Our Historical Virginia Vacation (Part 1)


Let me first thank you to everyone who read and responded to my post on Monday! It felt good to finally finish that and share some of my thoughts, and I'm glad so many of you resonated with it.

Now for something much more fun! On Saturday, March 19, Jordan, R, and I left for our first family vacation.

We chose Charlottesville, Virginia, as our destination for four days and had a great time! I am going to save all my thoughts about traveling/flying with a baby for a separate post and just share some pictures and highlights from our trip. We bought plane tickets just two months ago, which is pretty spur-of-the-moment for us. (You might be interested to know How We Budget For Travel.) One day in January I decided I wanted to go on vacation. Our five-year anniversary is coming up in May, R can fly for free and is in a generally good mood most of the time so I figured she would do okay, and I felt like I just wanted to get away for a little change of pace.

(Montpelier, home of President James Madison)

I asked Jordan where he wanted to go, and he said "somewhere out east." So I spent an hour plugging flights and dates into Kayak. I randomly chose airports and dates until I narrowed it down to a few of the cheapest options (cheap being both of us flying for under $500 total). Then I let Jordan pick. He is a huge history buff and got really excited when I said Charlottesville, Virginia, because that is the home of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's house. (Below)
There are also two president homes nearby (James Monroe and James Madison), and for an added bonus, Lexington is just a few hours away, which is the home of Stonewall Jackson (I'm sharing all our pictures from our day in Lexington in a separate post)Basically you might say this trip was a tour of old, dead, white guy houses and graves, and Jordan was in historical heaven. He loved every minute! R and I had fun watching him have fun and just went along for the ride.
Jordan and I both enjoyed seeing a part of the country that is so old and historical. Virginia is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills and houses set back on large plots of land. It was easy to imagine a few hundred years ago when many of those houses were operational plantations and such. Of course, since we are just coming out of winter, a lot of the trees are still mostly dead, but many of them were starting to bloom with these really pretty yellow, white, and purple buds. We also got a hint of those famous apple blossom trees! (I think that's what they were...)
Amazingly, I did not get motion sick while driving on those twisty roads, but that's probably because I sat straight forward and didn't look at my phone or read or anything else. Oklahoma is so flat and all our streets are on a grid, so it was very different to drive down roads that curved and went up and down so much. And the trees! So many tall trees all around. We had a great time just driving to the different destinations on our itinerary and seeing the scenery.
Jordan really wants to go back to Virginia and hit some spots we missed during our trip. I booked us a cabin via Air B&B in Ivy, which is next to Charlottesville, and we basically stayed within a two-hour radius to the south/west. 
There are places up north that Jordan wanted to see but we didn't have time for, so maybe in the future we can head back to Virginia and see those! I would also love to see Washington DC at some point. Travel goals and such.
We left OKC at noon on Saturday, March 19, and arrived home at noon on Wednesday, March 23. (We were supposed to come home on Tuesday, but our flight was delayed and we had to stay an extra day.)
Here was our itinerary:

Saturday: 12pm flight OKC --> Wash DC --> Charlottesville, Virginia (arrived at 6pm)
Sunday: Monticello (home of Thomas Jefferson), Michie's Tavern, Ashlawn-Highland (home of James Monroe)
Monday: Lexington (home of Stonewall Jackson), Natural Bridge (Foamhenge)
Tuesday: Montpelier (home of James Madison) / supposed to fly home; spent all day in the airport, went back to Charlottesville and stayed in a Holiday Inn Express
Wednesday: 5am flight out of Virginia --> Chicago, O'hara --> Dallas, Texas --> OKC

So those were scenes from days one and two! I will share pictures from Lexington in an upcoming post, and I also took a bunch of short videos during our trip and want to put together a little vacation recap video. Then, I am putting all my thoughts specifically about traveling/flying with a baby in another post! Thanks for reading!

See also: Part 2 of our trip (plus a vacation video)
Traveling with a Baby: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever been to Virginia?
What is your favorite United States historical site?
How far in advance would you consider a spur-of-the-moment vacation?

On Thriving and Joy and Being a Working Mom


I have been working on this post for a while now. I've started and stopped it numerous times. At one point I had over 2,000 words and erased it all. Finally I think I figured out why this post has been so hard for me: because my feelings on this subject change almost by the second, which makes it hard to actually write something that makes any sense. 

