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Life lately...

I've not had it in me to blog lately. I have noticed a trend as far as January goes the past few years... it always seems to be a hard month for us. This year, however, has taken that to the extreme. We kicked things off with lots of illness, including Aiden's strep throat and scarlet fever. That was a rough time, especially since we were adjusting to our new schedule as child care providers (which has been the BEST part of January!), but it was nothing compared to the past week. Last weekend, Matt's dad had a stroke. For the past week it has been lots of praying and waiting for updates. Now, I am asking for my friends to join me in those prayers... because the latest updates aren't looking great.  


Part of the reason I haven't blogged or shared much about this online is that I am dealing with a lot of guilt because we can't afford to travel down there. Even though those closest to the situation agree that there isn't much that we could contribute, it is hard to be far away. It is also hard when each time I share what is happening the immediate question is always "When is Matt headed down there?" It is like being reminded over and over that we aren't there. I know that is never the intent, but I am fighting that regret that comes from not visiting as much as we would have liked over the years already. I know this is not helpful right now, but I have yet to master dealing with feelings. Clearly. I know that this is one of those things that the devil uses to really try to dig in and derail the confidence I usually have about following God's will for our family. So I am doing my best to recognize that and let go of the guilt. It is just hard. 

I am, however, so very thankful for the dear friends I have in Missouri who have helped me take care of Matt's mom from afar! Delivering muffins and making soup... doing the things I want to do myself but can't. I am so blessed by their willingness to help! And I am also incredibly grateful for Matt's oldest brother, who flew in to be with their parents. I am thankful for facetime, and the chance to be connected through technology when we can't be there in person. I am trying to focus on these things, and focus on loving and supporting my husband as he deals with all of this. I did not have a real relationship with my own dad as an adult, but Randy has always loved me and made me feel like a part of his family. I am thankful for a father-in-law that I love and for the times Aiden was able to see his Grandpa. I continue to pray that there will be healing in this situation, and that future visits will be an option.

Tonight (well, this morning) I am also praying for my sweet niece who is currently being induced to deliver my new Great-Nephew! How crazy is that?! I will be a Great-Aunt! However, in keeping with the theme of the month, things aren't going 100% smoothly there either. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which is the reason she is being induced. Thankfully she is about 38 weeks already, so that relieves a lot of the worry for Baby Oliver! I just pray this little mama will have a safe and healthy delivery. I cannot wait to see them, and be a part of this amazing time for my niece. And my sister... the Grandma! Ha! 


I know that every day is a gift, and there is always so much to be thankful for. I am just SO over January. Praying hard that this last week of the month will bring good things, and that February will be a time of renewal for our family. No matter what, though, I trust that God is at work in all of this. I cling to the hope we have been given, especially when things are uncertain. Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:26-28

Blog Pretties & New Friends {10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week}

I have been kind of blah this week. Not sure why exactly, although I did write a bit the other day about my cabin fever. I am still just trying to get my energy back and find a good routine. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to stay home and focus on being a wife and mama, and I want to be a good steward of that time. All I can do is keep working at it!



The other night Matt took Aiden on a "daddy date" to McDonald's. Aiden had been asking him to go eat inside there for a while, and he was super excited when Matt told him they were going to. I love that something so simple is exciting to our little man. And Matt took a few photos while they were there as well (clearly he has been married to me for a long time, ha!)


Now then... time to think of 10 things that made me happy this week! I know I have SO much to be thankful for, and that each day is a gift to celebrate! This week I am especially thankful for...
  1. A new battery for the van! Yay! And my brother for installing it for us.
  2. A really excellent Wednesday night with our teen small group. So much laughter and silliness.
  3. How Aiden loves on the baby girl we watch 3 days a week.
  4. Signing Aiden up for online cooking lessons. (Now we are just anxious to get started! It will begin January 25th)
  5. A fun game night with the bros... even if they robbed me of my victory 3 times in one round! Ha!
  6. My lovely new blog header from my friend Stephanie
  7. Productive homeschool days... even if (or perhaps especially because) they are kind of rare lately.
  8. Quiet mornings.
  9. A new small group to be a part of online. I have really been missing having a small group to connect with! I look forward to getting to know these new friends!
  10. The return of Aiden's healthy eating. We went through a little mini phase of him not wanting to eat much of anything, but this week he has been eating like normal again and including lots of veggies. His current favorite is a spring mix tossed salad with thousand island dressing. He has a weird love of thousand island dressing...


