Friday, October 24, 2014

My Thoughts on Week in the Life 2014

"For what is joy if it goes unrecorded, and what is love if it is not shared."

This quote from last season's final episode of Call the Midwife really resonated with me. So much so, that I paused the DVR, jumped off the treadmill, grabbed a pen and paper, replayed the scene, and jotted it down word for word. I then reread it out loud and thought, Yes, yes, yes!  

I didn't have a clue what I'd do with the quote, but I loved it.  It articulated two things I wholeheartedly believe: 1) That documenting life matters; and 2) That loving others is one of the main reasons we are here on this earth. 

It seemed fitting to share these words today because this coming Monday, I will be recording my joys and loves during Week in the Life, a 7-day documentary project started by one of my favorite scrapbooking gurus, Ali Edwards.
If you've been reading my blog for a year or more, you know that this is not my first rodeo. I participated in this project in 2013, 2011, and 2010.

I love looking back at the photos + words from those weeks, reminiscing about what life was like back then, and taking note of all that has changed from then to now. 

This year, though, with everything we have going on, I considered not taking part. But after looking through the photos + words from past years, I've decided to do it. Why? Because I think it's important to document what life looks like for us right now.

No matter how crazy it is.

How imperfect it is.

It's our reality.

It's our story.

And the great thing about this project is that I can make it anything I want it to be. I can choose to make it as big or as small as I want.

This is the attitude I've adopted this year: Something is better than nothing. I'd rather take a handful of photos and scrawl down a few words than have zero photos and no words at the end of the week.

With that said, in an effort not to get overwhelmed, I'm going to focus strictly on shooting and writing next week and leave the rest (the photo processing and blog posts and possible album making) for future weeks (okay, more like months since the holidays are fast approaching).

Here's my game plan:

1. Shoot every day--with both my iPhone 5S and my Canon 5D Mark III.

2. Post at least one photo each day on Instagram. #weekinthelife #weekinthelife2014

3. Jot down some of my thoughts; they can be related (or unrelated) to the photos.

4. Hand the camera over to Brian, so I will be in some of the photos, too. (First, I need to show him how to use back button focusing.) 

Here are my ideas for possible photos:
  • A pair of Noah's and Zoey's shoes
  • Their favorite toys
  • Their potty chairs
  • Most requested bedtime books
  • Bath time (take the shot sitting on the floor)
  • Music Together fun
  • Costumes (shots taken during the day for better lighting)
  • Zoey and her mom
  • Pumpkin carving (with Brian)
  • Kids gazing at the jack-o-lanterns in pitch black (may need tripod)
  • Baking the pumpkin seeds
  • Just Brian and me
I'm sure I'll think of more ideas when I begin shooting with my Canon 5D. I'm pumped to capture our daily routines from behind the lens. To detail on paper the little things happening in our lives. To slow down a little bit and take stock of all that I have--all that I am grateful for.
In the meantime, I'll be charging up my camera's batteries and gathering up some paper and a few pens. 

Who's with me? Will you be participating in WITL this year? For more information, check out this post by Ali Edwards.

Happy documenting,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

13 Tips for Staying on Top of Your Running Goals

Recently, I rediscovered my love of running. After a nearly 6-week hiatus, I hopped on the treadmill and quickly realized how much I missed it.

I missed the way it made me feel. The energy it gave me. The bounce in my step. The confident “I-can-take-on-anything” feeling. The way it cleared my head of those yucky negative thoughts. The good tired feeling. Dare I say, I even missed the sweat on my brow.

During some seasons of life, time just gets away from me. Our days become packed full of fun activities—gymnastics and play dates and music classes and library story time—and of course, runs to the grocery store and Target.

Carving out time for regular, uninterrupted exercise becomes challenging—particularly when your two toddlers don’t nap at the same time (or don’t nap at all!).

Still, staying on top of my exercise goals is important to me. Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question: How do I get back to that place? That place where I was on top of my running goals.

Coincidentally, while I was mulling this over in my head, Oscar, a company that provides health insurance in New York, reached out to me asking if I would write a blog post about how I stay on top of my running goals. And that’s how this post was born.

