On Being Kind of Distant

I have to warn you guys. I’m tired and little burned out.

I have this problem with saying “yes” wayyy too often and now I’m feeling the weight of all my “yes”s and it’s wearing me out. On top of the taking on too much aspect of things, there are some major life changes happening in the LaValley house and I just can’t tell you about them yet.  So in the meantime, I’m just this vaguebooking, distant, blogger who feels like she has nothing inspiring to say. That’s the problem with being an honest, write as I feel it, kind of blogger. When it’s not time for me to tell the world exactly what’s going on in my life, I don’t have anything to say. But trust me when I say that when the time is right, I’ll be writing up a storm and you guys will have an all access pass to the craziness that’s about to go down.

Anyhoo. Here’s what I’ve been up to minus the details I can’t share yet.

The meet up in Atlanta was so much fun! I love meeting you guys. Even if it’s just one or two of you. I’m sad the rest of you couldn’t make it, but hey. Maybe next time?

Atlanta Meet Up

Yesterday, a photographer came over and took photos of me just doing my blogging thing with my kids around. I’ve never really been on the other side of the camera before, so it was a little awkward. Also, Jonah’s going through this theological stage and he asked me (in front of everyone) if the lovely photographer was going to Jesus’ house when she died. And then when I stuttered around and came out with something like, “Uh. Um. She. I. I don’t know.” He looked horrified and said, “But WHY?” UGH. Kids, man.

Currently

CurrentlyOther than all that, I’m … 

Listening to : Lights. I’ve loved her for years and her latest acoustic album is on point. I’ve been listening 24/7.

Reading : Blue by Kasey Jackson. Kasey found me on instagram a few weeks ago and sent me a copy of her book and I just started reading it this week. It’s reallllyyy good. If you’re into history, historical fiction, social issues, and good books, you should order a copy. (Kindle version is only $9!) I’ll be sharing a little more about the book as I get into it, but I can already tell that it’s tackling some tough stuff. So. Get yourself a copy, yo! Also Kasey is hilarious, so if nothing else, follow her on instagram.

Thinking about : Life. So much life change. This is where I vagueblog. Sorry.

Wishing : I’m wishing that I could really get a handle on my time management skills. I’m much better than I was 6 months ago, but sometimes I still let the day get away from me. I need to be more intentional about what I do with each hour of the day.

Watching : Shark Tank. I watch so much Shark Tank. <3 Daymond <3

Thankful For : Friends that let me feel every negative and ugly emotion I have without judgment or criticism. That’s hard to find in a female friend and I’m thankful that the women I talk to on a daily basis give me nothing but love and encouragement and allow me my moments of ugly. If your friends aren’t like that, get rid of them. Find people who let you be a human.

Where you can find me this week : I know you all are just itching to read my clever wit, so check out my post today on the Knoxville Moms Blog all about the things my child has “taught” me. Please read sarcastically. And yesterday I was featured on Courtney Lynn Harris’ blog with a little interview ditty.

And that’s my life these days. I’m linking up with one of those said awesome friends, A Mama Collective, for Currently this week. Hop on over to her page to see what she and all the other ladies are up to.

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Jamberry Nails

A Little Superhero Party

I love first birthdays. I really do. Maybe it’s because they don’t have opinions yet so I can do whtever I want. Or maybe it’s because I’m just so thankful their first year of life is over and that’s cause enough for a celebration. Either way, I love me some first birthdays. We threw Emery a little super hero party at my parents’ subdivision pool and it was a blast. (Pun intended. Kind of.) Here are a few photos from the day. Sorry for potato quality! My mom had my fancy camera in Montana, so I made do with my phone.

Here’s my incredibly fancy table display with about half the cupcakes missing. Also. See that gallon of punch over there? That was the second batch. Jonah spilled the first batch on the kitchen floor about an hour before the party started. FUN.

