Life · Organization

To Dare Greatly

“The credit belongs to the [woman] who strives valiantly”

I’ve been thinking a lot about goals for the new year. Yes, I know, it’s the January energy burst which will soon be followed by three more long months of winter and monotony… But I’ve been wary of goal-making the past few years because I struggle so much to keep to them. I always have such lofty goals and then fail to even begin to implement them.

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But this year is a different kind of year. I’ve realized it’s not my will or dreams or desires that are defective: it’s my methods! I just don’t have the proper tools to implement all of this, and that’s what needs to change. You can find so many TED talks and articles and books about change, goals, progress, habit-stacking, getting things done (<– life-changing, and I say this with no exaggeration) etc. so you don’t need the whole speech from me. I even heard recently that sharing your goals with people actually makes you less likely to achieve them, because the satisfaction of people acknowledging the lofty goals gives you satisfaction and you almost sort of feel like you’ve done the work. (Crazy how our brains work, right?!)

All that to say, as I finish out my twenties, that’s been one of my greatest lessons learned: it means nothing to have dreams or goals without a viable plan to make those things happen. (oh, and networking/connections… but I won’t go off on that tangent for now!) This has been the missing link a great deal of my life so far, and this is the muscle I need to flex. I always thought I was just lazy — turns out all I need is a good brainstorming session and a next actions list. (OK, I may be a little bit lazy too… ha!)

AND, here is one simple tool I desperately need: REVIEWING FREQUENTLY

Every time I make big goals, I do this to myself. I dream, I write them all out, I might even do some outcome visioning. But then, my dreams and goals list goes in a drawer or disappears in a long list of email drafts on my phone, never to be seen again. So this year, here’s my one goal I WILL share: I want to be better at regularly reviewing my plans. It’s OK to have big dreams, but to make these things happen I need to be taking small, regular steps to get there.

A friend of mine has her Sunday evening planning sessions — she pulls out the planner, checks her projects/goals lists, syncs calendars with her husband, asks herself how she’s doing. I love that, and it’s just the thing I need! Some time set aside for introspection and planning.

(Speaking of tools: Believe it or not, I’m still going back and forth on using a paper planner or not this year… sheesh! I used to be such a believer in holding something in your hands, until I realized it wasn’t working for me that well, then I switched to my phone calendar but it’s so easy to ignore or dismiss notifications there too, and I hate that I can’t get a glance-type view with it. Sigh.)

With that being said, I know many people who like to have a “word of the year” to guide their thoughts and energies. I’m not good at drilling down to a single word, but this next quote contains exactly the spirit of what I hope for this year. I want to dream big, and I hope to get better at finding the tools to make those dreams happen. And I sure could use some beautiful words to keep the fire alive!

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

And I can’t forget our traditional “first morning of the year in PJs” photo 😉 Happy New Year, friends!

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I’d love to hear about your favorite change/habit-forming/progress/planning tools! Paper planner? String around your finger? Multiple alarms throughout the day? Quotes? Let’s hear it!

Life

2017, You’ve Been Grand!

We are spending the night in — the whole family has a cold so we are taking it easy! And believe me, I plan on being in bed well before midnight. (Besides, it’s already been 2018 in France for hours so we’re all good!)

In the meantime, we’ve been looking back on a year that has generally been pretty good to our family ♥️

In January, Jonas finished casting and went into BNB — he now has beautifully corrected feet! He wears his brace at night and never seems to mind, so it feels like we’re out of the deep end of the clubfoot pool. (Read more about our clubfoot journey here)

We survived the long, cold winter.

Adelina went from an adorable toddler to a real little girl, and it’s incredible. I love that we can have actual conversations, how she remembers every little detail and brings things up weeks or months later. I love to see those little wheels turning, and I love her sweet spontaneous hugs after we’ve driven each other crazy ❤

Andrew survived his first year in a very stressful new job.