I might be driving to work after dropping R off, thinking about how much I already miss her and drafting a post in my head about all the reasons quitting my job wouldn't actually be that bad. But then I pull into the parking lot and I'm all, "Hey look I'm doing it! Way to go, self. I like my job, and R has social interaction, and I get to eat a hot lunch in peace." But then later that day I open Facebook and see a picture of a friend with her one-year-old at the park in the middle of the bright, sunny afternoon, and I'm filled with a surge of jealousy and am all EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE PASS THE CHOCOLATE.

That said, I will say this about going back to work: for me, actually doing it has not been nearly as bad as the anticipation of doing it.

In the weeks leading up to my return to the office, I cried every single time I thought about leaving R all day and going to work. And when I say cried, I mean actual tears welling up and spilling down my cheeks. It was not uncommon for Jordan to come into the room to find me sitting on the floor while staring at R and sobbing. When he asked me what was wrong, I would wail, “I can’t leave her!” Eventually he just stopped asking what was wrong when he came upon me randomly crying for no reason.

It was all very dramatic.

Day 1 was surprisingly fine. I had prepared myself mentally, I had her bottles and diaper bag together, my fancy work clothes (I even did my makeup!), and I put on my Super Mom cape and flew triumphantly off to face rush hour traffic, arriving home with my baby at the end of the day in a flurry of success. I didn’t even cry when I dropped her off that morning!

Day 2 was terrible. 

The “new” had worn off, and it hit me that the day before hadn’t been an experiment; it was now my life. By the end of the day I was completely and utterly exhausted, and I fell asleep in the rocker nursing R at 6:00 p.m. I woke up with a crick in my neck and my contacts glued to my eyeballs. R, completely overstimulated from being around so many new things and people, was passed out in my arms. I laid her in her crib and stumbled down the hallway. I made it two steps into the living room before letting out a whimper and collapsing to the floor.

Jordan, meanwhile, had just finished texting his mom to tell her how great I was handling everything. He came out from the office to find me face down on the floor, sobbing.
“What’s wrong?” he said.
“I can’t live like this!” I wailed.

It was all very dramatic.

He went back and texted my mom that nevermind, I actually wasn’t doing so well. She showed up the next day with a gift card to get a pedicure.

So that was how it began, and thankfully, that was my low point. It has now been almost three full months of being back at work, and at least for me I’ve found it to be true when people say that it does get better. Like I said, the anticipation of doing it was way worse than actually doing it, and that awful Day 2 was the worst it got. I am incredibly thankful that I not only like my job but my coworkers, and going into work is not a terrible thing of itself. While I’m at work, I miss my baby, obviously, but it’s not like I’m just sitting at my desk staring at photos of her and crying. Not every day, anyway. Not even most days.

I am also incredibly thankful that I like her daycare and that it is close enough to my work for me to drive over there during my lunch hour and see her. I can’t tell you how excited I get to go see her halfway through the day; I literally run down the hallway at the daycare every single day.

Some of the trouble I had writing this post was because I don’t want to discount my gratefulness for these things. 

I know it could be worse. I know not everyone gets to visit their kid during the day. And overall being back at work isn’t really that bad. I get time to heat up my lunch and eat it at a normal pace instead of scarfing down my food because at any second R could start crying and need me to hold her. I get to exercise my creative writing and editing skills through my job, which makes me feel useful and smart. I have adult conversations and a reason to dress up in the morning. Working downtown is fun too. 

I have a paycheck and health insurance and money going into a college fund for R. She is learning to be dependent without me, learning to socialize and all that. And I am learning to trust someone else to care for her and trust God to watch over her when I can’t be there. These are the good things. Things I am thankful for. Despite all the terrible things people say about daycare (because it is apparently something people like to talk about in a negative light), I honestly believe there are a lot of positives too.

But I really, really miss my baby, and I hate being away from her.

Every other Tuesday night I go to a Bible study with some girls from church. This verse was in the lesson a few weeks ago and has really convicted me: "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." - Psalm 126:3

When I look at my life right now, I feel so blessed and so thankful, and I know without a doubt that God has done great things for me. But I can't say that I feel filled with joy. Honestly? I feel jealous and bitter and even sometimes a little angry that I have to work.

Some days I feel like I’ve totally got this. I got R to daycare on time, put in a good day’s work, even fit in a run and made dinner and (praise!) did all the dishes. And some days I feel like all I’ve done is survive. Running from one chore to the next, trying to savor each moment of baby snuggles because I don’t get enough of them as it is.

