How I Meal Plan Part 1: The Basics

A few weeks ago I shared in our Rustic Posy Community group (found here http://www.facebook.com/groups/rusticposyboutique) a few of my favorite cookbooks for meal planning…and I got loads of questions on how I meal plan, where to start and plenty of people who commented they wished they could stick to a meal plan.  I planned to write this post at that time, but then my auto-immune issues cranked it into high gear so I’ve been in survival mode.

Even in survival mode, we stuck (mostly) to our meal plan, and I still managed to get groceries ordered and dinner made.  The thing is, since my auto immune issues have worsened, I’ve had to adjust my meal planning strategies!  I realized, this post needed to come in two parts.  This first part is going to be the basics.  It will be followed by a second part that’s going to be a little more detailed on how I plan for my auto immune diet, which can easily be tailored to planning any kind of special diet (ie- gluten-free, weight-loss oriented, etc.).

People tend to feel the need to meal plan for two main reasons-  to save money and simplify the meal making process.  It’s the never-ending question at 5:30pm-  what’s for dinner?!  I feel like I need to make one other disclaimer at this point-  what works for me, may not work for you.  Like all things when it comes to simplifying and organizing, there’s not a one-size fits all method.  It’s trial and error, tweaking and changing until you find the perfect fit for you and your needs.  You need to meal plan around your budget and your family’s needs and not anyone else’s.  This is a great place to start, but you may find you need to make a few adjustments to make it work for you!

I meal plan once a week.  I know there are people out there who plan two weeks at a time or even a whole month at a time (props to you amazing women!).  Planning once a week is what works for us.  I generally know what my next week is going to look like, know what produces will still be good in my fridge, etc.  In general, I don’t plan my sides, just my main dishes.  We have a pretty standard set of sides that go with most meals including rice dishes, various vegetables, breads, potato dishes, etc.  I do all my planning the day before my weekly grocery pick-up (thank you Wal-Mart grocery pick-up!  If you still need to try it out, use this code for $10 off your first pick-up order:  http://r.wmt.co/jGBtG ).  Currently for me, my planning day is Wednesday.  Now because I’m one of those weird people who get a crazy high off of organizing and planning, I love meal planning day.  It’s usually relaxing for me.  I also love to cook, so searching for new recipes to try is very leisurely for me.  Don’t overcomplicate it!  Yes, there are some amazing printables out there, but my planner works just fine.  In fact, I used to just write it out on a sticky note and stick it in my planner!  When I got my new planner, I customized it to include a meal planning section.  It’s where my life schedule is so for me, it makes sense to have my meal plan there too.

Everyone should have some go-to recipes.  If you don’t like cooking or new recipes, I’d suggest coming up with 20 or so basic recipes that you can rotate between.  If you’re like me and love to try new recipes, I have roughly 10-15 basic recipes I rotate through and then add three or four new recipes to try each week.  Some of our rotated recipes include:  spaghetti (a kiddo fav), sausage and eggs (because you can eat breakfast anytime!), taco bake or tacos, chicken alfredo and baked chicken.

When I sit down to meal plan, I do two things before I even start.  First, I check if there are any meals from the week before that didn’t get made.  Those automatically move to the week’s meal plan because I have already purchased the ingredients for those particular meals.  Second, I go through my freezers, pantry and fridge and note what proteins I have and any produce and perishables that need to be used up.  We are so incredibly blessed to get a large majority of our proteins from Greg’s parents on the farm, but around this time of the year, we start to run low on all of our proteins so I make darn sure I’m using the proteins already in my freezers.  (Another tip- when the budget is tight, I highly recommend planning a couple meatless meals during the week.  Greg is a huge meat-guy, but I’ve managed to find a few meatless meals even he enjoys!)

Once I have those lists I go my cookbooks and Pinterest and look for meals that would use up my current produce, perishables and meat.  I have some amazing boards on my Pinterest page.  Feel free to check them out here:  https://www.pinterest.com/rusticposy/  Now here is where people can get frustrated with meal planning:  you plan an amazing week of meals which is great, but you forget to account for what your week holds.  I know that on Monday, my son has taekwondo from 4:45pm-5:15pm.  If I plan a meal that requires a lot of hands-on prep plus a 40 minute cook time, that’s simply not going to work.  I’m going to end up ordering pizza and be frustrated because my meal plan “didn’t work.”  So look at your schedule and plan accordingly!

As you’re making your meal plan, make your grocery list.  Check your pantry for ingredients you may already have so you’re not buying items unnecessarily.  I tend to make a grocery list and star the items I need to check on so I’m not constantly getting up to check my pantry.  What I love about picking up my groceries is that I don’t get lost in Target-land and put unnecessary things in my cart!  Haha!  I also love that I can see my total before I checkout.  I can see if I’m over budget and if there’s anything I can wait to get until next week.

To keep my pantry stocked on my basics, anytime something is taken out of it (a new bottle of ranch, olive oil, etc.), it immediately goes on my grocery list.  This way, I’m never out of something I use on a regular basis, and I don’t have to make quick trips to the grocery store down the street in the middle of the week (and pay double the price!).

Below are some of my fav cookbooks (missing are the Whole30 cookbooks!).  We try and eat a very “real food” diet with as little processed foods as possible.  Partly due to my auto immune issues and partly because it’s just healthier for you 😉

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Weekdays are busy and hectic with school and running to various activities so I make sure my weekday meals are easy prep and quick.  I work from home, so I’m able to start my meal prep earlier than those who work 8-5, then have to pick-up kids and get home and start dinner.  For you guys, I’d highly recommend some sort of meal prepping on the weekend, even if it’s just chopping your veggies, pre-measuring them out and putting them in labeled containers or bags for quick retrieval!

