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In motherhood, writing on
July 28, 2017

Just Another Mom-Blog

Since the last post I wrote, my life has changed drastically. We welcomed our girl, Miss Dylan Grace into the world in late April, and life has been one sweet, chaotic mess ever since!

Since becoming a mom I feel like I have so much to write about, and I’ve decided to take this formerly catch-all, miscellaneous blog in a new, more centralized direction. I know mom blogs are a dime a dozen these days, but if anything, this will be something for me (and my kids!) to look back on as I wrote about our earliest days together. I am seeing the world through new, albeit exhausted, eyes and in just 3 short months I have become a completely different person. I’ve learned so much about what my body, mind and heart are capable of, the resiliency of the female being, and the trials of motherhood and I don’t want to let these days go by without documenting them all. Now that I’m back at work 4 days a week I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I miss my little squish so much while I’m away but I also feel like I have so much more free time (a whole hour to myself for lunch?! Being able to go to the bathroom without a baby fussing in the next room?!). So I’m using all this newfound “free time” to blog about motherhood, and hey, maybe find some mom friends along the way or encourage a fellow mom or mom-to-be!

In budget, dinner, food, weeknights on
January 17, 2017

My Top 4(ish) Weeknight Recipes That Stretch More Than One Meal

I have to let you guys in on a secret about me. Every single week, I manage to grocery shop within our pre-determined budget, I never forget about the strawberries I buy for a healthy snack until they have a noticeable green fuzz growing on them in the back of the refrigerator, and I NEVER (I repeat, N-E-V-E-R) stop to pick up fast food on the way home because some nights its easier and faster than cooking. I am truly the ultimate working wife/Iron Chef wrapped in one.

Okay, so if you bought any of that at all, I’m sorry you’re so naïve. I am the worst when it comes to setting/sticking to budgets and especially horrible at not giving in to fast food cravings on the ride home from work (It really would be easy for me to blame this one on the baby…but I can’t even lie, I was guilty of this way before ever being pregnant). My job really is stressful and hectic and unpredictable and some days I find myself at the office an hour or two after I was supposed to be home. I don’t know about you, but spending an hour cooking a meal after not getting home until 7 o’clock is one of my personal circles of hell.

I think I’ve mentioned on here before that I’m the kind of person that wants so badly to implement better practices in my life that I often try to rearrange my entire way of living, stick to it for a couple days, and then just burn out. Recently, what I’ve started trying to do, and what I think works really well for me, is implementing little, gradual changes into our routine that are easier to hold to. When I started trying to think of ways to stretch our grocery budget further, while minimizing eating out, I started at the most obvious place: Pinterest. I started searching “make ahead meals” in an attempt to find some things I could “meal-prep” (I know that’s a trigger word for some people, but don’t worry, I’m not planning on starting a health blog anytime soon).

Another secret about me? I really don’t like leftovers. I’m not sure if I had a run-in with some moldy, stinky tupperware that had week-old roast in it when I was little or what, but I really, really do not like leftovers…unless the recipe is that good and reheats to its original state. Unfortunately, when you live in a two person household, most recipes make WAY too much, so you either A.) have to guestimate how to halve the recipe, which can be tricky, B.) spend a ton of money on a recipe that was meant for 4 or 6 people, only to feed 2, or C.) have leftovers that no one wants/will eat and that go to waste anyway.

So my goal was two-fold: find meals that required little effort, or were made ahead of time, and/or find meals that I could spend time making one night, but that stretched for the next couple of days. It took some trial and error, and like I said, NO these are not all “healthy” recipes. When implanting these meals into our weekly routine, we end up saving money, wasting less food, and woah, they have cut down on my cooking time and given me more time to just pop something in the oven or microwave to reheat and spend more time with my family, and that is priceless.

1.) Make Ahead Lasagna Roll-Ups by the Pioneer Woman: This recipe is ranked number one on here because it is also #1 in my heart. First of all, Ree can do no wrong. Her recipes are some of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth. When I make this recipe for me and Zach I have enough for almost 5(!!!) meals, and BELIEVE ME, when you reheat these from frozen, they taste just as good as they do fresh. I have also brought them to a friend after she had a baby, and to my brother and dad for a nice homemade meal. I am constantly worried that people are only nice to me to avoid hurting my feelings, but I’ve only ever gotten compliments on this recipe. Find it here.

**Note: this recipe does require some legwork to prep, but it is so worth it. To cut down on my prep time, I have Zach help. It takes half the time when he helps me assemble the roll ups and we have plenty of meals to just pop in the oven for those “lazy nights” (every night at our house).

2.) Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Chili: I was never a big fan of Chili growing up, but I have come to really like it, especially with pulled pork. I follow this recipe pretty closely, save for the fact that sometimes we will make this Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork (another Heaven-sent Pioneer Woman recipe) and use the leftovers in the chili, which means it needs to only sit in the crockpot for about 4 total hours, and you can just put it all in together instead of cooking the pork separately. With this recipe we usually have enough for dinner, two lunches, and another dinner. So flavorful and great for cold nights.

