Monday, July 30, 2018

Shopping For My Boys


Hi friends! One of the questions I get asked a ton is where I shop for the boys' clothes. I thought I'd share some of my favorite shops and tips + tricks for dressing my boys on a budget!

Online Shops: 

  • Bagsy 
    • I love Bagsy!! It is essentially an online consignment store for boutique brand clothing. You can search by brand, size, product type, etc. It makes it really easy to shop for specific things. Some of my best finds from that site have been several Vineyard Vines Shep Shirts, UGA shirts, and CrewCuts shirts. 
  • Smocked Auctions
    • This is my go to for anything smocked and coordinating. I love that I can pick something for both boys and you really can't beat the prices.
  • Cecil and Lou
    • This is another great online shop that I shop from frequently, especially around the holidays.
  • TBBC
    • I actually haven't ordered anything straight from their website but usually shop it in store at a local children's boutique. These are definitely splurge items for us and not something I typically buy for them. I love their swimsuits, pajamas, and holiday outfits!

Facebook/Instagram Pages

Etsy Shops

T-Shirts
  • I already mentioned it above, but my favorite place to get boutique style gingham shorts is from the Etsy shop LazyDayCrafts. Shipping takes about 3 weeks but you just can't beat her price. I have ordered the regular shorts and the bubble shorts and love them!
  • I love Old Navy for basic khaki shorts, pants, and blue jeans. 

Shoes

I really love dressing my boys and truly consider it one of my hobbies haha I definitely do a lot of mix and match with nicer, more expensive things, and inexpensive things. I typically spend the most money on clothes around the holidays because I usually buy things that are a little nicer during that time. We have a clothing budget for each month and I plan ahead for each season. For example, right now I am looking for things for football season because I know that's mostly what we'll be wearing in the coming months. In September I'll start ordering for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That way I can spread out my purchases and it's not as hard of a hit all at the same time. 



Monday, July 23, 2018

Playroom + Preschool

Our playroom has come a long way. From this...


to this...


You can read all about my journey to a more simple lifestyle HERE.

One of the things I love most about our playroom are the types of toys we have. Most every toy is open-ended. Meaning the boys have to actually play with the toy vs. the toy doing the playing for them. They have tons of balls, trucks, animals, people, etc. They are both very imaginative with their toys. We also don't have just "boy" toys. We have a dollhouse, a baby doll, and a play kitchen. I think it's super important for my boys to be sensitive and caring and a lot of that starts with playing with these types of toys. I love watching them take care of their baby, cook meals, or pretend play in their house.

Thanks to Adam's mom keeping a lot of his books from his childhood plus my love for children's literature the boys have a TON of books. Even though they have a lot of books they do not have access to all of them. I keep them up on a higher shelf (in rainbow color order, obviously) and only have a small basket on the floor. I rotate books based on the season or just whatever they're interested in. They probably have 5-10 books in their basket at a time. I love doing this because it always keeps them interested in what's in the basket and helps them continue to grow a love for reading without overwhelming them with a million different options. It's also fun to see them remember their favorites and specifically ask for them to be put in their basket.


I have also recently started including a lot of educational toys and games for Bennett into our play routine. Being that he is only 3 we are really just beginning to work on things, and it's not anything I force him to do. We spend probably a total of an hour per week on these types of activities. I have started picking themes and choosing activities that he can do to help practice letter and number recognition, cutting, tracing, etc. A lot of these things are things that Shep can play with as well even without the educational purpose. I do a lot of fine motor practice with him, putting different things into bins, sorting, etc. This might seem overwhelming, especially if you're not a teacher, but I get all of the resources from Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and usually find everything for free. I bring home some things from my classroom or purchase cheap supplies on Amazon. The Target dollar spot is the BEST for super simple supplies like themed erasers, cut outs, and window clings. Super simple and easy. It's really fun for me to use my love of teaching for my own kiddos at home. It also gives them something extra to do on the days they are at home during the week or on the weekends. (We are fortunate that they are able to go to pre-school three days a week and then are home with family the other days.)