Because I really enjoy cooking, I tend to plan meals for Saturday and Sunday that involve a little more time.  I involve my kids and let them help measure, prep meat, etc.  They love getting to use kitchen tools and pour liquids, I get to teach them basic life skills and we get to spend quality time together.  These are the meals that can bake for an hour in the oven or cook for 6 hours in the slow cooker and make the house smell amazing.   (PS- if you’re willing to do a little extra prep work one evening or on the weekend, crockpot freezer meals will save you sooo much time!)

Below is a sample week of my basic meal plan.  I never used to plan breakfasts or lunches because I work from home and would just eat whatever I found to make.  But as I mentioned above, with my auto immune diet, I had to tweak that so we’ll cover that more in Part 2!  I currently meal plan on Wednesdays and pick up my groceries on Thursdays.

H-  Ham Casserole

F-  Twice Baked Potatoes (See! Meatless meals!)

S-  Italian Dressing Grilled Chicken

S-  Stuffed Cube Steak

M-  Sausage and Eggs

T-  Chicken Alfredo

W-  Baked Shells with Ricotta

Here’s the thing though-  life happens.  You can have a perfectly set meal plan but sometimes things come up, you get home later than planned, you  just simply don’t feel like cooking (if this happens to me, it’s usually on Friday evening!).  So here’s the other thing I want you to do:  stock up on a few quick items.  Have frozen pizzas and extra chicken breasts on hand.  Keep extra canned or frozen veggies and rice dishes on hand for these nights.  I can make a quick chicken meal that has five minutes of prep, bakes for a half hour and dinner is on the table!  If you’re making a casserole or spaghetti or soup, make a double batch and freeze half for these types of nights.  Don’t beat yourself when you have these nights!  Life is not about perfection, but we can be prepared for the things that pop-up, not get too stressed out, stay on budget and still feed our families.  And when all else fails, make eggs and toast 😉

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So there’s the basics!  How I meal plan, how I’m able to stick to my meal plan and all the details!  As I mentioned above, I recently had to change up my meal planning strategy due to my auto-immune diet.  In Part 2 of this post, I’ll focus on how I plan for my breakfasts and lunches and also how I do a little more detailed planning for dinner (because I promise my kids are not going to eat the roasted peppers, onions and tomatoes that come out of the oven!).  In the meantime, if you have any questions or struggles with meal planning, I’d love to help!  Comment here or contact me!  Blessings to you, Friends ❤

The Day I Decided to Simplify

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front lately.  With summer dwindling down, I found myself jealously soaking up every extra minute I can with my boys before they go back to school.  We had a mini family vacation and more lake weekends.  We’ve had zoo fun and pool dates.  Loads of family time and loads of chill time.  This fall, for the first time in seven years, I will find myself alone at times during the week as all three boys will be in school in one form or another.

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I’m a little sad this chapter of my life is coming to an end.  (OK, let’s be real, my Mama-heart is breaking!)  The Little Years are quickly fading from view as my Middle enters Kindergarten, and my Littlest ventures into half-day preschool (way more ready than his Mama is!).  But as sad as my Mama-heart is to watch them enter their own new beginnings of childhood, it also bursts with pride at the tiny people God is shaping them to be, and a minuscule part of me is curiously excited.  What will I do with this time?  Certainly devote more time to my business, yes!  Exercise more, yes!  But what about those things I’ve wanted to do, but never seemed to have time for because my time was completely monopolized by my Babies?

Don’t get me wrong-  I have loved 97% of being a stay-at-home mom turned work-at-home mom.  (The other 3%?  Well, we all have our off days and see the grass as greener on the other side sometimes.  Am I right?)  But I have on my horizon, some form of time I haven’t had in a very long time.  So I’ve been reading (and writing!) more.  All those books I’ve put on the “when I have time” list.  They started coming to the lake with me, or I spent time in them when I was up before the boys, coffee in hand, with no school to rush off to.  I read personal development books (if you have not read Girl, Wash Your Face go download it or pick it up right now!). Books about learning to rest, not quit.  Books about doing what makes you happy and choosing joy, being passionate, chasing Jesus, and learning to find your own form of beautiful instead of chasing someone else’s.

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I’ve tried really hard over the last seven years to embrace the whole “Sorry the house is a mess, but there are kids making memories here” thing.  And while it brought me some comfort during the chaos of the “three little boys ages 3 and under” time of my life, it also caused me a ton of anxiety and stress.  My personality just doesn’t do well with clutter and mess.  In fact, it stresses me out like none other.  But it’s hard enough to simply clean your house during the Little Years, let alone keep it neat, tidy and organized, and I learned to give myself grace.

So here I sit reading my latest book,  A Simplified Life.  The author talks about simplifying (imagine that!) and decluttering and organizing to make your house a home, and it dawned on me that I finally have that time!  I finally have the time to systematically go through every closet, cupboard and drawer, and I am giddy at the thought!  (Greg thinks it’s funny that I get this crazy sort-of high off of organizing and cleaning, but everyone has their thing, right?!)

Over these last eight and half years of marriage, we have accumulated So. Much. Stuff!  When we added kids to the mix, our stuff became mountains of things.  We did a little bit of decluttering last spring and had a rummage sale, but this time it’s no-holds-barred.  Everything is getting a home (no more junk drawer!), and things that haven’t been used but kept around because “we might need it someday” are going out the door.  It’s going to be glorious and magical and all the things.   But it begs the question why?

