A Letter To My College Self

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

With the end of another school year, I keep seeing high school and college graduation pictures popping up all over my social media and can’t help but think about my own time in college.  I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Marriage and Family Studies after changing my major a few times.  It took me six years to graduate rather than four but then again, if it had only taken four, then I wouldn’t have met my husband.  Funny how things work out, huh?  So in remembrance of my college years (pre-marriage), I’m sharing with you a letter to my college self.

Hey Shani,

It’s me.  Well, future you.  How’s it going?  School’s kind of crazy right now huh?  Trust me, you will miss the studying and classes and walking to campus multiple times a day.  So anyway, I wanted to just pop by and reminisce and give you a few bits of advice.  You know, things I wish I’d known when I was actually going through college.  

Here goes: 

First off, you are totally going to regret not doing a study abroad program.  Sure, it’s kind of pricey and yeah, you might have to find a different job when you get back, but hello?  Getting to travel to a foreign country like France or Italy has kind of been on your bucket list since you took French in 7th grade.  Trust me, anything you might miss during the time you’re gone won’t seem like that big of a deal compared to what you’ll be able to do during your study abroad.  Your family will be fine and you’ll figure out the whole job thing when you get back.  You always find a way to make things work.

Secondly, you did the right thing by moving to a new apartment complex the fall of your junior year.  Although, if you had to do it again, it might have been a good idea to double check who your roommates were going to be or at least move in with one person you knew.  Remember the girl who used to cook fish heads and then leave them in the fridge half eaten and stunk up the apartment for three days?  Thank goodness she was only there for a semester!  But besides the roommate situation the first couple of semesters, things turned out really well.  You met some of your best friends, dated some great guys and got more comfortable with yourself as a person.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

You probably already know this, but the major you chose is absolutely perfect for you.  While some of the challenges you faced growing up were rough, ultimately, they led you to this major and it will help other people along the way.  A few words of advice though: go to the labs for your Statistics class.  Seriously, you know math is not your strong suit and not going to the classes because the are “optional” doesn’t mean they are optional for you.  That D grade is going to bug you for years.  (Especially when you meet your future husband and he gets and A in it.  Lame.)

I want to congratulate you on working so hard to stay out of debt during college.  The fact that you didn’t have to ask anyone for a loan during school is commendable.  But for heaven’s sake girl, you really should have learned about pell grants sooner!  It would have given you a little more cushion some of those months when money was tight.  Thank goodness you had family nearby and could do laundry at home and have a decent meal on Sunday nights to save a little money.  And that beat up little car you had?  Cammie Rue?  She’s gonna be a good car so it’s a good thing you didn’t sell her and get an SUV and a car payment.  (Although the 4 wheel drive would have been nice in the winter…)

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!


Something else you should be proud of is all the work you put into your schoolwork and end of semester projects.  Those are the ones that you’ll remember and have a lot of satisfaction in.  Especially the one where you stayed up all night to finish and only got 3 hours of sleep and ended up with an A and a personal congratulations on a job well done from one of the hardest professors in the school of Communications.  Taking that class was a good way to rule out going into Public Relations, haha.  But getting a perfect score on a 10 essay exam in one of the classes for your major was pretty amazing too.  You definitely deserved to go out for ice cream that night.

Hmm…what else… Oh!  Your friends!  They are the best, aren’t they?  Try your best to keep up with them even though they’re going to move far away at times.  Social media is great and all but don’t forget to give them a call every once in a while too.  And rooming with you sister in college is a whole heck of a lot easier than it was growing up.  You keep each other real and in check and call each other out when you do dumb things or date dumb boys or break up with dumb boys.  She will be there and your friends will be there when you fail exams, have a bad day or need to borrow some sugar.  

California…Idaho…Arizona…bonfires up the canyon…eating raw cookie dough out of a shared container…playing Mario Cart and Guitar Hero…mingles…dances…football games…BBQs…double dates…study dates…midnight grocery store runs…random dance parties.  You’ll remember all of these things because they made you happy (and also because you spent $300 on a nice digital camera and took pictures of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.)  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

And lastly, not to spoil the surprise, but you’ll meet your future husband in college.  The timing will be perfect and you’ll think it’s impossible that everything has fallen into place like it has.  You’ll plan a wedding, be a full time student, part time employee and balance it all with a smile on your face because, gosh darn it, that’s what you do and who you are.  You’re a hard worker, an optimist, a good and loyal friend, determined, persistent and a pretty good planner.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

College is awesome and you will never, ever regret going.  It will shape who you are and impact your future in ways you never expected.

You got this girl.

Love,

Me

What do you wish you’d known in college?  What would you go back and tell yourself?

Summer 2017 Reading List

Check out this diverse list of books to reading during the summer (or any time of year)!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I regularly post reviews of all types of books: children’s, young adult, biography, self-help and the list goes on.  I love reading and I always tend to read more books during the summertime.  Last year, I put together a summer reading list and I loved the challenge of reading new books and discovering new genres and subjects.  With summer coming up so soon, I decided to create a summer 2017 reading list.

