is the ideal mindset and I don’t always succeed, but this is the goal.  List and schedule, so the lines of work and rest don’t run and bleed into each other.

3. Commit and Don’t Back Down

For me, one of the most important practices when balancing working hard and resting well is making sure I stay committed. It is so easy to back down and choose the easy route. It is so much easier to not do the hard work. It is also very easy to skip your time of rest and choose to do “the more important” things. Achieving balance happens best when we keep our commitments. Once I start backing out of commitments, I easily begin to fall into ruts. Even on the crazy, full days, if I have a workout scheduled, I need to follow through. It is that simple.

4. Schedule Rest 

This is one I am trying to currently figure out. Rest does not come naturally to me. I am learning that if I don’t schedule it, just like I would something important, like a meeting or a workout, it won’t happen. Some days I follow through and take this time of rest seriously, while others I ignore it and prioritize other things. Part of starting slow, and finishing strong, means that there also must be a middle time of slow and quiet and calm. For me, this does not usually mean taking a nap at 1pm. It looks more like grabbing a book and getting off my feet for 15 minutes. It looks like stopping. It looks like sitting. It looks like espresso in my favorite mug right after Hudson falls asleep for his final nap. It ultimately looks like surrendering to the Lord and relying on His strength, not my own work and capabilities and production.

5. Finish Strong

In a race, the goal is always to finish strong. No matter how fast you started or even if you lost a shoe in the first 100 meters, finishing strong is what matters. Just like certain runs, I end my days on burn out. I collapse. I stop. I trudge my feet. This is not what I want for my life. I want to end each day stronger than when I woke up. And sometimes I fail. I hit a wall and waste hours watching the Bachelor. I hate how I do this, but it is the truth. I don’t always finish my days strong. I sometimes, oftentimes, crawl into bed, emptied and exhausted and fixed to a screen. The best ways for me to avoid this place is to set limits on work and screens, so by 8 or 9 pm, I can fill up, spend time with Lance, and rest in knowing that enough has been done. If I don’t have clear time limits, I can quickly crumble into a place of weakness and mindlessness.

There is a time for the slow and a time for the head down, grinding, uncomfortable pace too. I have strong tendencies to live in the extremes. I have days where I stay in pajamas too long. I have days where I am-consumed with work and cleaning. Some days I get it terribly wrong, today might be one of those, but my prayer for today is that I can continue to strive at living a more balanced pace, so I can ultimately be more in-tune to the Lord’s will for my life.

 

 

Routines Pt. 4

The Weekend Routine

To finish up this series on routines, we are ending with my very favorite part of the whole week: the weekend.  We have had some really amazing weekends, but we also have had some really terrible ones. I think the terrible ones are a result of two things. 1. Planning too much into a single weekend. 2. Not being intentional with this allotted time.  The weeks can feel crazy full and busy. It is easy to save tasks and things to do for the weekend. However, when this happens, I almost always end our weekend feeling just as tired as when I began it. This is not a weekend well lived. We should be ending Sunday evenings feeling rested, restored, and ready for the week ahead.  Some of my very favorite weekends are the ones that were empty, white boxes on the calendar. However, I have found the opposite can also result in an unfulfilled weekend. When we are not intentional with our time and do not have any sort of plan with how to use the time, we end of having weekends wasted on shows and laziness. So like everything, it is about finding that balance between the planned and unplanned, the lazy naps and hikes outdoors, the going out and the staying in.  We are still in the process of crafting the perfect weekend, but here are a few of our favorite weekend things. I know this whole month I have been doing lists of 5 things, but weekends are just so good, I made this one a list of 7!

  1. Sleep In

By sleep in, I am referring to 7:00 or 7:30 am.  This is going to vary on preference and lifestyle, but we are not out late on a Friday night, so waking up at 7am feels incredibly restful, especially when your weekday alarm is 5:00 or 6:00 am.  Both Lance and I can’t really sleep in much later than this, but getting out of bed at 7:30 am really does feel special. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in later, but we love Saturday mornings and if you sleep in too late, it can feel like you just lost one of the most precious times of the week.  

  1. Make a Good Breakfast, Not Oatmeal and Toast!

Saturday mornings for us are blueberry pancakes and peppery turkey bacon.  This has become such a routine for us that both Lance and I just seem to know that when Saturday hits we will be eating hot blueberries and crispy bacon.  After a week full of quick sips of coffee and toast thrown into the toaster, there is something so nice about slowing down and really taking the time to put together a good breakfast.  There is also something about the ritual of our Saturday morning breakfast. These motions are becoming second nature. I have always been a recipe type of girl. I think it is just my personality.  Give me the steps and I will follow them to a tee. This blueberry pancake recipe, which I am linking here, is the first recipe that I am beginning to be able to do without even looking at the steps.  I have it basically memorized by heart. 3/4 milk with two tablespoons vinegar. These pancakes are what Saturday mornings are all about.  I think it must have something to do with the vinegar because they are just the perfect amount of fluffiness. Basically every week when I am doing our weekly grocery run, I always pick up the peppered turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s.  This is hands down the best turkey bacon we have ever eaten. It is peppery and crispy. It is the perfect friend of these fluffy blueberry pancakes. Some Saturdays are more hectic than others and we cannot always have this as our breakfast, but we really try to carve out space on Saturday mornings that leaves room for pancakes, peppered bacon, and slow sips of coffee.

