Tuesday, December 31, 2013

new year.

as i explained last year around this time, i set new year's resolutions about every year. follow-through is the part i struggle with. but since i'm working to focus on progress, not perfection, resolutions still seem to be appropriate. these are all things i am working on anyway and have talked about here [at length, i know], so it's really more a summary of where i intend to focus my time and energy. so, in no particular order, here are my 2014 resolutions:

1. make God more a part of my everyday. i tend to compartmentalize God- i go to church and think about my faith then, i read devotions, pray (though mostly at mealtimes, if i am being honest), etc. but turning to God when i am frustrated with bennett, folding laundry, driving in my car, etc. or even thanking God for all He has blessed me with throughout the day just doesn't really occur to me. i want to be intentional about including God even in the mundane, routine parts of my life.

2. pay off debt and save money. we get our bills paid on time and have more than what we need, but rather than aggressively paying off debts and putting money away, "extra" often goes to straight to us... shopping, eating out, whatever. while some of that is fine, when we aren't saving what we could be or paying down money that we owe more quickly, it's just irresponsible. and now that i'm not bringing home a paycheck, we (ok, let's face it i) need to be even more disciplined about sticking to our budget and working toward our financial goals.

3. exercise regularly. i have a membership at the Y and am home with bennett now. no excuses not to get in a workout a few times a week. i want this to be about how it makes me feel, not the "results"- weight lost, calories burned, etc. it's just about moving more and feeling more energetic.

4. keep our house clean/organized. maintain, maintain, maintain. do a little bit each day to keep things in order and not let it get out of hand and become a source of unnecessary stress. simple as that, right?

5. ditch dieting and level out the ups and downs as it relates to food and my weight/appearance. see my recent posts for more details.

6. make date night a priority. there were far too many long periods of time that passed in 2013 when joe and i hadn't gotten out alone together on a date. it's easy to have happen- we ask people to babysit when we have something come up but rarely just for the sake of getting out together. but i think our relationship suffered from not having intentional time set aside to do something together- just the two of us. so, whether it's having a family member come hang with bennett (and soon to be baby boy #2), or hiring a babysitter, we want to make date night happen at least once a month.

and, oh yeah, 7. have a baby. can't forget that one...

while new year's resolutions may not be discussed in the bible, starting anew is. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" that's what i want- transformation.

wishing you all a happy new year! 2014 is going to be a good one, i think!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

christmas celebrations.

it's christmas eve! with thanksgiving being so late this year, christmas really snuck up on me!

this weekend we celebrated christmas with joe's side of the family. jeffrey and robin and their 4 kids came up from sioux falls, south dakota. friday night was fun because the 6 of us (joe and his two brothers and the wives) we were able to hang out. joe's mom had jeff and robin's 4 kids up at her house and ben hung out with mike, meghan and landon for the evening. we went to eat at burger jones (yum!) and then went bowling and had a great time.

jake and allison stayed at our house friday night to make it a shorter drive to joe's parents' house in the morning. so saturday morning joe and jake took ben up to his parents' house and allison and i stayed at our house for a few hours so i could finish up some laundry and get some gift wrapping done. we headed up around lunchtime and spent the day and evening there.

sunday morning, joe and bennett and i hung out in the morning at our house. we headed up to jeff and sara's around 11. we had lunch and then put the kiddos down for a nap. joe and i stayed inside that afternoon with the little ones while everyone else went four-wheeling and played hockey. we had a yummy italian meal that evening and then all opened gifts. bennett loved playing with his cousins, eating marshmallows, and helping throw away gift wrap (who knew?). he had a tough time, though, with being gentle and had several incidents where we had to pull him away from the group for hitting the other kids. great... granted, jeff and robin's boys play rough and bennett probably had a tough time understanding the difference between playing and actually hitting. but still. not ideal. also bennett struggled when i was holding whitney (his youngest cousin, who is 3 months younger than him), and got a little aggressive with her because he was jealous. hopefully not a sign of coming attractions... ohhh toddlerhood...