What made YOU happy this week??

Still Trying to Find a Routine... #ParentTeacherMeetUp


This week for us was another week of just trying to adjust to our new schedule. Aiden has done a fantastic job helping watch baby girl, and has fed her bottles and read her stories. It is darling watching him grow as a little caregiver... he is very sweet!

We also:
  • Mixed colored water (he prefers this over actually painting)
  • Worked on snap circuits
  • Read lots of books
  • Did some catechism copywork
  • Played prodigy, reading eggs and math seeds
  • Wrote a card to a friend in the hospital
  • Practiced kitchen skills
  • Played games together
  • Listened to good music and played the organ (although we haven't resumed actual lessons yet)
I know this post is a quick one... I will work on answering the questions again last week. Right now things just still feel pretty disorganized, and so do my thoughts. I am going to really try to start establishing some kind of morning routine this week. That is my number one goal! Hopefully I will have good things to report next week!

Oh, and bear with me as I work on my blog redesign... my header was done by my incredible friend Stephanie! Love it!



Okay... are you ready to link up with us?

Help us spread the word about this linkup by clicking here to tweet about it! The more people who know about it, the more traffic we can send your way!


Join us for this homeschool blogger linkup each Saturday to share what has been happening in your homeschool and connect with others who know what it is like to be both parent and teacher.

Before linking up, it would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:

    Branson 
    Nicolette
    Maggie

    Cabin Fever Confessions



    Y'all... I have not left my house all week. Not only that, but I am in this weird place again where letting myself be a hermit has given way to some serious anxiety issues.

    So. Not. Good.

    Our van is having battery issues, and so until I am confident it is going to always start (which we are praying will happen with a new battery) I am reluctant to go anywhere. It has been cold and I am just not a fan of relying on the kindness of strangers for a jump start (even here in small town USA) or waiting on a family member who may or may not answer their phone to come help me. My brother has been a jump-start hero for like a month now, but I am wanting to get out while he is at work so...

    Then there is the fact that I now watch the sweetest little 2-month-old girl three days a week. I certainly am not taking her out if there is a chance the van will not start, and even when it is fixed I have flashbacks of the total fail that one time I took my best friend's infant and Aiden both out to run around. Granted Aiden was younger and we were visiting my old hometown so it wasn't like I was in my natural surroundings. But still...

    These first few month of the year are always the hardest winter months. I am in that post-holiday funk where not only is Christmas over but the excitement over a new year has worn off. That happened especially fast this year, ha! I am pretty sure I set a goal about getting outside more, but clearly that has been a big fail. I know it would probably help, but it is that crazy cycle I get into where I have let myself pull away for too long and now it seems super overwhelming to jump back in. Even taking Aiden outside to play feels like a huge ordeal when it is cold.



    Homeschool P.E. starts back up next week, and library story time the week after that. Aiden still hasn't made it back to taekwondo yet (not entirely my fault on that one since Matt is the one who takes him) and I can't remember the last time we had a playdate. So I am confessing all of this here because I know I need to snap out of it. If not for myself, then for him. He doesn't complain... he is as much a homebody as I am... but I want more for him. I don't want to let me wanting more force us into being over-committed or busy just for the sake of being busy, but those three activities I listed are quality activities we value as a family.

    I miss my friends. This has been a weird couple of months in many ways, but I have to stop using that as an excuse. Things have been changing. The friends I used to see often are all working more, and I am too. Now is the time when I need to decide if it is really worth it. If the extra work I am doing is at the expense of relationships then it isn't worth it. Is it better to have financial wiggle room, or to spend time with people who make my life more enjoyable? I know my answer... I just have been failing to act on it.

