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Family, Food & Recipes

Building Your Mommy Tribe

April 4, 2016

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of The Women Bloggers in association with @KendalKingGroup and #SoapboxInfluence; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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When we moved back to Iowa last year I was a little nervous about finding new mom friends. Sure, I grew up in this small town, but I had no idea what to expect living here as an adult. Thankfully, we got plugged in fairly quickly and I’ve been working on building relationships with other women and mommas in the area. I’ve learned that new mom play groups are a necessity for both my sanity (especially during the cold winter months!), Ainsley’s enjoyment, and for building community. Since my new schedule is fairly flexible, I have Tuesday mornings with Ainsley. Two Tuesdays each month we head to mommy-toddler play group at our Church where the kiddos play and the moms sip on coffee and chat.

Last week instead of hosting the gathering at the Church nursery, we took the party to my house where the moms sipped on homemade lattes and the kiddos played in the ball pit and ate snacks. Opening up your home to others can feel so vulnerable, can’t it? Like you’re saying, “Come on in and see what I’m really about!” But over the years I’ve grown increasingly comfortable with doing so, finding a nice rhythm and routine to entertaining that doesn’t stress me out but feels a little special at the same time.

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Despite my best efforts to make healthy food for Ainsley’s lunches each day, she has been going through a fussy phase and has a mind of her own about what she will and will not eat. For our little mom and toddler gathering I kept the food easy and kid-friendly by serving snacks, which are always a hit even if lunch and dinner are hit or miss!

One thing we certainly do not have to beg her to eat is the Gerber Lil Beanies that we had at our party. These bean-based snacks contain protein + fiber and no artificial colors, which is super important to this momma. Plus, they taste pretty darn good, too! (I may have snacked on a handful or two…) Oh, and did I mention that the first ingredient is actually beans? I appreciate that the product is true to its name. I snagged a few cans for our party at our local Walmart while shopping for groceries a few weeks back.

Here’s what we served at the party, in case you want to recreate something like this with your momma friends!

For the Moms //
Homemade Latte Bar (with an assortment of milks and flavorings)
Homemade Blueberry Muffins
Fresh Cut Fruit (for the moms + kids)

For the Kiddos //
Gerber Lil Beanies
Gerber Yogurt Melts
Gerber Lil Whoos Baked Snack Crackers
Gerber Graduates Animal Crackers

Madison

Family

Don’t Miss the Point

March 14, 2016

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It’s no secret that Joe and I are a little bit like a 70-year-old couple. We like to go to bed at a decent hour, wake up early, watch the Nightly News after dinner and watch 60 Minutes on Sunday nights. I have no shame in my love for 60 Minutes – it always leaves me feeling a little more informed about current events and is a great conversation started for us as a couple since they frequently talk about topics that come with some degree of controversy.

Last night we watched a segment that talked about “Death with Dignity” (also called “Assisted Suicide”) for terminally-ill patients that have less than six months to live. I’m not interested in talking about the ethics of that particular topic since I’m not even sure how I feel about it personally, but it did get me thinking about death in a more general sense.

As Joe and I were laying in bed later that night, I told him that I’m deeply afraid of missing the point in this short bit of time we have on the earth. The point being that it’s not about me, but it’s about living a life that constantly points back to Jesus and our life in eternity. Thinking about death isn’t something I enjoy thinking or talking about, but I find that it’s necessary in order for me to keep life’s trials, tribulations and even successes in perspective. In a culture that is pushing, promoting, buying and marketing 24/7, I’m afraid that the true purpose of our time on earth can easily get lost in the noise.

“Be IN this world, but not OF it.”

What does that look like practically? How do you live life, make a living and pursue your passions while pointing it all back to Jesus? I’ve been mulling that over a lot lately with no great answers or resolution.

Below, I did a little “faith in the everyday” exercise to clarify WHY I do what I do, and HOW that can relate back to Jesus and my faith. If you’re struggling, like I am, with clarity of purpose in your everyday, I would strongly recommend doing the same. It was a good reminder of how I can relate the everyday back to what matters most.

Worldly Lens // I work in social media marketing for FLYJOY energy bars. My goal is to promote FLYJOY so they can sell more product.

God-Focused Lens // FLYJOY donates 10% of their sales to HOPE International to fund small-business loans in developing countries. Helping FLYJOY succeed also helps others who need assistance.

Worldly Lens // I do freelance recipe development for brands. My goal is to promote myself and my skills to make more money and get more jobs.

God-Focused Lens // God has gifted me with a passion for food and skills for recipe development. Using those skills is honoring to God. I can challenge myself to always be Christ-like in my business interactions and always hold myself to a standard of honesty and integrity they way Christ would.