The list might look long to some people, but I have a tendency to devour books and I am a fast reader to boot.  Some are part of a series and others are stand-alone novels.  So take a moment and scroll through the list, click on the title to check out a summary on Goodreads and join me this summer in reading.

Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luca #1) by Alan Bradley
Ruby Red (Edelstein-Trilogie #1) by Kerstin Gier
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen #2) by Jodi Meadows
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore and Lynn Vincent
The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick

If there’s nothing on this list that interests you, you can also check out my reviews of the books I read last summer.  Some of the books on the list above are sequels or parts of a series I read last summer and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

What books have you read from this list?  What’s on your summer reading list?

$10 at Target: Gearing Up For Summer

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

Hey friends!  Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and enjoyed Mother’s Day.  Today, I’m super excited to share a new series I am co-hosting called $10 at Target.  It is a monthly challenge where you have to try and spend…you guessed it: only $10 at Target.  Now, as we all know, Target is a wonderful lovely place where we go in for one thing and come out with 20 things way more items than we planned. *wink*  So spending $10 or less can be a real challenge!  Are you ready?

I visited Target a couple of weeks ago with this challenge in mind.  Of course, the first place I stopped was the Dollar Spot.  My thought was to pick up some things for summer since it’s finally starting to warm up here (although it’s supposed to rain this week…).  The way that I usually shop is to pick up things that I’m interested in and then look at what I have and see what I’m most interested in and then narrow it down.  Does anyone else do this?

I finally settled on these items: a baseball hat with a darling floral pattern on it for my daughter, three chalk paint squirt bottles, a package of cute, pink paper straws and a couple of glass jars with lids and plastic straws.  The total on my receipt was $10.69 with tax.  (The items I didn’t get: another package of teal paper straws, a lightweight spring scarf and hair tie bracelets.)

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

My daughter wanted to pull out the hat and wear it as soon as we got into the car and she’s worn it a few times since then.  It’s so dang cute on her!

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

As for the chalk paint squirt bottles, we’ve been saving those for a nice hot day when I can let the kids play and then let them run through the sprinklers in the backyard.  These would also be fun to do an art project using some inexpensive canvas and letting the kids squirt the chalk paint onto it.

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

The glass jars and paper straws were just really fun.  I am thinking I’ll probably use them for summer drinks and they will make for some great photo props, so keep an eye out in the next couple of months! *wink*

$10 at Target: Gearing Up for Summer  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!

Like I mentioned above, I am a co-host for the $10 at Target challenge and link up party.  If you’d like to join us, we post the third Monday of each month.  I’d love to see what you find at Target!  You can also check out what each of the other hosts bought with their $10!

$10 at Target  |  Join us for our monthly link up party on the third Monday of each month and see what we got for $10 at Target!
Stephanie  |  Wife Mommy Me
Becky  |  by BMG
Ashley  |  Ashley Newell
Johannah  |  The Sirois Family
Stephanie  |  The Gifty Girl
Danielle  |  Sparkles and Lattes
Jess  |  Secrets of a SAHM

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

Best Snacks to Pack for Disney Parks

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

School’s getting out soon and that means vacations for a lot of families.  Time to get away from the stresses of life and spend time together creating memories.  Of course, some of the most popular places to vacation are theme parks, such as Disneyland and Disney World.  Everyone wants to know the cheapest place to buy tickets, the best place to stay, which rides to go on first, and the list goes on.  About a year and a half ago, my family went to Disneyland for the first time and it was so fun!  I learned a lot about planning and what I wish I’d known before going and the next time we go, I will be even more prepared!  However, one question that I see asked all the time in groups and on Facebook is “what food can I bring into the park?”

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

Disney’s Outside Food and Drink Policy

Taken directly from Disney’s website concerning outside food and drink:

“Guests are allowed to bring food items—such as snacks or foods that do not require heating—into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park.”

That’s pretty broad if you ask me!

What This Means For You

As a visitor of the park, you are welcome to bring any food or drink (except alcohol) into the parks that doesn’t have to be heated up.  This gives you a huge variety of options!  When my family went, we knew we wanted to save money by only eating one meal inside the park each day.  That meant we ate breakfast at the hotel and packed ourselves a lunch to take with us into the park, along with snacks and drinks, which we replenished when we went back to our hotel mid-day.  Now, this could be a little overwhelming depending on the number of days you’ll be at the park and how big your family is.  But my goal is to provide you with some options of what to take into the park and how to pack them and then you can pick and choose what will work best for your family.

Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Pack It Up

Cooler: Before we left home to drive to California from Utah, we picked up a small cooler from the store.  (We bought this one.)  When choosing it, we looked for one that had a hard plastic insert, zipper/mesh pockets on the outside and big enough to hold an ice pack.  It also had to fit in our stroller since we didn’t want to carry it around on our shoulder all day, nor did we want to have to put it in a locker.  (Check HERE for size restrictions.)

