Sharing My Story

In January of this year, I sat down, committing to write more. And every time I did, I felt uninspired, and without real purpose. So this past year, I focused intensely inward. On my sweet little family, and on myself. We had less time with friends (sorry for that!), but spent time more intentionally around our home. I stopped watching TV, I started reading the Bible each day, and I took a 3 month break from social media. I did lots of thinking and journaling and reflection, and praying. I wish I could say I achieved all the goals I set out for myself for 2018, but I didn’t. I made great progress in some (many around my faith), and no progress in others (my overall health, energy level, and fitness). But myself and my family look much different coming into 2019 than we did coming into 2018. And I’m so thankful for this past year, even though it’s looked so much different than I expected.

As we get ready to enter 2019, I feel I have found my purpose to share, the inspiration to do so, and the foundation on which I want to share. My life and my story are complex and messy, but all of ours are. I believe that in moments of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability, we build bridges and encourage others. So many times I’ve felt alone, like I’m the only one experiencing these struggles, and yet every time I open up about something, there is someone bold enough to share their experience with me to help me not feel so isolated. And while I feel like my life is an open book to any in my circle, I feel the calling to expand that circle, and offer encouragement to others I may not have regular conversation with.

Building on the progress in our family is important to me for 2019, but so is better reconnecting with those friends I’ve missed, and so is opening up about my story, and my journey in this life. I have not done it all well, and in fact have stumbled more than I’ve succeeded. Maybe if nothing else, you get a few laughs from my adventures in motherhood, marriage, work, and life. And just maybe you’ll find a bit of encouragement, a moment of realizing you’re not alone, and the ability to keep your head up!

Cheers friends, here’s to an incredible 2019!

So much of my focus in 2018 was centered around these two amazing children, which was so, so worth it!  photo by my talented and amazing sister-in-law Carli @rodeocityphotography

So much of my focus in 2018 was centered around these two amazing children, which was so, so worth it!

photo by my talented and amazing sister-in-law Carli @rodeocityphotography

January 2018 Reflections

How in the world is it already January? Of 2018?

I have been remiss in blogging, although my heart is passionate about it. I have this expectation (put on myself, by myself) of finding the perfect topic, the perfect images, and putting together the perfect post. So instead this year, I am just going to write. I was struck by something I heard tonight.

The smallest steps of progress are better than the greatest of intentions.

In my health, in my marriage, in my goals, in this blog. So here I am, with a small step of progress.

January is not yet over, but I feel as though I have more than enough when it comes to areas to reflect on already. I have made my goals for 2018, both personally and professionally. I have started making progress on some of those goals, and I have undergone yet another small procedure to remove more skin cancer. 

This year, I am focused on continuing to simplify, to scale back, and to be present. To eat more meals prepared in my kitchen. To spend time outside with my kids, in the fresh air and away from technology. To love my husband better, in ways that are more meaningful to him. And to have more date nights. To love my friends better, and spend more time connecting in person. To take my health seriously, and to make significant improvements there. To continue improving my home, simplifying, decluttering, and loving it more. Taking my life, right where I am, and digging in. I was given one life, one body, and this year is about caring more deeply for what I've been given. 

I have spent all of my adult life chasing more. Chasing the next promotion, chasing the ideals I see around me, chasing progress forward, and this year it has hit me like a ton of bricks. It's time to start chasing those things closest to me, those already here. To love harder, to care more deeply, and to turn my focus inward. In to my tribe, in to my home, and in to my life, just as it exists today. To simplify my life and my environment to allow me to do this. 

To dig into each member of my sweet family, spending more time with each of them individually, and collectively together as a family. Building my children's sense of self, sense of confidence, and helping them explore new interests. Helping them discover their gifts and nurture their unique talents. And spending quality time with my husband. It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and not carve out time for each other.

