I have always wanted to keep a journal. I picture a cornucopia of notebooks overflowing with stories, profound observations, and a snapshot of what my life was like when I wrote it. I picture future generations poring over my words, marveling at the life I led.

It's not that I'm so narcissistic to think that I'm oh-so-much-more-fascinating than everyone else. It's that I think everyone has a story, and everyone's story is worth sharing. I sure wish my ancestors had kept a journal - we don't often get to hear the inner workings of our relatives' minds.

The problem is, there have been waaaaay too many embarrassing moments when childhood journals were discovered in memory boxes, when the private angst I spilled onto the page as a youth resulted in howls of laughter from both my sisters and present-day me. Or the pretentious prose just comes off as annoying, rather than just sharing a story.

Now every time I try to journal, I find myself trying to edit so that Future Me won't make fun of Present Me. The resulting words end up dry, factual, and dull. No emotion. No personality.

In fact, I think the only times I've ever successfully kept a journal have been during my travels to other countries. I love looking back on the details of the trip that have long since escaped my memory. I love reading the funny quotes recorded and the highlights of the day. It's so much easier to journal when you feel you're doing something out of the ordinary.

My goal for this next year is to record everything. Ordinary or extraordinary. Emotional or factual. Silly or profound. It's getting written down, because I want to remember it all when I don't remember it anymore. I want my child and future children to know what their early childhood was like from my point of view.

My word of the year for 2014 (in place of New Year's Resolutions) was discipline. I feel really good about my word. I hit my lowest weight ever in 2014. I started to work from home. I read a good amount of books. I stayed somewhat faithful to writing on my blog. I even flossed a few times.

I know it's only mid-November, but I've already chosen a word for 2015 - stories. I'm writing my own story, I'm connecting with others to learn their stories, and I'm reading even more fiction and biographies.

This post was inspired by this article.

Do you journal (successfully)? Do you use prompts, or just write what's in your head?


book talk #2 - 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I wish I could read for a living and get paid for it. Along with getting paid to learn languages. That would be awesome.

Since no one has come out of the woodwork to offer me such a job, I'm going to pretend I'm getting paid to write this blog post.

So basically, I'm pretty obsessed with the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I had heard a few friends talk about this author, and specifically this book, and finally put it on hold at the library.

There are a lot of things competing for my attention in life, like my husband and daughter, Criminal Minds on Netflix, and work. So a lot of times I'll borrow a book from the library, get bored 50 pages in, and never finish it within the allotted time. Then, I'll go online, renew it, and forget to read it again. At this point, I normally give up and just return the book.

Not so with 7. I couldn't put it down, and it was definitely not what I expected. Basically, I expected a lecture on how our culture is consuming at an alarming rate, and Christians are no better, so this lady took matters into her own hands and made everyone else feel guilty about it.

I could not have been more wrong about the tone of the book. Jen comes from a place of repentance, humor, and freedom. Freedom to me is the key word. We are no longer bound by Old Testament laws, nor are we trying to earn our way into heaven with our good works. Books like this can come dangerously close to implying such things. Instead, she is simply recognizing that fact that it is really easy to let our Christian freedom run amok, and it's also a good idea to stop and do a heart check every once and awhile. Are my treasures on earth or in heaven? Am I loving God first and my neighbor as myself? Those are good questions that in no way guilt us into recycling, adopting 10 kids, and selling every extraneous thing we own.

Jen's experiment was this: What would it look like if I did a temporary fast from food, clothing, stuff, stress, spending, screen time, and waste? She stuck with the "7" theme - one month for each of her seven categories. Seven food items for a month, seven clothing items for a month, etc. Her "council" of friends each interpreted the fast in their own way, participating in a way that made the fast fit into their own lives.

I didn't come away from the book feeling guilty for the blessings God has given me. I came away from the book more thoughtful, thankful, and excited to share my love for God with others.

In my opinion, it's definitely worth a read - I laughed, I cried, it moved me (Veggie Tales reference anyone?)

Let's end with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"...Scripture calls us to the practice of fasting- from food, from greed, from selfishness, from luxuries. It isn't just the experience; it's the discipline. It changes us. Fasting helps us develop mastery over the competing voices in our heads that urge us toward more, toward indulgence, toward emotional volatility."


working from home - a learning curve

What a weird world we live in. Jobs are no longer things like "farmer," "seamstress," and "banker." (Although those jobs still exist).

Now people have job titles like web designer, dog walker, blogger, and independent consultant.

There are about a zillion and one ways to cobble together a living from the comfort of you own home. There are about a fillion more ways to piece together 86 part time jobs as your own employer. It's kind of awesome. 

Some people call these "side hustles." Others call it: "my husband is a teacher and I'm staying home with the kids so we have no money so I better figure out a way to change that." It's an official term.

Anyway, that's me now! I'm working from home! It's one of the most exciting, stressful, confusing ways I've ever decided to make money. 

I'm still a rookie. I've only been doing it for six months. I'm learning as I go. I am still trying to figure out the best schedule for Pippa and me. Working from home is one thing. Working from home but also being a stay at home parent is another thing altogether! Inspired by Molly's thoughts on working from home, here are mine:

>> plan your day...kind of  on the advice of a more experienced mom and friend, I try to write out the top things that need to get done the next day. I think Zig Ziglar was also a proponent of this strategy. I used to do this on notecards. Now I just write it on a giant mirror I use as a white board. With kids, you can do your best to stick to a schedule, but they often have minds of their own. The list keeps me from being overwhelmed with "to-do's" when Pippa goes down for her nap. 