Something that I think is worth mentioning. Although we are very pro-creative and imaginative play we are not anti-screen time. Our boys watch their fair share of (quality) television and Bennett has an Amazon Fire Kids tablet. However, we are pretty strict on their access and the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. When it comes to t.v. shows we typically only watch shows that are on DVR. We do this so we can fast-forward through commercials and they aren't constantly seeing advertisements for toys they don't need ; ) For Bennett's tablet he can only use it for about 10-15 minutes at a time, a couple times a day. Overall, the boys don't have more than an hour of screen time on most days, unless we are watching a movie as a family, and in that case it's rare that they actually sit through the entire thing anyway! Some days they use the whole hour, other days we don't turn it on at all, it really just depends. As with everything I think you just have to do what works best for your family and your children!

I love that we are really getting into a groove with our more simple lifestyle and the boys are absolutely thriving!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Five on Friday


Hi friends! We have had such a great, relaxing week at home. We have gone HARD this summer and done so many fun things so it was very welcoming to have a full week at home to just be together. I go back to work on Monday so I was soaking in every sweet second with my boys. I thought I'd share five little snippets from my week...

1- The boys and I popped into my classroom earlier this week and I was so excited to see all these supplies + tons more waiting for me. Teacher Christmas!! I am really excited to start back next week!


2- I bought Shep these Keds and I am obsessed with them on him! I know we will get tons of wear out of them this fall. I want to get him a navy pair for his birthday : )

3- Since we've been home I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this week.


  • Journey Women | Wisely Navigating Smartphone Use with Tony Reinke | Ep. 57
    • This one was incredibly timely for me. There were so many great, practical, tips for using Smartphones. One of the things that really jumped out at me was the fact that not everyone needs to be on social media, and not everyone needs to be off of it. For a lot of people it's an area of ministry and the Lord can really use it to draw people closer to him.
  • The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey | Happy Hour #202: Brittany Price Brooker
    • If you follow Brittany on social media or you know her and Daniel's story then you know this one did not disappoint. I don't think I will ever grow tired of hearing her speak and her intense faithfulness in the Lord. I have learned so much from her ability to point to Jesus in all circumstances. 
  • Simple Families | SFP 115: The Benefits of Rowdy Play [with Frances Carlson of Big Body Play]
    • I originally listened to this because #BoyMama but honestly it was so so good for me as a teacher as well! They discussed the reasons why "big body play" is developmentally appropriate, as well as necessary for children. I loved the way they broke down play with children with sensory needs. It was very fascinating and informative!
  • Simply Life on Purpose | Ep. 36 | How to Simplify Meal Planning with Natasha Red
    • This was another very timely podcast as I just posted about our simple meal planning + grocery shopping routine earlier this week. Natasha gave a lot of really great ways to meal plan seasonally. 

4- We have been loving the new season of Outdaughtered. Bennett LOVES to watch it with me. We always laugh because Adam and Danielle are just like Me and my Adam..it's hilarious to us. Also, seeing how calm and organized Danielle is with the quints + a 7 year old just amazes me!!

5- I can't believe it's already time to start thinking about it, but Shepard's 2nd birthday is about a month and a half away.. I really can't believe it. We don't do big birthday parties (yet) so we're looking forward to celebrating him with a Taco Tuesday Fiesta dinner with our families!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Meal Planning + Grocery Shopping


Last week on Instagram I used the new "Ask me a Question" feature on Instastories. I got a ton of different questions and shared the answers on my story. One of the questions I got several times was about our meal planning and grocery shopping routine.

As we continue to make our lives more and more simple one of the areas we've really been able to make that happen is in meal planning and grocery shopping. Every week Adam and I plan our meals for the week together and make a grocery list accordingly. Our goal each week is to make as many meals as we can with things we already have at home (including whatever we have from our garden) and stay within $100 each week with our groceries. This naturally helps us save money but also helps us create the most simple meals we can with simple ingredients. Simple meals=easy prep + easy clean up. Also, we really believe that feeding our boys simple foods helps create non-picky eaters. Something I read in the book 'Simplicity Parenting' is that high flavored foods such as Doritos actually make more simple foods such as carrots less flavorful. I won't say my kids never eat foods like that because that's just not true but our everyday foods, the foods that are available in our home and the foods we serve at mealtimes, are typically more simple.