And myself. My health needs my attention. And it deserves my attention. And my kids and my husband need a healthy wife and mother. Nurturing my body with food created in my own kitchen. Reducing the amount of fast food I consume. Moving my body more. Resuming my Pilates practice. Resuming walks. Taking bike rides with the kids. And caring for my skin. Having my 8th spot of skin cancer removed this week reminds me that it's time to take this seriously. Having to take 2 days of PTO (waste 2 days of PTO!) to have it removed, then repaired, is NOT how I want to spend my precious days off. So this year, I am digging in, right where I am, right in the life God has given me, and embracing every piece of that. And taking care of it, nurturing it, and loving it better than I have before. Not letting the beauty of what I have been given go unnoticed for chasing more. Not this year.

Thank you to the talented Joanna Dawn Photography for capturing my sweet family up in the mountains on my birthday this past year!

Thank you to the talented Joanna Dawn Photography for capturing my sweet family up in the mountains on my birthday this past year!

Friday's Fave Five: Reads

In celebration of it being Friday {as if we needed a reason}, I thought it might be fun to start a series to share some of my absolute favorite things. Today's topic is books - here are my faves that I've read over the past year.

In my 20’s, I loved to get lost in a good murder mystery, preferably while on vacation on the beach. This fascination with mystery started young, reading The Nancy Drew Case Files, then moved on to more adult suspense. While I still love those, nowadays I feel recharged if I can read for 20-30 minutes before bed and my momma heart is yearning for something different. I’ve started reading non-fiction for the first time in my life, and it’s been tough for me to find something I actually want to finish. But, here are 5 great ones I read this year that I couldn’t put down, blessed me each time I picked them up, and I would recommend to anyone. If you’re looking for something great to read, give these a try!

1.     Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley. Talk about a pulling at your momma heart strings kind of book. This amazing woman talks about allowing yourself grace to enjoy life a little more and focus on the things that matter. She has become one of my favorite women to follow, favorite blog to read, and has the cutest planners and journals to boot!

2.     The Magnolia Story. I was never a big fan of Fixer Upper until this past year, but now am hooked on both the amazing work they do to these homes, and their incredible story. A couple with a strong faith navigating today’s world, this book tells their story and makes you love them even more.

3.     Make it Happen by Lara Casey. You want to talk about another woman I have come to love this year. Her PowerSheets (see my New Years goals blog post), and Write the Word Journals have made my life better this year, literally. This book is like a working session with a coach, inspecting your dreams and fears and pushing you to step out of our comfort zone and literally Make it Happen!

4.     Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. In the age of comparison on social media, and striving to be the perfect wife, mother, leader, career woman, (insert your role), this open and honest story of success pulling her away from the ones she loves most is so worth the read. Being present, with your kids, your family, AND your work is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, and your family.

5.     Cravings. So, this one may seem like the outlier of the group, but I LOVE a good cookbook. And who knew that Chrissy Teigen was such an amazing cook?!? I love the variety of influences in her cooking, from Thai to Southern down home and everything in between. I don’t often take the time to cook big meals, but when I do, I like to do it right, and this book does not disappoint. Everything I’ve made from this book is to die for. And the amazing pics of her and her husband John Legend are just too fun. You can thank me later!

Grace Not Perfection / The Magnolia Story / Make it Happen / Present Over Perfect / Cravings

The 5 Things I'm Quitting This Year

I'm a goal person. Every year, I set goals for myself and every year I fail to achieve the vast majority of them. I think the statistic is that by February 15th, most of America is officially off the New Years Resolution wagon.  So this year, I'm doing things differently, I'm being more intentional and focused in my goals, and I'm trying to set myself up for success. How? I did three things differently this year:

1. I started using PowerSheets (by Lara Casey) and fell immediately in love. They are perfect for my list-loving mind, and they ask thought provoking questions. There are daily, weekly, and monthly check-ins you can do, but the pressure of perfection is just not there. One of the most important things she reiterates, is that small progress is progress. And I am celebrating that this year!

2. I limited my number of goals to 10. Historically I've written out about 20-40 different goals. This year, 10.

3. I am saying good-bye to things this year. This has never been a part of my goal making process, but this year, it has to be. If I'm going to succeed in more of my goals this year, I have to make room for them. I have to reject the self-inflicted pressure of adding things to my list to "do it all" and I need to spend my time differently to allow myself to focus on the things that matter most, without burning the candle at both ends. 

