A letter to the baby we lost, while we are expecting again…

A letter to the baby we lost…

We are just a few weeks out from meeting your baby sister. And while it can feel at times that we are replacing you – we want you to know that you will never be replaced. Once your sister arrives, we will be in a new world of change and adjustment. Things will be busy and chaotic at times, but that does not mean you will be forgotten.

As we get ready to welcome her, we are being as intentional as we can about remembering you. This time last year, you were in my belly. I was talking to you, singing to you and telling your sisters all about you. On November 8th, we found out we had lost you. And the three months that followed were excruciating. It was hard enough losing you. To add to the emotional pain, there was physical pain, confusion, complications and more.

Although your memory may be filled with heartache and pain, we are committed to sharing your story to those it may help. Because at the end of the day, we realized that you went from perfection to perfection. You never had an ounce of pain and will never know any type of heartache. And while we will always miss you here, we have hope in knowing that you are with our Jesus and we will meet you one day.

When your sisters can understand, they will get to hear all about you. They’ll know your story, and we will celebrate you and look forward to meeting you. We will share with them the joy that we have in our hearts for you.

The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. Romans 8:18

Just like labor pains always end up being worth it, the pain of losing you will be worth it as well. Every tear, every complication, every sleepless night wishing we still had you – it was all worth it. YOU were worth it. You mattered from the day we saw that positive pregnancy test, and you will always matter to us.

We are 36 weeks pregnant with your sister. We may seem distracted planning for her arrival. While we are so excited to meet her, please know that she’s not a replacement, but another addition to our family. You’ll forever live in our hearts.

I’ll never run away from the pain of missing you – but rather embrace it. While this life on earth can be hard and we’ll never know why we lost you – we don’t have to know. We know you’re with Jesus, and that’s what we chose to focus on. We remind ourselves that the first time you opened your eyes – you saw Jesus. What comfort that brings us!

Read more: Pregnancy After Miscarriage

You have given us all a new outlook on true joy. We have learned to be joyful in the midst of grief and for that we are so grateful. What I want you to know most is that we miss you. We are grateful for the 12 weeks we had you, and cannot wait to see you dancing with Jesus one day. Your sisters will all dance right along with you.

Thank you for being a part of our story.

xoxo,

It’s Not All About Behavior

It’s Not All About Behavior…

It’s not all about behavior, but sometimes I wish it was. I wish we could just address each behavior, deal with it and move on. But when it comes to our kids – it’s never just about the behavior. In the words of John Crist – we have to check their hearts.

It’s ALL about their heart. Our girls are 2 and 4 years old – learning how to shepherd their hearts has been quite the challenge. And we still have such a long way to go. We want them to feel loved and cherished, but also learn self control when things aren’t going their way. It’s a tough balance to find – but we’re learning. Paul Tripp says it best:

“As a parent you are never, ever dealing just with the words and actions of your children. You are always also dealing with the thing that controls their words and behavior: the heart.”

We’re learning about emotions – that it’s ok to have big emotions and feelings. It’s ok to not always agree with Mom and Dad. It’s ok to question us when you don’t understand. It would be easy to answer with, “because I said so!” when the questions arise. But our kids are curious and longing for reasons, not just rules.

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I’m currently reading “Why I Didn’t Rebel” by Rebecca Gregoire Lidenbach. One thing that stood out to me above the rest is the idea of creating reasons not rules. If my four year old knows why a rule is in place, she is much more likely to comply (most of the time). But if I give blanket statements and expect her just to listen because I’m Mom, that doesn’t work out so well. It’s when I take the time to explain why we have to wait our turn when someone else is speaking. I often ask her how she would like to be treated, and if she would like to finish speaking before being interrupted. Now she has the chance to understand why we don’t interrupt others. She has a very big personality, and loves attention of any kind, so fostering that can be a challenge at times – but it’s one I want to face head on.

Growing up, I did a lot of listening and obeying out of fear of the consequences. It worked. I made my fair share of bad choices, but I didn’t spiral into a rebellion because of fear of what would happen. I never truly had the desire to live fully devoted to the Lord until I completely surrendered to Him on my own. My hope is that my children won’t obey out of fear, but that eventually they will learn that this life is not about them, but about Jesus. It’s pretty hard for a two and four year old to grasp that concept, but we can’t let that keep us from talking about why we were created in the first place.

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There are a number of books out there on discipline. I’ve read way too many. But out of all of the books I’ve read, one thing remains true – we are here to shepherd their hearts. There is no magic formula or something I could say to get my kids to obey. But I do know one thing – the more time I invest in them, the more likely they are to respond positively. I don’t say that to put any pressure on anyone, because I’ve done that to myself. I use it as a reminder to keep myself in check. There is usually a root cause of their behavior. After addressing the behavior in that moment, I will try to figure out why it happened. I’ll wait till a calm time of day, like right before bedtime, and talk to them about what happened. They are usually much more receptive once their emotions have settled.

The good news is we cannot change the heart of our child, only God can truly do that. It takes the pressure off. We can guide them and lead them, but God has to get a hold of their heart for true change to happen.

There are days when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Honestly that’s most days. But I do think that we don’t have to just “survive” the toddler years. I believe that we can live an abundant life now, and we don’t need to wait until this phase is over. Because once one phase is over, another one follows. Parenting has been a constant challenge of figuring out what works best for our family, and for each child. It’s never easy, but we’re praying our way through it and adjusting as needed. I love this quote from Paul Tripp:

“in every moment when you are parenting, you are being parented. In every moment when you are called to give grace, you are being given grace. In every moment when you are rescuing and protecting your children, you are being rescued and protected. In every moment when you feel alone, you are anything but alone because he goes wherever you go.”