But no matter what, I want to be the kind of person who pursues joy. I want people to say about me that I am filled with joy. I want to not be jealous or bitter but be thankful and at peace. I want to thrive, not just survive.

Sometimes when I say something about being a working mom and how hard it has been for me, someone says something along the lines of, "Being a mom is just hard whether you stay at home or work! There are good things and bad things to both." And yes, that is completely true. Being a mom is hard. But being a working mom is hard in its own way, just like being a stay-at-home mom is hard in its own way and being a work-from-home mom is hard in its own way, etc.

I think that instead of making a blanket statement about how hard being a parent is in general, I would rather someone say, "I bet it's hard being away from your kid while you're at work all day. You're doing a great job."

Because it is hard being away from R all day during the week. It's hard in a different way that you just can't understand unless you've had to do it, and when people try to brush past it with a "well being a mom is just hard in general," it's a little upsetting.

So that's the truth of where I am right now. I wish I could wrap this all up in a nice bow and say I'm doing completely fine and working full time is going really well. I want to be an encouragement to those who are or will be doing the full-time working mom gig, and I feel like I'm not yet in a place to say that it's really this awesome thing. Honestly, it has completely caught me by surprise how much I want to spend my days with R. I didn't expect to want to stay home this much, but I do and I can't, and I'm still working through those feelings.

I'm still figuring out my routine and trying to make the most of the time I do get to spend with my baby. It's so hard fitting in errands and family time and housework and hobbies into two days on the weekend and a few hours each night. But it is getting easier (or maybe I'm getting more efficient?), and I'm so thankful to everyone who has encouraged me these past few months. And I guess mostly I want to encourage you to find ways to encourage others.

With that said, I'll end with this story.

Last weekend we were in the airport in Oklahoma City, standing in the security line. I had R strapped to me in the carrier, and the girl in front of me, who looked about my age, turned around and said, "How old is your baby?"
"Seven months," I said.
"I have an eighteen-month-old," she replied. "A boy."
"What's his name?"
"Steve," she said. Then she paused and let out a sob and put her face in her hands.
"Oh my goodness!" I said. I had no idea what was going on, but I put my hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
She looked at me, and tears were running down her cheeks. "I just left him for a business trip. I won't be back until Wednesday." She shook her head. "I'm so sorry. I was fine, but then, seeing your baby...."
"Please do not worry about it," I said, and patted her back, feeling my own eyes begin to tear up. "I completely understand." Because of course I did.

We talked for another few minutes while we took off our shoes and put our bags on the conveyor belt. And while we did that, I tried my best to encourage her with all the things that encourage me.

You're a good mom, I said. Your baby loves you. You are setting a great example for him. And just think about how excited he will be to see you on Wednesday when you get home.

Right before we split ways, she turned and gave me a hug. "Thank you for talking to me."

Meeting that other mom was a good reminder to me that working moms are everywhere. Sometimes it's easy for me to feel so alone, getting all our bags together in the morning and hustling off to daycare, then to work, then home in the evening for a few hours before putting R to bed. But I'm not alone, and you aren't either in whatever situation you find yourself.

There are a lot of good things and wonderful things and hard things about our different lives. This working thing? For me, it's hard. And sometimes, it's just nice to have someone to talk to about it.

So thank you, friend, for reading. It means a lot to me.


I Have Stories


Hello! It's been a week and a half since my last post, which is about a year in Blog Time, so I won't feel bad if you've forgotten all about me. But I haven't just been sitting around twiddling my thumbs, in case you were wondering. Jordan, R, and I left last weekend for our first vacation as a family of three!*

Before I left work on Friday, I told my coworkers that I would be back with stories, and boy do I ever have stories for you. Our flights out were fine, but coming home is a book of itself. Our flight was delayed, causing us to miss our connection to Oklahoma, which was the last flight of the day. So, we ended up getting United to comp us a hotel stay (all night in the airport with a seven-month-old? I don't think so), and we came back a day later than planned. 

When all was said and done we woke up at 3:30 am and spent eight hours traveling yesterday, visited four airports, and, thanks to inheriting my mother's raging motion sickness, I used the barf bag on two flights in a row on the descent. Also, during one of those descents R decided she would take me puking as a sign to empty her diaper and explode poop up her back.

As Jordan is holding R in one arm and a paper bag of my vomit in the other, he looks at me and says, "Why am I the only one in this family who can keep his liquids contained?"