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IMG_0231Can we just talk about my cupcake toppers? Because you might think I spent hours cutting them out, but NO. The amazing team at Silhouette sent everyone who attended Alt Summit a Silhouette Portrait and it did all of the cutting for me. It’s pretty much the best invention ever. It saved me so.much.time.

IMG_0232This cake topper pulled everything together and pretty much made me look like a fancy pants party planner pinterest extraordinaire. It’s from the etsy shop Lemon Row and I absolutely love it! Love love love it. It’s the perfect cake topper and the perfect keepsake for our littlest superhero. You must check out the shop and if you don’t see something you like, request a custom order! Kate is super talented and was thrilled when I threw her the idea of a superhero topper. I can’t wait till we’re in our place and I can use this to decorate their superhero room. (Yes, I’m already planning their future room in our house that we don’t even have yet.) 

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IMG_0243Did you die of cuteness overload just now? So sorry. Here’s a little superhero helping her mommy shoot down the bad guys. I put up photos of pixar bad guys and we shot them down with silly string. Have you ever noticed how absolutely horrifying comic book villains are?  They all look like evil nightmares. So I stuck with Disney. Had to keep it G rated. Plus, Jonah loved shooting down Emperor Zurg & Randall.

IMG_0241And here we have a series of photos accurately depicting how Emery felt about the whole cake smash thing.

party party2Bahaha. My poor tortured child. Right after we took the cake away, we gave him fruit and carrots and he was perfectly content. I’m pretty proud of myself for pulling off the party after being in Georgia all week and then getting home the night before, spending the morning at church, and rushing to throw everything together while feeling pret-ty lousy. I win. Pat myself in the back. No more birthday parties until he’s 5.

Family photo to prove we were all there :

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How To Blog With Kids {Without the Guilt}

I think every work at home parent struggles to find the balance in working and being the best mom/dad ever. You want to be there to play with your kids, entertain them, feed them, and whatever else it is that kids need, but at the same time, you need to make them dolla bills.

I’ve been working from home since Jonah was a year old. At first, I was doing graphic design for our church, and then I started an extreme couponing business with my friend and THEN When at Home was born. So I’ve been doing this thing for 2 and a half years now and I’ve found a few tricks that have helped me be productive and still be present in my kids’ lives.

How To Blog With Kids

Don’t be afraid of paint & play doh. 

I’ve found the easiest way to keep Jonah busy while I work is to give him something messy to do. He’ll sit across from me at the table and we’ll talk about what he’s making or painting and every so often I’ll stop what I’m doing to play with him for a few minutes. On a good day, we’ll both sit here at the table for 30-45 minutes while Emery naps. I can get a lot done in 30 minutes if I have focused time.

Don’t be ashamed to use TV as a distraction. 

Here’s my thing with TV. I have no issues with letting Jonah watch a few shows a day and here’s why: When we were kids, what were our shows? Bugs Bunny. Animaniacs. Rugrats. Ren & Stimpy. Smurfs. The really smart ones maybe watched Sesame Street or Wishbone or Arthur, but let’s be honest. Most of us were watching Animaniacs. The choices for educational television were extremely limited. Pretty much all educational shows were limited to PBS. Right? But now…. almost every kids show is educational. Every time Jonah watches one of his shows, he learns something. Which is really kind of cool. When he watched a lot of Dora, he spoke to us in Spanish almost every day. Not full sentences, of course, but he would say things like, “dis ‘ghetti is mmm mmmm delicioso!” He learned to sound letters out watching Super Why and is grasping musical concepts and math from Little Einsteins (that show is AMAZING.) So, I’m not ashamed to say that I use the TV as a babysitter once or twice a day because he’s learning! He’s not just rotting his brain with shows that are filled with mostly adult humor. (I’m looking at you, Spongebob.)

Don’t waste nap time. 