yesterday, joe worked and i had my first "real" day as a full-time SAHM. i always had friday through sunday off, so this was my first day home when i would normally have been at work. bennett and i had a great day. we had a fun morning just playing around the house, went grocery shopping, and had lunch at red robin with mike, meghan and landon. bennett took almost a 3 hour nap and i got a little nap in there as well! bonus :-)

last night we did one of our traditions that we started for our family last year. we got hot chocolate (ben had milk) and drove around looking at christmas lights and listening to christmas music. it's one of those simple things that probably would seem lame to some people, but joe and i have already come to look forward to it. and it was fun listening to bennett chat in the back seat and say "ho ho ho" when he saw santas.

speaking of santa, we brought bennett to see santa last weekend. i honestly thought ben would be completely chill about it- he doesn't have much of a sense of "stranger danger" and is very open to new people. well, he liked santa from afar and even walked right up to him and looked at him. but then he lost it when we put him on santa's lap. 

i have to say, it was pretty adorable. as soon as he was done and i picked him up, he started saying "ho ho ho" and "bye bye!" i'm glad he isn't scarred for life or anything ;-)

it's so fun to start these traditions with our own family. one we carried over from mine is not putting baby jesus in the nativity until he's born on christmas. bennett loves the nativity and when we talk about baby jesus being born he says "cheese." i think jesus would be ok with the nickname. ben also likes to "moo" at the cow in the nativity.

today we are having a family day- blueberry french toast bake for breakfast, opening presents, last minute christmas shopping, then church at eaglebrook at 5. then we will head to my parents' house tonight and stay there. christmas morning will be a yummy breakfast (complete with our traditional gourmet pillsbury cinnamon rolls :). my sister-in-law works in the morning (she's a medical resident) but will be over around 11:30 or so and we will do presents then. the rest of the day will be just relaxing! we used to go to a movie every year, but now that we have bennett, that tradition has been put on hold for now.

it's the most wonderful time of the year, friends! enjoy your time with family and remember the reason that we celebrate.

"and there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. but the angel said to them, 'do not be afraid. i bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. today in the town of david a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"
-luke 2:8-12

feeling celebrated.

i had my last day at work on thursday and it was a great day. it was definitely sad to say goodbye; i had a fantastic group of coworkers who are supportive and encouraging and fun. i also worked for a great company run by great people. it's rare to find a work environment where you feel valued and cared for like i felt at family innovations.

my coworkers had a big potluck breakfast for me, complete with cub doughnuts (my favorite!). they all wrote sweet notes in a card and gave me a big balloon, knowing bennett would love to play with it. i also got emails and notes from the directors who weren't able to make it to the breakfast as well as a number of other coworkers from different office locations. the owner of the company came to the breakfast and told me that i'm welcome back anytime. i felt truly honored by everyone's thoughtfulness and kindness.

my sadness to leave, however, didn't make me question my decision to leave to be with my kiddos. 

"there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." -ecclesiastes 3:1

this verse perfectly describes where i am at; my season for a career is over (at least for now) and my season to pour my energy into my family is here. i have a true sense that this is where i'm meant to be and my heart is full of gratitude that joe and i were able to make this choice both personally and financially. i'm so blessed. (i'll try my best to remember that on days when bennett has spit food out of his mouth for the hundredth time and had multiple meltdowns about diaper changes and putting on his winter hat...)

my first day of "retirement," as i like to call it, was very productive. i was able to get caught up on laundry and get the house put together, since joe's older brother, jeffrey, and his wife, robin, were coming over that night. joe was home for a good part of the day, so he helped a bunch, which made things so much easier. it has felt good to just have to work on maintaining the house over the last few days, rather than having an overwhelming amount of work to do.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


i got the book i was talking about recently, made to crave, and began reading it late last week. it's one of those books that i think i'll need to re-read a number of times before it truly sinks in. there are questions to reflect on at the end of each chapter, which i've opted to skip for now since i'm doing the online bible study starting next month. but i wanted to read through the book and start really absorbing and thinking about the concepts it teaches.