Worldly Lens // I sell Beautycounter products. My goal is to sell more product to make more money.

God-Focused Lens // I believe in safer beauty products and using those products to help others live healthier, more fulfilling lives. I want to honor and cherish the body God has given me (and my family) by caring for it well. Not obsessively or excessively, but as well as I can within reason.

Worldly Lens // I blog and use social media. My goal is to gain more followers to grow my site and networks.

God-Focused Lens // My blog and social media can be a source of encouragement, so it’s my aim to use it as such. It’s my job to think carefully and be mindful of what I put on social media, making sure it’s something that is God-honoring, even if it’s about something trivial.

I’m not saying that I’ll perfect this mindset overnight, but I’m starting my week thinking about my work differently than before. Although some tasks may seem trivial or worldly or even unpleasant, even my attitude and how I approach those situations can be honoring to God.

Have a wonderful start to your week, friends!

Madison

Family

Mommy Martyr

January 26, 2016

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Yesterday was not a particularly shining day for me. I woke up feeling flat-out sorry for myself for a handful of reasons that now seem too petty and foolish to list. Most of the time Mondays as work days for me, but I had rescheduled our childcare for the week so we could take Ainsley to a doctor’s appointment in a city about an hour and a half away. My mom was planning on coming along so we could make a full girl’s day of it – shopping, Costco, Starbucks, but when the weather turned nasty that direction we decided to stay put and reschedule our appointment.

I was bummed. What was going to be a fun day out of our routine turned into a day at home with Ainsley in the middle of our construction zone with a bunch of mundane tasks on my to-do list. At breakfast Joe told me it would be a good idea to reschedule appliance delivery until another issue in the house was resolved. I snapped at him and told him how I had to have all the hard conversations and he got to “boss me around” (yes, I really said that!) Before he left for work, I told him to go to the gym after work, secretly thinking what a nice wife I was because I was encouraging one of his favorite activities. Meanwhile, I spent my day running errands, grocery shopping, trying to track down a specific brand of wine for a blog project I’m working on, and having conversations about our renovation.

When Ainsley when down for her (short!) afternoon nap, I did the “mommy hustle” and ran downstairs to put on workout clothes, get my 30 minute workout in, shower and be ready for inevitable wake-up 50 minutes after she went down. I felt rushed, per usual, and when she insisted on being held the last 2 hours of the day, more than a little frazzled.

Before Ainsley was born I dreamed about this type of schedule. Where I worked part-time in a creative job I enjoyed and got to invest time and energy into blogging part-time as well. When Ainsley came along it was so hard to be away from her 40+ hours a week and I longed to spend more time with her, something a part-time schedule allowed. But yesterday? Well, it got the best of me.

By the time Joe got home, I was in full-blown mommy martyr mode.

I had to spend the whole day with Ainsley, meeting her needs and cleaning up endless dirty diapers and preventing her from eating construction material. Poor me!

My workout was rushed. It didn’t consist of getting away to the actual gym but instead involved a workout video, free weights and a yoga mat in my messy basement. Poor me!

I had to have tough and/or uncomfortable conversations surrounding our house remodel. Confrontation is not my style. Poor me! 

The last two hours of the day Ainsley needed to be held, meaning I got dinner on the table while holding a fussy baby. My arm feels like it is about to fall off and there is a pile of dirty dishes in the utility sink waiting to be washed. Poor me! 

The list goes on and on. I was stuck in a pity party rut that ended with me blowing up at Joe for not being helpful enough. And then this morning, while doing my devotional and drinking a hot cup of coffee before everyone else woke up, I flipped the conversation and thought about things through Joe’s eyes:

He worked all day and spent precious time away from me and Ainsley while we spent time together. He works a full-time corporate job because he loves the structure, yes, but also because it allows for me to work my flexible job. When I couldn’t find the right wine at our local grocery stores he willingly ran after work to pick them up for me near his work. I got to workout during the middle of the day while Joe had to spend more time away from us to get his workout in later. After his workout, he ran to my mom’s house to pick up a few items for me for our home decor. He woke up early to let our dog out and let her out last thing in the evening, too.

When I flipped the conversation a bit, I realized that the story I was telling myself was SO one-sided. I was playing the mommy martyr game really, really well while Joe was quietly going about doing task after task without complaint. Have you ever had a day(s) that turned out like that? It was a light-bulb moment for me. Not to say that I’ll never act this way again, but taking just a few minutes to think about the other side of the equation put my own thoughts into proper perspective. Now that I’ve had some time for reflection, devotion and quiet time, it’s amazing how my heart becomes softened toward my husband and less focused on me, me, me!