Plastic Containers: This was a suggestion I saw on Facebook and I thought it was genius!  If you are going to be bringing any snacks that are easily smashed or need to be divided up into smaller portions, you can grab some small plastic containers with lids to put them in.  We have some from Rubbermaid (like this) that would work perfectly and you could easily refill them.

Bags: Sandwich or snack sized bags that zip at the top are a handy way to divide up portions for those things that don’t need to go in a plastic container.  I’d recommend just bringing a box with you that you can fill up with snacks at your hotel or the larger cooler in your car.  We try to save and reuse these as much as possible.

*Tip: Pack your snacks the night before you go to the park, if possible.  This will save you a lot of time in the morning when you’re trying to get out the door!

What Should I Bring?

I’ve divided this next section into categories to make it easier for you to choose what your family likes to eat.  Try to choose a variety of options so you’re not eating the same snacks all day long.

Fruits/Veggies

  • Grapes (frozen)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Peppers (cut)
  • Broccoli (cut)
  • Cauliflower (cut)
  • Cucumbers (mini, sliced or spears)
  • Cuties
  • Plums
  • Blueberries
  • Apple slices 
  • Applesauce 
  • Ranch/PB/Hummus in individual portions or small plastic containers
Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

Crackers/Cookies

  • Crackers (w/hummus)
  • Pretzels (w/PB)
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Cheez Its 
  • Snack size cookies (individually packaged)

Dried

  • Granola bar (ones that don’t have chocolate because they will melt and make a mess)
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Craisins/raisins
  • Jerky
  • Fruit rope/Fruit leather
  • Trail mix
  • Fruit snacks 
  • PB Bites 

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Dairy

    • Frozen Gogurt
    • String cheese or Babybel cheese
    • Hard boiled eggs

    Lunch

    • PB and J sandwich
    • Frozen Uncrustables (will be thawed by the time you’re ready to eat them)
    • Bagel w/cream cheese
    • Lunch meat 
    • Tortilla wrap with lunch meat and cream cheese

    Drinks

    • Powerade/Vitamin Water
    • Juice Box
    • Water bottles
    • Crystal Light flavor packets or liquid flavoring, such as Mio

    *Note: You can ask for cups of ice water at any location that has a drink station and just fill up your empty water bottles from that!  Also, having flavored water really helps you drink more and tastes better even if it’s warm.

    Disney parks allow you to bring outside food and drink in, but what should you take?  Click here for the ultimate list of snacks to pack for your next Disney trip.

    Other

    • Plastic spoons, forks, or knives
    • Napkins or wet wipes 
    • Gum
    • Mints

    I hope you got some ideas about what to pack for your next (or first!) trip to one of Disney’s theme parks!

    What do you think of this list?  What else should I add to it?  I’d love to get your suggestions and continue updating it to create an ultimate snack ideas resource!

    Mother’s Day Dinner Menu 2017

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Ever since my husband and I got married, we spend at least half of our Sunday evening meals each month at a family member’s home.  The family hosting plans the meal and then asks those who are coming to pitch in and bring something to share.  It’s been a great way to both save on the cost of food and enjoy time with family.  With Mother’s Day coming up, I know many people, including my family, are going to be getting together to celebrate mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and other special women in their life.  This year, my husband and I will be hosting Mother’s Day dinner at our house, which means we get to plan the meal. 

    My husband’s family is fairly large and there are over 20 people to feed when everyone gets together.  This can get a little overwhelming, but I’ve gotten fairly good at planning food for so many people in the 9 years my husband and I have been married.  Whether you have a large family or are on the smaller side, I have a Mother’s Day menu that can be adapted to serve any size.  All recipes come from my blog and in the case of dessert, I’m sharing a few options to choose from depending on taste preferences.  Or you can make all of them.  Hey, it’s for Mother’s Day! *wink*

    Main Dish

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Sides
    Green Salad
    Carrots and Potatoes (cooked in crock pot with roast) 
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.

    Dessert
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    I've made planning your next Mother's Day dinner easy with this menu of tried and true recipes that you can adapt to feed any size crowd.
    What are your plans for Mother’s Day this year?  Do you have the same meal each year or does it change?

    One Pot Taco Pasta

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    One day I was browsing through my saved recipes on Pinterest and found one that looked promising.  It was a one pot dish that only took 30 minutes to make.  If you’ve been following me for long, you know that those two things are like magic words.  I love cooking, but don’t usually have a lot of time to devote to it so the majority of meals I make take about 30 minutes or less to prep and then leave all day in the crock pot or take 30 minutes from prep to table.  This new one pot taco pasta I’m sharing today will have you jumping for joy because it’s quick, easy and delicious.  Plus it uses basic ingredients that I always have on hand.

    So before we get started, I have to point out that I can’t take 100% credit for the birth of this dish.  I found a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and then just made it my own.  It’s different enough that I feel comfortable saying that it’s simply been adapted from her recipe.  Let’s get started!