>> get non-work stuff done when your child is awake  I used to panic, trying to get work, blog, devotions, chores, and exercise all done during one hour and a half nap. I realized that was impossible, so I decided to do computer-based work when Pippa is sleeping. Now I have her "help" me with chores and exercise with me. It's not a perfect solution (she did scratch me in the face in the middle of a "serene" yoga session), but it works for now. 

>> do your work in your "office"  before we moved we had absolutely no extra space to put a desk. In our new place, we have a loft area that works both as a playroom and an office. I have my very own desk, vision board, and fitness orb that is also my desk chair. When I bring my laptop to the sofa, MUCH less work gets done. More surfing the net happens. It's not productive. When I stay in my desk area, I have my vision board, my mirror/white board, and my calendar to keep me focused. Plus, Pippa can play in her kitchen if I have any loose ends to tie up after her nap. 

>> work in mini blitzes  I can only stay focused on one job for so long before I feel burnt out. I strive for about 45 minutes of good, solid work before I take a break to read a blog, get a cup of coffee, or throw in a load of laundry. I don't really have other people to motivate me and hold me accountable, so I have to find little tricks to keep me working. Which leads me to my next point...

>> be a boss  specifically, your own boss. If I don't hold myself accountable, no one will. If I decide not to do income-producing activity, there is no income. I have to give myself goals with deadlines. I have to write down my goals and read them aloud daily to stay motivated. I have to stay organized. I have to be focused on my "why" (which is why my vision board is right above my laptop). If I don't treat myself as a professional, then this is just a hobby, not a job. I must continue my personal and professional development without prompting from anyone else. Luckily in my job I get to earn as I learn.

 >> socialize  working from home, and being a stay-at-home parent can be lonely if you let it. I have to force myself to get out of the house each day to interact with other people. (The library has become my best friend - free and full of other parents and kids). I also have an amazing group of women around the country working toward the same goals. We have a message thread going to help motivate and support one another. 

>> be flexible  no explanation needed. 

Any other tips from experienced work-from-home veterans?


prayer - go big or go home?

I have to admit something. And I really hope I'm not alone when I make this confession.

I have often felt like my prayer life is a struggle.

And it's not that I don't know how to pray. It's not for lack of people, situations, or things to pray for. I honestly think it's because I have never felt like it's enough.

Which is a radical thing to say as a Lutheran. Scripture alone. Faith alone. Grace alone. It's been hammered into me since my youth - nothing I have ever done, am doing, or will do is enough to gain salvation. It's only through faith in the blood of Christ, sent by God out of his undeserved love for me.

So why do I even bother to think about not praying "enough?"

Well, simply put, the Bible tells us to pray continually. To be faithful in prayer. It often seems a lofty and unattainable goal.

It's like this:

Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill or send an email? You always seem to think of it when you can't take care of it - then forget again when you return home. The longer you go without completing the task, the more you don't want to think about it. It becomes this giant storm cloud looming over you. When really, if you just took care of it right away, it would barely register as an event in your life - much less a problem.

That's how prayer sometimes feels for me. Whoops, I forgot to pray before that meal to thank God for the endless supply of food and nutrition he has blessed me with. I complained to my husband, mom, and sisters about that problem before I remembered to pray about it. I worked so hard to achieve a goal on my own without asking for God's blessing. I made a huge decision about my life without consulting the Lord first.

Before I know it, I feel so ashamed of how little I communicate with my Father in heaven that I don't even want to think about it.

Good news, though! God still wants me to pray, anyway. He commands me to talk to him. He listens to me. He answers me.

Not because I was the best at remembering to always turn to him first in thanksgiving, supplication, or acknowledgement.

But because of what he's done for me. He bought me and redeemed me - I am his own dear child! Parents - no matter how often your children forget to call (oops, sorry Mom!), do you not still want to hear from them?

You guys, I've got to stop treating prayer like it's a phone call I'm obligated to make 3 times a day. Instead, the answer lies, as always, in thankfulness. It is a gift and a privilege to approach the great I Am. May my gratitude overflow to the point where I can't stop thinking about God. May I hunger and thirst to speak to my Father. May I remember all that he has done for me, and boldly ask for his blessing. May prayer be my first thought instead of my last resort.

After all, the Creator of the Universe is on my side - and he wants to hear from me! It only makes sense to start and end my day with him. It only makes sense to ask for his help and advice. So this week, I am meditating on this verse from Proverbs:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6


what i'm reading lately...and stuff

While checking out my books at the library earlier this week, I couldn't help but be impressed by the lady next to me checking out a stack of books 3x the size of mine.

Because I'm working on connecting with others (outside comfort zone alert!) I rehearsed a few times in my head to sound nonchalant and friendly, then I cleared my throat and heard myself say, "Looks like you've got a lot of reading to do!"

Mercifully, though I caught her off guard, she was very gracious and responded that she is always in the middle of several books at once. I got really excited because I, too, am currently in the middle of not 2, not 3, but 4 books. We bonded for a minute about that, but then Pippa went boneless and tried to slide discreetly from my iron grasp. That was my cue to get home. (Parenting is all about following your instincts you guys. #gemofgenius)

Anyway, I like to share what I'm reading with others, so either we can geek out together about books we have both read, or so that others can get ideas and recommendations for new books to read. Or so that others can give me recommendations. I get really weird about reading books that everyone is reading. Like, I decide it's too common of a book, and just know I won't like it. But I absolutely crave personal recommendations from people whose taste and judgment I trust. (Does anyone else always want to spell judgment with an "e" in the middle? I remember learning in 5th grade, while preparing for the spelling bee, that it's a tricky one. That and raspberry).

