6 Things I Loved in September

I’m trying out a new thing. At the beginning of each month I would like to write a review of things I loved from the previous month. I have seen this kind of series on several blogs I enjoy reading including The Confused Millennial, But First, Coffee, and College Fashion–yes I did graduate from college almost a decade ago. No shame. 

September was an interesting month. When Labor Day came and passed, it finally started to sink in that I am no longer a teacher. Until that point it just felt like a really long summer break. Now it’s real. And I think I am the happiest I have been in a very long time. It was a good month. 

Without further ado–6 Things I Loved in September (in no particular order

1. Annual Church Picnic

Every year on Labor Day Weekend, a couple from our church hosts a picnic potluck for the whole church on their farm. It is so much fun and I look forward to it all year long. I was extra looking forward to it because last year on Labor Day I was 28 weeks pregnant with our twins and there was no way Steph was going to be cool with me sitting outside in the heat for the afternoon, so we stayed home. (She was the sweetest, most protective, most loving person ever while I was pregnant. I mean, she always is, but she really stepped it up while I was incubating our children).

This year’s picnic was no disappointment. The boys ran around in their walkers, rode on the tractor, pet the bunny, and took in all kinds of attention–and that was in addition to the awesome food.

2. These Prints from Hobby Lobby

I fell in love with these gorgeous prints at Hobby Lobby. I was supposed to be shopping for something specific (I don’t even remember what it was) but I found these for 50% off and since we are going to redo my office soon anyway, I bought my favorite ones. (You guys, I kind of exhibited self control because I only bought three)

3. My New Life Quote

Your worth is not measured by your productivity.

I saw this quote on Facebook and, let me tell ya, I immediately felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I read it.

I stress out all day long about all the things I don’t get done in between caring for the boys and rarely pay attention to what I DO get done. My worth is not measured by the number of checks on my to-do list. If that means I spent the entire day playing with my babies and didn’t get a million things done, so be it. That’s why I’m taking this year off from working in a traditional setting, right? To take care of my babies

4. Our Boys Learned to Walk

Both boys decided they can walk this month. I am torn about this. On one hand, it is very exciting and I am brimming with pride. My sweet preemies, born tiny and with warnings about delays, started walking at 11 months. We were prepared for all sorts of delays in their development, and while I do occasionally see a couple, overall they are phenomenal. On the other hand, I was secretly hoping they would be late walkers. They are twins. There are two of them. And they are mobile. Next step is running. I’m exhausted thinking about it.

5. Dump Cakes

Granny introduced me to dump cakes this month when she brought over a blueberry lemon one as a surprise. It was so good. She explained how she made it and it sounded super easy, so I tried it out. 

When I had to prepare food for coffee hour at church last weekend, I tried out dump cakes. I made three–Granny’s Blueberry Lemon, Caramel Apple, and Chocolate Cherry. I will have a post soon with recipes!

Despite it being the most simple thing ever, I still pestered Granny with texts about how to do it correctly while I was making them, so I can guarantee the recipes are awesome.

Don’t miss out on a single post!!! Click here to subscribe to my newsletter. When you do, you can download my Date Night Scavenger Hunt for FREE!!!

6. September Skincare Challenge

I challenged myself to celebrate Skincare September by making a homemade skincare line using essential oils. (Because I am obsessed with essential oils). I did not actually use it as consistently as I hoped, but I am already in love with how my skin is reacting to chemical-free, all-natural skin care. I want to use it a while longer (and more consistently) before I share it, but soon, I will have a blog post with an in depth review of how my skin has improved–complete with recipes I used to create my skincare line.

Also, while we are on the topic of essential oils. Stephanie and I used them this month to make all-natural household cleaners and we are both amazed by how amazing these cleaners are. Be on the look out for that blog post, too. 

What were YOUR favorite parts of September? What are your plans for October? Share in the comments!!!!

Inspirational Dream JournalFREEBIE ALERT! Click here to download my 28-Day Follow your Dreams Inspiration Journal AND subscribe to my newsletter so you never miss a single post!

Television Shows for People Who Don’t Like to Watch TV.

Confession: I don’t like to watch Television. I know that makes me kind of weird, but that’s me. When I started my first teaching job, my coworkers thought it was crazy that I didn’t have cable. They enjoyed slipping movie and TV references into our conversations to confuse me. 

Steph loves watching TV. It helps her unwind. It bores me to no end. When we bought our house, she wanted to put a television in our bedroom. I did not. If I am going to watch TV, I want to be in the living room on the couch or curled up with a blanket in my chair. Often, I need something to do with my hands in order to focus on the television–like knitting, playing cards, coloring, etc. Maybe I have ADD. I don’t know, but if I want to sleep, I want to go to my bedroom and sleep. Not watch TV. Besides, I cannot figure out how to comfortably watch television from the bed. Also, it’s not like Steph watches television all that often, so I didn’t see the need to have a second TV in the house.

So we compromised. And put a television in our bedroom. 

When Steph and I met, if I watched television at all, I watched Friends or How I Met Your Mother. That’s it. I watched those two shows on repeat. 

Over the years Steph has encouraged me to forced me to branch out and try different shows.

Truthfully, I have enjoyed several of them. The other day I said, “You are so good at finding shows I actually like to watch.”

“You have no idea how hard I have to work to find something you will watch!” She was slightly exasperated.

In an effort to save some other poor soul who has a hard time getting his or her significant other or friend to watch television with them, I’m sharing a list of shows to binge watch approved by someone (me)  who doesn’t like to watch television.

Steph knows when she has found a show I enjoy because I make a rule that she is not allowed to watch it without me.

    

7 Television Shows for People who Don’t Like to Watch Television

1. Friends

Where to watch: Netflix
Average length of an episode: 22-23 minutes
Number of episodes: 236

Friends is a classic. I never watched it while it was on the air. I discovered it because of my first roommate in college. She had the seasons on DVD and enjoyed watching them on repeat, so we watched it all the time. 

It’s a funny show and the characters are lovable (my favorite character is Janice Litman). Thanks to the witty humor, you will have a collection of great catchphrases you can use in real life. A favorite of mine:

“I’m not that great at the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?”

–Chandler Bing

My students really loved it when I used that one. 

The many, many love triangles are fun, but not overly dramatic or emotional (I am not a fan of that kind of thing). Phoebe and Monica compete for a guy in coma, Rachel and Monica literally fight over 
Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the bigget one: should Rachel have ended up with Ross or Joey? You really do have to watch from the beginning to the end to be able to create an informed opinion. (I’m Team Joey, by the way. Ross is SOOOOOOO annoying.)

2. How I Met Your Mother

Where to watch: Hulu
Average length of an episode: 22-23 minutes
Number of episodes: 208

I don’t even remember how I came to know and love HIMYM, but I do know that it is probably my all time favorite television show. It seems like the show just kind of captures the stage of life I am in really well and  puts a humorous light on it. It’s real and relatable.

I genuinely love all of the main characters, even if Ted Mosby does occasionally really get on my nerves. I have experienced a full range of emotions while watching.

The Thanksgiving episodes are probably my favorites. We will watch all of them during the week of Thanksgiving. 

A lot of famous guests make appearances on the show including Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Mandy Moore, Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, Mike Tyson, Enrique Iglesias, and many others. My favorite special guest is Britney Spears who plays Abby, a ditzy receptionist. The character is hilarious and Britney plays it well. 

Finally Marshall and Lily–Marshmallow and Lilly Pad–are the very definition of relationship goals. I love them and their dynamic. 

The downside:

I LOVE the mother. I loved the anticipation of discovering who the mother is and all the twists and turns Ted and his friends encounter on their journey to meeting her. She is PERFECT for Ted.