I’ve compiled a list of what has worked well for me in the past—as I trained for a 5K, a 10K, a 12K, or a half marathon. I wrote these 13 tips for myself as I strive to reach my latest running goal, but I’m hopeful they will aid you, too, in staying on top of your own running goals.

1. Register for a race or run.
Setting my sights on a specific race is key for me. I need to have a goal in mind--as well as a target date. I'm planning to register for an upcoming race as motivation to continue running on the treadmill at least three days a week.

2. Create an exercise calendar.
You can design your own handmade calendar using paper and pen; print a free, customizable calendar at; or search for a running calendar online. When I ran a half marathon, I printed this 12-week calendar. If you'd prefer to track your running goals on your smartphone, try one of these fitness apps: Map My Fitness, RunKeeper, Strava, or Nike+ Running.  

3. Post your exercise calendar in plain sight.
Find a spot where you will see it frequently. For me, hanging the calendar on a clipboard near my computer monitor means I will see it at least twice a day; once at naptime and once at night.

4. Make running a priority.
Place it in the number one position on your to-do list. When I worked outside the home, I found that if I didn't complete my run as soon as I got home, I'd often procrastinate and work on other projects, and before I knew it, it was time for bed.

5. Dress for success. 
Setting out my clothing the night before always helps me to get dressed faster, whether I'm going to work out that day or not. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom (not an elementary school teacher), I often put my running clothes on first thing in the morning, so that when nap time rolls around, I can hit the treadmill immediately. If you want to take it a step further, follow positive psychologist and author Shawn Achor's advice: Wear your workout clothes to bed! (If you haven't read Shawn's book, The Happiness Advantage, I highly recommend it.) I’ve never tried this practice myself, but it makes sense: The less you have to do before you start your run, the better the odds that you'll actually hit the pavement or treadmill.

6. Work out when it's convenient for you, not someone else.
I know many people who love starting their day off with a run. But that’s just not for me. I’m so not a morning person.  When I worked as a teacher, I tried many times to get up early and run before work. I'd tell myself the night before that I'd get up, but I never did. I'd hit the snooze button six or seven times. Which is why now, I always work out during the day (nap time) or after the kids go to bed (but not so close to my bedtime that I won’t be able to fall sleep).

7. Buy yourself a new pair of running shoes. 
When I spend $125 on a pair of athletic shoes from Fleet Feet Sports, I really want to wear them. Not only are they clean and pretty, but they feel so good on my feet. And my rule is, if I put them on, then I must run. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

8. Surround yourself with inspiration.
Pinterest is a great place to find funny quotes or inspirational sayings about everything and anything running. Gather a few that resonate with you or make you laugh, print them out and then stick them up all over your house--on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, even your treadmill.

9. Create an awesome running playlist.
Need ideas? Check out these Pinterest playlists. If you love listening to Pandora during your workouts, there are many station options, perfect for your running workout. I just added Country Fitness radio and 80s Cardio to my Pandora list. 

10. Watch television when you run.
Catch up on your DVR shows—whether it’s Parenthood or The Voice or The Walking Dead. Want to take it up a notch? View your favorite shows only when you're running. That way, you'll be really motivated to jump on the treadmill. I'm chuckling as I write this because I watch very little television. I literally had to google, "Most Popular 2014 TV shows," because I had no idea what people are watching these days. (By the way, Big Bang Theory was #1, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I've never seen it.) I write all that to say that it’s easy for me to only watch television when I run. If you're an avid television watcher, then you're probably laughing at me...and the absurdity of that very idea. I can hear my television-loving hubby now, "Run every time I watch TV? Never!" Ha! 

11. Track and celebrate your progress.
In the past, every time I finished a run, I'd check off the box on my exercise calendar (thinking, Ah, yeah!) and jot down my time or mileage. And then I’d let out a little "Woohoo!"  

12. Keep yourself accountable.
One way to do this is to exercise with a friend. Or join a running club. If you exercise alone (as I often do), share your running goals with friends and family. Ask for their support during your training as well as on the day of the race. Post your progress on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog.