so far i've really connected with it and felt like i am onto something new here. it's always been all or nothing for me: strict dietary restraint or an eating free-for-all. middle ground is scary and unfamiliar. how can i achieve success if i'm not a slave to hard and fast rules? how can i stick to hard and fast rules long-term? i'd waffle back and forth between the two questions, my eating and exercise habits following closely behind. made to crave talks about self-discipline and sacrificial living, even in the areas of food, health and fitness, as a spiritual practice. this requires giving up control and allowing God to guide my steps, leaning on Him when i'm feeling discouraged, turning to Him in the midst of struggle or temptation. sounds easy in theory, but in practice it's another story. i've held tight to my control of this issue for as long as i can remember. i am fearful of what could happen should i truly loosen my grip and allow God to transform me.

the truth is, though, there's freedom in letting go of control. i've read a lot (outside of just made to crave) about ditching the diet mentality and focusing, instead, on enjoying all things in moderation. rebelling against the black and white thinking that accompanies dieting.

a blog post from "the rebel dietitian" really helped me to see how rather than fighting against food and my body, i can embrace both in a positive way and learn to find balance and make peace with myself:
"i encourage you to REBEL against the diet mentality and embrace your love for food. instead of tracking calories, track your hunger level and mood before and after all meals. identify trends and ask yourself why am i eating? am i really hungry? am i stressed, bored, happy? what do i really want to eat right now?"
honestly, i've never been much of a rebel. i'm a good rule follower and don't like to disappoint anyone by missing the bar set for me. i gravitate toward rules, control, order. when those rules don't work, i search for a new set of rules to ascribe to that will bring me success as long as i'm "obedient." the problem is, life happens and it doesn't fit perfectly into whatever dietary regimen i'm currently clinging to. i eat out, celebrate holidays, crave chocolate. and i enjoy those things, or at least i have at times. my body, food and weight issues have all too often robbed me of the joy meant to be found in gatherings of family and friends, celebrating holidays and trying new restaurants. i'm really rethinking my rigid view that the only way to find freedom from food and body issues and success in weight loss is deprivation and control.

i know that this is going to be a journey. it's basically retraining the way i think about (and have thought about, for most of my life) myself and food. but i am feeling encouraged that this could actually be the difference-maker. it could be what's been missing in my [mostly fruitless] previous attempts at kicking this issue once and for all. it's scary to say that, because i don't want to be disappointed. but that's the black and white thinking still... my measure of success needs to be in progress, not perfection. like i said, this is going to be a journey. but it's one i'm feeling truly ready to embark upon.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

last day.

well, friends, my last day of work is tomorrow. i am not sure it will really sink in until after the holidays, though. we will be busy and have time with family for at least a week or so before i really have a chance to realize i'm not going back to the office. it's like when you graduate college and it doesn't totally set in that you're done until school starts again in the fall but you don't.

joe brought me an edible arrangement to the office as a "retirement" gift :)
as excited as i am to be done working and to get to focus the bulk of my energy on being a mom and wife, i must admit i am nervous, too. i mean, with the exception of my 8 weeks of maternity leave, i have been a [nearly] full time working mom. as inefficient as i have often felt, i know how to be a mom who works full time. i know how to manage life around my 8-4 monday through thursday work schedule. i know how to binge-clean and marathon laundry loads on the weekends. i don't know how to be a stay-at-home-mom. i don't know how to do a little everyday to keep things clean and organized. i don't know how to balance the responsibilities of household chores and entertaining a toddler day-to-day. i don't know how to be intentional about taking "me-time."

bennett has been in full time daycare for nearly all his life as well, so this will be a major adjustment for him too. he's used to being around other kids all day. i'm convinced that's a major reason why he's such a social kid. how can i be sure he is getting his social needs (which i would imagine are higher now based on what he's used to) met?

i know that the biggest thing, for both of us, will be to find ways to get connected with people and activities outside the house. bennett and i have gone to a friday ECFE music class through our school district, and we are going to continue that through the winter and spring (although i am sure we will miss a few when baby boy makes his debut in late-march). bennett's daycare group has gone to story time at our local library each monday morning that ben has loved, so we will continue attending that. i am on a wait list to join BSF (bible study fellowship) at a church nearby and will hopefully start that soon. BSF has a fantastic kids program for bennett to be involved in while i have my bible study group.  i plan to eventually join a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group, though that may wait until next fall. finally, i hope to make it to the Y more regularly since i can go during the day, and bennett will be able to play with other kiddos there during my workout time. it's not perfect, and we will have to see how that all feels once we get into the routine, but i think those activities will keep us busy enough and help us connect with other moms and kids in the area.