BUT, the series finale was really irritating. If the final episode had ended at 18:14, it would have been perfect. However, it continued for another 3 minutes and 22 seconds and, in that short amount of time, it almost ruins the whole show.

The final season is truly beautiful and poetic. I am not even ashamed to admit I cried. More than once. I recommend watching until Ted says, “And that, kids, is how I met your mother” and then turning off the television. Pretend nothing comes after that moment. You’ll thank me.

Don’t miss a single post! Sign up for my newsletter and receive my Date Night Scavenger Hunt FREE! (You can read about how we used it here)

3. Criminal Minds

Where to watch: Netflix 
Average length of an episode: about an hour
Number of episodes: 299 currently; it’s still in production.

I used to complain about how every movie or show I watched ended happily and how that’s not real life and sometimes it would be nice if that was reflected in media. 

Enter Criminal Minds. 

Sometimes the show is so intense that it keeps me awake at night. The whole plot with The Reaper is terrifying, but gave me exactly what I was looking for. They didn’t catch him right away. It took several episodes. 

The whole show is fascinating. You can learn so much about psychology and human behavior. (Yes, learning from a TV show is a plus for me. Learning makes me happy). I have researched a lot of the things I originally heard about while watching this show and learned a lot of very cool things. Because of this show, I’ve learned how to tell when people are lying to me–which is a super useful life skill. 

Sometimes I do have trouble binge watching Criminal Minds. It’s a show about how serial killers think–getting in the heads of some pretty sick people–there’s only so much of that I can handle before I’m sad and need a happy break.

4. New Girl

Where to watch: Netflix and Hulu 
Average length of an episode: about 25 minutes
Number of episodes: 146

I discovered this show while I was on maternity leave. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do besides watch TV. I was recovering from an emergency c-section and had twin infants. I didn’t get the hang of tandem feedings until they were big enough to hold their own bottles, so feeding took forever–especially since Gryffin didn’t even like to eat. It felt like when I wasn’t feeding or changing babies, I was pumping, so I couldn’t do much of anything except watch television.

Steph told me I was not allowed to watch Friends and How I Met Your Mother on repeat for 8 weeks. In my Mom-Brain-sleep-deprived state I forgot she couldn’t stop me while she was at work, so I randomly clicked on New Girl for absolutely no reason. I was immediately hooked and when I finished all of the seasons the first time (well, all available on Netflix or Hulu–series finale aired May 2018) I immediately went back to the first episode and started over.

New Girl is hilarious. I laughed until I cried more than once watching this show about a group of 30-somethings trying to figure out life, but Season 4, Episode 6 “Background Check” is by far my favorite. The first time I watched it, I started it over before moving on to Episode 7. Twice. And made Steph watch it when she got home from work. 

The characters play a game called “True American.” The actual rules are never explained, but I really want to play.

When I watched the series finale of this show I was very impressed. I have never seen a show ending done as tastefully and perfectly as New Girl. It was a fantastic way to end the show. (The writers of HIMYM could take some notes).

5. Quantico

Where to watch: Netflix
Average length of an episode: about 43 minutes
Number of episodes: 53

Quantico is my most recent favorite show. Not only are most of the main characters women, many of them are women of color, and all of them are bad ass. 

The twists and turns in the plot of this show are phenomenal. Every time I thought I had it figured out, the carpet was pulled out from under me again and I was back at square one. It is rare to find a show that does this to both Steph and me, but Quantico is it.

Unfortunately, the show has been cancelled, so the final episode of season three is now the series finale. I am heartbroken about this. I love the way this show challenges my thinking and requires that I pay attention to every single detail. 

6. The Ranch

Where to watch: Netflix
Average length of an episode: about 30ish minutes
Number of episodes: 50 so far; it’s still in production

I never imagined Ashton Kutcher and Sam Elliot could star in the same show and it turn out so good. I mean, they’re both great actors, but they are so different, and that’s what makes this show great. It captures the relationship between a parent and child who do not understand one another very well.

I didn’t expect to like the show because it’s so “redneck,” but it’s well balanced. Also, if you ever wanted to know exactly what my dad is like, look no further than Sam Elliot’s character, Beau Roosevelt Bennett. Whoever created Beau had to know Dad. There’s no other way they could have possibly gotten it so spot-on.

Several of Ashton Kutcher’s costars from That 70s Show make appearances throughout the show, which is a lot of fun. 

Don’t watch this show if you aren’t a fan of strong language. Personally, I love expletives and don’t understand how to show a truly strong, emphatic emotion without them. Curse words are to sentences what lights are to a Christmas Trees. It’s how you give it that little bit of extra.

In all seriousness, though, they drop the f-bomb a lot, so if you are truly bothered by that or don’t want your kids to hear it, don’t watch. 

7. Leverage

Where to watch: I don’t know anymore. 
Average length of an episode: 43 minutes
Number of episodes: 77

Leverage is a modern-day-Robin-Hood meets Batman story. A group of “bad guys” come together and fly under the radar to provide vigilante justice.

The characters are quirky and make the show a lot of fun. Each of them is a specialist in their “field”: a thief, a grifter, a hacker, and a hit man led by a former insurance investigator who does not have a criminal past; white knight turned dark knight. 

While watching I am often convinced there is no way they are going to pull of the hoax, but they always come through. It is a very creative and fun show. 

I almost didn’t include it in my list because you can no longer stream it on Netflix, so if you want to watch it, you have to pay for it on Prime Video or buy DVDs/BluRays. It’s worth the money, though, so I included it. I wouldn’t say that about just any show. 

Honorable Mentions

There are a few more shows that I like to watch occasionally, but don’t necessarily like to binge watch. You may like them:

  • Will and Grace–I want to be Karen when I grow up, but I can’t call this show binge-worthy. Occasionally the plot is terribly boring and Grace gets on my nerves so bad. I can’t watch more than an episode, maybe two, at a time. 
  • The Good Place–I love what I have seen of this show, but I need to see where it is headed before I can say it’s binge-worthy. It’s hilarious, though. 
  • The Golden Girls–What television list is complete without The Golden Girls? And who doesn’t love Sophia Patrillo? 
  • Grey’s Anatomy–I have a love-hate relationship with Grey’s. Sometimes I just love it and could watch it all day. Other times I find it terribly annoying and can’t stand it. Also SPOILER ALERT!!! how is there even a plot now that there is no Dr. Derek Shepherd?
What about you? What is your favorite show to binge watch? Tell me in the comments!

Follow your dreams! Sign up for my newsletter and receive this beautiful 28-day inspirational journal for FREE!

30 Things That Make Me Happy

Disclosure: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you will not pay a penny more but I will get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on.

6 months from today is my birthday.

I will be 30.

If you are wondering how I feel about turning 30, so am I. Sometimes I don’t care, it’s just another age. And sometimes I freak out. My 20s, especially the second half, have been kind of amazing. Overall, I have loved being a 20-something. I feel like when I turn 30, that means I am a real adult. Guys, adulting is not my strong suit. I’m not very good at it.

When you’re a kid everyone says “Don’t grow up. It’s a trap. Being a kid is awesome and being an adult sucks.” Um…no. You know what sucks?

  • Middle school
  • High school
  • Teenage angst
  • Trying to fit in as a teen
  • Trying to figure out who you are as a teen
  • Being a teenager in general
  • Figuring out what to do when you’re told “you’re not old enough” and “you’re too old” all at the same time.

Obviously, I didn’t love my teen years. Except, at the time, I didn’t think it was too bad. Once I experienced life as a 20-something I realized being a teen wasn’t all that great.

