Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Am a Mom...but I'm Also ME!


I am a mom. And being a mom is a BIG part of who I am. I always wanted to be a mom and truly feel it is my "calling" (as cliché and corny as it is to say). I spend every day with my kids. Taking care of them, playing with them, loving them. And I really, really enjoy being with them...they are seriously cool kids! 
I think that for awhile after becoming a mom (really like 2+ years), I lost some of who I am. I forgot that I'm still Natalie. Yes, I got a new title, a new passion, a new hobby, and a new way to spend my days, but I am still me. I let being a mom take over my identity completely. I don't necessarily think this is 100% a bad thing, but I do think it started to become a bad thing for me. I can't reiterate enough that I absolutely love what I'm doing. I feel so blessed and thankful to be able to stay at home. I am so glad that my husband wants me to be home as much as I want to be there. Even though I'm so passionate about it, I stopped doing other things I am passionate about. Instead of letting my family be my first earthly priority, I made them my only priority in a lot of ways. Events with friends became very few and far between. Date nights with my husband were way less frequent than before having children. Hobbies, like blogging, took a huge back seat, to say the least. Anything and everything I did revolved around my kids. I think a lot of moms are like this, and I think it's OK! But for me, it got to the point that being a mom was my one and only identity. I didn't do other things I loved, like crafts, writing, reading novels, or even really listening to music (other than Twinkle Twinkle and Old MacDonald!). I have been (quite literally) buried in everything 'kid'...
I'm not sure when I realized this was happening. I didn't have a huge 'a-ha' moment about it, I just started noticing over time that I wasn't doing things that I loved anymore! It made me a little sad. I can be a mom and let that be one of the biggest and greatest parts of who I am, and still have other passions and hobbies! This is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog. I missed writing. I missed connecting with other women. I missed talking about things that I love. I love that this place is a place that I can come to write what's on my heart, whether it's deep or light-hearted. Whether it's about my kids or about a date night. I can incorporate all parts of who I am. This gives me a way that I can step outside of housework and reading The Cat in the Hat and disciplining, and wiping little faces and hands, and tap into other things that define me. 
The thing that I love the most is that I've been able to find balance. I've been able to find ways to pursue my hobbies and still do all of those things! And the only thing that has really changed is that I've chosen to make the time. I've made that choice and made it happen. 
I think for too long I let myself feel guilty for doing anything that didn't revolve around my kids. I have no idea where this stemmed from...maybe from Pinterest perfect moms, maybe from the Devil planting lies in my head to make me feel like a terrible mom, or maybe just from my own expectations of myself. Wherever it came from, I let it go on for too long. I let myself believe that I had to be Mom and only Mom 24/7/365. I know now that this isn't true. I am still the same mom that I was when I was doing that. Actually, I might be a better mom, because I'm taking time for myself and letting myself pursue other things on top of my family...not instead of...in addition to.
My family is still my top priority. It is my joy and honor to take care of them and serve the Lord by serving them. If that was ever starting to change, I would reevaluate things. But for now, I'm loving that I'm rediscovering me. 

Have you ever let one big part of your life completely define who you are? Was it a good or a bad thing? 
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THANK YOU!!!

I don't really know how to express how grateful we truly are for all of the support, love and donations we received this last week. We are humbled to say the least. 
We knew going into the adoption process that the Lord would provide however He sees fit. We will do everything in our power to be able to afford this process and He will take care of the rest. 
A sweet friend gently reminded me during this giveaway that the money is not for US, it is for our BABY. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with that precious little soul. I hope many other people can see it that way as well! 
We have our first home study interview on Sunday, Nov. 2! We are very excited to be getting further along into the process. At this time we will pay our social worker the home study fee which is $837. We were praying that this fundraiser would be enough to cover that. But we were specifically praying for $1000. We had a few other home study fees, like having finger prints taken ($40) and having our FBI background checks done ($110). We figured that $1000 would give us just enough to cover the entire home study process, not including post placement visits which we will worry about after our baby is born. I had no idea if this was a ridiculous amount to be asking God for through this giveaway, but we asked anyway. We asked Him and we asked other people to ask Him. And wouldn't you know, He answered. He always does, doesn't He? Such a good provider, that One. :) 
We are excited and shocked to share that through the generosity of family, friends and even strangers, we raised $1,258.18.   Can you believe that?! I'm in disbelief. Not because I doubted God, but because I am humbled at how supportive people are. How much they love our future baby and want to see us bring them home. We are so thankful. So unbelievably thankful and I don't really know how to put into words what the support means. Not only the monetary support, but just hearing how excited people are for us and feeling the love. I was able to even connect with a few strangers who have adopted or are thinking of it and that has been really cool, too! 
Instead of rambling on and on, I will just leave it at this: God is amazing and incredible, and if you didn't already know that, this is just one small way He has proven His faithfulness to us. And we are so thankful for the generosity of His saints. Thank you for being a part of our story. Of our child's story. Thank you for giving generously and without reservation. Thank you for helping us spread the word about our child and our family and about the giveaway. Thank you for your kind words and support. Most importantly, thank you for your prayers. Thank you for seeking God on our behalf and asking Him for His blessings. We love you all! 