    This is one of those "something's gotta give" moments, and I know the things I am not willing to part with... I feel like choosing to add child care for sweet baby girl was a really excellent choice for our family. I have just been resisting letting go of some things that need to be put on the back burner to create the margin needed to make this new season of life work. I am working on it. That is all I can do. I need to just keep working on it. And for goodness sake I need to get out of the house. Tomorrow! Must make it happen... time to take a leap of faith back outside my comfort zone and trust that it will be okay.



    Do you struggle with the winter blahs? How do you handle it?

    Homemade Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

    Thank you to Bertolli for sponsoring today's post and inspiring me to celebrate the everyday with delicious food and fun family memories!


    For months now I have been talking about wanting to make homemade ravioli for the first time. When I saw the Bertolli® Riserva Asiago Cheese & Artichokes sauce, I knew that I just had to finally do it. Something about the idea of artichokes in the sauce seemed to just be asking to be paired with a spinach ravioli! And let me tell you... it ended up being a match made in heaven! I had been putting off making homemade pasta because life is chaotic. I kept thinking that this would be a big undertaking... and a big mess. But it is so important to do special things like this to celebrate everyday life! There is no need to wait for a special occasion! The Bertolli cooking school website makes it easy to find little ways to bring something special to all kinds of meals! Of course this one caught my eye: 


    The only pasta I have ever made from scratch before was egg noodles, and I wanted the thick, chewy ones so I just rolled them out with a rolling pin and cut them by hand. I knew for ravioli it would be much more beneficial to use a pasta roller, so I borrowed one from my brother. We used the recipe that came with the roller, and it couldn't have been easier: 500g flour (I used half white and half whole wheat) and 5 whole eggs. Then we just mixed in a little water until it was the right consistency. Aiden's favorite part of the whole process was playing with the flour. My awesome husband jumped in to knead the dough for me. We wrapped it in plastic wrap to rest, and set it aside.


    While the dough rested, we made the filling. I looked at many, many recipes for filling, but I couldn't find one that sounded just right. So, I decided to go ahead and just create my own. It turned out creamy and delicious! Not only that, but I used the food processor to whip it up so it was super easy! Here is the recipe: 

    Creamy Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

    1 T butter
    1 tsp minced garlic
    10 oz fresh spinach
    8 oz ricotta
    4 oz cream cheese
    1/2 c shredded mozzarella
    1/2 c finely shredded Parmesan
    1 egg

    Melt butter in pan and lightly saute spinach and garlic. Transfer to food processor to finely chop spinach. Add remaining ingredients, and process until creamy. Refrigerate until you are ready to fill ravioli. 


    Next it was time to roll out the ravioli! Aiden was super tired by this point (he was sick all last week) but he loved using the pasta roller so much! He rolled the same piece of dough over and over and we had a hard time talking him into letting Matt roll out sheets for the ravioli!


    Eventually, Matt was able to start rolling and filling our ravioli. We tried several different methods of cutting them, from the cutting wheel to biscuit/cookie cutters, but in the end the most fabulous raviolis were those made using a little Rubbermaid Tupperware container to cut out the finished ravioli! We used about a tablespoon of filling in each, and brushed egg white around the filling before adding the top sheet and cutting. Matt is seriously a natural at ravioli making! He is already talking about other recipes he wants to try!


    Of course the best part was eating the finished product! We made about half of the ravioli fresh that night, and froze the other half to see how they cooked up from frozen. Both turned out great! We used the Bertolli® Riserva Asiago Cheese & Artichokes sauce and a little shredded Parmesan and it was so delicious!


    I love that these sauces are not your typical spaghetti sauce. They are really something special! However, while they offer a more robust and exciting flavor profile, they are still very kid friendly... at least according to Aiden who enjoyed his bowl for sure!



    I definitely want to try the other sauce flavors in this Riserva collection:

    Bertolli® Riserva Marinara with Parmigiano-Reggiano
    Bertolli® Riserva Porcini Mushrooms & White Truffle Oil
    Bertolli® Riserva Balsamic Vinegar & Caramelized Onions

    The fact that there is currently a $1.50 coupon will make it even better to try them all! Grab your coupon here!