We typically cook at home 4-5 nights per week, we have small group once a week where we eat dinner (we rotate hosting so every 5-6 weeks we cook for our whole group at our house), and we go out 1-2 nights per week. We also don't really buy a ton of processed snack foods. We usually get veggie straws and/or goldfish but other than that the boys eat fresh fruit and veggies for most snacks.


Something that we used to do that I found very helpful for creating a simple and rhythmic dinner time was having different types of meals on certain days each week. For example: Monday- chicken, Tuesday- pasta, Wednesday- soup, etc. We did that for the first few years of our marriage but it's definitely something I think we'll go back to eventually. It makes planning and prep very simple but also creates some consistency for the boys.

As far as grocery shopping we have found that we can get the best deals and the best selection at our Walmart Neighborhood Market. I don't know if it's because it's not a typical Walmart or if its because it's still fairly new but we are SO impressed with the selection and availability. It is so clean, they have good produce, and are never out of stock. We switched to Kroger for about a year because of the Clicklist option but once our Neighborhood Market started offering pickup we switched back!


Grocery pickup obviously has major perks like not having to get out of the car with two toddlers BUT for us the financial aspect has been why we use it so much. Since we like to keep to our less than $100 budget each week this really helps us stay on track. We typically place our grocery order on Saturday afternoon and we pickup after church on Sundays. This has become a routine that the boys come to expect.

By having this routine in place meal planning and grocery shopping really aren't something we dread. They are just part of our weekly routine and something that we can do effortlessly at this point. If you are someone who struggles to meal plan try simplifying the types of dinners you cook. The less ingredients you are searching the grocery store for, the less time you're preparing dinner because you know the recipe by heart, the more time you have to spend with your family, and the less stressed out you are when it comes time to sit around the table.

*************

This past weekend I decided to take a little hiatus from social media. A couple of different factors contributed to my decision but I'm excited to see what the Lord teaches me over the next few weeks or months. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone but I do plan to continue blogging so check back occasionally for new posts :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Simple + Slow

I can still vividly remember the moment it all clicked for me. I was sitting in a playroom FULL of toys for my less than one year old. I literally felt the walls caving in. I felt trapped by the amount of STUFF in such a small place.


Anyone who has been down the road of simplifying knows the feeling that happens when you start purging, organizing, and getting back to the basics. I went in full force and decluttered our entire house. For me, it became much more about mental clarity. I started realizing that the more stuff I had around me the less I was able to focus.

Over the last several years we have worked hard to create a minimal life. It started with our home but quickly spilled over into all areas of my life: finances, schedules, routines, rhythms, and even my parenting. 

finances:
For us, a simple life and finances really went hand in hand. We were able to strip it down to the bare necessities to figure out we really didn't need to spend a lot of money. We are able to focus the bulk of our money on very quickly paying off my grad school student loan, saving, and planning for big purchases. Using the EveryDollar app to track our purchases and plan our savings has been instrumental for us and has really allowed us to continue spending the least amount of money as possible and being very strategic about the big purchases we do make.

schedules:
Our schedules started to free up when we realized we didn't have to fill every waking second with an activity. Days at home have truly become our favorite. Our home has become a place of refuge for me. A place of peace and comfort and the place I would rather spend my days than anywhere else. When we first had Bennett I was in grad school, getting my gifted endorsement, and working an hour away from home. Basically my schedule was packed to the brim and I was so proud of ALL the things I was doing. It wasn't until I was not doing all.the.things that I realized how insane that was and not beneficial for my well-being, or the well-being of my family. I am more proud of my ability to say no and to live by Philippians 1:9-11 And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ -- to the glory and praise of God. 

routines + rhythms: 
We have always been routined but once our lives really became more minimal we realized creating rhythms was just another way to streamline our lives and make them as simple as possible. We do many things the same way, in the same order, everyday. This may sound boring to some, but it gives me peace and comfort and predictability and I thrive on that. Things like laundry, dishes, and cleaning do not overwhelm us. We are equal partners in getting all the things done and when you have less stuff you have less stuff to clean. We make it a point to do simple things like a loud of laundry every day, run the dish washer every night, keep a tidy home by cleaning as we go, etc. These small things add up to a home that is livable (hello, we have two boys!) but also clean, orderly, and welcoming.