So, here are the things I'm giving up this year. They are not going to be easy necessarily, and I probably won't succeed in these 100%, but any amount of progress will allow me the room to have positive progress in my goals for this year.  So, here they are:

1. I am ditching the pressure (again, self-inflicted) to expose my son to as much as possible this year.  He is 5, started kindergarten this summer, and I felt like it was time for him to explore sports and activities so that he could find what he loved. But by 3 months into the school year, he was over-booked, over-scheduled, and I was stressed. He had two nights a week of wrestling, one night of gymnastics, one afternoon/evening with his grandparents, and homework. For the first time, homework. And, running club was getting ready to start 2 mornings a week before school. Oh, and did I mention he is in kindergarten? He's 5! He had no time to relax, no time to recharge, no time to be sick, to be a kid, to play outdoors, to adjust to kindergarten, or to mom working again after staying home for 9 months. So, this new year, we are done with activities. For now, we are done. Let's all take some time to adjust to our new schedules, our new routines (there's been a lot of change at home with mommy starting to work outside the house again and daddy starting a small business), and reassess when we feel like there is room for something, that there is margin in our lives for that again. It's not right now, and I need to respect that.  

2. Buying clothes in the size I "think I should be". I have this odd habit of buying things just a little too small, because I'm always just on the brink of losing that last 5-10 pounds. I don't remember when it started, or how it came to be, but doing that creates guilt about my body, my lack of exercising my lack of making healthy choices all day every day and I'm done feeding into that. (pardon the pun!) I'm going to buy clothes that make me feel good today. Period. End of story. Then when I inevitably eat that donut (or 4) I don't feel my too-tight pants ready to burst at the seams. I just enjoy the donut(s) and think about making healthier choices at the next meal. My daughter is watching me every single day, and I want her to have a strong confidence in her body, and how in the world will she ever do that if she doesn't have an example of that at home?

3. TV. Man I get sucked into the reality TV, mindless TV, and stay up way too late "unwinding from my day" in front of the TV. My husband has the TV on almost all the time, but I don't even like most of the shows he watches anyway. So, no, don't worry, I'm not giving up TV all together (hello Bachelor Fantasy League), but I am going to take a couple/few nights a week off where I don't watch TV. Creating time for myself to do other things that I want to do this year. If I don't make time, how could I possibly expect to achieve new things?

4. Sleeping in during the week. I am the queen of snoozing for well over an hour, until the last possible minute to get up, get myself and the kids ready rushing out the door. But those days are so hurried. They are stressful. They are full of yelling to the kids to hurry up. They don't leave room in my morning for someone to spill their glass of juice, to need an extra few snuggles before school, or to eat a healthy breakfast. They don't allow me to wake up to the day with a cup of tea, or start my day with time in the Bible, or work out. They don't allow me to be the mom I want to be to my kids every morning, helping them get ready at a more relaxed pace, not a frantic, hair on fire kind of pace. I have been trying to wake up earlier Monday - Friday for the first week (almost two weeks) of this new year, and have been unsuccessful all but one morning. Snooze keeps happening. And happening, and happening. So if you have any suggestions for me to be more successful in quitting the snooze button, I'm all ears. This is one that I may not be 100% successful in, in fact it's not even looking like a 10% success rate, but I have to remind myself, every small bit of success allows more joy, more happiness and more slow paced mornings (and even time to myself before the kids get up!) than I have today. Small progress = huge wins for me. 

5. Comparison. This one is hard. Like really hard for me. I am so competitive by nature, and competitive about everything. Social media doesn't exactly help by setting the standard any lower. I strive to be the best mom, the best in my career, the best wife, the best friend, and when I don't measure up, I respond in one of two ways - I either go all in to achieve whatever "it" is, or I accept total and complete failure and give up. Have you ever felt like that? I hit that all or nothing point, driven by internal comparison points, and it hurts so many things in my life. There is no way I can drop this cold turkey, no way I can achieve this goal 100% of the time, but I've realized that if I make ANY progress here, I have introduced joy and contentment into my life where there was previously stress and feelings of not being enough. Any single ounce of progress here is happiness in my life, and we all know that translates to happiness for my family.  

