Monday, December 31, 2012

The Jen Maintenance Plan: Year 2

Last night, as I was looking back at my New Year's post from 2012, I got a little tear in my eye. I realized that for the first time in my life...I actually made progress on a New Year's resolution. Note the keyword there is PROGRESS because let's face it...to improve anything about yourself, you have to work on it every day of every year. My "Jen Maintenance Plan" will never be complete because I will always strive to be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, etc.

BUT...if every year I can look back and say, "Wow! I have made a lot of PROGRESS this year" I will consider that a WIN in my book because it means I tried. I made a conscious effort and put in the work to make a difference. And honestly...that's all we can really ask of ourselves.

So this year...I am keeping all the same resolutions as last year and continuing on my Jen Maintenance Plan. But this year, I also want to do a little reflecting on these things. My original goals and words from last year are in pink...and my thoughts and reflections will follow each one.

I want to be a better me.

Or maybe I should say a new me?? Either way...the goal here friends is self-improvement.

It's time for the Jen Maintenance Plan.

You see, I sort of have this problem with obsessing over things I can't control. I could worry my life away thinking about all the things that could happen to me or my family, or I could just appreciate the life I've been given, which is FULL of blessings, and enjoy every moment. So the first item on the Jen Maintenance Plan is to:


ENJOY


Okay...so this one was the hardest for me this year. A lot of heartbreakingly tragic things happened this year in our country (and around the world) and when you see things like this on the news...it is impossible not to worry. It is impossible not to get online at 2:00am and Google HOME SCHOOLING because you are scared to death for your daughter who starts Kindergarten next year. But at the same time, these tragic events have been a reminder to all of us to spend more time loving our families, treasuring and ENJOYING every moment with them and not taking life for granted. The fact that I was able to even think this way in the middle of all the grief was a definite improvement for me.

I also have this liiiiiittle problem of not being able to relax. I feel like every moment of every day needs to be filled with a task and sometimes I need to remember that relaxing is a task too! I shouldn't have a stack of 20 unread magazines, or a Nook full of unread books, or 5 unused mani/pedi gift certificates. I should take advantage of quiet time when I can and be willing to leave the house for no other reason than to just get my nails done. I know deep down I need this quiet time, and yet I never take it. So the next item on this list is to:

RELAX

One of the best things I did this year (besides using all my mani/pedi gift cards) was establish a regular Girls Night with my friends. Sure, we may have only managed 5 or 6 outings this year, but we all committed to them and made time for each other. Those nights kept me sane and I am really looking forward to that tradition again this year.

Learning to relax is going to be tough, especially with the insanely crazy lives we all lead these days. I think that's where my desire to get organized comes from...I want some control over the craziness and I feel if I could just cut down on clutter and chaos...I'd finally be able to relax. I think the key here my friends is really just to learn to:

SIMPLIFY

This is definitely still a work in progress for me, but I can say that we de-cluttered a TON this year. We had a garage sale that moved a lot of stuff out of our basement and we plan to have another one this Spring. In addition to that, we have found some great charities for donation of toys, clothing, shoes, etc. and a lot will be going to those as well.

I don't need all the things I have. I don't need all the clothes in my closet, or the appliances in my kitchen (I mean who has a rice cooker anymore?), or the toys in the kids playroom, etc. But you know what...someone out there does need those things. Giving food to a needy family this Thanksgiving and giving toys to sick children this Christmas made me feel so good inside...I want to do more. And not just at the holidays. I want to do more for others who are not as fortunate as me. I want to do all I can to:

GIVE BACK 

This is the resolution I am most proud of this year. During my 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge during Lent this year, I made a ton of donations to local charities and even collected shoes from friends and family to give to Share Your Soles. We also spent another year being a Children's Hero for Lurie's Children's Hospital and during the holidays, Addie and Blake put together their very first packages for  Operation Christmas Child. We try to donate to as much as we can, but what is most important to me is not how much we can give, but how much we want to give. Does that make sense? I just want my kids to understand how important it is to give back and I want Eric and I to make conscious efforts to make it a part of our lives too.