parenting + homemaking:
The biggest area that minimalism has impacted me personally is in my parenting. Like I said, the moment it all hit me was in a playroom full of loud, bright, flashing toys...for my 9 month old. Most of the items were gifts from very loving and well meaning people, but when they were all in one place it became VERY overwhelming for me. When I took it all away, went back to the absolute basics,  I started to see play in a way that I had never seen before. Our boys are very imaginative, creative, and honestly just happier kids with less. (side note: the book simplicity parenting radically helped me in this area. It is a must read. I have read it several times and get so much out of it every time). I'm going to share more about our playroom and the types of toys we have very soon : )

Embracing a simple + slow life has been SUCH a process for me, and probably always will be, but it's something that I feel so strongly about. I am far from perfect and still have a lot of areas that I can work on, but the thing that I have learned is that the freedom that comes from living with less is worth far more than any possession I could ever hold.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Our Trip to Boston


At the beginning of the summer Adam and I were able to get away together for a few days to one of our favorite places, Boston!

We had been once before a few years ago and have been anxious to go back ever since. The history and beauty of the city absolutely captured our hearts. It's definitely a place I envision us traveling to as often as possible. I can't wait to introduce our boys, I know they will love it too!


There are SO many things to see and do in Boston so I wanted to share some of our trip and some of the things we did!

Where we stayed:
Adam planned this trip for me completely as a surprise. He gave me a card on my birthday and let me know he had booked everything and that we would be heading out Memorial Day weekend. I was a little nervous when he told me he had booked an Airbnb! I honestly was still worried about it even as we were traveling there. I'm more of a "let's stay in a nice hotel with room service and privacy" kind of traveler. Adam is more of a "let's stay in the best location possible at the best price possible" kind of traveler ; ) However, much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed where we stayed. We rented a room in a three story townhouse in Back Bay and were within walking distance to everything! I wouldn't stay there with kids but for the two of us it was perfect!


What we did:
Adam's main reason for choosing MDW to travel was the fact that the Braves were playing the Redsox that weekend...I mean how much more American can you get than your hometown Braves playing the legendary Redsox at FENWAY on Memorial Day weekend... Dream come true for my sports obsessed husband! Going into the weekend we had planned to go to one game but actually ended up going to all three because we had so much fun.


Aside from tons of baseball we also did TONS of walking. Some of my favorite things we did on this trip included walking around the Boston Public Garden, taking in the sights of Beacon Hill, shopping in Quincy Market, the Prudential Center, and of course Newbury street, and eating lots and lots of amazing food. We walked almost 40 miles on this trip but it was so much fun seeing the city, almost completely, by foot.

Other really fun attractions include the Duck Tours, Boston Public Library, Freedom Trail, visiting Harvard, and touring Fenway Park.

We had the best time getting away with each other for a few days to kickoff summer. We already can't wait to get back!


Monday, June 11, 2018

Our New Home


It has officially been one year since we signed on the dotted line to make the lot we currently call home, ours.



We began the conversation about moving sometime in the spring of 2017. We loved our house but knew eventually we wanted some more space. We also knew we wanted to move out of Athens to the next town over for better schooling. We love Athens, and did have the conversation about staying, but ultimately moving to one of the top school districts in the state was more appealing than in town living. With better schools comes higher price tags for houses so we knew if we were going to make the move it was going to have to be the perfect situation.




We (okay, actually just me at this point) started casually looking online and talking to our realtor. Eventually we decided on a couple houses to go look at. The first we looked at was on a TINY lot and the house we pretty small too. It was in a more populated part of town, super close to the boy's school, and had easy access to get to major highways. The second house we went to look at was the complete opposite. It was on a larger lot, was much bigger, and was in a much more rural part of town. We loved the second house so much! There were a few things we weren't crazy about but overall it felt like a great fit. We decided to take some time to think about it over the next couple of days. We took our parents over to see it and still felt like it was a great option. The neighborhood was fairly new and was in the beginning phase of being built out. We realized the option to build and customize exactly what we wanted was actually doable.



We met with the builder and saw another house in the neighborhood before we ultimately decided to start from the ground up. We spent a few weeks narrowing down the lot and deciding on our floor plan before signing our contract in May 2017. Coincidentally, at the exact same time we were signing our contract I was getting a call that would be a job offer from my dream school, 15 minutes from our new house. Blessings upon blessings!