  1. Exercise + Take Time Off

Saturdays are long runs by the beach or in the hills of Palos Verdes, and Sundays are days off.  We go long and fast on Saturday, and take it slow and restful on Sunday. For us, this is the perfect weekend balance.  In high school and college running, long runs were always either on a Saturday or Sunday. It took me two years after graduating LMU to realize how reliant I was on these weekend long runs.  Saturday long runs are my favorite run of the week. I think the main reason I love it so much is because even if nothing gets accomplished the rest of the weekend, I know I ran 10 miles. This plus the fact that it starts the weekend off in a place of wellness.  It gives me the chance to breathe, reflect and pray before the day really starts off.

  1. Coffee Out

We have not been to the movies in years.  We don’t go bowling. We don’t go to miniature golf.  We don’t even go out to restaurants much anymore. But, we go out to coffee.  This is our activity of choice. And I am not talking Starbucks. There is nothing wrong with Starbucks and we will definitely end up here on weekends as well, but our favorite thing to do on either a Saturday or Sunday is take a drive and go to either Blue Bottle or Alfred’s.  We will grab our expensive yet delicious coffee and either hike on the bluff trail (right underneath LMU) or go to our favorite spot, Will Roger’s State Park. Sometimes, we will just drive around with our coffee and pretend we live on one of those fancy streets. We drink our coffee, we talk, we listen to a podcast we both agree on (which is a great struggle, but we usually go with Skimm’d on the Couch), we listen to worship music, and sometimes I even read parenting books aloud to Lance.  The point here is you don’t need to spend a ton of money to make a great outing. It is all about the people and the coffee.

  1. Keep Fridge Stocked

This is sort of a random, small detail, but I love making sure the fridge and pantry is all stocked by Friday, so I don’t have to spend that precious weekend time at the store.  I tend to go to the store on Thursdays, either during the day with Hudson or in the evening after dinner. This allows us to have fresh and yummy things to munch on all weekend without needing to face the weekend crowds.  I also plan our meals for Friday and the rest of weekend intentionally. Fridays are typically really easy and basic dinners. Our go-to is pizza using the Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough. Saturdays tend to be a little more special, like rosemary steak and roasted potatoes.  Sundays usually are crockpot soups or stews. By having everything in terms of our food planned, it allows for more space and time to enjoy the weekend together.

  1. Get Together with Good Friends

There is nothing better than getting time with some of our favorite people.  This does not happen every weekend, but we intentionally schedule time with friends at least once a month.  This definitely has become more tricky now that we have baby H, but it still is a priority of ours. It just looks different than before.  It usually means early dinner with friends or hanging out with them in the afternoon in-between naps. Weekends always seem to be extra fun when it involves our people.  While we used to be able to have more spontaneous plans with friends, now things need to be a little more planned. But, that is okay! It makes it even more special when that date we have put on the calendar finally comes.  

  1. Get Out with the Whole Fam (Dogs Included!)

Nala’s life has become pretty boring since the arrival of Hudson.  She has definitely gained some weight as her activity levels have greatly dropped.  She used to spend her weeks at doggy day care or at her grandparents’ house where she would fetch the ball for hours, but now she is stuck with just me.  This entails a lot more naps and watching me focus on Hudson. Because her weeks are less eventful, we do really try to do something she can join in on. This usually means a hike or a walk on the strand or if she is really lucky, a trip to the dog beach.  Sometimes it is even simpler and we will just walk to the park near our house, and Lance will throw her tennis balls and Hudson and I will watch. Whether it simple like this, or a more elaborate day trip, there is nothing better than getting out of the house with all four of us.  It is especially great because when we get home Nala and baby our both exhausted and happy.

This is just a small glimpse at what a typical weekend looks like for us.  Yours will obviously be different, but however you spend it, I hope you can spend it with the people you adore and even if it just for a bit, I hope you can breathe in some fresh air.  