    And be sure to visit Bertolli on Facebook and Tumblr as well!

     Linking up with: Dream Create Inspire | The Wednesday Showcase
      What recipes have you been waiting for a good reason to try? I hope this encourages you to make every day a good reason to celebrate and try something new!

    Three Years, One Window {10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week}

    In 2014 I took that top right photo of Aiden for my (unfinished) project 365. If you look close, he has a milk mustache and a dirty face. It was just so Aiden. And he is standing on my bed looking out the window... you know, the one he climbed out a few times before he was allowed to even be outside alone and then would come in the front door and scare me silly. Anyhow, the following year I took a photo at the same window at the start of January. So, of course I had to do it again this year. He is looking so much more grown up to me lately. 



    Now it is that time of week when I stop and think of 10 things that made me happy this week! The first week of 2016 was NOT what we had imagined! I started watching a sweet little 2-month-old, which I love, but my own little one got pretty sick at the same time. He ended up with strep and scarlet fever. It was a weird week! We kind of kept him "quarantined" to protect the baby, and Matt stayed home a couple extra days to help out so Aiden wouldn't be lonely. In spite of some challenges, there was plenty of joy to be found...

    1. Baby snuggles! And all the other sweetness that this baby girl brings with her three days a week!
    2. Our family doctor getting Aiden in right away when he got so sick. Oh, and 4-dose antibiotics!
    3. Finding my Zen tea back in our local walmart (they tend to get rid of everything I really love, ha!)
    4. Quiet mornings with my Heavenly Father.
    5. Fun games from my childhood to play with Aiden, like Guess Who.
    6. Working on knife skills with Aiden with the kid knives my brother got him for Christmas (my knife skills are already improving as a result!)
    7. The sweetness of my local best friend who sent food when Aiden was sick! She is always so thoughtful!
    8. A very fun dinner and game night with the bros (both mine and Matt's) and of course the cheesecake!
    9. My awesome husband who rocked the homemade ravioli for my upcoming post!
    10. The #ParentTeacherMeetUp resuming... I love collaborating with my awesome homeschool mama friends Maggie and Nicolette, and the posts that are linked up always encourage and inspire me!

    What made YOU happy this week?!

    Lessons Learned and Future Goals for our Homeschool {#ParentTeacherMeetUp}

    For the record, this photo is not from 2015, ha! For some reason I just really wanted to share it tonight as I think back on when things were simpler and it was all about learning at Aiden's pace. 


    Lessons Learned in 2015

    1. The best laid plans... yeah. All that curriculum I ordered and all that planning I did? It didn't get us very far into the year. I started to learn what works for us, and it was not at all what I had pictured. 
    2. Aiden is not on the same level in all subjects. I knew this, but now I know this. And I am learning strategies to teach him at the levels he needs. Which leads me to my next lesson learned...
    3. Don't get hung up on "grade levels." I remember feeling like I had to justify my choice to buy a "first grade" math curriculum, but more than ever I am passionate about the fact that grade levels are not the best way to choose materials. It does, however, take more time and effort to really evaluate where a child is in a subject when starting out. 
    4. I should remain confident in my beliefs about education and the reasons we are doing it, instead of feeling pressured to do it in a way that will make other people comfortable with our choices. 
    5. Along that line of thinking, I do not need to add in lots of outside activities to make sure Aiden is being socialized. We will choose activities we are passionate about that those that really fit our family instead of letting the busyness rule. Quality over quantity. 
    6. Learning happens all the time. (Sometimes when you would rather it didn't! Ha! Aiden reading everything now has been interesting.)
    7. Play is important. No... play is essentially vital to childhood and education. Can I say that in any stronger way? My 5-year-old needs to play first and foremost. 
    8. The toughest questions will always be asked when you are laying in bed and insanely tired, and there is no such thing as a quick answer to said question. If I have a nickel for every deep or theological conversation I have had with Aiden long after we should have been sleeping I would be rich! Ha!
    9. There will be days when sending him off to school sounds super appealing. However, those days will be far less than the days I am incredibly grateful that I get to have this time with my child and help him learn (while making sure he plays even more... see #7) 
    10. It all goes so fast. I know this lesson is one I have been learning since Aiden's birth, but I see it even more now that I have hit the "school age" years. If I can slow things down a bit for Aiden and let him be a kid a little longer, I want to do that. After all, he is only 5 (for 5 more months anyhow! And then he will be only 6... just a little kid with a lot of growing up yet to do!)
    11. Lists don't have to end at 10. March to the beat of your own drum and own it!