Even though we built in a neighborhood we still had a good bit of flexibility with our floor plan and design. We chose a basic 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch with a bonus room/bathroom upstairs. It's plenty of room now for our family of 4 and we definitely have room to grow which is nice. The boys actually ended up sharing a room and it has been great. This freed up another bedroom that we're using as a playroom for now and a guest bedroom/bathroom upstairs. (I'd love to share more in the future about why I prefer a smaller house over a bigger one).


Some of the main things we changed from the original floor plan were: relocating the fireplace from the back wall to the side wall, adding built ins and french doors, and customizing a mudroom area off of the garage where we added built in storage/hooks and a half bath.

The design aspect was definitely my favorite part of the process. We got to pick everything from exterior color to the color of the grout in our bathrooms. It was incredibly overwhelming but also really great to know that I was going to get exactly what I wanted. My favorite part was getting to choose our slab of Quartz at the showroom in Atlanta. The overall tone of our house is very light and bright and super minimal as far as decor.

I thought I'd share some of the most asked questions I get about our home's design features:

Exterior paint color: Sherwin Williams Pure White
Shutters: Sherwin Williams Anonymous
Exterior brick: Mosstown Queen-Cherokee
Interior paint color: Sherwin Williams Repose Grey
Cabinet color: Sherwin Williams Elder White
Kitchen tile backsplash: 3x6 Ice White Traditional Subway Tile
Countertops: Viatera Willow White quartz
Floors: Waldorf Hand Scraped Engineered Hardwoods- Midnight



Overall the building process was great. It took a little over 6 months from the time we signed our contract to the day we closed. Our original closing date was November 3rd and we ended up closing on December 10th.

During the building process we were fortunate to be able to stay in our house. We put our house on the market in October and hoped for the best with timing it up with the completion of our new home. Within 48 hours our home was shown 20+ times and we received 5 offers above asking price. It was insane in the best way possible. We were in a very desirable part of Athens that was up and coming so that really helped us out. We were able to extend our closing date to as close as we could to our new house being complete. There was a 10 day period after moving out of our house that we had to stay with my parents but it wasn't a big deal at all. In fact we were actually able to move all of our stuff (which thankfully wasn't that much since I sold a lot of our furniture prior to moving) into our new house while they finished up.


It was so great getting to move in and get settled right before Christmas. Being a teacher I got two full weeks off right after we moved in and it was SO great.

It has been the best 6 months in our home and it truly is my favorite place on earth. We still have a TON we want to do, which obviously takes time and money, so we're just focusing on one room at a time and we will eventually get there.


This summer some of the major projects we are tackling are our landscaping, the boy's bedroom, and finishing the living/dining room details. I will focus on our bedroom this fall.

I'm excited to get back into blogging and share our house projects as we go!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Shep 18-Months

On March 7th Shep turned 18 months old. It's really hard for me to believe that he is already one and a half. I definitely baby him much more than I probably should but I really just can't help myself :)

A couple stats and updates...

Weight/Height: 26lbs, 34in (80th% for weight, 75th% for height)

Hair: His hair is still very fine and light blonde

Clothes: 2t shirts & pants

Diapers: Size 5 but definitely need to move up to a size 6...brodders got a booty!

Sleeping: Shep goes to sleep at 7pm and sleeps until 7am. He takes one nap a day usually at noon and will sleep for two+ hours.

Likes: Shep still LOVES to eat. He also is still obsessed with his lovie and blanket. He thinks his brother hung the moon and loves to copy everything he does. He is the sweetest snuggler and is a TOTAL mama's boy... and I don't hate it one bit!

Dislikes: He can't stand being touched by his brother and will scream "NO" at him! He also really does not like when you don't feed him asap when he wakes up.

Eating: Shep eats pretty much anything and everything. Some of his favorites include pancakes for breakfast, any fruit, chicken, and of course that occasional sweet treat!

Milestones: Shep is talking a ton! I made a list the other day and he has over 20 words that he says consistently. He calls Bennett "Memmet" and its so sweet.

