Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cali Girl

Can I just say I love San Diego. I am really a Cali girl at heart. I wish I could have everything I love about Jersey and Cali in the same place.

And apparently my son does too.

Who can resist a fresh tortilla? Not this girl. Cheese, guacamole...Lord Jesus be a calorie burner! Like seriously I literally bought tortillas being freshly made from a restaurant when I was just out roaming the streets. I was definitely Mexican in another life.

 And I mean if you don't know the goodness that this light brings...I feel bad for you lol. 

The food was amazing as usual. I even found this new place that had amazing salads when I had to break from my usual Mexican cuisine. 

Another awesome part of course was the reunion of ebony and ivory.

I got a chance to take the bambinos to visit their great-grandparents and great-great grandparents. I miss my grandparents so much at times but this felt good.

So many things I love about my hometown. I guess I need to start doing my annual trips again. Don't want to forget my roots (which are also in Jackson, MS). 

Another joyful adventure courtesy of summer vacation. See why I love summer!

What are some things you love from your hometown? There is so much more to San Diego than food but I must admit that is what I miss the most (the weather is close second lol). 

I have a few other things to share from my trip so stay tuned!

I Believe in Jesus and Sometimes the Chinese

On part of my trip to my hometown San Diego, California this past week, I visited Balboa Park. Here they have a section called the United Nations. Each country is represented with a small cottage house that provides information about the country. We visited almost all of them but my favorite was the Chinese house by far. I got my name written in Chinese (along with the word treasure), learned that I was born in the year of the Ox, and got a fortune cookie.

Everything I got and read spoke to me and my friend that I was spot on. Here is what was in my fortune cookie.

Uh yeah about that, I am literally starting school next month to become a marriage and family therapist. I have been trying to figure out my calling outside of education for years. I don't think this was a coincidence.

Here is what I learned about people born in the year of the Ox.

I mean...where do I begin? Quiet, patient, yet anger easily and display it openly--I have come a long way in this area. Thank God for Jesus! Perfect housewife (I wish) but often wears the pants in her household--I hollered when I read this. Best mates--definitely married to a Rat (whose description is also very like my husband).  

All in all y'all know I love Jesus but I'm definitely feeling the Chinese. 

Have you ever gotten a fortune cookie that spoke to you or looked up information about the year you were born? I'd love to know if you found similarities as well.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

If Your Happy and You Know It...

So my son's current favorite song is If Your Happy and You Know It. He actually claps, stomps, and shouts hooray at the appropriate times--super cute (thank you Barney).

Listening to this song repeatedly got me thinking--if we are happy do we really show it? Most of the time, I don't think that we do. I am on my husband all the time about looking like he is actually enjoying what ever is going on. Sometimes when I watch him, I feel like he looks like he is either sad or mad even when he is really having a good time.  If you are enjoying something, you shouldn't look annoyed or like you lost your best friend right?

I am sure we all can think of one person that no matter when you ask them how they are doing, they ALWAYS have some negative response. Like really? I know everything isn't always roses but if EVERY time someone asks you how you are doing and you can't say anything positive you really need to evaluate your life (yes I said your life please re-evaluate the whole thing). In fact I am not even going to ask you how you are doing anymore because who likes a Debbie Downer? But I digress...

Anyhow, I think everyday we have something to be happy about. Yesterday, I was happy because I baked cookies and conquered laundry. Somedays, I am happy just because I got a good nights rest or was able to get a workout in.
(These Reece's Peanut Butter beauties were amazing!)

Some days I am less happy than others but I can find joy in even the simplest things-- a smile or kiss from my son, something great in a devotional reading, a good talk with a friend--the list goes on. Even if it is just five minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom or a tantrum free meal with my son, I'll take it. 

I think we if we are happy--joyful we should show it so we can be a reflection of our blessings and make others feel the happiness too. Spread some joy. I love seeing other people happy. Yesterday I simply shared cookies with some friends and was able to spread some joy. If all of us share a little bit of happiness, we'd all be so much happier/more positive. 

