Quarter 2 Review

In my first quarter review post I talked about my New Year resolution list: what goals I was able to stick to, complete, replace, or throw out during the first three months of the year. I decided to do this because it is a good way to hold myself accountable when it comes to self improvement- too often we say we are going to do and be things that we never end up seeing through.

This post will be similar to my quarter one review in terms of progress and commitment to my resolutions list and the updates I made to it during March, at the end of quarter one. If you can believe it, quarter two ended with June, which means we are officially halfway through the year.

Here is the original New Year resolution list:

—-I wanted to start:

+learning to read music
+practicing another language
+my 2018 bullet journal ✔️
+etsy page/art show planning ✔️

—-I wanted to do more:

+meditating ✔️
+reading ✔️
+yoga
+blogging ✔️

—-I wanted to improve:

+cooking ✔️
+home finance/budgeting ✔️
+saving account balance ✔️
+study habits ✔️

—-I wanted to finish:

+Kinsley’s scrapbook ✔️
+sorting/organizing the apartment ✔️
+my invisalign
+paperwork for health insurance ✔️

_____________________________________________

And here is the updated version as of March with my goals for April-June:

(+old // ++new)

+etsy page/art show planning
+yoga
+Kinsley’s Scrapbook
+blogging
+dental plan/invisalign
++Kinsley’s FIRST birthday party
++enter Nursing Program/student loan
++green living/reduced trash
++spend more time being present

We’ll start here:

+publish Etsy page for public sale

In early April I got in touch with the Petoskey Chamber of Commerce who gave me the contact information for the person who puts together Petoskey’s Annual Art in the Park, which takes place downtown during the month of July. It was my hope that I would be able to get a tent there to showcase and possibly sell some of my art, however I was informed that the applications are due by March, so I was just a couple weeks late. I decided this was a good thing and started some plans for next year. If all goes well, I will have a tent at Petoskey’s 34th annual Art in the Park in 2019. Furthermore, my Etsy page will be completely up and running one year in advance (hoping to publish and have filled with items by late July).

+yoga classes

Unfortunately I haven’t made much headway in the yoga section of my resolution, which really bums me out because meditation and exercise are important to me. Though I can say that I’ve accepted a part time position for the rest of the summer to make some extra cash, and it just so happens to be down the street from a yoga studio downtown! If all goes well, I’m hoping to start taking a class here or there before/after my shifts!

+Invisalign

Late May I finished my dental care plan so my teeth are finally healthy and I can move onto the remainder of my Invisalign. I am waiting to hear back from my provider to see when I can have my first impressions taken!

+Kinsley’s Scrapbook

During June I completely Kinsley’s scrapbook and completely planned and pulled together her birthday party. You can see everything that went into her party on my Instagram or next week on the blog when I publish her party post with all the details.

+Nursing Program

I got my official letter of acceptance into the nursing program during the first week of June, and my financial aid has been accepted as well, despite already receiving an associates degree from NCMC. I have been in touch with a loan advisor and I have a conference in July to find out about what to do before classes start the first week of September!

+Blogging/Bullet Journal

June has been pretty busy but I have managed to bust out a few blog posts- not as many as I wanted to do for the entire quarter, but more than I did last quarter, so I’m considering it progress. I’d love to get on a more regular schedule so I’m going to try to incorporate some type of blog schedule into my planner/bullet journal.

+Be Present

Summer has officially graced us with its presence, so it’s been easy to live in the moment and be more present. We’ve spent a lot of family time together already. This is one thing I can definitely cross off my list and replace with something new.

+Healthy Living

Last but not least, healthy living/reduced waste has also been going well. We recycle weekly, use reusable bags and water bottles, have switched to almond milk and turkey sausage, and also incorporate fresh (organic where possible) foods into our daily meals! And, as I mentioned above, I took a part time position for the rest of the summer and it happens to be at a store that is known for natural foods and healthy living. That being said, I’m excited to learn all I can while working there.

_____________________________________________

Now that I’ve written an account of the progress I’ve made during quarter two with my updated resolution list from the end of quarter one, I’ll update the list to reflect what I’d like to do for quarter three: July-September

—I want to start:

+yoga
++exercising at least 3x/week

—I want to do more:

+bullet journal
+green living
++blogging (using schedule)

—Things to improve:

++boost savings account
++positive attitude

—I want to finish:

+Etsy shop
+A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings
++program requirements for nursing


Now that we’ve established some goals for the next three months all that’s left to do is to get to it. Check back early October to see the progress made!

Kinsley Turns One: a reflection.

Tomorrow Kinsley will turn one year old. The realization is a lot to take in.

