Monday, November 30, 2015

Welcome Back Christopher Pop-In-Kins!

Tomorrow is the big day!

Our elf Christopher Pop-In-Kins will return from the North Pole tomorrow.  We have been talking to Alex and showing him pictures from last year, he appears excited and has been looking for him around the house already.  We have talked to him about not being able to touch his elf or that his elf will lose his magical Christmas powers.  We are not much to threaten the whole "Santa's watching" but instead that Santa travels the world to give one gift to each boy and girl to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

Last year I wasn't able to keep up with that sneaky little elf and wasn't able to catch him in all of his sneaky trickery.  But this year Santa and I have discussed and it and made plans, even put them into my planner, and we are confident we will be able to stay on top of it this year!!

My plan through the month of December will be that Momday Monday's will be our weekly recaps for Christopher Pop-In-Kins and all of his antics.

To help you get excited for tomorrow being December 1st here are some photos of Christopher from last year!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving God Your Wallet

Money is one heck of a controversial topic and it sure is hard to write about too.

Growing up I was taught that money is a private thing.  It's not something you flaunt and it's definitely not something you talk about.  My family lived paycheck to paycheck growing up and I am proud to say due to promotions and blessings on my parents they no longer have to live like that.  My mom and dad both work so hard and they deserve everything they have.  Perhaps I didn't pay attention but I don't remember ever being taught anything else about money other than you must work hard for it and to pay your bills.

When I got my first job every cent I earned was blown on material things.  I never truly learned my lesson with money and that got me into trouble down the road.

When Chris and I got married and joined our bank accounts we found some definite flaws.  We soon discovered we were both impulse buyers and had no real concept of money.  We started falling behind on bills and were drowning in debt.  We would work so hard to get back on track and then make stupid mistakes and fall 8 steps back.

When we started attending our new church we were on the brink of foreclosure and had darn near double the amount of debt we are still working to pay off.  We were fighting all the time about money and neither of us were even in the same book let alone on the same page when it came to the topic of bills.  And to top it off we were seriously considering divorce.

In one of our first few weeks at our church I can vividly remember sitting in service and it was as if God was speaking directly to me, He was telling me, you have to quit how you are doing things.  You need to get your finances in order and begin to pray for your husband again, work like you have never worked before and you can repair this.  It was that day I went home to make a budget and to get our bills on track and work to pay off our debts.  It was also that day Chris and I decided to start giving a tithing with each paycheck.  It was no where near the 10% the Bible calls for but it was what we could afford at the time.  Even 1 year later we are still only at about a 7% tithe monthly, but we are working diligently to get to a place where we can make it to 10% or more.

The topic of tithes and offerings have been weighing heavily on my heart recently with our church's One Day campaign being today.  The difference between a tithe and an offering is that a tithe is your responsibility as deemed by the bible and an offering is what you choose to give above your tithing.  Each year our church takes an offering and gives 100% of the money received that day to our ministries.  We strive to give one day's wage per person.  Last year in one day we raised nearly $50,000!  IN ONE DAY!  The life change made possible from the donations on that one day is unimaginable and immeasurable.

In the few times Chris and I went to church prior to where we are now we would look at each other when they would collect offerings we would always say, "One day we will be able to give back.  One day we will be able to make donations and change other peoples lives."   The present day never seemed like the right day, and it never made sense to give away when we had so little.

In reality, we didn't have little we just did not manage what we had well.  Since then we have come to realize all we have does not belong to us, what we are BLESSED with belongs to GOD and He has simply chosen us to manage it and use it to spread His glory.  When you look at things that way it really changes your opinion doesn't it.  It was with that mindset that we decided to give money to God first and then pay our bills.

Why on earth would 2 people who are having trouble paying their own bills donate money to a church before anything else?  We strongly believe that everything we have are blessings from God and that it is a minimal repayment to give him back 10% of what he has given us. And as our church so strongly believes, we are blessed to be a blessing.