I don't want my son or others to think I am the grinch even when I am feeling a little lousy. We should work to focus on what we are richly blessed with instead of the few things that we may want or feel like we should have. I once heard that whatever you talk about or think, you are. So why not say and think positive things as often as possible? If you want to frown why not smile or do something nice for someone else instead? I bet you you'll feel better.

Overall, I am happy so I want to make sure that I show it and you should to.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stay in the Game

So today I have been tackling my household to-do list. I spent all morning folding and ironing laundry and unpacking from our family trip. Lord Jesus if that isn't a job. I don't know how all of this stuff gets done when I have to work...It probably doesn't hehe.

When I took a break though, I caught up on some DVR and Pinterest...I love me some Pinterest.  I got some of the word via Joel Osteen--much more successfully than trying to get the word in church with a toddler. He talked about Staying in the Game (Isaiah 60:1) especially when things get hard or when we just don't feel like we can or want to move forward.

Then as I caught up on Oprah's Next Chapter-Tyler Perry was in this particular episode. He said "if you are going to walk in faith, it truly will test everything you have." Well I think I got that.

As my summer vacation is winding down, I know I will be tested in these coming months. But I am going to walk in faith. I can walk with faith because I know what God has promised me and he will not let me down. So while I am not ready to be back dealing with other people's children, their parents, school politics, and working mom struggles, I am prepared because I have faith.

When things get tough,  I will remind myself of Job. Joel Osteen talked about him during his message. Job had a much greater loss than any of us could imagine (all happening at the same time I might add) but he remained faithful and because he stayed in the game, he was rewarded with far more than he'd lost. We must stay in the game at all times. Even when I don't feel like it myself, I am going to encourage others and try to remain positive even in the midst of chaos. So when I have days that I am dreading going to work for whatever reason, or questioning tough decisions that I may have to make, I am going to choose to stay in the game and to help others stay in the game with me.

We got this.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Fun-Day

I think Sundays are one of my favorite days of the week. It is like the official family/relaxation day for me. I don't like to do anything outside of the house unless it's a walk, church, or maybe eating out if I don't cook.

Our Sunday tradition is have nice breakfast--today I made chocolate chip pancakes, church, nice lunch--today I fired up the grill, and nap. Lately though, my son has been slacking in the desire to nap department...YIKES. I swear I think he really thinks he might miss something. He positioned himself in such a funny way when he did pass out that I had to snap a picture. Who sleeps with their shirt up??

Today he wouldn't go down until after 4PM. Not prime nap time but once he went down and so did I. I love a good nap. I still live by the mom rule--sleep when the baby sleeps (even though he is far from a baby)--some of the best mommy advice I ever took.

Anyhow, I kind of missed most of the sermon today during church. This happens more often than not lately. Truth be told, toddlers are a distraction. By the time the sermon starts my boy is ready to be on the move. I got bits and pieces of it in the cry room (aka baby play land) but it is hard for me to focus when I am not in the sanctuary and there are toys blasting--I keep forgetting to ask someone to crank up the volume in there. I will be glad when he is old enough for children's church.

My pastor has been talking about God's Promises though. We are starting a novel study of sorts using the book God's Promises For Your Every Need by A.L. Gill. Lucky for me, I already have the book. I started it a long time ago. I can't remember much about it though (clearly it did not move me), but hopefully I'll finish it this time around so I can feel somewhat apart of the learning experience at church.

Hope you had a wonderful Sunday! What are some of your Sunday traditions? I'd love to hear.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Get Pregnant Again, Please

If I had a dollar for every time someone said this or some variation of it to me, I'd be rich. Sometimes when people ask me, I am like I would love to--in the back of my mind. But most of the time I feel like this:

Did I mention that twins run in my family? If I would have had twins the first time around I would have been thrilled--that was actually my secret hope. But getting twins after my first child--no thanks. I also had such a great experience with having a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. I can't guarantee that will happen again so why chance it?