Long story short, I am never leaving Oklahoma again. At least for a few months, and then I will be knocking myself out with very strong sleeping pills or something because I CANNOT do that again or I will die.**

*I'm not going to tell you where we went until later, so venture a guess if you want to based on what's in the photo above. Here's a hint: it's historical and it's in a state east of Oklahoma. Anyone been here?

**Hyperbole. Maybe.

Anyone had to use a barf bag before? How about two times in a row?

Month Seven


Wow. These months really do sneak up on me. I really can't believe I have a child and that that child is over halfway to one. I still look at her and say That's my baby. MY baby. My BABY. After R was first born, we had friends from church bring us a meal one night, and they brought their 5-month-old with them. I remember holding her and thinking, I can't imagine R being this big. And now she's bigger than that baby was! It's just crazy. Anyway, let's get to it. R had a huge month with a lot of new things! Here are the highlights:


We have two teeth! R has two bottom front teeth popping through those tiny gums, which thankfully explains the two rough weekends we've had lately. We went to Texas a few weeks ago, and she was just so much fussier than normal, and we were like, what on earth is wrong with this child???? And then Sunday afternoon, my mom discovered a sharp protrusion and we were so glad that explained her irrational mood swings.
She rolled back to front! Finally. She has been so close to rolling for so long but just didn't seem interested in actually making the turn. In the past week and a half she's rolled over a dozen times or so, and the hilarious part is that Jordan hasn't seen it yet even though he's been sitting right next to her more than once while she's done it.


After a rough start where Jordan and I feared R would never take to this whole food thing, we now have a baby who will basically eat anything we give her. So far there has only been one thing she's straight up refused to eat, and it was a veggie pouch with spinach and green bean. She loves blueberries and peaches, and while she will eat peas, I can tell they aren't her favorite. We've been using this book's "flavor compatibility guide" to combine different foods for her, and it's been actually pretty fun.
Initially I was incredibly overwhelmed by the whole food thing. As with everything, there is so much information out there about how to feed your baby. Don't do rice cereal. Do rice cereal. Don't do purees. Do purees but only if you make it yourself. Do baby-led weaning. TOO STRESSFUL.

Basically what we're doing now is going with the flow. If we happen to be eating something that she can have, we give her a taste. One night her tray was full of steamed peas and mashed potatoes. One night I gave her teething wafers. One night she ate a pouch of veggies. One night I gave her homemade purees. I don't know if this is "right," but she seems to be doing okay. 

And I am actually enjoying making my own baby food! There is something so satisfying about spending a few hours steaming and blending fruits and veggies and then seeing the colorful cubes stacked in my freezer. It's also fun to see her eating things I made specially for her. So at home she eats mostly homemade purees, and at daycare she eats Gerber fruits and veggies, which we are fine with. I was bringing my own food, but I have enough to get ready every day for work/daycare, and it's just too much right now to also worry about thawing out some food every day.


Ugh. This month we took a giant step back in the sleeping department. Pretty much right around the start of month 7, R decided sleeping through the night was no longer an activity she cared to participate in. Cue zombie mode. I almost wish I hadn't known the glories of a full night of sleep so I wasn't so depressed about this regression.

One negative side effect (I'd say even more than just being exhausted half the time) is that Jordan and I have been getting into a lot more fights, mostly during the night when neither of us are in our right mind. There's just something about a screaming baby at 2am that makes you want to rash out in irrational rage. I don't know. Maybe that's just me.

So yeah. Sleeping is hit or miss might nights for us now. It's a grand adventure putting her to sleep and not knowing when or how she will wake up. It can't last forever, though, right? Right?


R still loves her activity mat, although these days she's so strong she yank off all the hanging toys and threatens to pull down the whole thing on top of her. It's funny to think back to when we were all excited that she was just batting her hands at the toys above her.

She loves being outside. Although she still doesn't like the wind in her face or the sun in her eyes, but she always stops crying when we walk outside with her, and I try to take her for walks on the weekends and weeknights if we get home and it's nice.

