December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

This is a look back at the previous year where I note some personal feelings of reflection. Memories that I don't want to forget and want to look back on in year's to come. It's one of my favorites to write.

I remember it being so cold that me and tLG just snuggled in bed most of the winter. Literally. We only came downstairs to eat and we did it in a hurry. I would make up a batch of crockpot peppermint hot chocolate and sip on it for a few days and then make another one.
I remember quiet Friday nights at home while Mike took Skylar for the weekend. I would watch Ugly Betty or read and just decompress from the week. I spent Saturday afternoons cleaning and putting the chaos back into order, which was good for my soul.

I remember Saturday morning Upward games. tLG loved basketball so much that I could hardly get her to concentrate on school work. Ms. Annette was the best coach we could ask for on our first year. Her team didn't win a single game but they learned a lot and Skylar couldn't wait to sign up for the next season!

I remember a Minecraft birthday party at the archery range. I stayed up many late nights creating the decor. The best part was seeing the kids pop balloons with their arrows at the end.

I remember helping to coordinate the Empower Your Birth conference, which was wildly successful with guest appearances by Ina May Gaskin and Penny Simkin.

I remember reading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. It came at the perfect time for me and got me back on the path to journaling more frequently. Although, my favorite non-fiction book of the year was For The Love. I even bought myself a signed copy from Jen Hatmaker. That woman gets me.

I remember phone counseling sessions with Jena while lying on the little bed. She asked good, tough questions that make me think outside everything I thought was true and helped me to establish good boundaries and expectations. Basically, she gave me my life back and I will forever be grateful.

I remember our girls-only Valentine Party. So. Much. Fun. Skylar helped me with the decorations and food and we played minute-to-win-it games but the highlight was a Mad Lib that we all contributed too. Hilarious! My girl still has it saved.

I remember Skylar's foot being burned by some soup that spilled out of the crockpot and the weeks of healing that followed. She's still not a fan of soup.

I remember Skylar developed a thing for chewing and eating paper that came out of the blue. I discovered chewing jewelry and one necklace fixed her right up and stopped that problem immediately.

I remember it snowed on March 1st and I killed a snowman. #stupidcold

I remember painstakingly hand-picking my sessions for the Teach Them Diligently Conference and being so encouraged by what I learned. I came home and implemented so many techniques that we are still using that have helped to clear the clutter from my mind and simplify our routine. Like, standard breakfast & lunch items and our scripture memory system.

I remember doing homeschool at the park, at Starbucks, and on the roof, which proved to be a favorite. It was so peaceful out there listening to the birds chirp. I adore the flexibility that homeschool has given us.

I remember running away to Birmingham for about a week when I felt overwhelmed. I was comforted by the smells of honeysuckle, fresh-cut hay, brand new baby, and the ballpark.

I remember making our HOME sign. It was a group effort. K-Diddy helped me drill the holes. Skylar helped run the lights and Mike helped me hang it. It is, hands down, my most favorite item of decor in our house.
I remember suffering a foot injury at Dunkin Donuts moments before Skylar's piano recital and going round and round with their insurance department. However, in the end, that little settlement helped to pay for my emergency room visit a few months later because of a kidney stone. I remember that the ER diagnosed me in less than 60 seconds. I've never been so thankful for pain meds in my life.

I remember being backstage when Skylar was baptized. I was so thankful for my unique, birds-eye view and being the first one to snuggle her when she came out of the water.

I remember finally being able to go to a hot air balloon festival, which had been on my bucket list. The air was too windy to see them fly but it was just as much fun to watch them inflate and see the night glow.

I remember Mike helping me install my brand new rain barrel. Saving up for it caused me to put my garden in a month late this year but it was so worth it! That rain barrel happened at an interesting time in our rebuilding process. I still look at it and remember it as a turning point full of hope and promise.

I remember that gardening still brings me immense joy and serenity. This year I battled squash bugs and lost but I also grew every single item from seed, which was a huge victory!

I remember watching Skylar boogie boarding at the beach in Gulf Shores and snorkeling together in Panama City. The water was calmer than I have ever seen it and we had a blast finding shells. It's so relaxing listening to your breathing under the water and watching the fish.

I remember helping Dad cut down tree limbs and using the 4-wheeler to drag them around. A 3-4 hour job ended up taking all day but we were handsomely rewarded in the end.

I remember that 1st Baptist became our new favorite summer camp. I also remember the drill presentation after Traveller's Rest camp.

I remember my inner circle of people who protected our privacy at all costs while we were separated. I also remember how excited Skylar was when Mike moved back home!
I remember playing games as a family on Friday nights. I love board games and it was fun to find unplugged things to do together. Cutting off the cable was one of the best things I ever did.