After I turned 23 or so, I figured myself out. I decided I am okay with who I am and relaxed and enjoyed life. Now I’m six months away from turning 30. What if this is the part of adulting everyone hates? What if it’s all down here from here?

But also, what if it’s not? What if life is like wine and gets better with age?

See what I mean? I have no idea how I feel about turning 30. Maybe in six months I will.

To countdown the last six months to thirty, I will be posting 7 lists of 30 things. The first list is 30 things that make me happy.

Never miss a post! Join my mailing list and receive my Date Night Scavenger Hunt printable for free! CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD!

Rules For The List

My friend Amanda says I have a system for everything. I like parameters, so I have to make lists with goals and rewards for completing those goals.

When I started brainstorming a list of things that made me happy, the obvious came to mind first: my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my dogs (who are also my kids, but some people don’t understand so I list them separately).

So my rule for creating this list is that I cannot list any of the “obvious” answers. I have to choose things that make me happy outside of easy the answers.

30 Things That Make Me Happy

  1. M&Ms
  2. Making people laugh
  3. Giving gifts that are “just right”
  4. Surprises–I used to absolutely hate surprises. Nothing set my anxiety on edge more quickly than a surprise. Steph loves to surprise me and I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy it.
  5. Meeting new dogs
  6. Music. Both making music and listening. I especially love singing to my babies.
  7. Harry Potter. Repeat after me. The books are better than the movies. The books are better than the movies. One more time, the books are WAY better than the movies. 
  8. The Royal Family–I love them so much. The Queen is so precious and has a fascinating past and Princess Kate and Princess Meghan are just lovely. I was glued to the television for both royal weddings–and have even re-watched both of them on YouTube. I love that they are always in the public eye and yet still  remain so classy. That doesn’t happen in America very often. Confession: I have these Princess Kate paper dolls. I’ve never cut them out, but I enjoy looking at them. I’m waiting for the Princess Meghan ones. 
  9. Chocolate milk
  10. A comfy sweatshirt or cozy sweater
  11. Baby giggles–especially Atticus and Gryffin’s giggles
  12. Snuggling–my babies, my doggos, my wife. Physical touch is my love language.
  13. Essential Oils
  14. Baking–I am the cookie master.
  15. Lip balm. Blistex is my favorite brand, especially the Enhancement Series, but seriously any Blistex is perfect. I also like ChapStick Total Hydration and EOS. I am the person who keeps a tube of lip balm everywhere: my car, my purse, my makeup bag, the diaper bag, my wife’s car, my wife’s purse, my nightstand, my desk, the bathroom counter, the kitchen counter, my pocket, my parents’ house (I bet they don’t even realize it).
  16. A good cup of coffee
  17. The anticipation of the last day of school before a break. I thought when I quit teaching, I would lose this one, but I was wrong. Today is the last day of school and all of next week is fall break. I. Am. So. Excited. I can’t wait to have Steph home with us all week. I have planned all the things for us to do as a family!
  18. Turkey sandwiches–turkey, miracle whip or mashed avocado, tomato, onion, salt & pepper–delicious!
  19. Watching snow fall
  20. Being creative–having a creative outlet always lifts my spirits. I enjoy scrapbooking/crafting, painting, and creative writing.
  21. A new notebook
  22. Good ink pens–especially if they come in several colors like these and these.
  23. Equality–but the fact that we, as a nation, still get this so wrong, does not make me happy.
  24. Beauty and the Beast- I love the live action film starring Emma Watson more than I could possibly even tell you. 
  25. Reading a book that is so good I feel like the characters are real people and begin referring to them as my friends. Yes, I do tend to get so involved in a story that the line between reality and fiction becomes blurred. I’m not sorry.
  26. Hot chocolate
  27. Giving random compliments. If you have never done this, you need to. It is so much fun to watch someone’s face brighten! A couple of weeks ago I complimented the cashier at the gas station on her eyeliner–she had some amazing wings–and her whole entire demeanor changed. She stood up straighter, her shoulders released tension, she genuinely smiled (versus the customer service smile). The way she greeted the next customer in line was completely different because of an action that literally took about 3 seconds of my life. “Thank you. You’re eyeliner is awesome, by the way!”
  28. Being a student. Learning is my fav!!!
  29. Carbs. Why does something that makes me so happy have to be so bad for me?
  30. Good mascara and red lip gloss or lipstick–my current favorite mascara is Covergirl’s Katy Kat Eye Mascara in black and my current favorite red lip is ChapStick Total Hydration Moisture+Tint in merlot.

This was a very therapeutic list to write. Remembering all the things that make me happy definitely put me in a good mood. I challenge you to make your own list of things that make you happy!

Inspirational Dream Journal

Get my 28 Day Follow Your Dreams Inspiration Journal! CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE DOWNLOAD!

How to Choose the Best Essential Oils for You

Disclosure: I do NOT sell essential oils. This is purely my personal opinion about my favorite oils. I do not receive any compensation from any essential oil brand I have listed or discussed. However, my posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you will not pay a penny more but I will get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on.

Background

I am the person who will avoid something just because of it’s popularity. I don’t know if there is a name for people like me, but there should be. And we need support groups because due to my unwillingness to jump on bandwagons, sometimes I miss out on awesome stuff. Therefore, I was late to the essential oils party–but I am SO glad I finally showed up.

Why I Started Using Essential Oils

I first started using Essential Oils when I was desperate to get pregnant. I have PCOS, so it was a struggle. While I was researching ways to naturally improve fertility, a lot of information kept pointing toward essential oils.

One day Steph and I were exploring our local organic health and food store and I noticed they had Aura Cacia oils in stock (in all my research, this was the brand I was most willing to try, largely due to this article). I had never picked up a bottle of essential oils before this shopping trip, but it was love at first sight. I explained to Steph what I had been researching and she immediately jumped on board. Luckily, I had saved the fertility research I had been reading on my phone. We went through the list of oils and stocked up.

During those first few weeks, I kept saying I didn’t know if I believed they worked yet, but I enjoyed the way they smelled, so it was worth it. (side note: I did eventually get pregnant and I wholeheartedly believe the oils played a part in balancing my hormones and preparing my body for a healthy pregnancy)

From Curiosity to Obsession

After a while, I started looking for other reasons to use oils. I found diffuser recipes and cleaning recipes, first. Then I looked into bath bombs and shower steamers. Then one day Steph received minor burns from the grill and we were out of aloe and my automatic response was “There’s probably an oil for that. Give me a minute.”

It’s now my go-to for everything. Headache? Put some peppermint on those temples. Babies won’t sleep through the night? There’s a diffuser blend for that. Sweet tooth? Make a roller bottle to deter cravings. Anxious? Meditate with oils. Can’t focus? There’s an oil blend for that, too. Not happy with your skincare routine? Create a new one with oils (this is my current personal challenge–Skincare September, natural skin care with essential oils. More on that later)

Never miss a post! Subscribe to my mailing list and receive this free date night scavenger hunt download! Just CLICK HERE!

Choosing Your Essential Oils

There are a lot of really great brands of oils to choose from. I think all of them have pros and cons and deciding which one(s) you are going to use is completely up to you. Young Living and doTerra are probably the most well known. In my opinion, they are wonderful oils, but I strongly prefer Aura Cacia. My sister uses Young Living and a friend uses doTerra and they both love their oils. I’ve used peppermint oil from all three brands to treat headaches and have had the same (positive!) results from all of them.

The best advice I can give you for choosing your brand of oils is to do your research and know what you are buying.