So without further ado, the books I'm currently in the middle of (and yes I know I'm not supposed to end sentences with a preposition, but I'm a rebel like that):

>> Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard -  having already finished Killing Jesus by the same authors, I borrowed this book from my dad. It's a fascinating peek into the lives of some of the most famous Americans in recent history. It also serves to reinforce my instinct to never be president. It just sounds really stressful.

>> The People's Bible Commentary - Revelation by Wayne D. Mueller - in my quest to read the Bible cover to cover, I finally reached the last book. Revelation is an amazing vision of what is to come, but I seriously needed help with what John's visions meant, since I'm not an ancient Greek scholar. A friend from Bible study offered to lend me this commentary, and I've been chewing on it piece by piece ever since. Fascinating. Terrifying. Comforting.

>> Ziglar on Selling by Zig Ziglar - I'm turning to the best and the brightest to learn more about my current work-from-home job.

>> Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, PhD - I don't believe in subscribing to one holy grail method of parenting. Each child and each parent is different, and we have to use our common sense to figure it out for ourselves. But it doesn't hurt to do a little reading for pearls of wisdom.

As you can see, I'm heavy on the non-fiction right now. Any good recommendations for a good fiction book are appreciated. (Yes, I've already read Gone Girl, no, I don't like Nicholas Sparks books.)

My goals are to incorporate some fiction in Spanish into my rotation, and finish at least one book/week. Tough to do when juggling 4 books at once. But there's so much to read! How can I just do one book at a time?

What are you currently reading? Do you read one book at a time, or juggle several at once?


magic wand

In my quest for personal growth, I listen to a podcast every day during my afternoon walk with the Pips and the Pabs.

Lately, I have been studying about how to connect with others. As an INFJ, I love the deep meaningful conversations, but struggle with small talk. It's beneficial for me to have a few questions in my back pocket that I can bring up to learn more about others - because that's what connecting is all about!

Anyway, one of the best connecting questions I have learned is the magic wand question:

"If you had a magic wand that made time and money of no consequence, how would you spend your time?"

This is an awesome question because it really gets to the heart of what is important to someone. What gets their heart palpitating. What excites them!

For me, it would be spending time abroad doing 2 things:
1. Helping others, volunteering, spreading God's Word.
2. Learning other languages!

I know some people barely "get through" their language classes in school. I, on the other hand, would be happy to spend all my time studying vocabulary and honing my grammar skills. Like this guy - my former Spanish teacher and his awesome family. Bonus: he gets to study language AND use it to spread the Gospel.

If I could wave that magic wand, we would be off on my dream vacation, which involves dragging my family to a beach in Costa Rica, or downtown Buenos Aires to study Spanish for fun.

If I could wave that magic wand, Pippa and I would be on a video chat every day with a native speaker, paying to learn more Spanish.

That's my passion. And I really want to pass that on to Pippa.

So yeah, I know I'm not a native speaker, so the Spanish I speak with Pippa is not going to be perfect. I know that the best way to learn a language is immersion in the culture. I know that! I want that! But, I have not yet reached the magic wand stage of my life. I'm working on it, though!

In the meantime, I am using all the resources available to me fo' free! Podcasts, websites, library books, and Spanish language toys. Keeping my own language skills fresh so I can speak more confidently to my 1-year-old.

That's why I'm dedicated to making Spanish a priority in Pippa's childhood. It's my happy place. The answer to my magic wand question.

What about you? "If you had a magic wand that made time and money of no consequence, how would you spend your time?"


rejoice always

In 8th grade I couldn't wait for high school. I wanted the challenging classes, the higher level of sports, the expanded pool of potential friends. I wasn't satisfied with my class of 16 students. I wanted more.

I enjoyed high school for awhile, but quickly grew to see how totally immature everyone was. (Get over yourself, 16-year-old Emily. You're not better than everyone else just because you read Anna Karenina.) I wanted lively debates, intellectual conversation, the freedom of college life, and and even more expanded pool of potential friends (although the joke was on me - my college was smaller than my high school).

When I arrived at college, I reveled in the ability to go to McDonalds at 2 in the morning without having to tell anyone where I was going. Never mind the fact that my parents and I had a trusting relationship when I was in high school and they never gave me an official curfew. I was free! Free! But, then I started getting bored there, too. The classes weren't challenging enough, the winter was too long (ok, I stand by that gripe), and the city was too small. I needed to travel, expand my horizons with fascinating new characters and stories of adventure.

After graduating college, Justin and I got married and moved to Minnesota. I felt anxious that I didn't have enough friends my age. I felt my youth slipping away, and desperately tried to cling to it. I didn't want to be tied down, and I didn't want to become boring. I was so worried about what others thought of my life that I couldn't truly enjoy it.

That is the attitude I sustained for a good decade of my life. I have since repented of my ungrateful attitude, but I don't regret it. I don't regret it because I have learned so much from that period of my life. I have grown and changed.

Our culture calls it FOMO, I believe. Fear Of Missing Out. And I had it long before social media became a part of my life. I have always been an avid reader, and because of that, I was terrified of living a normal life - a life not worth writing about or reading about. I feared I would miss out on the best education. I feared I would miss out on the friendships and relationships. I feared I would miss out on travel, and all the life lessons that come with it.

But the funny thing is, even as I was fearing missing out, I was experiencing all those things. I learned so much, I had many great friendships, and I saw a multitude of unforgettable locations.