Baby Items We Can't Live Without: We still love our Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair. We also use the Happy Mat a ton for meals. For bath time we are loving Tubby Todd's bubble bath, body wash, and shampoo. We also use a few of their other products and really love them! I recently ordered a bib from Gathre and I am so in love with it. It's a beautiful bonded leather that wipes clean so easily. I can't wait to buy more stuff from them for future kiddos.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Balancing Work/Motherhood

I get asked pretty frequently on Instagram random questions about balancing work and being a mama. I thought I would try to answer some of the most common questions that I get from people. I definitely do not claim to be a perfect working mom but we have put in place a lot of routines and rhythms in our family that certainly make the balance much easier! My friend Ashley and I were talking about this topic and she summed it up perfectly: "Set boundaries and outsource all the things!" These two things are the only way I survive!! & having a pretty amazing husband who is SUPER helpful doesn't hurt ;)

Before I begin though, a little back info on my story as a working mom. I graduated college in May of 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. Adam and I got married in June, and then I began working in August. In January I began grad school online through Liberty University. At the end of my first year teaching we found out we were pregnant with Bennett! I started my second year teaching in August of 2014 and had Bennett in December. At the end of that school year I left and moved to a new school. A few months after starting at my new school I graduated with my Master's degree in Elementary education and we found out we were pregnant with Shep. I had Shep at the beginning of the next school year. Now this year, my fifth year teaching, I am at another new school teaching 3rd grade. So long story short... I started grad school and found out I was pregnant my first year teaching, had my first baby while in grad school during my second year teaching, moved schools, finished grad school and found out I was pregnant during my third year teaching, had my second son during my fourth year teaching, moved schools again, and now I am not planning on doing ANY of those things during my fifth year teaching ; )

I'm just going to list out some of the questions I received and my answers to go with them. I don't think there's really any "short" way to do this so bare with me if I get wordy... : )

1. Do you meal plan? How/when do you grocery shop?
This is one of the areas that we have worked really hard to make as simple as possible. Every Saturday we sit down and meal plan for the following week (I have also in the past planned for the whole month. I like that better, but Adam prefers weekly planning). We usually come up with 4-5 meals to cook at home. We eat at home on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Friday or Saturday, and Sunday. We have small group on Tuesdays where the couple hosting will cook dinner, we usually eat left overs one night, and then we'll go out to eat either Friday or Saturday. We choose meals that are simple, low ingredient list, and things that we know will make great leftovers. Once we have our meals I create a ClickList order for Kroger. It takes maybe 10 minutes to create the list and I usually do it in the car or while the boys are napping. ClickList has been the BIGGEST timesaver for us. I submit our order on Saturdays and pick it up Sunday on our way home from church. We go to church together as a family and then Adam stays for second service to lead a high school group while the boys and I pick up groceries. I unload them when we get home while they're eating lunch and then they go down for a nap. While they're napping I usually prep any food for the week like fruit or whatever and put that in containers in the fridge. Having things cut and ready for easy grabbing makes things much easier throughout the week.

2. What is your diet + exercise routine like?
To be perfectly honest this isn't really an area that I focus much on. I don't stick to a specific diet and definitely don't have a set workout routine. I try to choose foods that are relatively good for me and I like to play outside with the boys when the weather is warm but beyond that I don't do much. I have in the past been really into Tone it Up and saw amazing results from it after having Bennett, but right now in this season of life this is the area that has, unfortunately, been put to the chopping block. However, if it is something you are passionate about/enjoy then you should 100% find time to do it. For me, it's just not something I really care about.

3. Do your kids go to daycare?
Our boys go to daycare 3 days a week and have family come over and watch them on the other two days. We have been super fortunate to have the boys at an amazing preschool a few days a week. We love that they get to spend time with their friends and are learning so much!!