These are the questions that guided my search:

  1. How long has the company existed? Companies that have shown success and positive reviews over time are more trustworthy to me.
  2. Are the oils ethically sourced and is the source disclosed? I like to know where my product is coming from and that collection methods are ethical and safe. If this is most important to you, Young Living is extremely impressive in this area.
  3. How is the product tested? Animals are for loving, not testing.
  4. Is it safe to use around my dogs? This applies not only to brand but each type. Not all oils are pet-friendly.
  5. How does the company prove the quality and purity of their oils? Until I read this article I had no idea how misleading the term “Therapeutic Grade” could be.
  6. How will I buy the oils? Personally, I am not a fan of the setup offered by Young Living or doTerra. Aura Cacia is more convenient for me. I bought the first few oils from a local organic foods store. I have since found them at Kroger and some Target locations. Mostly, I buy them from Amazon. Online shopping is my fave.

Where to Start with Essential Oils

Once you choose a brand of oil, you need to choose which ones you want to use first. This is where Young Living and doTerra are great because they have fabulous starter kits. Aura Cacia also offers a much simpler starter kit that includes lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and eucalyptus. All great oils and at a very reasonable $15 price tag.

The five oils I use the most and would recommend to anyone starting out are lavender, peppermint, lemon, ylang ylang, and Medieval Mix.

Lavender Essential Oil

If you must choose only one essential oil to begin with, lavender is probably the best choice. I would say it is the most versatile of all essential oils. It blends well with most other oils, treats an astonishing number of physical elements, and can make a positive difference emotionally. It may also be used to make nontoxic household cleaners, laundry detergent, deodorant, and much more. We have used it to create a carpet cleaner that leaves our house smelling amazing.

If you have an estrogen-dependent cancer you should avoid lavender essential oil. Lavender essential oil has a deeply relaxing effect, so you should avoid it prior to driving, operating machinery, or doing other tasks that require concentration. I have diffused it in the nursery on nights the boys were not sleeping well. It works like a charm.

Peppermint Essential Oil

With its clean, crisp fragrance peppermint is a favorite with people everywhere. Peppermint essential oil is often listed as one of the most useful essential oils available and its ability to address a wide range of ailments makes it a valuable addition to your natural medicine collection.

I swear by peppermint essential oil to treat headaches. When I was about 21 weeks pregnant, I had a migraine and didn’t want to take medicine for it. I treated it by rubbing a drop of peppermint essential oil on my temples and using ice packs on the back of my neck and forehead. Now it is my go-to every time I have a headache. (note: not all oils are safe during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Peppermint is one of the oils to avoid during the first trimester because it can stimulate menstrual flow).

Peppermint essential oil can be a skin irritant for sensitive individuals, so you should conduct a patch test before use. Avoid contact with eyes!

Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon is a powerful detoxification agent and it contains high levels of vitamins and minerals. It’s also great at removing odors. Lemon essential oil takes the power of lemon to new heights. It can treat illnesses, improve mood, and boost alertness. We have used it in the diffuser to make our house smell lemony fresh. I put a couple of drops in the bottom of every trash bag I put in the trash can to help deter odors. I have also used it to make a lemon face scrub as it is great at treating acne. 

Lemon essential oil can be a dermal irritant for sensitive individuals, so conduct a patch test before use. It is also photo-toxic, so avoid exposing application sites to sunlight for 12 to 24 hours following application. 

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

With an enticing, intoxicating fragrance that promotes mental and emotional balance, ylang-ylang essential oil is one of the best for easing anger, depression, and stress. It is also an excellent essential oil for balancing skin and hair, and its hypotensive quality makes it ideal for use by those suffering from high blood pressure and associated ailments. 

I used Ylang-Ylang a lot toward the end of my pregnancy. I was very stressed at work and having anxiety about becoming a new mom to twins and was afraid this would affect the babies; so I diffused ylang-ylang while I slept and made an anti-anxiety roller bottle that I kept in my desk. Still, I was put on bed rest at 32 weeks and had to have an emergency c-section a few days later due to high blood pressure, but I believe I didn’t end up on bed rest or hospitalized sooner because of the essential oils I was using. 

Excessive use of ylang-ylang essential oil may cause nausea and headaches in sensitive individuals. It should be used moderately for best results. Ylang-ylang essential oil has a deeply relaxing effect (I sleep sooooo well when I diffuse it next to my bed) and should not be used prior to driving, operating machinery, or doing other tasks that require concentration. 

Ylang-ylang essential oil has been proven to significantly increase calmness when inhaled. In a study reported in the January 2008 International Journal of Neuroscience, test subjects exposed to ylang-ylang essential oil experienced decreased alertness and increased relaxation, while those exposed to peppermint essential oil became more alert. 

Medieval Mix Essential Oil

Medieval Mix is a blend by Aura Cacia. It is similar to On Guard by doTerra and Thieves by Young Living. I cannot diffuse On Guard or Thieves because both blends include cinnamon, which Steph is allergic to. All three blends are formulated to strengthen the immune system and protect the body from bacteria.

Our baby boys were born in October, right at the beginning of flu season. They were two months early and spent two weeks in the NICU before we brought them home. We were terrified of germs, so we limited visitors and used gallons of Germ-X. I washed my hands so often my skin cracked, but we were determined to not return to the hospital. We diffused Medieval Mix almost nonstop. Steph came home one Friday feeling awful and presenting flu symptoms. I made her sit right next to the diffuser and breathe in Medieval Mix. Within hours she was feeling better. I swear by Medieval Mix. It is the oil I recommend most often.

As part of my Skincare September Challenge, I have used my oils to create an all natural skincare routine. Check back soon for my recipes and updates on how my skin is responding.

Do you love essential oils? What are your favorite way to use oils? Tell me in the comments!

Inspirational Dream Journal
Never miss a post! Subscribe now and receive this FREE 28-day inspirational journal. Just CLICK HERE!

 

Date Night Scavenger Hunt

Disclosure: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you will not pay a penny more but I will get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on.

Why Date Night is Important

I think the most common–and probably the most valuable–marriage advice Steph and I have received is to continue to date each other even though we are married. It is so important to continue to make time for one another and to make one another feel valued and seen in the midst of life.

Life is crazy busy and it’s always going to be, but your spouse is the most important person in your life and he or she needs to be made a priority.

How Our Date Night Has Changed

Our date nights look incredibly different and happen a lot less frequently now than before our boys were born. Friends have offered date nights for us, but we just don’t like to be away from our babies. We’ve taken friends up on these offers, with varying degrees of success. On one of our not-so-successful dates some friends gave us the time and a gift card to see a movie and have dinner. We saw a movie but skipped dinner because we just missed our babies.

Instead of going out, we have more at-home dates such as ordering take out and watching a movie either when the boys have gone to sleep or while they are playing at our feet. But we rarely go on “Big Dates” now. For example, we love live theater. Love. We used to attend shows all the time. For my birthday, Steph bought us season tickets for the local theater that hosts the Broadway tours. It was a great lineup and we were very excited. And about a month later we finally–finally–got the long-awaited positive pregnancy test. We still had every intention of going to the plays and recruited my mom to watch the babies long before they were born.

We saw zero shows.

The first show was scheduled the weekend after we brought the boys home from the NICU. We hadn’t been home for a whole week yet, and leaving the boys to see a play was just not an option for either one of us. The next one we weren’t interested in, and a snow storm made the hour drive to the theater to see the next show unsafe. We completely and totally forgot about the next one. And finally, it looked like we were going to make it to the last one–which was the musical we wanted to see the most. It was summer break, my mom came to watch the babies, and we were ready.

And then there was a fire at the theater and the show was cancelled.