So, I thought this post was going to be a short list of 5 things I'm quitting this year, but apparently it's turned into quite the novel. Anyway, I hope I've inspired at least one person to give something up this year to create room in their life for something they want even more. And my reasons for quitting so many things this year - my family! To be more intentional about my time, to bring them each the best version of myself. So cheers to quitting something in the New Year so we can have more moments like these!

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Assigning Purpose In My Day

Let's talk purpose. This post is not about your life's purpose, there are amazing books out there about finding your life's purpose. That ONE thing you were created to do, meant to do, and while I believe that is important, I am not qualified to even speak to that, I'm still exploring that for myself. This post is about assigning purpose to the daily things you do already. By recognizing and acknowledging that there is purpose to everything during our day (yes, even scrolling Instagram and Facebook and watching reality TV - my personal favorite is combining all of these after my kids go to bed), we help to eliminate, or at least reduce, some of that guilt you feel as you go through your day. It also helps us be intentional about our day.

Total side note ... As I have started publishing these posts, I worry about sounding too preachy. There are so many right ways to do things, so many right ways to structure your day, to make decisions. I just know that I struggled so mightily in my quest (and continue to struggle in my ongoing quest) to be the best mom, wife, friend and professional I can be, and I feel like while I have had so many amazing women to help guide me in certain areas, I really found myself flailing in others. If I can help another woman be encouraged, be more at peace with their days and weeks, then I'd like to give that to someone. With all of that said - nothing here is ever meant to be insulting or offensive, so please don't take it that way - and never am I trying to say I have all the answers, or the right answers. Just my thoughts and opinions, which change and evolve over time. If there's one thing you can take from this, I've been successful. So thank you for reading, and please always feel free to share your thoughts with me, I'd love to hear them!

Ok, so back to purpose. If you haven't identified the purpose to a part of your day, it's highly unlikely that you would acknowledge any value in it. If you believe there's no purpose to what you're doing, of course you're going to feel like you should be doing something else. One of my favorite speakers is Dave Ramsey, and I took his Financial Peace course years and years ago. One of the things that resonated with me is the need for a portion of your budget to use for discretionary purposes each month. If you fail to plan for it, you will immediately go over budget as soon as you spend that extra dollar. I feel like time for ourselves (especially as moms) is seen as wasteful or unnecessary, (or fill in your own word). Most of the time that lack of value and lack of purpose is assigned by us. Not by our spouse, not our support system, but us. How many times has my husband taken the time to do something that recharges him, not because I told him he should really take some time for him, but because he knows he needs it. I haven't always listened to my heart, to my body, and to my needs that way. I waited until I was beyond my breaking point, and then my request (or demand) came at an inopportune time, full of emotion - usually anger, and near hysteria. I have learned to take time for me when I start noticing that I need it. While I can have a calm, reasonable conversation about it, and I have time to plan it (before I break down). We put this pressure on ourselves to do it all, to be superwoman, and to never ask for help (gasp!) That did nobody in my family any good, and I can tell you that taking more me-time has significantly changed my life, my mood, and my family's happiness.

Work: The Daily Grind (or is it?)  I believe it all starts with identifying our purpose for working, our reason. Why do you work? If you don't believe there is a reason for you to work, to leave your children and be at an office, you will always feel guilt about being away. Some moms work out of financial necessity, they would not otherwise be able to put food on the table for their family. Some work because they love the challenge, or the stimulation. They long for that mentally stimulating part of their day. Some work to support the lifestyle they became accustomed to before they had kids, when they were DINKs (Dual income no kids) households. Some work for the sense of achievement they feel at the office, and the sense of order that sometimes doesn't exist in our personal lives, especially with newborns and toddlers. It doesn't matter your reason, it doesn't matter if it's a little of all of the above. They are all good reasons, there are no bad reasons. And each of these reasons put us in a place where we work, and are able to set a good example for our kids, and teach them about work ethic, and finances, and doing things because we need to. If we don't see the reason we work as a positive, it's hard not to feel guilt, and it's tougher to teach our kids these valuable lessons. Recognize and acknowledge the reason you work.

'Home' Life - Everything else  Assigning purpose to your day is not just about work. I find by assigning purpose (and therefore value) to the other parts of my day too, I actually feel comfortable with what I'm doing, and it allows me to be all in while I'm there. To be present. So here are a couple quick ones for you ... 