I mean, I’m getting all sorts of good feels out of organizing and decluttering my house, but I also don’t want to spend this precious time on frivolous things either.  Is this type of massive overhaul worth the time and energy I’m going to expend on it?  I seriously reflected on this question over the weekend while I was sitting by the lake.  I have no desire to live a minimalist lifestyle, but a simpler life?  Absolutely.

In an age and generation of pure consumerism and materialism, so many people are looking for a simpler way.  So many people buy more stuff to make themselves feel better rather than invest in quality time with their family or go out and experience the world.  Our houses fill up with more and more things, and we sit among our “treasures” and wonder why they’re not precious like treasure should be.  I don’t want a house filled with “things.”  I want a home filled with precious memories and simple objects that bring warmth and beauty into the space where we make those memories.  When friends and family come to my home, I want it to feel inviting and spacious, not cluttered and chaotic.  And to be quite frank, when there is so much clutter and stuff everywhere, my personal anxiety aside, you simply can’t focus on the treasures right in front of you.

You can’t play the board games with your kids because the table is always covered with mail and magazines and this or that.  Your kids exclaim they’re bored because they have so many toys they literally can’t decide which one to play with.  They’re overwhelmed with options!  You can’t find your flashlight when the power goes out because all FIVE of your flashlights are never where they’re supposed to be (yes, this happened to us!).  You can’t figure out how the bigger house with all the storage space you bought a few years ago suddenly feels cramped and the storage spaces are overflowing.

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So, yes, for me, the time and energy that’s going to be expended on this adventure are going to be well worth it.  I know it’s going to take a while, and I know some of it is going to be hard.  I mean, we become emotionally attached to our stuff for some reason.  Disconnecting ourselves from the habit of feeling like you have to have the latest and greatest, of feeling like every space needs to be filled with something, that takes time and grace.  But the rewards and fruit of that labor that I can foresee are going to be so worth it.

A decluttering and organizing of my house is going to be just the start of my “simpler life” journey.  I’m excited to slow down and enjoy more date nights with my husband, more family game nights, more evenings with friends.  I’m excited to not fill every second with activities.  I’m looking forward to figuring out how to simplify our mornings so they don’t feel so hectic and how to maximize my time during the week so that I can focus on making memories on the weekends.  I’m super motivated to figure out how to simplify our spending so we can give our boys more experiences instead of more things.

And I invite you along on this journey!  Because while this post and this journey starts with simplifying my home, this is really a journey of discovering true passion and the beauty of life as you leave behind the “stuff” and focus on the treasures.  Some of my posts on this journey will be more practical (how I decluttered my kids rooms, how I organized my kitchen, etc), and some will be more soulful as I let go of some dreams and close doors to make room for others.  But all of it will be beautiful because it’s part of my story, and I hope you discover nuggets of advice that help make your life simpler and truth that resonates with your soul as you tag along on this journey that make your story more beautiful too.

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The Day We Chose Experiences

A year ago at this time, we were in the process of trying to sell our house.  We were making good money with our business, these larger homes were beautiful, and we were sucked in.  Oh, it felt amazing to know we qualified for such gorgeous homes after living so tight since we began our life together.  Suddenly we felt like our house was tiny, and we needed more room.

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We were in no way prepared to sell our house.  In fact, it was a whirlwind operation that stressed me out to the max.  Once we got it clean and picked up enough to go on the market, the task of keeping it that way with three little boys seemed impossible.  In addition, because of my self-employment income, the process to secure the mortgage required much more paperwork that kept me constantly running. Add in trying to run my business, and my stress level was about at it’s limit.

The days ticked by as our house sat on the market, and the expiration on the contract for our “dream house” came closer and closer… and then it passed.  I cried that morning knowing that house was gone.  We took our house off the market and decided we wouldn’t put it on again until we did a few projects to update a few things.  By this point though, we were set on moving!  So we continued to look at houses.  A lot of them.  And we found a house I loved even more than the first.  It had a HUGE backyard complete with a beautiful patio and fire pit.  The basement was perfect for our business.  It came with Greg’s coveted larger garage and an amazing walk-in closet in the master bedroom.  So much room for clothes!  Let’s not even talk about the master bathroom!  It was the kind of house where you walk in and just know this is the one.  And this whole whirlwind process started all over again.

Our house went back on the market.  My stress level rose.  Again, the days ticked by.  Again road block after road block arose.  Until finally one night, as I lay awake (because sleep was rarely seen that summer with all my worry about the financing and the showings and losing that gorgeous home along with a devastating miscarriage we suffered during that time) I begged God to DO something, to make it clear if this was His plan.  I was so tired.  I was emotionally drained.  I was at my tipping point.  In the still dark of my room that night I felt Him whisper, “I am doing something, my Daughter, but you’re not listening.”

Greg and I talked it over the next morning.  It all seemed so crystal clear as I sipped my coffee and took a good hard look over that past two and half months.  There’s something to be said for perseverance and digging your heels in when pursuing something you know to be true and right.  There’s also something to be said for moving on when a door is repeatedly shut.  Most importantly, though, is having the ability to recognize which camp your current situation is resting.  I realized that morning that we were at a crossroads.  We were looking at two choices, and whichever way we chose would greatly impact what our future would hold.

One the hand, we could continue to pursue this home that I absolutely loved.  It was in a quiet cul-de-sac neighborhood in a beautiful part of town.  This gorgeous home where I could watch my Babies grow up and make memories.  But while I could certainly make that house work in our budget, there would be little wiggle room.  If things got rough for more than a few months in a row, that’s about all we’d be doing…watching the Babies grow because an emergency fund can only fund for so long.

