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Books & Blankets (The Power of Reading to Kids)

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When my first kiddo was born, I used to read to him all the time. I loved it. He loved it. It was great. Then my next kiddo came and the reading time started to decline. By the time my third kid came, I was hardly reading to my kids at all. Truthfully, I was just trying to survive at that point! (Three kids is no joke!!)

 

Anyway, I kept having this feeling that I needed to start reading to my kids more often…that I would regret it later if I didn’t. I also came across this poem around the same time:

 

You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be –

I had a Mother who read to me.

-Stickland Gillilan


Whoa! That hit home big time. So I made it one of my goals this year to read to my kids more often. The goal is to read to them every night before bed (and holy cow, that really makes a difference in winding those kids down!). It definitely doesn’t happen every night, but most nights it does. I absolutely love it and they love it too. (I have to add here that I am so so lucky because I had a mother who read to me when I was little and I have fond memories of that and so do my siblings!)

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A few ideas to help light the fire in you for reading:

  1. Read “new” books – aka new-to-you books. I recently realized that reading the same children’s books we have in our house was making me want to scratch my eyeballs out. Reading the same book 50 times over gets old fast. And some books are just too wordy for me (Dr. Seuss, I’m looking at you!). But, I realized that when I went to the library and checked out some “new” books, I actually got just as excited to read them as the kids did. So that’s my biggest tip, go get yourself some fresh new books! My favorite books have great pictures, few words, and good lessons. (Oh, and after you take them home, display them somewhere fun so the kids will see them and get excited to read them!)
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Some “kindness” books we got from the library. They loved the “Enemy Pie” book!
  1. Books & Blankets! I came up with this on a whim a few months ago when we all needed some peace and quiet. I asked the kids to go get their favorite blanket and we laid them out on the living room floor. (I got a blanket out for myself too.) I had them grab a few of their favorite books and put them on their blankets. Then we all laid out on our separate blankets, I set a timer for 30 minutes, and we all blissfully read our books. It was lovely. (I should say, the older two read books and the baby went around and destroyed everything in sight, but other than that it was peaceful!) We do Books and Blankets anytime I think we all need a little break. It works wonders.

 

  1. Personal Reading Time – I set aside time each morning and evening (most days) to read a book (the old fashioned way…just a regular book made out of paper – no kindles or electronic reading here). I can’t tell you how much that has increased my happiness level. It helps me feel like I’m still learning and that my brain isn’t turning into jello! It’s fun to read recommendations from sources I trust, or it’s also fun to just walk through the library and find books on subjects I’m interesting in (currently cake decorating books!). I keep an ongoing list of all the books I’ve read and the ones I want to read next. I love it. Make sure your kids see you reading. Your example means more than anything else. If you want your kids to read, you need to be reading too:).
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The books I’m currently reading…I might be just a bit obsessed with cakes right now! 😉

Here is a fantastic article from the BYU Magazine with some really great children’s books recommendations.

 

What do you do to make reading happen in your house?

How do you help your kids learn to love reading?

Any great book recommendations?

I’m all ears!

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Being More Present (and less addicted to my phone!)

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You know how in the movie Lord of the Rings, Gollum refers to the ring as his “precious”? Sometimes I totally feel that way about my phone. I feel like I have to have it with me all the time and that I have to keep checking it every five seconds. And then I get lost scrolling and scrolling forever and wasting soooo much time. Arg!!! I do NOT want my phone to be “my precious”! I just want it to be a tool that I use. It’s a constant battle for me, but I just wanted to share a few things that have helped me to keep my phone under control…

 

  1. Silence! – I keep my phone on silent all the time. In fact, I have no idea what my ring tone even sounds like anymore. I decided a couple years ago that I don’t want my phone interrupting my real life. I want to be present when I’m having a conversation with someone and not get interrupted by my phone. I don’t want my kids to see me run to my phone every time it rings (like Pavlov’s dogs for crying out loud!). So I turned off all the sounds… (I don’t even have it on vibrate because that’s just as loud as a ringtone sometimes.) Ahhhhhhh. Silence is golden!

 

  1. Turn it OFF – I turn my phone off every night around 7 or 8pm and I leave it in the kitchen all night long. I get it the heck away from me. I don’t turn it on again until about 7:30 or 8am (after I do my morning routine…see post below). I have been so much more productive since doing this. Instead of wasting time every evening endlessly scrolling, I actually work on projects and other things that are important to me. I LOVE turning it off in the evening and putting it away for the night. (P.S. I heard on a podcast once that when you actually turn your phone off, instead of just leaving it in another room, it creates a physiological response so you don’t feel like you need to keep checking it. It shuts it down in your mind too and lessens the attachment to it. So I love turning my phone OFF!)