On a more serious note, I actually have really thought long and hard about this decision. So many people have asked me why would I do that to my child--no one seems to care about what that child would do to my body and life but I digress--so I did a little research of my own to see if only children were in fact the selfish, lonely kids that everyone proclaims them to be.

What I found from observing the only children that I know is that they are all just as normal and kind as people who have multiple siblings. I only have one only child friend that proclaims that she is selfish but she is really fine. I even met a mom who has a daughter the same age as my son who was an only child and she said she loved it and didn't plan on having any other children herself.

After reading a bunch of articles, I found that having only one child has become more common. The reality is children are expensive. Do you know how much daycare is??? Kids and student loans don't mix--and not just for me. Also, most stereotypes about only child have also been proven false. I also read that only children have closer relationships and talk more with their parents (who else are they going to talk to at home??). However, what stood out to me the most was that parents that have more than one child and tend to focus on the child "that needs the most help" and that can make the other child(ren) feel alienated and cause resentment among siblings even when they have the best intentions. I know this to be true for me personally being a middle child (go ahead and google all the issues we have lol).

Truth be told I can count on one hand how many people in my family have successfully raised multiple children from start to finish (if you count me and my cousins it would be more but I am talking historically--we are a new breed). From start to finish I mean birth to college (or job/trade/career) without extended stays at grandma's, foster care, and/or being put out prior to eighteen. I don't doubt that me and my husband could handle another child but why try to be a trailblazer?  Adding one healthy, happy, contributing member to society will be enough of a job well done for me. Quality over quantity all day over in the Dixon household.

In fact, I am content with one baby. Babysitters are easier to come by with one child. I don't have to worry about dividing myself any further (christian, wife, mom, and working woman are enough divisions of me already). My husband and I can easily swap responsibilities so neither of us is too overwhelmed...babies are a lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you other wise. They are super cute but they will run you wild.

I mean take right now for instance. I'm on summer vacation, the hubbs is at work, baby is a daycare so I have some me time--always nice and needed. My to-do list is a mile long BUT I can get things done (or not done...hehe) at my own pace.

I am not knocking anyone that has multiple children. In fact, more power to them because honey they are doing it (and I have several people that I know that are doing it well). But I don't think that will be my journey.

So sorry, my mother in-laws quest for 12 grandchildren will not be fulfilled by me (she has three children and her and her husband did an awesome job). I do wish I would have done a few more things like taken more pictures while I was pregnant so I could have documented that time a little better but at the time I felt fat and frumpy lol...that's a whole different blog post right there. All my pregnant friends are doing such cute things now--where was Pinterest when I was pregnant? But while I would do a few things differently, there is nothing like having your first child. I couldn't imagine being pregnant and having a child to care for. I mean I slept so much lol. So while there are things I would do differently, I wouldn't change that experience for the world.

In the mean time I will celebrate the births of my friends children and enjoy being in the mommy club with other great moms--we all rock no matter how many children we have.

The moral of this story is don't let anyone make you feel like you have to do anything in any given time frame. Do whatever the heck you want, whenever you want to. Trust me know one who was all for me having my son came by to change diapers or to help with my son (although I did have some great friends bring me dinner...really helpful for any family that has just had a baby no matter what number baby they are on).

Now tell everyone to stay out of my uterus!

PS is a great resource for parents with one child. It has tons of information of navigating the waters of raising a well-rounded one child and overcoming the stigma attached to only children.

Be warned-I write this post with an open mind and heart. So if I change my mind later don't judge me :).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jamaica, Jamaica

So we had so much fun in Jamaica! Vacations away from cell phones, Facebook, and Pinterest are definitely needed...well maybe a little Pinterest wouldn't have hurt hehe.