If you feel like you’re in the trenches of toddlerhood – know that you’re not alone. He is there with us – giving us grace and protecting us. And you don’t have to do this mom thing alone. Finding like minded moms that “get it” has saved my sanity on those rough days. I am determined to make the most of these toddler years and I hope you’ll join me. There are so many moms I look up to that have been where we are, and have made it to the other side. I hear things like, “it gets better,” and “it’s just a phase.” And while I know those things are true – I pray that these years don’t just turn into a blur. I don’t want to just survive; I want to live this live abundantly, regardless of the age of my children.

Thanks so much for reading, and for being here. I’d love to hear your heart on this, please leave a comment below so we can chat!

xoxo,

jenny

Five Photography Tips to Get REAL Smiles From Your Kids!

If you’re having trouble getting genuine smiles for pictures, get ready to try these 5 tips with your kids! As a professional photographer, I’ve gone through the struggle of getting real smiles out of little ones. But after implementing these strategies, it’s very rare that I can’t get a true smile!

  1. Don’t say “cheese!” I still have trouble with this one, but if you ask for cheese, that is what you’re going to get. Avoid saying cheese because this will for sure cause them to fake smile.
  2. Make it exciting and fun! There is usually a lot of stress involved when families show up for a photo shoot. The first thing I like to do is make sure the kids are comfortable. There will be no real smiles if they aren’t feeling it! Let them play with the camera and take pictures of you, or do silly faces for a while to loosen them up. Kids love pressing buttons and being silly, so use that to your advantage!28954617_749157965289069_1613505010342312570_o
  3. Don’t force it. If all of a sudden your child is done and over it. It’s ok to take a break. Forcing them to continue to take pictures will only make things worse. Let them run around for a bit and try again when they’re up for it. At photo shoots, I’ll usually take pictures of another child during this time. I make it look really fun so the other littles will want to be a part of it again!
  4. Do what makes them normally smile. You know your child the best! What do they love to do? Sing a special song? Play hide and seek? Do they absolutely love being tickled? Your best bet is to be playful and do what normally makes them smile. 26849915_717607178444148_5127267887886230105_o
  5. Ask them what they want to do. Sometimes we just need to empower the child and let them tell us what they want to do! If it’s their idea, they are more likely to be excited about it. Once they tell you what they want to do, you could say, “That sounds great! Let’s do that, then we’ll let Mommy pick what we do next!” 22712363_685372975000902_689571135907898783_o

I hope these tips help you the next time you go to take pictures of your little ones! My favorite pictures are the ones that aren’t posed, but the ones that catch them in their element. For example, if I gave my three year old a pile of dirt – she would be all smiles and I wouldn’t even have to try! Remember to make it fun for them. You don’t want to look back at that picture and think of how you forced them to smile, but rather how much fun they really were having.

If you have any questions at all, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

xoxo,

jenny

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Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Pregnancy after miscarriage – what a blessing, and a beautiful story of hope. But there are so many emotions and feelings that come along with it. I want to talk about those in a very vulnerable way. I was unaware of what I would experience during this time, and if sharing my story can help just one person, then it will be worth it. Whether you are in a season of grief or joy (or both), I hope this post finds you well and encourages you, even in the slightest bit.

We are currently 16 weeks pregnant. Now that my energy is coming back, I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts and process what is actually happening. We experienced a miscarriage seven months ago (you can read about it here).

While the past seven months have been filled with many dark moments, Christ has given me little glimpses of hope. Seven months ago, I had a hard time getting out of bed. I remember waking up many times just wishing it was all a bad dream. I even told my husband I didn’t know if I ever wanted to try for another baby because I never wanted to experience that again. There was so much hurt in my heart, followed by confusion. But I knew God was still good, and I knew He would get us through that season.

Related Article: To the Mom Who is Scared

I realized that the foundation I had as a believer prepared me for that moment when my world came crashing down. Every sermon, book, podcast or conversation about hardships came back to me. I knew this wasn’t the end of our story, but the beginning.

I’m more than happy to share our story. Not because we are pregnant, but because of the One who brought us through one of the most difficult times in our life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean hardships do not exist, but the peace that took over our home and our hearts can only be accredited to Christ. Grief or joy – He gets all the glory.

Eight things I didn’t know about pregnancy after miscarriage

  1. Unexpected emotions – I was expecting to be fearful and somewhat anxious when we found out we were pregnant again. What I didn’t realize is that I would feel guilty at times. As excited as we are to welcome another baby into our family, I’m experiencing moments of guilt for being excited. I am still mourning the loss (and think I always will have moments of sadness because of it), but I’m also excited about this baby boy inside of me. At times it feels like my excitement takes away from the grief that baby deserves. In those moments I have to remind myself of the One who is writing our story. This baby in my belly, and the one He’s holding in Heaven are both a part of our story. Grief and joy can coexist, and I’m very thankful for the strength Christ gives us to do both.
  2. Holy hormones – Guys, it was bad. Like my husband was starting to worry. I had very little patience and could go from happy to “Woah… what just happened” within seconds. Maybe it’s because this is my first boy, but I also think after a miscarriage your hormones can still be so out of whack. Either way – it’s gotten a lot better the past few weeks. But man, hormones be crazy.
  3. Unexplainable peace – The peace that passes all understanding. It can’t be explained, but it can be felt and experienced. From losing our baby at home to reading a positive pregnancy test again – I could feel His presence through it all. I was a hot mess, and still am at times – but I always knew He was there with me. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8
  4. Thankful for symptoms – Extreme fatigue got me good. As hard as that was, I welcomed it. I knew that symptoms were a good thing. So throughout my crazy hormonal days and movie days stuck in bed (we have two toddlers so don’t romanticize that – #toystorymarathon), there was a touch of joy throughout it all because it gave me hope that things were ok.
  5. Hellloooo fetal doppler – With the baby we lost, I obsessed over that doppler. I checked every day just hoping we would find a heartbeat until we had our ultrasound that would confirm we miscarried. I told myself I wouldn’t do it much this pregnancy, but I do give myself once a week to hear that heartbeat in between appointments. It does help, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it much in the first trimester because it can be so tough to find sometimes.
  6. One day at a time – I’ve had a lot of people ask if I’m nervous/scared/anxious during this pregnancy. And my answer is “sometimes.” Whether we miscarried or not, I would have those feelings. I think any mom will tell you that until that baby is in her arms, there will be moments of worry and fear. Honestly I don’t experience the fear nearly as much as I thought I would. I remind myself again that God writes our story. I’ll do my best to nurture this baby inside of me, but the rest is out of my hands.
  7. Ultrasounds will forever be emotional – Seeing your little nugget with a beating heart will bring a world of emotions. I’m pretty good at holding it together, but once they turned the screen so I could see, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I saw his heart fluttering and his little legs just kicking away – I’ll never forget that moment or the joy that came along with it.
  8. Allow yourself to celebrate – It’s still surreal to talk about this pregnancy. The fear that something could go wrong definitely creeps up every now and then. I’m trying my best to celebrate this life inside of me, and to allow myself and those around me to be excited. And as you can see, there’s two little girls who are celebrating too…