4. How do you do every day stuff like pay bills, clean, do laundry, etc.?
I feel like this topic could be a blog post in and of itself because I have SO much to say on this. I'm going to save the paying bills part for another question further down and stick to cleaning and laundry for this one. Keeping a clean and tidy house is SUPER important to us. We both enjoy an organized, clean space. However, we are fully aware that we live with two toddlers who don't always share that same passion. Over the last 3ish years Adam and I have worked very hard to create a simple, functional home. We don't have a ton of stuff, definitely don't have clutter, and overall just have a lot of organization going on. This helps so much because there isn't a lot to clean. Some of the most practical things we do to keep this house tidy are to pick up the house every single night before we go to sleep. We put any stray toys in the playroom, make sure the counters are cleared off, blankets are folded and put away off the couch, etc. We run the dishwasher every night and do a load of laundry on speed cycle (EMILY LEY TIP!). This little trick seems so silly but truly makes our days so much easier. There is never a moment where laundry is piling up. We also have a robotic vacuum we run at least once, sometimes twice, a day. One random rule that I heard somewhere forever ago, but has stuck with me, is that when I don't feel like putting something away I tell myself that if it's something that will take less than a minute to do then to just do it right then. 9 times out of 10 whatever it is will literally take less than a minute but will save me so much time in the end. By doing this I never have a million things to clean up at night because I've already done most of it.

5. How do you fit in time to study your bible?
For me, this is something that is not an optional part of my day. There are certain things, like exercising, that I truly can live without. This however, is vital to the success of my day. It doesn't matter if you are a working mom, a stay-at-home-mom, whatever, your biggest job as a mom is to pass on the gospel to your children. You can't possibly be a good steward of God's word if you are not consistently in it. Make it a priority! It doesn't have to be at the same time every single day, it doesn't have to look the same every single day, but it needs to happen. Most of my quiet times are actually pretty far from quiet, but they happen and that's the important part. Typically for me I like to read before bed so I will usually spend that time riding the Bible and journaling. My biggest resources that I use during my quiet time is obviously the Bible and my Give me Jesus journal. I also really like the Write the Word journal. I have recently had a huge learning shift in the way I approach my quiet time. I love devotionals but I have really spent a lot of time just truly reading the Bible at its word, studying, and learning more about who God is in the context of the Bible. Check out Nicole's latest blog post if you're looking for some encouragement or accountability in this area.

6. How do you not feel guilty about wanting to be a working mom?
I LOVE THIS QUESTION. I feel like, especially in the Christian community, a lot of emphasis is put on motherhood and how to be a "good" mom. For the first year or so I spent as a working mom I was constantly making myself believe that I shouldn't want to work. If I was a good mom I would want to be home. While I love any moment I'm with my boys, I truly love my career too. I spent a good part of Bennett's first year of life trying to find ways to stay home when really that's never what I actually wanted, it's just what I thought I was supposed to want. For me to feel guilty about what the Lord so evidently wants me to be doing shows that I show little trust in Him. If you struggle in your career and aren't happy find ways to change your circumstances but if you are happy with your job and find joy in it like I do then there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a working mom. The biggest struggle I think working moms face is setting boundaries. Especially as a teacher it's hard to find time in the day to get everything done (I have kids in my room all day long and I am actively teaching so there's not a lot of desk time to lesson plan, prep, make copies, etc.) but I made a decision a long time ago that I was not going to stay at work past a certain time. No matter what. If my work is done early, I leave early. If it hits 4:00 and my work isn't done, oh well it will get done tomorrow. I do not take stuff home to grade, I rarely work on things at home, when I leave the school building I am in full on mama mode. I know that's not practical for every single working mom but for me it is vital.

I had a good bit of questions about finances, budgeting, bill paying, etc. so I'm going to try to address that here as well.

About a year ago Adam and I got very serious about our financial situation. Up until this point we hadn't really spent a lot of time talking about budgeting, saving money, etc. We started studying Dave Ramsey and were both immediately hooked. We made some long term financial goals, met with a financial advisor, and really started seeking a more budget friendly life. Our church teaches us to live by the Give First, Save Second, Live Off the Rest moto and that has been the heartbeat behind the way we budget. The biggest thing for us was creating a budget and sticking to it. We use the Every Dollar app and it has transformed the way we approach spending. I need a lot of accountability in this area and that app did that for me. When the money in certain categories runs out that's it, no more spending. We have become much better about anticipating future large purchases and planning ahead for things. We have paid off debt, stuck to the no credit card rule, and have really learned to live below our means. There are many things we sacrifice on in order to create a financially secure environment for our family. If this is something you struggle with I would 100% recommend finding a church near you that teaches Financial Peace University or look into doing it with just your spouse or a group of friends.