But we already had a baby sitter and wanted to spend time together. Actually we needed to–the month leading up to date night had been even busier and crazier than usual and we needed some time to pause and laugh together. Steph usually plans our dates, but she had just started a new position as a high school basketball coach and was getting to know her team and coaching staff and involved in practices and spent time away for a tournament, so she passed planning on to me for this one!

And that’s how my Date Night Scavenger Hunt was born.

A friend of mine believes a good date should be three phases (think dinner, movie, dessert/coffee), so that was the outline I used to plan this date. We splurged a bit of money on this date, but you can make it an inexpensive date. I will share some ideas for how to recreate this date on a stricter budget later.

Date Night Phase One: Dinner

Phase One was the quintessential nice dinner. We went to a cute restaurant nearby that neither of us had ever been to, sat across from each other and ate slowly while our food was hot and while enjoying adult conversation. (I had spent the month prior working at the summer reading camp with second graders. I needed adult conversation). It was fun to try a new place, though I think we both missed our usual spots a little bit.

Date Night Phase Two: Scavenger Hunt

After dinner, we headed to Target for our Date Night Scavenger Hunt!

Here is a disclaimer: this scavenger hunt was not easy. Steph thought it was going to be easy (and even though she would never ever admit it in a thousand years, I think she thought it was going to be lame, too). I thought it was going to be easy–especially since I wrote it. But it was not. It was HARD, man. Neither one of us finished finding all the items in the time frame we agreed on, and we were both shocked by that.

What made the challenge difficult is that it requires intentional thought about your significant other, which isn’t necessarily hard–but taking that intentional thought and associating it with something tangible that you can take back isn’t exceptionally easy.

Despite the scavenger hunt being much harder than we expected, it was SO MUCH FUN. Seriously. It required both of us to think outside the box and created a lot of giggles and “aw, that’s so sweet” moments. It was time well-spent.

After we were finished showing one another our picks, we narrowed down which items we were actually going to purchase and walked around the store together to put away the others. Putting things away was just as fun as finding them because it created fun conversation as we explained our thought processes and items that didn’t make the cut.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of my scavenger hunt–edited and updated for use by any couple–dating, married, engaged, or just best friends!

Phase Three: Painting

We are both artsy people. Steph has always wanted to learn to paint, so we went to a local art studio and painted. We planned on hanging the finished pieces in our bedroom, but we loved how they turned out so much we wanted them to be somewhere people would see them. They are currently in the guest bedroom, but we’ve talked about putting them in the bathroom.

This was so much fun. There was some kind of random street festival/concert going on outside the studio, so we were pretty much the only people there. That made it easy for us to relax and have fun without worrying about bothering other people. We were able to support one another and learn new things together. Steph made fun of the way I painted my background because I was being way too literal. One of the best things about her is that she relaxes me. I can be so type A and can get so uptight about the dumbest things. She knows just what to do and say to reset my my perspective so that I’m able to truly enjoy myself. And that’s the whole point of a date night, right?

Need a Date Night On a Budget? No problem!

Even thought we splurged, this is a date night that we could repeat without breaking the bank.

Date Night Phase 1–Food and conversation is the point

You don’t have to go to a pricey restaurant to have a great time. The main purpose of this phase is sitting down together and having adult conversation together.

When was the last time you went inside a fast food restaurant and sat down? For us, I think it was when we first moved into our house. It took longer than expected to set up internet, but we had both started brand new jobs and needed internet at home to prepare for work. We went to McDonald’s several days after work and sat with our laptops so we could use the free internet. It wasn’t healthy by any stretch because we believed if we were going to use their facility we should make purchases, but we still talk about how much fun we had those couple of weeks.

If you are wanting a more romantic venue or healthy menu than a convenient burger joint, try packing a picnic and heading to the park. You’ll have a great view, great company, and great food. PLUS check out this adorable picnic basket. Who doesn’t need an excuse to use this?

Date Night Phase 2–Location, location, location

We chose Target. It’s one of our favorite places to shop and it has a great variety so we could both find unique items to complete the scavenger hunt. We bought more items than I intended because neither one of us can practice self-control in Target. I know we are not the only ones.

If you have self control you can agree that you are not actually going to buy anything OR you can agree that each person can only purchase ONE item the other person chose for him/her. One of the Scavenger Hunt Rules is that every item has to be $25 or less. You can change the max amount to meet your budget. OR you can choose another store. I think the Scavenger Hunt would be a lot of fun to complete in a dollar store or a thrift store. This could also be a Saturday Morning Date; each person takes the list and a budget and they have to purchase as many items as possible at yard sales. That would be so much fun.

Date Night Phase 3–DIY

Painting–creating art–is something we both really love, so going to an art studio and learning some new painting techniques was really special and fun. However, you could pick up some canvases and inexpensive paints and paint at home while the kids are sleeping. Or let the kiddos paint, too. Or head back to the park and use nature as inspiration. Plus, paint supplies are fairly inexpensive if you don’t already have them on hand.

Apple Barrel Acrylic paints are my personal favorites, and this is a really great deal. I prefer stretched canvases, but panels are great, too, and little less expensive. 

What Is Your Favorite Date Night?

What is your favorite way to spend time with your significant other? Leave a comment to give us some ideas for the next time we have a kid-free evening!

Don’t forget to download your a FREE printable of the Date Night Scavenger Hunt by clicking HERE!

Why I Quit Teaching

I’m not a teacher anymore.

I can’t believe those words are my reality, but here we are. I guess I should say I am not a teacher in the traditional sense. My classroom is now my basement office, all school-related decorations confined to a few tri-fold boards I trade in and out as needed based on the online class I’m teaching.

I have left the brick and mortar school and taken on the life of stay at home mom, contract teacher, blogger, and student. Student because I am returning to school to be an accountant. I’m six months from turning 30 and I’m completely starting over career-wise.

I have given a lot of feeble excuses for leaving teaching.
I’ve said I quit teaching to spend more time with my babies.

This is true, but still only part of the larger story.  I am so blessed to have this time with them. They are the absolute best and fill my heart with indescribable joy. I love being at home with them. But honestly, being a SAHM is just icing on the cake at this point. I would probably have left teaching anyway after last year. Having the boys at home only made it easier.

I’ve said “it turns out, teaching isn’t for me.”

If you know me at all, you know I am lying when I say this. I am passionate about teaching and public education. I’ve worked with some remarkable educators and I have the utmost respect for them. Teaching is and always has been so much more than a job to me. It has been my investment in the future of society, my way of making the world a better place. It has been my calling. I have loved it from day one. All of it: planning, teaching, grading, coaching, laughing with kids, exploring emotions, learning life lessons, celebrating successes–both in the classroom and later in the students’ lives. There is nothing like receiving Facebook messages and emails from former students updating me on their successes and thanking me for helping them achieve their goals.

I’ve said that I’m just burnt out.

But this is another lie. I’ve said, along these same lines, that after I returned from maternity leave I didn’t love teaching anymore. Again, a lie. The truth is I wasn’t happy teaching for the school I was in anymore, but I still love teaching. I still have the same passion and excitement for my students and my content as I did my very first year. I say I’m not sure what changed. Another lie. I know exactly what changed.

I can pinpoint the exact moment that changed me–that changed my heart.

First, a little background.

I know I’m going to sound like I have no humility at all, but I’m being honest: I am a damn good teacher. So I made the choice to commit to teaching in Title I schools, which are low-income and usually high minority. There is probably low parent involvement. Many of the kids feel trapped in a cycle of generational poverty and wholeheartedly believe they are not capable of or worth any better.

