Greyhound Buses and Green Beans- a Memoir of Sorts…

It’s one of those strange realities that growing old is a blessing. Taking my daughters to see my grandparents is one of these reminders.

Their knees and backs hurt them now and small and mundane tasks like washing the dishes and cutting firewood are impossible with the physical limitations of old age.

And then there is the constant adding of information. My grandparents are both thrilled to see my daughters and always are so sad when we leave and tell me they wish we’d stay.

But really, several times each visit they point to my youngest daughter and ask who that little boy is and they call my oldest by the wrong name several times and become antsy when they need to rest or nap.

I’m not offended or even saddened because it’s just one of those facts of life.

My grandmother on my father’s side passed away many years ago and had begun losing her memory when I was a small girl. My mother reminds me how I proudly shared that my grandfather was on the maiden voyage of the Titanic which my grandmother whispered to me in hushed tones in the kitchen and she was clearly confused… because, well… he wasn’t.

A fading memory was a fact I grew up with.

In high school we split our days between our house and nights at my grandmother’s being her in home help. She didn’t know who we were or what decade we were in but the years are still sweet to me.

I sat by her for hours and hours and memorized her fingers and profile, the hymns she hummed as she rocked and peered out the window.

I thought endlessly about what all she had seen in her days and longed so much to ask her questions, to know more, to learn who she was to have mothered nine children and seen droves of grandchildren and great grandchildren through her doors through the Great Depression, World Wars and beyond.

Our fingers intertwined she swung our hands between us as she sang and I was just desperate to know what she was like as a little girl in the first years of the century. I was hungry to know what she felt like when she was a teen like me.  I wanted to know what was going on in her mind at that very moment, as she hummed and sat peacefully.

And now of course I marvel at her mothering and her silent grace and would just give so much to sit and ask her about everything from potty training to biscuit recipes.
So in marriage it came as a surprise to find that both of my husband’s grandmother’s were as sharp as tacks much later into their lives than my own grandmother’s had been. It began a running sad joke that Jacob would be left caring for me as I slipped green beans into my tea and argued that indeed each year was still 1985.

But really, the thought of it all sat heavy in my mind as I spent long afternoons watching my girls push little wagons in our backyard and teeter around on little pink tricycles.

There are so many stories I want to share with them and things I want them to know but also feeling in some ways that life will get busy, they will be teenagers and not so interested… Then in their twenties they will be establishing themselves in the world and completely engulfed in defining who they are and then all of the little things that fill up a person’s time will come in the way. I began to think of the stories I may never tell them.

And so these stories have been weighing heavily on me, wanting and begging to come out.

I’ve shied away from sharing stories because my life is mundane and ordinary. But it is mine. My stories hold no special meaning to most people but I trust they will hold very special meaning to my children.

And so, here is one story, plucked from the murky recesses of my mind.

********

When I was fifteen my very best friend Stephanie moved across the country and I felt gutted. Absolutely, totally and completely gutted.

We had been bosom friends for years, made special secret names for one another, and felt that we were kindred spirits. We had walked on long country roads weaving stories and sat up many long nights whispering secrets. So when that summer rolled around I convinced my mother that I could pay for a bus ticket to go and see her many many states away.

In hindsight and as a new mother it seems ludicrous. Bonkers actually.. But she let me go.

I packed a little suitcase and my mother dropped me off on the brick street in our small town at the side of our old drug and pharmacy. We snapped some pictures and I waited for the bus to come. Looking back I must have been ridiculously hard headed and surely my mother must have been worried. But off I went on a great and thrilling adventure, chin up and not even daring to look back.

The bus trip took over two full days, stopping in downtown bus stops in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Arkansas. I was bright eyed and eager to meet anyone and I barely slept a wink the entire time. I had my back pack, my hair in a braid or a bun and a Bible.

I looked entirely metropolitan, I’m sure.

The visit itself was a blur of mountain streams, late night talks and tears and then being back at a big bus station in southern Missouri with not quite enough money to make my return home. I was zealous in my faith and my little Bible was literally worn and the cover falling off and I prayed fervently at one bus stop that God would help me get home.

Out of the blue a neatly dressed man came up to me and handed me a book, marked with yellow high lighter and crisp pages. The exact book was something about spiritual warfare and I said I couldn’t and then thank you and before I knew it he was gone. I thumbed through the book and interspersed were crisp twenty dollar bills… Throughout the entire book.

Of course it was just what I needed to get home.

I ran out to find the man only to find that four or five more greyhound buses had pulled up and there was no way for me to tell where he was.

I was convinced he was an angel.

In hindsight it is entirely possible my youth, the Bible and bun gave me away. I was clearly not in my element… I may have resembled a runaway or troubled youth. And he felt this was his way at helping me get a head start. Who knows?

Either way, I eventually wound up back at the brick stone by the pharmacy in my tiny hometown in west Texas waiting for my mom to pick me up, our only conversations in the interim sparse and by payphone.

It’s a funny story to start with because when I even dare think of my little girls setting off cross country only a decade from now without me and without a way of contacting me I break out in a sweat and start to choke.

No thank you!!!

My sweet girls, your mother was too hard headed and your grandmother entirely too trusting or brave. No cross country trips alone at fifteen by bus for you!  

You my little sweeties will have me by your side for a long time– no doubt with a bun on my head and a Bible under my arm.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi guys!
Today I want to share a recipe with you that I’ve had on my mind for two months now. I’m ready to share!

When we were in Uganda, our friend Jennie always made these soft, moist and delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. They were her signature cookie.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies- Oatmeal Smiles
If you can believe it, before that I never ate pumpkin anything. But these cookies put me over the edge and now I’m a pumpkin lover. ;) They were easy, yummy and reminded me of home and autumn.