Consider this: the odds of becoming a human being are 400 trillion to 1– it is basically a miracle that any of us exist the way that we are. On top of that, dare I say Kinsley is lucky to be alive: the odds of being born with TEF are 4,000 to 1, and while it is not the rarest congenital defect to exist, the complications that come with it can be fatal.

She is alive and well on her first birthday, despite her congenital defects, which we happen to be very grateful for. In every way the odds have been in our favor–to others it may not sound like it, but I believe it depends entirely on how you view things. Let’s go back and have a look at a unique perspective.

I woke up the morning of Sunday, June 25th around 5 am with slight contractions, similar to what I’d been having for the previous week. Nick and I had breakfast at JW Filmores and when we got home he left to have his hair cut. By the time he returned we decided we should head to the hospital.

We arrived at McLaren Northern Michigan’s emergency room around 1:00 pm and were situated in our birthing room shortly thereafter. I was dilated to 2 cm, which meant we had some waiting to do. By 5:30 I was dilated to 5 cm and within the next 45 minutes I was up to 8 cm. My doctor finally came in to break my water at 6:45 pm and I was told to push at 7:10 pm. Kinsley was born about 25 minutes later at 7:37 pm. The ease of my birth experience was made up for by the difficulties that followed.

Kinsley was placed on my chest, for maybe three minutes at best.


My placenta was abruptly pushed out without warning or explanation of what was being done. I did not opt for the epidural, but I had to be stitched up where I tore and I apparently was administered numbing medication to do so, though I could feel every thread being pulled through my skin. Kinsley was taken from me to be weighed and measured, while my body was in shock, shaking uncontrollably from pain.

Immediately after she was weighed, there was a moment of confusion; something had gone wrong but no one was talking. It was terrifyingly silent and urgently noisy all at once. I felt shrouded in thick fog, every second moving past in a slow blurry sludge. I kept looking to my mom for an answer but could only see terror across her face, mouth hanging open, hands trembling, eyes moving back and forth from me to the table Kinsley had been moved to. A light was shining on her purple, turning deep blue body, and three, maybe four nurses were huddled around her, counting with deep concentration.

“What’s going on?” I repeated probably fifty times. But no one would answer me.

I can’t remember how we got to the next bit, it was a sensory overload for me… but by some miracle even greater than 400 trillion to 1, the emergency was over and she was breathing again.

The next thing I knew, we were in separate rooms. Nick and I in one, Kinsley down the hall in another, hooked up to some contraption. It took a while to figure out why she couldn’t breathe on her own. A specialist was called in and it was determined that constant suction was needed to keep her airway clear. Finally they found she had Tracheoesophageal Fistula with Esophageal Atresia. Another hospital was called.

By this time she was 4 or more hours old. I had held her for 3 minutes, seen her near dead on a table for slightly less than that. It was not at all what I had expected or envisioned, the planner that I am. I didn’t know it then- maybe I had an inkling, but no real idea- that the next several months would not be like anything I ever could have imagined or prepared for.

Kinsley was taken to the Helen DeVos Children’s hospital. She arrived there before I could even leave Petoskey. The separation was vast, like nothing I had ever known or felt before. Looking back, I recognize that this is when the bitterness began. There was so much hurt that I couldn’t possibly know how to process.

Kinsley’s pain was physical. She underwent two surgeries: One was just two mornings after she was born, the other 2 weeks later. She had several procedures, saw many specialists, encountered dozens of angels in disguise, and by the grace of God she began to recover and thrive.

In the meantime, Nick and I were trapped in a bubble. Stuck in a place no one seemed to understand, feeling things our friends and family had never felt. It was as if time had literally stopped. Everyone else’s life continued on as we watched from the outside. Other people got up and went to work like normal, had their babies and took them home like normal, enjoyed their summer beach days like normal…but all along, there we were, reliving the same day over and over and over again, stuck in our own personal time warp. It wasn’t easy, but we had each other.

Kinsley turned one month old in the NICU. Two weeks later she was discharged and the time warp finally broke, but the bitterness remained because even though we weren’t at the hospital anymore, everything still wouldn’t be normal yet.

Together the three of us had cleared an enormous hurdle, we had moved a mountain none of us even knew existed. It seemed things would be easier out of the hospital, but once we were home safely, other struggles began.

There was feeding therapy, doctors appointments, medical procedures to perform on our own at home, special feeding routines, pumping for breastmilk every two hours to keep a supply up that no one, not even my baby, could help me do.