All the odds are stacked against teachers in Title I schools. Sometimes I say teachers in non-Title-I schools get twice the results for half the effort, and I’m only sort of kidding. I decided if I was going to teach, I was going to give the best I could to kids who usually got the scraps. If you are interested in reading a little more about what it’s like to teach in a Title I school, you should check out this post on the Love, Teach Blog.

My first school

My first school was unique, even for a Title I school. 96% of students received free or reduced lunch (the 4% who didn’t were administrators’ kids) and roughly 80% of the population was homeless. The whole community had been affected by rampant drug use, transience, and dwindling economic opportunity. I loved the kids so much, but the community was difficult to adjust to. The little town the school served was in the middle of nowhere–a small rural community–but many of the kids (and their parents) seemed to think we were all in inner-city Chicago.

There were days at this school that it was difficult to feel safe. Once when the principal was out of the building we had to go on lock down because a student’s father, who was not to have contact with the student, informed her mother he was coming to school to take her. The door to my classroom hadn’t locked in months and no matter how many times I brought it up, no one had fixed it. The student in question was sitting in my room. Luckily, the police apprehended the father before he made it on campus, but that’s when I knew I needed to move on to a new school.

My second school

I moved to a new county, a new district, a new school. The first couple of years were so wonderful that I described it as teaching at Disney Land. As time passed my perception changed. I don’t know if the school itself changed or if I was just finally seeing problems I had been blind to before.  Regardless, I wasn’t happy there anymore. I was seriously considering moving to a different school but I guess I was letting a few things hold me back. My coworkers were amazing. I had made some of the most wonderful friends of my life and I didn’t want to have to move to a new school and figure out new people. I’m not really a social butterfly.

This school was a typical Title I school. It had its problems, but a lot of talented and dedicated teachers work really hard to make it a great place for students to learn. There was no real reason for me to leave.

When I returned to work in January after maternity leave, emotions were running high.

I have no idea what happened in the building the 12 weeks I was out but many people  said “You should be so glad you weren’t here last semester.” Some of these were people who never complained about anything ever. No one ever explained what happened, but there was no denying a very clear shift in the climate and culture of the building.

In addition to a less than happy work environment, there were external factors weighing on the building. Our governor was doing everything in his power to take away teacher’s pensions and school funding in the name of balancing the state budget, all while vilifying teachers. Some of his remarks were just outright disgusting. In addition to that, there were two school shootings. One in Western Kentucky at Marshall County High School in January and another in Parkland, Florida in February. Whenever this happens, it leaves every teacher in the nation on edge, wondering if next time it will be his/her building.

Real talk: all teachers know that it could be our school next.

The reality of this set in with me when, in the aftermath of the recent shootings, someone made a threat against my building. It was days after the Parkland incident and a person stated he was going to shoot up the school. Emotions were running high, but the superintendent and principal took the threat very seriously and dealt with it swiftly. Authorities alerted the administration the night before, who communicated the news with the staff as soon as possible.

I was walking into a building that was already on lock down, the police were already there and prepared.

I hugged my babies and kissed my wife and promised that if anything happened I wouldn’t play the hero–I’d come home to them. And I did. I came home safely that day, and the following work day I got up and went back. Despite knowing it could be our building next, teachers operate like we feel safe and secure, like it’s not going to happen to us.

All of these things–the school culture, the nastiness of our elected officials, and the school shootings–were weighing on everyone in the building. We were all on edge, we were all dealing with unhappiness to a certain degree, but I still didn’t want to stop teaching. I still believed I needed to teach.

The day I was done being a teacher was March 28.

I remember because it was my birthday.

My 6/7 block class threw a surprise birthday party for me. My plan was 5th period. While I was out of my room, they decorated with balloons and streamers. They brought in cupcakes and sodas and cups and napkins and gifts.

I don’t know how they knew pink carnations are my favorite flower, but there was a bouquet sitting on my desk in a pretty little glass vase. I don’t know how they knew M&Ms are my favorite candy, but there was a cute little apple jar full of them next to the flowers.

They wrote me some of the sweetest letters I have ever read in my life. Tears of gratitude stung my eyes as I turned on music and started organizing a party game. After going through all that work I wasn’t going to make them do classwork the entire period. We’d celebrate my birthday for a little while and then begin class.

Lock down

Just as celebrations were beginning there was an announcement for a medical lock down. That’s no big deal. It just means students are not allowed to leave the room because, most likely, someone had thrown up or something in the hall.

Within seconds there was an announcement for a full lock down, meaning there was a threat. We had to turn off all sounds, turn off all lights, lock all doors, cover all windows, and sit silently on the floor as hidden as possible.

It wasn’t a drill. It wasn’t planned. There was no warning. We were just on lock down.

My students assumed it was a drill at first. But minutes passed and no one released us from lock down and the kids started growing suspicious.

“What’s going on? Are we safe? Is this a real lock down?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “but I am sure we are safe. We have followed all the procedures exactly. This is why we practice.” I kept my voice steady and calm and reassuring. They settled back into silence.

Time continued to pass and I could see the strain on the students’ faces.

Text messages from friends and siblings at the high school started rolling in and the strain gave way to all out panic.

We shared a campus with the high school. A small parking lot separated our buildings. A man had shot and killed his wife and then come to the high school to pick up their son. The man had a gun and was on school property. (He never made it into the building, but we didn’t know that yet.)

“What if he comes over here?” asked a sweet girl. I turned to where she was sitting with her besties–the little group of birthday party planners. There was fear and panic on their faces. It was obvious it was taking serious restraint for them to not cry or scream or run.

I smiled at her and said, “I’ve been in almost this exact situation at my old school-and my classroom door didn’t even lock then. Every single one of my students made it out just fine. I assure you we are safe. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

The kid and all her friends relaxed. I watched as relief and comfort replaced the worry and fear on their faces. All because of my words–because of a promise I made that I would die trying to keep–but there was no guarantee I could actually keep it.

And that was it.

That was the moment I knew I could not continue to be a teacher. I can’t explain why, I don’t even know why, but that moment affected me more than any other. There was something about giving those kids a false sense of security that has messed with me to my core.

It’s been six months, and I still see their scared faces in my dreams. I don’t exactly know what to call the emotion I felt when I realized I was being dishonest, but I still feel it every time I remember the fear in that girl’s eyes when she asked me “What if?” and how it shifted to comfort and relaxation when I promised safety.

I stood in my classroom and heard gunshots.

My small-town-America classroom. Not my middle-of-a-war-torn-country classroom.

The man forced the police to shoot and kill him.

My classroom was on the opposite side of the building of the altercation, so the gunshots were not loud. You had to know what you were listening for, and you had to be actively listening. I don’t think any of the students noticed it at all.

I had taught the man’s son when he was in middle school. I’d met the man a few times, too. He had come in for a meeting once. I saw the son and his father at the animal shelter a few months after he started high school. He was so excited and proud to tell me he had joined ROTC and was doing really well in school. His dad stood behind him and beamed with pride.

Steph asked me once what my take was on the father when I met him. He seemed to me like a good dad. He was rough around the edges and uneducated, but he wanted what was best for his son.

My heart aches for the kid. He woke up one morning for a typical day of school and by the end of the school day he was an orphan.

These things aren’t supposed to happen.

Teachers aren’t supposed to tell their babies goodbye in the morning and wonder if they are going to come home to them in the afternoon.

Students aren’t supposed to start a normal school day and wind up an orphan before the final bell.

Children are not supposed to feel unsafe at school.

I can’t fix these problems. There’s nothing I can do about it. That’s not me admitting defeat, that is just me being matter of fact. It’s me facing reality.

But I also cannot continue operating in a system like this. I cannot continue willingly placing myself in a situation where I might have to choose between staying alive for my own babies, or risking my life for someone else’s children.

