Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 One Word of the Year


That's my one word for 2014. My goal for the year. 

I want to be intentional with the things that I do. With the way that I spend my time. With the words that I choose. 

I want to be intentional with the time I spend with my family. I've been reading some from Hands Free Mama (link to come) and what she has to say has really resonated with me. I do not want Ella to know me as a distracted mom who must always have her phone, laptop, iPad, or schoolwork out. The things I do and the people I connect with on there pale in comparison to her and her Daddy. They are the two most important people in my life and I will be intentional about being 100% present with them when we're together. I will cut out those distractions and intentionally find other times to take care of those obligations. 

I know that it is impossible to be 100% 100% of the time though, so I want to be intentional about giving myself down time. Time to read, study, pray, or just veg out sans guilt because I know that to be the person my family needs, I need this. 

I want to be intentional about the way Brandon and I handle our finances and the way we give of what we have. I have had a very hands-off approach to this in our marriage to date, mostly because Brandon best knows what income he can reasonably expect from gigs and students who may or may not pay for their lessons. I need to shoulder more of the management burden and find ways to intentionally give what God has put on my heart to give. 

I want to be intentional about the way I do my job and the amount of time it takes outside of my contract hours. Any teacher can tell you that it is near impossible to get everything done to be a good teacher inside of the workday. Music teachers (even elementary music teachers who don't have competitive ensembles like me) are actually expected to work beyond their contracted time. Truth be known, much of that "off-contract" time, especially when my students are performing, for me is the most fun and most joyful part of my job. But there are other parts, tons of planning, grades, more planning, meetings, phone calls, planning, paperwork, etc that end up happening after school or in the evenings or on weekends. I want to be intentional about how much time I allow those things to take up and how I manage my time while working on them. 

There are other areas that I want the word intentional to permeate as well. 

Housework - Brandon and I regularly admit that we are "dumb"esticated when it comes to caring for our home. We're making small strides but I hope to do more. 

Dates - Yeah, we've had two since Ella was born. Our 4th anniversary and our 5th. 

Words - This could be an entire post on its own. I'm tired of platitudes and empty Christian-y sayings. "Blessed" is one of those words. I think it is overused and misconstrued to the point that its meaning is watered down in the best of situations and hurtful in the worst. If I say God has blessed me with a beautiful family, health, and home, to some that implies that He is withholding that blessing from others. I don't believe that and that would never be my implication but there are brothers and sisters who have been deeply wounded by words and thoughts such as this. I want to be extra thoughtful and intentional about the words I choose. 

So there you have it. My word for 2014. Intentional. I will be intentional about who I am and what I do. And above all I want to intentionally share the love of my Savior with those around me. 

Happy New Year! 

2013 Word in Review

2013 was a wonderful, tough, exhausting, amazing, joyful, love-filled year. In the last year we have seen love grow leaps and bounds in the ever changing, quickly growing, little blessing we call Ella. Our hearts have been filled to bursting with the love, joy, and pride that comes with watching your child grow from a totally dependent infant into an ever-increasingly independent toddler. What a year it has been!

Last New Years instead of committing to a resolution that I was sure to break and stress/guilt trip over, I chose one word to be my focus for the year. I let it permeate my life - sometimes at the forefront of my thoughts, sometimes in the back of my mind. No guilt over constantly doing or not doing something. Just letting that one word be part of who I am. 

My one word for 2013 was love. My main focuses were to fall more deeply in love with my Savior, for my family to always feel and know my love, and to learn to love my career again.  

The hardest of these was the last one. I have struggled greatly (though rarely vocalised it) with my career in the 20 months that my sweet Ella has been around. Don't get me wrong, I believe whole-heartedly that God led me into this career and it is very fulfilling to be able to use my gifts and my passions in ways that impact so many young lives. But with Ella, my priorities and passion shifted to include her, and I have had a hard time reconciling my heart with the amount of time my job requires verses the amount of time I desperately want to spend with her (which is pretty much every minute I can). Add to that being in a totally new school and some student and coworker issues that I have never experienced before (some that came just weeks after my resolve to fall in love with my job again) and you can imagine the mess my heart and mind were in. 

I can say now that I am finally finding my way back to loving my job. The summer was a welcomed reprieve and with the help of some other coworkers, mentors, and good friends (and lots of prayer) I was able to jump into this school year in a better state of mind. This past semester has been sooo much better and much more rewarding. I still struggle with being a working mom but I'm starting to accept that this struggle is one on-going area of my life where God's grace is going to have to shine the brightest. 

All in all, I'd call my one word and focus for 2013 a success. So much so that I'm going to do it again. My one word for 2014 is . . .

Friday, January 4, 2013

My One Word 2013, pt 1

I'm not a fan of New Years resolutions. I don't like feeling obligated to add one more thing to my very full plate and I don't like the guilt that I put on myself if and when I fall short of that goal. I know now that I probably won't blog or even journal consistently, I may or may not run another 5K this year, I'm not even aiming to lose weight (though if I could drop these last five baby pounds I'd be really excited!). If I do any or all of those things then good for me, but I'm not going to stress over whether or not they happen.

For the last couple of years a few of my friends have tried a different approach to their "resolutions" - a one word sum- up of what they want to be/look like/work on in the coming year. You can find the man who started it all, Mike Ashcroft, here and see a few of my friends (personal and/or blog buddies) and their One Word for the Year here, here, and here.