    Here’s what you need:

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    It might look like a lot of ingredients, but like I mentioned above, this is a one pot dish so it’s not complicated at all.

    First, grab a large pot.  Brown your ground beef or turkey, drain and then put it onto a towel lined plate or bowl to soak up any additional grease.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    Next, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, pasta, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar to your pot.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often to make sure pasta doesn’t stick, until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    Turn off the heat and add the ground beef, salt, pepper, onion salt and garlic powder.  Stir together to incorporate all the ingredients.

    Top with shredded cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes to let the cheese melt.  The sauce will thicken as it stands.  Serve warm.

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    I’m not even kidding when I say that my family LOVES this meal.  It’s one of those meals that pleases everyone and I don’t have to fight the kids to eat it all.  In fact, they usually ask for seconds!  If we happen to have leftovers, this dish reheats really well and we just have it for lunch the next day.  It’s been perfect for when we have company over because one batch of this taco pasta will serve 4 adults and 2 kids if we pair it with salad and rolls.  I hope you and your family love it!

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

    One Pot Taco Pasta
    (adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
    serves 4-6

    Ingredients:

    • 1 pound ground turkey or beef
    • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 8-ounce can tomato sauce
    • 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 2 1/2 cups bowtie pasta
    • 2 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 teaspoon brown sugar 
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 

     Directions:

    1. Using a large pot, brown the ground beef.  Drain the fat and pour beef into a paper towel lined bowl to soak up any additional grease.  Set aside.
    2. In the same pot, combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, oregano, pasta, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often to make sure pasta doesn’t stick, until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
    3. Turn off the heat and stir in the ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
    4. Top with shredded cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes to let the cheese melt.  The sauce will thicken as it stands.
    5. Serve warm.
    6. Store leftovers in a covered container for up to a week. 

    Quick, easy and delicious!  This one pot taco pasta only takes 30 minutes to make and your family will love it!

        9 Lessons Learned In 9 Years of Marriage

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        9.5 years ago: It was a Monday morning and I was heading into work at my on campus job when I made a quick detour into the bathroom to put on some mascara.  Another girl from a different department was in there doing the same thing and we chatted briefly before she asked me a question that would literally change my life, “Do you ever go on blind dates?”  I was a little taken aback since we’d only been talking for about two minutes, but answered with a “yes” before she explained that she wanted to set me up with her younger brother.  Three days later he called (after much pestering from his sister) and we set up a date for that weekend.  To make a long story short: our first date was a huge success, we started dating exclusively a week later, got engaged two months later and married four months after that.  Today, we are celebrating our nine year wedding anniversary (yay!) and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned during our time together.  (Plus you get to see cute pictures of me and my hubby. *wink*)
         
        You and your spouse are going to change  Maybe this should go without saying because it seems obvious, but the truth is, people are going to change over time.  I am not the same person I was on the day I got married and neither is my husband.  We’ve grown as individuals, as parents and as a couple.  If you go into marriage expecting that everything will stay the same, no matter what, I think you will be disappointed.  These changes are natural and to be expected because life happens and life doesn’t stand still. 

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Sometimes you go to bed angry  A few months back, I shared the worst marriage advice I ever received (and what we do instead).  It was from a well-meaning, older relative who said, “Never go to bed angry.”  I didn’t take her advice.  I’ve found that there are some conversations that happen late at night when neither of us are fully able to discuss things rationally and one or both of us go to bed with the problem unresolved.  My husband and I can both be very passionate about expressing our point of view and sometimes it’s just better to stop talking and go to sleep.

        Seeing your spouse become a parent is beautiful  We tried for a year and a half to get pregnant with our first child and then waited another nine months until she arrived.  I felt like a mother from the moment that I found out I was pregnant, but my husband didn’t feel like a dad until she was born.  Because I had a c-section, he was actually the first one to hold her and he went with the nurses while she was cleaned and weighed.  Seeing the anxious concern on his face during the surgery and then the joy and excitement once she was born was priceless and beautiful.  When we had our second baby, a boy, he was so excited for his little buddy to finally be here.  I loved watching him with our kids moments after they were born and seeing him become a parent each time.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Date nights aren’t just going to happen  When my husband and I were dating, we went out on dates all the time.  Over the years, going on dates has slowly become something that takes a little more effort and planning.  Unless we actually make the time for them, they don’t happen, especially not with two little kids at home.  If I notice that my husband and I seem to be getting on each others nerves or more grumpy, it is usually tied to not getting enough time together away from the kids to connect.  We are still working on going out consistently.