OR.  Or we could opt for experiences.  We could stay in our current home.  We could not worry one bit about having enough to send our kids to the school that fits our family’s current needs perfectly.  We could put money towards vacations and family memories (I so want to take our kids to Disney!), pad our emergency fund even more, work towards the debt-free lifestyle we dream of.

As you might guess, at this point, the whole situation seemed ridiculously obvious.  I had been praying for God’s will the entire past two and half months thinking He would move mountains to get us into our “dream home” when the fact was He was moving mountains to make sure we stayed exactly where we are.  As I called our Realtor (who is one of the most gracious people I know dealing with this whole chaotic process) to have her take our house of the market for the second time in less than two months, I physically felt the weight lift off my shoulders.

Over the next few months, we struggled to keep that choice front and center.  We’d see beautiful homes pop up on the market.  I would even look at some of the listings online.  I constantly had to bring myself back to why we chose this path.  We told ourselves, “let’s just get a few updates done so we can get more for our house next summer” thinking this would fix my financial insecurities.  (I’m big on having a LARGE emergency fund, and I’ll suffer through a lot before I dip into that fund.  Yes, we’re also big Dave Ramsey people.)

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So this spring, we started remodeling our kitchen.  This was a project we’d talked about doing since we moved in.  We took an entire wall down, built an island, purchased new appliances.  We started repainting the entire upstairs.  As we went about this process, I looked around and just saw so much…stuff.  Why did we have so much stuff?!  In the midst of the remodel, we purged the entire house.  Broken toys went straight to the trash despite objections from the Littles.  Toys that hadn’t been played with in the last six months went into rummage sale boxes.  Kitchen items, decor, knick-knacks…toys.  So many toys.  (When asked for birthday or Christmas ideas for the boys, we actually ask for gift certificates to go bowling or go towards a zoo membership or something other than toys now.)  We decluttered and decluttered and decluttered.  If it hadn’t been used in the last year, it was gone.  If an object was just there to fill space, it was gone.  (We also made a nice chunk of change at our rummage sale last weekend thanks to all that decluttering!)  I organized until there was nothing left to organize.  (Seriously, organizing makes my heart soooo happy!)  And the craziest thing happened…

Our house got bigger.  I’m completely serious.  I feel like we gained a ton of square footage, and I think to myself why did we ever think our house was too small?!  And as medical bills rolled in for the miscarriage and subsequent surgery last spring, as we have another kiddo entering into our private school system, as we planned a fun mini-vacation next month, I’ve been able to take them all in stride- because we chose experiences over our dream house.  Because we chose to stay in our smaller home to make memories and watch our Babies grow.  Because I finally let go of what the world expects us to do (get into the biggest house you can afford, buy this and that, drive the nicest vehicle you can, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!), we can say yes to the other things- the swim lessons, the t-ball, extended weekends at the lake, ice cream dates.

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Our kitchen remodel is close to completion, and I can’t imagine moving at this point.  We’ve put so much work into that project.  We’re making this house ours.  While we still desire that walk-in closet and larger garage, while I still peek at listings every once in a while, the truth is, I’m perfectly content right where I am.  Here, in this place, I know how to keep materialism at bay.  I don’t care about the next big thing.  Experiences win the day in our house.  Days at the zoo, family vacations and date nights take priority over the new phones, a nicer vehicle and more square footage.   Investing in our kids’ education takes the cake because that’s where we are called to have our boys enrolled right now.  Being able to show our boys selfless giving and what it means to serve others when the Welcome House needs bread, milk and sugar or when a family faces tragedy and a GoFund me account is created?  That’s worth giving up our “dream house” any day.

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The Day We Skipped Baseball.

I feel like it needs to be said right from the get-go that Greg and I are firm believers that if you commit to something, you see it through.  Wyatt finished out his summer soccer season last year even though he strongly disliked it after the first week.  Baseball would be no different for Isaac.  Now Isaac doesn’t necessarily hate baseball…he’d just rather play in the dirt than pay any attention to what’s going on.  But, he wanted to play baseball, so we signed him up (and paid the money!), so he will finish the summer season out.

This morning though, this morning as I was drinking my coffee having some quiet moments with Jesus (because my house was still quiet at 7:30am!), I started hearing this whimpering that escalated to wailing.  I wandered down the hall to figure out which Little needed consoling so early in the morning.  (Let’s be completely honest here- I was mildly pretty darn irritated that I was already having to deal with a meltdown.  I mean, no one had even come out of their room yet!)  I figure out it’s Isaac, go into his room, ask him what’s up and get… “I don’t want to to go to baseballllllll today!” We chatted (or I tried to chat, he continued to whine at me about not wanting to go) back and forth for a minute before I just turned and walked back to the living room, leaving him to whine.

You see, I had this conundrum going on.  On one hand, I didn’t want him to think that by whining about something so atrociously, he would get what he wanted.  On the other hand, I’d noticed all three of my kiddos had been acting out lately.  Way more than normal kids being kids things.  (Last night, we ran errands and it…was…awful.)  Even at home, just the general disobedience and attitudes had escalated in the last week or so.  Isaac seemed to speak in an incessantly whiny voice.  Wyatt was pushing buttons and picking on his brothers.  Logan was literally losing his cool over every little scratch he got.  Consequences had become more frequent and stronger.  My patience was wearing thin.  My Mama-soul was tired.