For me, I’m realizing more and more that the key to a good day starts with getting up before the rest of the house. Mornings have always been my favorite time of day, and having a solid hour to sit, drink my coffee and eat breakfast, get in God’s word and then attack a few pressing tasks sets my day on a completely different trajectory than if I wake up when Joe gets up, just 30 minutes before Ainsley’s 7 am wake up time.

Today, I’m starting my day thankful. Thankful for forgiveness and fresh starts and the blessings that abound in my little corner of the world. And when you start your day thankful rather than in pity? Well, it changes your whole day.

Madison

Family

Hofmeyer Renovation: The Before Photos

January 20, 2016

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The light at the end of this home renovation tunnel is now clearly visible. While there were plenty of days in the last few months when I was just over the whole thing, I’ve been doing my best to maintain perspective, be thankful for the gift it is to be able to renovate a home, and the excitement about seeing our vision for this house come together.

When we moved back to Iowa we were shocked at how scarce the housing options were. After a few weeks of unsuccessful house hunting, we heard about a house that *might* be for sale and contacted the owner directly. As luck would have it, we were able to buy the house before it went on the market. The home needed a lot of updating, but it had a fantastic location, great bones, plenty of space and a layout and great room I fell in love with. Buying our first home in Minneapolis, I would have been scared away by all the cosmetic updates that needed to be made. But this time around, I was a little more open-minded, and Joe and I were looking for a project (because we’re crazy like that.)

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Joe and I only have a handful of renovating skills, so we knew we could do a lot of the basics and then we hired out the rest of the project.

Here’s a look at what we did:
-Removed wall paper (about 70% of the house was covered in it)
-Skim coated and sanded walls that were damaged after wall paper removal
-Primed and painted the entire house, including new white paint on the ceilings
-Sanded and painted much of the woodwork (we hired out some of the work)
-Ripped up the old flooring/carpet and removed tack strips
-Removed old door handles and locks and replaced them with new locks/handles
-Removed old drapes and window coverings to let that light in!
-Ripped out an old built-in desk in the guest bedroom
-Removed shelving in garage and painted the whole garage white
-Power washed the garage and front drive

A few things we hired out right away:
-Installed a radon mitigation system
-Called pest control to put a bat removal system in (the electricians noticed some signs of bats when they were up working on lighting)
-Patched the holes in the wall left from removing the built-in desk
-New can lights in the great room
-Added a light in Ainsley’s room (there were no lights in that room)
-Added can lights to master bedroom

The rest of the work happened once we started the major renovations. We ended up living in the house for about 2 1/2 months before the renovation began, while we worked with a designer on floor plans, layouts and waited for our contractor to become available. I’ll share more about the details of our renovation in the coming weeks and months, but here is an overview (Chip and Joanna style) of what was on our list. Keep in mind that some things, like new window coverings, a backyard fence and new landscaping, are on the list for the near but not immediate future based on how much money we have left over at the end of this project!

Home Renovation Scope:
-New hardwood flooring throughout the entire main level
-Tile in entry way and laundry room
-Turn 1 very large bathroom into 2 bathrooms (a guest/kid bath and a master suite bathroom)
-Remove large cedar closet near bathroom to make more room in kid bath and replace with a smaller closet
-New light fixtures throughout entire house
-Gut entire kitchen (new cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, countertops, backsplash, etc.)
-Remove a wall between kitchen and living room to make a more open floor plan
-Wallpaper powder bathroom
-Paint laundry room cabinets white and get new sink/countertop

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So there you have it! The before photos in all their glory. Honestly, I just love this little house. From the moment I saw it, I knew it had major potential. I set foot in the door and thought “Yes! This is our new home!” and it’s been such an honor to scape away the layers of wall paper and yellow woodwork and yellow countertops and give this old house new life. Although it’s exhausting at times, it’s been an absolute joy. I’m so excited to share the after photos with you soon!

Over the last few months I’ve learned so much about the renovation process. I still have lots to learn, but I am happy to answer as many questions as I can! Leave them below and I’ll do my best.

For locals who are interested, here are my recommended resources:
Tree Trimming: Dan’s Tree Service
Layout and Design Work: Kristin Mellema/Elements Design
Contractor Work/General Construction: Joel Jongerius Construction
Cabinets: VerHoef Custom Woodworking
Plumbing: D&L Plumbing and Heating
Electric Work: Hofmeyer Electric

Madison

Family, Pregnancy

Motherhood Year 1

January 6, 2016

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Ainsley isn’t quite a year old (just a month and a half to go!) but I’m already starting to think about the first year of motherhood as I plan for her first birthday party. Yes, we’re throwing a big birthday bash for our 1-year-old, yet another thing I said I would never do. (God’s teaching me a LOT about using the phrase “never”)

I’ve been making a list of the top pieces of advice I would pass along to a mom during her first year of motherhood. Here are the tidbits from others that I found helpful, and a few things I wish I could go back and tell myself.