I remember helping Ms. Joni at church prepare the food for the Wednesday night meal. She was always so patient with Skylar and helped her learn how to do quite a few things in the kitchen.

I remember making the very difficult decision to quit my job. Leaving with no plan B was practically career suicide and very scary. But it was also an instant relief from all the stress and drama. It was freeing and I felt like I was me again! I took doula clients for the first time in almost 2 years and I picked up several new VA projects as well. The Lord definitely provided!

I remember how much I enjoyed our new curriculum for 3rd grade and starting our first day by meeting Senator Ted Cruz!

I remember our 10-year anniversary trip to Chattanooga, the hike to sunset rock, and the funyak ride down the Hiawasee River. I definitely enjoyed how relaxing the entire weekend was and all the yummy food we ate! The late-night trip to Baskin Robbins might have been the highlight. I do love my milkshakes!

I remember that this year's trip to the fair was the best one yet. We went with friends and had a blast even though I didn't ride a single ride.

I remember Tribe football parties every other weekend. It's so fun to be around my people and watching our kiddos grow up together. I'm so thankful for friends who are like family.

I remember simplifying the shopping around here. Between Home Chef, Amazon Subscribe & Save (okay, anything Amazon), and Shipt I get all of my food and household products delivered to my door. I make one trip to Aldi once a month and that is it. It's brilliant if I do say so myself!

I remember hopping down to Birmingham to meet Ben & Jessa Seewald at the Southern Women's Show. I even ended up with a back row guest appearance on their show Counting On. Oh, how I love me some Duggars!

I remember that Skylar went on a week-long trip with Grandma, D-Dad and Avery and got picked to be one of the trainer's helpers for the Sea Lion show. I was so tickled for her to get to do something so special since it's what she loves.

I remember completely overhauling the nYn website but I was so excited with how sleek it turned out. It was a big step for promoting birth doula services in Nashville.

I remember our family discovering Once Upon a Time and binge watching for a month to get caught to the current season. I even dressed up as Emma Swan for Halloween.

I remember staying home to watch the Iron Bowl with Mike. It was a nice, quiet evening at home. We've typically never been able to watch the game together so this shows just how far we've come.

I remember picking up Baron in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. I attempted to like this dog but that lasted about 1 week. I swear he finds a new way to make me angry every single day. I also remember Skylar meeting him for the first time. It was very sweet and endearing!
I remember overnight postpartum shifts with the twins and being in disbelief that snuggling babies is my job. It just never gets old. There is something beautiful about the stillness of the night.

I remember that Legos became all the rage at our house at the end of the year. My favorite lego memory was making holiday creations with tLG on Christmas Eve. She's so creative. My job is to find the bricks she needs.

I also remember that it was 70+ degrees on Christmas Eve this year. We took Baron to the park and enjoyed exploring.

I remember simplifying Christmas gifts and really focusing on Skylar's stocking instead, which is her favorite! The want-need-wear-read gift approach was fantastic! I remember our Christmas tree. It was tiny and pitiful and precious and I couldn't have loved it more. Plus, it will be great for our tiny house - assuming we ever get one.

I remember one epic dance, cleaning party the Saturday after Christmas!

I remember ringing in the new year with friends and their kiddos. We made glitter playdoh and jotted down memories from the year. So fun!

2015 was a year of personal growth. I learned a lot about life and myself. I learned that wisdom really looks a lot like patience. Sometimes waiting for things to play out without my interference really is the best. It's hard to wait but I saw the benefit of it. I also took back control of my life in areas where I had put too much control in other people's hands. Boundaries are necessary. When people can't respect your boundaries, you must move on. Must! Even when it's scary. I'm thankful I found new ways to simplify and to give myself more personal time. It's something that I'm still working on but I made good progress this year. I made an assumption last year that age 35 would be my best year yet. I don't know that it was the best but it was definitely the dawn of a new era of me. I took a good, hard look at what was #OnTheBeam and #OffTheBeam and got my priorities settled. It will be interesting to see what 2016 holds.