But yesterday I read this post by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook.  She and her husband have adopted three of their five children.  The adopted Littles were adopted from overseas and spent some agonizing time in orphanages.  She had written a post about how one of them reverts to his behaviors that stem from his orphanage trauma every once in a while through no fault of his own.  This particular day, this had happened…and she had wanted to punish him for his unacceptable behavior- have a time out, lose a privilege, something!  Instead though, she took him for some one-on-one time.  She loved on him.  For him, it was quality time that showed him unconditional love.

There is much, much more to the story than this short little blurb, and I can’t pretend that this even remotely relates to what that sweet boy goes through, but Jesus used that post to speak to my mama-heart in a very real way.  I realized these last two weeks, we’d been running a lot which means I’d been having to squeeze work in in-between all the running.  My stress level was higher which means my patience was thinner.  All day yesterday, I thought about that post.  All day it was on my heart.  My quality time with my Babies was lacking, and they were letting me know the best way their little hearts could.

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So today, we skipped baseball.  While the boys played, I secretly packed up a lunch.  We made a stop at the Welcome House to drop off some milk, sugar and bread we had picked up the night before which led to an amazing discussion on serving others whenever we can.  Then, I surprised them with a day at the zoo.  I mean, the entire day.  And we went at their speed.  Every section of the zoo became a world they “battled” their way through in some imaginary game they had started at home.  We made multiple trips back to the bathrooms which led to going through the same exhibit multiple times.  We had lunch by the camels.  We rode the train.  We had ice cream.  I let them run.  I let them have their adventures.  And I will never forget when we’d been there a few hours.  The boys were playing on the playground, and Wyatt came running over to me and put his arms around me.  He just sat there like that for a while, turned and looked at me and said “I love you, Mom” and then he was back to looking for some gopher (bad guy) that had gone into his hole by the swans.

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Mamas, don’t blink!  Our time with our Babies is so, so precious and so, so fleeting.  Don’t underestimate the simple things.  It doesn’t have to be a big spectacle or a meticulously planned vacation.  It just needs to simply be.  I know we hear this all the time, but I feel like the more we hear it, the more it begins to fall on deaf ears.  Since losing Clara, I’ve made conscious efforts to be with my kids more and to cherish that time.  I’ve made it a point to use my time more wisely so that I don’t miss out on these little years with my Babies.  While there are times the days seem so, so long, these days are also such precious gifts.  These are days we are blessed to have.

I needed that quality time just as much as they did today.  Today I saw the best behavior, the best attitudes, the best listening I’ve seen in weeks.  Today  had the most patience I’ve had in weeks.  I wasn’t annoyed by the little stories I’ve heard over and over…and over.  Today my tone was softer.  Today I didn’t worry about work, finances, life.  Today I was present with my boys at the zoo.  Today I watched from afar as the three of them played on a bridge, and my entire soul smiled.

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Today was one of the best days ever.

The Day I Went Back to Church.

Last Sunday, I did it.  I went back to church.  If you know me at all, you know I’m a Jesus-lover, worship-dweller, service-oriented person.  So this topic may seem kind of silly at the onset, but bare with me.

I haven’t been to church since we found out Clara’s heart had stopped beating.  Not because my faith was questioned.  Not because I was angry at God.  Quite the opposite actually.  I leaned harder into my Savior than ever before with the loss of our Baby Girl.  I proclaimed His Truth and His Grace and His Mercy over and over because there was no way I was letting Satan take even more from me at that particular moment in time.  I knew God would take the tragic loss of our Baby and bring beauty from those ashes, and He has proven faithful in that time and time again over these last two months.  Being open about our loss has allowed me to serve others who are silently suffering, not ready to share their loss.  We’ve started a little project called Clara’s Grace to serve others who are struggling and hurting.  I’ve seen Him move in big ways and little ways, and I’m anxious to see what beauty He brings about next.

 

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So why the hiatus from my church family?  Why this break from worship?  My church family lifted us in ways I couldn’t imagine when we lost Clara Grace.  They made sure we had meals for the next two weeks.  They sent care packages.  Our pastors reached out to us and offered prayer and services.  Our volunteer dates in the kids ministry were immediately covered for the rest of the year without us having to lift a finger.  Oh yes, our church family served us with the humbleness of Jesus.  It was beautiful and humbling and filled out hearts with so much gratitude.

But the truth of the whole matter is- I wasn’t ready to face all the people.  I wasn’t ready for the sad hugs, the questions, the physical “loving on.”  I wasn’t ready to answer the questions of how I was doing or politely reply to the well-meaning words of those who said the wrong thing not knowing what to say.  (PS- there is nothing you CAN say in situations like these.  Simply saying “I’m so sorry” is all that’s really needed ❤ )  I wasn’t ready to face those who may not have heard yet that our Baby Girl had passed.  With our past two miscarriages, no one really knew.  They were early, and we hadn’t shared we were expecting with many.  But it’s different when you’re 16 weeks along and starting to show.

I wasn’t ready.  And that is perfectly ok.  Grief knows no timeline.  It’s an endless ocean of calm and waves.  Sometimes the tidal waves come out of no where, and sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of remembrance.  Grief is forever unanswered questions and constant faith in a forever God.  I knew I would know when the time was right for me.  I knew I would know when I was ready…and so did God.

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He started planting that little seed a few weeks ago so that when I found out my Boys would be celebrating the end of VBS in church last Sunday, my heart was ready to go.  God orchestrated this beautiful return of allowing me to slowly see our dear Friends in Christ each night as we brought the boys to and from VBS (which ironically, or not so ironically, was the perfect theme- Shipwrecked) so that when Sunday came, I could simply focus on worshipping the Lord.