We spent virtually every day at the pool and beach. I actually realized that I do in fact know how to swim (thank you Howard University mandatory swim class). My brother in-law pointed out that I just don't want to get my hair wet...good point. I'm not ready to dive into the deep end yet but I did pretty good. People make it seem so effortless though. That's where I want to get.

Anyhow, did you know swim up bars were a thing?? I didn't know about them but boy was it nice. I am now a fan of all inclusive resorts too. I love a good cruise but resort living was great.

I loved unlimited time with this cutie.

But I don't know if I loved him skipping his naps. Thank God there were his grandparents and other family there to help entertain him.

He loved the water. He's a water baby for real.

One of my favorite parts aside from the water was the food. I had so many of my Jamaican favorites, but I did work out daily. The mangos were amazing. Can you tell?

Vacations and summer are pure bliss. I hope you are enjoying your summer so far because I am all in.

We have one more flight before we are officially home. So I better get ready to go. Until next time...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Produced by Faith

So after finishing Lean In, I started Produced By Faith by DeVon Franklin. This book is AMAZING! Coupled with Lean In, I feel like I am ready to conquer the work world while embracing my womanhood and my faith.

Lean In was a good powerful quick read. I thought there was going to be more but it was good and will definitely help me navigate the work world with my eyes wide open to women's issues. I'll give you my key takeaways from that book in a little bit.

But Produced By Faith will make you shout...LITERALLY shout (I swear I almost broke into praise dances several times while reading this on the beach and on the treadmill). Brother Franklin (because I swear he could be a deacon in any of our churches) is dropping knowledge and really taking us to church. I don't want to spoil the book but here are my key takeaways so far:

1. We are in control of only two things. What??? Tell that to me and all my sister friends that love to plan. Brother Franklin states that these two things are "how we prepare for what might happen and how we respond to what just happened". Well if that wasn't plain as day. But how much do we all really think we are in control of?? Too much I am willing to bet. Preparing and responding that's it. How are you handling that right now? I'm making progress but I have more growth to do in this area for sure.

2. Success has many definitions. 
I, probably like a lot of people, think of success in terms of having to do with job security, a nice salary, living in a nice area, owning a home, etc. However, Brother Franklin challenges that notion and poses these as definitions of success: 

"Success is confidence and contentment in the person God has made you to be."

"Success is living a good, just, and honorable life, becoming the kind if person who inspires others to follow God."

Now that makes success sound so much sweeter. Inspire people to follow God...without being in a pulpit? Have confidence and be content? Uh, yeah sign me up! I told you Brother Franklin is killing me with these gems. Thinking of success in this way only validates when career changes, friend changes, attitude adjustments, etc are a necessary. Our lives--including our work lives--should reflect our faith journey. We can act with confidence even when others might not agree because we know we are working towards something bigger. People we can potentially inspire are watching. Act accordingly.

3. Being tested is normal
That may sound cliche but sometimes I'm like really? I just got X now Y is a hot mess. Can I ever catch a break? But this book really spoke to me about being tested and how important it is to move through a test. The test is preparation. I can think back on so many times when I really wanted something but I was not ready for it--even if I didn't want to admit that at the time--but because of a test (or multiple tests), I got ready. I told one of my friends that I believe now more than ever (especially after reading this book) that you can't have a testimony without a test. Jesus is testing us the same way people in the bible were tested. We can be literally one test away from our blessing and miss it because we waver. We have to be steadfast and we'll be all right. It is very scary but it always works out--and most of the time it's better than what we'd originally hoped for.

I promise you if you read this book, it will bless you. This book is definitely going to be on my Christmas gift list for people this year.

Stay tuned for part II on this book when I finish reading it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bon Voyage!

So we are headed on our first family vacation (with my husbands family).

We have made our first stop in Florida. Me and my husband are over here cracking up at some of my mother in-laws purchases for my son. Bless her heart. 

I am grateful my son is loved though. I wasn't going to Jamaica at soon to be 2 years old, let alone having all this fancy swim gear (which includes goggles). Who know the kiddie pool was so dangerous.