 

Grace in the Kitchen

This mama needs grace in the kitchen.  I am a pretty average cook in the kitchen.  Thankfully I have a husband who is incredibly non-picky and gracious when it comes to my cooking.  He is the type of guy that is happy with a meal made up of quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brussel sprouts. He is not your average steak and potatoes type of guy.  And for that I am thankful! I can do veggies. I can do salads. I can do stir fry. Those are my things. I work well with vegetables. Chicken on the other hand is a different story.  I have a deep fear that I will serve undercooked chicken. I am always amazed when I watch cooking shows and they just seem to know that the chicken is cooked all the way through. I am the type of person that basically ends up cutting the entire breast of chicken before serving it up on plates because I am absolutely terrified there will be that ever-so-slight tinge of pink in the center.  I so wish I could be like those chefs that slide the chicken right onto the platter. I wish I had that type of chicken confidence. “Being a chicken” is typically considered to be the opposite of confident, but for these purposes, chicken confidence is someone who is so trusting in their own skills, they serve the chicken without even cutting into it. I long for this. Because what happens when undercooking chicken is your fear, you end up overcooking it by a long shot.  I never serve undercooked chicken, but I often serve devastatingly dry chicken.  I am not sure which is worse. Well, probably undercooked chicken because salmonella, but dry chicken is pretty depressing.  As I am sitting here thinking about cooking chicken, my memory is flooded with failure. I am brought back to my college apartment when I attempted panko-crusted chicken tenders and they came out of the oven looking strange and rubbery.  I think about cooking chicken on the stovetop and having beautiful golden crusted chicken with a middle that was entirely pink because I was not applying the right amount of heat or patience. I am reminded of battling with a rotisserie chicken uncertain as to how to navigate around all the bones.  Chicken often makes me feel inadequate in the kitchen. Actually there are a lot of elements in the kitchen that make me feel less than the perfect homemaker. Like, tonight, when I was “roasting” vegetables in a cold oven. Right when dinner was to be served, Lance went to take out the pan of veggies and found cold, sad sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms drowning in olive oil.  Sometimes I forget to turn the oven on and we end up having to wait an extra hour for dinner. Sometimes I burn the quinoa, the rice pilaf, the fill-in-the blank. Sometimes I dry out the chicken. I am an average cook, just like I am a pretty average person. No matter how hard I try, the results of my cooking never seem to look like the images in Bon Appetit.  Just like my face never seems to look like the ones I see on Cover Girl commercials.  Or how my life never seems to look like those perfectly curated squares those bloggers post.  My cooking, my face, and my life are often not magazine worthy. All three of them are quite messy and dry at times.  But here’s the thing, I don’t stop. I keep making the dinners. I keep living our life. Do I burn things? Yes. Do I fall short? All the time.  But I promise you, tonight I will make dinner again and I will try my very hardest to remember to turn on that oven and watch that quinoa better.

The kitchen is just a microcosm for my whole life.  Some days I am going to feel like a Top Chef as I serve our family the perfect berry crisp after a turkey, brown rice dinner we all loved.  As my spoon scoops up hot berries and chisels into perfectly golden crisps, I am going to have those moments of I am killing this mom/wife game.  There will be those berry crisp type of days, but there also will be a whole lot of burned rice pilaf, cold vegetables type of days.  The beautiful thing is that on those burnt out and dried up days, we can rest in the grace of Jesus. He does not care that the chicken is dried up.  He cares about our hearts. When I mess up dinner, I need to remind myself that God does not see a burnt meal, he sees a heart desiring to serve her family well.  This is what matters to Him.

My bible has two ribbon bookmarks in it.  I love this feature because it allows one to be wherever I am currently reading and it allows the other to always remain in Proverbs 31.  For me, this is my grounding chapter that inspires me, but also points me to the main purpose of my life: fearing and serving the Lord. I know these verses have been reprinted on mugs and canvases and quoted often and even criticized at times for putting pressure on women to be a certain way, but the reason I love this chapter so much is because it reminds me that praise does not come from what I produce.  

The Proverbs 31 woman is awesome.  I love her. I love her selflessness.  “She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household” (Proverbs 31:15).  I love her resourcefulness. “She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants” (Proverbs 31:24).  I love her boldness and decisiveness. “She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings” (Proverbs 31:16).  She is much more than a good homemaker. She is a business woman. She is smart and adaptable. She loves and serves her family well. While this list of everything she does can feel daunting and make us women feel like we are not doing nearly enough, the reason I love these verses so much is because her praise from the Lord does not come from all that she is doing.  It comes from being in right relationship with Him. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). To me, this verse so beautifully captures my whole point that the small things in life, aka the chicken and rice pilaf, do not matter, and what really matters is our hearts towards the Lord. There are days where I feel paralyzed to even think about all that the Proverbs 31 woman does.  She rises in the night. I have trouble getting up at 6am. She plants a vineyard with her earnings. I have a dead garden and do not make money. She has everyone in her household doubly clothed. I sometimes forget to pack Hudson an extra jacket and hat. I could go on. But, I fear the Lord. And I love Him with my whole heart. This is what matters. This is what He sees. This is what my children and Lance will see and remember as well.

You might be wondering, how did we go from cooking chicken to Proverbs 31?  Hopefully I have not fully lost you because I think this is important. I think it is important that we are striving for the right things.  I think some (including myself at times) read Proverbs 31 and think well, I could never measure up to that standard.  I think our brains get filled with everything that is listed out that we do not hear verse 30 as strongly as we should.  A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  It does not say a woman who has it all together and sews and gardens and cooks gourmet meals will be praised.  No. A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  I can do that.  Not always well, but thankfully He gives so much grace in this area as well.  