Talking to your kids about their day without checking your work email on your phone. Teach them to talk to someone by looking them in the eye, engaging in back and forth conversation. You'd be surprised how many kids don't know how to do that. Teach them to be respectful of the people they interact with during their life. Make 3D real life connections, not just on technology.

Working out. Hello stress relief, endorphin release, confidence (swagger), need I say more? Teaching your kids to prioritize themselves and their health. One question I ask myself frequently is whether or not I'm setting an example to my kids I want them to mirror. (This is a constant reset for me!) Why is it that we value our kids bodies, our kids health, our kids self esteem, but not our own? Set the example you want them to mirror. 

Unwinding / Zone Out time. i.e. Instagram, Facebook, (whatever your current form of social media is - I'm not up with the hip ones), Reality TV. After a long day, sometimes I need to just let my mind rest. This is helpful to my mood. If I recognize it for what it is, I do it guilt free, I fully enjoy it, I allow it to actually recharge me, and I'm more intentional about the amount of time I spend doing it. 

Reading. Pre-kids my vacations were spent reading books for fun. Relaxing, reading, sleeping, you know, life that will probably never exist again. Now, if I take the time to read even one chapter before bed, it's a game changer for me. I'm either reading something fun, something I want to learn more about, or something inspiring. I feel zero guilt when I fall asleep before I open the book, but on those nights I do read, it's amazing.

Wine with a girlfriend. Is there a woman out there that doesn't value girl talk, a glass of your favorite beverage of choice, and a quiet hour (or three) without a single responsibility?!? Just talking, laughing, (maybe crying), but sharing life and connecting. Connecting outside the inter webs, connecting in person. It does wonders for my soul. 

The happier I am, the more fulfilled I feel, the better mom I am, the better wife I am, the better employee I am. It's the halo effect. The combination of good things happening in your life builds momentum, and helps you better deal with the less than perfect moments life throws your way. So assign some purpose to things you do, take time for you, take time to recharge, allow yourself some "discretionary" time each day (even if it's 15 minutes before bed) and recognize the benefit it brings to your life. Be present at work, know why you're there, be present at home, relish that time, and be present for yourself. 

You have amazing gifts and talents. Why do you feel guilty about using those gifts? 

Fast Food Friday! Spicy Chicken & Sauteed Veggies - Trader Joe's Roundup Recipe #1

I love to cook, and I love being in the kitchen. But I don't often have the time for that. So, each Friday, I'm looking to share with you my fast, go-to recipes that don't involve a drive-thru, aren't deep fried, and you can feel good about eating (and feeding to your families)  

These first few are all made from ingredients that can be found at Trader Joe's. I have recently found some amazing time savers there that help me achieve fast, fresh, flavorful meals.

My favorite find from Trader Joe's, possibly of all time, is their seasoned, fully cooked chicken breast.  I HATE cooking chicken (it's never perfect and moist), HATE shredding rotisserie chicken, HATE handling raw chicken, and this chicken makes me actually LOVE including chicken in my dishes again.  GAME CHANGER!

Ingredients to Include on your Grocery List (all available at Trader Joe's):

  • Fully cooked, seasoned chicken breast (I use the Rosemary & Balsamic for this dish)
  • Onion
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash (or your veggies of choice)
  • Tomatoes
  • Shishito Peppers
  • Bag of Mixed Hot Peppers (I used the red fresno peppers for this dish)
  • Cilantro

Ingredients I Typically have on hand already:

  • Olive Oil or Coconut Oil (I always have a large jar of both on hand)
  • Garlic (I buy the big tubs of pre-minced garlic because who has time for that!)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (Another thing I always have a large jar of)
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes if you like it hot

Directions to Yum:

  1. Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat and add your olive oil.
  2. Add onions to the hot pan and sauté.
  3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes.
  4. Add zucchini and squash.
  5. Add a little drizzle of balsamic over all the veggies and stir to coat.  Don't overdo the balsamic, you don't want it swimming in a pool of balsamic vinegar.
  6. Add both the shishito and fresno peppers, but cut into rings.
  7. Add chopped tomatoes - these don't need to cook long at all.
  8. Add thinly sliced chicken to allow it to warm quickly.
  9. Make sure you coat the chicken with the balsamic, and add a little more vinegar if needed, but again, don't overdo it.  
  10. Top with fresh cilantro just before serving.