        Working together to solve a problem  The more time you spend with a person, the better you get to know them.  You know how they think and what makes them tick.  You learn how each others strengths and weaknesses compliment the other person.  My husband and I are much more efficient at identifying and solving problems than we were when we first got married.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a parenting problem, family problem, work problem, relationship problem or putting together IKEA furniture. (amiright?)  I’ve learned that my husband is good at looking at a situation from a larger scale and identifying problem areas and coming up with solutions.  I am good at planning things out, keeping us on track and identifying potential issues along the way.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        You keep learning new things about each other  I remember sitting with my husband one day eating some cookies and he said, “I like these, but oatmeal raisin are my favorite.”  Um, what?  I didn’t actually believe him.  We texted his sister (the same one who set us up) and asked her to tell us what my husband’s favorite cookie way.  Her reply: “Oatmeal raisin.”  How did I not know this?! (Clearly I never made cookies for my husband while we were dating…)  I think sometimes I feel like because my husband and I know each other so well that we forget there are a lot of things we don’t know about each other or have never done together.  Just last summer, we went water skiing for the first time together.  I’m actually a decent water skiier, but he didn’t believe me until I popped out of the water no problem.  Doing new or different things with your spouse, like on date nights, is so important because it gives you the opportunity to know them better and love them all over again.

        Build dreams, make goals, achieve together  One of the best things my husband and I have done for our relationship is to make goals.  It’s given us something to work on together.  We believe that if we are moving forward in the same direction that we’ll have less conflict and more success in life.  Whether it’s reevaluating a budget, planning to go to Italy (one day!) or redoing our yard, we are better together.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        Don’t stop doing the little things  Along with dating, doing the small things in a marriage really make such a big difference.  Because so much of our day and week is repetitive, it can be easy to fall into a routine with each other.  When my husband and I take time to connect each day, it rejuvenates us and we feel more whole.  When I hear my husband praise me in front of someone, it makes me feel happy and appreciated.  When I sincerely thank him for taking out the garbage so I don’t have to, he feels loved.  I think a big key to this is discovering your spouse’s love language.  It’s those little things that they do in your love language that lift you up.

        Love them more than the day you married  On the day of our wedding, I truly think my husband and I felt like we couldn’t love each other more than we did that day.  But we were wrong.  Our love grew as we put each other through school, struggled to make ends meet, got new jobs, built a house, had kids and so many other moments.  Each year on our anniversary, we look at each other and know we are still in love and that love is deeper than we could have imagined on that sunny spring day in May nine years ago.  It seems impossible and yet, here we are.

        9 lessons about love, parenting, marriage and life after 9 years of marriage

        How long have you been married?  What lessons have you learned?

        April In Numbers

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        Happy May!  May has always been one of my favorite months because the weather finally (hopefully) starts becoming a little more consistent and a little warmer, which makes me a much happier person.  It’s also the month my husband and I got married, so I’m a little biased. *wink*  But before we can get into May, I want to share my April month in numbers with you.

        If you read my March in numbers post last month, I did a special Orlando Edition talking about all the things that happened on our trip to Orlando and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s a pretty fun post, so go check it out if you want a quick recap of my trip using only numbers.  That being said, April was not nearly as much fun.  Why?  Two words: potty training.  But rest assured, not all my numbers have to do with the potty. *wink*

        3 – Packs of underwear bought.  A couple of weeks before we left for Orlando, my son started showing signs of being ready to be potty trained.  We’d gone through this already with my daughter a couple of years ago and I was both terrified and ready to begin the process.  I took him to the store and let him pick out a couple of packs of underwear (Paw Patrol and Disney Pixar).  We ended up buying him another pair about three weeks later due to accidents.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        6 – Underwear not salvageable.  I’m not going to go into this one in too much detail.  If you’ve potty trained your kids, you know it’s a messy job and you’re going to end up throwing away some of the underwear because it’s just not worth it.

        8 – Loads of just underwear washed.  No, I didn’t actually count the number of underwear only loads, but there were enough that it’s worth mentioning.  Or maybe not.  But I am anyway.  The first few days, we went through the entire two packs of underwear, which I expected, and the number of loads slowly dwindled from there.  We’ve had more and more days with no accidents and I am singing Hallelujah!

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        63 – Bribes made.  Okay, I didn’t really count this one either.  And if I think long enough about it, there were probably more bribes made than I’m counting.  We started out with a sticker chart and some prizes he could earn along the way, but he quickly filled out the first chart and so I made another one.  After so many stickers, he wasn’t as excited about them so we moved on to candy bribes: “If you go pee, you get one M&M.  If you go poop, you get two.”  We did run into an issue where he was having more accidents that successes so the bribe changed to screen time on Daddy’s phone playing one of the games he has on there.  That one worked pretty well and he still brings it up if he happens to have an accident: “I had an accident, so no playing on Daddy’s phone.”  Haha.

        2 – Picnics in the backyard.  The weather has been all over the place lately.  Just last week, we had SNOW.  Mother Nature needs to get herself together!  But before the weather went all crazy, the kids and I were able to have a couple of backyard picnics.  They love eating their meals outside, even if they don’t stay seated to eat their food most of the time and more ends up on the grass than  in their mouth. *wink*

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        12 – Rainy days.  Like I mentioned above, we had snow last week, plus it rained and was windy almost every other day.  My kids and I were getting used to spending the late morning and afternoon outside so the bad weather put a damper on all of our spirits.  One good thing about the rain though (besides helping with the drought) is that our grass is a beautiful emerald green color and my garden is growing like crazy!

