I have my heart of flesh {2015 recap}

Hey now friends! Welcome to the Blogging Besties’ 2015: A Year in Review Link-Up Party! 
We are ready to show 2o16 who's the boss, but before we do, we want to give 2015 a proper send-off. The highs, the lows, the smiles, the tears, the trips, the holidays, the birthdays, the anniversaries, the babies…whatever it is that made 2015 special, we want to know about it! Grab a button, visit the hosts, and link up your post about what 2015 meant to you!

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Hosts: Kristine: The Foley Fam // Megan: Absolute Mommy // Kate: The Colbert Clan // Lena: Lena B, Actually // Renee: coffee-n-ink // Kara: Chasing Zoie // Laura: Bits of Sweetness // Kassi and Kayli: Kassarie & Kayliray

I ended twenty fourteen raw and brokenhearted. I spent the year in a terrible place, filled with negativity and resentment. I was mad about so many things. Mad because I had to return to the workforce. Mad because I wasn't home on the weekends anymore. Mad because I missed my family. Mad because I was mad. Was I being a spoiled brat? Possibly. Was I a crybaby and a whiner? Probably. I realized at the end of twenty fourteen that I had taken advantage of all the blessings of the previous years. That I had never really appreciated or valued being a Stay at Home Mom. I had the privilege of being home with my kids, and I took it all for granted.

As twenty fourteen ended, quietly and melancholy, I was in search of something to lead me into the next year. I was searching for something, a quote, a word, an idea, that would take my negativity and renew me. One night, in early January, I came across this quote on Pinterest;

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; 
I will remove from you your heart of stone 
and give you a heart of flesh".
- Ezekiel 36:26

And it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed. So I began on that night to pray for my heart of flesh. I prayed for my new spirit, and I prayed that my heart of stone would be removed. Some night I prayed tearfully. Some nights I prayed joyously. But the biggest thing is that I prayed. Consistently, for probably the first time in my life.

I went back and read two posts from the end of last year, and I'll be honest they were tough to read. They brought fresh tears and sharp memories. Still, they were a reminder of how much changed in twenty fifteen. Not just my spirit, but my life as a whole. I learned so many new things about myself. I learned so many things about my children and motherhood, more lessons on marriage and being a wife. I welcomed the lessons, and I welcomed my new spirit. Today, when I set down to write this post, I realized, I found my heart of flesh. This prayer, my sometimes daily mantra, was answered in the most surprising of ways. My life didn't change instantly. My spirit wasn't renewed overnight. But my heart, my heart of stone is gone, and my heart of flesh beats strong.

Here are some of the things that renewed my spirit.

A New Year's spent with friends and family. Caitlin looking like a teenager on New Year's Eve. Losing teeth, and Mac's zombie face. Nerd glasses. Fresno State Basketball games. Fro-Yo with Grams.
A Valentine's Day for the record books, complete with champagne and a night away from home. Selfies and Girl Scout cookies. Best Friends that moved away, but still feel like they never left. Emoji candies for cupcakes.

The Hubbs on a Merry Go Round with Mac. Pedis with my girls. Shopping at Forever 21 because it's Caitlin's favorite. Turning thirty-seven. Lunches and dinners out with my family. Mac's little face. Selfies with the Hubbs.

Mac turned five! John and I celebrated TEN years of marriage!! Spring Break and Easter parties. Fun with the Hubbs and of course more fro-yo after school. Trips to Monterey. Donuts at school.
Finding a restaurant in town that makes gluten free pancakes!

Friends that feel like family. Finding your tribe. Taking #ootd pictures and no one laughs at you. Driving my girls to Southern California solo, for the first time and surviving!

The happiest place on Earth for so many reasons. Seeing Disneyland through the eyes of my children. Riding Dumbo and It's a Small World like it was the first time. Selfies everywhere. Breakfast with Mickey and Friends. Pictures in the tea cups. The Cars ride at Night! Caitlin's adventure with Peter Pan. Celebrating 60 years of Disney with one Magical Trip!

Caitlin turned eight! Summer finally arrived so we could sleep in late. I started a new job that allowed me to be more present. Mac graduated from preschool. Caitlin's birthday party at the movies with eight friends. And my girl Jess moved back to the neighborhood.

Fourth of July fun. Date days to see Trainwrecked. More fro-yo because it was over 100 degrees. Selfies and movie dates. A days spent in Monterey, enjoying cooler temps, sweatshirts, and gluten free cinnamon rolls. Yes! GF cinnamon rolls!!

Saying goodbye to summer vacation. Starting dance again. Mac lost a tooth, but still found time to fall asleep on my chest. Finding out our class room assignments and celebrating with Starbucks! First day of school, third grade and kindergarten!

Tailgates and School Spirit days. Walking little sister to class in the morning. Running with my neighbor and achieving new personal records.
My parents wedding anniversary. Sundays spent at home. Bliss.

Changing our Halloween costumes last minute. Red Ribbon dress up days. School picture day out takes and more tailgating. The Hubbs had his class reunion and
I got dressed up and found some body confidence along the way.

Family pictures and game day selfies. My bestie at home for a visit. Movies with grandma. Donuts with dad. Shopping at Walmart for Thanksgiving and Paleo legal chocolate chip cookies. Having your bloggy bestie show up at your work! Going to grab breakfast in our jammies, because Sundays. Sundays are my favorite.

A season that always ends too quickly. Kinder Christmas programs. Shopping with my mama like the old days. Enough gingerbread reindeer for an entire fleet. Selfies with my Grandpa. Date nights to go to holiday parties. Baking cookies again and again with little hands ready to decorate. Hot cocoa stands in the driveway. Dance recitals with fancy make up.
Buddy the elf made an appearance, and Ellie the new elf came to stay.