So are you still not convinced?  We quickly saw a return on investment when we began to donate to our church, we saw how much Alex was benefiting each week from his classroom time. We began to learn of the impact our donation was helping to make in countries such as India and Guatemala.  We have built countless numbers of churches in India as well as 2 schools in Los Chilitos, Guatemala, a village we have adopted.  Our church has purchased over 75 ovens for homes within Los Chilitos which ultimately helps to improve the health of their villagers. Through our medical missions and our mission work within the village we have also seen many villagers give their lives to Christ and take the next step in their journey through baptism.  These things are all just a scratch on the surface of what our church is doing.  Your giving does so much more than you will ever know.  This is what motivates us to constantly evaluate if we can give more and what else we can do to bring glory to His kingdom.

It has been after much prayer that Chris and I have come to the decision we cannot fully participate in this offering this year but will give everything we possibly can.  With an un-guaranteed income over the next month for me we just do not see it to be a wise decision at this time. We have decided that when I have returned to work we will be making a full donation to our church and all of its ministries.

God calls you to do all you can with what you have, it doesn't have to be all you have and it is not meant to break the bank.  He simply calls us to give of our time, talents and treasures, but holds nothing against you if you can't afford to give anything.  He simply desires your love,

Isn't it incredible that we serve such a generous God who only seeks your love in return?

Friday, November 27, 2015

My Favorite Sweet Potato Casserole (Picture Recipe)

I found this recipe a few years ago when I was pregnant with Alex and was craving Sweet Potato Casserole and couldn't find a box recipe so I was forced to make it from scratch and took to Chef Google to find the recipe.

I don't follow this recipe to a tee, but I do follow it for the most part.  Let's get started!

What you need:

4 cups of sweet potatoes
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

 Place sweet potatoes with sauce from can into saucepan, cook until soft, drain and mash.
I prefer mine to a fine consistency so I use a beater and make them the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Mix in all other ingredients, including brown sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, cover top with marshmallows and place back in oven for 10-15 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

Take out and let cool and serve.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Plan With Me: Week of Thanksgiving 2015

With my recent surgery, I have not been doing too much on the cleaning and organizing front around our home lately.  Thankfully my incredible husband has picked up on the slack for me, he is way too good to me. That being said, I don't have much to say about either of those topics right now.  So today I have chosen to let you in on a little sneak peek of my planner world and show you step by step of my planning process.

When I was first starting out in the glam planning world, sitting down for a planner session could take hours, it would mainly depend on how busy that week was going to be and how focused or easily distracted I was that day.  When I have a week that I am feeling "decorative" it will take even longer as I debate where to place each sticker. 

A few things are ALWAYS the same during my planning sessions, I always plan in bed, in my pj's and you can bet there is a cold drink within arms reach.

Some weeks I pre-plan a lot ahead of time and other weeks not at all.  (The weeks I tend to pre-plan the most are the weeks of holidays, which is why there are already so many stickers down at the start of this session.)

I believe I mentioned in my last post about my planner that I have become a very functional planner, every sticker has a place and purpose.  One little extra bit I have grown to love are countdown stickers.  I love to use them leading up to big holidays or occasions.  It just helps to build the excitement day by day!  As you can see in the picture below I have 2 separate countdowns going on this week.  One of them being a countdown to Thanksgiving, I found these stickers on Etsy in a shop called, Finch & Sparrow Print . I just love her shop and her packaging is to die for!  My other countdown I have going on is a Christmas countdown and it is from my very favorite planner shop Peanut Butter Taco.  

My very favorite sticker I have laid out for this week is actually wahsi tape, which is the football field washi from scotch, you can find a similar one here. I pair the washi with a reflections football sticker and a Target Dollar Spot craft paper sticker to keep track of the score.  I do this at the start of the Bengals season as well as my brother's football season.  

A lot of the decorative stickers in this week's layout have come from freebies that came with different orders I have received in the mail.  And the black Friday shopping sticker is from my fall bucket list from One Orange Snowflake.  The weekend banner is from Mailbox Happiness as is the little page flag and get your fat pants on sticker. 

Now onto the fun part!

First  I gather all of my supplies, today I don't plan to use any washi, so these are all I will need.  These four accordian folders were all bought at Target either in the Target Dollar Spot or in the office section. They are not all full and truthfully don't contain near as much as I would like them to but they help to keep my OCD heart happy. And behind them is my bag of "colors" as Alex calls them.  It holds all of my pens, pencils, scissors and whiteout, it is simply a zippered pencil pouch I found at Walmart during back to school season.