        2 – Books read.  Earlier this month, I shared 3 books I read in 3 weeks, but all of those were actually in March.  I was only able to make it through two books in April: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  (Watch for the review of Throne of Glass next week.)  They are both totally different books but I really enjoyed each of them.  I’ve decided that Lauren Graham would be a pretty cool person to meet.  She seems so down to earth and likeable.

        845 – Easter eggs stuffed.  Okay, this isn’t a real number either, but when you are stuffing Easter eggs, it sure seems like a lot more than it is!  When I was pulling out my Easter decor, the kids noticed the plastic eggs.  They took them and started doing their own Easter egg hunts and hiding them around the house for each other to find multiple times a week leading up to Easter and even for a while afterwards.  They were still just as excited to do the real thing when Easter came though and it was so funny watching them.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        1- Girls Night Out.  The parents of a girl in my neighborhood live in a beautiful house up the canyon about 30 minutes from where I live.  They were out of town for the weekend, so she asked them if a group of us could come up and have a girls night.  There were about 30 of us girls up there, eating soup, salad and rolls, stuffing our faces with popcorn, candy and brownies and laughing hysterically during the games.  About ten of us spent the night and let me tell you, it was amazing to get a full night’s rest, knowing nothing was around to wake me up.  (Except maybe the giggling girls in the room next to mine.)  Another perk: no cell phone reception!  There was absolutely nothing that was going to interrupt us and it was so great to take time away and visit with friends and recharge.

        2 – New recipes tried.  Last month, I pulled out all of the cookbooks I’ve received over the years and sorted through them.  Most of them were neighborhood cookbooks given as gifts.  I’d tried to go through them all and mark recipes I was interested in, but there were so many cookbooks and recipes to choose from that I never even opened them up.  So I decided to spend part of an afternoon looking through each one, marking ones that looked good, taking pictures of them on my phone and then throwing the cookbooks away.  It was so liberating, haha!  I found a chicken and mushroom quiche that was amazing and some brown sugar muffins that were yummy as well!  My family gobbled both of them up so you better believe I’ll be sharing them on the blog.

        1 – Dance pictures taken.  My daughter is in her second year of dance (she takes jazz/ballet).  She loves dancing and getting up on stage so it’s perfect for her.  One of my favorite things about little girls and dance is seeing them all dressed up in their costumes.  Too cute!  We’ll be getting the pictures back at her recital later this month, but I manged to snap a few behind the photographer and I can’t wait to get the professional ones.

        April in Review (by the numbers)

        4 – Happy mail received.  I’ve been participating in the Momma Love Fellowship hosted by Little Dove.  My partner is Patricia from Life of a Minister Mom.  She and I have been sending snail mail aka happy mail to each other for a couple of months and getting to know each other better.  It’s been so fun to actually receive something other than bills in the mail!  I’ve also gotten a couple of packages which is always fun. (p.s. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and watch for a post this Wednesday for a giveaway that has to do with the packages I received!)

        You can check out my other month in numbers posts below:

        February Month In Numbers
        March Month In Number: Orlando Edition 

        Also, I’m linking up with Deena from Shoes to Shiraz who hosts the month in numbers link party.  You can go see who else is linking up and see what their April in numbers looks like.

        And that’s a wrap!  I’m looking forward to what May has to offer!

        DIY Laundry Room Sign

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        The summer after my husband and I got married, we drove out to Buffalo, NY, where he sold security systems.  Towards the end of the summer, his office got moved to Philadelphia, PA.  Thankfully, there were many wives who were out with their husbands so we became good friends and did some sightseeing here and there.  While in Philadelphia, we decided to drive out to a little amish town and do some exploring.  In one of the little shops we visited, I found a laundry room sign.  This sign has been with us for almost 9 years and when I first bought it, I thought it was the cutest thing, but as I’ve grown into my own personal style of decorating, I found that it just wasn’t working anymore.  So I decided to do a little DIY laundry room sign makeover and share this easy tutorial with you!

        This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.  Thank you for your support!

        So this is what the sign looked like before I painted it.  A little sad, a little dated, but still in great shape.

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Supplies needed:

        First, prep your surface.  Since my board was already cut down to size, all I needed to do was wipe it off to remove dust and dirt.  There was probably a really thin coat of finish on top, but not enough for me to worry about sanding it before painting.  I also removed the wire that was originally holding the board up on the hook.

        Next, paint your surface.  I did two coats of paint (in charcoal) to make sure I covered the original color and letters really well and then let it dry completely.

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        While the board is drying, I created my design.  I use my Silhouette Design Studio for my Silhouette Cameo to do this and it made everything SO easy.  I changed the size of my design page to the size of my board (16×6) so I could get a really accurate representation of how everything would fit.  I used the font Magnolia Sky for ‘Laundry Room’ and Bebas for ‘wash dry fold repeat’.  Both fonts are free.  Get Magnolia Sky HERE and Bebas HERE.  (Also, check out my tutorial for installing fonts HERE.)  