Hopefully he doesn't float away cause I can't swim hehe. 

He is still walking around in this thing! It must not be as uncomfortable as it looks.

Be Seen

My devotional reading today challenged me to make sure that my life is a visible reflection of my answered prayers and spiritual growth. I don't know about you but sometimes this is tough. I mean I think I represent well, but it is definitely a challenge when I find myself in difficult and awkward situations. One of my friends and I often joke that when we are wronged or people say crazy things to us that Jesus just saved their life. LOL. I am so serious. Jesus has saved a few people from getting their feelings hurt... that's evidence of growth right? My mouth lord continue to work on taming my tongue I have come a mighty long way though.

Anyhow, the devotional One Minute for God by Hope Lyda used the analogy of when someone works out, they want people to notice. So when we study the word, pray, fellowship, etc--we should expect results and want people to notice. How we do things should change. How we react when tested and discouraged should change. Yes, even if that means you have to have choice words for someone in your head instead of out loud; baby steps count. 

I want to be seen being a true believer. It may look corny to some. Some people may say I am living in a fantasy world. That's ok. 

If you are unhappy with a current situation that's fine. But while you may have a temporary set back, make sure you profess that you have faith that things will turn around. If someone hurts you--even after you've helped them and shown them love--be sure you don't give up on love. Continue to be kind. Don't get taken advantage of by any means but  don't let someone else's hurtful actions cause you to change who you are. Even if you struggle, share your struggle. You will let someone else know that even though we are believers, we fall down and are tested (oh man are we tested) but we will rise again. It's not easy but it's so worth it.

I have so many great friends that I can just tell by their lives and happiness that they are believers. They are not perfect but they are resilient. You can see it in their pictures, in what they are doing, in who they have become. They are enjoying life. Young, fabulous, and Christian. I like that.

So no matter what, when times are good, when times are not so good--let your outward walk be a reflection of your inward growth and development.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sharing is Caring

Flex Your Independence

Well independence day has came and went. I am sure we all enjoyed the day off from work, endless BBQ, and fireworks. But speaking of Independence, I am currently reading a book called Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. I am not even to the halfway mark yet according to my Kindle, but it is definitely challenging me in positive ways. It makes me think of being independent--being fierce as a woman, as a woman of color, as a mother, as a wife, and as a working mom.

One of the things she said that stood out to me in the very first few pages of the book was "knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better". I often look at my own workplace and marvel at how far we have come but I realize now more than ever, we have an even longer way to go if we want to be a "company" (I put this in quotation marks because we are a public charter school but I like to think of us as any other successful company that exists today because we work like we should be on Wall St) that gets and keeps extraordinary woman educators; especially those of color and those that have children.

Initially our company did not have very many woman with children. In fact, I believe that there were only one or two woman with children when I first arrived at little over four years ago. But now babies are coming fast as lightening--there must be something in the water because clearly I drunk it too.

Sandberg says that "a woman needs to combine niceness with insistence". This can be tough because I am definitely a nice person. This is not necessarily a bad quality but in the work place, sometimes people definitely take advantage of "nice" woman. I have worked through my stomach being in knots so that I can make sure that I get the accommodations I deserve given what I bring to the table for the betterment of my own personal sanity and for my family (and also to help other woman who will come after me). I was pleasantly surprised that I was obliged but how many woman don't even raise the questions or ask for what they could potentially get because of fear? As woman, Sandberg points out, we often downplay our strengths and accomplishments in ways that men don't. Men ask and we often work through the challenge or struggle.