I've been given this life that is so full of blessings, it almost doesn't seem fair at times. I carry a lot of guilt because so many friends and family members close to me are struggling with something. I have friends with husbands who are thousands of miles away. I have friends and family members struggling with infertility. I have friends and family members dealing with the loss of a loved one. I have friends and family members who are unhappy with their job, or home, or spouse, or life in general and it breaks my heart. Eric and I have struggles too, but nothing we should ever complain about. Ever. We need to just remember, every single day, to:

BE THANKFUL

And I am. So very, very thankful.

I need to be more appreciative of the life I've been given. I want to be a better mother. A better wife. A better daughter. A better sister. A better friend. A better teacher. And to achieve all this, I really need to work on one thing in particular. I need to:

BE PATIENT

Am I more appreciative? Absolutely. Have I been more patient??? My answer is the same as last year.

I have to learn patience this year. I am too quick to argue. Too quick to raise my voice. Too quick to judge. Too quick to jump to conclusions. I just need to be more patient with everyone in my life...including myself. This is a tough one, but I NEED to do it. I need to:

BE DISCIPLINED

I swear this is the final item on the Jen Maintenance Plan. One of my favorite bloggers posted the other day that her New Years resolution was to be more disciplined and if you think about it, that applies to just about everything in your life. To eat better, you have to be disciplined. To run a half-marathon, you have to be disciplined. To de-clutter your house, you have to be disciplined. To be a better you, you have to be disciplined. You get the point. It's all about discipline...and motivation :-)

This was my biggest achievement this year. I was so much more disciplined when it came to exercising and eating healthy. There were months where I was more disciplined than others, but overall I tried much harder this year and I am so proud of that!! And of course...I DID run that half marathon...two actually...and that took more discipline than I knew I had in me. I could not be more proud of myself for dedicating to much time to ME!!!

But my work isn't done here. There are some things I really, REALLY want to be more disciplined with this year. One of which is my faith. I've used having kids as an excuse to stop going to church because it's "too hard" with them and Blake is "too clingy" to go in a nursery. I have tried to keep our faith strong at home and luckily, Addison is at a fabulous Christian preschool that teachers her more than I ever could. But it's time to stop making excuses and get involved with a church again. Finding the right one for our family may be tricky...but it's a goal and I am really looking forward to it.

Also, I want to continue to be disciplined in my home. Keeping it clean and organized is half the battle, but I also want to meal plan more efficiently and keep a MUCH tighter budget.

BUT MY BIGGEST RESOLUTION FOR 2013 is just to continue to make PROGRESS. Lots and lots of progress :-)

***

So there you have it friends!!! The Jen Maintenance Plan: Year 2 begins tomorrow!!! Wishing you all a very Happy Healthy New Year full of love and joy!!! Thanks for reading along and being a part of my life :-)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Blake Turns 3!!!

My baby is 3 years old today!!!


 I just. Can't. Believe it.

While I was looking through pictures last night, I realized that Blake has literally grown up on this blog. Many of you were there when I found out I was pregnant, when my Mom shared the news that Blake had arrived, when I posted pictures of Addie & Blake's first meeting, and every other moment from that point on. You have watched my baby grow right along with me and there is something so special about that. 


Blake has definitely grown into a little man the last year. He knows what he wants, when he wants it, and if you try to convince him otherwise...look out. He has a fiery temper and he is NOT afraid to speak his mind. If he doesn't like the way you cut his sandwich or zipped his jacket...he will let you know. He will let the whole neighborhood know!


But I'll tell you what...that little stinker can be the most loving little peanut you have ever met. He gives the sweetest hugs and the best cuddles. He has a fantastic imagination and a vocabulary that has blown my mind lately. He loves to imitate his sister and will say the FUNNIEST things at the most random times. 


He is definitely all boy and loves to wrestle around and play karate, or "Kakatee". Lighting McQueen is STILL his favorite character and I will honestly be sad when he grows out of that. He does the best "Ca Chow" ever :-) 

Although Blake is a total Momma's boy, he has developed such a bond with his Daddy lately. These two love having their "guys days" and spending time together. He gets SO EXCITED when Eric gets home from work every day. And seriously...tell me he is not a total clone of his Daddy!


I just love this baby boy to pieces and I can't wait to see what this year has in store for him. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUDDY!!! Here's to another happy, healthy year filled with love and lots of laughter :-) Now...time to get ready for your PAR-TAY!!