If you are interested in helping another adoptive family with some of their costs, check out my friend Sarah's handmade bundle giveaway--similar to ours with lots of great prizes and entries start at $10 :) 
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Monday, October 20, 2014

HUGE Adoption Benefit Giveaway

I am SO ridiculously excited that this day is finally here! Lots of planning, strategy, love, faith and generosity has gone into this giveaway. I am incredibly thankful for all of the amazing women who donated items to make this giveaway a huge success! Please join me in thanking them for their generosity!! 

Now let's get to it. You guys. I really wish I could enter my own giveaway, because I want to win ALL of this stuff!! Here's how it works...
ONE winner will take ALL of this loot! This is around a $300 value!! 
All you have to do to enter is donate at least $5 to our adoption fund using the paypal donate button!
$5 will get you ONE entry.
$10 will get you THREE entries.
$20 will get you FIVE entries.
$40 will get you TEN entries!!
You do NOT need to have a paypal account to donate through paypal-just a credit or debit card! After you've given, you can earn extra entries for sharing on social media (PLEASE please please help us spread the word! You can earn entries each day for sharing!). That's it! Totally simple! The giveaway will end on Friday, Oct. 24 at 11:59 p.m. CST. 
We have been praying that this giveaway would cover the total funds we need for our home study, which is due Nov. 2! We would be so blessed if you'd join us in that prayer! You can read more about our adoption details here, and what led us to adopt here .
Ok, enough chitter chatter. Let's see the goods!! (Keep in mind, some of these would make AWESOME gifts, so even if something's not your style, you could give it to someone else as a gift...Christmas is a'comin!)
Set of adorable personalized Stationary, donated by Brittney of Yellow Umbrella!
shop//etsy//facebook//twitter
TWO beautiful Anchored in the Lord necklaces (your choice of colors)-one for you and one for a friend, donated by Chamel of Chamel's Creations!
shop//twitter//instagram//pinterest
Awesome $20 thirty-one gift certificate, donated by Tami Lynch!
website//facebook//instagram//blog
Set of 4  gorgeous printables, donated by Emily Powell Designs!

Super cute Birds or Chevron infinity scarf, donated by Lauren of Lemon & Lime Designs!

A scentsy plug in warmer PLUS 3 yummy smelling scentsy bars (holiday scents), donated by Jordan S!

Pair of perfect gray boot cuffs, donated by Oakleigh Rose! 

Set of 10 lovely scripture printables, donated by Aliesha of Artistic Renditions!

Fabulous Yellow Norwex enviro cloth, donated by Ashley Roethe!


$25 Anthropologie (aka perfection) Gift Card, donated by Daisy at Simply Relished!

6 pack of hilarious cards of the winner's choice, donated by Kara-Kae of Mom Diggity Designs!

Yes, you could win ALL of that amazing stuff...you are NOT dreaming!!! We would be so blessed if you would consider entering the giveaway and giving to our adoption! 
You can click to donate here. Remember, AFTER you have given, you can share on social media every day for more entries! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you so much for your love and support! 
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Giveaway Starts TOMORROW!!!

Be sure to come by tomorrow to enter the giveaway to support our adoption! SO much awesome stuff coming in at around $300 total value!! 
See you here tomorrow! 
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You!