In the hospital I had felt the unfairness of it all clinging to everything around me- every step, sight, smell, and sound a constant hovering reminder of how brutal life can be when dealing its cards. Though, when I got home it was something I had to really acknowledge face to face. Everywhere we went (which wasn’t many places or very often due to the severity of the consequences that would result if Kinsley were to get sick) I felt the stares. I felt the curiosity. I felt the questions and the wonder and the ignorance freezing every inch of my heart. In the grocery store. At the dentist. Even getting a coffee.

Sometimes it hurt my feelings; even though people stared because they didn’t know, which is okay, I wanted them to find courage to ask and learn because then I could have at least set the record straight. Not that I needed to, but I wanted to, for Kinsley. She deserved to be recognized for all her accomplishments, not stared at for all her differences.

Once I was at Starbucks with her and I had sat down at a table to wait for a friend. A man came up to me pointing at Kinsley and said, “So what’s with the tube?”

He asked kindly, and since I appreciate and prefer the courage it takes to ask rather than the fear that makes people stare, I gave him the brief explanation I had given so many times in the month we had been home: Kinsley was born with a defect called TEF that caused her esophagus to dead end in her throat and the portion attached to her stomach to be attached to her wind pipe. She had emergency surgery after she was born and now she has the tube to help her eat until everything is healed up and strong.

The man smiled and told me how lucky I am and how beautiful and perfect she is. He asked if it would be okay if he prayed over her. Then he asked if he could touch her. I said yes.

This stranger put his hand on Kinsley’s shoulder, and got on his knees beside our chair and prayed that Kinsley be healed from the top of her head to the very soles of her feet. He prayed that her doctors see perfect, miraculous results at her next visit and that she continue to develop well as time goes on. He then stood up and thanked me for allowing his day to be made by giving him the opportunity to pray for my precious baby girl.

Little did he know, two days later we had our first follow up in Grand Rapids, complete with swallow studies and an esophogram, and the results were perfect. In fact, in the year since Kinsley was born, and the ten months she’s been home, there have of course been challenges, but her overall growth and development has been spot on… her results have been miraculous, even ‘perfect’ if that’s how you choose to look at it.

I don’t know what the odds are that that man was able to find me where I was that day and speak words to me that I needed to hear, I guess 1 in 7.4 billion, but he did, and it helped develop my perspective and ease the bitterness still oozing from my scars.

Something in my heart sparked from our conversation, from the prayer this stranger gave us. He was completely honest and genuine when he said “your daughter is beautiful and perfect, you are so lucky.” He didn’t say it like he felt bad for me or her, which is what I was used to hearing from the day she had been born- this sort of, half-smile i-don’t-really-know-what-else-to-say gesture. It was pure, and I could tell he meant it. I realized then that if a stranger could see it, without knowing first hand all she had overcome, then I should be able to recognize it too. From then on I adopted the phrase “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you look at/react to it.” There was nothing I could do about her congenital defects; it was what it was and we had to make the best of it. The least I could do was look at the bright side of things rather than dwell on all the bad.

This type of thinking had its challenges. When I really realized there was nothing I could say to change how others viewed her, or me, or our struggles- and let me tell you, quite a few people to this day did/do not understand the severity of her complications, they probably never will- it was hard not to try to change their minds. But I had to realize that those things are beyond me, all I can do is control how I react to them. So I just stopped. If it didn’t require my attention, I didn’t give it any.

More importantly, once I stopped looking at Kinsley from the viewpoint of “there’s all this wrong with her” and I instead started pointing out all her triumphs and everything she’d overcome, I was able to stop comparing and calling out differences between Kinsley and other babies. I could finally let go completely of the bitterness I’d held toward others whose babies were ‘perfect’ and who never had to go through the same struggles we had gone through. The expectations had vanished and I could focus on her only.

The odds of making the best out of a difficult situation are 50-50. It was all up to me, so I chose to react to the situation differently, and my new perspective helped change our lives for the better and move us in a positive direction. This was only one thing I learned from our unique situation.

In fact, all of the learning that happened during Kinsley’s first year was unexpected. I figured I’d learn things like how to feed, bathe, change and soothe a baby. I thought I’d learn how to juggle work and caring for my child. I anticipated learning how to breastfeed and all that jazz. I assumed I’d have to master holding an infant while folding three loads of laundry, but it wasn’t like that at all.