        Once I had everything the size I wanted, I opened a New Drawing (blank page) and changed the design page back to 12×12 since that is the size of my cutting mat.  I copied the text and pasted it, then put it on the page to minimize the amount of vinyl I’d need to use to cut everything I needed.  Then I sent it to cut.

        I removed the vinyl from the machine and then used my weeding tool to pull out the smaller pieces of vinyl.  Then I pulled off the remaining vinyl around the letters, so that when I was done, all I was left with was the words on my backing.

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Next, I arranged the words on my board so they were close to where I ultimately wanted them.  (You could skip this part if you’re really confident about where everything is going, but I always like to do this first so I can visualize the final product easier.)

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Then I peeled the backing off of the transfer paper and laid the sticky, clear part on top of the words.  After doing all the words, I used this little vinyl application tool I got a long time ago that has a hard plastic edge to it to rub the vinyl underneath the transfer paper and smooth out bubbles.  I’ve seen people use credit cards for this too.  (This helps it adhere to the transfer paper so when you pull the backing off the vinyl, it sticks to the transfer paper more easily.)

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Now, I slowly pulled the backing off of my vinyl.  Try to pull in the direction of the curve so you don’t risk stretching or ripping the vinyl.

        Next, very carefully place the words on the board.  You don’t want to press down just yet because if you need to move the words you want it to come up easily.  When everything was where I wanted it, I pressed down on the vinyl to keep it in place, then used my hard plastic edged tool to rub on top of all the letters.  Then, I removed the transfer paper slowly in case any part of the word was still sticking to it.

        *Tip: You can reuse transfer paper.  Just put the backing from the transfer paper back onto the clear transfer paper and store it away until next time.  This is a huge money saver!

        (If you used the color of vinyl you wanted, then you are done and can admire your work!  But if you want to paint over the top of your words like I did, keep following along.)

        After pulling the transfer tape off, I inspected the edges of the vinyl to make sure there weren’t any bubbles or anything preventing it from adhering to the surface.  You want a really good seal.  Once this was done, I grabbed my white paint and did two coats. 

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        I let it dry for about 5 minutes, then grabbed my weeding tool and carefully used it to snag the beginning of the word.  Once I had a piece big enough to hold onto, I used my fingers to pull the vinyl off, going slowly and trying to pull in the direction of the curve. 

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        If you happen to wait a little too long before pulling the letters off, you might end up with some edges that aren’t totally smooth (which is what happened to me).  For me, I didn’t worry about this because I knew I wanted to sand the sign and distress it a little and once I did that, you couldn’t tell.

        Allow the paint to finish drying completely.  You can either end here and hang up your amazing sign, or you can use some sandpaper and distress the edges and top a bit to let the bottom paint color come through.

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        Paint and vinyl are all it takes to make this cute DIY laundry room sign

        And that’s it!  I hope this tutorial gave you a little bit of inspiration to add something cute to your laundry room.

        Happy crafting!

        5 Reasons I Didn’t Say Anything About My Miscarriage

        Why I didn't tell anyone about my miscarriages for so long and how you can help those who have had one feel love and support.

        A few months ago, I wrote about my experience with miscarriage.  It was a hard post to write, as I felt like I was reliving each one of my three miscarriages all over again.  I cried.  I was mad.  I doubted.  I felt hope.  And then, healing begin to happen.  I received text messages, phone calls, messages on Facebook, comments on my post and notes from both friends and people I’ve never actually met in real life.  It was truly amazing how sharing something so personal and vulnerable made me feel so much love.  Since my most recent miscarriage in January of this year, I’ve talked to a lot of women about it.  Some expressed their sympathy but couldn’t relate having never gone through it.  Others opened up to me about their own experience.  We’ve hugged, cried and bonded over our losses.  And almost everyone I talked to about it asked me the same question: Why didn’t you say something?

        Ever since writing that post, this one question has been echoing in my mind.  Knowing there were other women who had experienced the same thing as me, why didn’t I reach out to them?  I was hurting, confused, frustrated and full of pain and sadness, as I’m sure they were.  So why didn’t I say something?

        As I’ve thought about it (and I’ve thought a lot about it) and talked to others about it, I’ve had some insights come to my mind.  I feel fairly safe saying that I think many women who have experienced a miscarriage have felt these feelings and had these thoughts and each one or a combination of them is why they don’t say something: shame, disappointment, rationalization, pressure and confusion.

        Shame
        I can say that I definitely felt shame and embarrassment when I went through my miscarriages.  These are some of the thoughts that went through my mind:

        • I have two healthy kids and had no major problems getting pregnant or during pregnancy, so what in the world was the problem?  
        • A woman’s body is supposed to know how to do this, right?  
        • I don’t want people to think that there is something wrong with me.