Health & Fitness Friday: 31 Day Challenge for Getting Back in the Habit

Happy Friday everyone!!!


This is the LAST Health & Fitness Friday post before the New Year!!! Can you believe it??!

I know I made a lot of promises that I was going to come up with some BIG creative challenge for all of us this new year, but when I sat down and thought about what really works for me when I've completely fallen off the wagon with anything in my life...I realized that getting back in a habit is the first, most IMPORTANT step of all. And for me...to get back in the habit with anything (exercising, eating healthy, etc), I need to go balls out and make it a part of my DAILY routine...at least long enough until I can trust myself again. Ha!

Fitness

So guys...the big challenge I have for all of you this January is another 31 Day Daily Workout Challenge, which basically means that you commit to exercising every single day for the entire month. This was the concept behind our Operation Look Good Naked (LGN) group back in August and everyone did FANTASTIC that month. We were all checking in, motivating each other, sharing recipes, etc. Some ladies in that group are still working hard and making an effort to check in but I want ALL of us back on board. So, I will be posting my weekly workout list every Friday on my blog, but if you would like to be a part of the daily community on Facebook, just email me and I will add you to the group :-)

I will also be getting back to posting my weekly Recipe and Workout. I actually went in search of a new workout today and came across my favorite girls over at Tone it Up and what do you know...they have their own New Years Workout Challenge!!! 

Love-Your-Body-Challenge-Tone-It-Up-ToneItUp-LoveYourBody

Their challenge is actually a 6 week challenge that leads you right up to Valentine's Day. They will be sharing new workouts, videos, nutrition tips and more and I thought it was something that would be great to follow this month!!

As much as I love my Tone it Up girls and DVD workouts at home...I am SERIOUSLY missing running. I say this all the time but I really need a date with my treadmill. We need to reconnect and spark a new relationship because I am afraid that no matter how hard I try to be a winter runner...I'm just not there yet. So in the meantime I will jog away like a hamster and do my workouts in front of the TV. And because I want to be accountable for what I've accomplished, I am going to start my workout log again. My girl Anna is SO AMAZING at keeping a workout log and she swears it makes a difference for her.

Health

Here are my health goals for 2013.

* Drink WAY more water.
* Take a multi-vitamin every day.
* Continue to work on eating cleaner.
* Drink less wine. I KNOW!! But seriously...I was bad over the holidays.
* Make more meals at home and stay AWAY from fast food.

Also, I want to be better about routine check-ups and physicals. My little cancer scare this year has changed me. I realize how important it is to take care of our bodies in every way possible...and that means scheduling yearly check-ups and exams...even if they scare us sometimes :-)

Operation LGN: 31 Day Challenge
Round 2

Well I hope everyone had the chance to write down some of their Health & Fitness goals for 2013 because now is the time to link up and share them!! Also, be sure and let me know if you want to join in on the Operation LGN: 31 Day Fitness Challenge (Round 2). There is already a great group of ladies in this group that I KNOW will help motivate you.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mission Organization 2013

Did you know that January is National Organization Month? Well...even if you didn't...odds are you have organizing on the brain. I know Spring cleaning doesn't typically begin for a few more months, but once the holidays are over, I start looking for ways to simplify and organize my life. Out with the old, in with the new.

But WHERE does one begin with a whole house (and life) to tackle? Every year, I go in search of new books, blogs and websites that offer some guidance in that department. Whether it's just a monthly challenge to kick off the year, or a more detailed plan to get you organized throughout the year...I am always looking for new inspiration.

This year, I have come across some great stuff that I want to share with all of you. First up...one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Tankersly, has just published a new ebook in her 100 Days series called 100 Days of a New Year.

100 Days of a New Year is a daily dose of inspiration for navigating the new year | 100DaysofaNewYear.com

This book is "a journey that leads you through 100 days to a more focused you." Here is a little peek at Day 1 so you can read more about what this book has to offer.