I ended twenty fourteen with a heart of stone, and today I'm sure that there was good reason for that. At the time, I was just too heartbroken to notice. I've always believed in the power of prayer, but for others. The others that go to church every Sunday, for those with unwavering faith. Twenty fifteen taught me so many things, but the biggest was my renewed spirit, my heart of flesh. That I was capable of prayer, and worthy of the power it had. For someone who doesn't worship in a specific place, twenty fifteen now holds a powerful statement about faith and grace.

Because all I wanted was a renewed spirit. All I wanted was a heart of flesh. 

I have my heart of flesh. 

Happy New Year. 

Grab the Button!

Gold Coins and Christmas Memories {life lately 12.13.15}

Last week Mackenzie came home from school with a small bag of chocolate coins. She showed them off in the car as we drove home from school.

"I won these", she said proudly, holding them above her head.

"How'd you do that?", asked Caitlin as she eyed her sister's prize.

"I won at Dreidel", Mackenzie announced matter of fact.

"Wow, Mac, that's awesome", I replied. "How do you play Dreidel? I don't think I've ever played".

"It's easy. You spin the Dreidel and whatever it stops on that's what you do. When I spun, it said take all, so that's what I did".

I'm sure Dreidel isn't that easy, I'm sure there are other rules, but to my five year old, it was as easy as "take all". Later that day, as I made dinner, I thought about Mac and her Dreidel. I wondered how much she would remember about this day in kindergarten. Would she always remember that time she won at Dreidel? Would she grow up and look at chocolate coins and have a soft spot in her heart about the time she "took all"? Would she one day tell her own children her Dreidel story as they shopped for Christmas presents and found little mesh bags of chocolate coins?

I can only hope. I hope that my girls make great Christmas memories as our life happens around us. Because we have yet to walk the lights this year. We still haven't made sugar cookies. We didn't make it to the Nutcracker. With such pressure to "make memories", what happens when you just let those mundane and simple acts of the season become memories?

My own Christmas memories run deep. They are tactile, like velveteen and green felt cut into the shapes of trees remind me of Christmas dance performances of yesteryear. How red grosgrain ribbon will forever remind me of perfectly decorated gift boxes that we received from our dance company director. My Christmas memories are fragrant. They smell like my mother's famous chocolate cake and sugar cookie frosting. They smell like McDonald's Happy Meals since we spent many a Christmas on the road to dance performances and late night Christmas shopping adventures. So many dinners eaten on the road with my mother after work as we drove to our next stop. They smell like coffee and tamales in my grandmother's kitchen. My Christmas memories have flavor, they taste like Coca-Cola classic on ice,peppermint candy canes, the Nestle Tollhouse Cookies that I ate too many of the year I went with a school friend to her church choir performance. So many memories that can seem forgotten under all the everyday monotony. Until you unwrap a chocolate coin. Until you walk into your mother's house and smell the Christmas cake baking.

It's easy for me to get wrapped up in making memories. Making sure we make those Pinterstly perfect crafts. Making sure we take the complicated desserts to the class parties. I get wrapped up in what is going to go under the tree, trying to out do myself (and Santa) year after year. I worry so much about what we will remember about this Christmas. Will these memories stand the test of time? And will it even matter? At thirty seven, I can say that I've had happy Christmases, but I can't tell you exactly what I got every year. I know that there was a Victorian Doll House that was magical. There was the Barbie Camper and the Strawberry Shortcake Villa. One year there was a Game Boy, and one year there was a pair of Bongo Jeans that I was dying over. Still, despite all those gifts, the nights I spent shopping with my mom in search of the perfect gift for her mom stick out the most. The two of us sweaty and irritable, only taking a time out for a coke and a cookie in the food court are what cue my happy memories. The year I baked the famous chocolate cake and forgot the baking soda is now a fond memory, even if it wasn't then. I was probably twelve at the time and so embarrassed I cried a little, all while my Aunt Marilyn took bite after bite trying to convince me that while the cake was flat as a pancake, it still tasted good. To this day, I can still hear her say, "It's good Megs, see".

Some of my memories are distorted, by age and failing memory. I don't remember a lot about the Christmas when I was eight, but I do remember best friends, Melanie and Sandy. They received a package from their grandma who lived in Germany. It was an entire box of chocolates, and I'm not kidding when I say, I've never tasted another thing as heavenly as those German chocolates. They were kind enough to give me an egg, wrapped in brightly colored foil. It seemed odd, chocolate eggs at Christmas, but once unwrapped, the real surprise was inside. Under a light robe of chocolate was a plastic egg, and inside the egg was a toy. A small car, a tiny figure of a doll or animal, even a pencil. I don't remember what I got, but I remember being delighted. It seemed magical and foreign an even exotic. We didn't have cool things like that here in America. Not that I had seen at eight years old.

Then there are the memories that have become sweeter over time, Like the year I was eighteen, and my family our first Christmas away from home. We had just recently moved and made Fresno our new home, but wanting to keep with tradition, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my grandma's. "Santa" knew where to find me, and when I opened my stocking I found my usual fare, but I also found an orange. My first orange in my stocking. Later, on the way home, my mom mentioned that my grandma insisted that I get an orange, because that was always Grandma's favorite thing about Christmas. They always got an orange in their stocking, because it was the only time they could splurge for such things. At eighteen I brushed it off, but now that I'm a mother, it gets me every time. Just how significant that orange is in my grandmothers life. In all my years of hoping for baubles and gift cards in my stocking, my grandma still finds joy in a simple orange. It's not unusual for her to offer a couple of oranges to me before I leave her house on Christmas Eve, just in case I need them. I'm always happy to take them.

These memories and so many more flooded back to me that day as Mackenzie proudly held her Dreidel winnings. Like my own Christmas memories, very few of them have a price tag. Most of them are about the experience. They are about how our hearts felt and how good those chocolate coins tasted after such a victory. Christmas memories that are set to a song, have their own fragrance, memories that take you back to your eighth Christmas or your twenty third. Christmas memories that have nothing to do with an iPad, an Xbox, or a two headed Monster High doll that is sold out until February. I forget that my sweetest Christmas memories are the ones that happened when we were just living.