And I can’t continue lying to children about their safety. Not when they trust me so much.

I can’t.

I am not a teacher anymore.

 

 

 

Coming to a place where I am comfortable with changing careers and leaving a career I truly loved required a lot of reflection and introspection. Click below to receive a copy of my 28-day reflective journal so you can practice self-care through reflection.

Inspirational Dream Journal

How to Decorate a Twin Nursery on a Budget

Disclosure: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you will not pay a penny more but I will get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on.

Twin Nursery

Decorating a nursery is so exciting!

I know that having a perfectly decorated nursery is not a necessity, but preparing for a new baby is such a joyous time that the combination of excitement and pregnancy hormones makes it seem like it is. Decorating a nursery for our twin boys was so much fun! We wanted something that wasn’t “cookie-cutter.” We both love the “vintage” feel, and we definitely wanted two coordinating themes so that each kiddo had his own space defined. We are more than pleased with how our twin boy nursery turned out.

Is there anyone who has watched Chip and Joanna Gaines and not immediately fallen in love? I think it’s impossible. I tried to avoid watching their show, I tried to avoid jumping on the Chip and Jo Bandwagon…but I failed… and I am obsessed (does that really count as a failure? I think having the Gaines as part of your life is always a win.) I was still avoiding Chip and Joanna when we were decorating our nursery, but lucky for me, I have my own personal decorator who is every bit as wonderful as Joanna Gaines–my wife!

Steph is truly fantastic at making any space feel cozy and inviting–whether it is a one-bedroom apartment, a house, or a classroom.

I am not a decorator. I have never been a decorator. When my parents bought their house when I was eight, I chose a paint color for my room (pink) and it didn’t change until I moved out for college. When I met Steph, she came to my apartment for the first time and I had zero decorations. I was renting a duplex that had hunter green carpet, a coordinating green linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom, and green counters. In addition to that, I had a giant red couch, and I wasn’t going to buy a new couch to match a home I was renting, especially considering I wasn’t even sure how long I would be there. I had no idea how to decorate around a shade of green I didn’t like and a bright red couch, so I didn’t. I didn’t even have curtains.


Here’s how we managed to create a twin nursery we love on a budget.

1. Don’t Rush

Needless to say, when we moved in together, Steph did the decorating. So when we found out we were expecting we made a deal–I would grow the babies if she would make the nursery. 9 months later, and I still think it’s absolutely perfect. 

I am not usually superstitious very superstitious, but most of the time I am not very adamant about sticking to my superstitions. Decorating the nursery was a time I put my foot down. I had heard an old wives tale about it being bad luck to decorate the nursery before 20 weeks, so I wouldn’t let Steph do anything. It drove her crazy.

Honestly, I was just trying to protect myself and her. If something had happened to one or both of the babies and we had to undo a nursery, it would have done us in. In the meantime, Steph sketched out all of her plans, so when it was time to start shopping and decorating, she knew exactly what she was looking for and what she wanted to do.

2. Choose a Theme for the Nursery

One of the first steps in making a space for your little one should be to choose a theme or color scheme. We wanted two themes so we could have a specific theme for each baby. Since we had two boys, we chose airplanes and hot air balloons. If we’d had a girl and a boy or two girls we probably would have done hot air balloons and kites. Everything is an object that flies. But we had two boys–baby A would have his side of the room decorated with airplanes and baby B would have his side decorated with hot air balloons.

There are so many cute things to choose from, and people are not afraid to offer their input on how they think it should look. Babies are exciting for a lot of people and it’s fun to talk to others and dream about it. However make sure that whatever you choose is true to you, fits the personality of your family, and is something that you genuinely love.

3. Choose the Space That Will Work Best for Your Nursery

When we moved into our house, we set up the master bedroom (room with the largest closet) for us. The second largest room was a guest room, and the smallest room as an office with the intention of turning it into a nursery someday. Then two sweet babies appeared on the ultrasound and we knew there was no way they could share that room. So we did some major rearranging.

We moved the office downstairs to the extra room in the basement, moved the guest room to the small room, turned the guest room into the master bedroom, and turned the master into the nursery. And when I say “we,” I mean Steph. I was pregnant, so I was very little help.

Don’t be afraid of re-purposing spaces. Could we have stayed in the master bedroom and moved the babies in the guest room? Yes. But we didn’t want to repaint and that room is pink while the master is a soft green. Also, we needed the closet to store the baby supplies we were gifted until the boys were older. 

4. Find Ways to Save Money on Nursery Decorations

We are frugal people anyway, but with TWO babies on the way, we had to be extra frugal. One kid is expensive enough.

One way we saved money was by letting go of the Type A tendency for everything to match and be brand new. Our whole house has a kind of comfortable, eclectic/primitive mis-matchy vibe. We had already painted the room a nice, soft green. It was gender neutral and baby appropriate. All we had to do was a few touch ups.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on all matching, brand new furniture, we pieced together coordinating furniture from a few different places. One crib came from Facebook Marketplace. We bought all the other furniture from an auction. The wagon we use to hold books our neighbors took out of their flower garden and handed to us. We furnished the entire room (2 cribs, 2 rocking chairs, a bookshelf, and a changing table) for less than the cost of one crib.

We bought vintage suitcases for cheap at a thrift store. Besides super cute decor, we have re-purposed them as props in a photo session and storage for toys. 

Re-purposing furniture for the nursery is a great idea, too.

Have a nice desk or dresser that is going unused? Put a changing pad on top of it and you have a super cute changing table. Baby furniture is a niche market that is designed to look cute and make money. You can still have an adorable nursery using items you already own–as long as it is safe for the baby.

There are some things that should be bought new, though. The big one for me was crib mattresses. I didn’t mind buying a used crib, but the mattress needed to be new. Luckily, we found them for a great price at Target.

4. DIY What You Can for the Nursery (Or Ask Friends To Help)

Another way we saved money was by using a lot of DIY.

We decoupaged wooden cut-outs together (which was a super fun date night) using the same scrapbook paper I am using in their baby books.

We put together a shadow box of vintage baby clothes. A local antique store had the vintage baby clothes for very cheap, and the shoes were my mom’s when she was a baby, which makes it even more special.

One of my amazing, wonderful co-workers cross-stitched the quilt that hangs on the wall. Another incredible coworker used an old quilt I had to make custom crib bumpers.

We bought the Bessie Pease Gutmann prints for cheap from a little Mom and Pop place in town and matted and framed them ourselves.

We also painted the letters that spell their names over their cribs.

5. Shop Smart

Finally, we shopped for the best deals. We wanted giant clothespins on their collages above their cribs, which we found at Hobby Lobby for 60% off. Our original plan was to repaint them, but once we got them in the room we liked they way they looked so we left them alone. The picture frames are from the Dollar Tree. We snapped the photos ourselves (the day the boys came home from the NICU, but that’s a different story entirely).

6. Splurge Sparingly   

Finally, we splurged on a few items. Our idea of splurging is very different from others’. Even a “splurge” was fairly inexpensive. Steph found these incredible string art pictures on Etsy, as well as the dictionary prints. The dictionary page prints were a fun addition; Steph and I are both English teachers, we had a literary themed wedding, and ALL our boys (human and doggo) have literary names.

We bought the hot air balloon and metal planes hanging from the shelf above the changing table on Amazon. After we decorated the shelf with a few thrift store finds, we were done.

I love the way the room turned out. It’s adorable, unique, functional, and–best of all–thrifty!

What are your best thrifty nursery decorating tips? Share in the comments! Want more decorating ideas from The Same Sunset team? Sign up for our email list so you never miss out!