All of this to say, I need grace in the kitchen, aka my entire life.  

Routines Pt. 3

The Evening Routine

Just like all the other parts of the day, I think it is so important to be incredibly intentional with the ends of our days because at least for me, there is a greater temptation to use my evenings just to veg.  This almost always leaves me falling asleep wishing I used time wiser.  After a long, full day it is easy to say I deserve to just lie here and watch Hulu and stuff my face with cookies.  While this is the more tempting and easier choice especially when you are exhausted, I do believe that our evenings have the potential to hold so much more for us.  I think there is a way that evenings can be both restful and fulfilling.  For me, as much as I choose it, watching shows on Hulu does not feed my soul in the same way that scrapbooking or spending quality time with husband does.  Some nights, I fail at having a good evening routine.  Actually a lot of evenings I do, but I am learning that if I try to incorporate these 5 things, I end the day right.

1. Leave the Dishes

The last thing I want to do after we eat dinner, is spend more time in the kitchen.  So I don’t!  Lance is always really great about clearing the dishes, so after Hudson and the high chair are cleaned up, I leave the kitchen.  There are always pots in the sink and counters that could use a wipe down, but I intentionally choose to not touch it.  I am sure some of you are thinking how you would never do that.  How you have to have your kitchen spotless before you go to sleep at night.  To each their own, but for me personally, it steals joy when I end my night in the kitchen.  Especially staying at home, I feel like I am constantly in the kitchen.  As much as I can control it, I choose to leave it as soon as dinner is done. I only return to it to find something sweet for dessert! The amazing thing with this is that the world keeps spinning and no one seems to care that the pans do not get cleaned until the morning.  Lance loves me just the same.  Hudson loves me just the same.  It really is crazy how we put these unneeded expectations on ourselves.  Who says the kitchen must be spotless before you sleep?  Why is that a rule?  It shouldn’t be and if it is, I break it.  Will Hudson remember that we had pans in the sink or will he remember the walks we took together as a family after dinner?  Will he remember the crumbs on the countertop or will he remember the laughter and the play that happened after dinner? I think it is all the latter.  Like I always say, the dishes can wait.

2. Wear Real Pajamas 

By 8pm I am in my pjs.  This is one of those very small details but I think putting on a pair of comfy pjs help switch my mindset into resting mode.  With the colder weather, I have been wearing a pair of flannel pjs every night.  These flannel pajamas are like my nighttime uniform.  It is my signal to stop, to rest, and to be satisfied with the work I have accomplished.  So after we do Hudson’s evening routine (I’ll write more on this in future posts), I tiptoe out of the room, put on my flannel pajamas, and get right into evening mode.  I know some moms might use this time right after the little ones go to sleep to do some cleaning up around the house, but I really try to do all this tidying up before Hudson is asleep.  Similarly to my kitchen philosophy, if there are a couple pillows not fully fluffed or a few random toys out, I don’t fret about it.  I know those things will get done the next day during my cleaning cycle.  Similarly to the idea of sabbath, I think it is essential to really carve these evening hours out as sacred time for rest and rejuvenation.  For me, this time of rest starts with the comfort and warmth of flannel and finally getting out of those yoga pants I have been wearing all day.

3. Invest in Yourself

This is going to look different based on your own interests, but for me this typically looks like having a small activity to myself that I enjoy.  This is usually something I do right after Hudson has fallen asleep.  Sometimes I will go in the playroom and continue to work on Hudson’s first year scrapbook.  I typically do not spend a ton of time on this, I might do this for 30 minutes, maybe an hour, but I usually do not produce more than a page of work, but this set apart time of sorting through photos, cutting out shapes, and designing layouts gives me joy.  It makes me feel calm and at peace.  And the thing is, I am not even very good at scrapbooking.  The shapes I cut out are not always the most even, even though I use a stencil.  I have not invested in a lot of extra, fun scrapbooking things, so the pages really just have the images and my own handwriting.  The point here is not perfection.  It is the act of cutting, pasting, creating that brings the joy.  To me, I love the pages I create, not because they are perfect, but because of all the smiles I see of our family on those pages.  Scrapbooking allows me to take a step back and be reflective of all the amazing memories we are already making.  It is proof that while we definitely do not have it all together, we are making memories that will forever be captured in the pages of my less than perfect scrapbook.  This is just one option.  And the reality is that a lot of nights, I don’t always feel like doing this.  It sometimes feels like too much on especially exhausting days.  So, I choose something else.  My other go-to, typically has been picking up a book.  Alongside activities, it is also important to practice self-care during this evening time.  I don’t even know what to write here because honestly I don’t do a good job in this area, but I really want to.  For the past few months, I keep thinking how I should really have an evening skin care routine.  It just seems like one of those things you do when you’re really grown-up.  I still do not have one, but I am determined to develop one soon! Even if it something as simple as putting night cream on every evening, I think this small act of caring for your skin is the perfect way to invest in yourself.  Note to self: buy night cream.  Right after writing this I went down a rabbit hole of watching nighttime skin care routines on Youtube.  And let me tell you, I had no idea you could use that many products just to get “unready.”  I use maybe one or two products just to get ready, or let’s be real, sometimes zero.  Maybe one day, I will have a routine like this, but if you are with me and get overwhelmed in this area, start small, purchase one thing of night cream.  Then, maybe one day I’ll be cool enough to have a whole routine where I roll my face with that roller thing and put on 8 different products.