I only have a small glimpse into what many families have gone through or are currently going through. My heart hurts deeply for those affected by loss and infertility. I found myself hesitant to share our news when I know that so many women are struggling. We want to be there for those that are going through or have gone through similar circumstances. Thank you so much for being a part of our story. No matter what season you are in, we want to encourage you in any way we can.

xoxo,

Mother’s Day Gifts That Really Matter (A Gift Giving Guide for Dads)

Mother’s Day Gifts That Really Matter

Every year my husband asks me what I want Mother’s Day. And every year I have the hardest time coming up with an answer.

I don’t necessarily “want” or “need” anything. I feel so grateful everyday to have the opportunity to raise these little humans and do it alongside such a wonderful man. But it got me thinking about what Mother’s Day gifts really matter.

Related: 10 Books That Transformed Our Marriage

If I could have one thing, what would it be? This question got me thinking about what refreshes me, and what makes me a better mama. I also asked some fellow mamas what they would want. Here’s a list of what I, and many other mamas, are wanting this Mother’s day. And for those on a strict budget, most of these are FREE!

  • A nap. Now, I know this seems like an easy one. But it’s going to take some planning. We cannot take a nap if we can hear the children. We love them, but we don’t want to hear them. So taking them outside or even on a little adventure would be perfect. Two hours would be ideal.
  • A FULL day off. When you’re a mom raising toddlers, you are never really at rest during the day. They are all-consuming and we’re keeping them alive, so they require a lot of attention. What would be AMAZING is a full day off. A day when the kids are taken care of all day long, and we get to do whatever we want. When we can get a break from all the responsibilities of taking care of our family and household, then we can really relax.
  • Weekend getaway. Or date night. Whatever fits your budget. But here’s the deal dads, YOU have to plan it. It takes so much stress off of us when you plan the date or the getaway. If you can take care of setting up childcare, we would be forever grateful. Also, extra bonus points if you can keep this a surprise.

Related: 5 Steps To Creating A Budget

  • Maid Service. I love taking care of my family. A big part of that includes keeping a clean home. Deep cleaning can be a daunting task when you have toddlers, and takes a lot of strategy to make it happen. If it’s one visit from a maid, or a yearly service, anything would be appreciated!
  • Pampering. A massage, a pedicure, a facial. All of these would be included in the pampering category.
  • Uninterrupted sleep. Do you have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night? As much as we don’t mind getting up with those babies, an uninterrupted nights sleep would be a dream come true. Offer to take the night shift and let your wife sleep. If the baby is still nursing and won’t take a bottle, you may need to just offer a nap instead.
  • A handmade gift. Some of my favorite gifts are the ones my husband made with the kids. It’s because it takes a lot of effort to do that. Sentimental things like that mean the world to us. Get your Pinterest scroll on and see what you can make!

Mother's Day Thumbprint Art Painted Flower PotsMother's Day Special Plate CraftMother's Day Footprint Butterfly Flower Pot

There are a lot of options there, and I think I speak for most moms when I say, the meaningful gifts are our favorite. While a new purse or outfit would be great, it’s not what we’re going to remember. We’ll remember the handprint craft you made and the special moments you created. It warms our heart to know that you really wanted to make our day special.

Related: What does the Bible say about Self-Care?

This will forever hang in our house. We have backyard chickens and my husband used his and our daughter’s handprint to make chickens. Out of all the Mother’s Day gifts, this one meant the most.

Mother's Day Chicken Handprint Craft

So remember, a day full of pampering would be amazing. But what pulls at our mama heart strings are the meaningful, well thought out gifts. We are constantly thinking of you and the kids, and what you all need. It feels so good to be thought of as well. And make sure you tell us that you appreciate us, that one will be the icing on the cake!

 

5 Steps to Creating a Budget

5 Steps to Creating a Budget 

When I say Dave Ramsey, do you cringe? I used to. I thought starting a budget meant the fun was over. My money was just that – mine. I also thought creating a budget was super complicated. So if you’re about to bow out because budgeting is too overwhelming for you, stay with me! We are going to go through five quick and easy steps to create a budget.

I knew it was time to get serious about budgeting when I just couldn’t understand where all my money was going. Payday rolled around, and it never failed. By the next payday I was baffled at the fact that I was barely making it… again.

When my husband and I got engaged we were a part of a small group. We started going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University . One of the first things we had to do was go through our monthly expenses. And come to find out, eating out was taking up the majority of my budget. How was I spending $700/month eating out? I mean I love me some Chick-fil-A, but dang! That is a huge chunk of money. It really shook me.

I started analyzing all of it. I began keeping track of every expense and eventually started a budget using the EveryDollar App. We now use an app called YNAB, but I’d suggest starting with the EveryDollar App first! Financial Peace University changed the game for me. It opened my eyes and helped me realize that it is actually possible to create a budget and stick to it. The majority of the course offers common sense solutions, but there were still so many light bulb moments.