besides developing a sense of community and connectedness, a big piece will be to give myself the time and freedom to figure it out, rather than expecting myself to be super-SAHM right away (or ever, for that matter!). i tend to struggle with perfectionism and beat myself up when i can't meet my own unrealistic expectations. i want to fully embrace this new role and not immediately become disheartened that i don't measure up to whatever picture i have in my head of how this should go. not only is this uncharted territory for me, but i'm also pregnant and nearing my 3rd trimester. my energy levels just aren't where they would be otherwise. that's not an excuse- it's a fact. giving myself grace is a struggle that spans most areas of my life, and this is likely to be yet another example. i trust that God will be by my side in this journey, giving me the energy, patience, wisdom, and peace i'll need just when i need it.

i am ready to take on both the joys and the challenges of being a SAHM and i feel so blessed that my long-standing dream to do so has become a reality. after all, who wouldn't want more time with this sweet face?

loving bath time these days

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


we have lots of changes coming up in the near future in our family and the reality of them is starting to set in. i only have 3 days of work left. 3 days. that's 24 work hours. and then i'm done. it's kind of crazy to think about, actually. it's something i've wanted since i had bennett but it just wasn't feasible for us financially until now. and now that it's here (in 3 days, in case i didn't mention!), it's a little surreal. i know we'll all have a little adjustment period and that it'll take a while to find our new normal. and then, let's face it, baby boy will come along in late-march and we'll have to adjust again and find another new normal. but we'll cross that bridge when we get there...

for now, i'm really looking forward to having the time to run our household more efficiently. working [nearly] full time leaves very little time for necessary things like cooking meals, cleaning, and laundry. let alone projects around the house, books i want to read, activities i want to do with bennett... so many things fall by the wayside, especially since i've been pregnant this time around. i rush home from work (after picking up bennett and a stop at the grocery store, more often than not), then scramble to get something on the table for dinner. by the time we make it through dinner, a little playtime, bath, and bedtime, i'm spent and ready for bed myself.

joe's work schedule has been completely insane for a while now and he's had to travel quite a bit more in the last month or so than usual. it's a great thing that he's busy and i'm thankful that his job is going to be able to single-handedly support our family and allow me to stay home with our kids. but it definitely adds stress for both of us and has made things that much more chaotic recently. joe feels disconnected from us at home and is exhausted from running from one place to another and traveling here and there. i feel overloaded by trying to do everything on my own at home- getting myself and ben ready and out the door each morning, working all day, picking up ben and getting dinner on the table, bath and bedtime routine, up in the night if ben cries, etc. etc. being a "single mom" is no easy feat.

laundry gets done a single load at a time and it's a miracle if it actually gets folded. lately it seems like a win if we at least have clean clothes to pull out of the dryer for the day.

dishes sit clean in the dishwasher until we finally get around to doing the dirty dishes that have collected in the sink and all over the counters for an embarrassing amount of time.

our house is decorated for the holidays more with half-emptied storage bins of christmas decorations than with the decorations themselves. not to mention the fall decorations that are sitting ready to be put away in a corner somewhere.

mail, receipts, coupons, etc. are strewn all over the counters.

it's not pretty. obviously. it stresses me out to just write all that, but honestly, that's been our reality for a while. there just simply isn't enough time and energy in the day. but the accumulation of half-completed projects, unfolded laundry, and expired coupons only add more stress and exhaustion to all of our lives. it seems like we're just treading water and somehow managing to make it through on most days.

i'm sure everyone has seasons of life like this and ultimately a messy house isn't the end of the world.