Instead I learned that ‘perfect’ comes in so many forms, you just don’t know it until you do.
I learned that blue eyes are so overrated, it’s those honey colored hazel eyes that can melt hearts and fold even the toughest line into a soft smile.
I learned its OKAY to listen to your body and your heart and not force yourself to pump around the clock because society tells you breast is best, but no one understands that its even harder to do when your baby CANNOT EAT except through a tube.
I learned how to keep quiet when other mom’s complaints consisted of clipping finger nails/changing outfits because of spit up…while my complaints were about arguing with carelink because they couldn’t get my kid’s medical supply orders right and she needed that stuff to eat/having to drive to traverse city in a snow storm to get her a shot so she wouldn’t get RSV and be hospitalized.
I learned the difference between all the sounds my baby makes, without any doubt the ones that mean distress and the ones that don’t warrant an over the shoulder look, even when the at home nurse is sweating bullets on the edge of the couch because she’s never heard a baby sound this bad while breathing.
I learned how to place a nasogastric tube down my child’s nose, through her esophagus and into her stomach.
I had to figure out how to stuff days worth of medical supplies and baby ‘stuff’ for doctors appointments three hours away into a diaper bag that I had only ever planned on taking to the grocery store or a coffee shop downtown.
I learned how to be a secretary and a mom and a partner all in the same space.
I learned who was there for me and who wasn’t, that my partner would stand by me and be supportive in a crisis situation.
I figured out how to survive when money got really tight; how to live without things I used to think I needed.
I got good at crying and breaking down and expressing my frustrations in a healthy way and listening to and leaning on my main supporter, and providing all the same courtesies to him.
I got really good at scheduling doctor appointments and keeping track of medical records and applying for help and giving insurance account information to bill collectors and all kinds of hard things I never saw myself having to do before Kinsley was born.

And you know what? I’m better for it. I am better because of my struggles. The perspective you gain and the things you learn when you struggle is immense.

Everything we’ve been through with Kinsley has been exactly what we needed. If you had asked me if I thought I’d be able to say that in a year, twelve months ago I’d have told you no while crying to my mom over the phone in a hospital hotel lobby behind a slow elevator door, praying I wouldn’t lose service on the way up to my room because I needed someone to hear me and feel what I felt, how I longed for a few moments of less stress and anxiety and freedom from constant worry and fear of the unknown.

Today I know that our challenges with Kinsley have such a great purpose, despite practically crushing us at the time. When it all began we were grasping at short threads, trying to find a light, feeling small and weak. We are in a much different place today, so much so that I often forget, sometimes for days at a time, that we had such a challenging and unique start to parenthood in the first place.

A friend of mine texted me about a week ago explaining that he was telling his coworker about me, explaining my life a little and how we know each other. He said, “You’re honestly so impressive to talk about,” he’s a grad student, so I replied with the laughing emoji and said “But I don’t have a job.” He said, “You’ve done so much as a mother…” and it really hit me then that in one short year, despite all the difficulty, despite being stripped down to nothing and being forced to learn about who I really was, I have grown into everything that I am now, and being a mom to a miracle baby is impressive. There’s nothing I’m more proud of- no degree, no job, no accomplishment is greater.

There is nothing I would change about the last year with her. Not one second. She was not at all what we expected, but now I am certain that the universe took its time on her, crafted her precisely with a great purpose in mind, so she could offer the world something distinct from everyone else. If we had not had such a difficult start, I’m not sure I would know this with such certainty.

Today Kinsley June is the beat in my heart and the air that I breathe. She’s the light of my life: my sun, moon, and every star. Being her mom is an amazing job, and the best part about it is it’s only just been the first year of an entire lifetime of learning with her, witnessing her growth, and watching her take the purpose she’s been given and turn it into something beautiful.

I am so grateful for our first year together, all the good with the bad, exactly the way it is. It has changed me, and now I can be the perfect mother for her.

Happy Birthday Kinsley June, mommy loves you SO much.

May you continue to rise, fight, and overcome any odds that are against you.

First Birthday Smash Cake: A Healthy Alternative + Recipe

As many of you know, Kinsley’s first birthday party was last weekend, June 17. Tons of preparation and thought went into the whole thing, but one area in particular that needed a lot of special attention was what to do about the traditional “smash cake”.

Because Kinsley was born with a congenital defect involving her windpipe and esophagus, she had to undergo corrective surgery the day after she was born, and has been in feeding therapy with feeding troubles ever since. It was especially important for us to make sure that what she would be smashing her hands into and putting in her mouth was not only good for her, but safe for her.

Others whose babies do not have feeding difficulties may be more concerned with the nutrition aspect of the smash cake. Most babies are unintentionally introduced to white flour and sugar on their first birthday as a result of poor nutritional advice. While many parents see nothing wrong with this, the truth of the matter is that babies digestive systems cannot processes grains at such a young age. In order to properly digest grains our bodies must produce the enzyme Amylase, but even babies who are healthy cannot produce the enzyme in large enough quantities to break down the grains. This can result in irritation of the lining in the digestive tract, and has effects on the balance of good and bad bacterias in the gut, which can, in the long run, cause food allergies and other issues. Feeding your child grains with little to no nutritional value (toast, pasta, cheerios etc.) leaves less room in their diet for nutritious foods that aid in good health and positive growth.