I asked a friend for advice on simplifying my home and what she said was the best advice I could have received. “For me personally, it didn’t start with the ‘stuff’ in my home. It began with a decluttering of the stuff in my heart, mind and soul.” She is so right! So I am offering–for free!!!–a 28 Day Follow Your Dreams Inspirational Journal, where you can work on letting go of some of the clutter in YOUR mind, body, and soul and work toward a fresh, confident future!

6 Ways to Overcome Self Doubt and Follow Your Dreams

I once heard someone say something like “If you ever notice your preacher discussing the same topic often, it’s most likely because he/she struggles with that topic.” I’m certainly not a preacher, but the concept applies to me today.

Self doubt is definitely my greatest hurdle. As I mentioned in my “About Me”, I have always wanted to start a blog. I even made a feeble attempt once before. I had no idea what I was doing (still don’t) and was way too intimidated to actually share the URL with anyone (that still scares me). BUT ten years after that disastrous attempt…I am trying again. Self doubt is coursing hard through my veins. I don’t know if it ever really goes away altogether, but I have learned how to push it aside, set goals, and make an effort to overcome it! These are the six things I recommend doing when self-doubt tries to take over.

1) Forget about what everyone else thinks of you.

I started with the hardest one first. I say all the time that I don’t care what people think about me–and I mean it. There is no way I would have survived 8 years as a teacher if I worried about popularity.

But what I mean when I say that I don’t care what people think about me is that I don’t care if people like me or not, but I do care about how people perceive  me. It’s okay for people to disagree with me, but for someone to judge me or weigh my worth makes me a big ball of nerves.

The intersection at the end of our street is busy, and I often have to make a left turn. I stress out when someone pulls into the turn lane behind me. I squirm in my seat, my palms sweat, my heart races. What if I could have gone then? My brain says. What if they are getting frustrated because I am taking too long? Being perceived as a competent driver by these strangers suddenly becomes more important to me than driving safely.

I had to delete TimeHop from my phone because I was so embarrassed by the stupid things I posted on Facebook ten years ago. I was an embarrassingly pretentious teenager. And when I think about that, my mind starts racing. What if I am still obnoxiously pretentious and I just don’t realize it? What if no one tells me? Worse, what if someone DOES tell me? What if I accidentally embarrass someone else with something I write? What if I misrepresent myself to the entire world?  I just shouldn’t do it.

See how easily it gets out if hand? I allow my concern for how others think of me cripple my ambition. And here’s a truth: others are a lot less concerned with you than you think. When I let the opinions of others go, I am able to work toward my goals. It’s easier said than done, I know, but it is possible. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

2) Give others the benefit of the doubt.

This goes hand-in-hand with number 1, but when someone does give you positive feedback, believe it. When someone offers constructive criticism, accept it graciously and use it for growth, but don’t stew on it.

When I first met my wife, I assumed she had ulterior motives in everything she did. After all, that’s what many of my previous friendships and relationships had been like. I had built this huge wall around me and I was trying to keep everyone else out. Otherwise I was nothing more than someone who could be used.

One day she finally said to me, “Unless I give you evidence otherwise, assume I want what is best for you.” I remember the moment clearly. We were in her car and were on the brink of an argument because I had to do something for work, and I was stressed out and refusing help because why would she help me? How was helping me going to benefit her? It seemed completely counter-intuitive to just believe that she wanted what was best for me, but in rearranging my mindset to believe it, I have learned that she truly does want what is best for me. All the time.

And in learning to trust that my wife has good intentions, I have learned to give the benefit of doubt to others.

When strangers or acquaintances try to talk to me now, I don’t get shy am still super shy, but I make more of an effort to hold conversations. I assume they are genuinely being friendly and not targeting me. I’ve made more friends as a result. I’ve made quality friends as a result. In a few weeks, I am officially leaving the “real” work force to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. I am over-the-moon excited, but I am also very sad that I will not be seeing my friends every day. I have grown close to some incredible people.

Sometimes I am still not so great at this.

We only have our yard mowed every other week because 1) I’m not going to mow it and 2) we can only afford every other week. A man stopped outside our house the other day and rang our doorbell (he better be glad the babies weren’t sleeping!) to give us his business card for his lawn mowing service. My replies were something like, “So my yard looks bad? Your yard looks bad. Your MOM’s yard looks bad!” (Don’t worry. I was talking to the babysitter. The wifey answered the door).

There’s no way I would have ever found a way to actually attempt this blog thing if I still allowed myself to be paranoid about other people. To me, this is a lot of vulnerability and opening myself to a lot of judgement. Rearranging my mind to believe the best in others–and myself–made it possible.

3) Surround yourself with positive people.

Repeat after me, it is okay to be choosy about who you let in your inner circle.

My friend Kelly explained life to me like this: Imagine your life is a production, but YOU get to decide who attends the show. When someone buys a ticket to a show, the people in the front usually have more interaction and are more involved–they’re closer so they can see better and hear more. So, your life is a production. Not everyone gets a ticket. You’re in charge of who does and who doesn’t, and you decide where those guests sit. YOU decide who is in your front row and involved in your life, and you decide who observes from the back, and you decide who isn’t invited at all

It is okay to cut toxic people from your life. It is okay to cut people who are not necessarily toxic, but expect more from you than they are willing to give back to you, or who expect you to give more of yourself than is healthy for you. Your mental, emotional, and physical health are important and it is okay to value your health. And allowing self-doubt is not good for your emotional health or mental health. Anyone who is holding you back from believing in yourself needs to be moved to the nosebleed section or escorted out. (And did you notice I did not specify that you could/should only cut friends? Sometimes family can be the most toxic people. You are not a bad person if you limit them, too.)

Most productions are not a one show deal.

They sell tickets multiple times. You might have to show someone out for a while, but that doesn’t mean they can never get a seat again.

Surround yourself with positive people and a quality cheering section. When you’re feeling down, when self-doubt is sneaking in, call them and let them become your inner voice. My front row makes me feel like I can take on the world.

4) Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

You might not know this yet, but I am funny. Like, super funny. But I am also socially awkward and often lost in my own head and a little uncouth so sometimes people don’t understand that I am funny. Give it time. You’ll warm up to my humor.

I read others’ blogs and think Man, I wish I was funny like her/him! But if I was, I wouldn’t be me. I need to find and use my voice, and it’s okay if others don’t like who I am. (See number 1 above) 

5) Find some inspiration.

Find a quote, Bible verse, or mantra that you can repeat to yourself to motivate you to keep going. My personal favorite quote is one my middle school choir teacher made us all memorize:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

I’m not going to be an awesome mom or kick-ass wife or successful blogger if I allow myself to drown in self-doubt. Excellence is a habit. If I am going to succeed I have to strive for excellence until it comes naturally.

You can get ideas for a personal mantra in many places. Google inspirational quotes, do a Pinterest search, or, if you’re religious, look for Bible verses that encourage you.

Don’t overthink this and don’t overlook it.

Words are powerful. Albus Dumbledore says that words are “our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” Find words that remedy your self-doubt and cling to them.

6) To quote Nike, “Just Do It.”

Whatever it is you want to accomplish–just go for it. If you never try, you’ll never know. 

I have no idea right now if I will be a successful blogger, but it’s worth a shot, so I’m going to do it.

What are YOUR tried and true methods for battling self-doubt? Share them in the comments!

Knowing and following your dreams is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to honestly evaluate yourself and assess your possibilities Click below receive a download for this FREE 28 Day Inspirational Journal. Use it to take a few minutes each day to focus on YOU. Read the inspirational quote and the daily prompt to reflect on who you are and where you are headed.

Inspirational Dream Journal
Click here for a FREE printable journal!