but i'm just really looking forward to actually having the time to accomplish things that will reduce the stress in our household. i have no doubt that it will be challenging to get things done as a stay at home mom; i'm positive it's no cake walk. but, there's no question that being home during the day will allow me to slow life down a bit. i'll be able to [calmly] get dinner together during bennett's afternoon nap instead of trying to throw something together while he's hungry, crabby, and pulling at my leg. i'll be able to do a load of laundry and have it dry (and, gasp, maybe even folded?) before i'm collapsing into bed for the night. rather than letting things get out of control and then having to binge-clean for a whole saturday (or just not doing it at all), i can maintain.


i'll have time to do a little at a time and keep things (hopefully) from getting completely crazy.

i wasn't in church 2 weekends ago, but i did listen to the message online. it's interesting how God manages to find a way to meet you right where you're at... naturally, the message was about stress. jason strand, the pastor, emphasized slowing down and finding ways to create margin and space in our lives. he also said that likely the areas causing us the most stress are where we have an opportunity to trust God more. finally, he said that stress is inevitable and that we need to look for God in our stress. in fact, His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in our times of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

for so many reasons this message really hit home for me. i really want to be intentional, especially as i make this transition from the working world to being a stay-at-home-mom, about creating margin in our lives and looking for God in my stress. God knows what i need when i need it and if i seek Him first, he will take care of the rest.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

made to crave.

i feel like i've had a lot of "God moments" lately. you know, where something ironically pops up that perfectly fits the situation you're in and seems like it's meant just for you. some people i suppose attribute these things to coincidence or chance, but i just don't buy it.

i've written plenty of times before about the struggle i've experienced with insecurity about my weight and appearance. and i've mentioned that pregnancy has really only exacerbated the issue since weight gain is inevitable. for someone who's been on a seemingly never-ending quest to lose weight and achieve a certain body ideal, weight gain (pregnant or otherwise) is a major trigger for feeling like a failure. and during pregnancy, i don't have the same unrestricted access to my go-to strategies for gaining a sense of control.

after stewing in this for a while now and dabbling in (but never fully committing to) methods to control or manage my weight gain, i've really started to evaluate the heart of the matter. why is this such a struggle for me? why does it matter so much to me? is this really how i have to live my life- constantly engulfed with critical self-talk, hating what i see in the mirror, a slave to the scale?

clearly the answer is no, but something keeps me coming back for more. i'm getting something out of this cycle, so i stay in it despite recognizing that it's not healthy for me. i think what i've determined is that ultimately it's the sense of control that keeps me coming back. it's a false sense of control, because it really doesn't work and isn't a lasting solution to the problem. but i get a rush from the sense of control i gain when i develop a new strategy: a new diet plan, a new exercise regimen, a fresh start on a monday morning. letting go of that control is scary. it's uncharted territory for me.

ok, so back to the "God moment." i was looking online yesterday for christian books on this topic of weight and self-image and came across one called made to crave by lysa terkeurst. i thought it looked interesting, but ultimately opted not to order it and went on with my day.

last night, my friend katie came over. we hadn't seen each other and had the opportunity to really catch up in quite a while, so it was really nice to connect with her. while she was over, we spent a lot of time discussing God and how He wants us to be free of this battle with insecurity and yo-yo dieting. katie and i have been close since high school and have always been able to relate to and support/challenge one another both in this struggle with body image and in our faith. having the opportunity to verbalize what's been stirring around in my head with someone who i know truly gets it was really cathartic and i felt encouraged to begin to seek God for true freedom.

then, this morning i received the proverbs 31 ministries daily devotional in my email as i do each morning. i opened it and read through it. then something at the bottom of the page caught my eye. the author of the day's devotional was lysa terkeurst and there was a blurb about her book, made to crave. on top of that, there was a link to sign up for a free online Bible study of made to crave starting in january. i couldn't believe it- i know God led me to that for a purpose. without hesitation i signed up for the bible study and ordered the book.

i'm so excited to start and to learn how to let go of my need for control and my unhealthy focus on weight and outward appearance. i'm praying that God will use this study to help me turn to Him and ask Him boldly to conquer this stronghold in me. i came across a verse written on a note card on my desk yesterday that had spoken to me early last spring when we began our house hunting adventure. another unlikely "coincidence" that i came across the note card yesterday.
"let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -hebrews 4:16
i intend to.