Alright, let’s get our budget on! #nerdalert. Here are 5 quick steps to create your budget!

1. Calculate your monthly income.

This can be tough if you don’t have a fixed income. But the best way to calculate it is to go back 2-3 months and figure out an average of what you’re general income will be.

2. Track all of your spending.

ALL OF IT! Even the $700 you’re spending on take out. If you’re overwhelmed, just go through the last month. Look at what you spent, make a list and put each item into a spending category.

3. Make a list of all of your categories.

Add up what you are spending in each category. Then break them down into percentages. Here is what Dave Ramsey recommends for each spending category.

4. Create your budget.

Whether you choose to use an app I mentioned earlier, or create your own excel spread sheet, just choose something! Get a system going and stick to it. Look at what you’re spending in each category, and adjust that to what you want to spend. Challenge yourself to save money by meal planning, comparison shopping, checking out the local free events, etc. Some examples of where you could possible cut include: dining out, memberships and subscriptions, limit shopping trips (I see you, Target), cable/internet (just call them to see if there’s a better plan!), and online shopping (RIP, Amazon Prime).

5. Adjust as needed.

It is ok to adjust as needed. This will not go perfectly the first, second or even third time around. It takes a while to find your sweet spot. Give yourself grace, but also commit to your goals each month. I’m already so proud of you! You’ve got this.

 

Don’t let budgeting completely overwhelm you. Remember that is in an amazing tool if used correctly. Making a budget was the easy part for me. It was easy to write down what I wanted to spend, but much harder to follow through. It can be discouraging at times to feel like you’re missing out on that iced caramel macchiato (mmmhmm you know what I’m talking about), but don’t let it keep you from making coffee at home! Make budget cuts where you can. Our biggest family goal is to spend less money and have more family time. I cut out the afternoon trips to Starbucks, and the trips to Target to get “just one thing.” And it made SUCH a difference. Don’t let spending just happen to you, YOU get to tell your money what to do. You got this, friend. You got this!

 

love + donuts,

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Biblical Affirmations to Speak over yourself and your Children

Biblical Affirmations to Speak over yourself and your Children

It has begun. The girls (2 and 3 years old) have started repeating everything I say. They’ve even started mimicking the way I do things. If I pick up a broom to start sweeping, they immediately start looking for their broom so they can “help” mommy. When I yell at the dog, they yell at the dog (working on that). If I hug their Daddy, they want to hug him even more.

They are watching us, listening to us, and repeating what they see and hear. Since they are paying so much attention, I am trying to incorporate biblical affirmations into our speech as much as we can. In this post we’ll go through seven affirmations for you, and seven for your children.

I’m realizing that this is just the beginning. They are learning from us. Not just when we sit down to teach them something, they are learning by simply watching us. What a blessing it is to teach them by example… but what a scary thought as well! I have put a lot of pressure on myself lately to do things right and say things in the right tone. I know these little people are imperfect and will make mistakes, but I want to be the best example I can possibly be. The goal is not perfection – but to be a better version of myself each day.

My heart would be broken to hear my daughter say that she wishes her hair were different, or to look in the mirror and be filled with feelings of disappointment. What am I saying when I look in the mirror? After I get myself ready, I’ll usually come out of the bathroom and say, “Well, this is as good as it gets.” I laugh through it, but what kind of message am I sending to my girls? My confidence is not built upon the fact that I really need highlights and I wish I had a few more curves. My identity is in Christ alone. Through His strength, I’m working on the way I speak over myself and to my children. Here are a few helpful examples of how we can biblically affirm ourselves and our children.

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Affirmations to speak over yourself

  • I am accepted. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:4-8
  • I am secure. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
  • I am significant. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
  • I am unique. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
  • I have a purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
  • I am His. “But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
  • I am forgiven. “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22 

Affirmations to speak over your children

  • You can do hard things. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:13
  • God has a plan for you.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
  • God is always listening to you. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12
  • You are special. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
  • You are kind. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
  • You are chosen. “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4
  • God loves you unconditionally! “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

What a joy it is to raise these little people. What a gift it is to be a mother. They are watching us and they are really paying attention. Before I react to what may seem like a disaster in the moment, I’ll think about how I would want my girls to react in that situation. It’s changing the game for sure!

Do you have any other suggestions? What do you try to speak over yourself and your children? Tell me in the comments below!

 

Some other posts you may like:

https://raisingthemkind.com/2018/03/05/10-ways-to-simplify-your-life-this-week/

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8 Tips for Taking your Toddler to Disney World

8 Tips for Taking your Toddler to Disney World

Seeing Mickey Mouse when you’re three years old – is there anything better? Taking our toddlers to Disney was a huge blessing and treat for our family. While it is a magical experience, it is also a LOT of work for parents. To help, I put together a list of 8 tips for taking your toddler to Disney World.

pindisney.jpg1. Snacks on snacks – Need I say more? If your kids are anything like mine, snacks are a part of their love language. Pack as much as you can fit, and remember not to bring any glass containers (RIP peanut butter). There are a lot of options for food at the parks, but if you’re doing this on a budget – bring snacks!

2. Bring a stroller! – We brought our double stroller with us to every park. You can also rent strollers at the parks if that is more convenient, but it’s definitely not the most budget friendly. We packed a lunch box and diaper bag and put them under the stroller so no one had to carry anything. Oh and the kids, we packed the kids too.  Keep in mind that there are stroller parking areas and you can’t bring the stroller in the lines with you. We would just grab our phones and wallets and leave everything else in the stroller. We have never had an issue, and most parking areas have an attendant helping you find a spot for your stroller.

3. Locate baby care centers – Let me just say, Disney knows what they’re doing. These baby care centers are located at every park and are every mom’s dream. They have a private nursing area with rocking chairs, a bathroom, feeding area with high chairs, a kitchen, a main room with a tv, chairs and sofa, and an on-site shop for all things baby! This came in handy when we ran out of diapers. Happens to the best of us, right?