For the first time in my life, I am in a place of gratitude. I am in a season of ease and abundance. I no longer look at life as a competition to see who can accomplish the most or travel the most or learn the most.

I have everything I need and more.

He has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. I could never have planned this life. I could never have dreamed up the circumstances that would make me this content. God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I need even when I'm praying for the opposite.

And I know that if all of this went away in an instant, I would still have a God worth praising.

Life is good, friends. We certainly go through seasons of hardship and sadness. I have my own struggles, too. But those struggles aren't worth comparing to the glory God has in store for us. Our joy in in the knowledge of our salvation - what God has done for us. The earthly blessings are icing on the cake!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)


pippa at 16 months

To be honest, these posts are mostly just a running list of Philippa's verbal progress, because I love words and it fascinates me to see what will come out of her little brain and mouth next.

Also, I try to speak Spanish to her when it's just the two of us, but many days that ends up being Spanglish, or English with a few key Spanish words. Like, "Where's your chupie?" "Oh, you want agua?" (Like, Emily, how hard would it have been to say that in Spanish?) I am always delighted when she utters Spanish words despite my laziness and sporadic efforts.

So without further ado, a Pippa update. A Pipdate, if you will.

Funny little toddler idiosyncrasies:

  • I would like to note an encouraging milestone. Instead of slapping me right in the face when I ask for a besito, she actually give me a besito with sound effects and everything!
  • She hugs Pablo while watching herself in our full-length mirror, and coos, "Ohhhh babyyyy." 
  • Pippa finds the remote now and brings it over to me asking for "George?" (Curious George)
  • Has full length gibberish conversations with anyone and everyone. Herself included.
  • The other day she gave Pablo a "kiss" by licking his nose.  I mean, I guess that's how dogs give kisses...
  • Still won't stop saying "Hi!" to all the people. Everyone at the store is like, "Awww is that her first word?" Nope...but she sure knows how to get a reaction from her adoring public!
  • Loves her Veggie Tales CD in the car. She will request it by repeating, "Bob? Bob? Bob?" until I cave. Or if she thinks I'm not getting the hint, she's start "singing" in a panicky voice, "Never ever ever? Never ever ever?" (You know...the theme song: There's never ever ever been a show like Veggie Tales.) 
  • When I try to sing to her, like the loving and devoted mother that I am, she abruptly interrupts me with a shriek. I mean, I know I'm not a great singer, but RUDE. 
  • Every carb is a queque (panqueque or pancake). Bread, bagels, muffins - they are all queques.
  • We're working on teaching her about her Savior. Except now whenever she sees a picture of a bearded man she shouts, "JESUS!" It's awesome - but also can feel a bit...sacrilegious and out of context? 
  • She got her first black eye! She was such a tough little warrior. I have a feeling there will be a lot more of these injuries with our active and curious little girl:

  •  We visited an apple orchard and Philippa was in LOVE

And now, the words:

She just keeps getting more delightful with each passing day. I can't wait to celebrate the holidays with her, now that she will actually understand what's going on. 

Also, could someone please stop the passage of time so I can enjoy this age a little bit longer?


the mythical art of balance

Balance. It has been studied and written about and sought after. It has been lauded and denounced. How can we achieve it? Can we achieve it? Should we achieve it?

Well, I actually don't have the answer to any of those questions. If anyone has the answers, please send them my way.

Instead, I will remind you of this analogy, of which I am sure you have heard or read at some point or another.

I'm not sure where this simile originated, but I love it!

Life is like a juggling act. We're trying to keep all of our oranges or apples or chainsaws in the air. The more chainsaws we add to our juggling act, the tougher it will be (but also the more impressive and exciting!). In order to restore the balance of the juggling act, we may have to set a chainsaw or two down momentarily. That doesn't mean you're dropping it and failing at juggling altogether. Au contraire, my friend. Setting down a chainsaw is a sign of self-knowledge and maturity. (No one wants to be the guy who thinks he can hang with the juggling professionals only to cut himself in half with a flying chainsaw, amiright?)

I'll give you an example from my life. I've got some great chainsaws to juggle:
my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, motherhood, family, friendships, health, cooking, a home to clean, being a dog owner, operating a home-based business, coaching, teaching Spanish, my own study of Spanish, using Spanish with Pippa, writing, reading, photography, volunteering, and rest.

Some of these things are really, really important. Vital. Imperative. These things should almost never be set down in favor of less important ones. They are the chainsaws that are the "meat and potatoes" of my juggling act.

Then there are the chainsaws that make my act fun. Maybe they are leopard print chainsaws that play "La Cucaracha" when I juggle them. They add joy, delight, fulfillment, frivolity, and laughter to my act. My act can survive without them, but it's not as exciting.

Sometimes I really need to focus on a specific chainsaw. When it's volleyball season, reading, writing, photography, cleaning, and cooking may have to be set down.

When I'm focusing on my health chainsaw, my Spanish chainsaw may be momentarily set down until I've comfortably incorporated my health chainsaw into the routine.

Sometimes I accidentally or neglectfully set down a chainsaw that should never leave the rotation, like reading the Bible and cultivating a rich prayer life. In fact, the more chainsaws I have in the air, the more I need to focus on these two things.

I forget that a lot.

I used to get stressed when I had a lot to juggle and say things like, "I can't! I'm too busy!"

When I realized that each chainsaw was a choice - that I didn't have to keep them all in my juggling act - I started changing my language. I started saying things like, "I'm choosing to focus on this instead of that right now."

I'm learning that it's ok to set something down for a season. I'm learning to choose my chainsaws wisely, and weed out the ones that are distracting to the rest of my juggling act.