Heres to a Christmas that are filled with memories that are priceless. The ones that can't be bought, but just experienced through the eyes of that child who still lives in your heart. It's not too late to make wonderful memories that are free, and will stay with you and your family for a lifetime.

4 Gifts {Read}

I'm hooking up with Alyson M for her "4 Gifts" series. 
If you are visiting from the link up, Welcome.

Can you believe it's week four of "4 Gifts"? I mean, it's almost Christmas! And while I wanted my Christmas shopping complete by Thanksgiving weekend, I'll confess and let you know that it didn't happen. I'm still shopping and will most likely be shopping right up until the end. I know, fail, but I love this time of year and the excitement of shopping with the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowds. I'm weird like that considering I'm a retail warrior!

This week is my favorite part of four gifts. Today's gift is, Read. I love to give the gift of reading. If you came to my house you would probably have to move books before you could sit on the couch or in a chair. When I was growing up my mom had books all over the house, on her night table, on the end tables, and even a floor to ceiling book shelf in the dining room. I love, love, love being surrounded by books. The only problem with this gift in the "4 Gifts" series, is that I want to buy all the new books that are out. I want to buy all the reissues of old books I read as a kid. I want to buy all the books about Christmas and winter. Trust me when I tell you that I have to stop myself. It helps that every year Parents Magazine will review the top books for the holiday season in their December issue. I love that because it narrows down our choices, and I always find books the kids love. This year I've narrowed it down to the following:

The Day the Crayons Came Home is the sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit. That book was an instant hit in our house. If you haven't read these, get them quick. Our favorite is the peach crayon that ends up naked and afraid to leave the box! 

Wolfie the Bunny is about a wolf raised by Bunnies. I mean, what is cuter than that?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the illustrated edition is as much for me as it is for the kiddos. I think they are still a little young for the regular version, so with the beautiful illustrations I feel it will be easier to follow along.  

The Story of Diva and Flea,  a friendship blossoms between a stray dog and a well taken care of cat in Paris France. Caitlin is obsessed with Paris and all things France at the moment so this one is definitely on the list. 

Now there was no way I could write about great books to give at Christmas and leave out a wish list of my own...

Here are my top picks for this "4 Gifts" series.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. Let me tell you that I had huge reservations about Wild. I wasn't sure that I would be into a book about one woman's hiking trip. I was so wrong. Wild is one of the best books I have ever read. Now Strayed has released a book of quotes from her many writings. If you know someone who loved Wild, this would make a fantastic gift.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. If you read this blog at all then you know that I love all things Shonda Rhimes. I love her shows, I love her as a writer, I love her as a human. I can't wait to dive into this book and start a year of yes of my own!

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. I know the last think I need is another book on writing, but this one from an award winning writing teacher is going on my must read list for 2016.

Like I said, this gift, in the "4 Gifts" series is my favorite. Will you be giving the gift of reading this season? If so share your titles in the comments. I'm always looking to add books to my reading list. And be sure to check out the fantastic giveaway below! 

Christmas Giveaway!
$165 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles

A Farewell to Fall {twenty fifteen}

September, October, and November played out before my eyes like a beautiful ballet set the most magical of symphonies. Fall, it seems, has become my favorite season. It lives so quietly between the raucous racket that is summer and that hush and darkening that is winter.

In September when the days were still blasted by the Central Valley sun, we spent our back to school evenings relearning old routines, forgotten in the lazy days of summer. We bound ourselves to dance schedules and scout schedules and weekends that are rarely carefree. We buckled down and learned our spelling words and new math equations. We spent the last few moments of sunlight playing with friends and trying to hold on to those last few hours of light.

In October we could almost smell autumn in the air. We pulled out our jeans and boots a little too early, cursed rainy days for being too muggy and not cold enough. We changed our minds about what to dress as for Halloween two and three times, sending this mother into anxious territories. We added blankets at night and layers in the morning and found ourselves reaching for our summer shorts less and less. Then one night, after Trick or Treating, we kissed the mild nights goodbye and welcome the chill of fall with our arms open and boots on our feet.

In November we found gratitude in everything we did. We talked of Pilgrims and Indians, turkey and stuffing. We wraped ourselves in blanket scarves and wore boot socks. Our lives were filled with the sweet smells of pumpkin spice and apple pies and when the wind blew a certain way, sometimes we caught a whiff of pine. This November it rained and we rejoiced, even when we had to be out in it without umbrellas. We said yes to hot chocolate at breakfast, yes to green bean casseroles that we had never made in our lives, yes to more hours spent volunteering in classrooms where we are welcomed and loved. Today I noticed the leaves were changing and falling, that everything was becoming aglow, just in time for Winter, just in time for the season of lights.

Fall came and went, beautifully, set to a song, and I did not hold on. I didn't kick and scream as the months began and ended, because I was as present as possible. I didn't spend my days behind the screen like years past. I didn't post every single moment to Instagram. But we had moments. We had days that were wonderful and days that were forgettable, because we are humans. I'm not a perfect person or a perfect mother, but this season was one of perfection in my eyes. In the way we lived it. In the way we enjoyed the good and the ugly. We had our share of terrible mornings, everyone in tears. We also had mornings where we laughed and sang at the top of our lungs. I did live in a small territory of anxiety for two weeks around Halloween because my kids could not decide on their costumes, so I let go, took a breath, and let them be. I let them choose and change their minds and even on Halloween night, they still hadn't decided, but we went out anyway. Life happened and I was lucky that I didn't miss a moment.