In February, I joined a nonprofit organization as translation coordinator and traveled for a group presentation in the spring. To be honest, I’ve talked about it very little “publicly” because it was a lot of work and I worried about announcing things and then burning out. And I was right about that feeling: I ended up handing off my responsibilities and taking a major backseat this last month (I’m staying on in a consulting role) because it was too much stress and responsibility with two small kids at home. This balancing act is tricky, and it got to a point where I would resent my children for making demands on my time. It’s not where I wanted to be, so I thankfully I managed to listen to the quiet but insistent promptings to step back. I am however grateful for the opportunity to have played a small role in setting up procedures and getting the ball rolling. I know I was able to give some good time and talent to the project and to a cause that’s very dear to my heart, and I know it’s in good hands now as well.

Adelina and I did plenty of cooking together — she’s my favorite little sous-chef! And I love how she loves it, she’ll frequently ask to “faire la cuisine” with me ❤

My little sister got married! It was so fun being a part of it all — I actually got to do their engagement photos for them too, and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. It doesn’t hurt that my sister is basically a model 😉

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It was just a lovely event overall. Always a wild time when we have the four sisters together!

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(Sarah Tagg Photography is the lady behind the lens at the wedding!)

We traveled to France and Switzerland this summer — a whole month for the kids and I, soaking up family and friends and sunshine and incredible food and sights. (And yes, I still haven’t blogged any of it… need to get on that ASAP!) We also got to attend a dear friend’s wedding while there — total serendipity that we were going to be at the right place, at the right time!

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And Andrew repainted the living room in secret before joining us, because… we bought our house! (Isn’t he amazing? I walked into the living room and it took me a few seconds to realize what had changed. It looks so much better!)

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Andrew completed coast guard recruiter training in September, and we survived without him for three weeks — longest we’ve ever been apart! In the meantime I renovated half the house, ha.

Adelina started dance class in the fall and LOVES it. It was so much fun watching her at her first recital ever ♥️

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And no, she’s still not potty trained… We were off to such a great start, but got completely stuck on number 2. Blah. That one is definitely on my list for 2018…

We almost finished repainting the house, and we celebrated eight years of marriage. Crazy how time flies!

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Andrew and I traveled to San Antonio for a work conference in October and took Jonas along, while Adelina spent time with her grandparents. It is such a cool town!

I started a daily photography project at the beginning of the year and learned and practiced so much. I kind of fizzled out with the daily part of it after France though… but rallied to end the year strong enough! I’m definitely not doing daily photos next year — that was intense! — but Andrew got me a membership to a photography group (Clickin Moms) for Christmas and I look forward to taking my skills to the next level and improving more this year. My goal is to get the camera out once a week in 2018. I’m so grateful to have so many beautiful photos of my family thanks to this project!

We hosted Thanksgiving (OK it was only two people, my sister and her husband, but it was still fun!)

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Andrew and I both got a little better at trying to achieve our fitness goals. He’s been losing some serious weight — I’m so impressed and proud of him for getting up early in the freezing cold and moving every morning! — and I am finally getting myself to the gym regularly (I also started an adult ballet class, which feels so amazing). Still a good ways to go (especially because I smashed my knee into our garage floor while tripping over something last week… ouch!) but it feels good to have started a bit of a rhythm.

And, we had a beautiful, wonderful Christmas

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Here’s to a new year, full of lofty goals (hooo boy. I want to at least try) and good times with this beautiful family of ours!

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(Video made with an app called 1SecondEveryday — not a free app but it’s worth it!)

Life

Jonas’ First Haircut

Snip snip… and just like that, Jonas had his first haircut this week!

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Not really much of a difference, but he was getting some serious wisps around the edges. My mother-in-law was brave enough to hold him as he squirmed and tried to grab the scissors, and I had to make it brief so I wouldn’t poke out an eye! It’s not exactly perfect, but I at least managed to trim it and clean it up a bit around the ears.

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And there you have it! Love those teeny baby hairs! Our boy is growing so fast… 7 1/2 months old already!