 

  1. No notifications – That’s right. A few months ago I went through all my apps and turned off every single notification. That has been so freeing! Pinterest, Instagram, Pandora, Facebook, YouTube… you name it. I turned all those notifications OFF! I will check social media when I want to, instead of when my phone tells me to. I even turned off my email notifications. I was a bit nervous to do that one, but it has been just fine. I have felt so much more relaxed and free since doing this. The only two things that I allow to come through are calls and texts.

 

Several months ago I was watching a YouTube video on my phone (and it was a good one I’m sure!), and all of a sudden I had this thought come into my mind that said “It’s time to be done with this. There are more important things for you to be doing.”

I loved watching YouTube videos and I justified it because I was watching good videos that I was learning things from. But… it was taking up more and more of my time and I was becoming less present with my kids and husband. So I listened to that inspiration and turned off that YouTube video right then and there. I even deleted the YouTube app completely off my phone.

Suddenly I had a bunch of extra time on my hands and I wasn’t quite sure what to do without my favorite time waster anymore. But I quickly started filling up my time with things that were more important and more meaningful. I started getting more inspiration because I actually had the head space for it. I’ve had a bunch of cool things happen in my life since then, and I can trace a lot of it back to that decision that I made to be more deliberate with my time and not let it get wasted by my flipping phone! Best decision ever!

 

Anyway, what do you do to be more deliberate with your phone and social media?

I always need more ideas, so please share below!

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My Morning Routine

A few months ago I decided enough was enough! I was wasting too much precious time in my mornings and evenings, and I was ready to make a change.

I decided to simply write down what I want my perfect morning and evening to look like during this season of my life. I typed it up and put it on my wall, and guess what, it has helped so much! I don’t know why, but when I actually write out a game plan for myself it makes all the difference. Instead of just wasting my time in my mornings and evenings, I have a plan in place and for the most part I stick to it. I feel like I’m running my life instead of my life running me!

I keep my routines really simple and flexible, cuz hello, kids! I never know what’s going to be thrown at me at any given time (figuratively or literally, ha!). I thought I would share my routine here in case it might help anyone.

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Morning Routine:

Pray

Meditate (What am I grateful for today? Who can I help today?)

Scriptures – I read with this question in my mind: “How can I better teach my children?” (I have totally changed my scripture study about 6 months ago and I get SO MUCH MORE out of reading now than I ever have before. Sometime soon I’ll share more!)

Read! – I LOVE this part of my morning! After I finish gleaning what I need to glean from my scriptures for the morning, then I read an uplifting book of my choice. Right now I’m reading The Happiness Advantage. I have been able to read more books this way, by scheduling it into my day. I LOVE reading, and it is so enjoyable to read in silence every morning. I love the peace and quiet I get in the mornings that I don’t get any other time of the day.

Get ready – I get dressed and ready for the day before my kids get up. And by dressed, I mean exercise clothes,but hey, that’s still better than pj’s or the good ol’ bathrobe! 😉

Family Scripture Study

Breakfast

Morning chores – I listen to a conference talk while I work. (I listen to a conference talk first, and then I listen to podcasts.)

Exercise – This usually happens during my baby’s morning nap. The other two kids are pretty good at playing while I exercise. I’ve had to train them that I get 30 minutes of exercise time uninterrupted, and then they can ask me to do all the things for them again when I’m done :).

 

I remember reading some advice a mother gave her daughter when she became a new mom. She said that every morning she gets up early (BEFORE the kids wake up) and spends time on herself (reading scriptures, exercising, and getting ready for the day). Then she forgets about herself and gets to work, focusing on her family and other duties for the day. I’ve always remembered that advice, and I’ve finally started doing it consistently myself, and man, it makes all the difference.

 

I love hearing other people’s morning routines.

Do you do anything that I don’t do that I should start doing?? I’d love to hear!