There may be a season of many flashy chainsaws when my act is really exciting and entertaining and exhausting.

There may be a season when I decide to go back to basics and juggle like 3 chainsaws.

And other times, you have to drop ALL THE CHAINSAWS so you can get your hair cut for the first time in a year.

But I digress. Just know that no one is juggling all of their chainsaws at any given time, even if their juggling act looks super organized and perfect. Even if all of their chainsaws are labeled with free printables from Pinterest.

What is your best advice for finding balance in the juggling act of life?


an interesting life

Today I had the chance to chat with an older gentleman at church. Over a classic Lutheran potluck meal, we discussed incredible experiences he had during his childhood and college years. Fighting the selfish and juvenile urge to jump in and share my own stories, I forced myself to sit back and listen. Really listen. He was so happy to give some insight into what his life was like 30 years before I was even born - and I was happy to learn!

Similarly, my sisters and I couldn't get enough of my nana's stories about growing up in London, and more recently, we sat starry-eyed through Nana's best friend Pat's stories about the trouble they would get into together.

Every time I get the chance to hear stories from the another generation, it always inspires me to live an interesting life so that someday I will have amazing anecdotes to share with my grandchildren.

But what exactly is that je ne sais quoi that makes a life worth telling about?

I used to think it came from the items I checked off a bucket list.

Jump off a bridge? Check.

Study Spanish abroad? Check.

Sleep under the stars in Mexico? Check. (Mex04!)

Eat a bug in the rainforest? Check.

Sip wine on the banks of the Seine in Paris? Check.

Watch the sun set in Red Square? Check. 

Survive an attempted mugging in Panama? Check.

The list goes on and on.

I would get so desperate to make sure my life was adventurous, unique, and intriguing. I wanted others to be jealous of my experiences. I wanted to show off everything I had done. I, I, I. Me, me, me. It was all about how I looked to everyone else.

What I have begun to realize, though, is that these stories mean absolutely nothing without the relationships behind them. It is the people with whom I share these memories that make them so meaningful to me. Honestly, the best stories - the stories that have shaped who I am as a person - are about the dear friends who befriended, accompanied, and supported me through ever country and disaster and circumstance, or they are about the people I have met who opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.

My new theory is that the people who come into your life have the chance to change you, the chance to bring adventure, the chance to alter your world view, and the chance to make you feel alive.

Find those people who already exist in your life. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Then go out and meet some new people. Everyone has something to contribute. Sometimes we just have to dig a little.

Hobbies are great. People with no hobbies besides watching television aren't experiencing everything the world has to offer or using their talents to the fullest.
Travel is amazing. It has given me a new appreciation for cultural traditions and values. It has changed the way I view myself and others.
Reading and learning also make for great conversation and ideas.

All of these things help to shape an interesting personality.

But a truly fascinating life is created through relationships. Some relationships will be there from cradle to grave. Others will crash into your life and be gone in a week. Still others may come in and out like the tide. But each relationship is a story.

Find your partners in crime, and make a great story.


in the trenches

Fellow humans. There are so many seemingly unpleasant chores, tasks, and duties in this life that actually make us happy in the long run. No one actually wants to do them in the moment, but many-a harvest has been reaped by sowing the unpleasant seeds when it didn't seem desirable.

These things include, but are not limited to:

√ flossing
√ loading the dishwasher before bed
√ getting up early to work out
√ laying out clothes and packing your lunch at night
√ setting money aside in February for Christmas gifts
√ saving for retirement instead of buying more stuff

Some days, it feels like work to raise a bilingual toddler. My brain simply doesn't want to put in the extra effort to find the word in Spanish. I just don't feel like thinking of the subjunctive. You mean I have to look up that turn-of-phrase on the internet? Oh the humanity!

But with much work on the front end comes high reward on the back end. Some days I receive positive reinforcement for this arduous work - like when Pippa started saying "ah-may" (hambre) when she was hungry. Or the fact that she only says agua instead of water. Or más instead of more. These little things make my heart sing, and I'm glad Past Emily put in the work for Present and Future Emily and Pippa.

Perhaps you're tired. Perhaps you have been procrastinating or avoiding something that you know is good for you in the long run. Whatever your Everest is today, let's all support one another in our efforts and gather some inspiration to push through. I promise it will be worth it - whether it's disciplining your young child or getting up at 5:30 a.m. to work out. Whether it's writing a few pages of that books you've been meaning to write, or writing that email you've been dreading. Whether it's avoiding sugar or running that extra mile today. Do. It. Now.

And now, some inspiration for you:

You can do it!

The struggle is nothin' but love.

Have you guys seen this guy? Kid knows what's up!  and he's only in high school!

This book and blog.

What gets you inspired when you're in the trenches and you just don't feel like it?


on working from home

Enough was enough, I decided one April morning. I was getting nowhere with my incessant Google searches for part-time jobs I could work in the sporadic hours when my husband got home from work. I was already juggling 3 other part-time jobs to help take the pressure off Justin, and was on the verge of seeking out a paper route in the wee hours of the morning or taking the overnight shift in a bar or restaurant.

Sure, the thought of an at-home business with direct sales had occurred to me, but I didn't think I was the type of person who could be successful with it. I hated my retail jobs in high school and college, and the thought of pressuring someone to spend money made my palms sweat. 

But there I was that April morning, knowing I had to do whatever it took to get my family financially sound, but maintaining the feeling that we needed to spend more time as a family. That Sunday needed to be a day dedicated to church and Bible study and worship. That merely passing the baby off to the other parent as one of us headed out the door to work was not doing our relationship any favors. 