There is the option for nuts and raisins but I’m a pretty firm believer my cookies should just be soft, chewy goodness without nuts and things.  But you do as you see best.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I hope you enjoy these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup butter or shortening (*I use butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin (*I use the whole can)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional

  • 1/2 cup nuts
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions

Step 1
Cream butter (or shortening) and sugar.
Step 2
Add in egg and pumpkin and mix.
Step 3
Add sifted dry ingredients & Chocolate chips and mix well. I don't sift mine and they turn out great. ;)
Step 4
Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.
Step 5
Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350.

Thank you Jennie so much for sharing these cookies that have made you more or less famous! ;)

Happy baking friends~


Behind The Scenes: Work At Home Mom- Lacey Wilcox

 

Hi guys,

If you noticed I took a little break last week from the blog. Our day to day lives just blew up and got crazy busy. Autumn always seems to do that doesn’t it? But I’m back!Behind the Scenes Work at Home Moms Series

Today I have the honor of having Lacey from Primitive Social.Lacey is a personal friend and I loved learning more about her and how she balances it all. I find her work so interesting!Lacey Wilcox WAHM at Primitive Social

Lacey is a blogger whose time spent blogging flourished into a family business with a staff. How cool is that?! Their business offers services to help get a person’s brand “out there”.  They offer web development, website management, social media management and more.

If you are a blogger and need some help or have a web presence at all, I recommend you check them out.

You can find out more about what they do here at Primitive Social or here: Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter

When did you become a “stay/work at home mom”?

Lacey Wilcox WAHM of Primtive Social and her familyI found out I was pregnant with my first child right around Christmas time.  I was due at the end of August.  At the time, I was a school teacher.  For awhile, my husband and I thought that I would teach one more year to help us pay off some debts and earn money.  While it was a well-meaning plan, neither one of us could come to a peace with it.  After much prayer, I turned in my resignation in March.  While the back to school season always makes me a little nostalgic, I’ve never once regretted my decision.

How many kids do you have and where do you live?  

Lacey Wilcox of Primtive Social and her childrenI’m blessed with two incredible children, a daughter and a son.  We live in Lubbock, TX.  My husband and I are some of the few people in the world who think West Texas is the best place to live.  While we love to travel, there truly is no place like home for us.

What is your “at home work” besides being a mom? 

When I first decided to stay at home with our daughter, we knew we would need to find some additional source of income in order to make ends meet.  For the past year, I had been managing a personal website/blog, and had been learning a lot about social media in order to grow a decent following with it.  My entrepreneurial husband had the idea that we could use those skills to start our own business.  From there, our inbound marketing agency, Primitive Social, was born.  In the past three years, the Lord has been incredibly gracious to us:  granting us the opportunity to work for close to 20 different clients and five different team members to partner with us in the journey. 

What does your business/work look like?  
Primitive Social -Media Development and Management
It would be impossible to limit the number of things I enjoy about the work we get to do, but one that is high on the list is that our work allows our team and myself the opportunity to do many different things.  It’s never boring.  My work involves maintaining communication with our clients, writing content for social media platforms, creating newsletters, managing websites, and writing and publishing blog posts. 

What do you think is a realistic work schedule for a Work At Home Mom?
I’m not sure that I can answer that for everyone, because I think that it is something that is not only going to vary from family to family but also from season to season, but I can share a little of what our schedule looks like. 

I’m a morning person, so I like to wake up early.  I like to spend time in the Word and in prayer, and then I spend time planning for the day ahead.  Even though most people don’t recommend checking email first thing in the day, so much of my work is dependent upon quick communication with my clients.  I try to spend 15-30 minutes checking and responding to email, and then spend whatever remaining time I have before my kids wake up working on an editorial calendar or a blog post (or a newsletter, it varies depending upon each day).

I’m fortunate to still be at the stage in life where my kids nap during the day.  While they nap, I work.  If I’ve been productive during the day, my evenings are pretty free.  If the day wasn’t quite as productive, I’ll try to tie up some loose ends for the day ahead. 

I always try to have a plan in place for the day ahead before I go to bed. 
That way I know which tasks are most important, which things I need to do to care for our home, what I need to thaw or prep for supper the next day, and anything special that’s going on.  It takes just 15-20 minutes, but it’s a huge help in starting the day read to go.


Where do you work? Do you have an office or a special desk just for you?
 

I have a desk in the sunroom where we have all of the kids’ toys.  I rarely ever work while the kids are awake, but I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to be super flexible.  I do think it’s incredibly important for someone working at home to have a “work” space.  It helps you to get into the mindset to work.  While you don’t always get to be picky, here are some things that I have found to help me really enjoy my workspace and have as much productivity as possible:  
  • Good lighting–I love having my desk next to a window.  I love the natural light and being able to look outside and enjoy a change of scenery.
  • A work “space”–whether or not you have a desk, sufficient space to work is important.  I feel better when I can spread out with my computer, planner, and pen and paper when needed (plus a cup of coffee, but that’s a given).
  • Organization–It doesn’t have to be designer made or color coordinated, but some form of organization has helped me to keep everything together and keep my desk free to work.  This is helpful because my desk isn’t very large, and I like to use as much of the space as I can.
  • Gel pens–this isn’t really a necessity, but for some reason, I always feel more eager to work when I’m writing with a gel pen.  I would say it’s a guilty pleasure, but my secret stash of chocolate covered almonds have already stolen that title.

What are the perks of working at home?

I love working from home for so many reasons:  I get to spend every day with my kids, I have the opportunity to work with my husband on occasions (which is “usually” a perk ;) ), and I have the privilege of working with an incredible team and clients that I respect so much.  

What advice do you have for other moms who are interested in working from home?
Primitive Social WordsmithPrimitive Social Wordsmith

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn is to give myself the time to figure out what works best for us.  It took awhile to realize that I’m most productive in the morning, and to figure out the best way to plan meals  and get on a cleaning schedule that best fit our needs.  I would also add two more things. 