    Goals for 2016
    1. Spend more time outside.
    2. Be more consistent with piano lessons.
    3. Play more. 
    4. Learn to cook with my boy (I am sure I will learn as much as he does as we learn technique!)
    5. Read all the books. 
    6. Focus on life skills and independence.
    7. Spend more time at the library.
    8. Spend more time with Grandma soaking up her wisdom. 
    9. Do more art and listen to more great music. 
    10. Start catechism study in earnest.

    If you are interested, you can read more about my general 2016 goals HERE. Also linking up with the Homeschool Blog and Tell


    Okay... are you ready to link up with us?

    Help us spread the word about this linkup by clicking here to tweet about it! The more people who know about it, the more traffic we can send your way!


    Join us for this homeschool blogger linkup each Saturday to share what has been happening in your homeschool and connect with others who know what it is like to be both parent and teacher.

    Before linking up, it would be lovely if you would follow all 3 of us in whatever social media avenues you frequent:

      Branson 
      Nicolette
      Maggie

      Make-Ahead Turkey and Veggie Meatballs {Freezer Meal Recipe}

      Thank you to Ragu for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to pass on my family traditions.

      One of the things I really want to do here on the blog this year is share some of my freezer meal recipes. Freezer meals are a great way to save both time and money while making sure the meals you are serving are high quality! I will often spend a weekend working on freezer meals that will last us for a month or so (because I don't use them every night, just a few times a week). Our little tradition is that I will cook up a storm while my awesome husband does the dishes! 

      Now that Aiden is old enough to start helping out in the kitchen it is truly a family activity! I am always on the lookout for new recipes, and Aiden loves to help me look through cookbooks and recipe sites. However, there are also family favorites I know I should make every time. These make-ahead Turkey & Veggie meatballs are always on the list when I get cooking! The are a big hit with both Matt and Aiden, and are healthy and convenient, too. Especially when I keep a jar of Ragu handy for dipping sauce and so I am ready to add some pasta to make it a meal.

      These healthy, make-ahead meatballs with added veggies are a great way to add extra nutrition into your diet! A simple freezer meal with both lean protein and vegetables is made complete with pasta sauce for dipping!

      I always include this recipe for 3 reasons:
      1. They are easy to make and don't require a bunch of pots and pans (when you are making many recipes in a day, this is extra helpful!)
      2. They are healthy and the added veggies are a bonus!
      3. They are versatile! Having these meatballs frozen is great for quick lunches or more complex dinner possibilities!

      These healthy, make-ahead meatballs with added veggies are a great way to add extra nutrition into your diet! A simple freezer meal with both lean protein and vegetables is made complete with pasta sauce for dipping!

      While Aiden is a good eater (usually) we could all always use more veggies in our diet! I have found that when it comes to meatballs using a grater to get the vegetables really fine is helpful. And don't forget to squeeze the moisture out of your zucchini before adding it to the mixture!


      Make-Ahead Turkey & Veggie Meatballs


      INGREDIENTS:
      1 lb ground turkey
      1/4 c. grated carrot
      1/4 c. grated zucchini (squeeze to remove water)
      1/4 c. finely chopped spinach
      2 T Ragu pasta sauce
      ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
      ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
      1 large egg
      1 ½ tsp no-salt Italian seasoning
      salt and pepper to taste

      DIRECTONS:
      Mix ingredients well, and roll into balls about the size of a golf ball. Place meatballs into mini-muffin pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Flip the meatballs halfway through. After meatballs have cooled, flash freeze on a cookie sheet and then store frozen meatballs in a freezer bag.