3.) Chicken Pasta Salad: Okay so this one is more of a “family recipe,” though it is super simple. My Grammy started making this and now my brother requests that she make it when we go over to her house. She usually sends him home with a tupperware of leftovers and my Grammy will make a batch of this for herself sometimes and eat it throughout the week. I’ll type the recipe here:

– 1 lb of your favorite shaped pasta, cooked al dente.
– 1 rotisserie chicken shredded (use light meat, dark meat, or both if that’s what you like!
You can also cook your own chicken breast, but I love the flavor of the rotisserie chicken
for this dish!)
– 1/2 to 1 sweet onion (your preference), finely chopped
– 2 stalks of celery finely chopped
– 4-6 sweet peppers, finely chopped
– Any other veggies you prefer (olives, broccoli florets, totally up to you!)
– Salt, Pepper and Original Mrs. Dash to taste
– Equal parts your favorite ranch and mayo

Once the pasta is cooked, drained and cooled, add it to the chicken and veggies and mix together. Mix in equal parts ranch and mayo until it is as saucy as you like it. Season with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash to taste. Cool at least an hour before serving for best taste. Divide into Tupperware and store for 4-6 days in the fridge. You can add cheese into this recipe (though I suggest doing that just before you eat it rather than when storing it so that it keeps longer), croutons, pepperonis, really whatever you want. It’s very versatile and so filling.

When all else fails and you really just need something easy and fool-proof:

4.) Pizza. Always pizza.

I said 4ish, right?!

It seriously makes such a difference to even have one or two nights during the week where dinner is already planned and prepped and simply needs to be reheated. We value our time together in our house and hello, Netflix isn’t going to watch itself.

What are some of your favorite make-ahead/leftover meals? I’d love to try more! Comment below, e-mail me or write on my social media posts and let me know! Also, you can pin this post to reference later!

In personal, writing on
January 8, 2017

Mediocre

I’ve really been trying to reflect on what I posted last week and the feedback I received (thank you, thank you to those of you that read and had something kind to say!), and attempting to make positive strides toward actually changing something in my life, instead of just dreaming or wishing it. I’ll be honest, this week was pretty hard. A work colleague’s family experienced a horrible tragedy, and the entire week there seemed to be this cloud looming overhead with the thought that we are all just one phone call away from our lives being turned upside down. Anxiety is something I’ve grappled with for most of my 20’s, and when it does grab hold of me, it is, in many forms, paralyzing. My reaction to fear and worry is that I become more irritable, more tense, more stressed, and the way that I tend to deal with all of those cumulative emotions is to just shut down; which is really counterproductive when I’ve been trying so hard to get myself “unstuck”. No matter what corner of the world you turn to lately, there is something to be completely terrified or heartbroken about. And this week, I was reminded that tragedy isn’t just happening in Aleppo or Fort Lauderdale, it’s happening right here in my small circle, and it’s happening in yours too.

As I wrestled with all of my neuroses this week I realized: when the world seems to be burning around us, when we can look in any direction and see someone’s life crumbling before them, this “mediocrity” thing really doesn’t sound so bad.

After all, who am I to wish for a life with more passion, more meaning, more anticipation and excitement and purpose, when there are people whose only goal right now is to make it from sun up to sun down unscathed? Don’t my complaints about a lukewarm existence reek of entitlement and privilege in the face of war, poverty, oppression and death? And on top of all that, my baseline living, however uninspired, is, in a lot of ways comforting. When I said before that I wanted my ordinary life to be disrupted, did I really mean it? What would/could my life look like if I did? Would I like it?

When I started on this journey to be more intentional about living an inspired life, I figured I’d receive some pushback. I thought not enough people would read my words and I’d feel like I didn’t really have anything important to say (and maybe I don’t), I knew I’d succumb to my laziness from time to time, and I figured I’d probably experience some writer’s block. What I didn’t piece together was that those thoughts I wrote above about comfortable complacency are more fatal to my heart and creativity than all of my other worries combined. I realized that the very reason I should be pursuing a deeper life is because of the people hurting all over the world. The darkness of the world shouldn’t stifle me, it should stimulate me; injustice shouldn’t deter me, it should drive me. Because the only way the world gets worse than what it already is, is if we stay exactly as we are.

The world doesn’t need more people who are okay with being just okay. The world needs people who are roused from their routine, who have a vision or a craft or something to say or a willingness to listen. The world needs malleable, compassionate people who chase dreams and take chances, because the world needs hope. So, so bad.

I don’t know exactly how the stepping stones from ordinary to extraordinary lay out, or even what the first one is, and I imagine for a lot of people it looks different. But for me, I think my first step is to be vulnerable. I think the dreams that are so big that they scare us, are probably the dreams we are meant to be chasing after, so rather than conceal them, I’ll share a few of them here:

-Writing scares me. I fear that no one will read what I have to say either because it isn’t
important, or because I’m not good at communicating it.