The first is that work is an incredibly good thing, both \work as a mom and work for a business. 
The chance to use our gifts to glorify God, to serve others, and to be productive is an incredible gift.  Choose to see everything you do in this light.  It could give your heart the perspective it needs to work incredibly hard and well, and then to rest in the knowledge that the Lord is our hope and provider. 

The second is the importance of regular restoration. 
When you work from home, it can be easy to try and work every day of the week, every hour of the day.  Although work is a very good thing and something that we should embrace, we should also make restful things a priority:  reading a good book, taking a day trip with your family, putting your phone and computer away for a day, taking time to create, etc.  When you make time to do things that help your heart and mind rest, your work will become even more effective and productive.


What is the hardest part about working at home?  

The thing that has been the hardest for me is that it often feels like every area of my life needs something from me:  the kids need a snack, the laundry is beeping, dinner is burning, and I’m trying to talk to a client on the phone all at once.  In those moments, the Lord is quick to remind me that none of these things are really as urgent as they feel, and His grace is more than enough:  my kids won’t starve if their snack doesn’t happen this second, laundry can be fluffed in the dryer for a few extra minutes, melted cheese covers almost every burned spot, and my clients have all been beyond gracious and understanding.


Share something from your work/ or parenting that you are particularly proud of.  

I couldn’t be more proud of my kids.  Everyday, they teach me something new about the depths of love and forgiveness. Their most recent endeavor has been learning to help with some of the smaller chores, like making their beds and putting away their clothes.  While the anal side of me sometimes wants to straighten the pillows when they aren’t looking, they are both so proud of the work they are doing, and that makes me so proud.

Thanks so much Lacey! I really loved hearing more about your business and how you make it work.
Read more Work At Home Mom interviews here.

Behind the Scenes Work at Home Moms Series

Do you have a special work space?

When do you get most of your work done?

I’m a night owl so Lacey’s early bird tendencies have me in awe!

31 Days of Travel: Day 5- Stuck

Hi everyone!

Today is Day 5 of 31 Days of Travel. And today the focus is on the word: Stuck.

I thought a lot about this 5 minute timed writing… And the first things that came to mind were literally being stuck. Once, I literally got stuck in an airplane for over 12 hours. On hot tarmac in Africa. And it happened 2 nights in a row. Each time we would board, and then they found a problem with the engine and we couldn’t get off the plane because technically we had “left the country” and would need visas to re-enter the airport. At least that’s what we were told.

There was also the time we spent the night in a bus, stuck in mud, right in the middle of a territory known for night raids and ambushes. Come to think of it… we were stuck a lot in Africa.

But in the end, a different kind of “stuck” sticks out to me.

I think it’s important with travel and moving abroad to not feel stuck…  So here we go!31 Days of Travel- Oatmeal SmilesStuck

My second year in Prague I had perhaps my favorite flat. It was a one bedroom that was sleek and modern with a loft bedroom overlooking the living room and skylights.. it had gorgeous skylights.

I met a blonde young woman from the U.S. who had married a Czech man she loved dearly and they had just moved to the city. She was stoic and beautiful but her eyes were grey pits of sadness.

After only being in the city for some time, she sat on my stiff Ikea couch and told me she could never go back, she MUST be happy here, this was her new home. She had to make this work.

She described riding on the tram and watching all of the buildings flash by and people and feeling completely overwhelmed and like she was drowning in “too much”.Don't Feel "Stuck" Overseas- Oatmeal Smiles

In the long run, there were other factors at play in her life, namely depression and medication issues. But the simple truth was clear to me…

When you feel stuck and then overwhelmed it is a bad thing.

One particular year I was homesick and talking to my dad on the phone. I don’t know why I was sad but I was and I told him. He said I should come home and I mentioned my contract. And he said something that went against my morals and that I disagreed with wholeheartedly but that also brought me great comfort.

“Contracts can be broken.”

I know. I know….

Morally I disagree.. But practically, when you bite off more than you can chew and look at the “big picture” you can get overwhelmed.

My young friend was overwhelmed. She wasn’t looking at the beauty of Europe or the adventure before her. All she could see was the rest of her life where she MUST be happy here. Never moving home. Never.

Yikes.

In reality, many of the people who I found to make the best expats were “playing it by ear”. Taking it year by year. Never feeling too overwhelmed with the enormity of it all.Freedom of Choice in Living Overseas- Oatmeal SmilesSo, being “stuck” and feeling fatalistic about your move is counterproductive. A few hundred years ago, without phones and with little chance to make the long and expensive journey back home.. well, perhaps then you really were “stuck”.

But for me, feeling stuck (anywhere) is bound to lead to bad things.

What do you think?

Do you make decisions based on the long range picture or short term?

Am I making any sense or is this completely a confusing mess?


31 Days of Travel: Day 4- Learn

Today is Day 4 of my 31 Days of Travel: Learn

You can see more from this series here.

31 Days of Travel- Oatmeal Smiles

I think that one of the most valuable lessons you can learn about living in a different culture is the importance of being willing to learn.

In other words, humility. Not taking yourself too seriously at all and not getting defensive.

In Prague, I once took tennis lessons and showed up with my typical American sneakers/running shoes and a cute and trendy racket I had gotten at Wal Mart back home.  I had played tennis in High School and competed. Sure I wasn’t good, but I had played a good bit. Years to be exact.

The Czech tennis coach, a serious man in his mid-20′s, sized me up silently and decided we would volley a bit to start out. After about 4 swings at the ball he walked up slowly to the net and waited for me to join him.

It was awkward.
He chose his words carefully…

Was I, he asked, hoping to attain goals? Was I, he wondered, wanting to be professional?

Because this was hopeless and he thought I should quit.

Did I mention I was paying a good bit for this lesson?

I was SO embarrassed! Clearly I didn’t want to be a professional! I was in my 20′s and just wanted to be able to play a little better. I felt like all of the air was suddenly sucked out of the indoor tennis arena.

And he wasn’t done there!