That being said, introducing these things at such a young age is highly unnecessary and even unhealthy, and may warrant a slight alteration to the smash cake tradition by using a healthier alternative recipe.

So, whether it’s for safety purposes or a healthy introduction to new foods, I’ve got you covered. Here is a step by step guide to the recipe I came up with for my daughter’s smash cake- free from gluten, refined sugars, butter, and white flour/grains.

Ingredients:

4 large, ripe bananas
4 large brown, cage free eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup organic applesauce
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Pour batter into three 4 inch cake pans (each half full), bake for 43 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frosting:

8oz softened cream cheese
one container plain greek yogurt
4 tbsp whole milk strawberry yogurt

Blend with mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until frosting is thick and fluffy.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. First you’re going to peel your ripe bananas and place them into a bowl.

2. Use a wisk to completely smash the bananas, much like you would if you were making banana bread. Some chunks are okay.

3. Add eggs, maple syrup, applesauce, and coconut oil to the bananas and mix until combined.

4. Finally, add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir until combined.

5. It is important to let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb. It will probably rise a little and ‘fluff up’.

6. Pour the batter into three greased 4 inch pans and place in the oven for 43 minutes each.

7. Let the cakes cool completely before taking them out of their pans. Mix the cream cheese, greek yogurt, and whole milk yogurt together in a bowl on medium speed until thick and fluffy. When the cakes are completely cooled, dollop frosting between the layers and spread carefully.

8. Decorate as desired.

9. SMASH!

Raising children is important work.

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” -C.S. Lewis

I have to remind myself of this often. Especially when many of my close friends are on very different paths, ones that involve successes without children.

As a stay at home mom who didn’t plan to be a stay at home parent, but ended up doing so because of health issues with my child, I sometimes fall trap to the comparison game. I look around seeing others happy at work, using their skills and ambition to fulfill their career goals, gaining experience and experiencing financial gain…

It’s tough as an ambitious person with goals, skills, drive to have to shut off areas of your own growth in order to foster your child’s growth.

I’ve found how important it is though, while you feel all this creative energy spilling over as a result of untapped potential due to your current circumstance, that you remember what you’re doing is as equally important as your friends’ work: the one who is getting his master’s, the one who just accepted her big girl job, the one who graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago and has secured an amazing position at a well known hospital, the one who keeps getting promoted, the one who is self employed and living her dream, the one who is deployed and growing daily on her military journey…

Raising your child is just as important a job, and doing so is not keeping you from more important work. So, while sometimes this message may get lost in the mundane daily tasks that include feedings and diaper changes and baths and providing love and every care to another person, you must remember at the end of the day when you’re feeling drained from giving, and unfulfilled from putting your own personal goals aside, that their growth into a person who will change the future is the most important work you will ever do. Someday, when they don’t need you anymore, you will look back and be grateful that you had the opportunity to put your goals aside and help them develop theirs.

So give yourself some credit, and take a breather.

There will be time for that book you want to write.
There will be time for that business you want to start.
There will be time for that degree you want to get.
There will be time for that career you’ve been dreaming of.

But right now, someone is depending on you to help them take the world in their hands and do with it all the things you’re dreaming of. And when you watch them do just that, you will have never felt so fulfilled and you’ll wonder why you ever felt like all you were doing was laundry and dishes and wiping up poop and snot and baby food.

Keep going momma, you’re changing the world one diaper at a time.

 

 

Quarter One Review

Some people don’t believe in new year resolutions. The end of the year will roll around and they’ll start sharing that one meme…

Image result for new year new me memes

I get it. It’s the pessimistic view point that anyone who really says they’re going to change isn’t actually going to, which is probably true depending on the type of resolutions a person makes for themselves.

Personally, I don’t believe in the kind of resolutions that start with “I want to stop…” or “I’m going to lose…” or “I won’t ___ anymore.” (sort of because those never work but) mainly because I believe in improvement and making yourself more, instead of tearing yourself down and making yourself less.

So while some share their meme and remain the same asshole they’ve always been, and others pledge to hate their body every day that they haven’t lost the 50 pounds, I just make a list of things I want to start, do more of, improve, or finish.