4. Spend Quality Time With… 

Again this will vary, but for me it is with my husband.  If you’re single, maybe this will look like calling your best friend you haven’t talked to in a while or video chatting with your mom.  However it looks, I think it is important to end the day with connection with someone.  Lance and I like watching shows together in the evening.  This is our thing, but I typically fall asleep, so we are currently in the stages of figuring out better ways to spend quality time together, without me falling asleep.  We both are training for races so we are hoping to better use the time right before bed to stretch, roll out, and talk together.  We also almost always brush our teeth and get ready for bed together.  As much as we can, we try to not be on screens during this time.  I used to be terrible at this, but I have noticed I am so much more present with Lance when I plug my phone in to its charger early and don’t touch it.  Sometimes I need to just leave it in the other room so I do not even have the temptation to touch it.  After Hudson falls asleep and we both have finished up whatever personal activity we were pursuing for that evening, we really do try to spend good time together.  In all honesty, we sometimes really fail in this area because we are so exhausted, but I think we are both learning that this hour to hour and a half we have together is so precious.  We really need to use that time together well.

5. Drink Water, Floss & Pray 

I am a terrible water drinker! I need to get better in this area, but right before bed I always make sure I have at least a few big gulps of water.  I also keep a cup of water in our room so when I get up at night to nurse Hudson, I always make sure I sip water before heading back into bed.  Along with water consumption, I am a terrible flosser.  Every time I go to the dentist, my gums bleed.  I have heard, “You need to floss more,” a countless number of times.  I go through phases.  Sometimes I am all about the flossing and I am super consistent with it.  Others times, I skip it all together.  It is kind of like bed making, which I talked about here.  It feels small, but it is a consistent healthy habit.  Even if you had an evening of tv and cookies, at least you are doing one thing productive and healthy! Plus, your gums will thank you.  Once the water drinking and flossing have ended, Lance and I together always end our days with prayer aloud.  As I wrote in the morning routine post, prayer is an important part of the way I begin my day.  For us, it is also an important way we end it.  I am thankful for this time to hear the prayers and heart of my husband.  Maybe you aren’t the praying type.  I still think having some type of quiet, intentional time before sleeping is a great way to end the day.  Maybe it is a meditation.  Maybe it a moment of gratitude.  Maybe it is a conscious breath in and out.  However you end your day, I hope you can feel like it is enough.  This is a struggle for me.  So much so that I am currently reading A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller.  I have just begun so we will see if it helps me with this battle I daily fight of wondering if everything I do is ever enough.  I do not always end my days feeling like it was enough.  I sometimes end with a sad heart.  A tired heart.  A defeated heart.  This is the reality, this is real life.  But, this sad, tired, defeated heart can turn to the Lord and lay down the struggles and triumphs of the day and also the hopes for a better tomorrow.  I am so thankful for this hope!

 

 

Routines Pt. 2

The Afternoon Routine 

I don’t know about you, but I definitely hit a slump in the afternoon.  It usually hits around 1pm.  The morning energy (aka coffee) has worn off, the realities of the day have begun to set in, and my motivation to get things done is on the decline.  I know in the previous post, I joked about being an afternoon person, but the reality is that I struggle with afternoons as well.  I think it is easier to establish morning and evening routines because often times those hours are more predictable.  Afternoons can be filled with a number of things, so at least for me it has been difficult to establish a good rhythm.  I think this will become easier when I have kids in school, but for now afternoons are a bit tricky for me to figure out.  They are so open that it can be hard to know the right things I should be filling them up with.  I am still working on establishing good afternoon rhythms, but here are 5 tips that help shape my midday and get me out of that dreaded 1pm slump.

1. Get Outside

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of my afternoons.  I need to have at least one outing to get us out of the house.  Some days this will be an actual outing with a plan and time to meet someone and do something.  Other days, the outing will literally be just to walk Nala around the block.  The point here is that there does not need to be pressure to have a big outing every day.  At least in my book, an outing is anything that is getting us out those two front doors.  Sometimes the outing is going to be something really fun, like baby yoga, and it will take a 3-hour time slot.  Other times, it will look more practical, like going to the grocery store.  But Trader Joe’s can even be fun, especially when you get samples and stickers.  With most things, it is all about mindset.  I think it is especially important when Hudson starts to get older that I can model to him that it is a fun and exciting adventure to get out of the house, regardless of what we are doing.  As much as I can, I try to make our afternoon outing include time with people, whether that be our new friends in MOMS Club, old friends I have not seen in a while, or family.  I always leave the outing the most refreshed when I am able to also connect with people.  It is amazing how one trip out of the house can really change your whole day.  It helps me gain perspective when I allow myself to leave the house.  It reminds me that there is more to life than loads of laundry and dirty dishes.  It reminds me that there is in fact life beyond the walls of our home and that it is important to participate in it.  Trust me, getting out is not always easy for me.  I am a homebody through and through, but when I push myself to get out, both Hudson and I are happier.  I also find that my days are overall more productive when we do get out of the house.  I gain energy and motivation to get done the other things on my list.