He pointed out my shoes. Why was I wearing running shoes? Didn’t I know any better? I should be wearing TENNIS shoes. Clearly. And my racket?! That was a child’s racket.

It was clear at this point that he was disgusted that I was wasting his time and that he almost thought this could be a joke.

Well! There you go! In the U.S. we are big on not offending even to the point of not pointing out clear deficits etc. We even, dare I say, lie to make people feel better.

I was humiliated but took a deep breath, walked out with my head held high, and lived to laugh about it (A LOT) with my friends.

It was the long beginning of me learning that I have to be willing to take little offense and laugh criticism off. Often.

In Africa I was something of a running joke. In a good way I like to think. The women would be trudging away digging in a dry river bed and I would pass and they would all shout at me and wave. I would smile and say my best Ngakarimojong greeting and wave with both arms in the air, mirroring their enthusiasm, and they found this hysterical.

The women bent over and laughed with their hands on their knees. Kids had tears in their eyes they were laughing so hard.

"Joja" A baby named after me- what an honor!

“Joja” A baby named after me- what an honor!

They would breathlessly say my name in between laughing fits and anything I said or did only sent them into more crazy laughter.

And I just rolled with it. I took a deep breath and smiled and thought, “Self, they think you’re hilarious even when you’re just being normal… Okay!’

Let me tell you, if you’re not wiling to be in the position to learn you’ll be missing out on a lot overseas.

Don’t you think this is true in normal life as well?

Have you ever been completely humiliated?!

I personally have several other stories where these came from! ;)


31 Days of Travel: Day 3- New (Five Minute Friday)

Today is Day 3 of my new series 31 Days of Travel. Today I’m also connecting up with Five Minute Friday over here. And the word for the day is “New“.

31 Days of Travel- Oatmeal SmilesNew

When you’re in your youth the entire world can seem new. It’s just full of potential and possibilities.

Add to that the element of travel and the “new” quota is in overdrive.

So my first years in Prague were like data overload- in a good way.

Everything was new.

That first winter I was shocked by the cold, by my tingling nose and numb toes. I had to be humbled and taught like a baby. How do you tie a scarf? When is it appropriate to wear certain types of coats and how to do you check them at the opera? How do you use a kerchief?

Back home in Texas, the seasons changed more imperceptibly. Like a very reliable family member with little mood swings. There would be big thunder storms or howling winds. But overall, bright and sunny. Bright and sunny with a chill, or bright and sunny with a heatwave.

The seasons  of Prague shocked my senses.

Today I loaded up my family car and headed out into the bright and sunny West Texas day with my two girls, and as I drove the radio introduced Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and I was sent back to icy winters and affordable symphonies of Europe.

I was taken back to short days and long nights of winter.

The biting cold and thrill of uncertainty and adventure.

One thing kept me grounded and comforted. One thing was a constant through so many changes and so much new.

At that time Mercy Me had a song based on Psalm 139 and it comforted me so much. You can listen to it here.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.”

Psalm 139: 7-10

Relationships are sure to change, our surroundings, our expertise will wane as the world moves on around us- but God’s faithfulness and steadfastness remain the same.

That is one thing I learned best of all in my wanderings from home… God is good. And He is constant.

What encourages you even amidst big change?

Have you ever made a big move?

See Day 2 of this series here.


31 Days of Travel: View Day 2

If you remember, I’ve been missing my friend and travel and anything other than snotty noses and dirty diapers…

So the remedy is writing 31 Days of Travel. Join me if you want!

My life right now looks very different than my life did when I had a passport nearby at all times. Just today I posted these stories to Facebook.Ice Cream Sandwiches Make Everything Better-Facebook Status Oatmeal SmilesWell played… Well played…Who Will I Marry?! Facebook Status Oatmeal SmilesThat sums up my life right now. I love it in all of its exhausting adorableness.

31 Days of Travel- Oatmeal Smiles

It may be hard to imagine, but my view for the first part of my life was flat and brown fields that reached for miles with a blue bowl of sky arching from one horizon to the next. Clouds were far and few between as well as growth.

In Prague I lived from one end of the city to the other across 4 apartments/flats. I loved each section of the city in a different way. From corner markets to parks nearby.

But none of these views came to mind.

Instead, one view was the most constant. I taught at a school nestled along side the Vltava. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. But not having children or a family, I threw myself head first into work.

I walked along cobblestone streets, rode steamy buses in the dark early morning, and then walked along the river to my school.

I liked getting there before others. The sun rose late and went down early in the winter so my comings and goings were typically in the dark. But the view… oh the view.

My classroom had rows of sky lights, many so high I had to use a stick to open them. I would climb up on my chair and stare out the window and watch the rock face across the way catch morning sun as the steam curled off the Vltava, it’s grassy banks dewy and still.

It was like I opened the book of a fairy tale every single morning.

It’s a view I hope I never forget.

Tell me about a view you will never forget.

What’s the most memorable journey or trip you ever took?

You can see Day 1 of Travel here.


31 Days of Travel: Day 1

Hi there,

As I mentioned before I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Do you ever get there? Autumn has been hectic and busy, and between both girls, leading Bible study, working in the nursery etc. I’m just flat out exhausted. But it’s all good!

I moved real slowly this week (as you could see!) and after some formatting setbacks I just decided to take a little break. But I’m back. ;)

Today I want to share with you a great thing I got in the mail.

the hardest peace Kara Tippetts - oatmeal smilesKara Tippetts’ book “The Hardest Peace” just released and my pre-ordered copy was on my doorstep this morning. I was so excited.

In other news, this month I’m doing a low-stress series called 31 Days of Travel.

31 Days of Travel- Oatmeal SmilesIf you’ve followed for some time you’ve seen the Five Minute Friday’s where bloggers and people from all over join together and write on a certain given topic for 5 minutes every Friday. This is similar. 5 minutes of writing on specific words- every day for 31 days. You can check it out here.