So while Pippa was taking her morning nap, I typed up all my concerns and objections, scanned, reread, and edited multiple times, and with a pit in my stomach hit send

Not 10 minutes later a response appeared in my inbox. My stomach dropped as I opened the message, the invitation to talk over the phone. 

I had made up my mind to give this company a fair chance, so the immediate gratification of my need for more information was satisfying. With both of our babies napping, it was the perfect time to make that phone call. We talked for an hour, babies waking up in the background, and motherly duties simultaneously being performed. She was so normal and not pushy. She was like me - someone who was contributing financially her family, but respected her friends and family's boundaries. Someone who worked hard, was humble, and cared enough to form relationships with other people. She showed me with one phone call that I could do it. And that it was a much better and simpler option that working overnight at a bar.

So here I am, 5 months later, committed to working this business from home until I am successful. I am being pushed outside my comfort zone, but discovering how much I am enjoying reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances - even if they don't choose to join me on my health and wellness journey. I am learning new skills to connect with strangers. It's all very thrilling, and frustrating, and inspiring, and emotional all at the same time.

I wouldn't be taking these steps in personal growth if it weren't for the wonderfully supportive women I have met (virtually - hopefully in person someday soon) along the way. They inspire me to not only do this for my family, but to serve other and help them achieve their dreams of health, energy, and financial freedom. They inspire me to be generous with my success. They remind me that dreams are achievable, through persistent and consistent action. 

I love what I do, and I love that I can put the computer away as soon as Pippa wakes up from her nap. I love that I don't have to ask off on holidays or weekends. I love that my "job" is helping others feel their best. I love that email I get every Monday with a paycheck automatically loaded to my card. 

Here's to the Mommies on a Mission. What a wonderful gift we have to share with others! Are you ready to start changing lives?


adult friendship

As a lover of learning and an educator myself, I have a confession to make: much of the information I learned in high school and college is useless in my quotidian life. 

I wish there were courses on how to be a productive adult member of society. Most recently, I find myself wishing there were a class on how to make new friends as an adult.

Students have it so easy. They see the same people each day in classes or extracurriculars or part-time jobs. They have roommates and dorm mates. They don't have to look very far to find someone who shares their interests or values.

But what about adults with jobs, responsibilities, and families? What about adults who move to a new city? And especially what about introverted adults?

It's not easy out there, guys. I know, because I've been in the market for adult friends since I graduated college 4 years ago. Here are the stages and phases I have gone through in my attempts to make new adult friends:

1. A fresh college grad. Where are all the young, fun, hip "adults"(you know, the 22 year olds who don't actually consider themselves grown up)? In that phase it felt like everyone either (a) had their entire group of friends from high school or college still around, or (b) had a family and kids. As an introvert, there was no way I was going to try to infiltrate an existing group of friends. Interloper is not a position of comfort for me. I also (hopefully wrongly) assumed that anyone with kids and a family had no time for me. In this stage, coworkers were my main group of friends. Thank goodness for jobs!

2. Ain't nobody got time for that! Once I started working full time as a teacher, with coaching duties on the side, it didn't even matter to me that I didn't have many close friends in the area. As an introvert, I was ok with that. I shouldn't have been. Human beings need a social network (and not just on the computer). We need to socialize and have fun!

3. Sweet - had a baby, got my "in". I'll be honest...it got a lot easier to make friends once I had a baby. You have an instant "connection" with other parents. If you meet another parent at the park, you have some built-in conversation starters. "She's so cute! How old is she? What a fun age!" You have play dates and get-togethers with other parents.

Making new friends comes so naturally to some - those lucky people! Personally, I tend to choose my social interactions so carefully because they are draining to me. Not draining in a bad way - it's just that I need my alone time to recharge, and alone time is hard to come by when you're married with a child. So when I do choose to socialize with others, I want it to be worth my energy. Ask my husband how much I have to mentally prepare myself before going to a party or gathering, especially if I know I'll have to make awkward small talk.

I am working really hard on relaxing, making an effort to smile more, and simply being a friendlier person to those around me. This is easier said than done, because when I enter a new situation, I like to observe until I feel comfortable enough to speak up. News flash: observation is often mistaken for being aloof or unsocial. Whoops.

I'm working on it. Here is what I have learned so far from my great friendship experiment:

- Nobody will ever replace my childhood, high school, and college friends. They know me so well, and though we may be far apart, we share so many memories and common experiences. It's important to have those.

- I don't have to be friends with only people who are my age. Right out of college I thought that was the most important thing. Now I'm looking for people with a sense of humor, and people who are kind.

- Not everyone is going to be a good "friendship fit." That doesn't mean we can't still be friendly and share a social circle.

- Making new friends, dating, and networking are all eerily similar.

- Meetup.com = online dating for friends?

- I may have to give up my vision of having a friend who just drops by to chat over coffee unannounced. Or a friend I go walking with while we push the babies in strollers. Why does TV make it all look so glamorous?

- I am so thankful for the women I have met in my area who have been kind and welcoming and friendly. It took a few years, but I finally feel like I have roots and a social circle here.

Well, this is starting to feel like an after school special. Kids, to have a friend, you have to be a friend. The more you know.

How do you make friends in a new situation or location?


the power of your mind

"What the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common."

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite books to read was Bringing Up Bebé by Pamela Druckerman. This was because it offered a laid-back perspective on pregnancy and raising children that most of the other books could not seem to capture. In fact, I'm fairly certain the majority of books aimed at informing expecting parents were written by an evil troll living in a dark cave whose sole purpose is to fear-monger the crap out of everyone about every possible scenario that could go wrong. 