P.S. A great book about morning routines is Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod 🙂

 

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5 Podcasts that Have Changed My Life

 

I love listening to podcasts. They have been a total lifesaver for me. They keep me motivated and inspired and keep my brain learning (which is so important because some days it starts to feel like mush after talking to little kiddos all day!). The episodes are short and sweet and I usually listen to several a day while I’m going about my daily chores. It’s great because I feel like I am still using my brain but I am also still getting things done at the same time. Plus I’m still able to be present with my kids. Here are a few podcasts that are real gems and have changed my life for the better.

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1.Power of Moms – I have listened to every single one of these podcasts and it has given me so many good ideas on how to be a better mother. I have learned and implemented so much from this podcast! I love this one.

2. Marvelous Mom’s Club – Kirsten Tyrell does a great job of helping moms get out of motherhood ruts by sharing uplifting and inspiring stories of moms. I love hearing how other moms have overcome hard things. This one is fun to listen to.

3. The School of Greatness – This one is so motivational. This podcast is hosted by a pro football player who got injured and was unable to play anymore. He went through a period of depression living on his sister’s couch. Then he realized there was still a lot he could do with his life. Now he interviews millionaires and Olympic athletes who all have inspiring stories of how they became so successful. It’s super interesting and inspiring.

4. Happier with Gretchin Rubin – I love the topic of happiness and I love Gretchin’s take on it. I absolutely loved her book, The Happiness Project. Her podcast is very creative and she has such an interesting way of looking at happiness and it always opens up my mind to new ideas. I love it.

5. This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt – Michael Hyatt is such an inspiring business leader and he has a lot of experience and just a good perspective on life. I love his advice in all areas and I’m always left inspired after listening to his podcasts.

 

I use the Stitcher app (it’s free!) on my phone and it makes it really easy to listen to my favorite podcasts while I’m doing stuff around the house. Basically what I’m saying is podcasts are the best thing ever and if you aren’t listening to them, you should! It’s a game changer!

What are your favorite podcasts to listen to? I’m always on the lookout for more!

 

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Happiness Hacks for Wintertime

The holidays are about over and the winter blues are about to start, right? And dang, winters in Idaho never end! They last for 8 months, no joke! Cold snow and gray weather for months and months. It can be hard when you live in a basement apartment out in the country. So here are a few of my favorite Happiness Hacks for surviving the winter…

 

1. SUNSHINE! Open up all of your curtains every single morning and let those rays of sunshine in! (Even if it’s a gray day outside, open up all your curtains and blinds anyway!)

 

 2. COLOR! Add as many happy colors to your house as possible. Make or buy colorful      pillows. Paint something a fresh, fun new color. Add colorful curtains. Make a fun new garland for your wall or fireplace. Color = happiness! Here are a few colors I’ve added to my house and I have lots of plans for more!

 

 

3. MUSIC! This is one of my favorite tips. If it’s turning out to be a blah type of day, turn on some fun, happy music and turn it up LOUD! This always helps lift my mood and helps me feel happy. If I’m having a really hard day I always listen to Christmas music. There’s something about Christmas music that is just magical and fun. Get the Pandora app on your phone and you can listen to awesome music for free. My favorite Pandora stations are: Celtic Woman, Michael Buble, Bluegrass, Disney, etc. Also, it’s a lot of fun to add in a little dance party while you’re listening. Who cares if your kids think you’re crazy! Here’s one of my favorite “pump yourself up” songs right now…

 

4. Have something to look forward to on your calendar AT ALL TIMES! It doesn’t have to be something huge like a vacation, it can be something small like going to a fun little museum in town, or starting a new book that you’ve wanted to read for a while, or a game night with your spouse. Just always have something to look forward to on your calendar. As for me right now, I’m looking forward to Valentine’s Day because that’s one of my favorite holidays. I’m also working on a fun project a little bit each night when my kids go to bed and that also been really fun for me to look forward to doing each day.

 

What are your favorite happiness hacks for wintertime? I’d really like to know!

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My Story

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I love hearing people’s stories and how they overcome things and make it through in the end. I want to share a little bit of my current story.

My husband graduated from school a year and a half ago and we had to make some big decisions about where to live and what job to take etc. It was pretty stressful. After a lot of prayer and weighing pros and cons we decided to take a job in Idaho. This was far from our families and in a town that neither of us had been to before. And through some crazy, but miraculous circumstances we found an apartment to move into last minute (sometime I’ll share that story!).