Life · Motherhood · Parenting

Ain’t That a Kick In the Head

Hi guys! I’m still here, I promise. Things have just been a little wild lately. A project I joined early in the year has been essentially taking up all my spare computer time and my toddler decided she wants to make things super fun and stop napping. So things have been interesting around these parts… That, and I swear I’m tired all the time now, even though Jonas is sleeping really well these days (putting him in his own room a month ago was the best decision we’ve ever made! He immediately started sleeping almost through the night!)

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::cough:: favorite child ::cough cough::

I jest! But our daughter is giving me a serious run for my money these days. To be honest, it’s hard right now. I am losing my mind. And I know I need to be better at regulating my own mood and behavior, but man… when there’s a tiny person permanently glued to your side who whines and cries at the drop of a hat and refuses to sleep so she NEVER EVER goes away… it’s rough. (I know, poor me. I’ll stop my complaining. Shortly.)

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A very rare moment of peace. The constant battles are exhausting.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “But didn’t you just write about getting over the no-nap slump?” hahahahahahaha. Bedtime was getting to be a nightmare and she wouldn’t fall asleep until 9pm or later because she wasn’t tired, so I finally had to bite the bullet and get rid of naps. I know, right? Life. And the folly of a still-learning mom who thought she’d figured something out.

Oh, and want to laugh? Potty training has gone completely down the toilet too. We couldn’t get past #2, and I was sick of literally washing human excrement out of everything, every day (remember, I have a baby too…), so we gave it a break. Whatever.

Let’s see, what else am I awesome at right now: Being nice to my toddler? Really struggling. We have our ups and downs. Responding to emails quickly? HA. Screen time under control?

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Meh. It could be worse. My own media consumption has been pretty bad lately — whenever things get rough I tend to bury my head in my phone to escape. Time for another media fast… an acquaintance recently shared that she logs off all social media every other day these days, and I kind of like that idea. Or what I’ve done in the past, only looking at my phone when the kids are asleep (WHICH MEANS NEVER THANKS TO A CERTAIN SOMEONE). Ahem.

So yeah, we’re really winning around here. Lest anybody be under the illusion I have even a semblance of my crap together… I don’t. I know one-on-one time with her is what she craves and needs, and we do have good moments — she’s really into reading books now so I love doing that with her — but then her brother wakes up and I need to nurse him and she’s literally climbing on top of him to interpose herself… deep breaths. We’ll get there. This is what we call the trenches of motherhood, right? At least she makes us laugh plenty too!

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On the plus side: there’s been a lot of exciting stuff this summer already, and we are going home to France in one month! My sister was married this month and it was insanity for the kids, but it was so fun to be a part of it all, to spend time with my family, to relive all the excitement of a wedding and a new life.

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Reminded me of these kids…

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Ha! We were such babies! So much has happened since then. Life is a lot more complicated, and a lot harder. (man, parenting! careers! home-ownership!) But it’s good to have this guy at my side to go through it all.

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Life

Currently: March

How is your month of March going? We kicked it off with a trip to a sunnier climate to visit my husband’s parents. Poor Adelina asks me to go to the park almost daily, but our town’s parks are under two+ feet of snow so it’s impossible. I was so happy to indulge her!

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And Jonas got to take naps in fresh air and even enjoy a little sun. It’s probably an odd sensation to a boy born in snow!

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Here’s what I’m up to lately.

Social Media Fast: I mentioned I’m doing a social media fast for Lent — it’s going pretty well so far! I deleted Facebook & Twitter from my phone and I log out of Instagram so it’s an extra step instead of mindlessly clicking in. I’ve ultimately decided to stick to generally checking social media when the kids are asleep or I have a little downtime otherwise, not a cold hard break. It’s been awesome reorganizing my priorities, I’ve spent very little time with it all and it feels good. I’m trying to prioritize active use (creating/writing or communication) vs passive use (mindless scrolling, checking updates just because there’s a notification). Definitely not perfect — that first day was hard — but it’s getting better.