There were so many things I loved about the Fall of twenty fifteen. I loved that Mackenzie decided she wanted to dress like a ghost for Halloween after watching It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, even if she changed her mind the day before Halloween. I loved that I got to volunteer in Caitlin's class and join her on her field trip to the fair. I loved experiencing the Pumpkin Patch field trip again with Mackenzie, and watching her among her classmates. I loved the pumpkin donuts that we made last minute. I loved the date night to the Hubbs class reunion, the days going tailgating, the Sundays that I didn't have to work. After a couple of seasons of stress, this was a season of light, a season of happy. And while we had our fare share of colds and fevers, missteps and trials, we made it through another season of life. I made it through another season of life, and I'm so grateful for that.

November for me has always been about gratitude and reflection, and this year was no exception. I made big moves this year career wise, but this season was a solid reminder that I'm right where I need to be. Physically and mentally. I'm lucky that I can scale back to being a part timer at work. I'm blessed that I have a husband that supports that decision. I know that while this has been a happy and joyous season for us as a family and me as a person, it has also been our leanest season yet. We've had to readjust and for that I'm also grateful. I've learned that I don't need much in this life except time. Time is what is most important to me these days. Time to be myself, time to mother, time to be a wife and friend. I need time to focus on what is important and what is not. I know that time doesn't pay the bills. Motherhood doesn't pay the bills. But time, motherhood, love, happiness, they fill up my cup.

Tonight my cup is full. I'll be honest and say the plans for today were foiled by two kids with coughs and some unusually cold weather for this part of California. But instead of being bummed, I'm here, writing, which feels amazing and cathartic. I'm listening to my girls play. Earlier we sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs while getting fast food on the way home from Daddy's tailgate. We soon will be snuggling in my big bed, slumber party style and tomorrow we will pull out all the Christmas decorations and decorate our tree. The tree the Hubbs pulled out at my request even if he thinks its still too early for a tree in the house.

For me, fall ends when November comes to a close, so I will bid her farewell  as she leaves in the early morning hours on Tuesday. I will thank her for being so kind and so lovely. And I will ask her to return again next September with more love and wonder to fill up our cups and remind us of what really matters in this life. This beautiful, chaotic, perfect to me, life.

4 Gifts 2015 {Wear}

I'm hooking up with Alyson M for her "4 Gifts" series. 
If you are visiting from the link up, Welcome.

It's week three, and today is all about "Wear". This subject in the "4 Gift" series can get a little out of hand if you are not careful. Some years our "wear" turned out to be pajamas. Some years it's coats. One year it was tiny velour track suits. This year our "wear" is going to be Vans. The kids have been asking for Vans for months now. We were going to go that route for Back to School, but never got around to visiting the Vans store here in town. I’m always leery of buying shoes online, because as my luck has it, they usually don’t fit. So I skipped out on the Vans then, but not now… 

While I was preparing this post, I spent some time on Polyvore and time got away from me. At one point I had added twenty pair! Crazy right? I love Vans and I love the patterns and colors that can capture just about any one's style. The new Disney collection is amazing, but I will always be a sucker for animal prints and cats. Yes, there is a cat pair in that picture! I'm also a classics kind of girl and think that I'll need to reinvest in the classic checkerboard slip-ons of my youth. My girls would love any of these, but if I had to choose for them, I'm pretty sure Caitlin would get the cats pictured on the bottom, and Mackenzie would choose the princess hi tops. 

4 Gifts 2015: Wear

Today's post is short and sweet because as you are reading this it's Thanksgiving. I'll be shopping for Van's similar to this, eating Paleo Apple Crisp, and being a couch potato for most of the day. Have a Happy Thanksgiving friends and be sure to stop by Alyson's blog for the "4 Gifts" giveaway. Check it out below!

Christmas Giveaway!
$165 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles

4 Gifts 2015: Need

This is a 4 Gifts post with Alyson M. This post was not sponsored by Old Navy. I just love their clothes and their prices. They are my go to when it comes to kids clothes. 

The countdown to Christmas is on, and I’m getting nervous. What do you buy for the children that have everything? I’m not even joking. I’ve spent the better part of my Sundays cleaning closets, dressers, and rooms filled to the top with too much stuff. That’s why I love “4 Gifts”, it helps me narrow down the choices, and it also helps me focus on what my kids really need. Now in an effort not to be a super Grinch, the “Need” part of “4 Gifts” seems to be the hardest. What do my kids really need? Socks, underwear, coats, or shoes. Those are usually on the list. But seriously? Who wants just socks and underwear? Coats seems reasonable since they usually only get coats at Christmas. It must be a California thing, because we only need them here in Fresno for such a short time! Plus the coats that I have found at Old Navy are so cute, I think they will actually be well received by two children who are only anticipating toys under our tree.
I haven’t bought winter coats in years, because one, like I said before, it’s California, and two we are usually lucky to be blessed with hand me downs. Maybe it’s time to wrap up a warm coat and put it under the tree. The kids always need a warm coat, and layering sweatshirts gets old after awhile. My girls don't like anything too puffy or too stiff, so I thought my best selection would be at Old Navy since they use soft materials like their micro fleece when making their coats.

For Caitlin I picked out some of the items that are on trend for this season. An Army Green Parka, on sale now for $55. Then I loved the red and black plaid wool blended jacket that is only $38. Finally I choose a plum fleece hoodie that looks so comfy and warm, and it’s only $25! I know I can only pick one, but this is a great start. My heart says Plum Fleece, but I really think she’d adore the parka with the furry hood!

For Mackenzie, I’ve stayed neutral and simple. Mac cannot do ruffles or fluff when it comes to jackets. Recently she asked for a jean jacket, which isn’t the warmest for winter, but we can layer if we have to. Plus at only $21, how can I really resist? Then I picked a fleece Anorak in navy blue, that is get this, only $18! That is crazy! Finally I picked a similar wool blend, but for Mackenzie I choose black and white. She’s conservative like that.