Why travel?

Last night I dreamt a lot.

I dreamt I was traveling all over (primarily in Prague). I ended up on a bus and was trying to speak Czech and couldn’t remember any words. My goal was to get to my friend’s apartment. One of my close friends who I lived with in Prague recently moved back (I’m so jealous happy for her!). When I woke up I instantly posted this to Instagram:

Missing Praha- Oatmeal Smiles

Earlier in the week I was randomly thinking about language and suddenly, realized I couldn’t remember the word for twenty in Czech and became really upset. I mean… five years of studying a language and to not remember a simple word? (It’s “dvacet” by the way.)

So today when I saw the invite for writing on a topic for 31 days I immediately thought of travel since it’s been on my mind lately.

Besides, as a stay at home mom, I am completely landlocked and baby locked into “home”. This will be a fun “change of scenery!”

So for day 1- Move

When I initially decided to move overseas it wasn’t mapped out for years. Now when I think of my daughters some day doing the same, I feel sick to my stomach.

At the same time, it wasn’t impulsive. Years of leafing through National Geographics as a child were behind me. Countless hours of wanting to be a missionary had nudged me that way. A big packet from a mission agency was on my shelf.

But still, when I bought the ticket and packed my suitcases- I just thought, I’ll give it a year.

You have to realize I had lived not only in the same house for 18 years, but also had the same bedroom with the same wide north facing window. I had two doors in my room that, if they picked up enough speed, my brother and sister could run straight through my room and make a loop around the house (with me in hot pursuit).

I thought I would go to Alaska for college. Or at least New Orleans. But instead, I got a scholarship and ended up only 40 miles away from home. And it was perfect. And I loved it.

So then four years later I was off. To teach.

I thought this may be my only chance to try something new.

My first few months were lonely. I sat on park benches a lot and drew sketches and people watched. I listened to language tapes and tried to make my voice lilt in the right way and my tongue roll (which, by the way, it still can’t).

It was a lonesome I had never known, but also an adventure and a “new” I had never known…

What is a big change you made?

Have you ever done something that scared you?

You can see Day 2 of 31 Days of Travel here.


Ten Things I Am Thankful For

Since I’ve been a little down- today I wanted to shake things up and “just write”.

I don’t want to worry about SEO, blog focus or anything like that.

Now that I can order pumpkin drink, decorate my porch with pumpkins etc. it just seems like the right time to think about being thankful while it’s socially acceptable and encouraged.

So here are Ten Things I Am Thankful For.

1.) My healthy babies. I don’t take it lightly. I love their giggles and their vibrancy.Girls Change Playing in Pantry Oatmeal Smiles

2.) My husband. Can I get a fist pump or a “What? What?” or whatever it is cool people say or do? Because my husband rocks the husband job in a big way. He is in every way superior to me in intellect, kindness, gentleness and charm. I love him so much and am crazy thankful. Wedding Photo Oatmeal Smiles3.) Safety. Every night I tuck in Claire and her 3 year old little brain starts getting wired and she starts getting frantic about dragons or the Big Bad Wolf and if I’m going to go to some epic party without her the minute she’s snoozing (she is after all, my daughter in every way).

I calm her fears and tell her that dragons aren’t real and the Big Bad Wolf isn’t real and he couldn’t blow our house down anyway because it’s made of bricks. I tell her we are here to protect her. And in some small way, every night my heart breaks for the millions of people around the world who, for whatever reason, can’t tell their children that they will be safe that night.  I know.. Big crazy thoughts but such is the mind of an ENFP. You’ve been warned.

4.) Food. I love food and am thankful we have enough. We have clean water, we have snacks, we have so much. Again- awfully big picture but what can I say? I’m thankful for it!

5.) Rain. We’ve had little rain the past few years and the drought has gotten bad. Then all of the sudden, flash floods. I’m very grateful.

6.) Internet. I get to connect with you guys! We all know the feeling when you’re internet doesn’t work or your computer spazzes out and for a minute your heart freezes and you think, “What would I do without internet?!” Of course I lived over half of my life without a computer and or internet but still. I’m thankful for it.

7.) Surprised by Motherhood. I love a good read and enjoyed getting lost in it this weekend.

8.) The honor or watching as a brave and godly woman walks bravely through cancer. Kara reminds me every day to love big. We all have to say goodbye some day and Kara is in the midst of her long goodbye. It breaks my heart and builds it up. Love big. Every day. And I can’t wait to read her book. I preordered it and can’t wait.

9. ) Grace. God’s grace gives me hope and meaning in an otherwise hopeless world. I’m thankful I don’t have to stand on my own merit or strength. If age has taught me on thing it is that I have very little of either my own merit or my own strength. But I’ve learned that God’s grace is so so big.

10.) Autumn! It may seem small but it is so hot here in the summer and I really dislike being unable to go on a walk whenever we want to. Now that it’s cool out side I can go for walks with wild abandon!

What are you thankful for?

What were you afraid of as a child?

My daughter is simultaneously obsessed with the 3 little pigs and scared silly by the Big Bad Wolf.


Why Do I Feel Insignificant?

“Why do I feel insignificant?”…

Everything in your life may be fine and in place but significance feels… elusive.Why do I feel insignificant- Oatmeal Smiles

It has hit me like a ton of bricks in the past two weeks.

I’m safe and have so many things to be thankful for. But still, this feeling sometimes comes. Unwelcome and intrusive it steals my joy and tells me I’m not successful, meaningful or doing anything worth talking about.

So what do you do when you feel insignificant?

First, establish truth.

I know that my worth and significance are in the Lord.

Often, when my focus gets off and I am looking at the world’s value of success or comparing myself to others I can get down.

But that’s wrong!

We don’t live for ourselves or for selfish gain.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Next, ignore your feelings.

Emotions are like shifting sand. They can’t be trusted.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
 Jeremiah 17:9

When your emotions are leading you astray or being destructive, I find it helpful to just silence them and lean on truth I know is lasting.