This dish is seriously ready in about 15-20 minutes, including all the chopping.  It's the perfect weeknight, in a rush, after a long day, I'm already starving kind of meal.  Because the chicken is already fully cooked, the prep is a breeze, and the cook time is next to nothing. It's packed full of protein and veggies and leaves me totally satisfied. But, if you're like my husband and require a non-vegetable carb with each meal, serve it over some brown rice.

Enjoy!

How Are We Able To Be Present When So Many Things Are Tugging At Us?

In my last post here, I talked about the need to stop chasing balance. And so if it's not this delicate, teetering on the edge of disaster, goal of balance, how do we find more peace with our days? How do we feel less stress? Less out of control? More content? How do we feel more fulfilled? I believe it's by simply being present.

Give yourself the gift of allowing yourself to be present. Every day. In all you do. Be present. Be there. Be engaged. Be there with a purpose.

But how in the world do you achieve that when there are so many things tugging at you, fighting for your attention? I get it, it's easier said than done. But strive for progress in this area. #progressnotperfection (My mantra for this year!)

So I mentioned allowing yourself to be present. As mothers, we deal with guilt unlike any other! Mommy guilt trumps all. It's fierce, it's powerful, and it's dangerous. So many times we don't allow ourselves to be present in a given situation because we're so emotionally aware of the other things we feel we "should" be doing. When we're at work, we feel like we "should" be with the kids. When we're with the kids, we can feel like we "should" be checking in on work, or cleaning the neglected house.

We have to change that, we have to stop feeling like we should be doing something else. Should be cleaning the house, should be doing laundry, should be doing anything else on our ever-growing to do list. So how do we do that? It's a shift in mindset. My hope is that these four things will help you make progress in this area. These four things are all worth a blog entry of their own, so I'll just include a little snippet for each here:

  1. I believe it all starts with identifying our purpose for working, our reason. Why do you work? If you don't believe there is a reason for you to work, to leave your children and be at an office, you will always feel guilt about being away. Recognize and acknowledge the reason you work. There is a purpose to all of the things you spend time on, including ways to unwind, ways to recharge your body, mind and soul. Recognize and acknowledge that. Having a purpose to what you're doing allows you to be intentional, and to do it without guilt.  
  2. Build your tribe. Delegate. (This includes delegating to your husband) Humble yourself, and invite other women to be vulnerable with you. So many times we are so busy trying to impress someone (or everyone) with how we did it all, or too embarrassed to ask for help that we wear ourselves too thin, and we alienate and discourage other women in the process. 
  3. Constantly prioritize and re-prioritize. What worked yesterday might not work today. Be flexible with that, and allow yourself and your family, and your job to have different needs today. Adjust to that. Things come up. Get comfortable with making snap decisions. 
  4. Remember that we're raising kids to become self-sufficient adults contributing to society. That means that independent play should be encouraged. Every. Single. Day. We are not meant as parents to entertain our children 24/7, and as working parents carrying around all sorts of guilt, this means not even on the weekends.

Tonight, be present. Start small. Even if it's only for 5 minutes. Give your spouse, give your kids 5-10 minutes of your undivided, technology-free attention (outside of what you typically give them). Also, make sure to take 5-10 minutes for yourself (or more, be indulgent!) Do something for you 100% guilt free. Read a chapter in a book you've been meaning to start, scroll social media, stretch your body, take an extra long uninterrupted shower, anything that's just for you and calling to you today! I'll write more about each of the 4 topics listed above in more detail, so just start small tonight. Progress.

My Tiny Dancer

As someone who had such a strong passion for dance, I think I've looked forward to this day since the day I found out I was having a girl.  I signed my little Huddie up for her first combo class at a local dance studio.  I took her to the mall to get fitted for her first ballet shoes and tap shoes, and pick out her leotards and tutus.  And don't forget the convertible tights that she can slip off her heels for the tumbling part of her class.  