But that's neither here nor there.

Druckerman presents a world where parents are confident and relaxed. They don't feel the need to do mountains of research. They don't feel the need to compare their decisions with others, fretting what others will think. They actually enjoy the process of child bearing and raising their children. 

(Honestly, a ton of the parents I know in the United States are actually a lot like this.)

Anyway, Druckerman posits that the trick to parenting with ease and confidence is to realize that you are there to educate your child, and to set limits and stand firm in them. Among other things. But those were my big take-aways.

From Day 1, you are your child's tour guide and teacher. You are teaching her how to fit into your family. You are showing him how to eat, sleep, and behave in an acceptable manner. You are in essence civilizing a wild beast. 

It's also important to set limits and be consistent with them. When you say no, you mean it every single time. You don't get upset, you don't rise to the child's level of emotion. You model patience for them. My favorite line from the book which gives confidence and authority is, "It's me who decides." Sometimes this phrase is more for the parent than for the child. You have to remind yourself that you are in charge, and you make the decisions. You have faith in yourself as a parent, a teacher, an adult who knows better than a child. When you start doing these things, you almost carry yourself taller.

* * *

A few months ago, Justin and I got sick of our normal rotation on Netflix. We stumbled upon a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and decided we needed a refresher course on training Pablo. He's been getting pretty rude lately, counter-surfing and begging for Pippa's food. 

We quickly realized that we had started out as great pack leaders when Pablo was a puppy. We trained him, we set boundaries, and we enforced them religiously. But once we got him to the point where we were happy with his training, we grew lax. We let him do things that we used to be strict about, and he started to act out.

He needed  us to be confident pack leaders. He needed those limits and daily training to feel secure. And we were not providing that. 

Lately we have been working on re-training him with calm, assertive energy (a phrase Cesar loves to repeat). He advises you picture yourself as someone powerful you admire (Cleopatra, Gandhi, that teacher you were always scared of, etc.) and project that energy to your dog. 

* * *

So what do the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common? They carry themselves tall, they project confidence, they have faith in what they are saying. One can't help but follow someone with these qualities. It's inspiring to see in others, and energizing to try yourself!

Currently I'm working on applying this principle to all areas of my life. Pippa is developing more each day, and with that growth comes an emergence of her personality. She is so funny and vivacious - but she's also stubborn and willful. I am enjoying the challenge of teacher her patience.

I'm not as much enjoying the challenge of teaching Pablo patience and boundaries. We're getting there.

I'm also applying this concept to my work with Isagenix. I'm working toward some big and exciting goals, and every day I must build my confidence anew that I can and will achieve these goals with God's help, persistent and consistent action, and the support of my close family and friends. I am carrying myself tall, projecting confidence, and having faith in what I am saying and doing. 

* * *

Our minds are a powerful thing. We can use them for good or evil. Positive thoughts attract positive results, while negative thoughts attract negative results. Do you have faith in what you are doing? Are you confidently working toward a goal? How are you using the power of your mind today?


things I learned traveling abroad with a toddler

Travel is full of adventure and the unexpected. It's pushing outside your comfort zone and learning how to problem solve in creative ways. It's eye-opening and mind-opening. It can be stressful. It can be exhausting. It can also be unforgettable.

Traveling is not for the faint-of-heart.

Traveling with a one-year-old is definitely not for the faint of heart.

The internet is full of tips and tricks to make traveling with a toddler easier. Go ahead and do a Google search. You'll find scores of information on the subject.

But there are some things you don't figure out until you experience them for yourself.

Here is what I learned from traveling for 10 days in London and Paris with our own spirited and spunky 14-month-old.

1. You will change diapers in strange and sometimes unsanitary places. Bring a light-weight changing pad to lay down on unclean surfaces. Bring a metric ton of hand sanitizer.

2. Moms who live in big cities with little ones are rock stars. Carrying the stroller up and down the stairs of the Metro was a 2 man job. It was stressful enough with 9 other adults to help us out. I can't imagine trying to do that by myself on a daily basis!

3. Strollers make great purse/sweater/water bottle carriers. Consider bringing a stroller even if you don't have a toddler. Just to carry your stuff. You do a lot of walking on a Europe trip - why lug your own stuff around?

4. Adjusting to time change as quickly as possible is the best idea. Our flight was overnight, so when we arrived in London it was just after noon. After buying our Oyster card for the underground, heaving our suitcases through said underground and up and down countless flights of stairs, and walking a mile to our rented house, all any of us wanted to do was chug a gallon of water and collapse into bed. Instead, we planned a low-key outing for that evening (the London Eye!) to keep us awake until at least 8:00 p.m. London time. We all went to bed early that night, but adjusted very quickly to the time change - Pippa included! Besides one half hour crying fit that first night, she slept soundly through the night the rest of the trip!

5. Stay close to the action or rely on naps in strollers. So something you should know about how my family vacations is that there is no relaxing on vacation. We started our days at 9 a.m., and usually stayed out until around 5 p.m. That's a full day of touring, walking, sight seeing, riding the underground or metro, posing for pictures, shopping, and fighting crowds. With the expensive (so expensive!) transportation in London, we tried to avoid taking the underground whenever possible. That meant there was no chance Pippa was getting back to our rented house for a nap. That turned out fine for us, since Pippa will actually nap in the stroller. If we had a toddler that wouldn't, we would have been better off staying in a more central part of the city, or suffer the wrath of an overtired toddler.