1. It will be hard. 
I didn’t want to hear this when I was pregnant, but it’s true. Motherhood is all sorts of hard, from the physical and emotional exhaustion to learning how to juggle and balance and find a new normal for you, your marriage and your new life as a family. It’s hard, but it’s the most rewarding kind of hard and I wouldn’t trade my new normal for my old life for anything.

2. Trust your momma gut. 
Don’t trust Dr. Google or any advice on a mommy message board. In fact, don’t read those at all! But if you feel like something is off, trust your gut and demand answers. If your doctor doesn’t make you feel comfortable or makes you feel stupid for asking too many questions find a different doctor. Don’t be an alarmist, but realize that you know your baby better than anyone else.

3. Don’t cut your hair. 
Okay, this one is a little bit on the lighter side, but it’s great advice I got from my blog-buddy Natalie. I posted a question on Instagram a few months after having Ainsley about chopping my hair, and she strongly discouraged it, enough that I decided to hold off. I’m so glad I did! If you like your long hair, give it time. You’ll eventually have time to wash, dry and style your hair. Trust me! Unless, of course, you like your hair short. Then do whatever you darn well please. 😉

4. Join a new mom group. 
If at all possible, find a group of other new moms to meet with during those first few months. Since we were still living in Minneapolis, the options were plentiful. I joined a group through Amma that met for 8 weeks and was made up of all first-time moms. The nurse-led class was casual, super friendly for babies and the relationships I’ve developed with those women have continued even after the class ended. They are still the first people I go to to ask questions about our babies and their development. There’s something so comforting about having a tribe of women who are all in the hazy, messy and exhausting first few months together.

5. Don’t compare your baby to other babies. 
It’s easy to start comparing your baby to other babies from the moment they enter this world. How fast they are gaining weight and how quickly they are hitting milestones and how cute they are, etc. Just don’t do it. Babies develop differently, and unless your pediatrician flags something to watch, chances are your child is doing just fine.

6.  Get out often during those early weeks and months. 
I had a few friends tell me that it would never be easier to get out and about than when your baby was really little. And I thought they were full of it at the time! But now that I have a squirmy little almost-toddler on my hands I know what they were talking about. When you have a very little baby that sleeps in a carseat and doesn’t require toys, food or other forms of entertainment going out to eat or to coffee with friends is SO easy, so take advantage of it as often as possible! These days taking Ainsley out to eat is a lot messier and much more work. 😉

7. Soak up each stage.
It’s not always possible to soak up the baby stage. In fact, sometimes it’s almost impossible, but as much as possible savor those moments. They are fleeting, just like the sleepless nights and extra pounds of baby weight. Before you know it, you’ll be planning a first birthday party and crying in the corner as you look back at photos of your tiny, bitty baby wondering where the last year went. (Guilty!)

8. Don’t nap when the baby naps. 
Everyone told me to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you guys? The last thing I wanted to do when Ainsley was sleeping was to take a nap. I wanted to take a hot shower and blow dry my hair and get in an at-home workout or just sit mindlessly on the couch and drink a HOT cup of coffee. Although I was tired and craving sleep, I was craving time to myself even more. Maybe you’ll be the same way, too?

9. Say yes to flexible schedules. 
I love a good schedule, and so does my baby. Some people may tell you that schedules are crazy and they don’t work, but I loved my Babywise book and a schedule made Ainsley predictable and easy to understand and it made our lives a whole lot less stressful this year. That said, I’m a member of a Babywise group on Facebook and I almost had to quit at one point because it was nauseating how rigid some people can be about schedules. I think that creating a schedule during those first few months really helped create the grounds for us being able to be more flexible down the road. Travel happens. Life happens. Be flexible within reason.

10. Find a form of exercise that works for you. 
It’s so easy to put exercise on the back burner with a little one, and undoubtedly it takes so much more effort to get a workout in once your baby arrives. But trust me when I say that you should absolutely make time for workouts. It was critical for my mental health and getting back in shape made me a better, more active and involved mom. Chances are the workouts that worked for you pre-baby will look a little different post-baby – the key is finding something that works with your new life. When the weather is nice, Joe and I will go on runs with Ainsley in the jogging stroller, but these days I’ve traded in my gym membership for at-home workouts. Quick, easy and done in 30 minutes? Anyone can find time for that!

Anything you other mommas would add or take away from this list?
Madison

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