The “Need” prompt of “4 Gifts” is always a tough one for me, because I feel like my kids rarely need anything. They have more than enough on most days, but if I can get some useful gifts for school like warm coats, then it’s like two birds one stone. I try my best to stay within the guidelines of “4 Gifts”, it helps me stay within my budget, it helps me gift items that will actually get used, and it helps cut down on the excess toys that, usually get forgotten by New Year’s.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out Alyson’s blog where more bloggers are linking their "4 Gifts" post. And be sure to check out an awesome giveaway below!

Christmas Giveaway!
$165 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles

Wear To Where {Family Pictures or Tour your City}

I’m participating in the Wear to Where Tour with my friend Katy, who blogs at Wild and Wanderful.
If you are visiting from the link up today, Welcome and thanks for stopping by.

Where does a part time stay at home mama go when she wants a quiet minute to herself? The answer for me is Target, but I’m rarely dressed up when I hit Target by myself. Most times its after morning drop off and I’m in a variation of my pajamas. And why would I bother to blog about that? Well, actually I have been known to do so, but not this time. Today I’m sharing a new outfit of the day that worked for family pictures, will work for date night, and would absolutely work for that time you just want to look like something other than a “mombie” when you go out for coffee and a little quiet time.

These pictures were taken by the fantastic and talented team at Laura Hernandez Photography. Recently Laura was joined by her equally talented daughter Rachel, and their business has taken off. Rightfully so when you see these pictures. I’m lucky that this talented photographer is family! How cute are we, The Hubbs and I? I love that Laura gets The Hubbs to pose like this. We laugh so much during these photo sessions, because this isn’t us at all. We aren't this kind of couple, but when the time comes we have to much fun. Here he was telling me how unnatural it is to walk and hold someone this close at the same time. He’s a champ every year when we do these pictures! He get’s an even bigger laugh when Laura snaps some head shots for this blog! 

A little peek at Laura's magic!

My original prompt for this post was to tour your city, like a restaurant or museum, and I had every intention of doing that. Time got away from me however and with the chance to have some professional pictures taken for this post I jumped at the chance. In a way, I did tour a city. Laura took us on a walking tour of my former hometown. We took pictures right in front of the courthouse, and I walked the downtown streets of what was once home for the first time in probably twenty years! Some things have changed so much, and yet some are still the same. It took everything I had not to walk into Beverly's Fabrics, one of my all time favorites in Downtown Salinas.

Laura Hernandez Photography

On this day, I wasn’t rocking anything super fancy or out of my comfort zone. I’m in some extra comfy jeggings from Kohl’s, they are in the Juniors Department, and are the softest and most comfortable jeggings I have ever owned. The best part is that you can dress them up or down, depending on your mood. Trust me when I tell you they look equally good with a hoodie and Uggs. The top is new from Old Navy and again is both fancy or casual, depending how you wear it. My boots were a great clearance buy last year after Christmas at Target. This outfit was perfect for pictures and the ride home to Fresno. I even wore it to the neighbors house to watch the UFC fight (what an upset!). I’d wear this outfit again for a girls night out, for a date with The Hubbs, or to school for a Holiday Program or awards ceremony. It is officially on my list of outfits to rotate this season, especially if I add in a blazer or heavy sweater coat.

What do you think? Is this something that you could wear out and about, without looking like you tried too hard? Don't be surprised if I show up on the blog in this outfit of the day again!

Don't forget to check out the giveaway HERE!!

Confessions of a Home Gym Addict

I'm participating in Wear to Wear with my friend Katy, who blogs at Wild and Wanderful!
If you are visiting from the link up, welcome and thanks for stopping by!

I'm a person who has a gym membership but never goes to the gym. That doesn't mean that I don't work out... Sometimes. Most mornings you can find me in the comfort of my own home, before the kids get up, in my living room, getting in my morning work out. The best thing about working out at home is that you really can wear your pajamas to work out. I'll be honest, I don't spend a lot of money on workout clothes. For a short time I had a sweet love affair with Fabletics. From time to time I will buy work out clothes on clearance at Target or Old Navy. Not much effort goes into what I wear at my home gym, but some mornings, especially if my neighbor wants to go running, I will put in a bit of effort.

One of my favorite things to wear, now that it's actually Fall in California, are leggings. Usually you'll find me in black or grey, but at Elevate Conference in May, these fantastic leopard print babies (similar pair here) were in my swag bag!

Leggings, Workout tank, pullover, running shoes. This is how you will find me at my Home Gym. Some mornings I'll do a little Jillian (if I have a death wish). If I have it available "On Demand", I'll try out some yoga. My favorite workouts are short and to the point, because I don't like to work out or waste any time! Yeah, I'm that kind of girl. The great part is that this outfit is also acceptable at school drop off in the morning, and at Starbucks! I can't lose.

Are you one of those people who are devoted to your Home Gym? Leave me some comments on what work outs or DVDs you use. I'm always looking for new material. And be sure to check out the giveaway on Katy's blog!

Find more sweet leggings like my leopard print pair at Agnes and Dora!

4 Gifts 2015 {Want}

Did you know that there are just six weeks until Christmas? Are you as freaked out as I am? You would think since I'm a retail warrior, and have been setting Christmas ornaments out since October that I'd have a better handle on things. The truth is I don't even have a plan mapped out. I don't even have a list. That's why when my friend Alyson asked if I'd like to join her "4 Gifts" series again this year I jumped at the chance. It's the only way I'm really going to buckle down and think about gifts for my family this year. Plus it's a great way to prioritize what we really want versus what we really need.

 4 Gifts Christmas Blogging Series 2015

Not familiar with "4 Gifts"? It's basically about buckling down and getting the gifts that the people in your life really want. There are four categories: want, need, wear, read. The idea is to buy your family members one item that fits into each category. Last year I really tried to stick with this, and I did pay attention to what my girls really wanted. I was also able to focus on what they really needed, and how to incorporate that into gifts. The "need, wear, and read", is usually pretty simple, but the want is where I tend to go overboard. Participating in this link up will help me focus on what to buy and hopefully help me curb my spending. Which is really what gets me into trouble every year.