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4. Be flexible – It is ok if the plans need to change. I love to plan. Especially adventures. But when it comes to toddlers, it doesn’t matter how much you plan, they are unpredictable at times. Try to go with the flow. If you have to miss a fast pass ride because a child is having a hard time, miss the ride. It will not be worth it to push your child past their limit. Grab a snack or a nap or whatever is needed. It is a magical place, but your kids are still kids. Give your children time to take a deep breath, take a break and regroup when they are ready.

5. Get fast passes! – You MUST get fast passes. Book these as soon as your account lets you! We leave a little time between each fast pass so we aren’t stressing trying to get across the park. It also gives time for a snack or potty break. Fast passes will be your best friend!

6. Download the “My Disney Experience” app – This is a very handy tool to utilize throughout your visit. It has a GPS enabled map so you can find your way through the park. You can see wait times for rides and shows and where the characters are! It also has a list of restaurants and menus. Hop on the app to check and modify your fast passes, and so much more! Definitely a must for your trip.

7. Visit the characters – You can get fast passes for these as well. Obviously seeing Mickey is going to be a bit of a wait, so definitely get a fast pass for him. But others you may be able to see in between rides or shows. This was definitely my girl’s favorite part of Disney. I’ll never forget the pure joy on their faces when they got to hug Minnie & Mickey.

8. Splurge on a Character meal – This is one thing we made sure to budget in. The frugal side of me would never do this, but I knew it would be a one time thing so we made it happen! My girls absolutely love the characters, it is by far their favorite part of Disney.  Doing a character meal was a guaranteed way to make sure we saw the characters and ate a good meal. The look on their faces when Minnie walked up to our table was totally worth it. It was a win win! Make sure to book a reservation ahead of time! These fill up really fast.

And lastly, here is a list of our most favorite rides and shows:

Magic Kingdom

  • Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater
  • People Mover (great for nap time)
  • Dumbo the flying elephant
  • The parades! #magical

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Animal Kingdom

  • Kilamanjaro Safaris
  • Minnie and Mickey at Adventures Outpost
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • Rivers of Light

Hollywood Studios

  • For the First Time in Forever: a Frozen Sing Along Celebration
  • Disney Junior – Live
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Epcot

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Living with the Land
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Going through all the countries!

That’s it! I could go on and on about why we love Disney so much, but I wanted to share some of our best tips! I hope this helps you and encourages you to know that it is possible to enjoy Disney, even when they’re toddlers! Hope you have a magical experience.

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Love + Donuts,

jenny

Beautycounter | Switch to Safer and Better Beauty

Beautycounter | Switch to Safer and Better Beauty Products

Author: Kelly Saucier

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Why I Chose Beautycounter by Kelly Saucier (Beautycounter Consultant)

When I first heard about Beautycounter through a friend from college, I was so excited to dive in and learn more. I invested so much time and energy into researching our food system and the cleaning products we used in our home. However, I was ignoring the personal care products I used on my body every single day! I believe it was because I attempted to make the switch to cleaner options in the past, but the numerous “natural” products that I tried left me feeling disappointed.

Once I began the journey of learning more about what is in our beauty products, I could not look back. Here are some of the eye-opening facts I learned:

  • There is no requirement for all ingredients in a product to be listed on a label. The cosmetic companies are completely self-regulating; they are able to decide if their product is safe.
  • The words “natural” and “organic” are completely unregulated and have no real meaning in the industry.
  • The European Union has banned over 1,400 ingredients that have been linked to have a negative impact on our health, while the United States has banned 30.
  • The last time a law was passed regulating the beauty industry in the United States was in 1938.



Thank goodness for Beautycounter! A company that is fully committed to creating safer, high-performing products for the entire family. Beautycounter CEO Gregg Renfrew was moved by the lack of regulations in the personal care industry and decided to make a change in a big way. Since 2013, Gregg has created a team of women in both the U.S. and Canada that are sharing Beautycounter’s gorgeous products and advocating on a national level for more regulations and safer products across the board. March 4, 2018 was the 5th anniversary of Beautycounter! To celebrate, over 100 Beautycounter consultants traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress and urge them to pass more health-protective laws. I love that the company not only talks the talk, but walks the walk!

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Beautycounter has something called “the never list,” which is a roundup of harmful ingredients they commit to never put in their products.

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I jumped on board as a consultant to help spread the mission and get safer products into the hands of my family and friends. I have so enjoyed being a part of such a wonderful company and look forward to the change that is to come!

Thanks for reading!

– Kelly Saucier

If you would like to learn more about Beautycounter and their products, you can go to Kelly’s Beautycounter consultant website.

About the author: Kelly Saucier

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Kelly has been a Beautycounter consultant for almost a year. She is a registered nurse, mama of a two year old girl, with another one on the way! She has been married to her high school sweetheart for five years. She is passionate about building awareness about Beautycounter and the safe options they offer for the whole family.

 

10 Ways to Simplify Your Life THIS WEEK!

10 Ways To Simplify Your Life

Ready to simplify your life?  Simplifying has changed my life in so many ways. You can read about that change here. By taking small, simple steps, I was on my way to living a simpler, more joy-filled life.

The goal of living simple is to make room for what matters. We want to get rid of the clutter – whether it be in your home, your schedule or your finances. Less clutter = less stress. And as mamas, we need more coffee, not stress. I’m going to go through 10 quick and easy ways you can simplify your life, and they can all be done this week. Here we go! simplifylife.jpg

1. Meal Plan – I used to look at this as a very daunting task with a lot of pressure. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you have a routine in place, it makes meal time so much easier. Just pick a day of the week to do your meal planning, and be consistent. I currently plan our meals (using Plan to Eat) for the week on Sunday, and do our grocery shopping on Monday. This is where Walmart Pickup comes in (side note: Walmart is really stepping up in their organic game). Plan your meals Sunday afternoon, order the groceries online Sunday evening, pick them up on Monday. BOOM! Groceries and meal planning done. Go get yourself a donut or seven. Just make sure you reserve your pickup time at least a day in advance.