December 2015 Update

I'm so glad this month has finally settled down. There were about 2 weeks straight where we had something to do every single night. We were exhausted!
Skylar spent the week after Thanksgiving in Birmingham and I spent my time attempting to potty train our new dog, Baron. We've previously been very successful with potty training. Our first dog, Easton, was trained after 2 days. Skylar was the same way. 2 days and DONE! I really thought we had a good system. This pup has defied all the odds. We are now a month into this gig and he still hasn't quite gotten the hang of it. Oiy! He's also ALL puppy (read: killing me slowly). For starters, he's a full-blooded German Shepard and he's going to be gigantic (~120 pounds). His paws are massive. And those feet come with tiny little claws that are practically eagle talons. Then there are the teeth. Just imagine a mouth full of razor blades and you get the picture. He isn't mean or malicious in any way. In fact, he can be rather sweet. He's just super playful, enormous, and has an attention span of a nanosecond. I may or may have not googled the following queries in the past two weeks.
  • how long does the puppy stage last
  • when do puppy teeth fall out
  • how to potty train a german shepherd
  • tips for surviving puppyhood
  • when can I train my german shepherd
I'm not a fan of this little fella but, despite my adamant (understatement of the year) protests, I've been told we can't send him back so I'm trying my darndest to put my head down and just survive. Everyone keeps promising it will get better. They said that about Skylar too and it took her over a year to sleep through the night. Basically, my outlook isn't hopeful. However, after having a high needs baby, I went on to declare 2 my favorite age. It's possible I will say the same thing about Baron when he turns 2. Goodness that's a long time away. Until then, these ARE my monkeys and this IS my circus. Bless. But I don't have to like it.
Skylar has a love-hate relationship with Baron. He is technically her dog and that's the part she loves. She likes playing and snuggling with him too. Unfortunately, her little legs and ankles have taken the brunt of the razor-sharp nipping and that's the part she hates. As a mama bear, I don't like it either that my baby is getting hurt. Despite our best efforts to be consistent and teach him what is acceptable, he is really having a hard time getting with the program. I could say so much more but let's move on.

On the work front, Mike has been helping out at Opryland because it's insanely busy over there this time of year. He has worked every weekend in December and will work the first one in January too. I'm thankful that is coming to an end soon, especially because we are headed into basketball season.
My doula schedule is now full through June, which is really exciting! I've also been doing more overnight postpartum shifts and, this past month, I completed the final step to receiving my neonatal resuscitation certification. Yay! I have a couple of new VA clients I'm starting with in January so things will be very busy. I'm so thankful for how the Lord has provided my income since leaving my job in August. That was truly the best decision and I feel like we are on the verge of being able to get ahead.
It's hard to say what my favorite Christmas tradition is. We've gone to see the lights at Opryland every year since Skylar was born. I also love the Christmas Eve service at TDF with the candle lighting at the end. On the other hand, I love spending Christmas at home in our PJs or hanging out with our friends playing games. I'm such a homebody. We kept the gift giving pretty simple this year too. I finally got on board with the want - need - wear - read gift plan and loved it. Plus I gave stockings, which is tLG's favorite party anyway.
Speaking of simple, Amazon Prime, Shipt and Home Chef saved me this year. I only had to venture out for 1 or 2 quick retail trips to finish up my shopping for Christmas. Everything else was brought right to my door. Even the groceries. Funny story. Last week I popped into CVS for a book of stamps and the cashier who knows me said "WHERE have you been? I wondered where you have been shopping." I laughed. The truth is I don't shop anywhere anymore. Everything I need gets delivered. I've got all my ducks in a row to be a complete hermit this year. Although, the weather hasn't been too frightful just yet, but I know it's coming.

We spent New Year's Eve with sweet friends and their kiddos and had an awesome time. I'm looking forward to the fresh start of a new year. Stay tuned to see what my resolutions will be for 2016. Click here for more December photos.

December 2015 in Pictures

Here are a few more pictures from December & Christmas Festivities. To read the full update, click here
 Christmas with the Cousins at Grandmas
 Having fun with MiMi in Bama
Back row. That's me on an episode of Jill & Jessa: Counting On. :) 
2015 Christmas Card
Skylar meets Baron
 tLG & Baron
 On the left is what I sent to Alabama. On the right is all the extra items that came home from Grandparent Camp. Sigh. She is very loved!
 Visiting Opryland Hotel to see the lights. Our December tradition. 
 My little gift wrap helper!
 Saturday morning omelettes and Dr. Enuf - YUM!
Christmas Legos
 Opening her stocking on Christmas morning!
 Christmas morning selfie tradition. 
Ticket to Ride is our new favorite game. 
 This kid loves hanging out reading books on her bed. She received new Zip It Bedding and this beautiful Sherpa Blanket for Christmas!
 Baron climbed up in our toddler chair. 
 Fell asleep with a soccer ball for a pillow. 
New Year's Eve party with friends!
 Welcome 2016!