I am SO excited to announce this giveaway that'll be happening right HERE starting next Tuesday!
Some amazing ladies have teamed up with me, offering generous donations to make this giveaway happen. All proceeds will go to our adoption fund. 
I will share more details next week, but today I would ask you to pray for us-that God would use this giveaway to open people's eyes and hearts to adoption. And that He would bless us financially. We have been praying that this would be enough to cover our home study costs, which are due on Nov. 2! We would so appreciate your prayers for that! 
Here is a little sneak peek at all of the awesome:
All of this stuff combined is around a $300 value! Incredible, right?! We have an infinity scarf, set of 2 necklaces, a scentsy plug in warmer + 3 bars, $25 gift card to anthropologie, set of 4 printables, set of personalized stationary, 6 winner's choice greeting cards, gray boot cuffs, a norwex enviro cloth, set of 10 scripture art prints, and a $20 gift certificate to thirty one. Whew! Now who wants to win?! Come back TUESDAY to enter!! And please help us spread the word! We are so blessed by all of your support! 
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Patch Party

Ever since my daughter was born 3 years ago in the fall, I knew I wanted to do some kind of fall themed birthday party at one point. I thought a pumpkin patch party would be super cute. I had some bigger ideas, but like I do every year, at the last minute I decided not to do about half of them and just keep it simple. She and her little friends had a blast as it was! 


One of the biggest hits (more with the adults) was the little pumpkin patch photo area I set up. It turned out really cute and it was fun to set up! Not everyone got their pictures taken, but I'm glad to have a lot of our guests!




For activities for the kiddos, we had pumpkin painting and pumpkin crafts (foam pumpkins, stickers, letters, etc.) As well as playing in the back yard with toys, play house, etc. No one seemed to get bored so I'm calling it a win! 



We had the party late afternoon, so we just did treats and no meal. 
I made Paula Deen's pumpkin bars, which I do a few times every fall because they are so, SO good! A candy pumpkin on top finished them off perfectly!



Totally off topic, but does anyone know how to get stubborn chalk marker off?! I LOVE that little chalk board, but I cannot get the marker off! I have used the same marker on other chalkboards before so I know it's not the marker! I have tried everything I can think of. The top layer came off, so it's not bright white anymore but it is totally still on there. Help! I want to use it in my house and not have it say Pumpkin Patch on it forever! 

Here are some scenes from the party:
This was the only shot I got of her outfit. I had to wake her up from her nap as guests were arriving, so she played shy for awhile while she was waking up. I actually got this pillow case dress for her FIRST birthday to wear to the pumpkin patch on her actually birth day and I don't think she has worn it since. This is why I love pillowcase dresses...2 years later and it fits perfectly with leggings.



This fuzzy caterpillar may have seriously been the highlight of her day. She was just giddy over it! 



She got a little shy when everyone started singing to her. Straight to daddy for protection ;) 



Everyone loves a baby! 

Overall it was a super fun and blessed day and I think my girl really enjoyed! We ended up having PERFECT weather and it was about 80 degrees with half of the back yard being in the shade...like I said, perfect!! 


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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tips for Working Out in the Morning {Guest Post}

My ridiculously sweet friend, Leigh Anne, is here guest posting today!! We have been blog friends for several years, and they just don't come any sweeter than this gal, you guys. Enjoy her post! Lord knows I need to take some of these tips ;) 
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I recently started working out at 5:30 am. Which is crazy, especially considering I am not a morning person. At. All.
But I'm really enjoying starting my days with a good workout and kind of even consider myself a morning person now. Plus I get to work earlier now and am able to get things done in the morning, leave earlier in the afternoon, and head home without worrying about getting a workout in.
I shower and get ready for the day up at our church gym (where I workout) which means a lot of prep work is required to make it all happen. I've picked up a few tips along the way that might be helpful if you are trying the same routine or thinking about trying it.
Get two of everything. In the locker room I have everything I need so I'm taking less back and forth. In my gym locker I have: a body towel, wash cloth, hand towel (to wrap my hair up), shower shoes, shampoo/conditioner/body wash/face wash, razor, hair brush, deodorant, and hair dryer. The only thing I bring in each day are my clothes for the day and makeup. Everything else stays at the gym.
Prep the week on Sunday. Besides doing meal prep on Sundays I'll also pick out all my outfits for the week and hang them together in my closet. I even hang cardigans/jackets and jewelery together so the night before I don't have to think about what I need to complete the outfit. Doing this before the week saves me time each night and makes packing my gym bag easier.