2. Move

Movement is something I took for granted in high school and college because it was something I had to do.  Once I graduated from college and no longer needed to run, I stopped almost all movement.  It was not until movement in my life ceased that I realized how dependent my body, mind, and soul were on it.  I am finally understanding that when my days lack movement, I fall into a major slump.  I am on edge.  I am grumpy.  I am sad.  I am unmotivated.  I am tired.  It does not always make sense, but going out for a 9-mile run brings me so much energy and joy.  I always battle with the logical side of my brain that tells me: “You are tired; therefore, you should do nothing.” This is such a lie! Even when I physically feel exhausted, pushing myself to move almost always has benefits.  There are very few times I regret running.  I think the only times I have truly regretted it were times I was physically ill and it did not make sense to run.  The fact of the matter is that making time for movement in your day, whether that be a workout in the park or a stroller walk, is not always going to be easy.  Trust me, when it is pouring down rain on a Saturday morning, I don’t actually feel like going out for a long run.  But last Saturday, I did it.  And again did the same thing this morning in the pouring rain. And let me tell you, I was so happy I did.  It was hard and windy and long, but it gave me life.  I came home inspired and motivated and ready to tackle the challenges of the day.  Things feel more possible after you run 9 miles in the pouring rain.  I am learning the importance of movement in my life.  It is a super important part of my days.  But, it does not come naturally to me.  It is something that I definitely need to schedule and prioritize.  A few months back I overheard something at a yoga class that really spoke to me.  A woman told her friend that she treats going to yoga class as a scheduled meeting with a client.  She puts it in her calendar and makes sure she is there.  Just like we would never just skip a meeting because we did not feel like, we should not do the same when it comes to movement and our health.  Ever since I heard this, it has completely changed the way I think about working out.  My runs and yoga classes are now things that I schedule into my calendar.  I don’t cancel them.  I show up.  Movement in your life should not be a thing that only happens if there is time.  Or if the conditions are perfect.  Or if you have the energy to do it.  You have to make time and you have to show up to it like it is a very important meeting with a very important person…you!

3. Clean with Timers 

The fact is I could spend my whole afternoons just cleaning our house.  With a golden retriever that sheds like it is her full-time job and a baby that has toys and activity centers and mats all over the house, cleaning could be happening all. the. time.  I don’t want to be that mom that is so obsessed with keeping the perfect and clean home that she misses out of the joy found in the mess.  I don’t want Hudson to associate me with always being stressed out and cleaning.  I want him to see his mom as someone who is okay stepping aside from the dishes to play with him.  I want him to see someone who does not freak out when another spill happens or things get out of order.  In order to help set boundaries when it comes to cleaning, I have been setting timers.  This has helped me so much!  I do not always get to finish the amount of cleaning I wanted to do in that time, but that is okay.  I can walk away knowing I got a good 15 minutes of cleaning in.  Sometimes, I realize I just need more time so I do sometimes extend it, but try not to extend it by more than 10 minutes.  Cleaning with timers really helps me focus in on what needs to be done.  It also allows me to make cleaning like a game.  I am a very competitive person, so this works well with my personality.  Can I clean the whole kitchen in 15 minutes? Yes I can!

4. Don’t Waste Nap Times 

This is speaking mostly to the moms/dads that have littles at home that are nap takers.  Nap time is sacred time in the Capel home.  For the most part, I try really hard to ensure that we are home for nap time and that it will not be interrupted.  I know this is going to become even more of a challenge when we have kids in school, but for now it works out pretty well.  In the first couple months of Hudson, his naps were also my naps.  I am terrible with actually resting, as I have already alluded to in previous posts, but those first couple months I actually needed those naps to function.  Now I don’t really ever take naps, but I use Hudson’s nap time as a time for me to do work that fills me up.  For a while I was using nap time to get more cleaning and practical things done around the house.  I soon realized that this was causing me to feel even more burnt out by the time Hudson woke up.  Now I rarely clean during Hudson’s naps.  I usually use that time to write, read, or scrapbook.  I am still doing something, but I am intentionally choosing to do things that I am passionate about.  I call this time “active rest.”  These activities truly do fill me up and give me rest, while still allowing me to do something.  I know the nap has a time limit so by being more aware of my time constraints, I am able to get right to the work that fills me up as soon as I walk out of nursery.  It is so important that I don’t waste this time.  There are days where I definitely have wasted precious nap time and I always regret it.  Just like babies need their naps, mamas need their time to do the things they love and were created to do.