My former pastor, Andy Wood, says that most people he knows that choose "one word" for the year seem to know what their word will be almost immediately. When I first started mulling over my "one word" I actually had three words come to mind - time, trust, and love. Over the last few days I've come to realize that my thoughts and goals relating to time and trust are really wrapped up in my "one word", LOVE.

I can see this word playing out in three distinct areas of my life - my family, my relationship with God, and my job.

Since I tend to be a little long winded when I write, I will break each of these down into separate posts and hope I carry it through.  We'll see.  :)

Here is the first.

1) My Immediate Family: 2012 was the most amazing year of my life. I became a mommy to the most beautiful baby girl in the world. My heart grew leaps and bounds before I ever even set eyes on her and my love for her grows even bigger each day. I'm constantly learning and relearning what true love is through this precious little one. I am eager to continue this mommyhood journey this year as I watch her grow.

One of the greatest joys of becoming a mommy has been watching my husband become a daddy. I've seen a side of him that I never knew he had. I love seeing him fall in love with our little girl, and each time I catch a glimpse of that, I fall more in love with him. We are stronger, closer, and more in love today than the day we were married (5 years ago this year!).

My prayer for my little family is twofold - that I am able to find more ways to show and express my love so that Brandon and Ella will always feel secure in my love and that God will use me to continue to show His love to them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Christmas Carol Pillow

It's been a while since I've updated our family blog here and it's been even longer since I've had the time to do any craftiness.  Usually summer is the one time of the year that this school teacher has to pour creative juices into something that's not classroom related.  This summer though, I've been a bit preoccupied by the littlest Stewart Little (and loving every second!).  By the way, if you're looking for the latest Stewart Little updates and pictures, be sure to check out Dear Sweet Ella.

With that said, it was awfully nice to have a good excuse to do a little sewing and crafting last week.  Our awesome women's ministry E3 came up with the brilliant idea to have a Pinterest party with a Christmas in July theme!  I was so excited about it that I stayed up 3 hours after one of Ella's midnight feedings going through my Pinterest boards and scheming about what fun thing I would make and take.  With our budget still tight after my maternity leave, I knew I needed to come up with something I could do with supplies I already had and/or a very cheap run to JoAnn's/Hobby Lobby/Michael's.  After the first two hours of scrolling through Pinterest on my phone, I decided to tweak a version of this pillow from Wit & Whistle. (I spent the last hour dreaming about what would go on my pillow).
 I already had an 18x18 pillow form from a project I never got around to last summer so all I needed was some good fabric (Wit & Whistle used a ready made pillow case - fabric is mucho cheaper) and a couple of fabric markers.  I found some great canvas material marked down at JoAnn's and I'm very happy with the result.  It looks a bit like the linen version above, but it's thicker and I think it will be much more durable.

For sewing the pillow case I used HGTV's great tutorial and just left out the step with the fringe.  I love this tutorial because it gives such simple instructions for how much fabric to use if you want the pillow case to be removable.  See how it's open on the back?

Then came the fun part!  I didn't have a stencil, so I made a square text box in Microsoft Publisher (you can do it in any word processing program too) and played around with fonts until I found a look and a fit that I liked, then printed it out as an example.  Since we were supposed to make Christmas crafts, I chose one of my favorite Christmas carols - It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.  I lined out my pillow case in pencil (it took several tries), then started slowly free handing the lettering in pencil by looking at my printed template.  After that I just went back over my penciled letters with my two fabric markers.

It was so much fun to make (and pretty easy, too!) that I think I will have to use the rest of the canvas material and make a few more with other Christmas carols.  I'm so excited to decorate with them for Christmas this year!  They will match my music tree perfectly!

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Blog

I've decided to move my "Dear Ella" posts to their own blog.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with it and eventually print it out in a book for Ella to look back on.  I'll still post family updates on here, but for specific Ella news, check out Ella's blog at:

Dear Sweet Ella

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dear Ella . . .

You wore your very last newborn size diaper today and are officially in Size 1s. You've also started wearing all of your cute 0-3 month clothes now.

I've been a little sad today because I know you will never be this little again - its going by so fast! But I'm also loving every minute of each new phase. I love how well you're holding your head up and how alert you've become. You're smiling more and more at your daddy and me and you've started using your little voice to coo and gurgle and squawk at everything. It's adorable! I think my friend Emily was right when she said that every new phase is the best one yet. I wouldn't trade a minute of where you are right now (but it would be awfully nice if those minutes would slow down some)!

I love you so much, my sweet 6-week-old baby girl!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dear Ella . . .

You are 5 weeks old today. I know I say this all the time, but I really can't believe how fast time is flying!

Your cheeks are really starting to pooch out now. I love your little chipmunk cheeks - especially when you're nursing!

You've started smiling a lot more - real responsive smiles. They are just beautiful! I haven't heard another giggle yet, though. That's ok. I know we'll be hearing those magical little sounds soon enough. I'm not in a hurry. :)

I need to quit thinking that you're finally getting on a schedule. Every time I do, you change the game plan.

I think you must be having a growth spurt. You've been nursing longer and more often these last couple of days. Very hungry babies make very sleepy (and hungry) mommies. You've also been a little more fussy. I hope your little tummy isn't hurting you. your Grandmommy thinks you're fussy because your still hungry. Maybe she's right - it seems like you're eating all the time right now.

You really are the cutest little thing I have ever seen! Everything about you - from your feathery soft hair to your soft baby feet is so perfect (and squishy!).

I love you, beautiful baby Ella!

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