5 days of outfits hanging and waiting at the front of my closet.

Pack everything the night before. Anything that I need for the next day needs to be packed and ready the night before. This includes my gym bag, breakfast, water bottle, lunch, and anything else I might need for work. When you get up at 5 am and need to be out of the house 15 minutes later you don't have time to think and just need to grab and go!


Put everything in it's place. Every night I put everything in its spot for the next day. My gym clothes go in the bathroom so I'm not fumbling around in the dark wasting time. I put my shoes and socks in the living room by the chair so I can sit down and put them on quickly. My gym bag and purse sit by the door so I can grab them on the way out. Having everything in place makes walking out much easier!

Get plenty of sleep! Of course the key to working out in the morning before work is to make sure you get plenty of sleep. Figure out how much your body needs and set a strict bedtime for yourself to ensure you will have a successful workout and not be dragging all day afterwards!
Accountability. I go to a workout class and having a specific time to be there helps me get going because I don't want to be late. It is also super helpful having a group of people there everyday who I know will be asking where I am if I don't go. Recently a co-worker joined our class which provides even more accountability for me! If you don't have a class to attend see if you can find a friend to be your workout partner. It makes for a much more enjoyable workout, provides accountability, and creates a unique bond that sweating it out together can do! 

What tips would you add for working out before work? 

Leigh Anne is a wife, first grade teacher and puppy momma. She blogs about daily life with her husband & family as well as sharing tips about saving money, ideas for in the classroom, and memory keeping ideas. Check out her blog, Simply Swarbrick!


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Freezer Meal List

I have been SO bad about cooking lately. Ever since we did a Whole 30 (whole 25?) back in May I have been burned out on cooking. I can do good for a week or two but then I just fall off the bandwagon and want to eat out for every meal. Our stomachs and wallet do not agree with it, so I wanted to try something different. I have always wanted to do freezer meals, but never wanted to put in the time to do a whole months worth, so the other day I just randomly thought I'd try to come up with meals for 2 weeks and then if it goes well, I'll do it again in 2 weeks and just keep doing it every couple weeks. I grocery shopped for 13 dinners as well as our staples, breakfast stuff, etc. and I will plan to go back next week just for produce and milk. We can't make it 2 weeks for produce...it always goes bad before then and my kids would go crazy without bananas and grapes (I would, too). So I think this will work out pretty well for us...hopefully! 
Here is what I made. I will link to the recipe if it is available! A good majority of them are Paleo. I don't think any of them have dairy in them. They are almost all either a crock pot dish or a soup...it is just that time of year and they are easy. It took me just 2 hours to get this all ready, so I figure that will probably save me about 10 hours of dinner prep time over the next couple weeks!!

Taco Soup (1-2 lbs. ground beef or turkey, browned; 2 cans ranch style beans, can of corn-i just dump frozen corn in, 3 cans diced tomatoes, a packet of dry ranch and a pack of taco seasoning. Put all in a bag and freeze. Thaw overnight in the fridge and dump into a pot and cook on low for 2 or so hours.)
Turkey Chili  (I used ground turkey, browned)
Teriyaki Chicken
Pizza Soup (I used turkey sausage)
Hawaiian Chicken
Meatloaf (1 1/2 lbs. uncooked beef, 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal, worchestershire sauce, 1/2 cup ketchup, egg all mixed together in freezer bag. Thaw overnight and cook in loaf pan at 350 for about an hour)
Beef Stew (Package of stew meat, about a cup of beef broth, baby carrots, celery. I am going to cut up potatoes the day of and throw them in. Crockpot low for 8 hrs)
Paleo Chili (I add yellow squash, too)
Turkey sausage & veggies (Turkey sausage-I mean like the long Jenni-O packages, not like breakfast sausage...bell peppers cut up-I used yellow, green and red, yellow squash chopped, and a zucchini chopped. Dump into a skillet and cook through! Add italian dressing or other seasonings. Sometimes we serve over tortellini).
All from this post:
Mediterranean Pork Chops
Southwest Chicken
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Cacciatore 

My freezer is PACKED full and I am really, really hoping this will keep us on track for saving money and eating healthy!! 

Do you have any other freezer meals you love?! 
 

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