5. Eat a Cookie 

So isn’t there a rule that you’re not supposed to eat a lot of sugar before 2pm?  Maybe I am making that up, but I think that is a bad rule.  I am all about having a sweet treat to help with that afternoon slump.  As mentioned earlier on, afternoons can be hard.  It can really help me when I pause in my afternoon schedule and allow for something sweet.  I am not saying go crazy and eat that whole box of cookies (even though sometimes it happens), but have that piece of chocolate at 1pm.  Or that slice of cake.  Or that candy you have stashed in your drawer.  I really look forward to a small treat in the afternoon.  Usually this “treat” is in the form of espresso, but I do occasionally have a leftover cookie from the night before.  I am someone who definitely is extrinsically motivated.  Last week when Lance requested I do the taxes, I asked him if I finished them by that day if I could have In-N-Out for dinner.  It does not take much to motivate me! A hamburger and fries is all it takes to get me to crank out taxes in a few hours.  I do the same thing with sweets in the afternoon.  When you finish folding these loads of laundry, you can have those vegan cookies.  These are the conversations I have with myself throughout the day.  And you know what?  I finished folding the loads of laundry!

Afternoons can be hard.  But I think it can be a real game changer when you view the afternoons as a big 6-hour time window (for me, that is 10-4) that has infinite possibilities.  Afternoons have the potential to be filled with fun and people and new experiences that my morning and evening routines typically do not have.  Thinking of afternoons as these windows of opportunities, alongside giving it guidance by incorporating the 5 elements discussed above, can really give a lot of life to your midday.

Routines Pt. 1

For the month of February, Saturdays will be all about routines.  This will be a four part series exploring ideas for morning, midday, evening, and weekend routines.  I am all about routines, especially recently with baby H.  Are you with me?  Do you love routines too?  Read on, then!  Are you more of a go with the flow type of person and tend to be against routine?  Still, I would say, read on!  I think routines are obviously going to look very different based on lifestyle, but I do believe routines are essential regardless of life status.  We all need them.  From the college student to the SAHM (stay at home mom) to the CEO to the freelance photographer, even to your toddler; routines are for everyone.

The Morning Routine 

I used to believe to my very core that I was a morning person.  I lived for early morning wake up calls.  I loved getting up before everyone else.  I loved the quiet and the early morning coffee time.  Don’t get me wrong, I never leaped out of bed ready for the day (except maybe for a select time in college when I had less responsibility).  I did however, want to get up early and enjoyed it after I was out of bed. Then I had a baby.  I was no longer a morning person, nor was I night owl; I was not really sure what I was.  Maybe an afternoon person.  Is that a thing?  It took a few long months for me to realize that the lack of a morning routine was really messing up my whole day and leaving me feeling cranky, unproductive, and dare I say, mad.  Mad does not look good on me, or really anyone for that matter, but the early days and months of Hudson, I was not as joyful as I should have been.  There are many reasons for this shift in mood and attitude, but I do think a large part of it had to do with not having a good morning routine that put me in the right frame of mind to face whatever that day held for me.  What works for you is likely to be quite different, but here are 5 general tips to start building your morning routine that gets your day started right.

1. Set an Alarm

Trust me, I hate the sound of an alarm going off as much as the next person, but I learned that even when you don’t need to, setting an alarm is one of the best ways to start the day.  Why?  I think part of the reason alarms can be so important to a morning routine is because they help you start your day off demonstrating discipline.  We are faced with thousands of decisions per day, research even concludes that the average adult person makes about 35,000 decision in a day.  That is a lot of opportunities to either demonstrate discipline or not.  By choosing to get out of bed when your alarms rings, you are allowing your first decision making opportunity one in which you are saying yes to your day and no to the comfort of continuing to sleep.  We often focus more on the big decisions in our day like where we are going, what we are doing, and who we are seeing, but tend to not to give as much weight to the smaller ones that fill our days.  These smaller ones are just as important and can make or break a day. All this to say, that setting an alarm is important and actually listening to that alarm is even more important.  I definitely have noticed a difference with my days where I stop or snooze my alarm versus the days I get up right when my alarm sounds.  Set an alarm, get up early, start your day saying yes.

2. Make Your Bed

I have gone in and out of bed making phases.  I sometimes fall in the trap of believing the lie: “I don’t have time to make my bed”.  Time how long it takes to make your bed.  For me, it takes about 1 minute.  Granted, we have a pretty simple bed, you might be fancier with more throw pillows and such, but the reality is that making your bed does not take long at all.  No matter how crazy life can feel, we can always choose to make our beds.  It seems like a small choice, but starting the day by completing a task is extremely satisfying.  In the matter of the first 10 minutes of waking up, I have already made two positive choices.  Gotten out of bed and made it.  When the morning starts rolling and the anxiety begins to creep in that I am a failure of a mom/wife/person and can’t get anything done, I can at least catch a glimpse of our neatly made bed and tell myself, “You made your bed! You’re doing awesome!”.  Also, a point of clarification, when I say make your bed, I don’t mean just pull up the covers.  I mean really make it.  Fold the sheets precisely.  Fluff the pillows. Flatten out all the wrinkles.  Be able to step away, not only feeling like you accomplished something, but that you did it with quality and care.  This makes a difference.  Try it.