Since I have begun to use more stickers in my planning I find I use my black PaperMate Flair more than any other pen in my collection, occasionally though I will add a pop of color for a special occasion or for something very important.

The beauties are generally the next thing I pull from by supplies.  I found these at Hobby Lobby for 50% a few months back and I am just in love with them, they are so cute and such great quality.  Since I make a lot of my own stickers still these babies are a necessity! 

The first thing I do every week in my planner is to map out the weather for the week.  I always use the 10 day forecast in the WeatherBug app I have on my phone.

The weather stickers I am loving right now are from The Paperly Bowtique.  

Now this is one set of stickers I have made for myself, then wanted to try these stickers out.  As you can see above you use a lot of some and none of others.  Now I am pretty OCD and would not be able to use one of one kind and one of another in a layout.  As much as I love these stickers from The Paperly Bowtique I can't say that I will purchase weather stickers again, I will just go back to making them on my own, it is much more cost effective.

Some may think it is silly to plan out the weather, however I use this feature in my planner for a few reasons.  The first one being that I use my planner as a scrapbook and memory book as well, so it is nice to be able to look back on a day and see what the weather was like.  The second being, I have a 3 year old to dress as well, and most days we roll out of bed and leave the house.  I am not a fan of the news so most days when we walk out the door is the first time we will come across what the temperature is.  By planning ahead I am able to more efficiently plan his outfits according to the weather.

The next thing I will do is pick a color scheme for the week.  Since this week is Thanksgiving I went with predominately orange, but also dark reds and dark greens.

After the weather stickers go down, the next sticker I always put down is a half-box in the color of my theme.  This half-box is from my favorite shop, Peanut Butter Taco, which is linked above.  On top of this half box I place a sticker I made with our church logo, and next to it I will detail what service we are going to and the series we are in. (I took that picture at the end of my planning session.)

Once these stickers are down is generally when I will add in mine and Chris's work schedule's with the stickers I made.  Chris' stickers have a little police officer and mine have a nurse and are color coordinated by our favorite colors. I got my inspiration for these stickers from Mare Bear Crafts.  

Once these are down I move onto adding my TV shows.  Now I am not much of a TV person and rely heavily on HULU to catch up on my shows.  So I like to mark when the shows I follow will have new episodes so I can check HULU in my spare time.  After I have watched each show I will check it off so I know when I am up to date or when I can justify a night in bed in my pj's binge watching TV.

So generally speaking I will pull up a TV guide on my phone and make sure there will actually be new episodes on that week and then mark them down with the TV stickers I made for myself.

Now adding in the final steps of my planning process I generally add a master to-do list in the notes section of my weekly layout.  This week I will be using a Peanut Butter Taco heart checklist in orange.

Generally speaking I add generic things that need to be accomplished during this week in this section, not things with deadlines or more firm details.

Next I will go through and add important details or firm appointments.  This week I need to add something to remind me to finish up all of my photo session edits.  I am in the middle of editing 3 different sessions, AT THE SAME TIME! Needless to say my computer is a bit overwhelming right now! I used a camera sticker from Finch & Sparrow Prints, linked above, overtop of a Peanut Butter Taco half-box.

And usually to end my weekly planning session I will go through with small dots or other smaller stickers for firm appointments. This week I used 2 different kinds, the first set is from Mailbox Happiness, linked above, they were apart of her fall kit and I cut them out to save them.

And the last ones I used were from Peanut Butter Taco, linked above, these cute little hearts come at the top of her heart checklists.  I love using them for appointments or big to-do's.  I chose to use them on Thanksgiving to help me keep track of where we need to be and when.

And that's the end of it!  I didn't have much to plan for this week, as I am not working and it's a holiday week. But nonetheless it will be a fun week!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Momday Monday : Tackling the Toddler Years

As I detailed in my back to blogging post, Monday's will be dedicated to several things: experiences, do/don'ts of motherhood, nurse blogs and toddler meltdowns.

Today I would like to touch on toddler meltdowns.

I can remember vividly when I got pregnant the stories I got about how rough the toddler years would be.  Everyone and their mother wants to tell you about the "terrible two's."  And if they told you anymore than that you likely forgot because you were permanently scarred.   Oh, that was just me?  Shoot.