13. Celebrate your accomplishment.
When you cross the finish line (and you will!), be sure to share your BIG running accomplishment with friends and family--in person, via email, or on social media. Go ahead, brag a little. You've earned it! You never know, you just may inspire someone else to tackle one of their own exercise goals. 

In short, this is what I want to remember going forward: Plan. Train. Race. Celebrate. Repeat. 

It’s as simple--and as challenging--as that.
Fellow runners: What tips would you add?  How do you stay on top of your running goals?

Keep on running,

Thanks to Oscar Health Insurance for inviting me to write this piece. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions and suggestions are strictly my own.  

Friday, October 17, 2014


loving this photo of my nearly 2-year-old niece, Zoey. (I'm slowly learning how to shoot with my Canon 5D Mark III!)

delighting in the colors of the fall leaves. 

enjoying family days spent at two pumpkin patches.

riding a train at Bishop's Pumpkin Farm in the animal car. Noah's favorite part?  Going through the tunnel.

cleaning out our kitchen junk drawer. 

touring an apple orchard in Auburn. 

drinking water...and more water. (After months of trying, I've nearly eliminated all soda from my diet.)

running on the treadmill 2-3 times a week.

considering creating a capsule wardrobe, either this fall or next spring.  

discovering how exhausting and gratifying it can be to care for two toddlers.
singing "Jingle Bells" during bath time last night.  (I know, I know, it's only October.  But I'm already excited for Christmas!)

snapping lots of photos with my iPhone and very few with my big camera. 

reading JoJo Moyes' The Girl You Left Behind. (I read Me Before You first and really enjoyed it.) I'm about 70% in, and I'm curious as to how Ms. Moyes is going to weave together all of the elements of the story as well as produce a satisfying ending.

praying more than I have in a long time. 

planning to spend this Sunday at Apple Hill, continuing on a tradition we started years ago, with our good friends, the Liotines. (Here's a look at past years: 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008.)  

editing photos from our trip to Oregon in July.  Yes, you read that right: July! I'm just a wee bit behind... 

struggling to go to bed any earlier than 11:30 pm most nights.  

looking forward to spending a weekend away with my husband at the end of the month. 

What's {currently} happening with you?

*This post contains affiliate links. What does that mean? If you click on a link and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission--with no extra cost to you--which helps to keep my blog humming along.  Thanks for your support!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bring on the Music

Noah & Teacher Beth
Earlier this month, Noah, Zoey, Brian and I began attending a Music Together class once a week.

Teacher Beth started the first class by giving all of us--parents and grandparents--permission to "let your inner child out." To  hum, dance, march, sing, and play instruments.  To just follow her and do what she does.

She also said, "The kiddos do not have to sit in your lap or stand next to you." I could literally feel the stress being released from my shoulders.

During the session, Noah (32-months-old) and Zoey (22-months-old) did A LOT of observing--watching the teacher, watching the other kids, and watching me.

I sang (I love to sing!) and twirled and threw scarves in the air.  I marched and chugged and shook a tambourine.

One time, I looked over at Noah and he was giving me a look like, What are you doing, Mom? Are you crazy?

Maybe a little. Ha!

For the most part, Noah and Zoey were doing really well.  But then Teacher Beth turned off the lights and a boy whose voice I recognized yelled out, "I DON WANNA TAKE A REST!"

Even though my back was to him and he was a good 20 feet away standing near the door, I knew it was Noah. My child--who really doesn't like going down for a nap right now. 

I smiled.  And chuckled alongside a few of the other parents.

Fast forward to the second week...Noah and Zoey did a little less observing and more participating.

Noah didn't always march when Teacher Beth marched or hum when we hummed. And that's perfectly okay.

Later on that day in the bathtub, he started singing a tune from class ("Hello to [Insert Name], So Glad to See You"). And in the car the following day, he talked about how much fun it was to play Teacher Beth's ukelele.

Oh yes, he's listening.

Oh yes, he's absorbing.

Oh yes, he's digging it.

We can't wait for next week's class.

Bring on the music!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Phone Calls From Our Adoption Attorney

Last week, I shared an adoption update, complete with what I've accomplished and what I still want to do.