We can tell she wants to go places but just hasn't figured out the whole moving thing. She is able to scoot herself a full 360 degrees, which is funny to watch, and she can roll both directions now (see above). And she has been known to do this weird scoot where she slowly moves backward, and she will bring her knees up under her stomach too.
I don't think it will be long before she gets the hang of crawling and then watch out, world! As of now, she just lays down and kicks her legs so hard! She sits up like a champ and has started doing this thing where she folds herself completely in half and tries to eat the carpet. It cracks us up every time.
This month R really started to seem to enjoy reading. Yes, she still tries to eat the books, but I actually think she likes sitting with us and reading the books! A few times she's seemed fussy, and when we sit down and start reading she calms down. Of course this makes my bookworm heart just go pitter-patter.
So that's what's been happening in our world this month. Every day with a baby is an exciting adventure. And by exciting adventure I mean that my desire to plan anything keeps getting tossed out the window and this whole learning to be flexible thing is really throwing me for a loop. Adulting and such. It's tough, man. But I seriously wouldn't trade it for anything, because our little bean brings us the most joy.

Read in 2016 So Far


Somehow I have read 7 books this year already! I can't even tell you how that happened, but I'm not complaining. Before I get to the reviews, spoiler alert: this year of reading has been a dud for me so far. At least, I would say that I haven't found anything that's blown me away. I hate it when I read a book everyone loves and don't like it because it makes me question everything. 

But let's talk about it... 

Note: most of these reviews are copied/adapted from my Goodreads, so follow me on there if you want to see more!

5+++ stars. 
I started 2016 on a high note with one of my favorites! This is a reread of a reread of a reread. Love. (Do not love this cover...)

4 stars 
The main character is a boy who is allergic to electricity, and he has a pen pal: a boy who is basically made of electricity. The plot is unique and creative, and the back-and-forth style of writing (letters between the two main characters) was actually really good. Typically I don't tend to like that style. I sort of guessed some of what was going on as the story unfolded, but it wasn't extremely obvious. Very quick and easy read!
3.5 stars
Kate Morton's plot lines and characters are so creative and unique, and I just love her. Her books are always hard to get into initially because there is so much switching back and forth in time and also with character perspectives. This book in particular included almost a lot of the characters' points of view, which didn't seem useful in some cases.

There was a secondary plot that I wasn't sure was entirely necessary. I did see the point, but I just think it took up a bit too much of the main story for me. And since I did see a few things coming, this one didn't have quite the mystery aspect as a few of her earlier novels. However, my rating was due mostly to the last part of the book (see below).

**Thoughts on the ending below, so don't read this paragraph unless you want a spoiler!**

I was surprised that we actually found Theo and that he was alive! As someone who enjoys happy endings, that made me happy. However, as I do for all the Morton books, I felt sad because there was so much happiness in the beginning, and now we see characters at the end of their lives, and it just seems like there is so much they missed out on by keeping secrets. And although I did like that Bertie was reunited with his sisters, I found the ending a little too perfect to be believable, which lessened my overall positive impression of the book that I had going most of the way through.
3 stars
This is a memoir written by a fifteen-year-old girl who spends a school year following guidelines for being popular from an old book from the 1950s her dad finds in a resale shop. I thought this was a cute book--a very quick read and a fun concept. It's impressive that the author is so young! I found it inspiring that she actually kept up with the entire year of challenges, and I liked what she learned at the end of all of it. Of course, there are some things I would have changed in editing, and I sometimes found myself getting a little bored with it in the middle parts, but the chapters are short enough that it held my interest.
3 stars
(Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books.)

This book is all about habits. It was a quick read, and the author definitely had some interesting points. I wouldn't say this is the type of book you would buy and read to underline and glean a whole lot of life-changing ideas (like how I felt about her earlier bookThe Happiness Project), but a few points here and there definitely made me think about my habits and the way I do (or don't) form them.

Her conclusion seemed to be that there is one "one way" to make or break habits because there are a lot of different types of people who are motivated in different ways, which, okay duh. But she outlined a number of different personality types, and that was fun to read and see which one I thought I was and which one I thought Jordan was.

One line in particular from the ending stuck out to me: "Often, when we try repeatedly to form a habit that we desire, we fail because we want to reap its benefits without paying the price it demands." (p.261) I thought of my desire to get back to doing pull-ups. I really want to get into the habit of doing daily pull-ups, but I keep failing. I realized it's because I don't want to pay the price this habit demands: i.e., the burning and sore muscles! This revelation doesn't really help me make pull-ups a habit but at least explains why I've been unable to get into the habit of doing them.

**If you are interested in reading Better than Before, I will mail you my copy for free! Just leave a comment on this post saying you want it, and I'll randomly pick someone to send it to. Just make sure I can easily find your email address to get your mailing address.