So what do the Crutchfields really want this year?

This year my both my girls are obsessed with Shopkins. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, take a moment and thank your stars. Shopkins are these tiny figurines of food, accessories, and kitchen appliances. They have lunch counter sets, shoe store sets, and the highly sought after ice cream truck/bus. This bus has been the talk of this town for months. They each are getting one from Santa, because this mom emailed Santa ages ago about this item.

Caitlin wants the new Text Cool bracelet maker. Do any of you remember that really cool label maker from the 80s? Where you punched the letters out onto plastic that had adhesive on the back? Well I do, and this Text Cool bracelet maker is basically the same idea. But instead of primary colored plastic, you have really cool neon and glitter plastic to make bracelets on. Caitlin promised if Santa delivers one of these she will make me a bracelet that says "#blogger". How on earth can I resist that? Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to use this bracelet maker more than she will.

Mackenzie decided months ago that she wants the Chocolate Pen. The chocolate is this really fun candy maker, that is basically a pen you can fill with melted chocolate and draw edible pictures on wax paper. I mean really? Who wouldn't want that. I realize that she is five, but I'm pretty sure Mackenzie can handle a Chocolate Pen!

All the Hubbs really wants for Christmas is a clean house. I'm not kidding you. If he could come home to a clean house, every day in December, his Christmas wishes will have come true!

Me? Well there area a few things I want this year, but the one that sticks out the most is this Sunburst Stacking ring from Lisa Leonard. Not only is the ring perfectly dainty, the story behind the ring just got me. This is the quote that you can find on her sight,

"Do you know that feeling; when you're walking through a dark time and you're wondering if hope or joy are even possible? Your heart is grieving. And then you feel it--just a hint of light. The smallest ray of hope. And you hold onto it as tightly as you can".

When I read that my heart almost stopped. I've felt exactly that. All those years ago when I was struggling with motherhood, and then one day there was just this little break in the clouds and I could feel that all was not lost. I really need to get this ring into my life. There is also a sterling silver design as well, if gold just isn't your thing.

That's it for our "wants" this year. Make sure to follow along with us, there are 10 or so bloggers participating this year and we all have great lists of wants, needs, wears and reads. Hopefully our lists can take some of the stress off you, and make your Christmas shopping a little easier.

And because we are a crazy group of bloggers, there's a giveaway too! The giveaway will go on for the next 4 weeks and each week you'll have more chances to enter. Be sure to scroll down and enter for your chance to win! Come back next week when we tackle "Need" in the "4 Gifts" series. 

Christmas Giveaway!

$165 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles

Looking in the Mirror {WIWW}

I hate the scale. My entire life I feel like I've been at battle with the bathroom scale. In high school and college I used to weigh backward so I didn't have to see the number. I had read that trick in one of my magazines, it was some article about the journey to self acceptance. Back then I read every article and every book that could anyway make me like myself better. In my mind I was never blond enough. I was never thin enough. I was always loud and obnoxious so I could always be the "funny" one. I had acne. I had glasses. I used to perm my hair. The battle with the scale eventually turned into the battle with the mirror. The mirror doesn't lie. Ever.

So much of that daily battle changed around my last year in college. I found confidence, I found a guy who actually like me, all of me. I was working in my field, I was graduating with my degree. I was on top of the world. Sure, I noticed when waistbands got tighter, I still recognized the jiggle of my thighs in a swimsuit, and I still made note of my belly, that was never as flat as the other girls. By then, at twenty three or twenty four, I didn't care as much. Still, the scale and the mirror were never on my side.

I'll admit I felt gorgeous on my wedding day. I had spent the previous six weeks dieting and exercising. In every pictures I'm happy and glowing, and my make up was flawless. I loved my wedding dress that fit so perfectly, how it hugged each curve just right. I love how I looked my thinnest ever. Unfortunately I spent the following seven days eating and drinking my way through Hawaii. And so the battle continued.

When I got pregnant, after the sickness went away, I spent my days eating ice cream and peanut butter cups. I loved those months when I didn't care about calories or fat grams. I knew the pounds wouldn't fall off right away, but I didn't think they would take as long as they did. I battled with the scale some more, but by the time Caitlin was a year, I was at a size I could handle. One pant and dress size bigger than I was in college and my wedding day. I thought that was pretty good. I felt like I could be that size forever and really accept it. I did accept it, for a few years until I became pregnant again.

The second time around I was very okay with eating my way through another pregnancy. I was okay knowing that when I left the hospital I was going to look like I was still pregnant. I was even okay knowing that I would be wearing my maternity jeans for another six months. Did I really care? They were the most comfortable jeans on earth! This time, after Mackenzie was born, I had some major complications. In the end, I left the hospital very weak, and by the time I was getting ready for a doctors appointment a week later, my regular jeans fit. I'll admit, I felt very triumphant. I wanted everyone to know that I was already back in my jeans. Take that second baby weight. Little did I know that that weight loss was just the beginning.

In the year and a half after Mac was born, I was extremely sick. I have food allergies anyway, but soon I was eating nothing but eggs and gluten free waffles. After Mac's second Christmas I went to see a specialist in Northern California because I was down to 110 pounds. Not only that, but my hair was falling out and nothing I ate seemed to stick. What I found out was that my food allergies went beyond Gluten and Wheat, and when it was all said and done I had to majorly overhaul my diet. I cut out all grains, caffeine and sugar. How do you even "mom" without caffeine? It was rough, I tell you, but I felt a lot better.