2. Automate finances – Anything that can be automated, automate it! Simplifying your finances can go a very long way. I can’t talk about finances without talking about budgeting. Please don’t cringe! Budgets can be tough at times. But y’all, it is so necessary. I’ve probably gone a little overboard in this category (#nerdalert), but if you’re not doing this already, it can be very overwhelming. Luckily, the internet has given us some tools to make it simple. In comes YNAB (You Need A Budget). It’s been our favorite budgeting tool yet. Did you know that on average, new budgeters save $600 by month two and $6,000 their first year? Go get your budget on, friend! Read more about starting a budget here: 5 Steps To Creating A Budget



3. Declutter! – This can also be overwhelming. Let’s focus on what we can do this week. But do not be surprised when this becomes part of your every day. When I jumped on the declutter train, I stayed on it. Some simple things you can declutter inlclude piles of paper, kitchen drawers, or a toy box. Think about what area you normally avoid because it overwhelms you. Go tackle it. You will feel so much better afterwards, and you’ll become a decluttering master in no time. Here are some things you can quickly throw away or donate:

  • old makeup
  • expired medicine
  • unused purses
  • expired food
  • unused craft supplies
  • broken toys
  • toys with lost pieces
  • unused toys
  • books

4. Create a cleaning schedule – Something that has really changed my laundry game is doing one load a day, or every other day. It’s not so overwhelming when it’s only one load you have to fold. The mountains of laundry I’ve climbed in the past still haunt me. Running the dishwasher at night, and unloading it in the morning has also helped simplify my cleaning routine. Another thing to remember is to clean as you go. Make sure everything has a home, and put that item in it’s home, all nice and cozy. I’ve created a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning schedule. Fill out the form below and it’ll be e-mailed to you immediately!

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5. Get a planner – I finally did it this year, I bought myself the prettiest and most practical planner I could find (thank you Emily Ley). It may sound silly, but I look forward to creating our schedule because of that planner. I’ve used my phone calendar for so long, but writing everything in a paper planner just felt good. I loved being able to see a full view of the month ahead. It’s also important to prepare for the next day each evening. Work on getting a strong, consistent bedtime routine so you can have time to do this once the littles are in bed. Or, include them in the routine. It’s a great teaching opportunity and they will love being involved in picking out their clothes and packing snacks/lunch for the next day.

Another tip is to periodically re-evaluate your calendar. Look at what is filling your day. Fill your schedule with things that are life-giving. There will always be to-do lists, but look at what is optional – is anything there that shouldn’t be? Another thing I like to do is make a list of what I need to do the next day – mostly because it feels so good to mark things off a list. This list usually includes phone calls I need to make, tasks that need to get done for work, and what I need to do for meals for the next day.

Simplified Planner, Emily Ley, Daily Planner

6. Say “no” – I’ve been hearing this one a lot lately. And with good reason. As women, especially us people pleasers, we find it so hard to say no. I’ve realized that it’s not only ok to say no, but it’s necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves. We tend to feel bad about this, but there are very nice ways you can say no. I’ve found that being honest is the best way to go here. Instead of giving an immediate answer, you could say “Let me get back to you on that,” or “I’ll think about it and let you know!” Don’t feel pressured to answer right away. Here are some situations when it is ok to so say no:

  • When it involves spending money that you don’t have
  • You simply don’t want to and feel burdened by it
  • When it will steal your joy
  • When it is not life-giving

There will be times when you will be needed, and you can be there. But for the times when you aren’t needed and don’t want to be there, give yourself some grace and say no, nicely 🙂

7. Create a morning routine – Oh man. I never thought I would be a fan of mornings. I always wanted to be a morning person, but that is not one of my gifts. However, waking up before my kids is changing the game. There is something to be said about waking up for your kids, instead of to them. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Choosing to get out of bed to start your day can totally set the tone for how your day will go. Set the coffee maker the night before so it’ll be ready when you wake up. I’m much more likely to get out of bed when I know coffee is waiting on me. Here are some things you can do during your morning routine:

  • Pray
  • Read
  • Journal
  • Drink water
  • Exercise
  • Get some work done
  • Eat breakfast
  • Listen to music
  • Get ready for the day

8. Read more – Some of my biggest growth as a believer has come through what Christ has revealed to me through the Bible, and various other books. I have read books on prayer, family, raising your children, and how to be a better spouse. I find that when I’m consistently reading the Word along with another book, my thoughts and actions reflect more of who Christ is. Reading a Christ-centered book is setting yourself up to be better. You’ll have these little reminders throughout the day because of what you read that morning. Here are some books that I absolutely love and highly recommend:

10 Books That Transformed Our Marriage

My Favorite Books for Moms



9. Turn off notifications – Turn them all off. They stop you from being intentional with whatever you are doing. I want to be present with my kids, and as a business owner, I do not have the strength to stop thinking about the ding that just went off. It was time to set boundaries. I make myself unplug for a certain amount of time and be present with your family. Instead of eating with screens, focus on the relationships at your table. Making dinner time a sacred time to spend together will set the tone for dinners when they are older. Keep the conversation open so everyone feels comfortable sharing about their day.

You could also consider having a screen free day, or starting off with even a few hours. Think about what you can do during this time instead. Be prepared to spend more time with your kids, and to also see their imaginations run wild. Another quick simplifying tip it to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Unroll.me makes this super easy.

 10. Take some time for yourself – You deserve it, mama! I won’t go into great detail on this one because I did another post on self-care. Basically, we need a break sometimes. Whether we feel like we do or not, we need to do something that we love to do so that we can in turn be a better parent, spouse and friend.

That’s it! I hope these tips help you to simplify your life this week! Thanks so much for being here.