Take some time to logically look past your own feelings and consider the facts. This is the stage I’m in right now. Ignoring the little cloud that’s been hanging over me.

Look at environmental causes. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, relational or work stress.

For me it’s been lack of sleep and poor nutrition. I started cutting out full fat dairy and eating healthier overall (which is great) but I may have gone too far since I’m still nursing Sophie.

My body revolted. I got some iron and lots of calcium and actually started feeling better.

At the end of the day, sometimes we just feel lonely and insignificant. I’m normally a very upbeat and happy person but it just comes. If you feel this way too, know you’re not alone. The best thing you can do is to reach out for support from people- even if it means pushing past your comfort zone.

What do you do when you feel small and insignificant? 
Do you ever feel low and blue?
How do you dig out?

Behind the Scenes: Work at Home Moms- Melissa Espinosa {Coupon Code!}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m excited to not only have a Work At Home Mom to interview but Melissa is my husband’s best friend’s wife. Whew! That’s a mouthful!

Behind the Scenes Work at Home Moms SeriesMelissa has sent me a lovely gift with each of our babies and they are absolute keepsakes that I treasure- and I had been wanting to share them with you guys for some time.

Claire ArtYou can find Melissa’s Etsy shop here, and her facebook page here.

When did you become a “stay at home mom”?

I was an 2nd grade teacher in my “former life.” I always knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom, so when I had my oldest child in February 2007, I took my maternity leave and promptly submitted my letter of resignation. 

How many kids do you have and where do you live?Espinosa Family

I have two boys, Grant, age 7 and Collin, age 3. We live in Highlands Ranch, CO, a suburb about 12 miles south of Denver.

What is your “at home work” besides being a mom?

Besides being a homeschooling mommy, I also create custom pieces of art called Personalized Scripture Names. When you look at my art from far away, it just looks like a name (baby name, last name, etc).

HILBURN ME Designs But when you look up close, you will see that I hand write a scripture selection (or poem, song lyrics, wedding vows, etc.) of your choosing to create each letter of the name. All my pieces are handwritten and created by me. 

HILBURNS ME Designs Up Close

What does your business/work look like? How many hours a week do you put into it and when do you find the time to work?

MR_MRS ME DesignsI basically work in small pockets of time. I try to return emails and inquiries during our “quiet time” in the afternoon. I do my bookkeeping and creating in the evenings after my kids are in bed. I try to only work one hour in the evenings so that my husband and I can have some time together before going to bed. ME Designs ready to ship

During my busy season (usually October-December and again in April-June), I have to spend more than an hour each evening. I have a good friend who also homeschools and we often watch each other’s kids when needed. Sometimes I’ll get her to watch my boys after we’ve done our school for the day so I can get work done.

How did your business/at home work get started?

I made a Personalized Scripture Name as a baby gift for a friend. She hung it in her nursery and was asked by a few people where she got it. Word of mouth is my friend! I actually never meant to start a business, but because I had so much referral business, I needed to start one for tax purposes.

What do you think is a realistic work schedule for a Work At Home Mom?

Whatever works for you! My personality is such that I don’t like to have too much of a set schedule. I’m more of a spontaneous person. But, no matter how you function best, my advice is to never let your business get in the way of family time. There have been times I’ve worked late at night when everyone was in bed so that we could have a family movie night. My family comes before my business.

Where do you work? Do you have an office or a special desk just for you?

We have a loft upstairs in our house where I work. It’s a place I can spread out my things while I’m creating and if it doesn’t get cleaned up at the end of the night, it’s not a big deal.

What are the perks of working at home?

One of the biggest perks of working at home is that I get to do what I love. I get to be at home with my kids, and I get paid to craft! The money I’ve made in my business has enabled us to take some nice trips and do fun things that we would otherwise might not be able to do.

What advice do you have for other moms who are interested in working from home?

I would encourage moms to contact the Small Business Development Center in their area. It’s usually run by the Chamber of Commerce and it’s completely free. They offer mentors to council you through starting your business and have people who are experts in different fields with whom you can make appointments. Also, if they’ll be selling merchandise, I would encourage them to try and find a sales tax class to fully understand taxing procedures in their area.

What did I miss? Is there anything you would add?

Between keeping up with two boys, homeschooling, and owning a business, some things will not get done. For me, that has been housekeeping (which I was never really great at to begin with!). I’ve had to do a lot of trial-and-error with different systems (laundry, cleaning, etc.) to get things done. But I’m blessed with a supportive husband who helps out and shares the load.

And because Melissa is AWESOME she is offering a special Coupon CODE for all Oatmeal Smiles readers!

When you make a purchase of $10 or more before October 31 you will get 10% off!

The Code is: SMILE 10

A HUGE thanks to Melissa for being interviewed! I really love her work and am so glad to get to showcase it here.

This post is a part of an ongoing series where I get nosy and peek behind the scenes into Work At Home Moms and how they make it all work.

Want to read other interviews of Work At Home Moms? You can find them here.

I love that Melissa is able to make her craft and passion into a business!

Do you craft?
If you could do what you love and make money what would it be?

Beach Bums: Gulf Shores for Kids

Hi guys!

If you follow me on Instagram then you know that we just got back from a week at the beach and Oh. My. Word…

It was SO nice!

We went to Gulf Shores, Alabama and I had never equated Alabama with beaches. But as my husband said, “Best kept secret ever!”

With only a little more than 10,000 people Gulf Shores is a family friendly and has so many amenities you would never believe it’s that small.

Here’s what we did

I have a friend who I met at college (university for you guys overseas) and she has impacted my life so greatly! We’ve danced the streets of Prague, eaten awesome Thai food in Kentucky and kept up across 3 continents.

In the past decade it’s hard to believe that we’ve only met when one of us was in a wedding dress (what?!) and then, my friend, and I were pregnant together BOTH times! How cool is that?