3. Get Grounded

After making my bed, I cannot just begin on my to-do list.  I need to first ground myself.  Again this is going to look different from person to person, but the best and only way I know how to truly stay grounded and reminded of my purpose is spending time in the Word.  This will look different depending on the season I am in.  There have been seasons where I honestly was not in the Word.  And this greatly affected me.  Just like taking vitamins every day in the morning, reading scripture is a necessity for me.  I desperately need the Word of God to remind me who I am.  I need scripture to give me a more heavenly perspective.  Sometimes I read just a few verses, sometimes I read a Psalm, sometimes I read multiple chapters.  Regardless of season, the importance is being in the Word.  For me, part of my routine is also avoiding any screens in this early time.  Therefore, I always read scripture in the Bible during this morning time.  Again, this is just a personal choice, but I really enjoy physically opening it up.  About a year ago, Lance gave me the She Reads Truth Bible for a Christmas present.  I love this bible for many reasons.  It is pretty and inviting.  It has excellent devotionals interwoven throughout.  And the CSB translation feels very accessible to me.  Obviously, how your bible looks does not matter.  All that matters is the Truth contained within the cover, but there is nothing wrong in finding a beautiful bible, especially if it helps you get in the Word on a daily basis.  Maybe you are reading this and thinking: “getting grounded sounds great, but I am not religious.  I don’t even own a bible!”.  I could then go on to tell you that as an alternative, you could read a quotation that inspires you.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I feel like I would be remiss in not encouraging you to try reading scripture.  I love literature and I love a good quotation, but the words of an author simply do not compare to reading the living Word of God.   It is amazing how wherever I open up my bible to, I am met right where I am and given the words I so desperately needed to hear.  If this is something you have never done, I think the Psalms  is a great place to start.  Read just one verse, maybe read more.  God will meet you where you are.  He can ground you.

4. Find Your Morning Place

I sit in the same chair every morning.  I light the candle.  I pour my coffee. I sit in my flannel pjs.  Your morning likely will look different.  Maybe for you, you are already dressed in work attire and you are sitting in your car.  Maybe you are out walking on a trail.  Maybe you are lying on a yoga mat.  However you start your morning, I think there is something nice about creating a very similar atmosphere every morning, even if it lasts for just a few moments.  It does not need to get crazy.  It can be simple.  For me, it is a familiar chair, the flicker of a candle, and coffee.  Pick a couple things that will help create a morning environment that brings you peace and calmness.

5. Pray and Plan for Day

If you have just read a couple of posts, I think the fact that I am a woman of prayer and planning has come across.  I hope it has! If not, I am not conveying who I am very well.  My morning routine typically ends with me praying for the day and mapping out in my planner the tentative time schedule for the day.  I always start with gratitude.  I thank the Lord for giving me a new day.  I then pray for the things ahead in the day.  I pray for my attitude.  I pray for people.  And then I always end with love.  I tell the Lord of my love for Him and ask Him to help me better love the people in my life, and ultimately thank him for the love He has given me.  Also, just want to clarify this looks different based on the day.  This is real life.  I don’t want you to falsely get the idea that every morning I have a full block of time where I perfectly get to do everything I outlined above.  I don’t want you to think every morning I am in fervent prayer.  I wish I could tell you I was, but here’s the truth: some mornings, Hudson cries.  Sometimes (actually many times) I am interrupted.  Sometimes I don’t get to sit in quiet and converse with the Lord.  Sometimes my prayer time is simply “Lord, please help me” as I attempt to not break down as I try to console Hudson.  The point here is that, yes, some mornings I get amazing quiet time filled with scripture reading, reflection, and prayer.  Those mornings are great!  But the reality is that those mornings do not happen every day.  They may not even happen for days.  This does not mean that I throw out the whole routine and I hope I can get in good quiet time with the Lord tomorrow.  “Quiet time” does not always have to be quiet.  As I type this, I know that I am still attempting to learn this lesson.  I am learning to be okay with the noise and chaos and being out of control.  If I only prayed in the morning when I had 15-20 minutes of quiet, I would not be praying very much at all.  I hope these words can encourage you to be less focused on finding “quiet time” and more focused on communicating with the Lord regardless of how crazy or calm your morning looks.

Along with prayer, I also try to squeeze in a couple minutes of writing out time blocks for the day.  I am linking to a youtube video that has helped me re-think how I chunk my day.  She has some good insights that I found helpful.  Writing out my time schedule for the day, even if it does not go exactly as planned, helps give me direction and focus for the day.  By writing down what needs to get done, I am so much more likely to actually accomplish it! Also, sometimes I end up doing things that I did not initially write down, I try to record these once I finish them so I can give myself proof that I am in fact being productive, even on days I do not feel like I am.