Now let me preface a few things here, I was not the best behaved little girl or teenager, I am as bull-headed as they come and well to the say the least as a teenager I was a drama queen.  There aren't many stories that I have heard of Chris having an attitude problem or being rebellious, but he is also extremely strong-willed and hard-headed much like myself.  Neither one of us will easily accept the word no and definitely choke down our pride when we discover we are wrong.

Chris and I had long drawn out conversations about this as we prepared for Alex's birth.  We would often sit and wonder, "Will Alex be born with my temperament or yours?" "Will he go through the terrible two's or will he lay it on that much thicker as a teenager?"  

We thought we were so prepared, we had game plans and strategies and what we would stand firm on and what we would let slide. Then came a 2 year old.....

We were so prepared for the worst of the worst, Alex had shown little bits and pieces of his temper in the past, for example, this baby tantrum.

Our 2 year old seemed like a walk in the park compared to what everyone had prepared us for, of course there were days that were particularly trying and days we thought, "Oh my goodness they were right."  But it was nothing we couldn't handle.  

Then our little fella turned 3, we both felt an instant wave of peace and relief come over us,  We had made it out of the terrible two's with little to no damage.  We called ourselves the "lucky ones."  

Then an exact 2 weeks later it was like someone stole our sweet little angel and replaced him with an emotional teenager trapped in a 3 year old's body.

No one had ever said 3 could be worse than 2 EVER, or at least that we remembered.  Once we started reaching out to friends and other parents within our church, the stories came flooding in, "Oh yeah, there were days we considered just putting our kid in time out as soon as he woke up, in hopes it would teach him a lesson."  WHY DIDN'T ANYONE PREPARE US FOR AGE 3?!?
Now that we were experiencing the "Traumatic Three's" as we have come to know them people have begun to warn us about many other ages and stages in life, the prepubescent years, preteens, teenagers and once they leave the house, each one seeming scarier than the next.  It kind of took the wind out of our sails at how well we thought we were doing with raising our child. 

That was until I had a revelation, if you could call it that.  Our son is an amazing child.  This is an incredibly hard time for any parent, toddlers are made to test boundaries and your patience.  I acted the same way towards my parents as did Chris.  It's how children grow as people and become well behaved and respectful teenagers and adults. This phase in life will repeat itself over and over again, but your duty in each phase is to love them through it.  They are just as overwhelmed as you are with all of the emotions and changes going on inside of them and this is the only way they know how to cope with it all at this point. 

 I hope you can remember that the next time your child is having a "rough day." It's not that they are being "bad," they are just simply growing and maturing into real people, experiencing tremendous life change and a wide array of emotions that will never be able to be understood.  So during these times hold them tighter, bring them closer and love them trough it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

God's Plan

A little over a year ago Chris and I began to attend a new church.  Now we were "religious" people prior to finding this church but neither of us truly had the relationship with Christ or each other that we desired.  Through attending our new church and participating in fellowship with others Chris and I have both been saved, baptized and have developed a new and renewed relationship with Christ and have found the loving relationship with each other we had at the start of our relationship. 

God's grace has been an abundant blessing in our lives and I love that I get to use my little corner of the interwebs to share that with you.

Chris and I have been through it over the last couple of years if I am to be completely honest.  There were plenty of days when I laid down at night and thought, why on earth would a God who "loves us" so much put us through this?  Why would he repeatedly bring us tough times day after day?

It wasn't until a few months in on my new journey with Christ that he led me during a devotional to the verse John 13:7  

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Woah, if that wasn't a blatant sign I don't know what else could be.  Though I was walking this new journey I can't say there weren't days that it wasn't easy to fully put my trust in God for him to guide my path.  There are still days I need to remind myself of this verse and let go of everything, place it in His hands and trust He will take me where I need to go and get me there on His time.

Sometimes our journey's take us through trials and tribulations that make us question God's existence or presence in our lives.  Through much prayer I have found that these are the times when you need to lean into Him even more and also lean onto fellow followers in Christ who can help you to get back onto God's path for your life or to help you see his purpose for these tough times.

 I can't even begin to explain the life change Chris and I have experienced once we placed our full trust in God.  It's an incredible feeling to not feel the need to worry about any situation He may place in front of you.