This is what my list for 2018 looked like on the last day of 2017:

—-I wanted to start:
+learning to read music
+practicing another language
+my 2018 bullet journal
+etsy page/art show planning

—-I wanted to do more:
+meditating
+reading
+yoga
+blogging

—-I wanted to improve:
+cooking
+home finance/budgeting
+saving account balance
+study habits

—-I wanted to finish:
+Kinsley’s scrapbook
+sorting/organizing the apartment
+my invisalign
+paperwork for health insurance

*(there are a few things missing from my master list, but I’ve narrowed it down to the four biggest things for each category that I decided I wanted to do this year)

Now it’s the end of March, 3 whole months in- that means we’re one fourth of the way done with 2018 already. It’s hard to believe it, but here we are. So, around this time of year I like to reevaluate my new year resolution list so that I can either stay on track, get back on track, or start improving more (depending on my assessment of the list). As I go through, if I’ve completed something, I remove the item from the list and add a new one in its place (because I’m an over achiever and I like improving myself).

That being said, I’m just going to jump right in.

I said I wanted to start 

+learning to read music
So far I have only learned to read three notes. Oops.

+practicing another language
I haven’t been as focused on language as I would like to be. Working hard to enter the nursing program has been kicking my butt and taking up all my time.

+my 2018 bullet journal
I did start a bullet journal and I’ve been using it as a habit tracker and for therapeutic purposes. I even uploaded one of my templates onto the bullet journal subreddit page and it reached over 7,000 people, got a couple thousand upvotes, and near one hundred comments.

+an etsy page/art show planning
As for my etsy page, I just quit my part time job two weeks ago, so I’m planning to really focus on this the next couple of months. I also bought some canvases and went through my painting/craft supplies so I know where I’m at with materials. Soon I plan to boot up a website for my store.

I said I wanted to do more  

+meditating
I’ve downloaded a meditation app called Headspace and I really like it. It took me a while to find one I liked because I couldn’t get into a few of them due to the voice of the person narrating the sessions, the price, or a variation of those and other reasons. But Headspace is actually fairly inexpensive, and its really great. I recommend it.

+reading
I haven’t spent much time reading- at least not the rest of Game of Thrones like I want to. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of A&P for school and SO many news articles, because I’m obsessed with politics.

+blogging
I do spend some time blogging, if not here, on instagram for sure. I recently started a new feed on instagram called @mothertokinsley and I’ve been following a lot of other mommy blogs there. It’s been a lot of fun for me as well a creative outlet.

+yoga
I recently got a yoga journal, wheel, and new mat which has been really great for me. I’ve promised myself that after 30 home sessions of practice I will allow myself to spend the money on a few classes in town.

I said I wanted to improve
This is the area where I’ve really focused the first quarter.

+cooking
We’ve tried quite a few recipes this year so far (air fryer ravioli, sausage stuffed manicotti, chicken bacon ranch pinwheels to name a few). In fact, we’ve been meal planning every week using the Yummly app and this cool board I put up in the dining room.

+home finance/budgeting
 I made a budget spreadsheet and we identified areas where we can cut down on some spending, and we found some bills that can be reduced as well.

+saving account
Our saving account contains almost half of our tax return and we have paid off the debt that we owed to friends and family following Kinsley’s birth.

+health
I finally got my insurance updated and I’ve seen the dentist twice and scheduled doctor appointments for mental and physical health.

+study habits
I passed my TEAS test with a great score, and I’ve got an A in anatomy and physiology! There’s almost no chance that I won’t get into the nursing program.

I said I wanted to finish:

+Kinsley’s scrapbook 
Kinsley’s scrapbook needs a lot of work. It’s something I want to complete before her first birthday, so I still have a few months. So far I’ve gotten a lot of the materials and I’ve printed half the photos.

+sorting/organizing the apartment
I have successfully sorted and organized almost every area in the apartment. We’ve gone through almost everything and donated so much stuff. I’m super proud of the space I’ve made. I even bought some frames and put photos in them for the wall.

+my invisalign
My invisalign is underway- I have a few more dentist appointments to go to and then we’ll start back up. I’m aiming for end of May.

+paperwork for health insurance
My health insurance is finished! I got it all taken care of the first of March.

Lately I’ve been so preoccupied with doing more, more, more that I’ve forgotten to step back and breathe, and realize I’ve already done a ton this year. I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve made just in these three months, especially that I finished my obnoxious to-do list that I’ve been adding to since before Kinsley was born. I’m excited to keep moving forward and tackle a few more big obstacles.

For the second quarter (April/May/June) I’m going to focus on the following:
[+ old   ////   ++ new]

+etsy page/art show planning
+yoga
+Kinsley’s Scrapbook
+blogging
+dental plan/invisalign
++Kinsley’s FIRST birthday party
++entering Nursing Program/student loan
++green living/reduced trash

++spend more time being present

More updates to come as we cruise through the second quarter!

11 ways to boost motivation

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with life in general.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and my head is just swimming with things I need to do, stuff that has to be taken care of, and ways I need to start taking control. All that ruckus can be too much to process sometimes, and as a result my day can turn out to be unproductive, mostly because I don’t know where to start.