December 23, 2015

25 Books I Read in 2015


This year, I took the Good Reads Challenge and set a goal to read 30 books. Alas, it appears 25 is my limit. That's how many books I read in 2014 and this past year was no different. Still, I think I did good to get in 25. I'm happy with that. I wish I would have written more reviews so maybe I will aim to do better at that in 2016.

This was the year that I broke all my rules and got a Kindle (I had previously swore off eBooks) and started Audiobooks as well. If you are gonna go, might as well go all out, as they say. I enjoy being able to multitask and listen to books while I clean. The Overdrive app on my iPhone is my new favorite. It syncs with my library card! Score. :)

Here's what was on my list this year.

FICTION

NOTES: I'm a sucker for a Nicholas Spark's book so Best of Me and Longest Ride rank high on my list for this year. I was also surprisingly enamored with Astor Place Vintage, which I read on a whim at the suggestion from a friend. Several of the above books are being made into movies, which is always a good motivating force to end up on my to-read list.


NON-FICTION

NOTES: The winner here is For The Love, by Hatmaker, hands down. So. Much. Good. Stuff. Life-changing stuff. I read it and then listened to the audio version and just recently got a signed copy for my birthday. I will read it again in 2016. I also enjoyed Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet. It came at a very good time when I really needed it.


READ ALOUDS

NOTES: We've scaled back on read-alouds because she's been doing more reading with school but I definitely want to tackle another HP book and the sequel to Green Ember next year.


BIRTH-RELATED

NOTES: I read all but one of Patricia Harman's books this year. I thought that The Midwife of Hope River was my fave until I read The Reluctant Midwife, the sequel. 


What books should be on my list for 2016? 



Amazon affiliate links included. If you purchase an item through my link a teensy portion comes back to me to help fund my reading. 


December 14, 2015

Home Chef Review & Giveaway

I've been using meal delivery services for several months. I originally thought I would order twice a month. Ha! I order every. single. week. The convenience factor is just too appealing.

I enjoy cooking but hate shopping and meal planning. This is the best of both worlds because I get fresh ingredients delivered to my door with a recipe card! Each box includes everything I would need including spices and fresh herbs.

I discovered Home Chef  and my family seems to like this one the best.



Here are 5 reasons why.

1. The RECIPES - Home Chef meals seem more "normal" and less "exotic" from other services we've tried. While we still have an opportunity to try a variety of cuisines, Home Chef fits more easily into our food comfort zone. My hubby is thrilled that we have steak at least once a week and I love that they have so many more gluten-free options to choose from. Here's some of the meals we've tried.

2. The PRICE - The price point is $10 cheaper per week than other services I've tried, which saves me $40 a month. They also have breakfast, snack, and fruit options that I can add on to my order or not. I price shopped another service and found them to be cheaper than Publix so I know I'm saving even more by using Home Chef.

3. The COOKBOOK - Home Chef meals come with a recipe card that details all the ingredients and cooking instructions. They are pre-punched for a 3-ring binder that you receive when you place your first order. I've been able to use these cards to recreate some of our favorites. It's an awesome extra perk!

4. The PACKAGING - The Home Chef box is smaller than other services, which means less waste. It's easy to break down and we are saving them because I think they will make great moving boxes. They also package some of their ingredients in cute little jars and bottles, which I have been washing and repurposing. Another neat perk! Here's a video of me unboxing my delivery from last week.



5. The WEBSITE - I have found the Home Chef website to be much more user-friendly and easy to navigate. It's easy to see my past meals and the upcoming menu. It's also super easy to skip a week or to pause your account altogether. It also has a set it and forget it option where you set up your cooking profile and get an automatic order each week based on your dietary requests.

Try it out for yourself. Click here and Home Chef will give you $30 off your first order. That means you can try 3 different recipes for only $29.95!

***GIVEAWAY TIME***

Home Chef was kind enough to let me offer a chance to win a $50 gift card. This offer is for new customers only and will end on Friday, December 18th. Click here to visit Rafflecopter or use the widget below. Remember, even if you don't win (or if you don't want to wait), you can save $30 off your first order right now by using this link.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


November 30, 2015

November 2015 in Pictures

 When the time changes, I tend to go to sleep when it gets dark. 
tLG is not a fan of early bedtimes. 
 We discovered the monthly Lego Build at Opry Mills. 
Here she is with a shark she made. 
 On our way to see Charlotte's Web at NCT and we found a ladybug. 
Trails to Treasure Lego Game 
 Studying up on German Shepards
Homeschool day at McKays.  
Thanksgiving in Birmingham 2015 
 Skylar practicing with Sheldon. 
A sneek peek of our new little guy, Baron.