We made the big move to Idaho and started settling into our new life here. It has been challenging! Our apartment is old and has some interesting and less than desirable quirks. We live in a small town with few neighbors close by (in fact I hardly ever see any other human life unless I drive into town).We had previously lived in such a fun area and we had SO many friends close by and now we had no one. The only other life around us is horses. And I love horses, but they don’t exactly fill my social needs:). I didn’t know a single person in the area and I’ve never felt so incredibly alone. Plus I was pregnant at that time and I was SO SICK!

Oh, and did I mention that our apartment had mice? Yeah. That was the cherry on top. Lots of mice. Luckily they have never come into our actual living area, they’ve just been in the walls, ceilings and storage room. But that was enough to really throw me for a loop.

I’m not one to give up and I’ve made it through hard things before and I knew I could do it again. In fact, I’ve moved TONS of times growing up and I loved it. But for some reason moving as an adult (pregnant!) with 2 little kids is much less fun:). Anyway, needless to say I had a LOT of hard days following that move.

I tried to get my sick, pregnant self out of the house with my kiddos and go to parks a couple times a week and explore our new little town. And I slowly came to find things to love about our new situation.

Fast forward a year and a half…I’ve since had my baby and we’ve made friends here and I know the town really well now. Things have gotten MUCH better. But it is still very challenging to be a mom of 3 little kids who are all home with me all day, living far away from our families, and living in a place where I feel so alone! I feel like through this experience and time in my life I’ve really had to dig deep to keep myself grounded and happy and it is a struggle that I have to deal with every day.

I am so grateful for my trials and challenges that I’ve this last little while though because my testimony has never been stronger as I’ve had to really depend on it and my knowledge of Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father to get me through. I’ve learned that I have to put that first in my life to get through each day. That’s what centers me and keeps me balanced.

I’ve also had to dig deep to find the things that make me, me. And the things that make me feel happy and like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life. I feel like as a mom of little kids that your identity can easily get lost with all the chaos. It’s so important to spend time on yourself (within reason of course!) and remember the things you love doing and then keep doing them! I also started spending time each day reading and working on self-development and that has also helped so much. I love learning from other people and changing myself for the better.

So basically that’s why I’m writing this blog. I just want to share all the things I’m learning that have really helped me get through challenging times. I hope to be able to look back on my life and really see that my trials have made me better and not bitter:) And that they have shaped me and changed my HEART into the person that I am supposed to be. 🙂

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -Marianne Williamson

 

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Two Favorite Christmas Memories

 

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I recently read an article that said that if you want to raise resilient kids you need to tell them family stories. I definitely want resilient kids so I’ve been thinking of what family stories I could tell them today and I thought of two that had to do with Christmas.

The first story happened when I was about 10 or 11. We lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time and we had a neighbor that had a tragic accident happen to him. He was flying a kite with his kids in his front yard and the kite got stuck in his tree. He climbed up the tree to retreive the kite and somehow he slipped or the branch broke and he fell out of the tree onto the ground. I remember hearing and seeing the ambulance come and being worried about him and his family.

Our neighbor didn’t die thank goodness, but I think he was hurt and it took time for him to heal from his injuries. (I should probably ask my mom for the details because she probably remembers better than I do!) But I remember that for Christmas that year my family decided that we would buy some gifts for our neighbor and his family  to help them out in their time of need. We bought and wrapped the presents and then we left them on their porch and rang the doorbell and ran. I remember my excitement that Christmas and being so excited to pick out presents for the kids. I hope that our serive helped brighten their difficult Christmas that year. That experience brought the spirit of Christmas to my family and I and taught us all how important it is to serve others and how much fun it can be too!

 

My grandpa, Russell Nelson

My other favorite Christmas memory was when I was about 18 or 19 and we lived in Utah. My family decided that for Christmas Eve that year we would drive an hour away and visit my grandpa who lived alone, and bring him some Christmas cheer. I wasn’t too excited about the drive, but it ended up being a favorite Christmas memory for me. My mom made him his favorite dinner of ham and yams and we all ate together in his cute little white house. We ate and talked and I looked at all the fun family pictures of all my extended family members that surrounded us on his walls and shelves. (I think he saved and framed every picture anyone had ever given him!)

It was fun to see him and bring him some Christmas cheer that Christmas Eve. I remember driving back to our house that night and listening to Christmas music on the radio and thinking that that was what Christmas was really about…spending time with those you love and serving others. That’s what brings the Christmas spirit into your HEART.♥

 

Now I need to share these stories with my own kiddos this Christmas and hopefully we can find a way to help them feel the spirit of Christmas this year and create more family stories to remember forever.

Merry Christmas!