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I feel like this post is all over the place, and I had a hard time writing it but felt like it needed to be said.  Healing after a tragedy can only be done with grace and time.  I knew if I rushed back into “normal,” it would catch up with me all too quickly.  As I’ve navigated these waters steadily with my eyes fixed on Him, I’ve found He’s put me right where I need to be when I need to be there.  So whether for you that’s church, a Mom’s group, a volleyball team, a family reunion, a book club, or something else, take your time, my Friend.  Grief knows no timeline.  Whether you’re feeling tossed among the waves, like you’re drowning in the tide or sitting on the beach remembering all that was lost, your grief is part of your story…and your story’s not over.

The Time I Ugly Cried

I ugly cried in the shower today.  Not a few tears or tears streaming down my cheeks.  Ugly, sobbing, couldn’t catch my breath crying.  The kind of crying you do when you simply can’t think of anything else to do.  When things seem so far out of your control, you feel like your only recourse is to cry.  I’m a fairly emotional person and find I need to ugly cry every few months or so.  The ugly cry comes when I’ve been doing my best to keep it all together, stressed beyond words with multiple things expected of me.  The ugly cry makes my eyes and my head hurt, and while I feel so much better afterwards, today I thought to myself while I know women just need to cry sometimes (I totally get that), why does it take getting to this point for it to happen?

Sometimes the Ugly Cry has good reason.  The last time it happened was when we lost our Baby Girl.  We found out her heart was no longer beating on a Monday evening.  To be honest, I had little emotion.  I had had this weird gut feeling for the last few days that something was wrong, but was trying to write it off as being paranoid from previous miscarriages.  All I could think of was what was next.  Tell family and friends. Check.   Call the doctor Tuesday morning.  Check.  Ultrasound and doctor appointment.  Check.  Discuss options and schedule surgery.  Check.  It wasn’t until Tuesday evening when I was in the shower (that’s where I prefer to do my ugly crying), that I completely lost it.  This was a justified Ugly Cry.  Heartbreak deserves ugly crying.

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But what about other times?  How do I let myself get to this point?  Since losing Clara, I’ve been making it a point to spend my time on things that matter to me, not others.  I make time to do the things that bring joy to my soul.  I literally schedule time to bake, go to the gym and make sure  my kids are getting plenty of mommy-time.  But this last week?  I’ve felt pressure from all directions that took some of that time away from me.  The stress of finances while we wait to see if workforce insurance is going to cover my husband’s back injury has me moving savings around to cover his six days of missed work and overtime.  The stress of needing to make my work quotas to ensure I get my monthly bonus.  This last weekend, I had a lot of places I was supposed to be, but I also had cranky kids, have been battling an ongoing stress headache (remember I said this last week has been tough) and it was Father’s Day weekend.  I finally realized I had to choose, and I couldn’t do it all.  I prayed for grace for the things I decided to opt out of.  My hubby lovingly let me go the gym after a busy morning of serving my amazing customers on Saturday, knowing that working out is a huge stress reliever for me.  Sunday, we spent some amazing family time together and did yard work but still didn’t get it all done.

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This morning, as I looked at my to do list, realizing how far behind I was, it all culminated into the Ugly Cry.  I’ve been working really hard on being ok with it when the vacuuming doesn’t get done the day I planned to do it.  I’ve been learning to be ok with it when I don’t check off everything on my to-do list for the day because I chose to go to the zoo with my kids instead.  But as I write this and stare at my sink full of dirty dishes (and cupboardless kitchen cabinets because life has kept us from completing the project by the time we wanted to), I can’t help but think of all the women just like me.  The women who strive to do it all and chide themselves when they don’t get it all done.  The women who work hard to please others and feel guilty when they fail or don’t do what others think they should do.  The women who try as they might to keep their stress levels down find themselves ugly crying in the shower because her checkbook makes her nauseous right now and she’s cut everything from her budget that month that she possibly can and she has to pay for her dog to get fixed tomorrow because he’s started marking everything in the house.

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To my fellow Ugly-Criers, you are Daughters of the King.  You are loved and your value and worth is not derived from how much of your to-do list you get done or how many people you please on this Earth.  Take a deep breath, and take a good look at that to-do list.  Will the world end if the laundry doesn’t get folded today?  Will things fall apart if you take an extra day to get those bathrooms cleaned?  Will your Friends disown you if you decide to go MIA from Pinterest night?  Don’t ever, for one second, feel guilty about taking the time to do the things that make your soul happy.  Don’t ever, for one second, feel bad about choosing family time over other’s expectations of you.

When we found out Wyatt had Sensory Processing Disorder, we had to be stricter in some areas and experiment with different therapies until we found what worked for him.  I know we were judged harshly by some for some of those decisions, but my child’s well-being was far more important than what somebody thought of my parenting.  My Friends, your well-being is no different.  Say “no” to the things you don’t need to do, even if you disappoint others.  Heck, say “no” to the things you don’t want to do!  When you look back on the years, you will never once regret saying no to something so that you could do something that made your soul sing or your children smile from ear-to-ear.  Schedule that time at the gym.  Schedule time to read on the deck with a glass of wine.  Skip the yard work for a day and go to the zoo.  To be clear- I’m not saying abandon all responsibilities.  I’m one of those people who get super stressed out by a disorganized home so keeping it orderly is a priority for me.  What I am saying is don’t get so focused on the to-do lists and expected activities that you miss out on the things that make you happy.  Choose joy, even if it means you take your kid out of one of their five activities so you can enjoy more time as a family.  Give yourself grace to to do those things.