      These healthy, make-ahead meatballs with added veggies are a great way to add extra nutrition into your diet! A simple freezer meal with both lean protein and vegetables is made complete with pasta sauce for dipping!

      Baking these meatballs in a mini-muffin tin is super handy! TIP: Depending on the fat content and quality of ground turkey, sometimes turkey meatballs tend to bake up a little soggy at first. I just throw them back in the oven on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet for a few minutes to finish them!

      These healthy, make-ahead meatballs with added veggies are a great way to add extra nutrition into your diet! A simple freezer meal with both lean protein and vegetables is made complete with pasta sauce for dipping!

      Having a bag of these meatballs in the freezer is super handy because they can be served in a number of ways! Our favorite way to use them is to heat a few up in the microwave and serve them with a bowl of Ragu pasta sauce for dipping! Aiden loves when I make him this for lunch!


      And of course meatballs are always good for serving covered in delicious sauce on top of spaghetti! (Are you singing the meatball song in your head now? Ha!) Or made into a meatball sub... or covered with barbecue sauce... the possibilities are endless!

      These healthy, make-ahead meatballs with added veggies are a great way to add extra nutrition into your diet! A simple freezer meal with both lean protein and vegetables is made complete with pasta sauce for dipping!


       Don't forget to visit the Ragu website for recipe inspiration and more!



      Do you have a favorite freezer meal recipe? Be sure to share! 


      2016 Goals


      I feel like a bit of a broken record here, but things have just been so crazy here lately. Like, I want to sit down and make goals, but I simply cannot find the time mental energy to do it! I have definitely thought of a few, and of course there are those goals that are always on the list. So I will share a few now, and then maybe a few more later on.

      I feel like I should split my goals into categories for some reason today. Maybe I will split them according to my priorities like I used to. I really should get back to using that system of goal setting again. Maybe print the planner that I designed last year but then kinda forgot to keep using. Anyhow... so goals by priority:

      SPIRITUAL LIFE

      So this is the first time in a long time that I am not a part of an online small group Bible study. Or any small group for that matter. I have been kind of going back and forth about if I want to try to find a new one? I don't know. I do know, however that I want to make sure my morning quiet time is solid even when I start watching a sweet baby girl 3 days a week. She will be coming earlier than I have been even waking up, so clearly my mornings are going to need some attention. And my bedtime by extension. I also would like to read more... as in actually finish books I start. Unless there is a good reason not to. So, the goals for this priority:

      • Make sure I am up early enough to have quiet time while it is still quiet.
      • Read 12 (is that too high a goal?) non-fiction books this year. And finish them. 


      MARRIAGE

      While I strive for authenticity on this blog, I often just avoid talking about marriage. Not sure why. Marriage can be hard. Being a good wife can be hard. Being married and parents is hard. I guess that is why I don't talk about it much. I have so much work to do in this area. God has given me an amazing husband, and our marriage is a source of joy, security and comfort... but it also requires attention and effort. So this is an area where I really need to focus this year. I mentioned that I feel like my #onelittleword for the year, URGENT, applies to my home life first. I need to make a real effort to meet the needs of the people God had placed in the forefront of my life for me to serve. So, the goals for this priority:

      • Monthly date nights (more often would be better, but I am trying to be realistic...) 
      • More alone time with Matt just during everyday life
      • Make sure our home is a place that is welcoming after Matt gets done with a long day at work


      PARENTING

      Here is one of those areas where there is a goal that is always on the list! If we could just find a better daily routine and conquer bedtime life would be so much easier, right? I am constantly going back and forth between thinking an earlier bedtime would solve all my problems (ha!) and thinking that I need to just deal with Aiden's natural night owl tendencies and enjoy the fact that at least he sleeps in. Of course there are goals that involve things other than sleep. Here are a few goals:

      • Keep up with Aiden's love of Scripture and include him in my studies on a regular basis
      • Spend more time just playing!
      • Outside time together for at least 15 minutes daily (usually longer, but even when it is cold we can do 15 minutes)
      • FYI - I will share my homeschool goals in our first #ParentTeacherMeetUp of the new year on January 9th!! If you homeschool I hope you will join me and link up with us! 