6. Plan ahead for snacks (and maybe bring a cooler). Pippa still needs whole milk, so we brought our mini cooler along with with a sippy cup full of milk each day. Since we had no idea if we would be near a grocery story when lunch time would roll around, it seemed the safest way to avoid a meltdown. Also, those little fruit puree pouches are amazing as an on-the-go snacks.

7. Museum tours and 14-month-olds don't mix. We tried. No one can say we didn't try. I'll always have vivid if not nightmarish memories of Pippa squirming out of my arms in Westminster Abbey and running to touch as many strangers as she could in the back of the knee, while shouting, "Hi! Hi! Hi! HI!" Which leads me to lesson #8:
sprinting through the British Museum

8. A lot of people are really nice. Ah, the kindness of strangers. Their benevolent smiles at our high-energy girl, the kindly folks on the underground and metro who played along when Pippa wouldn't stop saying hi, the looks of solidarity from other parents of small children, and all those who help open doors or helped with the stroller on the stairs were so, so sweet. Most of all, the thoughtful workers at the Ampersand Hotel blew me away. We chose this elegant destination for high tea, and while the boys went off the tour the cricket grounds (and probably grab a pint), we brought the toddler along to sip tea. She definitely generated more crumbs, noise, and activity than their average customer, but not once did I feel unwelcome or judged. One woman even gave Pippa an Ampersand Hotel rubber ducky to keep her occupied! Pippa loved her new toy, and I was one thankful mama.

9. Let the kid stretch her legs. Pippa did so well in the stroller, but she could only take so much before wiggling and squirming to walk. It helped to take short breaks when we found parks or places she could safely run around.
Kensington Palace gardens

10. Don't analyze, over prepare, or schedule too tightly. Be flexible... and just do it! There are lots of aspects of travel that are super uncomfortable and exhausting with a small child. If I thought too much about the logistics of diaper changes, milk, naps, etc, I don't know if I would have the energy to face it all. But just taking each day, each moment as it came, and following Pippa's signals, we were able to have a (mostly) meltdown-free trip!

Ok...now to plan where her next passport stamp is coming from...


spanish songs for toddlers

About a year ago, around when Pippa was nearing 3 months of age, I made the decision to start taking her bilingual education seriously. I always knew I wanted to speak Spanish to her, but I don't think I truly realized what a commitment it would be for me.

I assumed the Spanish I speak with other adults would work just fine for speaking to a baby. Rookie mistake. Apparently I had a huge blind spot in my Spanish knowledge for words like burp cloth, high chair, and car seat. I found the easiest way for me to put those words into practice so that I would remember them was to tell Pippa whatever I was doing for her. "Let's put you in your car seat so we can go visit Daddy at school!"

But the very BEST way for me to learn new words to speak on her level was through books and songs. Children's songs are actually pretty catchy and easy to pick up, as they tend to repeat a lot. Of course, I also love to dissect the grammar, just for my own edification.

I found Spanglish Baby to be a wonderful resource for finding songs in the first place, but I also browse Spotify, YouTube, and the iTunes store to find even more!

So far our favorites are:

Pin Pon

Hola Don Pepito

Disney Presenta Cantar y Jugar

Huitzi Huitzi Araña - Latin Kids Hits

Soy Una Taza

I am currently on the hunt for a good version of the alphabet en español. Any other suggestions for authentic children's songs?


mr and mrs goods

 Wedding planning was not my thing. Too many decisions, too many details, too many dollars. I was 22 when I got married, and didn't have a very strong sense of personal style when it came to decor. Still don't. I always seem to have a better idea of what I don't like than what I do.

My sister Molly, though, has a great eye for design and style - which is why her personal style blog is so successful! She handpicked every detail and vendor for her wedding with discretion and care. The result was so unique and beautiful -and after planning a wedding myself, I have learned to appreciate these little elements that take months to curate.

All of the physical details aside, nothing is more beautiful than two people entering into the institution of marriage based first on their love for God, and second on their love for one another. It has been an incredible year, welcoming 2 of my sisters into the married club.

Enjoy these snapshots of Molly and Tim's gorgeous wedding day.

Everything was simple, yet elegant - a balance I strive for, but can't seem to master. To fit that theme, Molly and Tim served breakfast for dinner, with donuts for dessert. I want to go back in time to eat that meal again and again.

the bride enjoying a moment of peace before the whirlwind of crazy

makeup and hair products were everywhere - and I was in heaven! I think my parents' kitchen is still coated in a layer of hairspray and loose powder.

the finished product - vintage glam

the bridesmaids enjoying our gifts from Molly - these adorable robes! Plus, also, MIMOSA - TREAT YOSELF
trying to keep a certain flower girl occupied before her shining moment down the red carpet

our little family
As a side note, I would just like to point out that I did my own hair and makeup for the wedding. After getting my hair done for 2 other weddings, and just not being satisfied with the results, I decided that all those years reading hair care manuals from the 90s when I was a tween qualified me to do a fancy updo for a formal event. Obviously it's nothing fancy...just a lot of teasing and a lot of bobby pins.

most fun bridal party ever. I mean, 5/8ths of us are sisters, but still. The other three girls kind of made any wedding events hilarious and unforgettable. And they brought up the class average in looks.

Molly's adorable and talented photographer capturing the bride and maids-of-honor - check out some of her gorgeous photographs on Molly's blog today!

You can't tell, but Pippa had just awoken from a nap, and wasn't thrilled about this situation

fun on the party trolley!

what happens when you try to get your 1 year old to party all night long