Reading: The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America for book club. It’s interesting so far — Mormons are one of the groups Shua and Rubenfeld highlight — but feels a little bit like pop science to be honest. EDIT: I finally got past the intro chapters which seemed to be making a lot of relatively cherry-picked claims, and into the meat of the theory. It’s turned out to be quite fascinating actually. For one, I’m learning a lot about certain cultures I wasn’t terribly familiar with (Iranian-Americans, for example) and I think as it goes on the authors really build quite a case for their claim that superiority, insecurity, and impulse control contribute to the rise and success of certain cultural groups within the U.S. Really interesting book.

Watching: I finally got to see Arrival, and it did not disappoint. As soon as I saw the trailer I could tell it was my kind of science fiction: more thought experiment than space excursion, less tech more talk. I won’t give away anything quite yet (although it got me thinking so much I want to write a whole post about it… the spiritual parallels are incredible!) but it has stuck with me, in a good way. It is a beautiful film visually, and it was so life-affirming. The childhood and motherhood scenes were so achingly beautiful, they reminded of just how much good is in my own life.

Wearing: this hoodie, every day… oh boy do I love that thing! Cute enough to look put together but comfy and cozy too. And there are so many more patterns and colors, I may need a few more… ha!

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Listening: Fréro Delavega, a french duo from near my hometown. (the video I linked to was shot in Bordeaux, kind of cool) They’re pretty fun and feel like summer, which I could use right now… Also, I introduced Adelina to Elvis Presley the other day and she’s feeling the rhythm 😉

Playing: trains. Andrew’s mom sent his childhood train set home with us and Adelina is obsessed!

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Cooking: anything that goes in a skillet — I’m hooked! This Quick and Easy Skillet Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust was amazing (although I didn’t find it especially quick), as well as this super-flavorful Skillet Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce!

Working: I recently joined the team at Their Story is Our Story – Giving Voice to Refugees to help coordinate translation, and it’s been a little crazy trying to catch up with the sheer amount of volunteers and open loops. It’s finally getting a little under control, and I’m glad to be able to lend a hand to this cause. The NPO’s goal is to “give individual refugees voice through social media, art, exhibits, and publications, thus empowering them to share their experiences, their feelings, and their hopes on a worldwide platform.” It’s so important for people to hear, see, and read real stories about how real people are affected by this humanitarian crisis.

Also, knee-deep in a pile of laundry, unpacking from our trip, and washing human waste and paint out of kids’ clothing… ha!

Holidays · Life

Why I need a Social Media Break Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a little social media break. This is a post from last year when I did a “social media fast” for Lent. It was a long 40 days, but it was really good for me, helping to refocus on the things that matter most. Even if you’re not religious, this is something we could all benefit from!
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Definitely been guilty of that lately…
One thing I noticed last year was I started getting in touch with friends personally, and it was more meaningful communication. I would think about a friend and text her or just call her up and see how she was doing. I FaceTimed my family more often.
At the time, I wrote, “It has given me back those little in-between spaces because instead of checking my phone when I have five minutes, I think ‘what have I been needing to do?’ and can write in my journal, read the Ensign, read a book, get some scripture study done or write a friend or make that shopping list or… you get the idea. More focus on the things I actually want and need out of life instead of mindlessly entertaining myself. More moments just soaking in our sweet girl. And more time to hear the quiet whispering of the Spirit that we can so easily tune out.”
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I’m not going to do a full break this year because I have several projects I’m working on that are important to me (such as my blog — I’ll still be posting — and my #cherish365 photography project), but I think I’m going to a Ramadan-style fast: only after sundown. Or perhaps only when the kids are asleep (the mom version of sundown ;). I’ve deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone and logged out of Instagram. One thing that I was discussing with my husband last night was how I wanted to spend more time creating media, not consuming it. Those are things that build me up instead of draining me: writing, photography, projects I volunteer for. That’s my goal this time around — no mindless scrolling.
And with that: I’m unplugging for a bit now. Wish me luck!
Have you ever done a Lenten fast, or a social media break? How did you do it? What did you gain from it?
Life

How We Survive Frigid Winters with Kids

So we live in Wyoming, which means brutal, long, cold winters. We’ve had one especially crazy snowstorm, and lots more snow since, so it piles up… and it goes on, and on, and on. Basically, once snow hits, you’ll likely not see the pavement or ground again until spring. Here are a few things that help us make it through!