My challenge to you is what could you ask for or make someone aware of that could enhance your work life as a woman? In Lean In, Sandberg tells the story about asking for a closer parking space when she was pregnant while working at google after she over exerted herself trying to make it to the meeting after having to park far away one particular day. She was given what she asked for and her boss let her know that he hadn't even thought about pregnant woman at the company needing that accommodation. She said that she wondered how many woman before her had suffered. But because she spoke up, pregnant woman now have closer parking, which I am sure they all appreciate--I know I would.
Now I am not talking about asking for grandiose pay raises or pawning of your responsibilities on others (I would also not encourage you to get out of hand with requests until you have gain your footing within your company); I am talking about reasonable accommodations that can make a huge impact on your work life and in turn your own family life.

I'll give you an example.
I have to be at work at 7:15AM (go ahead and is crazy). This school year I asked for 15 extra minutes so I could potentially actually see my child in the morning. I was asked to take a pay cut but refused. Really for 15 minutes? That's ridiculous and no one brought it up again so I thought I was clear. As the school year progressed though, I realized that all I could do in that time was literally see my son (and he is not an early riser so that didn't even always happen). No getting him dressed, no breakfast, no dropping him off at daycare, nada. This got extremely frustrating particularly on days where I didn't end work until 6PM or later.
So, before I signed my contract for the next school year I insisted that 7:30AM was not enough. When I found out how much of a salary reduction I would have to take to come in at 8AM, livid isn't even the word that could describe how I felt. I was ready to walk (literally right then I wanted to pack all my stuff and leave). Even if I did not have another job offer (which I did) I should not be treated so unjustly as a woman, as a working mom, and woman of color. What man in my company would ever have to do such a thing? Why would I have to give up so much when my company was still getting all of the work they wanted from me? For an extra 45 minutes a day...yeah right, I was not having that.
Needless to say, I expressed my frustration and concerns with my boss. This was a series of very tense conversations and emails over the course of a few weeks. We need to develop better policies for working moms I told him. I was nice but firm. I knew this would not happen overnight so, I agreed to a to a compromise--a schedule that was more in line with the salary reduction I was being asked to take. Not 100% what I would like but a start. As a result, I can already tell that next school year will be better for all of us. That additional time will allow me to hug my baby in the morning and have breakfast with him before stepping foot into a classroom. Do I feel guilty? Absolutely not. Was I nervous? Heck yeah. But it had to be done. I was getting angry and bitter just thinking about a pay cut and that doesn't help me be a better parent or educator. I had to challenge the powers that be because if I am going to give my very best at work, my son needs that at home as well and I have to have time to give it to him. As woman, we have to do these kinds of things. I wouldn't say we have to be fearless (somethings/conversations are just plain scary) but we can't let fear stop us. 

Right now my son is the epitome of fearless. Even after a fall--he likes to jump on pretty much anything. In fact he even took a tumble off the couch yesterday but after a few tears,  he was jumping on the couch again in a matter of minutes. While I will never be as fearless as a child, I want to move forward as a woman with confidence in the workplace. Lean In is helping me with that already.

While I know strides have been made in my own workplace and many around the country, we have to make sure that people become too comfortable. People can't fix what they don't know is broken. We have to speak up. Needs are always changing. We are evolving. We have a lot of growing to do, especially in young companies. Woman in leadership have to speak up because what they say and don't say will affect the woman that follow them.

Anywho-I know that was a lot but this book really has me thinking.

How do you deal with woman's issues in your workplace? I'd love to hear. I'd also encourage you to check out the book Lean In. Let's follow up about how it ends later.

Happy Baby

All summer I'm probably going to be talking about how much I love summer and wonderful it is to relax by myself and with my family, so prepare yourself. I mean I just can't get enough of watching my son's personality develop and the extra time that I am getting to spend with my husband.

This summer I am getting a lesson on happiness. Every morning my son wakes up with a smile on his face, babbling about something. I usually never roll out of the bed happy, but he always brightens my mornings when he does. He's such a happy baby.

That's the kind of happiness that I want to exude (maybe not right as I roll out of bed though hehe). I am already a pretty happy person. I often think people think I am nuts because no matter what happens, I just like to dust myself off and keep pushing. 
I definitely get hurt and disappointed but I simply choose to stay in the game. Who wants to roll around in misery? Not I. I want happiness, better yet I want joy.