2.5 stars
Okay, I know everyone and their mom loved this book, but I just wasn't that big of a fan. I had mixed feelings about this book. The pros include the writing style (pretty funny), plot (creative), and structure (unique way of storytelling with parents interviews scattered throughout). But the cons for me kind of overshadowed that. For one thing, the quick, easy writing style was a contradiction to the very serious issues that come up in this book about domestic violence, marriage, and bullying, to name a few. It's not that I'm against the book because it explores intense subject matters, but I couldn't really fit that with the writing style and characters. I also found myself getting kind of bored in the middle with all the drama and just wanted to get to the trivia night. I know everyone loved this book, but I preferred The Husband's Secret.


The other con was the ending. Even though I felt like it ended the only way it probably could have, it still disappointed me. It was too easy to kill off the one character you were sure to dislike, and even though Celeste is sad about it, for the reader it's kind of like, yeah but he was a terrible person so she's better off and it's okay he died. For me it was dissatisfying.
2 stars
I just didn't like this one. I'm sorry! Almost everyone in my Goodreads feed gave this 4 or 5 stars, but I thought this book was boring. Don't hate me.

It's about an American girl who goes to London for college and ends up meeting the prince and falling in love. It was over 450 pages long and could have been condensed into half that. I have no idea why it takes place over such a long period of time (nearly ten years!), and half the book is spent with the characters being drunk or at a party of some kind or running away from the paparazzi. I really didn't care what happened to either Bex or Nick and ended up skimming the last section just to be done with it. 

I didn't care for all the sex, drinking, and cursing in this book either. I've said this before, but I can accept those things in a book if I feel like they fit the plot and are necessary, but I just didn't care of all of it in this book. I also had a hard time suspending disbelief to get into the "world" of the story, so it just didn't capture my attention. And at the end of it all, after so many pages, there were still some small plot lines that were left open. I found the writing and structure of the chapters very formulaic with the ending line of almost every chapter being a short cliffhanger of sorts. It just got old. My favorite parts of the book was when the dad and Bex talk about the Cubs! This review summed it up for me pretty well.

So those are the books I've read so far! As you can see, I haven't been overly impressed by any of them besides the Francine Rivers book, which was one I've read many times before. I need recommendations! Have you read anything good lately? Hit me up. 

And please share your thoughts on my reviews! Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with me?

My Mother's Promise


I very rarely do sponsored posts on this blog, but this one was too good to pass up because it's something I feel strongly about! I'm excited to join with Pampers (the diaper brand we've used since R was born!) to share about their Pampers Premium Care Diapers, which you can find at Walmart.

As part of this campaign, I am sharing a #MothersPromise for my sweet R: I promise to take care of myself physically and model a life of health and fitness that she will hopefully follow as she grows.
One of my favorite things to do is take R with me on walks and runs. As a full-time working mom, I don't get to spend nearly enough time with my baby, but when I take her with me on my training runs, I really feel like we are bonding!

I started taking her out at a young age with the hope that she will enjoy being outside and learn to love being in the stroller so we can continue to spend time together. We've learned that she loves being outside, taking in all the sights and sounds around her, and she seems to enjoy going with me on runs! Often she will fall asleep, which I take as a good sign.
I want to continue to model a healthy, active lifestyle for my daughter, not only so I can stay fit and be able to play with them as they get older, but also so she will have a good example to follow of physical fitness and health for the rest of her life.

Here are a few tips I've learned in the past few months about taking R in the jogging stroller: 

-Clip a pacifier to the shoulder strap. R loves her paci, and having it clipped to the strap makes it super easy for her to find and play with. Plus, there's no fear of it falling out and getting lost.

-Bring a hat. Even when it's nice outside, Oklahoma can get pretty windy. I've noticed that R will get upset and start fussing if it's too windy, but when I put a hat on her, she calms down. I'm guessing it has something to do with her ears? I don't know, but I always make sure and have a hat ready just in case.

-Don't forget the sun. I don't know if all babies are like this, but R hates having the sun in her eyes. Like, really hates it. I have to be careful when we go out, because sometimes it's at that perfect hour when the sun is beaming directly inside the stroller and on her face. I could walk in the opposite direction, but that just means that the sun will be shining on her coming home. Try if you can to go on your walk or run at a time when the sun is higher in the sky, and don't just walk in the opposite direction for a long ways, because you will have to turn around eventually, and it will probably not end well for one or both of you. 