I know. That limited time when the kids are asleep is precious and need not be wasted. It’s tempting to use that time to relax, sit on the couch, watch Shark tank, eat that Snickers bar you’ve been hiding in the freezer (Because it tastes so much better frozen!), and just take some “me” time. But if you’re behind in your work and you really want to get stuff done, save the relaxing for later. If this is your only distraction free time throughout the day, you better be using it to get stuff DONE. Whether it’s a blog post you’ve been meaning to write, or an e-mail that needs to be sent, a dress that needs to be sewn, do it. Just do it. Do as much as you can until the kids wake up and then you can sit on the couch and relax while they de-napify.

Use a timer. 

When you only have a few hours a day of undistracted computer time, you need to be using a timer. I’ll decide ahead of time how long I want to read and respond to e-mails. Usually it’s about 10 or 15 minutes. So I’ll use my little timer, set it for 10 minutes and go. I don’t open any other tabs, I don’t get up from the computer, nothing. Just e-mails until the timer goes off. And when it goes off, I’m done. I close that tab, open a new one and start my next task with a new time limit. It helps me stay focused and get the maximum amount of things done in a short amount of time.

Take a break. 

If you’re trying too hard to get your stuff done, and your kids are whiny and annoying, just stop. I’ve found that the annoyingness of my children increases the more I ignore them. If I haven’t taken the time to play with them, read to them, eat with them, just sit on the floor with them, they’re not going to let me off easy. Emery gets clingy and fussy. Jonah starts throwing things and screaming and acting out to get attention. When that starts happening, no matter what I’m doing, I close my computer and go to my kids. Nothing is worth them feeling like I’m putting my work before them. That being said ….

Don’t feel guilty when you have to say, “Not right now.” 

Look. Moms have enough guilt to fill an infinite amount of space. We feel guilty about everything. Whether you’re a work at home mom, a stay at home mom, a work away from home mom, a single mom, whoever you are, you feel the guilt. It’s not necessary. So don’t let the guilt rule you when your kid wants to go outside and you have to say, “Not right now, Mommy’s working.” Why is it ok to put off what your kids want to do so you can cook or clean, but if you’re trying to bring in some income to the house, all of a sudden we feel like an absent parent and that we’re not doing right by our kids? It is totally fine for your kids to see you working. In fact, it’s a good thing. I want my boys to see that they don’t have to grow up and get a job that they hate just for the sake of making money. You can do what you love, have the life that want, and turn it into something that provides for your family. So let them see you work. Let them see you prioritize your job for a little while. They’ll survive and they’ll learn some valuable life lessons from your dedication and hard work.

Know your limits. 

You can’t do it all and be it all. If you only have 3 hours a day to devote to your work from home job (whether it be blogging, a handmade business, etc.), assign each minute a task and don’t distract yourself. I divy up my time by hour and if I can’t fit all the things I need to do in my time frame, I write it down for the next day. I know at what point I start getting stressed out and so I set boundaries that I don’t cross. Even when I’m tempted to try and take another hour out of my day to get stuff done, I tell myself “NO.” and I step away from my work. My kids and my family are first and it’s up to me to juggle my job and my role as a mom and a wife. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for yourself and set up a system that ensures you won’t overwork.

So those are my tips, what are yours?

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You are One

Little Emery Lewis.

Emery Lewis

Currently//A Link Up

You are one today! How is it even possible that it’s been a year since you came into our lives?

You were born smack dab in the middle of the most difficult year of our lives and it continued to get worse after you born. Not that your arrival had anything to do with that, but things were tough. We were so thankful for cloth diapers and breast milk because without them, we’re not sure how we would’ve provided for you. Most of what you wore on your deliciously chunky body was given to you by generous friends, family, and total strangers. As difficult as your first year of life has been, it’s been covered by the grace and love of the heavenly Father.

Emery Lewis

There were times this past year, where I’ve felt hopeless and sad and completely out of balance. During those really dark moments, I would sneak to your crib and pick you up and snuggle the hec out of you and breathe in your sweet baby smell and instantly, everything was right with the world. You have been my balance during a year that was completely out of wack.