I encourage you if you have not placed your full trust in God and have questions please leave a comment below.  I am no expert and I am still a growing Christian and I am learning more about God's grace and mercy daily but would love to connect you with someone who can help you with any question you may have. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

My Journey to Planner Peace

Where to start....I have fallen fast and fallen hard into the world of all things Erin Condren. If you have been living under a rock and don't know what they are check this website: . These planners are absolute game changers.

 Throughout my school age years I was ALWAYS the girl who wrote absolutely everything in her cheap little planner the school gave us, from homework assignments to events and then chores for home too.  I have always loved planners.  My only trouble was once I got to a certain age in school they stopped giving us planners and it was up to us to find one that would work for us.  It is a lot easier to use a planner, and make it work, when you didn't pay anything for it.  One problem I would always come across were that the daily boxes were never big enough for my handwriting.  I would buy planner after planner and never be happy with any of them but never want to commit to anything over $15 because of my track record with them.

After college and in my first hospital RN job some of my coworkers introduced me to Erin Condren Life planners.  So I looked into them at that point and saw their price and I thought, "Oh heck no! I can't justify that kind of cash!"  So I continued to planner hop and never reach "planner peace" as this wonderful community calls it.  

Fast forward to January 2015, I had been working two RN jobs and my photography company on the side and was barely keeping track of it all, my final straw was when I went to the wrong baby sitters to drop Alex off before work one night. I had had enough!  I told myself I have been working hard enough over the past few months and I desperately needed something to help me get my life in order. 

I placed my order and began checking my email everyday for a shipping notification!  And once it did finally ship I checked the tracking every 4 hours practically until it arrived at my door.  My mailman must of thought he was delivering a million dollar ticket with how excited I was to receive it!  

Oh my goodness the amazingness that followed!  I started simple, I was just using a black pen to write all of my plans into it.  I then started to use the do-it-all dots to color coordinate church events and baby sitters. 

Then I stumbled upon this video: Elle Fowler's Planner 101: Intro to Glam Planning .

I then became engulfed into other plan with me videos on YouTube and the hashtag #glampanning on all social media platforms.

What did I stumble upon? This rocked my world!  I had never thought of the idea of using stickers to assist in planning.  I was drooling over the stickers and the beautiful pens and washi and all of the things!  At that point I wouldn't let myself spend money on the stickers.  SO I invested to colored pens.  I started with BIC colored pens, then Sharpie pens, then Papermate flairs. Oh my goodness the pens!

 Then I began to experiment with the stickers that Erin Condren includes in the back of each planner. There are blank ones, some that say birthday, appointment, anniversary and etc.  That is where it all started. Then I found this amazing thing called washi tape!  Boy did that change the game!

 Following this I found the Target Dollar Spot.  Who knew how addictive page flags that don't actually stick to paper could be, not to mention it had washi tape and decorative stickers.  Until this point I had never really had any interest in this section of Target, the wonderful ladies of the planner community showed me just how incredible it really is!  

I then found myself wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby & Michael's in their scrapbooking aisles looking for more and more decorative stickers to add to my collection that I would never use. 

Then upon learning more about Etsy shops I set out to learn how to make my own stickers.  And I stumbled upon the Xyron 510 sticker maker. How amazing!! I could now make my own stickers and save money and time!  I spent the next 3 nights making my own stickers on our computer into the wee hours of the morning. 

I made stickers for my work schedule, Chris' work schedule, church days, weather stickers, football games, tennis matches, TV shows, payday, photo sessions, dr's appointments, dentist appointments, grocery days, stickers to symbolize when I put gas in my car and lots of decorative stickers(that I would hardly EVER use). 

I was set, until I got tired of cutting out each sticker one by one that is.  Over the past 2 or so months I have allowed myself approximately $40 month to accumulate stickers for my collection.  I have quickly learned that I am more of a functional planner that decorative. 

This has definitely been a whirlwind of a journey but it has definitely been so fun and I am ready to scream it from the rooftops, "I AM A PLANNER ADDICT!" I will no longer be ashamed when someone opens my planner and sees just how down to the detail I plan, and that my planner is actually colorful and fun.  My motto is, "If I am going to be so busy I can't see straight I might as well have fun while I am doing it."