In the pursuit of happiness/joy factor this weekend, I spent some quality time with my boo boo. This is him lounging watching Barney. He is now able to climb on the couch by himself so I didn't even have to stage these photo's--he's just a little lounge lizard with his fruit snacks. Where did my baby go??

And yes, I let him watch TV (Barney, Veggie Tales, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, etc)--how else does a working mom get to cook and clean lol?? He learns so many words and songs from these shows, it's amazing. They are actually quite educational. They are singing ABC's, counting, talking about sharing, the importance of napping, going to the dentist, etc. I mean after watching the same episodes a million times, I even find myself singing along with him at the most random times.

I also baked up a storm trying out new recipes for his cookie party next month--Jalen's Sweet Second Birthday (thank you Pinterest). These goodies are cake batter cookies. Soooo yummy! I may have to include a blog with recipes one day.

My son was a total cookie monster especially with these white chocolate chip snickerdoodles. I let him put in the white chocolate chips so it was only right to let him get a taste. I guess he approves of these for the party.

I need my treadmill belt to come on quick so I can fix it. With all these sweets I need double cardio everyday.
This is happiness for real.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Let it Flow

I love to plan but I hate having plans to do things on the weekends or most of the time when I am not working. I am more of a go with the flow kind of girl for the most part. Too many "plans" make me antsy sometimes. An overly scheduled weekend gives me anxiety. I am not trying to cram 4-5 things into a Saturday (or any day really). Maybe  I won't feel like going or maybe I'd rather read or do nothing at all but relax at home. So because of all these variables, I often avoid plans (unless it's a cruise then by all means sign me up...hehe).
So when my first cousin (yes first cousin...I told you I'm a little country at heart) said she and her son were coming into my neck of the woods at first I was like Lord how am I going to entertain them? What should I cook? I really need to clean. Then I said forget all of that and I'm going to just let it flow. I didn't specifically lay out what we should do down to specific times and locations, I just made plans to simply have fun with my family in just a few stops at our own pace and boy did we have fun 
We went to the fair.
My son cracks me up when he tries new things. He acts like he is scared of whatever it is--in this case a cherry icee-- but then goes for it; even if he keeps making faces. Kids.

We saw fireworks.

I actually found a pretty nice park in my town and we got a great free show. I wonder what other gems they have around here for families.

We went to NYC.

I ventured into the city without my husband or someone else who knows the city well so my cousin and her son could get a little tour. This is momentous because I try to avoid the city like the plague--unless it's for Dallas BBQ of course.
Can I just say that the 9/11 memorial is breath taking! I wanted so badly to meet someone who was there to see the name of their loved one or friend inscribed in wall of one of the pools just to hear their story. I am sure there are so many stories there to be told. I really tried to take it all in. What a beautiful way to honor those who lost their lives.

 But as I am taking everything in, this happened.
This kid loves water...what can I say. But boy we are at a memorial?!? Sit down please!
Can I add that I loved that me and my cousins son's got to hangout? My family is so spread out now that they won't have even a small amount of the experiences we had together growing up. So I cherish moments like these. Even though I usually dread going into the city because it is too crowded and the train system is too confusing I did it--and we made it back to Jersey just fine. I also didn't feel the pressure to cook every single meal or clean like a mad woman everyday. I think I may adopt this policy for all guests.

All in all, I had a really good time with these "plans". I mean it's not everyday you get to see the world's largest Reece's (don't worry, I didn't buy it). My feet and legs are on fire though from all this working. At least I got a little workout in too. I love a good two for one.

In the book, It's a Wonderful Imperfect Life: Daily Encouragement for Women Who Strive Too Hard by Joan C. Webb it says "no matter what a day brings, it is a gift from God-and a reason to celebrate." So even though I am exhausted, hot, and sticky (because it was like 100 degrees yesterday), I am so glad I got to spend these precious days with my family and didn't try to avoid these "plans".