-Playing music/singing/writing songs scares me (see above, coupled by the fact that it is so
easy to compare myself to much more talented and qualified artists).

-Sharing the dark/hard/embarrassing parts of my story scares me.

If you’ve stuck with the post this long, thanks for reading. What things scare you? What can we be doing to push toward making those dreams attainable instead of merely conversational? How can we use those dreams to positively impact the world? Some thoughts going into the new week.

In faith, personal, writing on
January 3, 2017

Healed

My life is so drastically different from what it was last year. We left our isolated, beautiful, adventurous mountain home in Colorado, ditched the Army, and moved back home to Michigan. We began establishing some semblance of a “normal life” in the civilian world, and, most notably, fell pregnant with our daughter. Life has moved at an unbelievably fast pace. For so long all Zach and I wanted was to be done with military life, done with constantly having to be apart, done with watching the lives of our families unfold from 1500 miles away. Granted, none of that has changed and we are beyond happy in our new normal, but it has just been different in so many ways. We find ourselves busier than ever; there is more family to see, more events to go to, more preparing to do now that we have a little one on the way, and the day seems to come and go before we’ve had a chance to even rub the sleepiness from our eyes.

In the busyness and the change I find myself making less time for the things that matter, a steady decrease I’ve noticed over more than just the last year. Life is chaotic, the world seems to be going up in flames, pregnancy is exhausting, and at the end of the day rather than write or read or exercise (‘cause let’s be honest, that’s definitely the third-place option), I often just want to collapse into bed, turn my brain off and watch a few episodes of America’s Next Top Model or something else completely mind-numbing.

Along with that comes the reality that I’ve neglected my faith, and most days I don’t even make time for a one-page devotional. As I’ve said, part of the reason for my lack of motivation in growing my faith and pursuing Christ comes from general laziness or busyness, but the biggest part of it, I believe, is that my life is just so good. Looking back on the past I think the times my faith grew the most were the times when I was running so hard after God because I had no one else to run to and nothing else to run toward. I didn’t have a supportive and loving and wonderful husband, I didn’t have the relationship with my family that I do now, or a great job, or the security that I now feel. I recently came across a quote from Christine Caine (who Zach and I have seen speak in person, by the way. Totally inspiring.) that says, “We are never so healed that we don’t need Jesus every singe moment of every single day.” That really punched me in the gut. Because I know I’m not living that way. The last 4 and a half years of my life have brought so much healing and freedom that I completely neglected the Healer, the one who set my captive heart free. Imagine that. A God who loved me enough to free me from the darkness, despair, and shame I had been living in (and in fact, that I had put myself in), and for me to come out the other side, turn around and look at the hell I was pulled out of, wave, and say, “Thanks, God! I got this now!”, and continue on my merry way. Unbelievable.

The funny thing about people with my personality type is that we actually function better in the chaos…we thrive off of conflict. The restlessness comes in the moments when life is in neutral. You know that line in the hymn “Come Thou Fount” that says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it”? That has me written all over it, except in my case, the more anchored I am and the more stable my life is, the more likely I am to struggle, to wander. I am so grateful for this life. I am so grateful for Zach, for our families, for our daughter on the way, and I didn’t ever want to be the person whose faith is only strong when tossed in the lion’s den, who only seeks God in the fire. I want to seek Him on the happy days, and most of all, I want to be the person who seeks Him on the calm, boring, mediocre days.

I truly, not just because it’s the New Year, but because it is a long time coming, want to make the effort to make an effort. I want to push myself to read, even when scrolling through social media is so much easier. I want to pray, even when thinking, “Eh, God knows what I/they need,” is much less time consuming. I want to write, even when it is hard or painful or flat-out bad.

I sat down to write this blog post a few weeks ago actually as I was originally going to introduce BGAC before the New Year so as not to make it seem like a fickle “New Year’s Resolution” blog…yeah, that didn’t happen. As I opened my computer and sat in front of the keys, the words literally…would…not…come. And this was different than writer’s block, this was a sign of something seriously wrong, a signal that the creative parts of me were truly beginning to atrophy. I felt like I had just tried to run a marathon after not exercising for years, and I simply couldn’t do it. Writing doesn’t come naturally right now, and my hope is that this blog, this community, this new journey we are on in our new home as parents, will remind me to write more frequently and intentionally. Maybe writing will never pay the bills or bring fame, but feeling I’m living out my potential even a little bit more? Being vulnerable and transparent in a time where it seems compassionate conversation is fleeting? Yeah, I could go for that.

And If you’re feeling the same way, I encourage you to join me in attempting to consciously work toward the things you’ve been meaning to do more of. Maybe we can even keep each other accountable.

Thanks for reading, here’s to fresh starts and new mercies.