The day finally came for her first class, and I woke up with debilitating muscle spasms in my back and neck.  After a trip to urgent care, I was laid up in the bed the entire rest of the day.  Her first day of dance was going to have to wait another week.  Damn!

Fast forward one week, and time to try again!  No issues for me, but this time, Huddie wasn't feeling quite herself.  After a trip to the doctor, we ensured there were no infections, just a little lingering congestion, so I was not missing this class.  With swim lessons in the morning, and a trip to the doctor's office (with an hour wait), she laid down late to take a little nap, and I had to wake her up for her first dance class.  Yikes!  Those of you with toddlers know I was asking for trouble.  I wanted to let her sleep as long as possible, so when I finally woke her up and went into her room, I was scrambling to pull together her dance bag.  Her special tights were nowhere to be found - clearly I put them somewhere clever that I would not forget.  Finally, we left with not a minute to spare, in tights with no feet, and a baggie of goldfish to eat in the car.  Mom of the year right here folks.

But seriously - I was waiting for this moment:

Notice the cutoff tights and oh, did I mention that I didn't have time to redo her hair after nap following swim lessons this morning? Just throw in a couple cute pink bows!

Notice the cutoff tights and oh, did I mention that I didn't have time to redo her hair after nap following swim lessons this morning? Just throw in a couple cute pink bows!

After the goldfish in the car, she regained her personality and excitement about the dance class where she got be a ballerina princess.  The first part of class was a success.  She found a spot at the barre in her adorable little tap shoes and tapped just like her teacher was showing.  Once that was done, she lost her mind and cried for a solid 20 minutes.  Her teacher (today was a substitute) was a sweetheart and carried her around while she cried so that she could at least participate in a small way, as her teacher danced around the room with her in her arms.  By the end of class, she was back on the floor participating and enjoying herself a little.  Then, class ended with a lollipop and all was right with the world again.  She packed up her little shoes, let me take a couple pictures and headed out.

Proud big brother walking out behind Hudson.  And can I just always remember her sweet shoulders and back in this moment?!?

Proud big brother walking out behind Hudson.  And can I just always remember her sweet shoulders and back in this moment?!?

After we left the studio, I wanted to take a couple pictures to memorialize this day, and Gage insisted on being in the pictures with his little sister.  But then, Gage meltdown.  No sibling lollipops for big brothers who watched the hot mess of 3 year old "dancers" for 45 minutes.

After a ride home to chill out for Gage, I brought Huddie back out front for a couple pictures before I changed her out of her dance clothes and we got on with our evening.

While her first day of dance class wasn't a total success, it also wasn't a total failure.  Here's hoping she wants to try again next week!

Winning Weeknight Dinner

Orzo with Spicy Italian Sausage

Here is my husband's favorite dinner - maybe of all time - that I make for him.  It's super quick, easy, and on the table in less than 20 minutes.

Photo by zia_shusha/iStock / Getty Images

Ingredients:

  • ½ box orzo pasta
  • 1 package ground hot Italian sausage
  • 2 chopped roma tomatoes
  • ½ chopped orange bell pepper
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 T crushed red pepper
  • 1 small tub shredded parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil or parsley to garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil and cook orzo according to directions on the box.
  2. As the water heats and orzo cooks, brown your sausage.
  3. As the sausage is just about browned, add garlic and red pepper flakes and mix well.
  4. Stir in tomato and bell pepper.
  5. Add drained orzo to sausage and add ¾ of the tub of cheese.
  6. Mix well, letting the cheese melt through the sausage and orzo.
  7. Top with additional cheese when serving as well as fresh basil or parsley.

Never cooked with orzo?  Never heard of orzo?  Well, you are about to have your mind blown!  Try it today!  Orzo is a pasta that looks similar in size and shape to rice.  But, it's pasta.  While it's amazing in this dish, it's also amazing with light flavors in the summer, like asparagus, rotisserie chicken, heirloom tomatoes and fresh lemon.  There are a thousand options with orzo.  I'm sure I'll be posting more about orzo soon, so do yourself a favor, and try it, cook with it, and fall in love with it!

Enjoy!