Love + Donuts, 

jenny

Dream BIG Dreams

About a year and a half ago, my husband came home from work and had this disappointed look on his face as he was looking down at our youngest daughter. He said, “When did that happen?” I looked down and realized she was sitting up. She had been doing this for about a week and I really thought he knew that. But he didn’t. He had just worked four night shifts in a row and had no idea what was happening at home. We communicated as best as we could, but he was sleeping when I was awake and it made communication very difficult.  I watched my husband’s heart break in that moment as he realized he missed yet another milestone in our daughter’s life. A baby sitting up may seem like such a small thing. But it made me go from being so grateful for his financially safe and stable job, to wishing we could figure something else out so we could have him home more. I wanted him to be included in these moments, not just tell him about them.

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It brings me to tears to think about that moment, because his heart was so broken. He was working these long hours for us, losing sleep for us, and missing moments for us. While I appreciated him for his perseverance in taking care of us, I knew something had to change. I didn’t want this for our family. He was working long hours that switched back and forth from day shift to night shift. He was doing all of this to support us, so that I could stay home and be happy with our girls. I just wasn’t ok with him being unhappy so that we could be happy. That’s when we started looking for something else.

We were able to find him a job that he could do from home. It would be a major change for our family. But through prayer and wise counsel, we decided to take the leap. We are thankful for the people that were put in our path to open those doors for us. We couldn’t have done it without the community we are in.

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This job change happened 5 months ago, and we are still in the transition period. It has been challenging, stressful and tiring at times. But by far, the most rewarding decision we have ever made. My husband has gotten so much closer to our girls, because now he has the time to spend with them. I feel so much less overwhelmed because he is there. He may be out in the office working the majority of the day, but he is there. My girls know he’s there. My three year will often ask if she can “go show Daddy” something she made. We try not to interrupt too much, but what a joy it is to tell her, “Yes, he’s in the office. Let’s go show him.” We don’t have to catch each other up on what the kids are doing because he is now doing life alongside us.

We found out we were pregnant the day after my husband put his two weeks notice in. While that added some stress to the situation, we knew that God was leading us down this path and we knew He would take care of us. After two completely healthy and normal pregnancies, the unthinkable happened, and we had a miscarriage (you can read more about that here). It was the hardest thing we have ever been through, and he was there for all of it. Every appointment, every complication that followed, my husband was right there. His job change couldn’t have happened at a better time. We didn’t have to worry about calling in or trying to get off work, then being penalized for it. He was there without question. And I can’t imagine going through that without him.

While he is in the building phase of his business, I am working more than I normally would. I am more than happy to do it, because it is a means to better end. The goal is more family time. We want to have more experiences together. We want less stuff so we can make room for the things that matter. Instead of getting a new car, we got rid of one. Instead of getting a bigger house, we are downsizing. That picture I had growing up, the one about the big house and white picket fence… I have no desire for that anymore. I just want my family. Big house or small house. We want time together. We want experiences. We want to serve together and make kingdom differences in the lives of others. We want to give of ourselves and our time freely. Our biggest goal this year is to be financially free. Completely out of debt. We are working hard to get rid of all of it. We started working on this when we got married, and I cannot wait to finally be done. I can’t wait to see the doors that will open once we are debt free.

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We are planning to sell our home and travel in an RV for at least a year. Now before you write me off as crazy because I have two toddlers, hear me out 🙂 This is something my husband and I have always talked about but never thought it could be a reality. As we are working on getting both of our businesses to be completely mobile, it’s becoming a reality! Once our businesses are able to sustain us completely online, we are getting ourselves on the road!

I want to hear about your dreams. What would you do if you weren’t held down by debt? What are your dreams that seem so far out of reach? What if you decided to go for it? What would that look like?

Love + Donuts,

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Please Stop Telling us we are “in for it” when the Teenage Years Come.

I was a teenager once. I had an attitude problem. I disobeyed. I was unkind to my parents. I made bad decisions. I didn’t have a full on rebellion, but many of my peers did. And I know it’s possible. I have no doubt that raising teenagers is going to be extremely difficult.

With that said, let’s talk about what we, as young moms, keep hearing from moms of teens. We are constantly being told that we are “in for it” when we hit the teenage years. Whether they are raising teens or their kids are out of the house, not many people have anything good to say about the dreaded teenage years. And again, I know they will not be easy. But when someone tells me that I should enjoy this time now because of how bad it’s going to be, it puts fear in my heart and is very discouraging.

I’m raising two toddlers. It is a daily challenge to keep a good attitude, be patient and speak kindly to my children. When I hear that it’s going to get so much worse, it crushes my spirit. I already feel like I’m in the diaper and tantrum trenches at times. I need to be encouraged during this time, I need to hear that we are not all doomed because one day our kids will be teens.

Emily Ley, Simplified Planner, Grace Not Perfection

My prayer and my hope is that these words will not ring true. I know my kids will struggle through the teenage years, but my prayer is that the investment I am putting into them now, will come to fruition as they grow. That our relationship will have ups and downs, but the foundation will be strong. I pray that when those hard moments come, they won’t define who they are. They won’t define their teenage years. I have hope that as their parents, we can somehow turn the hardest moments into teaching opportunities. I pray that we can show them the forgiving, understanding and loving characteristics of Christ.

Now, if you have teenagers and you’ve got a good eye roll going on, bare with me. I do not fully know what we will deal with in those years. I know that it will be tough. But since we do not know what it will be like, let us have hope. Let us keep a positive attitude instead of speaking negatively about a season we’re not even in yet. Instead of telling us we’re “in for it,” just encourage us. We know you’ve got some wisdom up your sleeve because you have more experience than we do. Share it with us. We already know it’s going to be hard, we hear it all the time. But instead of treating kids getting older as a downward spiral, give us some hope we can hold on to.