And sometimes, you just need to ugly cry.  Sometimes, you need to scream and let all those emotions out.  Then you get to look at the world through those tears and realize you are right where you’re meant to be.  You have so much to be grateful for.  You have no need to worry because Jesus holds the world in His hands, and Sisters, He has your back.

The Day He Turned Seven

Today my oldest turned seven.  SEVEN.  Seven years ago at this time I was desperately trying to feel up to going to see my baby in the NICU after my first C-Section.  (I wouldn’t lay eyes on him for about 6 hours after he was born, and it would be another five days before I would hold him.)  Friends, this one has been hard for me.  Do you notice that or is it just me?  Some years I do ok with them entering a new year of life.  Some years I have a really hard time.  This is one of those years.  Some time in April, it really hit me.  I really started noticing that he has become a “big kid.”  He can read things to me.  He tells knock-knock jokes that are actually funny.  He tells me things about history and science.  He plays Battleship and understands the strategy of it.  He can reach things in higher places.  He can do things I used to have to do for him.  He asks harder questions.  He’s seven.

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Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am incredibly grateful and blessed that my babies are healthy and thriving and growing.  But I am so sad at the same time because those “little years” are quickly coming to an end.  And for Wyatt, I am already missing them.  The snuggles are becoming rarer.  The requests for assistance with the basics are becoming less frequent.  Little by little, we give him a little more independence, and he dances off into the day handling it with ease.  He makes me so incredibly proud, but when they say the time goes so fast, they ain’t lying.

That big kid has taught me so much from the very beginning.  He taught me about trusting God’s timing.  We tried for almost a year to get pregnant and suffered a miscarriage before he came along. He came into this world seven weeks early.  He taught me about patience as I laid in a hospital bed for a week before we decided to induce labor, and then when we did, he wouldn’t come.   He spent a month in the NICU.  I was convinced Wyatt would come home on his one month birthday.  The NICU nurses gently tried to tell me it was highly unlikely.  He taught me about prayer as I fervently prayed every single day to bring my baby home.  He taught me about faith and the power of seeking as we walked out of the hospital, baby in tow, exactly one month after he was born.

He has taught me about humbleness.  Wyatt is easily my toughest child.  His crazy energy and unending quest to climb all the things keeps me busy.  But when he was four and five, I felt like the most unqualified mother ever.  Wyatt couldn’t control his behavior.  It took him hours to fall asleep at night.  I researched and researched.  Nothing I tried would help.  I could look at him and see he physically couldn’t calm himself down.  I humbly had to ask for help when I knew I could no longer do it on my own.  I felt like a failure with one of “those kids” who couldn’t stay calm.  We sought out a couple different professional opinions before finally learning he has a form of Sensory Processing Disorder.  He’s taught me about advocating for my child when no one else will.  Not being willing to accept something when I know in my gut there’s a deeper issue.

But most of all, this child has taught me about grace.  Grace when I lose my patience and yell.  Grace when I humbly go to him to apologize and ask forgiveness to show him that everyone makes mistakes.  Grace when he immediately falls into my arms and tells me he loves me.  Grace when he makes mistakes, and I have to allow natural consequences to follow, even though I could rescue him, because I want him to know his actions have consequences.  Grace when I feel like I’m failing as a mother (like spelling ‘birthday’ wrong on his already very un-Pinteresty cake!).  Grace when he has a rough day at school because he couldn’t calm down enough to listen to the teacher, and I remind him that we all have bad days.  Grace, grace, grace.  How to extend it and how to receive it.

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To My Firstborn, I know you have so much more to teach me as we enter these “big kid” years, but I am ever so thankful that tonight you climbed up beside me on the couch to snuggle.  This Mama’s heart cherishes those fleeting moments because it feels like tomorrow I will wake up and you’ll be driving, bringing home a girlfriend or heading off to college.  Happy Birthday to you.  I am so honored that God chose me to be your Mama.

The Time Cycle Class Almost Killed Me

I went back to the gym today.  I thought I was going to die 20 minutes into my Cycle class… on the lowest setting.  I thought I was going to puke when I was done with the 45 minute class.  True story.  I was praying I could make it the locker room before I lost my yogurt.  (I was fine, by the way.)  Why I decided to go back to the gym and attend the cycle class with Barb, (whom I think is) the toughest instructor but also one of the most amazing people ever, is beyond me.  But I was determined this morning.

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I haven’t been to the gym since February.  I had started going to the gym regularly the end of October last year and had actually stuck with it.  I was working out with a friend, feeling better about myself and actually feeling stronger.  I had more energy and loved the “me time” of just being able to focus on myself.  (Side note-  I used to think “me time” was kind of selfish.  Then I learned how important it actually is!)  Along came our unexpected pregnancy which came with the worst morning sickness I’ve had with any of my pregnancies.  I was exhausted and constantly nauseous.  Thus ended my gym reign, but I was so nauseous all the time, I actually lost weight that first trimester.  Then.  Then we lost that Baby Girl.  I’m an emotional eater, guys.  Not only am I an emotional eater, but I LOVE to bake and cook.  So I baked all the things, because being in the kitchen is one of my happy places…and then I ate all the things.

Now before I go any further with this post, I want to make something very clear:  I do not for one second think any of our value and worth is placed in how we look.  I think your character and soul and how you treat other people are what make you smokin’ hot.  If your kids are still alive at the end of the day and you’ve made it through the day without tearing another person down, you’re pretty much killing it in my book.