100 Days of a New Year 2013 eBook

I was given the opportunity to review this ebook a little early and let me tell you friends...if you are looking for inspiration and motivation this New Year...this is the book to read!! Every single day focuses on ways to help you set new goals in all aspects of your life, how to successfully budget for the year ahead, and how to effectively clean out and reorganize your home. And like all books in the 100 Days Series, Jennifer doesn't forget to include holiday planning and preparation. 

This year, my biggest goal is to live more simply on a MUCH tighter budget. Eric and I experienced a very Clark Griswold moment this Christmas when we found out that instead of receiving his usual end of the year bonus, he was enrolled in the Jelly-of-the-Month club (figuratively speaking). Although I had a few Cousin Eddie moments too, and dreamt about driving our camper up to his boss's house and tying him up in Christmas lights, I realized that his boss is hurting too this Christmas. Times are tough for a lot of people and if not getting a bonus is the only thing we have to worry about as a family...I will consider us pretty damn lucky. Life isn't about "stuff" anyway. It doesn't matter how many Pinterest-worthy home projects you can afford, how many vacations you can take, how many fancy clothes or shoes you have in your closet...all that matters is that you have your health, your family and a warm place to call home. I want to do a better job remembering that every day this year.

In 100 Days of a New Year, your challenge is not just to clean, organize and plan...it's also to question what you want out of 2013. What habits do want to break? What are your goals for Mental Stimulation? What area of yourself do you want to work on? The book does just what it says...it helps you be a more focused YOU. This ebook also has a great Facebook page that I strongly encourage you to like because the community of people reading the book are wonderful. I participated in a Facebook party last night and had so much fun reading others goals and plans for the new year.

This ebook is available now for both NOOK and Kindle, or you can download a PDF copy for your computer. The fun begins January 1st so make sure you get your copy and all of your lists ready to go!!

And while you are putting together your calendar for National Organization month, be sure to check out OrganizedHome.com for their Post Christmas Clean-Up Checklist. They have awesome suggestions for tackling all the Christmas clutter BEFORE the new year even begins :-)

Also, PLEASE check out this fabulous website I've been following for a while now called OrgJunkie.com. Some of my printables were featured on her site a while back and I LOVE all of her fabulous ideas. Laura and a group of other bloggers are actually hosting a fabulous challenge in January called...

Ask Anna

The goal is to tackle one area a week, take pictures, link-up your before and after progress, vote, and hopefully WIN some fabulous prizes!!! She has a great calendar you can download too.

I LOVE taking before and after pictures of my organizing progress...especially so I know how to put it back together after the kids (or hubby) trashes it :-) I think this will be a super fun link-up party and I am really looking forward to getting started!!!

So...is everyone feeling as motivated as I am right now??!!! What is your biggest goal for 2013??

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Very Merry Christmas

Well...another WONDERFUL Christmas is in the books!! I honestly can't believe it is over. I feel like I was just putting together my Christmas lists the other day, and now we have a house FULL of toys, wrapping paper, boxes and a zillion twist ties. We were all SO SPOILED by Santa and our family this year. And as fun as it was for everyone to tear into their gifts, I think the best part about this year (and every year) was getting to spend so much time with our families :-)

Our holiday fun continued on Sunday when we celebrated Christmas with my Mom's side of the family. This is the night my Grandma waits for all year :-)


And the scene never changes :-)


While the guys sat in the living room watching TV, the girls sat in the kitchen talking to my cousin Jill about her big move to Colorado!! Her boyfriend Ben got a new job so she will be leaving us the end of January. I am SUPER sad to be losing my Jilly, but it will be great to go visit her one day soon.


One of the best parts about Christmas this year was watching the kids play together. I know Grams feels so blessed to be able to watch all of her Great Grandbabies running around the house.


Of course, the majority of our entertainment comes from this little drama queen...


But this little guy gave us a bunch of giggles this year too...


And so did this peanut :-)


 And after one too many wines, I may have also done a little comedy routine.


 And everyone loved Nana in her new towel wrap :-)


It was a GREAT night full of laughs and love. 

And the fun didn't stop there!!

On Christmas Eve, we had a little impromptu brunch with Aunt Meagan, Uncle Ryan and Owen since they stayed with my parents. The kids were SO EXCITED to get to have breakfast together!



And then Christmas Eve night, we headed to my Mom and Dad's...a tradition I look forward to so very much. We all wear our PJs and enjoy the night eating, drinking and laughing. Oh...and opening massive piles of presents.