That was almost three years ago, and for two of those years, the weight seemed to steady. In the first year I gained back five pounds, which I accepted. However over the last two years I've gained ten more. Ten. That has been harder to accept. Those new jeans I had to buy after Mac had to go in our Goodwill pile, along with shirts and dresses. Today most of my clothes fit, but they are uncomfortable and don't fit like they used to. I spent the entire summer working out most days, for at least a half hour, running at night or in the morning with neighbors and there was little change. I'm sure I could have cut more (natural) carbs out of my diet, but seriously... I did not want to cut out any summer fruit or Larabars. Those are like my only treats!

Last month was The Hubbs class reunion. He was really excited about it, and to tell the truth I was too. I don't know many people he went to school with, but a night out was something that we needed. Date night plus a reason to get really dressed up and do both hair and make up sounded like a treat. My biggest concern was what to wear, considering I don't buy fancy clothes anymore. I had a few dresses in my closet and so I decided that I would try them on. However when I took them out of the closet I thought they looked dated. And let's be honest they were. One dress was from a friends wedding twelve years ago and the second was from the first year The Hubbs and I were married, ten years ago. I felt like I needed something that was more up to date with the trends. Black pants, black blouse, wedges, you get the picture. That plan was scraped days before the class reunion when I got what ever cold crud Mac had. I was too tired to shop. I went to one store and threw in the towel. I wasn't even sure I'd make it to the reunion with the way I was feeling.

I woke up the morning of the reunion feeling better. I thought about running to the mall to find something to wear, but I just didn't have the energy. Instead I shopped my closet and tried on the two dresses I had originally pulled out. With shoes and everything I modeled them for the peanut gallery (my family). The girls like both dresses, they didn't really have a strong opinion. I preferred a jade green dress that looks like a wrap around style but it isn't. It fit a little looser, and so I felt more comfortable. The Hubbs on the other hand liked the black dress with the leafy pattern (picture to follow). It wasn't my favorite and was a little tight in the problem areas. But he kept insisting on the black dress, even suggesting I go out and get a new pair of shoes since I felt the ones I had didn't really work with the dress. I really didn't like the black dress, I just knew it was going to highlight all my trouble zones. I was worried that I would be so uncomfortable that it would make me fidget all night. Still, The Hubbs insisted that it was the one. Fine. I found my beloved Spanx and hoped for the best.

I have to admit. It didn't look as bad as I had thought. I actually got a ton of cat calls on Instagram (thank you Instagram followers, love ya!), and my kids were super impressed with the high heels and curled hair. For the most part I wasn't uncomfortable at all that night. I wasn't pulling at my dress, I ignored those little bulges around my middle. The only time I complained was at midnight when my feet couldn't take those shoes any longer. I guess that's what happens when you practically live in Toms. The thing is, this dress served me up some truth that night. When I was talking to a sorority sister, who graduated high school with the Hubbs, she mentioned that she like my dress and asked me if it was new. I laughed and explained that this was probably the last fancy dress I bought for my best friends wedding twelve years ago. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "I wish something still fit me from twelve years ago".

Truth bomb, my friends. Boom.

I've spent almost an entire year worried about my weight. I stopped posting #ootd (outfit of the day, for you non bloggers) photos to Instagram because I was embarrassed that I wasn't as small as I was two years ago. I started to see every flaw, every bulge, every laugh line when I looked in the mirror. I forgot what it was like to actually like my reflection. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I could see where missed opportunities and the Paleo treats I was indulging. I couldn't see past any of those things.

The morning after the reunion I posted this lovely picture to Instagram, because I had a new truth in my heart about myself. Twelve years ago I was pretty happy with myself. I'm sure I worried about things like extra calories and those extra five pounds that have plagued me my entire life, but I remember when I wore that dress to that wedding all those years ago, and I was happy. I was confident. I think I was roughly the same weight I am now. I was healthy back then too. It was before babies and sleep deprivation. Before the postpartum  hemorrhage and the crazy insane "elimination diet". Twelve years ago The Hubbs thought I was one sexy mofo, and if I'm being honest he still does, as evidenced by the boob grabs multiple times a day. There is nothing wrong with this size, it's just one I have to get reacquainted with. Every day I reintroduce myself to this body, and every day, she forgives me a little more for hating her for so long.

I've written post after post about trying to find my confidence again. I know my abs will never be flat, I've accepted that now. My thighs may jiggle for eternity, and they have no gap. I may always carry an extra five pounds around. Does it really matter? I spent so much of my life wanting to be skinny, as if that was a sure sign of my ultimate success. But being Skinny isn't going to write my book. Skinny isn't going to be the best mother to my kids. Skinny doesn't enjoy Hulu and DVR programs as much as I do. In my life Skinny isn't a friend or a foe, and finally she's no longer an end goal. In my life Healthy is the happier kinder friend, who occasionally throws chocolate my way, and lets me be lazy on Sundays.

Today, looking in the mirror isn't so bad. I remind myself of the little victories, like fitting in a dress that I wore twelve years ago, or not being so sick it's a struggle to get out of bed and take care of my kids. I'm trying to look in the mirror everyday and be at peace with the person smiling back at me. To document those #ootd, even when my jeans are too tight, even with the angles are all wrong. This is my truth. This is who I am, and for the love of God, at thirty seven, shouldn't I just love it already?

The Silver Lining {My Summer as a Cliche Part Three}

Part One Here
Part Two Here

Before I started writing this post, I went back and read my post for the New Year. I vividly remember the place I was in all those months ago, and I wanted to see how I did. I didn't remember much of it to be honest, but I did recognize the underlying theme. I wanted to have resolve. I used a picture at the top of that post with this quote:

"Resolve to let go of everything
that isn't make your life better, sweeter, or richer,
so you can make room for everything that does".

How many times do we really go back and read our resolutions? How many times do we have forward progress to show that we held on to those words that were so sweet and rich with life in January? I never do. I rarely go back and read my life affirming January posts, because honestly most times they are a let down. This year, I was surprised. I found myself answering that specific call to action. I found myself on the other side of that prayer and mantra. It didn't matter that I had quit two jobs in less than three months time, I had found room for all the things that made life sweeter. Even better, I had finally invited them in.