Please know that as a mom of young children, I am enjoying it. What I normally hear is that I should “enjoy it now, because it’s going to get so much worse.” I cherish the moments I want to remember and try to forget the ones that made me cry in the grocery store. We are soaking it in. And we know it is going to fly by. I’m not sure that any season of motherhood is easy. Let’s try our best to encourage each other, no matter what season of motherhood we are in.

With love and donuts,

Jenny

Being a Stay at Home Mom while Pursuing Your Dreams

It’s ok to be a stay at home mom and pursue your dreams!

Can we have an honest moment? I thought being a stay at home mom meant that I literally take care of my kids 24/7. No working outside of the home. Playdates a couple days a week, max. When I had my first child, I assumed that meant everything else was on hold. I’ll raise babies, then pursue my passions when they’re older. At that time I had only been a nurse for about two years and wasn’t ready to give that up completely. I found an amazing sitter for my daughter and worked one day a week until I had my second child, then worked two-three times a month after that. Initially I felt bad about that choice, but slowly realized I wasn’t making a mistake. I also had a photography business on the side, but didn’t fully dive in until about a year into my motherhood journey. There were always so many dreams and passions inside of me, I just didn’t know how to merge them with my biggest dream, which was being a mom.

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I’m only three and a half years into this motherhood thing, but God has been showing me some things that I never thought were possible. I’m realizing that when I leave my kids with someone I trust to go do something I want to do – it makes me better. I love being a nurse. Leaving my daughter once a week to go pursue something I love did not make me a bad mom, but a better mom. 

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to stay home with my kids if at all possible. My husband is a big supporter of that and works hard to make sure that can happen. But when these dreams came up in me I had a hard time understanding what to do with them. I loved photography and am now falling more in love with blogging each and every post, but is that ok? Will my kids be disappointed that Mom may be gone a little more than I was before?

We’ve made some major adjustments in our family. My husband went from working swing shift (12 hour shifts including days and nights) to working from home. That’s another post for another day, but the story of how we got here is definitely something I want to share. Having that kind of flexibility has opened so many doors for our family.

Here’s what happens when I spend time doing something I love:

  • I am refreshed
  • I am more kind
  • I am more patient
  • I am more understanding
  • I am more thankful
  • I feel accomplished
  • I am the best version of myself

I cannot even being to tell you the amount of joy I get from raising these two little girls. I love being able to stay home with them, love on them, clean up after and with them, take care of them. I genuinely do love fostering their gifts and holding their hands through the trying times. What I’ve realized is that along with being a mom, I have other dreams and passions I didn’t even know existed. Figuring out how to merge all of these things together has been difficult, but one thing rings true: I am a better mom when I do something for myself. And it is not selfish, by any means. Our children deserve the best version of ourselves we can give them, and if that means you start a blog, a business or another endeavor – go for it. I’m thankful we live in a world where we can pursue our passions and still stay home with our babies. Thank you, internet. I do my best to make the most of nap time and wake up before my kids so I can be present with them throughout the day. Spoiler alert – I am far from perfect at that. I’m currently nursing my youngest back to sleep so I can finish this post. You just do what you gotta do!

Gymboree Sale On Now!

Meg Meeker said, “The most powerful way to teach a daughter how to enjoy life is for her to see her mother doing the same.” I want my children to see me living a life that is full and focused on running this race for Christ at my highest potential. As I get a clearer perspective on this, I feel more and more at peace with the decisions I’m making for my family.


 “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.” Romans 8:28 (VOICE)


If you are in the same boat, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my hopes and dreams?
  • Are they in line with what God wants and what the Word teaches?
  • How will pursuing them make my family better?
  • How will they make me better?
  • What will it teach my children?

To sum it up – taking time away from my kids makes me a better mom. And friends, that is ok. Let go of the guilt, let go of the pressure. You are doing a great job, and you are making eternal differences in the lives of your littles. Keep pursuing your goals, dreams and passions. There are so many ways to merge them into Motherhood. You were created this way for a reason, dreams are put in our heart for a reason. Motherhood is not a hindrance, but an open door to see what else God has for us.

To the Mom Who is Scared

As a mom of a one year old and three year old, fear has never been stronger. We need to talk about it. The enemy is attacking my heart and scaring me to raise these babies in a world like this. In a world full of so much tragedy, and so much pain.

Someone told me when I was pregnant with my first, “I don’t know why anyone would bring a child into the world we live in.” They didn’t know I was pregnant at the time, but I truly felt taken aback that someone would even think that fear would stop them from starting a family.

Now I am scared every day. The “what if’s” happen every time I leave my kids with someone else, every time we are out in a crowd somewhere, and every time I put them to bed. Fear is trying to take over my parenting.

All I can do is pray. I pray for peace. I pray for wisdom. I pray for protection. I pray for for the strength to tell fear that it is not welcome here. I will not live in fear. I will not be robbed of the joys that motherhood brings. I do not know what my children will go through in this life, but I know that if I live in fear, I will miss out on so much.

As a mom of two toddlers, I make a choice daily to focus on raising them well. Raising them kind. And raising them to know Jesus and His extraordinary love for us. There are things in this world I can’t control, but I am in control of how I raise my children and how I can love them well. I choose to focus on that. Let’s encourage each other to not live in fear. It can be tough raising babies, toddlers, teenagers. It can be scary. Let’s do our best to raise them well, raise them kind, and to tell fear it is not welcome here.


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34


This calling of motherhood is not an easy one. But we need to remember that as we are doing dishes, picking up clothes, wiping noses and making sure everyone is fed, we are doing kingdom work. We are fulfilling the call placed on our lives to take care of our family. And what an honor. What a joy it is to be a parent. What a joy it is to have clothes to fold! And noses to wipe! Mamas, we are called to this. We can’t let fear take over our motherhood.

I will still worry, because I’m a mom and that’s what we do. But I will not let it take over my motherhood. I will do my best to focus on what I can control, rather than the things I can’t. We can’t control what is happening in our world, but we can love our families well. Let’s start there.