The kids always go first...




And then the rest of us go and show off what we got :-)



Every Christmas Eve, we try to take a family picture on my parent's staircase. It's always hit or miss with the kids these days, but somehow we managed to get the most ADORABLE family pic we have ever taken!!! 


And did a silly picture just for kicks. I think the holidays make us all a little nutty anyway :-)


My nephew Owen will turn 2 this summer, and we have yet to get a picture of all 3 cousins smiling together. But luckily, all the kids were in a great mood that night and we scored yet another awesome picture!!!


After pictures, we spent the rest of the night going through our goodies...


Hanging out...


And doing some cuddling :-)



And then when the kids can't keep their eyes open any longer, we head home to wait for Santa.

This year, Santa drove a Ford pick-up and dropped off Addie's dollhouse after everyone was sound asleep :-)


And then shortly after, the rest of the gifts were put out. This is always such a magical sight :-)


That night I couldn't sleep. I was up SUPER late playing in Addie's dollhouse getting everything just right. And then when I finally went to bed, I freaked out thinking about Addie getting up before me and running out to the family room. We did NOT want to miss the look on their faces when they saw what Santa brought them. So I did the most logical thing I could think of...I slept in Addie's bed with her.

I tossed and turned all night and then when I saw that it was FINALLY 7:00...I couldn't take it anymore. I had Eric go wait with the video camera and I woke the kids up. They both couldn't jump out of their beds fast enough. They were so fast, actually, that I barely got a picture of them running into the room!


When Addie saw her dollhouse for the first time I almost cried. The pure EXCITEMENT in her voice when she ran to the living room was so adorable.

And in true Addie fashion, she was just as excited for her own gift as she was for Blake's. She just kept saying, "Santa brought your Jeep, Blakey!!! Yay!!!!"



These two couldn't have cared less about the little gifts under the tree. All Addie wanted to do was play in her dollhouse (which I will show detailed pictures of in another post)...


And all Blake wanted to do was ride his Jeep outside...


We were able to finally convince them to open their stuff under the tree...



But as soon as it was over, Addie was back in her dollhouse and Blake was back on his jeep :-)


We spent the next hour playing and having fun until it was time to head to Mima and Papa Steve's!!!

Addie and Blake could hardly wait to tell Nia and Nolan ALL about what Santa brought them. The girls came running into the house screaming and jumping up and down. 

Sadly, I left my SD card out of my camera so I am just waiting to get pics of this morning from my father-in-law...but I can tell you that we had a wonderful time!!! We were totally spoiled and my mother-in-law made us the most delicious breakfast. This is another tradition I have come to love and really look forward to :-)

But that was not the end of our Christmas Fun train!! After an afternoon of playing with our toys, we headed to Eric's Aunt's house for dinner!!!!

We had the best meal and then after we were done eating, a VERY special visitor came to see us!!! 


The kids knew Santa was coming to the house and they were running laps through the living room waiting for him to arrive. When he finally got there, they just stood in the doorway jumping up and down.


Uncle Joe...I mean Santa...looks forward to this night as much as the kids do. He totally dresses the part and does such a great job with the kids. They sit around and wait for their name to be called and then after they get their gift, they can go up and give Santa a hug. This picture right here melts my heart :-)


Blake is still a bit reluctant of Santa love...


But not Audrey...


Or Nolan...


Or even Birthday Boy Cole!!


And speaking of the birthday boy...he even managed to sneak into the girl's picture last night. 


But was somehow missing from the kiddie picture. Ha!!


After Santa's visit, we all sang Cole "Happy Birthday" and let him blow out the candles. And since Blake's birthday is just a few days away too, we sang to him as well. 


It was another wonderful Christmas with my in-laws and I was reminded, once again, just how blessed I am to be a part of such an amazing family. Eric's sister and cousins are some of my best friends...and it's so much fun watching all of our kids play and grow up together.

I can say, without a doubt, that this was our best Christmas yet. Being together with all of our family and sharing these memories with them is such a blessing. The pictures and videos we took are priceless and I can't wait to look back on them for years to come.

I hope all of you had a very Merry Christmas with your families too :-)