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Snow Tires. We can’t just hibernate the entire winter, we need to get out of the house — for provisions, to relieve the cabin fever… sometimes, we really do need to leave the house and it’s still snowing, and there’s snow everywhere. I didn’t think snow tires would make a big difference, but after slipping and sliding while trying to make it back up a slight hill to get home, we realized we needed to do something. Our car doesn’t have 4WD, just front-wheel, and we really thought we might need a new vehicle to make it through these crazy winters, but we figured it was a better financial decision to at least try spending several hundred dollars on new tires rather than having to buy a whole new car. Let me tell you: snow tires make ALL the difference. (these are the ones we got if you’re looking) I can cruise around this town through snow drifts and fresh snow nowadays, whereas before I’d be inching around holding on for dear life. I’m not kidding when I say snow days caused a lot of stress and anxiety for me… Now? I got this!

(It bears repeating: remember safe driving practices for the weather too: take your time, keep a longer distance between you and other cars, pump the brakes if you start to slide, triple-check before turning into traffic because if you cut someone off it is pretty hard to avoid the consequences… and be very, very grateful for the guys who drive your town’s plow trucks!)

Also: get tall snow boots — snow just falls into shorter boots. That’s seriously the worst. And around here gloves are seriously necessary if you’re going to do anything outside, like scrape off your car. You might be thinking “oh I’ll be fine, it’ll just take five minutes!” Your hands will be in a lot of pain when its 12 degrees outside. Just trust me on this one.

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Embrace the jammies. The truth is, with so much snow outside we spend a lot of days indoors. And we have totally embraced spending the day in pajamas! Fleece zip-up footie pajamas are our favorite: comfy, soft and warm. Plus they’re surprisingly stain-resistant! Funny story: Adelina doesn’t own a ton of winter clothes for her size because she wears them so rarely… ha.

(I will add a caveat: I think this only applies to kids. It really helps me get moving and get energized for the day when I shower and get ready earlier; staying in pajamas half the day (or all day…) can be a recipe for depression real fast.)

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Winterize. Did you know that was a word? I didn’t until I moved to frozen tundra land! Ha ha. It means preparing your home for the deep freeze. Things like blowing out your sprinkler line and covering exterior plumbing, checking for drafts, changing your furnace filter, etc. (Stuff like this) When we get a really cold night where it’s dropping into negative temps, we’ve even turned all your facets to a drip so the your pipes wouldn’t risk freezing. Seriously, it can get that bad, and there’s nothing worse than things breaking down with little kids at home and several feet of snow piled up outside.

Moisturize. My knuckles can start to crack and bleed if I don’t frequently slather my hands up in the winter (hence the importance of those gloves, again!) Same goes for the kids, especially if they take daily baths — that’ll dry them out real quick. When Adelina was born I was giving her daily baths for a while because it helped calm her down and get her ready for bed, but her skin was seriously suffering. I finally realized I needed to cut back some because she would dry up so bad. Since Jonas has been in casts for so long, he only gets weekly baths at casting, and the difference is night and day. Besides, babies always smell delightful no matter what! (Seriously though, we need to stop having winter babies. Cold and flu season… blah.)

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Hygge it up! Blankets, copious amounts of hot chocolate, cuddling and reading books. And candles and twinkle lights. Also, watching Frozen on repeat, apparently. (This girl is obsessed these days…)

And try to enjoy the winter wonderland as much as you can, because otherwise you’ll get pretty grumpy… not that I know what that’s like! Snow sports like skiing are tricky with kids, but we can find other ways to have fun outdoors. We made snow cones a while ago and Adelina thought it was the coolest thing ever (and then requested it a million times the next few days).

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This was just strawberry syrup, but you could get all sorts of creative.

Do you have any winter survival tips? I’m not going to lie, I’m about ready for spring now… sigh.