Maybe you’re like me, and day after day your to-do list keeps growing but you feel like a stick in the mud because you’re too overwhelmed to start.

I decided to help us get un-stuck, by creating this list of eleven ways to beat the brain overload and find motivation in the unlikeliest of places.

    1. seek out a piece of good news

I’m guilty of checking my phone first thing in the morning, and since I’m subscribed to a lot of news publications (I’m into politics), overnight I’ll get several notifications about what’s going on in the political world. I didn’t realize it before, but checking my phone first thing in the morning often means waking up to bad news, which only puts me in a crappy mood (at best) and is definitely not a good way to ramp up for a busy day.

I’ve found that if I seek out a piece of good news, or read one positive affirmation, it tends to do wonders for my attitude, putting me in a happier mood- one where I feel like I can do anything. Instead of reading Trump’s daily dose of BS, I’ve instead subscribed to an email list from tut.com that’s called “letters from the universe” and I receive from them a daily reminder of my power and the magic of life. If that doesn’t do the trick, I try to look places I know I’ll find good news. Some ideas: OptimistWorld, Good News Network, Gimundo, or OdeWire. (note: this does not mean that I don’t pay attention at all to the negative current events happening in the world, it just means that I don’t start my day with negative stories anymore)

    2. go for a walk

Sometimes the best thing to do for yourself to get your mindset in the right place is to go for a walk. Maybe you need to clear your head. Maybe you need some space. Maybe you need a break, or some fresh air. Maybe you need to wake up a bit. Maybe you need to get your blood circulating. All of these things can result from stepping outside for a quick walk.

In the mornings when I’m feeling sluggish I’ll take the dog out (if you don’t have a dog, take the trash out or shovel your porch) and usually the cool air or occasional slice of winter sunshine helps me feel fresh at the start of the day.

    3. make the bed

There is some research out there that suggests that making the bed in the morning can lead to higher productivity. According to an article by Elite, which sites sources from Psychology Today, a survey by Hunch.com, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, people who make their bed in the morning are happier and more productive, and doing such a trivial task prepares one to do things they don’t want to do: if you don’t want to make your bed, by doing so, you are mentally preparing yourself and getting in the habit of doing tasks you may not want to do but have to do.

This could really help when looking for someplace to start on a long list of things you probably would prefer not to do. Sometimes we don’t start our to do list because every task on it feels to large. By picking a task that requires little effort like making the bed, we can start small and gain some momentum, which can be useful in propelling us toward other (larger) unappealing tasks.

    4. tidy up

I once (twice actually) read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she talks about a method she uses at night where she takes five minutes to tidy up before bed. I’ve found this to be extremely beneficial if I do it first thing in the morning. Anything that’s been left out, or can be quickly put away, I spend five minutes doing so. (I usually pick up Kinsley’s toys, hang up my jacket in the coat closet downstairs, and fix the throw pillows on the couch.)

The idea is to take care of little things that might distract you from productivity, and (if you’re like me) by tidying up your work/living space you may feel more at ease, and able to focus on the tasks at hand because the dishwasher isn’t begging to be loaded and you won’t keep staring at your cluttered coffee table.

    5. make a list

This one never fails for me, as long as I follow this rule: brain dump onto paper, use that to make a list, and commit to a specific number of tasks- not the whole list. If I wake up and my head is full of stuff I should probably do, it doesn’t help me to continue on with that beehive swarming all day long. Instead, I like to brain dump onto paper and then make one or more lists.

Depending on how productive I’m feeling, I’ll make a list based on my highest priorities, or tasks I can knock out quickly. If I’m feeling super ambitious, I’ll take care of the worst to-do’s first, and if I’m having a slow start, I’ll start with small tasks and build momentum to try and accomplish bigger things later in the day after I’m ‘warmed up’ so-to-speak. The most important thing is that you acknowledge a goal, and that goal doesn’t have to be completing everything on the list- that way you don’t accidentally bite off more than you can chew, and quit before you start.

    6. take a shower/get ready

If you’re not a mom, this one might sound dumb. However, if you are a mom, (especially a stay at home mom) you understand that sometimes taking a shower/putting on actual clothes (not just sweats and a tshirt) isn’t always your first priority and might not happen unless you have to leave the house (even then, still isn’t always a priority). Making time for a 10 minute shower and actually putting pants on can sometimes help you feel more prepared to take on a busy day; this is also true for a busy day off- it might be counter intuitive to stay in your PJ’s all day when you’ve got errands to run.