-Be flexible. Sometimes I head out, all excited to run a few miles at least, and we get a half a mile into the run and R is just not having it. I've learned to be flexible and tell myself that something is always better than nothing! I sure don't want to force her to stay out if she's really upset, because I want her to enjoy our outings! Just try again another time.

Pampers diapers are another way we want to set a good example for R and show her that we care about her. We have been using them since she was born! The Premium Care diapers are a high-quality disposable diaper, hypoallergenic, breathable, absorb well, and have a wetness indicator, which Jordan is a huge fan of (seriously, he is obsessed with checking for the blue line). Pampers Premium Care diapers are available at Walmart and Walmart.com.

And if you don't like them for changing poopy diapers, you could always, you know, eat them.
So that's my #MothersPromise for R (and, of course, for my future children)! Thanks to Pampers for letting me join with them to share about something I'm so passionate about. I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.

What is your mother's promise?

Food Budgeting: An Experiment in Spending Less [Month 1]


Last month I wrote a post about how we budget for food. You can read it here. In it, I shared how much we spent per month in 2015 on groceries and eating out for lunch. I really enjoyed reading all the comments on that post. Many of you said you spend more than us on food, but there were some who said you spend even less, and that really inspired me.

At the end of January 2016, I added up our budgeting spreadsheet and saw that our food spending was almost exactly the same as the monthly average for 2015! In 2015 we averaged $277 on groceries and $83 on lunch (for this post, I am not including entertainment/date night food because that's not the part I am experimenting with). 

In January 2016, we spent $277.51 on groceries and $83.11 on lunch! I realized that if I didn't make a change, we would continue to average the same amount on food. And it's not that we are spending a lot on food anyway (according to some of you we spend a crazy low amount), but again, I was inspired by those of you who said you spend less than us and wanted to see if I could get our number even lower. 

So commenced my food budgeting experiment of 2016. Before I get to how much we spent in February (month 1 of this experiment), I want to share a few things I focused on in terms of trying to spend less.

1. Cook through the existing items in my pantry and freezer
I have a tendency to go to the  store and grab things I want to stock up on. This isn't bad, but there is also no need to buy more chicken when I have some sitting in my freezer. So in February, I tried to buy as few as new items possible and only use what I already had.

2. Only buy things on the list
Another shopping tendency I have is to grab random items while I'm walking through the aisles. These are things we will eat but not necessarily things we need. Example: ice cream, chocolate chips, multiple varieties of wheat thins and cheese-its, etc.

3. Price check
For part of my experiment, I wanted to see which stores were cheaper to buy from and whether or not this matched up with what I thought in my head. Where I live, I have essentially 4 stores I buy food from: Walmart, Target, Homeland (local chain), and Aldi. I have always assumed the hierarchy of price went like this (least expensive to most): Aldi, Walmart, Target, Homeland. I wanted to know if Homeland actually was the most expensive or if I was just making that up. If one store was significantly cheaper, I wanted to know about it so I could buy food from there.

What I did was write down a list of a few items we buy regularly, and then I went to each store and wrote down the price. In doing this, I confirmed that Aldi is significantly cheaper than the other 3 stores, which I already knew. And I don't mind most of the food at Aldi, but there are name-brand items you can't get there, so what about the other stores?

Target came out overall to be cheaper than Walmart! And that's without adding in deals from Cartwheel or getting 5% off for using their Red Card. This surprised me. Homeland was the most expensive overall (like I thought), but some individual items were cheaper than or the same as both Target and Walmart, which was a pleasant surprise. 

For example:
-Sara Lee brand Honey Wheat Bread is $2.49 at both Homeland and Target and $2.58 at Walmart.
-A 16oz block of cheese (store brand not name brand) is $4.49 at Homeland vs $4.96 at Walmart and $5.19 at Target! 
-Digorno pizza (same crust/topping type) was $4.50 at Target vs $5.86 at Walmart and a whopping $6.59 at Homeland.

What did I learn from all that? Aldi is definitely the cheapest. Also, it's not worth it for me to drive all the way to Walmart (the farthest of all 4 stores), because Target is actually cheaper (which surprised me). Homeland is the most expensive, but not everything is, and really it's not actually too much more than Walmart (but I'd say significantly more than Target).

4. Try grocery rebate apps

Have you heard of these? You guys NEED to get on this immediately as in yesterday. I'm thankful to Kari who first introduced me to this genius concept. Coupons can be kind of a pain to remember to use, but it's super easy to get cash back for buying groceries using rebate apps!