        If you’ve had a miscarriage, you know that this thinking is irrational, but in the moment, it is your reality.  You are trying to come up with some reason why things didn’t work out the way you hoped or wanted and as a result, you feel shame.  If you haven’t had a miscarriage, please don’t discount how women could be feeling this way.  We know it doesn’t make sense and we don’t want to feel this way, but we do and all we really need is a hug.

        Disappointment
        In my case, and in so many cases, a baby is what we had been hoping and praying for.  Getting that positive pregnancy test is a moment of wonder and awe and excitement.  When you get that positive test, you start to hope and plan for your unborn child’s future.  You wonder if it’s a boy or a girl and what they’ll look like.  Going to the doctor and not hearing a heartbeat or starting to bleed unexpectedly is one of the absolute worst feelings in the world.  Having those hopes and dreams crushed can cause a disappointment so deep that it’s hard to share with others, even if they know how it feels.  For me, I felt a little like if I could keep it inside and not say anything, that maybe it wouldn’t feel so real and heartbreaking.

        Rationalization
        My husband and I have two beautiful kids.  They bring us happiness and joy and make life worth living.  When I went through each of my miscarriages, I tried to rationalize my feelings by telling myself things like:

        • Well, at least I have two kids.
        • Other people have suffered worse than me.
        • I should be happy that I wasn’t farther along than I was.

        I thought that by trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t be feeling the things I was feeling, that somehow that would make me feel better.  But I have to tell you something: when you are going through a miscarriage, you’re not thinking rationally.  You are trying to think of something, anything, to help you cope.  To try and work through the pain.  You might decide that saying something to someone will cause them to think poorly of you, so it’s better not to say anything at all and just try to work through it yourself.

        Pressure
        Choosing when to start a family or add to it is a hugely personal decision.  But for some reason, many people think it’s a question that is free game.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, friends, co-workers and random acquaintances think they should be able to ask this question and you shouldn’t feel intruded upon.  As though it’s a question that maybe you’ve never considered before (insert sarcasm here).  For me, I am the oldest child and grandchild.  I was the first to get married, the first to have a baby and the first to get pregnant with our second child.  I knew people were wondering when we were going to be adding to our family.  Even if they weren’t saying something, I knew they were thinking it.  Whether the pressure you feel is real or perceived, it definitely has an effect on if you feel safe saying something to people when you experience a miscarriage.

        Confusion
        I had my first miscarriage in November 2015, another in February 2016 and another in January 2017.  While I don’t claim to have all my feelings sorted out, I do know that it’s taken some time to try and work through everything.  I am someone who likes to have all, or as many of, the answers as possible when explaining or sharing something.  Because I had so much going on inside my mind, I didn’t feel like anything I said to anyone was going to make any sense.  I didn’t know how to process everything because I had no frame of reference.  So I kept it to myself and didn’t say anything.

        What changed my mind?
        Ultimately, I found that sharing my experience was like a breath of fresh air.  Keeping everything inside was hurting me and those around me.  I truly felt like I’d been holding my breath, trying to convince myself that I was fine, all the while I was drowning.  Until I said something to one person.  And then another.  And another.  And then I started typing the words into my computer.  Letting go of everything inside me and sharing the burden with others started the healing process.  Telling people about my miscarriages has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. One friend said to me, “We are part of a club of women we never wanted to be a part of.”  But thank goodness we can be there for each other.  To hope and pray for each other.  To hold and cry with each other.  To be a source of strength and hope to each other.

        Why I didn't tell anyone about my miscarriages for so long and how you can help those who have had one feel love and support.

        To you who have gone through a miscarriage, I’m so sorry.  I know how it feels.  I am here for you.  The pain will probably never go away completely but the ability to bear it will increase.  You are strong.  You are brave.  And if you don’t feel like there’s anyone you can talk to about it, please contact me, whether we know each other in person or not.  Everyone needs someone to talk to.  Hard things become so much easier to go through when you know there’s someone in your court, cheering you on or holding your hand when things don’t go as planned.

        To you who haven’t experienced this, please know that I’m not bitter or upset at you.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt sometimes when I see you with your newborn baby or pregnant belly, or when you unknowingly make a comment about “being lucky”.  All I ask is that when you come across someone who’s had a miscarriage, that you don’t try to brush over it with trite phrases or meaningless words.  We know you’re trying to help, but most often, all we really need is for you to say “This sucks and I’m here for you.”  Often, hearing “I’m sorry” is enough.

        To everyone reading this, I hope–really, really, hope–that we can start today in our efforts to stop the stigma surrounding miscarriage.  I don’t understand why, but it’s become a taboo.  No one should be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of a miscarriage.  It’s not an easy or comfortable subject to talk about.  I get it.  But I think recognizing that is a good first step.  Awareness and resources for how to talk about it is the next. 

        I know this was a long post, so thank you for sticking with me to the end.  Obviously, I feel very strongly about this topic and I hope that something I said helped you see things in a different light, no matter which side you find yourself on.  Because as cheesy as it sounds, we’re all in this together.  We women have a voice and we can use it to uplift and strengthen each other throughout all facets of life.