So anyway, back to my gym day today.  I haven’t been feeling good about myself.  I’ve been feeding my body crap food (you all know what I’m talking about).  My Chron’s Disease has been flaring up.  My clothes aren’t fitting quite like they used to.  I don’t have a lot of energy and just plain-old don’t feel well.  I am ready to change that- to get back in control of my health and my energy.  To change some habits that have unfortunately formed.

I’ve been reading this book called “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis.  It’s a fantastic book that I’d recommend to anyone.  One of the things she heavily emphasizes is not breaking promises to yourself.  If you truly want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen.  I promised myself no more emotional eating and that I was going to get back to feeling good about myself.  So this morning, I put on my Jades and sneakers and headed to the gym (where I had my near-death experience).

But here’s the real point of this entire post:  When I got done, I DID NOT feel good about myself right away.  I mean, when you finish a workout like that, you’re supposed to feel amazing.  You just finished a cycle class and didn’t die.  Yay, you!  But all I could think to myself was how out of shape I am.  I used to be able to do so much more in Cycle class.  Barb didn’t used to scare the be-jesus out of me.  ‘Why did you eat so much junk at the lake this weekend?  Of course you feel like crap.’ I had taken this selfie to share with my online community and thought ‘Why the hell am I smiling in this photo?!  There is no way I’m posting this with how crappy I feel.’  (Remember in my last post how I talked about how easy it is to just post the good stuff?)

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Except then I really looked at that selfie.  This red-faced photo (because I get really red when I work-out.  I have no idea why) of me in my workout clothes that don’t quite fit like they used to.  This photo was proof that I’d upheld my promise to myself!  This photo was me DOING something about how I feel about myself.  And just like that, I felt my mindset shift. ‘Girl, you just worked your ass off!  You damn well better post that photo!’

It’s so, so easy to bring our own selves down with our own negative self-talk.  It’s so, so easy to take something that should make us feel awesome and turn it into something that makes us feel defeated.  I have no desire to be ripped, but I’d love to be toned.  I have no desire to run a marathon, but I’d love to be able to run a few miles and not feel like puking.  I really don’t put a lot of stock into the scale (altho I can tell you I weigh more now than I ever have other than when I was pregnant with the boys); I just want to feel better about myself and my health.  I used to think saying positive things about myself was really silly, but I’m learning that it’s actually kind of essential to my well-being.

Today, if this is you, I’d love to invite you to my online community.  You can find the link at the end of this post.  (Yes, my LuLaRoe business is also run from there, but the community that has formed there is so, so much more than clothes.  If you hate it, I will take no offense if you leave, but you may find an amazing group of women who are dealing with some of the same life things you are).  I’m going to be running an accountability group of sorts within and would love to have you join us.

What promises have you made yourself and not been keeping?  What negative self-talk needs to be flipped around?  Start small, my Friends.  Don’t expect to be perfect and make a bunch of changes over night, but for the love of all things good in this world, OWN your successes!  Shout them from the rooftops!  The big and small!  Because as long as you’re moving forward, that’s really all the matters, and it deserves to be celebrated.

My Online Community:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/rusticposyboutique

The Start of Something Beautiful

Hi Friend!  I am so glad you are here.  This is the start of something beautiful, and I’m excited you’re tagging along for the ride.  I don’t know how you found me or what you’re going through, but here, in this place, you will find grace and you will find real.  I hope you will find a friend and someone that “gets you.”

So let me introduce myself!  I’m Melissa!  I live with my amazing hubby in Bismarck, North Dakota.  We have three amazing boys that I absolutely adore.  We also have three sweet babies in Heaven we lost.  Our most recent one was in April at 16 weeks along and that sweet girl has inspired so much even though I never got to hold her.  I love coffee and cooking.  I love baking and reading.  I love going to the lake and organizing.  I love Joanna Gaines, drinking wine and Superhero movies.  I love Jesus more than all those things put together.  So here, in this place, we get to talk about it all!

 

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We get to talk about the fun things-  raising boys and kids in general, baking things that taste amazing, fantastic books to read.  We get to talk about hard things- motherhood struggles, self-confidence and miscarriages.  We get to tackle life together- becoming debt free, running a business from home, organizing and balancing it all.  Because let’s face it, when you have people in the trenches with you, life seems little less scary.  You have a little more courage when you see others having the same struggles, the same fears.  You have more grit when you see others failing but getting up and trying again.

You see, I’ve learned these last few years, that we all seem to have the same struggles and fears.  We all feel like everyone else has it all together while we’re over here floundering and trying to keep our heads above water.  But the truth is, in today’s world, it’s easy to “have it all together” or at least appear so.  It’s easy to just share the good things on Facebook and Instagram- the fun family vacations and amazing family moments.  The perfect dessert and the laundry that’s nicely folded.  Nobody wants to admit they are struggling to lose the last of the baby weight, lost their cool with their kids last night or feel like they just can’t get ahead in their finances.  Nobody talks about how they lost their baby last night at 6 weeks or how their 4-year-old is the most hyper-active child ever and you’ve tried everything to help him control it and you feel like a failure as a mother.  (And  yes, those things are all personal experiences.)

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Here in this place, I get to be completely real.  Here in this place, no masks, no staged moments.  You get real-life- the good, the bad, the triumphs, the struggles.  So grab your cup of coffee, hold your head high and march on.  You have an ally, you have a cheerleader, you have a Friend.   I’ll see you soon!