Ibotta is my favorite, and you can get $10 just for signing up and earning your first rebate by using this referral link or the code vkyogbc. (I get a few dollars too, so help a friend out, would ya?) I've made $24.50 so far in just one month! Three words: more hair bows. Just kidding. Maybe.

Seriously, do it. Mobisave is another app that doesn't have quite as many options but is still super easy to use. Try them and see what you think!

Month 1 Results 

I am proud to say that month 1 was a success! Just from implementing the above goals, we ended up spending $185.26 on groceries and $43.46 on lunch in February

Compare that to $277.51 and $83.11, respectively, and we saved $132 total on food purchases! That number does not include the $24.50 I got in rebate money, so we actually saved over $150 in one month! Go me.

Now, the fact that I employed rule #1 means that I didn't really have a giant trip to stock up on essentials. As we begin March, our pantry and freezer are pretty empty, so I do not anticipate such a low spending number this month. But I am hoping that rules 2-4 will help limit spending, and I can keep our average lower than it was in 2015. Check back in a month to see how I did!

Questions? Feedback? Want to tell me how big a dork I am for tracking all of this? Leave a comment below!

What Are You Good At?


Everyone is good at something. What are you good at? 

It's easy to look around and see all the other things people are doing and think, I wish I was good at that. We seem to have a tendency to feel silly if we talk about our strengths, so we talk about our weaknesses instead, listing the things we want to work on and the areas we need to improve. At least, I do. And it's not a bad thing to want to improve; certainly we all have learning to do. But everyone has things they would say they excel at, and today, on this first day of March, I am going to talk about them!

Here are a few for me, in no particular order:

1. I am a good writer.

I not only enjoy writing, but I think I have a gift for it. I've edited hundreds of books and articles in my career, and while some may disagree, I personally believe that good writing cannot be taught. You can take a good writer and teach him to be a great writer, but you can't take a bad writer and teach him to be a good writer. I wouldn't call myself a great writer by any means, but I do think I'm good.

Recently I sent a few essays in to an online motherhood blog, hoping to get them published. Both were rejected, which really bummed me out, if I'm being honest with you. I ended up publishing them here on TLO (here and here), because I think they were good, and they got positive reactions, which made me feel a little better. Even though my pieces weren't a good fit for that website, I do think I'm a good writer and take pride in what I publish on this blog. I think it's good to try new things and step outside your comfort zone, like I did with my essays, but even if it doesn't work out, it's important to not let outside circumstances negatively affect your confidence in your abilities.

2. I am a good editor.

I have absolutely no idea how or why I have this skill, but editing is something I love even more than writing, and I am really good at it. I feel blessed to have gotten some great experience in the field of editing and publishing, and even though initially I always freak out at the beginning of a book because I don't know if I will be able to do a good job, I am always proud of the edited manuscript that I return to authors when I'm finished. (Of course, errors on this blog always slip through the cracks, causing a major face palm moment. But that's a blog post for another day.)

p.s. You might enjoy the series of posts I wrote about editing. (Click here for an FAQs post!)
*Shameless plug... I do freelance editing! Email me if you're interested in knowing more about that.

3. I am good at making scrapbooks.

I have been making scrapbooks since I was in junior high, and this is a creative outlet that I am really good at. I have an eye for seeing how I want a page to come together, and I have the discipline to get it done in a timely fashion (my current Project Life 2015 book notwithstanding).

4. I am good at talking to (new) people.

I am pretty extroverted, and so I don't have a huge problem talking to new people or being in new situations. Sure, I feel awkward and get nervous a lot of the time, but I think I'm good at pushing through that and making people feel included and comfortable. (Just don't try to give me a hug!)

5. I am good at taking pictures.

I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about photography. I am by no means a professional, and there are a ton of things I wish I were better at (capturing that golden hour!). But I am really proud of how far I've come with my skills since buying my DSLR a few years ago and feel that I have a creative "eye" for composition and getting a good shot, which are harder to teach than how to properly use settings. 

I read the manual from back to front, read some online articles, but other than that just kept the darn thing on the manual setting and practiced. Professional pictures are so expensive (for good reason!) and it's been nice to be able to take my own photos of R. I enjoy it and have pictures I really like! We paid for professional maternity pictures, but I took my own newborn pictures of R, and they turned out exactly how I wanted.

Related: Things I Like Doing (When I'm Not Blogging) // 10 Things I Like About Myself

So now tell me! What are you good at?