If you’re anything like me, hanging out in leggings and a sweater all day can make you feel like a bum, where all you want to do, or feel like you can do, is sit on the couch (and cuddle with the baby)- not super productive. If I take a shower and actually get dressed, I usually feel better and get a boost of confidence, which is like a secret weapon when it comes to finding motivation to get shit done.

    7. listen to music

A lot of people say that listening to music helps them get a boost of motivation when they’re running low. I find this to be true most of the time. My personal faves are Taylor Swift (Red), Shawn Mendes (Illuminate), Charlie Puth (9 Track Mind), Maroon 5 (Hands All Over), Jack Johnson (In Between Dreams) and John Mayer (Battle Studies).

    8. work out

Still too stressed to tackle your to-do list? Go to the gym. Fun fact: Exercise reduces stress because it creates a production boost of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in your brain that act as natural anti-depressants.

A more obvious reason to work out is that exercise can make you more alert and provide energy. When you exercise, you are increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and increase your energy to make you more awake and prepared to tackle your next big project. If you don’t have time for a full workout, try some stretches, they’ll achieve the same results.

    9. take some time for yourself

I know a few successful women who light an intention candle every morning and start their day by spending a chunk of uninterrupted time just on reflection/meditation/centering themselves before starting their most important tasks.

If spending a half hour alone in the dark at 5:30am doesn’t sound like it would help you, try reading something interesting to get those neurons firing, or find some scripture or a daily affirmation to get your gears turning. You could also try writing a few things you’re grateful for, start a 5 minute journal, look up your horoscope, or watch an inspiring ted talk or educational video. For some people this is too much stimulation too early in the morning, in which case, these would be good ways to take a break or regroup when you’ve been going for a long time and need to find some extra motivation to keep going.

  10. have a cup or three of coffee

A typical 8oz cup of coffee has about 95mg of caffeine in it. Quick science lesson for you- basically, caffeine increases the release of catecholamines (like adrenaline) through the sympathetic nervous system, which can make your heart beat faster, send more blood to your muscles and tell your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream thus providing you with energy!

FYI: according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak level in the blood (one study found increased alertness can begin in as few as 10 minutes). So, if you need a boost of energy and motivation, down a cup of coffee and in 10 minutes you’ll be ready to go (or if coffee isn’t your thing, try black tea, which has the highest caffeine content).

    11. make and eat breakfast

So, maybe caffeine isn’t your thing. That’s okay, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if you choose not to skip it, you can probably get as much or more energy than you would from those cups of coffee. Here’s why: when you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low, and eating breakfast helps replenish it.

Plus, remember when we talked about trivial tasks like making your bed? Well making yourself breakfast can be considered one of those, and now that you’ve read some good news, taken the trash out, made your bed, tidied up, written a list, showered and dressed, listened to some music while you stretched out, took a few minutes to yourself with a cup of coffee AND handled breakfast, you’ve got some momentum going and might be ready to tackle that list.

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born a girl.

A year and two days ago my ultrasound tech took a photo with my baby’s gender and placed it in an envelope for my mom.

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Prior to this appointment, at a 14 week checkup to monitor the subchorionic hematoma that developed just under my placenta, the tech had mentioned that she was fairly certain it was a girl.

On my 23rd birthday, we announced publicly that the word ‘girl’ was, in fact, written on the black and white photo inside that envelope.

Since that day I have been praying. I want to be able to equip her with everything she will need to navigate this world as a girl.

In four days Kinsley will be 7 months old. She isn’t old enough to know yet, but as soon as she is, it will be my number one priority to make sure she understands that her being female is something we celebrated. I will make sure she knows that we love her no less because she was born a daughter.

I will make it a point to tell her that, even in a world where women and our opportunities and rights are interrupted and shushed by men’s hands over our mouths and around our necks every day- even under these circumstances, her voice can be as loud,  her message just as important, and her will even stronger than any man’s.

I pray that I can help her recognize when something isn’t okay, and to decide that she will take what is rightfully hers.
I pray that I can teach her to be brave, and to plant her feet on the ground firmly as she stands up to fight for what she believes in.
I pray that I can show her how to make her voice heard and to speak out against things that are unjust.

I want her to do these things like so many great others have done before her and are still doing today.

Kinsley was born a daughter, and I’m glad for it. When she grows up, I will make sure I have raised her to be one more strong woman in the crowd, marching, fighting, standing, and making a case for respect, equal pay, the right to control her body, a livable planet, the end of violence against women, health care for all, public education, the constitution, and the bill of rights.

Kinsley was born a girl, and nothing will stop her. Someday she will stand among daughters who pledge not to be silent, not to be interrupted, not to be sidelined, not to be stopped, and not to be afraid.

I hope you will teach your daughters the same.