      HOME

      I feel like I did make some progress last year in the areas of organization and decor. There is still so much work to be done, though! And we have such a small space! I can't imagine if I had to decorate a large home, ha! This is the year I want to really own my vocation as homemaker and be proud of taking good care of things in all areas of that job so we can have a place that is inviting and comfortable any day. Some goals:

      • I have this plan to make our large bedroom closet more efficient so that I can eliminate our dressers and use that side of our room for a small office area. Crazy? Maybe! That is my big dream for the year, though!
      • Finally replace our washing machine and make our laundry room more functional and maybe a little prettier. 
      • Stay on top of the clutter and keep it from building back up after the latest purge.
      • Get serious about meal planning again to prepare healthy and frugal meals that my boys will be excited about. 


      SELF

      I always just throw out the same goals in this area it seems. And I always seem to let them slide to the bottom of the daily to-do. However, I need to remember that if I am not taking care of myself I have much less energy and stamina for doing all this good stuff I want to do. 2015 was like the ultimate example of how true this is! I took pretty lousy care of myself last year overall, and it showed in all areas of my life. So, goals:

      • Move more. I will work on setting real goals and making a plan for this soon. Starting today, though, I am setting hourly alerts on my phone to make sure I get up and move every hour (when I start working on the computer it is easy to not do that!) 
      • Eat healthier. Again, I need to do some thinking about the "how" of this one, but I know it needs to be here. 
      • Start counseling. This has been on my list before. It didn't happen. It needs to, though... 


      OUTSIDE THE HOME

      See how many goals come before this section? And yet I typically let this work consume the majority of my time and energy. I feel like my main goal here is to just really get to a place where I can see this work as what comes after I have taken care of the stuff up there ^^^. I have a feeling I will be sharing a lot about this struggle in the months to come, because it is one that I feel more women especially need to be aware of. But we will get to that later. Some priorities in this area:

      • Be a more focused Godparent leader for our teens in our last semester together and support them as they go off to college in the fall. 
      • Make sure we see our college girls monthly, even if we have to be creative about the when and where!
      • Spend more time with my extended family.
      • Support the amazing network of sisters in Christ that I have been given all over the world through prayer, technology, and my beloved snail mail! (I really have let the snail mail slide during the last few months!)

      DREAMS...

      There are goals, and then there are dreams. Are they really different? Maybe not entirely. I could certainly make goals out of these, but I feel like my energy needs to be focused on the things above and I want to keep that clarity. However, I would love if 2016 also brought some of these dreams into reality:
      • A real family vacation
      • A vehicle that could take us to Missouri more regularly
      • A visit to NE from my best friend... finally! 
      • This blog being a space that I continue to use to grow and record our memories, as well as providing some extra income for our family here and there. 
      • Finding a homeschool co-op that fits our family (this will be on the goal list next year, but would love it if it happened sooner... just not planning to put as much energy into this in the foreseeable future)

      Here's to a new year of blessings and growth! Be sure to share your goals and dreams with me as well so I can encourage and support you along the way! 

      2016 Goals | We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. C. S. Lewis

      A Sense of Urgency




      As I sat in worship last night, thinking about the year that was drawing to a close and the one that would soon begin, the only thing I really felt strongly was how unfocused I was. I was excited to have my niece sitting next to me, and I focused on her. I was thankful to have a husband who serves as a communion assistant, and I was focused on him. I took in the sight of the Christmas decor that was still looking ever so lovely, and focused on how strange it was to have missed Christmas worship due to being ill. I have been trying to wrap my head around a new year for weeks now, and as usual I was able to focus on everything but that.

      Now, at this point, you may be thinking that I am going to say that my #onelittleword for this year is going to be FOCUS. Sorry, no luck. I am only just getting started...