Since realizing that I was living cliches, I'm so glad that I was able to land on a Silver Lining. All my dark clouds of the past year held a silver lining, but I didn't know it. To find it, I had to trust myself. I had to trust my heart, and I had to listen to my gut when it said, try this instead. I found that quitting two jobs was a very teachable moment. The lessons I learned weren't as simple as, "I can do hard things". The lessons learned were more along the lines of, "I can do something". Something about those times when I'm unhappy or sad or angry. I can take action. I can learn new things about myself. I can step off that impossibly high and scary step and fall. Falling sometimes flat on my face, but realizing it's the getting up that matters. It's finding that silver lining no matter what.

There were moments of panic. Moments where I just knew my decisions were going to catch up to me. Moments when I had to explain to my friends and family why I was or wasn't working. I was embarrassed for weeks because I always thought I'd be smarter about things. That I would have done more research before quitting one job and jumping into another. I let that embarrassment blind me to the fact that I was actually doing what I had been dreaming of doing. I was actually living those sweet moments that brought happiness instead of intense anxiety. I was right where I needed to be. Soon that reddening embarrassment faded. And what was left was me, and I had to get reacquainted.

I found that the silver linings were the answered prayers of spending summer days with my daughters. Being home at night to put them to bed. Spending entire Saturdays doing nothing and everything. Silver linings in the form of saying yes to Girl Scout events and family birthday parties, being able to make random trips to the fro-yo shop with the neighbors. Silver linings that appeared as Target trips and cupcake baking and late night movies in mommy's bed. Silver linings that made me realize that I didn't want to miss these moments anymore.

Those silver linings served as perfect lessons in what I "can do". I learned that I can quit. Be it a job or something else. I can say the words I quit, and the world does not end. I can change my circumstances. I can change them to make me happier or to help my family. I can change the circumstances surrounding any event in my life as I see fit. I can and deserve to be happy. That it's within me to ask for those things that make me happy. Realizing I have the power to do what makes me happy, which is a pretty powerful lesson. I learned that I can leap with out looking, that I can let go of what if and just fall. I can say yes to something that scares me so badly, and pushes me to the outer limits of my comfort zone. I can let it go, let it be, and just wait and see. Let life work out for the best. Trust that I've made a good decision. I've learned that I can go back to the beginning, I can start over, and I can move forward.

The best part, now that I know I can... I will.

In January I wanted to let go of all of those things that didn't make my life sweeter. Six months later I took a little journey of self discovery and lived life as a cliche. I'm not sorry that I did. Good or bad, leaving one job for another served a greater purpose in my life. It allowed me to make room for what makes my life sweeter. It helped me find my silver linings. Taking that leap of faith pushed me to open my heart and my mind to falling and failing, and finding out that I can get a new lease on life.

As long as I'm willing to look for it.

Five Things {ten twenty five fifteen}

Since I've neglected this spot for some time, I needed a way to bring you half way up to speed on my life. So I picked five things that went on over the last week or so.

#1 Sick Days
I'm just beginning to feel better. I was sick for over a week and it got worse before it got better. I'm a real pain in the ass when I get sick because there isn't much I can do about it. Most antibiotics contain some kind grain or sugar I cannot have. Also, most cough syrups contain HFCs, which I cannot have because I'm allergic to corn. So while I went to the doctor, I couldn't take anything that was prescribed. Bummer. So I just kind of whined and bitched my way through the week. My husband is one lucky man.

#2 Class Reunions
The Hubbs had his class reunion last weekend. I knew we couldn't miss it, so I went even though I was sick. Yeah, I know. It didn't help at all and made me worse. It was worth it though. I got dressed up, heels even. I curled my hair and put on make up! And of course it was a date night for the two of us. With dancing I may add. So even though I woke up on Sunday worse for wear, I'm so glad we went.

#3 Red Ribbon Week
Red Ribbon Week was almost the death of me. Maybe it was because I was sick. Maybe it was because I was not prepared, truth is I just totally sucked at Red Ribbon Week. In years past the dress up days have been, Super Hero Day, Pajama Day, Crazy Hair Day. Those I can do. Those are easy and usually I have something in my house so I don't have to buy anything. This year was, Neon Day, Surf/Hawaiian Day, Mix Match Day. On the surface they appear easy, but when you actually have to find something that both kids like, is comfortable and within the dress code... Disaster.

One happy kid, one kid who gives zero...

#4 Writing vs. Working Out
Confession: I cannot workout and write on the same day. It never happens. I either wake up early to work out and then I fall asleep before I get time to write, or I don't work out and then spend that time writing. Second confession: I didn't do much of either last week. I'm in this holding pattern of what is more important right now. I feel like I'm stretched so thin already that I have to choose between my thighs and my blog. That's a really tough choice for me. I want to do both. I really do. I want to be the kind of woman who wakes up in the morning and runs five miles and then writes for two hours a day. I dream of being that kind of woman, but I'm not her. Not today. I'm really thinking about this writing challenge for November, but I'm scared. I'm scared I'll fail. I'm scared I'll get writers block. But then I'm also scared that if I don't dive in now, if I don't concentrate on my words instead of my thighs, I'll never really concentrate on my words. I'm still thinking. I'm still sitting on fear.

#5 Christmas is eight weeks away
I'll let that sink in. I'll let that play with your emotions. Christmas is my favorite, but its also the hardest holiday. Don't you think? I'm already in a tizzy about Christmas gifts because, I HAVE NOT STARTED! Oh, the panic and the pressure. Can't I just buy every single thing on Amazon and have it shipped. Damn if I'm not going to try. Also the girls wanted to play Christmas music today and so we did. And I kind of liked it even though it's not even Halloween. Maybe that's what happens when you work in retail. Christmas is always.

Five things. Just to bring you up to speed. Hopefully I won't disappear again.