But that's only part of the story.

Over the past few months, we've received a number of phone calls from our adoption attorney relaying information about potential birth parents. Initially, this took us by surprise because with our first adoption, there wasn't much activity at the beginning of the process.

While it's been exciting to hear from Jan on a regular basis, it's also been somewhat stressful. 

Here's how the first two calls played out:

1 | I got a frantic phone call from our attorney while I was sitting in the hairdresser's chair getting my hair highlighted. (Awesome timing, right?) A baby girl had been born in Las Vegas and her birth mother had decided to place her for adoption. The birth mother, who is in her 30s, already had a child and knew she couldn't support a second one.

I was surprised. But excited. I kept thinking, Oh my gosh, the baby's here! On this earth. Right now. My heart started pounding. I had a huge smile on my face, but I felt anxious, too.   

Of course, I wanted to say "Yes, yes, heck yes!"

Yes, we want a healthy baby girl. Yes, we know how to get around Las Vegas (that's where Noah was born). Yes, it's fairly close to us--just the next state over--which means we'd have the option to drive, not fly. Yes, because it's highly unlikely the birth mother would change her mind.  (Every adoptive parents' worst fear.)

But we couldn't say yes. See, our profile books had been ordered, but they hadn't arrived yet. We tried desperately to get a PDF file of our book to the adoption agency in Las Vegas before they presented them to the birth mother, but we simply ran out of time.

As disappointing as it was, I knew it wasn't meant to be. She wasn't the one for our family. (I trust that God placed her with a wonderful adoptive family. And that she will have a beautiful life. Truly.)

And getting that call from Jan--as emotionally jarring as it was--spurred me to finally finish our adoption website and order pass along cards.

2 | Two weeks later, Jan contacted us again. This time, there was a birth mother in Indiana expecting twins.

Yes, TWINS! A boy and a girl.  And "oh by the way," Jan says, "She's 35 weeks pregnant and could go into labor at any time."

Whoa! Anytime?! I thought. 

Of course, I was excited. But then the panic set in. What if we were presented and she actually chose us? I couldn't wrap my head around how that was going to work. How was I going to care for three children under the age of three (two of them infants) ALL. BY. MYSELF? For 3+ days at a time?

I remember thinking, BREATHE, Jen, and my body did just that.

Then, I talked to Brian. I thought for sure he'd say, I don't think we're ready to care for two babies. But he was on board. I hadn't anticipated that he would be enthusiastic about it; he still surprises me after all these years!

So, despite my anxiety, I agreed to take a leap of faith. To say, Yes, we'd like to be presented. I trusted that if the birth mother selected us, we would find a way to make it work. I trusted that God wouldn't have presented this opportunity to us if he didn't think we could handle it.  I trusted that it would play out as it should.

Brian scrambled to get a PDF file of our book. (Now that we actually had our profile books, the agency wanted a PDF file, with certain specific requirements. Go figure!)

At the advice of our attorney, I typed up a personal letter to the birth mother, which included our connections to Indiana (primarily Brian's fondness for Notre Dame and our trips to see the football team play) and our level of openness (the type of contact we'd like to have with the birth parents).

Just keeping it real: Noah may have watched two episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates that I frantically typed away at the computer.

We emailed the PDF file and letter to our attorney, but then didn't hear anything for weeks.

I figured that the birth mother must have chosen a different family, but I was curious, so I called Jan.  She informed me that the birth mother decided to parent. As Jan said, "She took the babies and the [profile] books home with her."

A part of me was disappointed. But truthfully, another part of me was relieved.
Since then, we've been presented to two other birth mothers, but we haven't been chosen.

Some of you might be wondering, "Don't you get discouraged when you're not chosen?" And the honest answer is yes, a little.

But I know they might not have chosen us because we live too far away or because we already have a son. Or because we have dogs and they don't want their child growing up with dogs. Or maybe because Brian is a Notre Dame fan and they're a die-hard Michigan fan! Just kidding...

In all seriousness, it could be I'm not sweating it.

I remain very hopeful. I know that when the time is right--God's time--it will happen, and a little baby girl will join our family forever.  

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