Next week, Jamaica with my husbands family. I am sure I'll have even more fun to share. I have no "plans" for while I am there, so I am excited to see what we end up doing.

Stay tuned and be sure to celebrate a little yourself.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living it Up

I love summer vacation. It is one thing I can wholeheartedly say I love about being a teacher. Even though we only get one month in the charter school world, I must say that I am enjoying the self guided pace of each day. I love being able to do things that I don't regularly get to do often with my 7AM-5PM work schedule most days...I know I know I cringe just writing that.

This week I challenged myself to start running. My treadmill is currently out of commission so I needed to find another cardio alternative for a few weeks. I have actually tried to start running for months. I even went out to run on Monday only to have to turn around after only one lap because of the rain (aka the monsoon) that took over after I finally willed myself to lace up my running shoes and hit the ground running. I was starting to think that even Jesus didn't want me to run but I have made it to Thursday running a little more each day. It is actually is not as bad as I thought it would be. I can't say that I love it though.

I have been on a journey for a little over a year to lose my baby weight and then some. I feel like I have had a weight struggle since college. Gain--lose--gain--lose--get pregnant---flat line. So far this time around I have lost 60lbs. "For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise, again" ~Proverbs 24:16a. Most of the time though, I feel like this:

However yesterday, I was really inspired by this older woman on my block who was also working out while I was running. She was walking back and forth on a hilly corner on our block. It didn't look like she was doing much but, lap after lap I saw her still there walking. This reminded me that every little bit counts. Even if I have a not so great eating day, I will never be where I was as long as I remain active. At least now I am making sure I work out after the cake right?? I will always be addicted to sweets--I mean my roots are from the south and I am a pretty decent baker so can you blame me??. But, if I can just stick to my 80/20 rule (eating good 80% of the time and 20% of the time enjoying myself...although for the summer this is more like 70/30) I know I will be fine. I have made a lifestyle change.
I am committed to exercising and remaining active. I even got a nifty little band called the Up band by Jawbone to help me track my steps so I have something to measure how active I am even if I can't necessarily get a work out in--which I know will be tough for me in the fall with being a wife, a mommy, working woman, teen mentor at church, and going back to school...what in the heck am I getting myself into?!??. But I am only 22lbs away from my first big weight loss goal (that would make a whooping 82lbs of weight loss post-baby). I know I can do this. All my friends are losing weight and love Jesus so I know I can too. One of my good friends lost over 100lbs so I know that real woman are loosing weight in healthy ways without depriving themselves. I am ready to live it up and I can only do that by living an active lifestyle. I probably won't run much once my treadmill is fixed but I am glad that I tried it out and know that I can do it.
In the book One Minute with God for Women (this is currently my favorite devotional can't you tell), Hope Lyda says "deliberate living gives you divine awareness". I want to live it up for a long time so I am going to deliberately make my health a priority. I have been blessed to not have any health problems related to being overweight and I plan to keep it that way by working hard to not be over weight. Being healthy has definitely helped me to see things clearer too.
What are some goals you have for yourself as we finish out this year? How are you working through the struggles along the way? I'd love to hear. No matter how many times we may fall, there is always an opportunity to rise again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Bible Series

I am obsessed with the Bible miniseries. My husband bought it for me for mother's day after I only caught part of the series when it was on TV. I am obsessed with seeing bible stories I have read and heard about come to life (and not just in some cheesy movie either...this "movie" is legit). There were also a few stories that I had not heard of and I am super excited to have a fire lit under me to continue reading and learning God's word. I am also reading this book with my son:

Re-reading the word through his eyes is amazing. The message at last Sunday's service was about making sure we teach our children God's word and I plan to do just that by not just reading to him but by continuously learning the word for myself. You can never get enough Jesus right??

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path~Psalms 119:105