You are One  Bros

You have been our light. Our joy. Our glow. You are difficult and hilarious, aggressive and cuddly. You’re all the things I never knew I wanted in a child and we are so thankful for you. Every day. You are the perfect addition to our family and we don’t know how we lived so  long without you.

You wake up every morning with a smile and a snuggle. You are fiercely independent and it makes me more and more nervous every day. Whenever your feet hit the ground, you take off and you don’t even look back to see if I’m still with you. You think you can do anything. We call you “Ferdinand” because you charge everything head first. Even people. It’s hilarious, but you get hurt a lot. You say “up” and “dada” and “mama”. You wasted no time learning how to walk and now you think you can do anything you want. You’re developing so much faster than your big brother did and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I blink and you’re doing something different, learning something that I think is far too advanced and so obviously you’re the smartest baby in the world ever. You love to tease your big brother and steal his toys and wrestle him to the ground. I love watching the two of you. You’re the instigator and the tattle tale, just as a younger brother should be. You better hope Jonah always stays as gentle and kind as he is now. Otherwise…you’re gonna get knocked out a lot.

I’m so proud of you, little buddy. Strangers cross rooms to touch your hair and to tell me how beautiful you are. Your dimples are intoxicating and your eyes undo me. Every. stinking. time.

We love you, Emery Lewis! Happy Birthday, sweet boy.

Emery Lewis

Be Content.

Zach and I have goals. I’d call them dreams, but they’re not. They’re very attainable things that we are working towards making happen. The biggest goal? To be totally debt free by 30. That means we have to pay off $82,000 worth of school loans in a little over two years. Is that possible? Right now, no. Not at the rate we’re going and the income we’re making. At this rate we’ll be debt free by maybe our 40th birthdays and that’s only if we stay in my parents’ basement and never accrue another debt.

Neither one of us has a marketable degree, (Bible School, people. You’ll never make more than what you put into it. Just saying.) so increasing our income is extremely difficult. We have to monetize our skills which means we have to work even when we’re not working. Zach gets home from work and works on his side business. I work on my stuff all day long, during nap time, quiet play time, after they go to bed. Most days it’s totally non stop work work work work for both of us. It’s exhausting, but we’re determined.

I always describe myself as “goal oriented”, but I’m gonna change that to say that I’m goal addicted. When I start accomplishing things, I get hooked and then I get crazy. I started bringing in a little bit of income from home at the beginning of this year and now I’m all in. I’m always thinking of new ways to monetize my skills and my gifts because I want to get our family where we want to be. So I say “yes” a lot and take on a lot more than should and spend more time away from my kids than is ideal, and then I get stressed and frustrated. I do too much and yet I never feel like it’s enough.

More often than not, I let the end goal affect the present moment. I get so focused on what our lives are going to be like once we’re out from the dark cloud of stupid debt, that I forget that this is the only today that I get. I’m trying to learn to be content right where we are. We’ve been in my parents’ basement 6 months longer than we’d planned, but instead of being frustrated that all of our stuff is still in storage, I need to just be thankful that my parents had room for us. Instead of ignoring my kids to make and extra 50 bucks, I need to just take a deep breath and realize that the reason Emery is screeching at my knees is because I haven’t picked him up and snuggled his face all morning. Be content, Kristen. Be content. This is enough. This will always be enough.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the hustle of being intentional and achieving our goals. I want so badly to just get to the point where we’re completely debt free, but I don’t want to get there and look back on these years and struggle to remember anything about them. And so I’m learning to say “no” and to be fully present in my life right now. The end doesn’t always justify the means and if I can’t hustle my way to debt free freedom while being the best mom and wife I can be, then it isn’t worth it. << Still trying to convince myself that that’s truth.

So…smaller, easier to accomplish goals. Less “yes” to more work and more “yes” to my kids and my husband. I have to be ok even if we never ever ever get out of debt. Even if we never make more money than we’re making right now, I have to be content with that. We have to thrive where we’re planted, even if we’re not exactly thrilled with where that happens to be right now. Because this is enough and it will always be enough.

Be Content