      So there I sat, struggling to "feel" anything typical of New Year's Eve. I searched my mind and my heart for signs of anticipation. I put out feelers for any lingering sense of accomplishment or even regret. I listened intently to the sermon, and for the first half I thought it was a nice sermon. Nothing really jumped out at me, but I was appreciating what the Pastor had to say. And then a phrase caught my attention:

      "In the meanwhile..." 

      For months now, I have felt like I was kind of in limbo. I have been focusing on various points in the future, and constantly thinking that once I just got to that point things wouldn't feel so scattered. I have known for several months now that I would start watching a friend's little girl in January, and I knew there was a big transition coming. I have also been working a lot, because the holiday season brought more projects along than I had ever imagined. And of course there was that carrot dangling in front of us that was Matt's holiday vacation. I spent a couple of months just trying to get through each day, reminding myself that eventually things would be better. I was living in survival mode, and there were definitely some dark days when I started to wonder if things really would ever get better.

      So, that phrase... in the meanwhile... caught my attention. Pastor Schauer was talking about how Jesus has given us the important task of building His church on earth during this time between our Savior's ascension and His return. He talked about how we can stand firm in the hope that we have been given through Christ our Savior, but he also talked about how it isn't good enough to just wait and hope. God doesn't just want us to bide our time. He doesn't want us to just live in survival mode. There really is so much important work to be done... but do we see it? Do we really?

      Since that sermon, I have not been able to shake the word URGENT. I am just going to be honest... it isn't the word I want to focus on. "Urgent" is not a relaxing word. It isn't that sigh of relief that I was hoping for after hitting that magic point in time where everything was supposed to get easier. It isn't the breath of fresh air I was hoping for after pushing through these past couple of months. If I really think about it, it exhausts me. However... I find a peace in it as well. A peace that surpasses understanding for sure. It doesn't make sense to me entirely, but it is there. Because I know that if God has called us to live with a sense of urgency it means He is also going to provide the stamina and energy to do so.

      So this urgency... where is it pointing me? God has been really, really letting me feel the weight of some things lately. I have become increasingly sensitive to the struggles and needs of those around me, and since empathy has never been one of my strengths this increase in feeling has created some serious growing pains for me. Part of this work on the part of the Holy Spirit has come from parenting a highly sensitive child. It is like Aiden's empathy is contagious sometimes. He is teaching me to really see things, instead of blocking out what I don't want to acknowledge. The wall around my heart has been crumbling ever since this precious boy was born, and I admit it is hard to let go of that barrier.

      I have expressed over and over during the past couple of years that I feel like I am being prepared for something. As I head into this new year I honestly feel like perhaps I am at a point where I am expected to start putting some of what I have learned into action. I have no idea how, exactly. I see God consistently pointing me back to my current vocation as a wife and mother. I know that a big part of what lies ahead concerns putting the bulk of my energy back into our home. I know that when I honor God's will for me as a woman He will direct me in what comes next. It always seems so counter-intuitive to pull back in order to move forward, but I know that is what I am being asked to do. And I am not being asked in a timid way. Like I said, urgency is not a relaxing word.

      I know that God wants us to urgently meet the needs of His children on earth. It is so easy to let that fact overwhelm me. The world is a mess. There is so much hurt and need. Where do I start? For me, I start with my own family. My family of 3. I feel like only then I will have the foundation I need to reach out to my family outside this little home. And then my faith family. And then... who knows. Maybe that is as far as God intends for my reach to go. Maybe He has big things I can't even imagine planned. That isn't what I am being asked to focus on right now. Right now I need to serve my husband and child with urgency. That is where it starts. And the strength that I need to do that? The directions I need to make it happen? Those are found only in His word. So, really, I am back to square one.

      Five years ago I felt like I was just starting something as a new year began. Now? I feel like I have come full circle. While I took a lap around the block I learned so much. It is like I have been training for a race, and now it is time to start running. That is honestly how I feel. That sense of urgency for what lies ahead makes my heart race as I wait to hear my cue to begin. Now is the time to listen. Listen first, and then act. Refocus. Move forward. Serve where I am needed "in the meanwhile" and trust that God has a course ready for me as I move forward.

      Urgency...

      Here we go, 2016! Time to get started.