So when she said she knew of an awesome condo our families could meet at it just made sense. Regardless of what I falsely expected from Alabama beaches. ;)

Kid Friendly Beaches at Gulf Shores Alabama Kid Friendly Beaches at Gulf Shores Alabama

We flew into Pensacola and met at the condo in Gulf Shores. Our balcony overlooked the beach and our kids hit it off in an instant. You can see more of our condo here.

Budget Friendly Condo with gorgeous view Gulf Shores AlabamaGulf Shores Alabama Condo- Great for a budget Gulf Shores Alabama Condo- Great for a budgetWe watched each others kids while we went on date nights (so cool!), and the guys watched the kids while we went for mani/pedi’s and sat in a coffee shop and talked for hours.. I felt like I was transported to college life and it felt good!

Date night selfie!

Date night beach dining Gulf Shores Alabama

Needless to say, we’ve returned after seven days totally relaxed.

If you EVER get the chance to go to Gulf Shores here is where you just HAVE to go. ;)

Gulf Shores for Kids

Gulf Coast Zoo

Gulf Shores Zoo, Alabama-Kid friendly!This zoo was tiny but just perfect for a day time break from the beach (it sounds crazy- but when two 1 year olds are involved.. a break from the beach IS in order).

Splash Park, Orange Beach

Splash Park Orange Beach AlabamaThis splash pad/splash park is perfect for the younger kids.

It’s located outside of this Surf Style store (it’s not on the website but I promise- it’s there!).

We drove by this splash park coming in from Pensacola and knew we had to go. It’s fenced in and safe for little bitty guys. It was a PERFECT break from the constant alert we were on at the pool and beach. We even went twice in three days! And… Wait for it.. It’s FREE!!! This splash park is attached to a surf shop so the moms may have slipped away to shop as well.

The Hang Out

The Hang Out Gulf Shores Alabama- Our little princess and pirate

We went to this beach side restaurant that has a princesses and pirates breakfast. It was an all you can eat breakfast along with pirates running around in full garb and a princess leading the little guys on treasure hunts. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the sound of the surf. The pirates did scare the tar out of our kids but we protected them. ;)

Other Kid Friendly Activities

Our kids were a little too small for this. But when they’re older, Gulf Shores has mini-golf (The Track, Pirate’s Island Mini-golf & Adventure Island Mini-golf) , water parks (Waterville), Ziplining and more. Seriously a great destination!

Relaxing on the beach- Gulf Shores Alabama Gulf Shores Alabama- Beach Chairs, Umbrella and Caddy Rentals

What we loved:

  • - sugar sand, white, soft and gorgeous
  • -clear water
  • -family friendly
  • -kid friendly
  • -super relaxing
  • -great food and entertainment
  • -Chocolate Corner- we highly recommend this! Great truffles!

Bonus! We didn’t have to bring ANY baby equipment with us! Read here to find out how!

Have you ever visited Gulf Shores or the Orange Beach are?
What is your favorite destination- beaches or mountains?

Behind the Scenes- WAHM Interview with Vicki Lesage

Happy middle of September to you!

I’m dreaming of pumpkins and all things fall. Autumn is quickly becoming my favorite season! How about you?

We’ve been loving the cool weather and rain. Lots of walks for this little fam.

I’ve been loving sharing this Work At Home Mom series. Learning how other mom’s make their day times work.

Today I have author and blogging friend Vicki Lesage on the blog.

Behind the Scenes Work at Home Moms SeriesVicki Lesage is an IT Director by day, writer by night. And a full-time nerd. She loves fondue, wine, math, and zombies. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charmante daughter. Her first book, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, was released in January 2014, and her sequel, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, was released in May 2014.

Confessions of a Paris Party Girl: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1494701529

Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1499276532

Blog: http://vickilesage.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vickilesagewriter

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/vickilesage

How many kids do you have and where do you live?Work At Hom Mom Interview with Author and Blogger Parisian Party Girl Vicki LesageI have a two-year-old and a three-month-old, and together with my French husband we live in Paris . All in a one-bedroom apartment. It’s crazy.

What is your “at home work” besides being a mom?

I’m an author and run a blog, along with other freelance writing gigs. Oh, and I have a full-time day job as an IT Director. If you’re wondering how I do it all, I’m kind of wondering the same thing myself!

What does your business/work look like? How many hours a week do you put into it and when do you find the time to work?

I work for my full-time job 39 hours per week, two days from home and three days in the office. I write wherever I can – lunch breaks, evenings after the kids go to bed, weekends – and do other writing-related activities, like reading and editing, on my commute to work (it’s an hour each way by public transport).

How did your business/at home work get started?Work At Hom Mom Interview with Author and Blogger Parisian Party Girl Vicki Lesage

My mom is an author as well and encouraged me to turn my stories about my crazy life in Paris into a memoir. My first book, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, is about my move to France and all the bureaucracy, partying, and falling in love that ensued.

Work At Hom Mom Interview with Author and Blogger Parisian Party Girl Vicki LesageMy sequel, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer, picks up where the first book leaves off and follows me on my journey of raising two kids in Paris . I started my blog as a way to keep in touch with my fans and fill in the gaps between books – people are always asking for more about my life!

What do you think is a realistic work schedule for a Work At Home Mom?

I think you have to be flexible about when you work, but when you do decide to work you have to be 100% dedicated to working. No kids running around, no other distractions. While I will sometimes try to reply to emails with a baby in one arm, I can’t do any real work until I have two free hands and at least 30 uninterrupted minutes in front of me.

Where do you work? Do you have an office or a special desk just for you?

Ha! An office? In my dreams! I work at my dining room table, which is in our living room, which also serves as our playroom. It can be hard to find those 30 uninterrupted minutes I mentioned above!

What are the perks of working at home?

I’m way more productive than when I have colleagues interrupting me in the office (they can be worse than toddlers)! You also don’t waste time on transitions or getting ready. Like, I just sit down and start working. I don’t need make-up, I don’t need to commute, I don’t need to do anything other than start working. I can also hop up and put a load of laundry in while I’m brainstorming what, for example, my next blog post will be about, then I sit down and write. I can get things done around the house during my “down” time, and sometimes it helps to step away from the computer for a few minutes anyway!

What advice do you have for other moms who are interested in working from home?

You have to have a goal and you have to be disciplined. For me, my goal is to sell books via my blog and I make sure to write 2 blog posts per week and take the time to promote them everywhere. Your goals will be different but you have to stick to them no matter what. It’s so easy to get distracted on the internet (guilty!) or think “I’ll just wash those dishes real quick” but you have to make sure you’re getting your work done and only doing other stuff if you have the time or if it’s during a break.

What did I miss? Is there anything you would add?

Working from home can be a great way to minimize commute time and balance work and family. But you have to take it seriously and you have to have the right personality for it. While I’m very social, I’m serious when it comes to work and so I like working from home where I can be focused and not interrupted. Other people might go crazy with the solitude or wouldn’t be able to stay disciplined. You have to find what works for you!

Thanks so much for sharing Vicki! I loved getting a peek into your world and how you make it all work (magically!). And best of luck with your books!

Do you know of any Work At Home Moms who juggle kids and work demands?

Check out the other mom’s here!


“All About That Bass” by Katie Davis and A Lot of Link Love

I saw this video on Facebook the other day and literally can’t get it out of my head.

While I otherwise would not be listening to “All About That Bass”, this is right down my alley and I keep getting a giggle out of hearing “booty” from a woman playing a bass.

Besides, I found this line ironic since I just joined Weight Watchers.

“My mama she told me don’t worry about your size”… Ha!!

Like this?

You may also like these great links:

Joanna Goddard from Cup of Jo’s excellent Weekend Links.. Seriously look forward to them every week!

See what happens to a little girl who has consumed thousands of colas in her lifetime.

This mom who decided to stay in the pictures.

I LOVE this Frat Boy rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.

What this guy can do with a balloon blows my mind!

Why the U.S. chills its eggs.. I had NO idea!

This beautiful moment caught on tape when a mom with Alzheimer’s remembers her daughter.… Touching…

And these dads getting to “feel” their “babies kick” had me in tears!

Have a great “practically fall already”!

Georgia

 


Before & After: The Start of a Success Story (Weight Watchers Week 0)

{This is the diary of a mom in the trenches- fighting for her body back, her self confidence and for healthy habits for her children to follow.}

I’m mortified.

I just rejoined Weight Watchers for the third time.

1. 2. 3.

Three times.

The second time I did Weight Watchers online, and frankly, with no accountability or meetings- I don’t even know if I lost a pound.

So this time, I’m taking accountability to a whole new level.

1. Facebook “Coming Out” party.

Facebook Get Fit Coming Out Party

2. I’m blogging about it. (Eek!)

3. I’m even Instagramming about it.

Last Hurrah Before Get Fit ChallengeLast hurrah before weighing in… Nursing moms- Pumpkin Spice Steamer is all the taste with zero caffeine (if you value your sanity).

Before & After: The Start of a Success Story  (Weight Watchers Week 0)

Revese Before & After Oatmeal Smiles(Admittedly I chose a flattering picture.. but that’s a 50lb difference.)

Here’s another one for ya’.

11 months post partum wm(Notice the bun.. it just works for mommyhood!)

Here’s the thing.

My motivation for losing weight is entirely different now in my *ahem* mid-30′s and as a mom and I’d love to share that with you.

How Your Motivation Changes When You’re A Mom

How Your Motivation to Lose Weight Changes When You Become a Mom Oatmeal SmilesWhen I was in my teens and 20′s I wanted to look a certain way.

I wanted to wear a certain size. It was all about appearance and confidence.

Now, I won’t lie- I would still love that appearance and I would love my old confidence and self esteem. But.. things are different.

At this point in the game I have different motivation to take care of myself.

1. My health. I don’t feel great. I’m tired, slow, and lethargic. I’m unmotivated and am starting to watch my kids play rather than play with them. I know it’s a slippery slope from here on out. My hips ache, my hands ache. After I lost weight after baby #1 my hands and hips quit aching. And here I am again after baby #2 same weight (plus some), with the same chronic pain.

When is your baby due- a year ago.. oatmeal smiles

2. My Level of Fitness & Physical Wellness. Getting out of bed is an athletic event. Wish that was a joke. I more “roll” out of bed and hope for a graceful landing. I have Diastasis Recti after having babies and an abdominal surgery and I will tell you more about that later.

3. Most importantly- your children watch everything you do. Everything. How you talk to yourself, how you interact with others, your insecurities, when you turn to food or tv for comfort and they will take on and mirror your habits, self talk and activity. This mortifies me.

I think often now about how I want my kids to be living their lives when they are in their 30′s. And feeling chronically tired, frustrated, ashamed and defeated in a sedentary life is NOT what I want for them.

Also, I want my girls to have healthy habits, a healthy relationship to food and activity. So far, I’ve gotten away with only watching tv when they’re asleep and only eating snacks when they’re asleep but seriously- who am I kidding?

I used to be so ashamed to share this because I used to be different. Because now I’m the traditional mom who has “let herself go”, because I’m the  stereotypical American who is overweight. I should know better after living in Europe where there is less obesity.

But then I realized it’s not just an “American problem”. According to statistics over 65% of Americans are overweight or obese and worldwide 62% of obese people live in developing countries. So really, it’s an “all of us” problem.A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish- Oatmeal Smiles

So if by sharing my journey to success I can encourage even one person, then I will.

Besides, I have a closet full of clothes waiting to be worn and I’m tired of not being in my family album.

Cheers to changes,

Georgia

Have you ever had a breaking point?

What motivates you to change/be better?